Strategy + Design

Two complementary forces coming together to engage your customers, investors, staff and stakeholders.

First we listen. Next we think. Then we design. Delivering results that accelerate your business.

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Results-driven. Case studies galore.
Our work is our advocacy. These are just six of the many case studies on this site showcasing our work and the results we deliver for clients.
NZ Post 2019 Integrated Report
NZ Post 2019 Integrated Report
Rebranding The Sir Peter Blake Trust
Rebranding The Sir Peter Blake Trust
The maunga of Tāmaki
The maunga of Tāmaki
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Mercury’s augmented reality Waikato River experience
Mercury’s augmented reality Waikato River experience
Starship Wonderful Forest
Starship Wonderful Forest
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Victoria University of Wellington Undergraduate Recruitment Campaign 2018
Tamaki Regeneration Company Branding
Tamaki Regeneration Company Branding
Our Expertise. What we do best.
So much more than your name, your logo or visual identity, a brand reflects what you stand for and how you want to be perceived.
So much more than your name, your logo or visual identity, a brand reflects what you stand for and how you want to be perceived.
The best brands are built inside out, effectively engaging and aligning staff perception and behaviour with strategy, culture and performance.
The best brands are built inside out, effectively engaging and aligning staff perception and behaviour with strategy, culture and performance.
We approach digital from a communication, not technical, perspective, engaging audiences online with brand-aligned experiences that are intuitive and rewarding.
We approach digital from a communication, not technical, perspective, engaging audiences online with brand-aligned experiences that are intuitive and rewarding.
Your communication and marketing programmes should be driven by clear insights, engaging audiences towards the desired action.
Your communication and marketing programmes should be driven by clear insights, engaging audiences towards the desired action.
Multi-disciplined physical and digital experiences engage your audiences, reinforcing your brand and culture to drive perception, awareness and behaviours.
Multi-disciplined physical and digital experiences engage your audiences, reinforcing your brand and culture to drive perception, awareness and behaviours.
Good investor communication is much more than just reporting. A clearly communicated long-term investor brand helps you attract, grow and retain investors and capital.
Good investor communication is much more than just reporting. A clearly communicated long-term investor brand helps you attract, grow and retain investors and capital.
Blog Posts. Thought-leading insights.

The Sanford Integrated Report Journey

26 Nov 2020 by Mike Tisdall

It seems that wherever we turn in corporate New Zealand, the Sanford integrated reports are held in the highest esteem and the benchmark that other companies measure their integrated reporting progress by.  We...

the sanford integrated report journey mike tisdall

it seems that wherever we turn in corporate new zealand, the sanford integrated reports are held in the highest esteem and the benchmark that other companies measure their integrated reporting progress by. 

we have produced all seven of the sanford reports, starting in 2014. (and prior to that, their annual and sustainability reports since 2008.)

the 2014 report was a breakthrough. it really set a high threshold for what integrated reporting could and should be and put corporate new zealand on notice for what future reporting expectations would be.

it’s a great time to look back at the journey. sanford’s ceo for the past seven years, volker kuntzch, elected to seek a change of direction. this retrospective is as much a tribute to his visionary and care-centred leadership as it is a tale of the evolution of sustainability reporting in new zealand.

the early reports

when volker briefed us to produce the 2014 report as an integrated one, we had little experience in the genre. we knew some rudimentary principles and looked at two or three australian examples, but to be frank, were completely underwhelmed and felt they taught us nothing.

it was time to take a deeper dive to really understand the crux of this new way of thinking. the penny-dropping moment was when the ceo of the iirc (international integrated reporting council) visited new zealand. he encouraged us to stop looking through the lens of the impact that sanford had on things, and start thinking about how those things might impact on sanford’s business in the long term if not planned for and protected. once we looked beyond the one-way corporate citizenship thing, we were able to see the virtuous circle and what a game changer this was for business and the world.

sanford proved to be the perfect client to apply this to. the most immediate and lasting impression of hearing volker’s philosophy was the authenticity that was being nurtured within sanford – his genuine care for people and the environment in particular. you could feel the soul of the company under his leadership, and that sense has continued, only today there’s a lot more embedded structure around it. and that philosophy will, in turn, protect the sanford business for decades to come.

from the beginning, we knew that soulful storytelling was the key to sharing this authenticity. so rather than merely report data about what they were doing, we chose to dig deeper and frame a more emotive, connecting story.

our first report was titled ‘how we see the sea’. and it set the tone for the new way they deserved to be perceived.

we continued storytelling journey in 2015, seeking once again to convey the grounded authenticity we found in sanford, and embed that understanding. with reports that are content heavy, as these reports are – close on 120 pages – we strive to layer the communication, so that the core tone and messaging are conveyed at a glance, while those that want evidence have plenty to provide that assurance.

2016 – 2020

as we all gained more experience in integrated reporting, our learnings enabled our reports to become more sophisticated and the messaging more specific while never veering far from that intrepid seafaring core. 

the value creation model journey

a great measure of increasing understanding of integrated reporting is the sophistication and depth of one of the central and defining elements: the value creation model. 

back in 2014, our understanding of what they were meant to convey was fairly superficial and the resulting first attempt, while clear, was very simplistic. 

in 2015, we made it more engaging through illustration, and it is this version that seems to have set the benchmark if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. we now see versions of this illustration in many new zealand integrated reports.

as for sanford, they’ve evolved too. as they’ve become more meaningful with the gradual inclusion of more data, the space for illustration has become somewhat constrained. but we’ve endeavoured to retain the visual engagement while ringing the changes to keep it fresh.

     
2015

 
2019

 
2020

openness and trust

ironically, one of the aims of integrated reporting is conciseness. but when one of your communication objectives is transparency and clear differentiation within an industry that suffers from a corporate trust issue, then full, open disclosure and over-communication is a valuable positioning tool. as sanford has seen success in this defining positioning strategy and trust rapidly build, they have been able to reduce the page count noticeably in the last two years. but openness and transparency have never been compromised.

awards speak to an enduring quality

sanford have been recognised every year of their integrated report journey. over a dozen international awards, from the new york-based arc awards to the international graphis awards to the more regional ara awards, thrice winning best integrated report, twice winning best sustainability report, and twice being a report of the year finalist. and this year, the inaugural nz integrated reporting award winner.

as the years have gone by, our immersive knowledge of both the spirit and mechanisms of the integrated reporting framework have grown exponentially. but the dive into the deep end for sanford was the trigger that sparked our admiration for the extraordinary business power of integrating reporting and our desire to go deeper and deeper to better advise new zealand businesses no matter where they are on the journey.

integrated reporting, annual reports, sustainability reports, sanford, insight creative, value creation models

The arcane alchemy of strategic design

03 Nov 2020 by Mike Tisdall

Insight Creative makes quite a play of calling itself a  strategic  design agency. But what is strategic design? And is it the game changer that we like to think it is? I’ve always been seduced by great...

the arcane alchemy of strategic design mike tisdall

insight creative makes quite a play of calling itself a strategic design agency. but what is strategic design? and is it the game changer that we like to think it is?

i’ve always been seduced by great design. if i had my time again, i’d strive to be a great architect. it’s the power of the aesthetic to uplift, to inspire, to affect your feelings. great design still has that effect on me, as does great music. all very ephemeral but powerful nevertheless.

ever since i founded insight 45 years ago, the aesthetics of what we do has been a vital component. but i quickly learnt that the look is only the vehicle. it’s the idea behind the aesthetic that’s the difference between whether a design works or not. it’s what it does, the affect that it has, that’s the point of all this. and as i got closer to business, the more the importance of that resonated. i set out to find the formula that rationalised the ephemeral. but of course there is none. you can’t bottle it.

i remember briefing designers back then, saying ‘it’s got to be right first, then we can make it beautiful’. 

i didn’t recognise it back then, but what i was saying was ‘the design we produce has to be strategic design’.

so, with the benefit of a much older and wiser outlook, what does ‘strategic design’ look like to me now? it’s design practice that sits at the nexus between corporate strategy and design thinking. its goal is to merge the business objective with creative solutions that move beyond just aesthetics. solutions that capture the imagination, captivate an audience, inspire. but that also shift perceptions, make a train of thought clear, solve a problem, persuade, and drive action.

there’s an alchemy at play here. the strict discipline of rational business thinking in a lyrical dance with intuition and sensibilities. that’s where the magic lies. and that’s precisely where my entire career has been centred.

while that word ‘rational’ sits naturally with the business thinking side of the equation, there has to be a similar discipline when approaching the creative execution. it’s where the left brain and right brain play trade-off. where science meets the arts. where the actuary marries the artiste.

and that’s where the creative strategists in our organisation sit. constantly balancing the tension between logic and comprehension on one hand, and soul and sensibilities on the other. conducting the orchestra to bring diverse mindsets together in harmony.

and how do we go about that? ah, that’s the arcane enigma of strategic design. but it sure takes strong discipline and some inner turmoil. we can’t give all our secrets away but we can tell you where it starts: 1/ a critical analysis of a brief and what success means, 2/ an in-depth understanding of the audience and what drives their perceptions and behaviours, and 3/ looking beyond the obvious for optimal solutions that engage hearts and minds, and that drive interest, desire and action.

and when we get it right – that’s pure gold!

strategic design, design in business, effective design

Making business sense of WFH

03 Nov 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

    Many of our clients and suppliers are working from home a day or two a week and that’s creating demand from our team to follow suit. We’re a small business looking to get back on track after...

making business sense of wfh steven giannoulis

 

 

many of our clients and suppliers are working from home a day or two a week and that’s creating demand from our team to follow suit. we’re a small business looking to get back on track after the significant impact of lockdown and, for me right now, that means everyone in the office focused on delivering results together.

i hear the call for more working from home (wfh) and understand the wellbeing benefits for individuals such as reduced commute stress and more time for family. i want these too but i’m struggling to balance these benefits with a business roi. i know it makes sense for some other businesses but, at this point, the business case for increased wfh just doesn’t stack up for me.

don’t get me wrong, i enjoy working from home, especially when i need quiet uninterrupted headspace to nut out something important. we’ve had a wfh policy as part of our wider wellbeing programme for over four years now. it allows for occasional and planned wfh to get specific things done and to help balance home obligations.

while most of the team are happy with, and are increasingly taking advantage of, the current policy, a number would like to see a more permanent, fixed days, arrangement. the argument for increased wfh is largely about happier staff who are more productive and loyal. i support this in theory. however, i just can’t see how this is achieved in practice.

my experience and readings tell me that for short periods working from home can be very rewarding and productive. but over the longer term, it has more distractions, often means working on inferior equipment, having less collaboration opportunities, and missing out on the benefit of ambient information. research indicates that these factors lead to individuals feeling less connected with their team and the company as a whole – not more productive or loyal.

lockdown showed us there are ways to manage many of these challenges when you have to. we worked really hard to make sure everyone was as productive as they could be and felt engaged and connected with the company. along with perfecting zoom and teams we introduced ted style talks, virtual drinks and ‘quiz nights’ and more cross-team projects. this focus takes effort which is easier to sustain when everyone, including your clients, are in the same boat and you know it’s temporary. 

being in the office is much less hard work. everything everyone needs to do their job is right there. the emotional connection with the work, each other and with clients forms more naturally. 

when someone works from home, everyone else assumes they have a pending deadline, a home situation to deal with, or they are feeling unwell and don’t want to spread germs. the natural tendency is therefore not to contact them and to defer work until they are back. this has a direct impact on productivity. with many working from home, important tasks and issues can get deferred for days until everyone is back in the office. addressing this requires a cultural shift to ensure people understand that wfh means you are still working and available to engage. but if we achieve this shift, constant interruptions will quickly erode the real benefit of wfh. 

and then there’s the impact on those at work. there are some people who can’t or just don’t want to wfh. it’s these people, always in the office, who have to pick up the slack when unexpected work comes in, when there are urgent situations, or where compromise is required. this builds feelings of inequity, with potentially negative impacts on their wellbeing, loyalty and productivity. we are seeing some of this already with our current arrangements.

our business thrives on ideas and delivering successful team projects. to me that equates to working together, sharing ideas and supporting each other to achieve the results. i dislike how the office feels when a significant number of people are out. the space lacks a dynamic energy and that sense of a creative team working together. this doesn’t inspire my best work and surely reflects negatively when clients visit.  

of course there is the health and safety aspect that must be considered. we can’t contract out of our responsibilities for the team’s wellbeing but we definitely don’t want to ‘baby proof’ each individual’s home work space. ours is desk and screen based work, where poor practices leave people open to rsi and eye issues. for ad hoc wfh, taking your laptop home and working on the dining table is fine. for anything more permanent, we’d need to invest in home desks, chairs, screens and other equipment and that has a significant cost. 

these additional costs may be ok if you can reduce your office space requirements and associated rent but for many of us, locked in long-term leases, this isn’t an option.

the biggest wfh challenge for me is building and maintaining culture. we already run two offices which has its own cultural challenges. we’ve worked hard to build a shared team-based culture driven by our values. i’d like to think we’re a family, there for each other. it’s so much harder to maintain this when you limit your ability to interact, bond or even have everyone in the same room at the same time. teams, zoom, and email are great functional tools but they don’t foster the same personal connection that regular and informal face-to-face allows.

i know these are challenges many of our clients are also grappling with. we’re working with a number of them to revisit their internal communication platforms and policies in order to build more engagement, interaction, and connection. fostering both real and digital social connections becomes a big focus in their new communication approach.

for those who aren’t considering it already, think about how your next staff engagement survey can be adapted to measure the impact of staff having less direct engagement with the business. having only 50% or so of staff in the office at any one time may require a significant cultural shift, moving to something more aligned with a remote workforce.

for now, we’re sticking with our current wfh approach but being increasingly more flexible and open with how we apply it. i have no doubt that we will move further down the wfh spectrum so i’m not fighting it, just actively looking for ways to make the argument more favourable for the business. in preparation for when we get there, we’re starting to rethink culture and team communications to support the new way of being that wfh brings.

wfh, working from home, business culture, productivity
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