Profile: The stone twins

The closely intertwined careers of identical twins Declan and Garech Stone have taken them from Dublin to the heart of the design establishment in the Netherlands. Here they talk to Clare Dowdy about playfulness, advertising and turning 40

Don’t be put off by the illustration on The Stone Twins’ home page – a conjoined human twin version of Dr Dolittle’s Push Me Pull You creature – because the rest of the website shows off the consultancy’s witty and thought-provoking creativity.

The brother’s latest visual identity, for Design Academy Eindhoven, combines all those qualities. It launched last month and is a good example of the siblings’ style and process, including as it does a raft of supporting marketing materials by the academy’s students.

Identical twins Declan and Garech Stone graduated in visual communication in 1992 from Dublin’s National College of Art and Design, and could have settled down to a career in their home town.

Instead, after brief stints working in Dublin and London, they took off to Amsterdam, to soak up and ’demystify the Dutch graphic design scene’, says Declan. ’The work from Studio Dumbar, Koeweiden Postma, and the banknotes by Oxenaar all really appealed to us,’ he says.

After a few years of working for different consultancies in the Dutch capital, the pair set up The Stone Twins in 1999. The consultancy’s first clients were in the music industry, and the project that put it on the map was the identity for sound studio Massive Music. Then in 2003 came Logo RIP, a self-penned and -designed book commemorating 50 classic corporate symbols, which Garech describes as ’another milestone in our career’.

Since then, the brothers have accumulated design and advertising clients including Ikea, Nike, Adidas and Sony Ericsson. ’Our experience is that successful ad campaigns are those with design in their DNA,’ says Declan. ’They have a totally integrated approach – where design drives and gels concepts in the different points of a consumers’ journey, such as packaging, retail, online and beyond. The days when ad agencies just viewed design as a chocolate-sprinkle at the end of the process are long dead – at least, with the really good agencies,’ he adds, citing Sid Lee and Wieden & Kennedy.

Both brothers have spent time away from each other by working at ad agencies in recent years – Declan at BBH in New York and Garech at 108 Amsterdam.
So it’s no surprise that many of their projects blur the boundaries between the two disciplines. They’ve been back together as The Stone Twins for the past three years, and their identity for Design Academy Eindhoven demonstrates this blending of design and advertising.

’We have a lot of pure “design” assignments – but many of these mutate into an advertising approach,’ says Garech. In the Eindhoven logo, the ’e’ is used to house not only the institute’s full name, but a succession of hand-written straplines, such as Dare To Dream and Kiss The Future.

While the brothers claim that they’ve ’never had a big masterplan’, they add that, ’We feel like we’re in the second chapter of our careers.’ Chapter two includes the personal milestone of their turning 40 this month, which they are marking with the publication of a book entitled A Catalogue of Curiosities, Relics, Art and Propaganda – or Crap. ’It’s essentially the narrative of our life told through various objects and people,’ says Declan.

Not only have they branded Design Academy Eindhoven, they also hold a joint position there as head of the Department of Man and Communication. ’We just work hard and we’re quite humble. But this role is a recognition that we’re doing something right,’ says Garech.

Having preserved The Stone Twins as a two-man band all these years, they are finally thinking about expanding. ’At Design Academy Eindhoven we direct the course strategy, and harness the talent and wide-eyed enthusiasm of the students,’ says Garech, pointing towards an opportunity for the twins to evolve into art directors and harness some of the young talent that they’re discovering at the academy.

Garech believes that if the pair had not left Dublin for Amsterdam, the nature of their work would have been very different. ’Dutch society is receptive to new ideas, offering you more opportunities to be more playful and expressive,’ he says. Which is good news for the twins, as playful and expressive is what they do best.

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