‘I see myself as a motivator and a catalyst to challenge established ideas and bring a sense of objectivity and perspective to projects that people working on them day-to-day may not see,’ says Mary Lewis, creative director at Lewis Moberly of her working relationship with Marks & Spencer.
Lewis has been working with M&S as part of its Design Forum, creating new food packaging. Among the product ranges she has worked on are Chinese Take Away meals, the low calorie Count On Us range and Fusion meals, created with the help of chef Peter Gordon.
M&S decided to set up the Design Forum for its food marketing group in a bid to bring some consistency to its food packaging. ‘We carried out an audit and found that there were very good quality ideas but that it could vary enormously across areas. There were a lot of pseudo brands, no house typography or layout style,’ says M&S design manager Catherine Graham. She says some of the buyers who commissioned in-house design work had little pride in M&S as a brand.
Around 1000 of the 3500 lines that M&S carries have been redesigned and it is anticipated that the rest will be completed by next spring.
Lewis says that the Design Forum – which also includes David Davies of FutureBrand – helps M&S not only take pride in its brand, but also keeps it focused.
‘In an organisation as large as M&S, with so many people involved, it would be very easy to run off track, but we act as brand guardians.’
She adds that she is not aware of any sense of resentment from the in-house design team. ‘I run workshops for the buyers, for example, to teach them the value of design and to care for their designers – they can’t just go downstairs to the design studio and say ‘do me a bit of design’. I hope that the designers feel that I am championing design within M&S.’
Lewis spends one day a week with M&S and says that she has been approached by several companies to carry out a similar role. ‘Clients are realising the importance of design culture and that it’s not a bolt on. They need external expertise and that’s best available from design consultancies – the people who are actually doing it, day in day out.’ However, she adds that although she is part of the Royal Mail Stamps advisory board and offers strategic consultancy to clients such as Wedgwood, ‘it’s not something I can do in a big way, because as well as my role with M&S, I have my responsibilities to Lewis Moberly.’
Marks & Spencer
Despite making £517m last year, M&S is in crisis. However, its food products are holding up better than clothing. It has some 3500 food lines and recent sub-brands include the Fusion range, ready meals and Count On Us, calorie-counted products.
The M&S Design Forum consists of design manager Catherine Graham, head of marketing for the Food Business Unit, Linda Shepherd, head of product direction for the FBU Fiona Moore, Mary Lewis of Lewis Moberly and David Davies of FutureBrand. The forum meets once a month to brainstorm ideas and review projects.