Domenic Lippa knows about hooks

On Wednesday, some of the team went back to university. We took a quick break from our projects to visit Sheffield Hallam University’s ‘Curated by…’ series where Domenic Lippa from Pentagram (you know, the world’s largest independent design company) was a guest speaker.

Sound bite advice

His parents made sure plan B was never an option for Lippa, so unsurprisingly it wasn’t long before he was working on magazines like Baseline, Down Low and Circular. More recently, he’s worked with London Design Festival and, of course, plenty of other well-known brands. Throughout the presentation he dropped sound bites of wisdom like, “Design needs to deliver punch in a visually messy city” and “If you can’t find the problem you’ll never find the solution.” His talk has certainly encouraged us to be more creative. “I’m not going to use a grid on my next project,” was one battle cry on the way back to the offices.

Lippa also suggested that the keys to good design are differentiating the gold from the chaff at an early stage and finding a visual hook wherever you can. While the former is more tangible, visual hooks can be harder to define. A visual hook has many forms and will differ greatly depending on the project. It could be surprising typographical choices, design that interrupts copy or a head-turning design concept that flows through the piece. A hook’s main job (and yours as a designer) is to excite people and engage them – that’s the key.

Simplicity (sometimes) wins

A rumbling stomach made sure the presentation didn’t overrun, but Lippa seemed keen to talk through the identity he created for UAL (University of the Arts London). He found a simple harmonious solution to the brand’s identity crisis by using a colon to bring quarrelling colleges together under the umbrella of UAL. The colon is a lovely piece of brand equity that has been rolled out at multiple touch points – including signage and even the heads of toilet icons.

Not without a sense of humour, Lippa showed the audience some of the feedback the new brand received. It seems that some corners of the internet felt the use of Helvetica was a little lazy. Apparently even the best have their critics.