27 offices in 21 countries. Always one Landor.
This year Landor celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Walter Landor, born in Munich, Germany, in 1913, was greatly influenced by the Bauhaus and Werkbund design movements as a young designer. In 1941 he established Walter Landor & Associates in San Francisco, where he pioneered many of the research, design, and consulting methods that are now standard across the branding industry. Today, Walter Landor is recognized as one of the first champions of branding, design, and visual identity, especially as these practices apply to commercial business strategy.
In 1964, Walter Landor moved the company’s headquarters onto the Klamath ferryboat, which he purchased at auction and docked in San Francisco Bay. It was a bold move, and the Klamath quickly became renowned for groundbreaking creative work and for the myriad cultural luminaries who loved to visit—Andy Warhol, Tom Wolfe, Issey Miyake, Marshall McLuhan, and many others. Although Landor’s San Francisco office moved onshore in the mid-1980s, the Klamath remains an important symbol of creative thinking for Landor employees to this day.
In 1967, Landor opened its first international office in Rome, Italy. In the coming years it continued to expand, founding offices in Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. In Greater China, Landor established its presence with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. Today, Landor has 27 offices in 21 countries around the world, with an international network that employs global perspective, insight, and speed to help its clients thrive.
Landor has created thousands of brands that people encounter every day. Some of its past and current clients include Aeroflot, Axiata, Barclays, Bayer, BMW, BP, Danone, Etihad Airways, FedEx, Garuda Indonesia, GE, HSBC, Jin Jiang Group, Kraft Heinz, Levi Strauss, LG Group, Marriott International, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Pernod Ricard, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Sony, Suntory, Taj Group, Tata Group, and Uni-President.
In 2015, Landor’s network earned a record 13 Cannes Lions, a CLIO, seven D&AD pencils, and five Transform awards, and was inducted into the Rebrand Hall of Fame. It was the world’s most awarded branding agency at the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Last year, Landor released The Agility Paradox, a global research study demonstrating that today’s most successful brands are agile brands. It describes how managers of agile brands are embracing seemingly opposing strategies for their brands: staying true to the brand’s core while constantly evolving to keep pace. Consumers—particularly millennials—expect and prefer brands to exhibit these contradictory qualities. This “agility paradox” demands a new brand management model that abandons some of the long-held axioms of brand governance and replaces them with six key behaviors of agility: principled, adaptive, open, responsible, multichannel, and global. This approach allows brands to succeed in a world rife with accelerating markets, disruptive strategies, multiplying touchpoints, and ever-savvier consumers.
Recently, Package & Design interviewed Lois Jacobs, chief executive officer of Landor; Luc Speisser, managing director of Landor Paris and Geneva; Tristan Macherel, executive creative director of Landor Paris; and David Mineyama-Smithson, executive creative director of Landor Greater China.
Agile brands are:
Principled: Agile brands are clear about what they stand for and make a strong promise to their customers.
Adaptive: They are both nimble in addressing risk and quick to seize opportunity.
Open: They connect with consumers on an emotional level, engaging them in dialogue about what role the brand plays in their lives.
Responsible: They act responsibly in order to solidify connections between brands and consumers.
Multichannel: They consider the entire spectrum of possibilities, decide which platforms and experiences are appropriate, and tailor their approach to each.
Global: They watch for competitors, critiques, and cutting-edge ideas from every corner of the world.
Interview with Lois Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer
As the chief executive officer of Landor, what do you enjoy the most and what part is the most difficult?
For me, working at Landor is exciting because I am surrounded by clever and creative people working in teams that combine robust strategic thought with mouthwatering creative execution. There is a constant flow of ideas and new perspectives that engenders a fast-moving, intense, and stimulating environment.
The most difficult part of my job is ensuring that we at Landor keep pace with the quickly changing world around us by sharing knowledge among our offices in the 21 countries where we operate. Everything we do in one office can be of use to teams in another office. It’s essential for us to remain current and connected so that we can offer the best advice to our clients in all markets across all industries.
As we know, Landor has 27 branches around the world. Other than two acquisitions, all branches established after the head office were designed to maintain the unifying culture of Landor. Could you tell us about the corporate culture of Landor?
Our culture is indeed very important to us and even with our acquisitions, we wouldn’t enter into a partnership if we did not believe that we had shared cultural aspirations. Landor’s 27 offices function as one Landor, providing clients and employees around the world with similar Landor experiences and exceptional Landor quality.
We make a conscious effort to foster a unifying Landor culture through global communications and events such as Walter’s Day, which celebrates our company’s heritage and our founder Walter Landor; Globetrotters, a program that gives employees the opportunity to work abroad in a different Landor office for three months; Landor Creative Champions, which celebrates and shares outstanding work from across our network while giving Landor employees a chance to challenge and inspire one another; and the Big Share, a quarterly teleconference where we communicate news to every employee and generate live discussions across our offices.
Of course, each office retains a unique feel and flavor that reflects its local culture, but remains true to one Landor overall. It is said that “in dealing with problems, every Landor international employee uses the same tools and thinks with the same Landor approach.”
We’re wondering: What are the Landor tools and approach?
We have many, but two of the most valuable and most frequently used tools are prototyping and experience mapping.
Through prototyping, we help clients make fast, informed decisions by showing them visual mockups of potential strategic and creative directions and helping them understand the implications of their choices. Prototypes can take many forms, but the goal is always to get brands to market quickly with more certainty of success.
Experience mapping enables us to show clients the many ways their brands can interact with their audiences. We think about the brand in very human terms: How does it look, feel, talk, behave, and even dream? The answers to these questions help us create a 360-degree, holistic brand experience.
Rumor has it that a special cultural phenomenon exists among Landor’s high-level management: Many of them left the company for a while only to return years later. Is that true? If so, how did it come to be a phenomenon? Does Landor actually encourage it?
It’s certainly true that some of our employees have left and come back. Some leave to gain experience with other types of companies or with clients directly, but we’re often pleased to welcome them into the fold once again.
How do the 27 branches of Landor work together? Does the work of each branch need to be checked by the head office? How does Landor maintain the uniformity and high quality of the branches at an international level?
We are organized into five regions—North America, EMEA, Greater China, SEAPJ, and LATAM, and the regional heads meet four times each year. However, all of our offices collaborate regularly regardless of region, sharing global perspectives, cultural insights, resources, and work. For example, the hospitality brands Tangram and Nuo were both projects borne of collaboration between our Paris and China teams.
We certainly don’t review every project or action at the corporate level. It is important to us that we have the best talent in every country where we operate. Our clients know that if they go to Landor, they’ll receive excellent work and a consistent approach regardless of location. To help with that connectivity we have different communities and practices that operate across regions. For example, lead strategists in every region meet virtually several times during the year to share new thinking and ensure that tactics and approaches are being communicated across offices.
Sometimes we set up a project across multiple offices with the intent of working faster, and teams pass files from one office to another as workdays begin and end. We call this “the 25th hour.” It enables us to not only work more quickly, but also ensures that our work includes regional insights and has global appeal. This works because we are all aligned on the basic principles of building agile brands.
Tell us about your research, The Agility Paradox. How do you carry out your idea of “creating agile brands” in your projects? Any feedback from your clients? Could you please give some examples?
The Agility Paradox began because we wanted to better understand how to keep brands competitive in today’s technologically advanced, fast-moving world. We embarked on a global study using millennial consumer research and proprietary data from BrandAsset® Valuator (BAV), the world’s largest and most enduring study of brands with over 20 years of data.
Branding has never been as important to commercial success as it is now, but we believe that traditional approaches to brand management have become out-of-date. Our study showed that agile brands are the most successful brands, so brand managers have to adapt their traditional management model to ensure that agility is a primary focus. Through our research we learned that six key behaviors indicate a brand’s agility; namely, its ability to be principled, adaptive, open, responsible, multichannel, and global.
Brands like Dyson and Alibaba display many of the agile traits. Dyson strives to be constantly inventive as it grows its product line while remaining true to its underlying brand promise of delivering innovative, well-engineered products. In this way it is both principled and adaptive. Meanwhile Alibaba, the fourth-ranked brand on our Chinese top 10 list, demonstrates open behavior—for example, it listened to consumers’ concerns about e-commerce and responded by creating the Alipay platform.
For our clients, The Agility Paradox and its findings have resonated strongly. The agile behaviors are leading many of our clients to reconsider their current brand management models, forcing them to acknowledge that the days of rigid decision making are over. Being agile and adaptive, open and collaborative, all while remaining true to your core are the kind of behaviors consumers expect from today’s brands.
Landor used to be not only a design center but also a social hub. Do you hold social events and parties for celebrities now?
No, we don’t hold as many parties today because we live in different times. But we always strive to bring new ideas and innovative thinking to our clients. We hold a Wake Up with Landor event series each year, providing an intimate setting to discuss our latest points of view with clients and colleagues.
What’s the biggest challenge for Landor at present?
Landor has long been a pioneer in branding and we are constantly innovating. Being on the forefront of the latest trends and technology is a challenge, but with acquisitions like motion design studio ManvsMachine and innovation agency NorthandSouth, we continue to move forward and anticipate our clients’ needs.
Please describe a typical day for yourself at work.
The best thing about my job is that I have no typical day. Certainly I always start with email (doesn’t everyone?) and I focus on that several times a day—I’m an empty inbox kind of person. About half of our work is project-based, so I always check in to see what new opportunities may have surfaced overnight.
Every week I meet virtually with one of my regional presidents to get an in-depth update on what’s going on in their region. Video conferencing is a wonderful thing, making for much more productive and engaging meetings because all parties are visible to one another and have to focus more intently. Talent and clients are always at the top of the agenda on those calls.
I commute every month between London and New York, spending equal time in each location. I also travel to many of our other offices, always attempting to meet with our clients in those particular markets. Client meetings are always so interesting: We could be talking about anything from splitting off a division of a major company or creating a new brand extension for a major soft drinks manufacturer, to branding a real estate development or revisiting brand architecture for a group of consumer laundry brands. Landor’s scope of work across both consumer and B2B brands is something that is endlessly interesting. Before I leave any given office, I’m also sure to stop in and see our latest creative work.
I talk several times a day with our COO/CFO, as I’m always keen to know how we are tracking against our plans for the year. In addition, we’re part of WPP, the world’s largest communications services group with 3,000 offices in 112 countries, and our fiscal reporting for them is both regular and robust.
Often, though, the best part of my day is on the plane. This is where I get my best ideas that evolve my thinking and solve problems. I’m not sure why, but I love the atmosphere of being unavailable and disconnected from every office. In the air I find perspective and clarity—something which can get lost in the excitement of everyday life.
City of Melbourne
Interview with Luc Speisser, Managing Director, Landor Paris and Geneva
How many employees does Landor Paris currently have? What are the major industries of the clients with whom you most closely work?
We are an office of about 50 to 60 people depending on the number of freelancers we have in-house at any given moment.
We have strong credentials across myriad clients and industries, helping reinvent brands across the B2B and B2C spaces for both big global brands and smaller local ones. Some of our clients and industries include: agro-business (Syngenta), automotive (Citroën, Citroën DS, Seat), banking and insurance (Natixis, Axa), consumer goods (Procter & Gamble, Danone, Bel, Mondelēz), energy and transportation (Total Marketing & Services, Geodis, RATP Group), hospitality (Kempinski Hotels, Tangram, La Mamounia, AccorHotels, Louvre Hotels, HomeAway), luxury goods (Hennessy), and pharmaceuticals (Roche).
We have deep experience and expertise in many categories, but our overall ambition is always to be our clients’ most trusted partner, helping them solve any and all challenges related to their brands.
Since joining the company in 2005, you’ve been leading a robust team in Paris. Since 2012, Landor Paris has been rated No. 1 in strategy and client satisfaction by the agencies-brands relationship barometer run by Limelight Consulting/OpinionWay. Can you share your experience leading such a great team?
When I joined Landor in 2005 as the executive director of strategy for Paris and Geneva, the Paris office was only known as a packaging design agency (despite the fact that our founder, Walter Landor, essentially invented the whole branding industry). There was a huge gap between the office’s reputation and the amazing horsepower of other Landor offices around the world, which were using superior strategic and creative approaches to create innovative brand solutions for their clients. So my first task was to dramatically improve the strategic skills at the Paris office, aligning them with the other major Landor offices. I remember my speech to the office during the first company meeting I attended. I told everyone that we did not deserve the Landor sign over the entrance, and that we wouldn’t deserve it until we were capable of providing high-level strategic offerings for our clients. I did not make friends at that meeting, but it was the truth and it needed to be told—a kind of wake-up call, if you will. And then I discovered something I will never forget: the unique power of the Landor network.
I was invited to attend Landor’s strategic community council, which takes place every year in New York, to learn more about the best strategic practices across our network. Over the next two days I met with some of the finest strategic brains at Landor, hearing all about their experiences, credentials, and advanced strategic thinking. I absorbed as much information as I possibly could and once I was back in Paris the Landor network continued to support me, offering advice on almost every strategic assignment we pitched. Thanks to this supersonic fast track, we very quickly won our first strategic assignments on innovation, and after just two years we had the chance to win and work on one of the biggest and most complete brand architecture assignments that Landor has ever accomplished. This gave the Paris office an incredible edge in the strategy discipline, with our unique and efficient business-led approach differentiating us from our competitors in continental Europe. Since then, we have relentlessly continued to improve our strategic practice, bringing a number of new, innovative, and efficient strategic tools to our network and clients. This is certainly one of the reasons why we are rated No. 1 in the strategy field.
But strategic excellence was just one step. When I took over as managing director it didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted our office to be. This was rooted in a very simple observation: What happens at the supermarket happens in the branding industry, too, with customers either buying the cheapest or the best. Everything in between simply disappears from the shelves. Both Landor and our holding company, WPP, have always strived to be the best—it is part of our culture. The implication of this ambition is very simple: We must provide our clients with the best strategy, the best client service, and the best creative. So I “senior-ized” the team at all levels starting with building a strong and complementary executive team, and then completely transformed the creative team by recruiting a new executive creative director. Four years later, we have won and expanded relationships with numerous prestigious clients and built an enviable creative reputation both locally and internationally. With five Cannes Lions, Landor Paris was the most awarded brand and design consultancy at Cannes in 2015. And we are very proud that our beloved executive creative director Tristan Macherel has been chosen as president of the design jury at Cannes 2016.
What’s your standard in selecting talent? What quality do you feel is a must for employees?
We have two objectives with regard to talent: First, hiring, growing, and keeping the best of the best. Second, attracting the most promising new talent.
We look for excellence and for people that will excel. We want everyone in the office, no matter the department or level of seniority, to be a creative problem solver. Hence, the qualities we expect: We want our people to be excellent listeners, the very first quality for great problem solving, and we want our employees to be highly entrepreneurial, demonstrating a can-do attitude. We look for people who are determined and impactful, who refuse to take no for an answer. Being straightforward and simple is also important so our teams can cut through the jargon and focus on the core issues. Last but not least, we want good people, people you are happy to have a beer with after work—we spend too much of our lives at work to have to deal with jerks, even if they are good professionals. And of course, one final attribute that might sound obvious: We want passion. People who love what they are doing. Who love creating or recreating brands. Who love solving problems. Who love thinking about the right strategic angle or the perfect digital interface.
One of the greatest compliments I received since becoming managing director at Landor Paris was from a talent hunter who, after listening to me answer questions about how Landor Paris was doing, told me: “I have spoken with many people who rave about Landor Paris and now I better understand why. You are one of the very few agencies that I have met over the last years—and I have met a lot—that does not start complaining when I ask how they are doing, but tells me directly about the latest brands you have invented or reinvented, with a true sparkle in your eye. This is something quite rare today.” What better compliment can you ask for?
What do you think is the most important thing in design management?
To answer that question I always quote Walter Landor: “A brand is a promise. A great brand is a kept promise.” This was true yesterday, this is still true today (if not even truer), and it will definitely be true tomorrow—what a brand does has to be in line with what the brand says. But the way brands achieve this balance has to dramatically change. For a long time, brands were built as cathedrals: complex and piously protected, somehow hermetic to their surroundings and the evolving environments in which they operated. Identities remained silent and lacked meaning. Brands of today, and inevitably of tomorrow, cannot remain frozen in time, but must be agile.
And yet most companies are still fulfilling only an infinitesimal part of their brands’ potential. The digital revolution, combined with a blend of high-level strategic and creative brand thinking and doing, has turned brands into worlds of unchartered possibilities. A logo is more than just a visual graphic—it’s not just about shapes and colors, it’s about delivering a brand’s promise across every channel. Every single brand touchpoint can become highly engaging and ownable as free, permanent media: That is the real future of design management. Brands, whoever you are, join us in embracing all the opportunities of this exciting new agile world.
Before moving into a branding career, you’d been working on AIDS prevention and other health-related issues at several foundations for 10 years. How does this kind of experience influence your work at present?
It has, is, and will continue to influence my work massively. I believe that our job at Landor is to get people to change their behaviors by fully leveraging the potential of a brand. Think about it. Everything we do aims to alter consumers’ actions: getting consumers to shift from brand A to brand B, getting consumers to buy more products from brand A, getting consumers to buy or more frequently use the products from brand A, getting employees to change the way they serve their clients to align with the company’s new values or promise.
Working on AIDS prevention and other health-related issues was the best training I could have dreamt of. Not only did I have to get people to change their behaviors, which is never an easy thing to do, but I also had to “sell” them very unsexy behavioral shifts, either getting them to radically stop or seriously limit things they loved to do like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, or getting them to use products they did not want to hear about, such as condoms.
After volunteering for numerous NGOs, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, I had the opportunity to take one of the most exciting jobs possible: leading the French public communications against AIDS. It was the mid-’90s and we were at the peak of the AIDS pandemic. The challenge was huge. I quickly learned the limitations of mass advertising: Even with a big budget and a strong idea, advertising raised awareness but was not sufficient to change perceptions, and didn’t even come close to changing behaviors. So we developed specific communications strategies and action plans across 18 different target audiences, because one size does not fit all when you’re talking about sex and condoms. We had to create the conditions for the message to get across, so we looked for new ways to accomplish that far beyond traditional media. For example, how do you think we managed to reach porn-movie lovers? We signed a partnership with Canal+, the largest pay-TV channel in France, to coproduce pornographic short films demonstrating the efficiency of the condom. These were created by the most famous French directors and broadcast every first Saturday of the month, right before the main porn movie. It was a great success, and the prevention message got across like never before.
What have these years and challenges infused in me? An inextinguishable appetite to try new things, learn from failure, never give up, and constantly invent and reinvent.
How do you maintain and balance your work at Landor Paris and Geneva?
I live in Paris so I naturally spend more time there (and it’s not the worst place to live, actually). I connect daily with the Geneva team and I adapt my presence on the ground in Geneva to our clients’ needs. There are some months where I visit only once, others where I visit every week. The great thing is that I now have amazing teams in both Paris and Geneva, so I can travel to either place without worrying that everything will collapse in the other! Over the course of my years at the helm of Paris and Geneva, the accomplishment I am most proud of is the team I have built. Because in our industry, it’s all about the people, it’s all about the team.
Interview with Tristan Macherel, Executive Creative Director, Landor Paris
Landor Paris has won multiple creativity awards, so what’s your secret in leading such a great team?
There’s no real secret—a great team has to be able to combine strong strategy with exceptional creativity. I expect designers on my team to think holistically, considering things through multiple lenses.
Could you describe your typical design process after assuming a project?
We see ourselves as problem solvers. Rather than starting with inspirational images as many designers do, we begin with insights. Once we land on a key insight we look for a creative idea to address it.
Landor Paris has created many brilliant packaging design works. What’s your philosophy in packaging design?
Every day, 365 days a year, package design is a means to start a conversation with an audience. It is important that brands don’t miss out on this opportunity. They should think about packaging as a way to communicate their point of view, not just inform consumers about the product contained within the packaging.
How about your philosophy and practice in logo designing?
Designing a company’s logo should be about more than just creating a mark—it should be a true sign of change. As with packaging, logos offer great possibilities for companies to communicate their visions. Logos can become more than mere symbols of recognition, endowed with much deeper meaning.
What part of the design process do you enjoy the most and what part is the most difficult?
The most enjoyable and most difficult parts of the design process go hand in hand. I most look forward to the special moment when I spot a brilliant idea and see it come alive. However, getting to these ideas is always a challenge and can require many iterations and a lot of patience, time, and energy.
Are your clients in Paris easy to deal with? What do you usually do when clients have doubts about your design proposal?
We are always looking to create agile brands that are both different and relevant, and sometimes being different is a difficult thing for our clients to embrace.
The French market is very conservative—in my opinion, not brave enough. At Landor, our role is to challenge our clients. We strive for the no because that means we’ve pushed our clients to consider a new way of thinking. Chasing a yes is easy, but it will not drive our clients to innovate.
Landor has been working with many big brands in rebranding strategy planning. In dealing with the rebranding planning for the same brand at different stages, how do you maintain the coherence of the brand while creating something new?
Maintaining coherence doesn’t prevent us from creating something new as long as the foundation is grounded in a strong brand idea. This core brand concept can be expressed in many different ways. Clients shouldn’t focus on using the same assets consistently, but rather on constantly using their core assets in innovative ways.
Interview with David Mineyama-Smithson, Executive Creative Director, Landor Greater China
How many offices does Landor Greater China have? What are the major industries of the clients wtih whom you mostly work?
Our regional headquarters are in Shanghai, and we have offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Seoul. We work across a broad range of industries but see a significant amount of work in retail (particularly apparel), leisure, hotels, and hospitality.
What do you feel is the difference between leading a team in Greater China and leading a Western design team? What do you enjoy the most and what part is the most difficult?
There is a distinct difference between Chinese design teams and Western ones, most of which I think stems from the differences in the educational systems in their respective countries. Chinese designers who are domestically educated tend to be more task-oriented than their Western counterparts. They are very capable when it comes to working under clear and precise instruction, but tend to struggle more with out-of-the-box thinking and taking initiative—though obviously there are always exceptions. Chinese designers who have spent a few years in Western design schools often bring new perspective and approaches to their work, offering the best of both regions. There is also a distinct difference in working style between the younger generations and some of our more senior staff, as we’re seeing a very rapid rise of some of our talented junior and mid-level creatives.
In terms of the parts I most enjoy and the things I find most challenging, I really appreciate the hungry and enthusiastic nature of the young creatives coming out of the Greater China region. Their willingness to try new things and give concepts a go enables change to occur quickly and keeps things moving at a very rapid rate. Some of the difficulties obviously stem from the language barrier and cultural differences, since I am originally from England, but also from the often-detailed guidance that can be needed to help teams deliver the desired result.
Could you describe your typical design process after assuming a project?
Our design process starts during the very first stage of a project, when cross-disciplinary teams work together to rapidly prototype strategic scenarios. We view the strategic component of any project as integral to the design phase and irreplaceable within the creative process. Only when we have arrived at a strategy that delivers insight, differentiation, relevance, and credibility will we move into more precise visual expressions. Typically we work on developing multiple concept silos, each with a unique angle on how to express the positioning.
This process is seen as one of the real strengths of Landor, a true integration of strategy and expression that many companies claim, but few are able to put into practice.
What’s your standard for selecting talent for Landor Greater China? How do you train your new employees? And how do you attract talent and retain employees?
We look for diversity and openness in our teams as it helps promote innovation. In order to accomplish the right mix, we choose people with international and local experiences and perspectives, people that will share and collaborate on projects at all stages of work. It’s through these daily interactions and discussions that our designers and strategists learn and adapt their knowledge to create solutions that are right for our clients in their particular markets.
Does Landor Greater China screen its clients? What kind of clients do you prefer to work with? From your standpoint, what’s the difference between working with Chinese clients and with Westerners?
Partnership, understanding, and trust are the keys to success when it comes to building brands anywhere in the world. This is the chemistry we look for when we partner with clients. This approach to working with clients, while well established in the West, is still in its infancy in the Chinese market, which relies on a more client-supplier method. Though Chinese clients may have a different working style, they more than make up for it with their appetite, enthusiasm, and willingness to experiment in branding. Established Western brands tend to have a more cautious, incremental approach to change—big leaps can take a long time. In contrast, Chinese clients are eager to test new ideas in the market, which in turn creates fantastic creative opportunities.
What do you think of the design market and creative industry in China?
In terms of branding in the region, we stand at a unique and privileged point in time. As Chinese companies spread their wings beyond domestic boundaries, we recognize that no prior generations have had—and possibly no later ones will have—the opportunity to play such an influential role in helping build the global brands of tomorrow. In the midst of our work it can be easy to forget that consciously or unconsciously, we are writing tomorrow’s history of the industry here and now.
20/80: 100% good
The story of the Klamath
In the 1960s, Walter Landor faced a difficult situation: With more and more people joining the branding company he pioneered, the San Francisco office was no longer big enough to support its number of employees. Many people suggested that Walter invest in a large, impressive office to accommodate his staff—and more importantly, outshine the competition. However, Walter didn’t take the usual path. He solved the problem by spending just $12,000 for the Klamath, a handcrafted wooden ferryboat he purchased at auction.
Walter docked the huge ferryboat at Pier 5 in the San Francisco Bay. The move was questioned by many people, including government officials who thought Landor should have applied for a license. Luckily for Walter, the local government couldn’t decide exactly which category he should have applied for—the Klamath was neither a simple ferryboat nor a building. People started to speculate that Landor would close. Ultimately, however, Walter’s bold decision to buy the Klamath perfectly represented Landor’s out-of-the-box thinking and led to much successes that eventually silenced all doubters.
With a capacity of 1,000 people, the Klamath allowed Landor’s employees to move their working location from land to sea, which offered a great deal of flexibility and inspiration. It also resulted in a unique phenomenon: If you saw someone stumble on the sidewalk nearby, it was probably a Landor employee who was so used to the rocking of the boat that they struggled to find balance again once on land.
Landor’s employees and visitors soon found that working on the boat was a brilliant idea. The delicate windows and the broad deck created a special atmosphere for creativity. Landorians became accustomed to the sound of waves and the barking of seals. They enjoyed outdoor meetings with clients and even made their own lunches of freshly caught fish.
The Klamath quickly became renowned for the groundbreaking creative work coming out of its studios, as well as the myriad cultural luminaries who loved to visit, including Andy Warhol, Tom Wolfe, Issey Miyake, Marshall McLuhan, and many others.
The Klamath served as Landor’s office for over 20 years. In the 1980s, Landor moved its headquarters back on land. With the development of the internet and other digital equipment, the Klamath could no longer cater to the rapid growth of the company. Even so, it still conveys the values and spirit of its founder and has become a long-standing symbol for the company. Graphic illustrations of the Klamath are now printed on everything from Landor’s notebooks to its business cards and can be found in every Landor office around the world. The spirit of the Klamath will forever be a part of Landor’s prestigious heritage.
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This piece was originally published in Chinese by Package & Design (May 2016). Republished with permission.
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