Hot 50

Put together from nominations by readers and others in the industry, the listing honours people and organisations that have made a contribution to design over the past 12 months beyond what you might expect of them

One of the most telling things about Design Week’s Hot 50 is the way interest in design from beyond the immediate confines of the industry shifts sectors from year to year. Put together from nominations by readers and others in the industry, the listing honours people and organisations that have made a contribution to design over the past 12 months beyond what you might expect of them – designers going beyond the day job, innovative companies and organisations.

Some years it is art that appears to be leading the way – with the likes of Sir Peter Blake, in previous years, and now Banksy renewing their influence over commercial design. Sometimes the establishment – unlikely figures such as HM The Queen and Chancellor Gordon Brown – make the list of greats for using their undoubted power to promote design to industry and beyond.

This year’s crew is an eclectic mix. Some of those selected, such as Thomas Heatherwick and London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, have featured before, but they continue to push the boundaries, so they are honoured again.

If there is a theme in this fourth edition of the Hot 50 it is sustainability, with organisations such as the Government-backed Envirowise, SolarLab and Wrap making their debut. Then there are newish areas of design, such as service design and the British games industry, honoured for their impact and hotly tipped to enhance the reputation of UK design.

Design patrons such as the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London and Land Securities feature here. Then there are overseas organisations bent on furthering the cause of their local design industries – Brazil’s Abedesign, South Africa’s Design Indaba and Dubai’s Moutamarat – sitting alongside our own British Council.

There are significant omissions this year. Organisations such as the Design Council, D&AD and the Government don’t figure at all, for example, as the panel felt that none had done anything beyond the call for design last year. On the contrary, we detected considerable hostility for some of the so-called ‘representative’ bodies, which claim to support design and have yet to really show it. We look to them to redress the balance and earn a place in next year’s listing.

And then there are those we are expecting great things from, but which have yet to develop their full contribution. John Thackara, the resourceful programme director of the North East’s Designs of the Time 2007 initiative, cleared the bar through reputation, though the full impact of his work on the region has yet to be properly evaluated. However, Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic and the 100% Design breakaway team, led by Ian Rudge and Jimmy MacDonald, are among those we are looking to for great contributions over the coming year.

Watch this space.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor, Design Week

Abedesign

Established some two years ago in agreement with trade and investment promotion agency Apex-Brasil, Abedesign is the trade association for Brazilian design bent on promoting exports of design services.

Like the UK’s Design Business Association, its aims are to improve the business performance of its member consultancies – many of which are concerned with branding – and to promote design to business through interaction with client bodies. But its main thrust is to stage events and forge partnerships that attract foreign investors.

Campana Brothers apart, the Brazilian design industry isn’t as sophisticated as the industry in, say, Britain or the US, and the quality is not as high. However, Brazil sees itself as the creative hub of Latin America and many Abedesign members based in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro boast work across the continent as a result.

However, the association has greater ambitions for Brazilian design and it is this that has earned it a place in the Hot 50 this year. Under president Manoel Müller, who, with his wife Doris Camacho, runs São Paulo consultancy Müller & Camacho, it has hosted journalists from Europe and the US, not just to introduce them to Brazilian design, but to learn how things work in their countries. Müller also visited Europe to try to forge links with design bodies.

Müller is mindful that creative standards and the sense of design as an industry could be much stronger in Brazil and is doing what he can to build confidence and expertise as well as new markets for it.

Airside

Multimedia group Airside earns its place in the 2007 listing by winning the coveted Best of Show at the 2006 Design Week Awards. The judges creased up with laughter as singing creatures, starring in its animated bumpers for Orange Playlist, took to the stage.

That project, won through ad agency Mother, is one side of Airside’s work. The London group’s diverse portfolio includes graphics, illustration and a family of cuddly toys, plus animation. It works globally – and has seen particular success in Japan – straddling advertising and design, and plugging the creative gaps ignored by others.

Airside was founded in 1999 by a trio with very different backgrounds: managing director Nat Hunter and creative directors Alex Maclean and Fred Deakin, who moonlights as a musician with the band Lemon Jelly.

Though the north London studio has a ‘collective’ feel to it and the group remains an icon in design, its resourceful founders are looking to apply the same creativity to the business side: Hunter and Deakin both took a course for ‘creative entrepreneurs’ at the London Business School last year.

Antidote

Founded by ex-Circus partner Tim Ashton in 2003, Antidote has established itself in a niche between the realms of advertising, branding and design. The group’s holistic approach to the client brief brings independent specialists together to work as an interdisciplinary team.

Among Antidote’s high profile integrated projects is Unilever’s Persil ‘Dirt is good’ campaign. By aligning sport with the brand, the project generated continuous consumer interest. Other successful projects using this approach include a three-minute promotional film for Shell, which this year won the group an Oscar.

It is Antidote’s pro bono work, however, that earns it a place in this year’s Hot 50. The group’s innovative book – Change the World for a Fiver – marked the launch of the We Are What We Do initiative, led by east London charity Community Links. The book and campaign material detail 100 everyday actions that can help everyone do their bit to improve the environment, health and communities. Having sold 600 000 copies, a sequel – Change the World 9 to 5 – was launched in 2006 to maintain the momentum of the movement.

Architectural Association

The Architectural Association School of Architecture has a reputation for producing world-class architects. Established in 1890, the school has evolved into a progressive and independent educational body, while sticking rigidly to its motto of ‘design with beauty, build with truth’. Led by director Brett Steele, the school’s renowned programme of lectures, interdisciplinary exhibitions and cross-cultural events reached new heights in 2006.

Last year saw more than 100 of the world’s leading architects, designers, engineers, theorists, artists and critics present public lectures and exhibitions. In January, Peter Eisenman and Rem Koolhaas returned to the school for a talk about their work, while in February, Zaha Hadid held a conference on her work for the Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany. Other high profile names to succumb to the school’s pulling power were 2006 Royal Institute of British Architects medal-winner Toyo Ito and artist Thomas Demand.

The school also held its inaugural annual design competition in 2006, which attracted entries from around the globe, while its summer pavilion, designed and manufactured by students, was realised as a large-scale design at the AA’s Hooke Park in Dorset.

Banksy

2006 was a busy year for Banksy. The self-styled elusive art terrorist and guerrilla stuntman has been trailblazing across the US, leaving his mark and a string of political statements in his wake. His US ‘tour’ culminated in Barely Legal, a three-day ‘warehouse extravaganza’, which featured a live elephant in a floral-papered room. Yet more stunts created ripples here and across the pond, most notably his stealth doctoring of copies of Paris Hilton’s debut album at 42 UK stores. The Banksy credits and reworked cover images of Hilton made a firm statement mocking the celebrity phenomenon.

Ironically, though, his Los Angeles exhibition was attended by a star-studded guest list. Christina Aguilera, who had a private viewing of his work at a Soho Gallery this year, spent £25 000 for three prints depicting Queen Victoria in a lesbian clinch with a prostitute.

It’s not just ephemeral moments of public attention, however, that have propelled Banksy into the Hot 50 for a second time. His glossy tome Wall and Piece made it on to the 2006 best-sellers list, with sales of more than £36 000, while his prints are now fetching record prices at auction. His latest sale, an interpretation of the Mona Lisa, fetched £57 000.

British Council

An organisation whose name crops up in a number of this year’s Hot 50 entries is the British Council. A quiet enabler, it supports a number of initiatives in the creative arena in a bid to foster the reputation of British talent abroad.

The difference between it and, say, UK Trade & Investment, which exposes UK design to potential overseas clients, is that its motivation is cultural exchange rather than business. Hence it supports initiatives such as Lee Lapthorne’s On/Off enterprise to put UK fashion designers in front of visitors to London Fashion Week (see page 13).

The council’s definition of creativity goes way beyond the design industry’s, to include performance and the visual arts in general. But its role in promoting design within that portfolio is exemplary.

It works not just through its missions abroad with ‘design ambassadors’, such as Daljit Singh of Digit, Tom Dixon and Deyan Sudjic, who are included in the ‘group’, but also through commissioning exhibitions and events that show UK creativity in action.

Design is but a part of the British Council’s activities. Its original remit was to promote learning – particularly of English and about UK culture. But its newer roles in supporting society through sustainability, social inclusion and the like could well benefit design.

British Game Industry

Britain is one of the founding nations of the video games industry. Groups like Rockstar North, Psygnosis and Lionhead are synonymous with the best-selling games of all time and have had a distinct hand in shaping a sector now worth more than £1.35bn. British games developer Peter Molyneux is one of the best-known proponents of the industry. He received an OBE in 2005 for his influential work in game design and development.

It’s little wonder then that the British Academy of Film and Television Awards launched the British Academy Video Games Awards last October, giving equal status to this often overlooked creative field. The new awards place the industry on a par with film, television and music, rewarding excellence for innovation and originality. An inaugural London games festival – a week-long celebration featuring marketing events, summits and debates – complemented the awards. The Science Museum’s Game On exhibition, which also opened last October, is dedicated to the culture, history and evolution of video games, and is yet another reminder that the industry is now an established strand of popular culture.

With an elevated status, the sector is attracting international attention and games publishers from all over the world are now looking to Britain to invest. And with statistics from the Department of Trade and Industry indicating that video gaming is one of the fastest-growing entertainment mediums in Britain at present, digital design looks set to reap the benefits.

Buckingham Chilterns University College

The students from Buckingham Chilterns University College made an impression on the creative sector in 2006. First, the university produced two D&AD student winners – graphic design students Klaas Diersmann and Sakuro Hainow collected a Gold Pencil for their moving image project that answered MTV’s 25th anniversary brief.

Then, in July, the university performed outstandingly at New Designers, clocking up two accolades. Students showing at New Designers scooped a collective prize for best stand at the show, while contemporary furniture student John Slater won the New Designer of the Year part two for his fold-away, multifunctional desk. Judges called his work ‘inventive and resolved’, typifying the balance of originality and realism the course is known for.

Led by Neil Austin, the course has earned a reputation for producing work that straddles the line between innovation and practicality. As a result, the students’ work has an immediate appeal to manufacturers, and thus a better chance of succeeding commercially.

Mike Crump

When British Airways decimated its management team last March, it axed the job of one of design’s staunchest champions on the client side.

In the late 1990s, BA head of design Mike Crump had had a hand in the controversial BA identity, created by the then Newell and Sorrell, and the Club World flat bed, before he took over from Chris Holt, who quit as the airline’s head of design in May 2000.

Since Crump donned Holt’s mantle, BA has seen the redesign of Concorde’s interior by Conran & Partners and Factory Design and the introduction of uniforms by fashion designer Julien Macdonald, among other developments.

Crump, meanwhile, masterminded the £100m relaunch of Club World, involving design groups Tangerine, Davies & Baron and Winkreative, that, ironically, reached fruition a few months after his departure.

Such projects were arguably part of Crump’s day job, but those who worked with him say he would always push boundaries, whether they were constraining budgets or company politics, to get the best. That is why he earns a listing here, though he has now set up his own consultancy, Honour.

He had been with BA for 15 years when redundancy came, at the instigation of BA chairman Willie Walsh.

The head of design role was discontinued as part of a cost-cutting plan to save £300m in staff costs.

In addition, the design management function was subsumed into BA’s Product and Service Development and Brands and Marketing Communications departments, marking the end of an era. We can only hope that new design champions emerge to fly the flag for British design.

De La Warr Pavilion

The reopening of the refurbished De La Warr Pavilion in early 2006 was a real shot in the arm for fans of Modernism. Built in the 1930s and designed by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, the stunning white building at Bexhill-on-Sea was the first public building in the UK built in the Modernist style.

The £8m restoration by architect McAslan & Partners has created a major arts space, with galleries, an auditorium, a shop and a terraced, first-floor restaurant overlooking the sea.

The Grade I-listed pavilion is included not just for the elegance of its architecture, but also for the enlightened commissioning by Rother District Council and the Pavilion Charitable Trust.

McAslan & Partners has a great track record for bringing old buildings to life. It has, for example, worked on the Robert Adam building, which houses the Royal Society of Arts in John Adam Street near Charing Cross Station in London and The Roundhouse arts complex in London’s Camden Town, designed as a railway shed by Robert Dockray in 1846.

Then there are the chairs designed by Barber Osgerby for the pavilion and now manufactured by Established & Sons. These were received with great acclaim by the furniture community.

Attention to detail has been a theme throughout the project. It is this concern that has given the UK a stunning new venue and put the quirky seaside town back on the cultural map.

Mike Dempsey

Mike Dempsey has long been a creative standard-bearer for design. His consultancy CDT Design dates back to 1979 and it has won many an award for clients such as English National Opera and British Land. His Millennium Stamps for Royal Mail, involving a host of illustrators and photographers, won D&AD Gold.

But Dempsey is also an enthusiastic activist in design. He is a past president of D&AD and a prolific writer on design, not least in Design Week. It is in this extra-mural guise that he earns a place in the Hot 50 this year, as Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers, the self-regulating group of top designers of all disciplines, largely from the UK, but with honorary colleagues from across the globe.

Since Dempsey stepped into the role in 2005, he has striven to make those elite talents a force within the industry. As the organisation housed within the Royal Society of Arts entered its 70th year, he controversially changed the title, Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, to the more accessible Royal Designers.

He has encouraged his Royal Designer peers to add younger designers to their ranks – Thomas Heatherwick and illustrator Sara Fanelli among them – and involved them in public discussions at the RSA, challenging perceptions of design.

To celebrate the faculty’s 70th birthday, Dempsey enlisted 70 Royal Designers from all disciplines to create postcards that will surely become collector’s items.

Dempsey’s latest passion is sound design and, while a sound designer is yet to become a Royal Designer, he has introduced the category Sound, Motion and Interactivity to the faculty. He is not a man to baulk at difficult challenges so we can expect sound design to get greater recognition in design in due course.

Mark Denton

Mark Denton There is no particular piece of work that singles Mark Denton out for inclusion this year, but the Hot 50 panel wanted to applaud a designer who nimbly crosses discipline boundaries on a regular basis, while others only talk of it.

Denton is as adept at creating an identity for a screen production company such as Blink or a photography management business such as Empic as he is at turning out an ad. He can turn his hand to magazine design – this year, he won a Mobius Award in Los Angeles for Styling Lard magazine – and was awarded a Design Week Award for the controversial pink Cunt poster for lettering artist Alison Carmichael.

One of his most notable projects is Styling Lard, which he edits. The idea behind the twice-yearly title is to turn the usual editorial-advertising dynamic on its head by making the advertising as topical as its written content. Only the best-looking ads are accepted for publication and Denton offers potential advertisers the chance to have bespoke ads created by top advertising creatives.

Design Indaba

Celebrating its tenth incarnation in February, South Africa’s Design Indaba has earned a reputation for being one of the world’s best design events.

The conference has attracted speakers from across the globe, including Javier Mariscal, Ken Cato, the Campana Brothers, Naoto Fukasawa, Karim Rashid, Vince Frost and Neville Brody. But it is the warmth and hospitality of the locals that sets it apart.

Design Indaba was set up in Cape Town, by Ravi Naidoo of Interactive Africa, shortly after the end of apartheid. The aim was to put the country on the design map and to inspire South African designers in what was then an embryonic industry.

The event is now annual and includes architecture, jewellery and fashion seminars running in parallel to the main conference. There is also Expo, an exposé of local fashion designers and designer-makers, and Indaba magazine.

There have been years when Design Indaba seemed very British, with speakers such as Alan Fletcher, Terence Conran, Ross Lovegrove, Mary Lewis and Paul Priestman dominating proceedings.

But there have been mutual benefits: Conran created a range for the local Woolworths, while Priestman is designing store interiors.

Naidoo has plans to take Design Indaba global. Whether he succeeds in this remains to be seen.

Philip Dodd

Philip Dodd makes it into the Hot 50 this year because of his intense work forging cultural, educational and commercial links with China. His prescience in anticipating the growing economic and cultural prowess of China and as the instigator of projects that bring the two countries together make him a driving force within the design community and the wider creative field.

Since leaving the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2004, Dodd has set up Made in China, an agency tasked with connecting Europe and the UK with China. Among the initiatives are China Now 2008, a six-month, UK-based festival spanning sport, science, media and lifestyle, and China@Manchester, a series of Chinese culinary and cultural events held last autumn. As an advisor on the creative industries to the Chaoyang District of Beijing – the place where the Olympics will be held – and as an advisor to the Australian state of Victoria’s China design strategy, Dodd is in a pivotal position.

He is co-initiator of the International Animation Festival in China and organiser of China Dialogues, seminars held at London’s 11 Downing Street under the auspices of The Smith Institute. He advises Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week and is part of Shantou Dialogues, a think-tank summit at Shantou University, China, focused on creativity, sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

The effect of Dodd’s work is two-pronged. Not only is Made in China raising awareness of Chinese culture in the UK, but it’s also flying the flag for British creativity in China.

Dunning Eley Jones

Screen design specialist Dunning Eley Jones wins its place in this year’s Hot 50 with an outstanding piece of work. Its idents for UKTV’s Style Gardens series won Best of Show in the 2006 Design Week Awards, sharing top honours with Airside (see page 4).

The consultancy’s latest work – for BT Vision, the phone network’s new TV venture launched in December 2006 – is too new to have made it into any creative awards. But we might expect to see the colourful sequences cropping up over the coming months.

The ten-strong consultancy was formed in June 2003 by Liz Dunning, Brian Eley and Marcus Jones as a breakaway from screen design specialist Lambie-Nairn. Since then it has become one of the top five exponents of screen design in the UK, with projects such as the branding of UKTV and Irish network Radio Telefis Eireann.

It has created idents for NTL: On Demand, TV channel Discovery Kids and Swiss public service broadcaster SF. It was also a finalist in the controversial pitch for the ITV screen branding, which was eventually won by the former BBC creative team at Red Bee Media.

Envirowise

The design community has long been aware of its ability to bring about change. So when a Government-funded group uses an eco-design approach to shift manufacturing towards sustainable business practice, it is an official recognition of the power of design.

Business support group Envirowise recognises the crucial role design has in minimising waste and the use of resources, thus saving businesses millions of pounds. Its free schemes, Design Track and Clean Design, resolve issues with product lifecycle, efficient use of technology and economical use of packaging, by consulting in a bespoke manner with individual businesses.

Directives like the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances and conserving landfill are making an impact and, in the past year, more businesses than ever have put environmental issues on the agenda. In the period from April to September 2006, Envirowise helped 50 businesses meet the regulations through design-related projects, saving an average of £15 000. The group also works with 15 market leaders on an account management basis, resulting in design-intense projects to address environmental challenges. With sustainability now an exigency,

Envirowise will no doubt help even more throughout 2007.

Established & Sons

Launched in 2005 in a blaze of glory, furniture company Established & Sons flies the flag for British design and manufacturing. It celebrated its first birthday in Milan last year with a stylish show to coincide with the furniture fair.

Founders Alasdhair Willis and Angad Paul are committed to excellence and to promoting British design on an international stage. They work with world-renowned designers as well as emerging talents, creating both premium, limited edition pieces and more affordable – though still upmarket – lines.

The company’s stable includes Barber Osgerby, which designed the chair for the restored De La Warr Pavilion, architects Amanda Levete of Future Systems and Zaha Hadid – responsible for the exquisite Drift bench and Aqua table respectively – plus Jasper Morrison, Frank, Michael Marriot and Alexander Taylor.

The company’s uncompromising standards extend to the branding. Its identity and all promotions are created by London group Made Thought, described by Established & Sons as its ‘creative partner’.

Paul also runs the Caparo Group, which manufactures the pieces. This link means that the company can control the quality and craftsmanship of its products.

Mark Farrow

Mark Farrow is one of the heroes of graphic design. Voted by his peers as ‘the best graphic designer working today’ in a design magazine’s poll in 2004, he is re-emerging on to the design scene after a few quiet years away from the limelight.

That process is set to continue with the launch of The Pet Shop Boys catalogue late last year – to go with the band’s show at the National Portrait Gallery in London. To many, Farrow is synonymous with the band, having created most of its album sleeves, tour merchandise and books. The only sleeve design that went elsewhere in the 1990s was for Very, released in 1993 in an orange plastic case designed by Daniel Weil at Pentagram.

Manchester-born Farrow and his team at London consultancy Farrow Design have recently worked with Kylie Minogue. The group has also designed for Manic Street Preachers, William Orbit, Lightning Seeds, Orbital, Spiritualized, Cream and M People.

It might take a high-profile show of his work to give Farrow the renaissance Peter Saville experienced through his 2003 Design Museum exhibition. But he remains a giant in design circles and an inspiration to younger creatives.

Alan Fletcher

The industry is still reeling after the untimely death of Alan Fletcher in September 2006, days before his 75th birthday. Many thought he was indestructible, with his gruff charm and outstanding design, but, sadly, that wasn’t the case, and we lost a man who has been described as a ‘colossus’ of creativity and Britain’s best ever graphic designer. His death was reported in quality media across the globe.

A founder of, first, the legendary Fletcher Forbes and Gill, and then Pentagram, Fletcher was renowned for great work for clients such as book publisher Phaidon and signage company Wood & Wood. He created identities for the Victoria & Albert Museum, London restaurant Circus and many other organisations.

He also created his own work – collage calendars using stickers and stamps, the Menagerie of Imaginary Creatures, created from dustbin detritus for grandson Tobia and the paint splodge flower series.

Fletcher’s posthumous show at London’s Design Museum was conceived after he bequeathed his archive to the museum some 18 months ago. With invitations and graphics by Graphic Thought Facility, the show is a rich reminder of a huge talent. Its opening coincided with the publication of his latest – and, sadly, last – book, Painting and Poeting, published by Phaidon.

Glasgow School of Art

Long-acknowledged as a centre for creative excellence, Glasgow School of Art continues to be one of the leaders in the field of design education. The exquisitely detailed building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is inspiring in itself, but so is the work of the students.

Architecture – through the Mackintosh School of Architecture – and textiles are recognised as strong disciplines at the school. But one of the key areas currently undergoing development is product design. On the course, led by Columbian industrial designer Carlos Peralta, undergraduates are engaging in socially relevant design, taking themes like homelessness or security and addressing the topic as a whole rather than just creating a product.

This should give graduates a great grounding in service design – an area that is boosting the standing of design as a force for positive change within organisations and companies (see page 18).

Meanwhile, the college’s Digital Design Studio is collaborating internationally on real projects. Last autumn, for example, it was invited to provide modelling services for European research project NetConnect, which is exploring social, economic and cultural links between three archaeological sites in Italy, Germany and Poland.

This ‘real world’ approach is exactly right for design. It is giving GSA graduates a start in professional life that fits well with the aspirations of the industry.

Gosh

Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Charity is an unlikely contender in the Hot 50, but throughout 2006 the charity was busy integrating fashion design into its marketing and fundraising programme in tie-ups that have been mutually beneficial. Last June, Gosh touched the hearts of the celebrity fashion world with a high profile catwalk show that raised £120 000 to build a new cancer ward for children with leukaemia. Robinson Valentine, now Anna Valentine, designer of the Duchess of Cornwall’s wedding dress, showcased a couture collection, alongside specially made pieces for the sick children who participated in the event.

An event later in the year, involving designer Amanda Wakeley and asset management company Bramdiva, was less aimed at fundraising and more geared towards networking. Both companies came together to help those who were involved to make marketing connections that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. Gosh has recognised the potential for marketing innovation and presentation that comes from collaborations with design.

Haunch of Venison

London gallery Haunch of Venison makes it into the Hot 50 this year because of its special standing in the art world. While other galleries that emerged at the same time maintain a relatively high media profile, Haunch of Venison has quietly established itself as a favourite with the creative cognoscenti. Established in 2002 by directors Graham Southern and Harry Blain at a time when art trading in London started booming, the gallery’s success has escalated rapidly in the past four years. It has found a niche between the commercial and experimental.

The quality of contemporary art and installations exhibited since Haunch of Venison opened has remained consistently high and last year was no exception. Exhibitions in 2006 included: James Rosenquist, Tobias Rehberger, Zarina Bhimji, Richard Long and M/M Paris, whose eclectic and graphic-inspired work borders on design, rather than art. By selling this work as objet d’art, Haunch of Venison showed its willingness to transcend convention.

The gallery also represents artists like Bill Viola, Andy Warhol and Thomas Coope

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