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Richard Loveless – Design Director at CAA Brand Management – on why a brand’s style guide only restricts creativity if you let it.
Richard, thanks for making time. To kick us off, how did you find your way into design? Was a career working with brands always on the cards?
No problem, thank you for the opportunity.
My path into design naturally evolved from a background studying fine art. I was always a creative kid; I was obsessed with punk rock fanzines and LP covers growing up – and still am! There is something about that DIY approach to design that struck a chord in me… How you can convey an impactful message or tell an authentic story with the tools you have at your disposal.
After art college my options were either teaching art or professional mural artist… However, as a struggling artist, I needed to find a career in order to fund my passion. I began working at a brand extension agency called TLC and this experience taught me how I could harness my creativity with a commercial mindset. Years later, I consider myself extremely fortunate to still be working in this industry at CAA Brand Management.
Yes, and you’re Design Director at CAA Brand Management. What does a typical day look like – if there is one!?
What I enjoy most about my role is that no day is ever the same. One day I’ll be creating conceptual mood boards, next I’ll be building a fully rendered 3D space that demonstrates how an apparel collection could sit at retail… These are just some examples!
“Having been involved in re-imagining the Playboy brand is something I’m most proud of.”
I’m lucky to work alongside individuals who are dedicated in producing top quality work for our brands. It’s a real collaborative effort. I love to see a project develop right the way through from concept to appearing on shelf.
Can you talk us through some notable projects you’ve worked on that have launched in the past year? What are some good examples of smart design leading to success on shelf?
Having been involved in re-imagining the Playboy brand is something I’m most proud of. Playboy set out to establish a clear brand positioning as the foundational shift from a media property to a consumer products brand. This also included expanding its audience to include both male and female target consumers among its current fans and for future generations to come.
Playboy has always been bold and outspoken in its pursuit of pleasure for all, yet thoughtful and sophisticated in its approach. It’s ‘bold style’ lends itself perfectly to collaborate with partners such as Pleasures, Fila, The Great Frog and most recently Saint Laurent. I’ve seen a fundamental shift in brand perception for Playboy, which has led to success.
Interesting. We’re also seeing more and more successful examples of ‘left field licensing’. From a design point of view, how do you assess how far you can stretch a brand, while retaining its authenticity?
As long as the core values of a brand aren’t ignored, I’m all for it. It’s amazing what resonates with consumers sometimes. Nobody predicted the success of Squid Game for Netflix and I remember we had to get licensed product to market within 24 hours, that trend surprised all of us… The consumer wanted Squid Game apparel and I’m happy to say we delivered!
Another successful collaboration that recently dropped – and one that surprised a lot of people – has to be Minecraft x Lacoste. Minecraft appeals to such a wide demographic and the attention to detail in that collection is insane: Buttons shaped like mini Minecraft blocks, large scale retail takeovers and all new in game content… Lacoste was committed to creating a true authentic Minecraft experience across a multitude of different mediums and it works so beautifully.
Great examples. Let’s move on to how you work. What’s your process in terms of getting under the skin of your brands?
Every brand is unique and at CAA Brand Management we have a strategic 360-degree approach to everything we do. We recognise trends in the market and how best to align these with our brands, targeting specific territories and retail channels, which also play a key role.
However, for me personally, I often try a more simplistic approach. I remove my personal feelings and replace them with those of a fan. What does the fan want to see in a licensed product? Consumers are far savvier nowadays and can spot a logo slap instantly. We must ask ourselves how we can tap into that fan mindset by offering the consumer authentic story telling through desirable commercial products.
We’ve spoken about a few launches that CAA has spearheaded. What is it about CAA’s portfolio of brands that fuels creativity in partners?
Our portfolio is made up with some of the most globally recognised iconic brands in the world: Coca-Cola, Playboy, Netflix and McLaren to name but a few! I’d like to think that the excitement I feel is shared by our partners who see a diverse portfolio bursting with creative possibilities.
On that, what do you think is the key to successful creative relationships between licensees and licensors?
A brand’s style guide only restricts creativity if you let it. As long as a brand’s DNA remains intact globally and manufacturing restraints are taken into account, it should feel like a real team effort; a true partnership. Sure, there may be challenges along the way but as long as each party positively inspires the other and they each bring a lot of ideas to the table, it can only result in success.
“Get out there and explore! You’ll never have great ideas if you stare at a screen all day.”
What fuels your creativity? What helps you have ideas?
By staying curious. Get out there and explore! You’ll never have great ideas if you stare at a screen all day. I feel like nowadays fuelling my creativity goes hand in hand with keeping my mental health in check. It’s important to disconnect once in a while. Go and visit an exhibition, gallery or show. Surround yourself with other creative individuals.
My daughter was born in the middle of a global pandemic and ever since then I feel like I have a responsibility to somehow create a better world for her. That put everything into perspective for me. I need to know what I’m doing will have a positive impact, no matter how small… So don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions, remove yourself from your comfort zone, remember to have fun, do your research and, most importantly, consider what you’ll be leaving behind for future generations.
Fantastic. Richard, this has been great. A huge thanks again for taking time out for it.
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