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Michael Ogunseitan – Creative Services Director at WildBrain CPLG – on disruption, creative constraints and the teacher that set him on the path to design.
Hi Michael, it’s great to catch up. To kick us off, what sparked your interest in design?
It goes back to early September 1996, with the credit going to my first design teacher: Mr McLynchy. Although he was an architect, he emphasised an appreciation for design history, chronicling everything from Shaker style to the Bauhaus, and I love furniture design as a result.
There we go – shoutout to Mr McLynchy! And alongside his influence, were there any products that struck a chord with you design-wise?
The Panton chair is one I would have to pinpoint. It broke what I understood to be the definition of a chair and is a source of motivation whenever I approach what seems to be a limited brief. It shows there’s always a new way of approaching a challenge.
“The strength of any brand is tested by how far you can stray from its core values and still maintain the brand’s DNA globally.”
Great answer. You also mentioned that Mr McLynchy stressed an appreciation for design history. How did that shape your ambitions around entering the design space?
Well, product designers during the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties were like rockstars, influencing product, graphics, furniture and typography—and they still influence the design world today. Design, it can be argued, chronicles human development and captures societal trends in time.
To be part of that timeline in any small way is an ambition for any designer, even if it’s a cool Teletubbies mug.
Teletubbies mugs brings us nicely to my next question! What was your first brand-related role?
My first role in the licensing industry came shortly after an internship at the Yellow Pages as a graphic artist. It was at Character UK in Oxford, working on The Simpsons, Elvis, Family Guy and Betty Boop — all within the fun category of gifting! Talking fridge magnets and beer steins were my first blank products to hit the market.
In hindsight, there was a good amount of cross over between these roles in that both had a commercial need for brands to resonate with consumers in new ways in a competitive market.
You’re now Creative Services Director at WildBrain CPLG. Talk us through what the role entails.
Creative leads at companies differ in approach from, say, accountants, in that I could speak to ten different creative directors, and they’d have ten very different approaches to what they do. I hope I haven’t done accountants a huge disservice there!
“One of the amazing things about working at WildBrain CPLG is that one day it’s Pink Panther and the next it’s Yale University.”
Within the Creative Services department here at WildBrain CPLG, from designers to product developers, we are loosely split into three mindsets: disruptive, proactive and responsive—this has us well placed to service our brand partners with today’s needs and also to speculate on tomorrow’s needs.
My role involves taking stewardship of the end-to-end process of translating unique brand stories — and how those stories resonate with consumers — into tangible experiences.
Great stuff. And what are some of the brands you’ve worked on in recent times?
We work on so many fantastic brands and projects; it’s very hard to choose! Some of the notable examples from the last year are Peanuts, Kikkoman and, of course, WildBrain’s Strawberry Shortcake, who’s back with a brand-new look!
There’s lots of different factors that go into making a brand extension success. How important is great design and smart creative?
Great design and smart creative are essential for the success of any brand, especially as there are so many brands competing for the hearts and minds of the modern-day consumer.
Every great idea is born from a path of discovery and this is where innovation comes from, so I very much embrace briefs that ask “What if?” as an open-ended question to which there is no bad answer and only new ways to explore ideas.
With that in mind, we have to create designs that are not only on-brand but also commercially feasible. The strength of any brand in my opinion is tested by how far you can stray from its core values and still maintain the brand’s DNA globally.
Lovely answer. Now, some brands you work with have vast worlds and lots of characters, while others are lifestyle brands. Do you prefer to work in one sandbox more than the other?
Variety is the spice of life! One of the amazing things about working at WildBrain CPLG is that one day it’s Pink Panther, My Little Pony and SpongeBob, and the next it’s Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN and Yale University. It’s a true test of any creative to put aside personal taste and lend their expertise to any opportunity.
Do the creative constraints of some brands actually help to fuel ideas?
Constraints and limitations are fantastic as they help you test the limits of your imagination and usually encourage new ways of thinking via a deeper understanding of a brand’s nature. We have quite a few heritage brands too, so we’ve recently been reviewing archive material and have unearthed some assets that are absolute gems!
“Creativity for me is derived from new experiences, collaborations and challenges.”
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for those! Looking more broadly, do you think the licensing industry is currently in a good place creativity-wise?
We are in an age of absolute abundance when it comes to brands — how they originate, connect with consumers and market themselves. The benefit of having so many brands and so much competition at retail is that you are constantly innovating to be creatively led and this makes the job and industry fun!
Credit for the healthy state of the industry also has to go to the breadth and capabilities of the licensee base, to which we owe so much. They are outstanding.
Michael, this has been great. I have one last question… How do you fuel your own creativity?
Creativity for me is derived from new experiences, collaborations and challenges. It’s a bit like being posed an open-ended question and being on a journey to discover the answers.
In a more direct way, travel fuels my creativity. I visited Mexico earlier this year, and experiencing a different culture is a bit like hitting the reset button on what your day-to-day life is like.
But most importantly I take inspiration from my colleagues and team at WildBrain CPLG. Together, we embrace divergent thinking, as it facilitates a higher degree of creative exploration.
Thanks again Michael. Tremendous insights.
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