Brett Wickens left Pentagram London in 1993, along with his then partner Peter Saville, to set up a multimedia division in Los Angeles for US design group Frankfurt Balkind.
By early 1994, the Internet had sprung to life and Wickens spent the next few years building marketing sites for Frankfurt Balkind’s movie-industry clients. “But it wasn’t that rewarding, as Hollywood doesn’t need great websites to sell movies,” he explains. “And, because they have just three days in which to make a $100 million project succeed, they’re not prepared to take any risks.” Meanwhile, Wickens also helped to re-launch the Microsoft Network, worked on integrated print and Web campaigns for Apple and a CD-ROM for the United Nations’ 50th anniversary, published by Frankfurt Balkind’s interactive media arm.
“In LA, however, design isn’t highly regarded, and I was missing London’s design community – the events, publications, the buzz. Then, in the summer of 1998, I was introduced to Clement Mok in San Francisco,” recalls Wickens. “That city is like a mini-London. It’s the west coast’s creative hub, with traditional and new companies fed by the technology of Silicon Valley.”
Mok was an original creative director at Apple before setting up Studio Archetype in order to pioneer interface design. The week Wickens became a creative director with Studio Archetype they merged with the larger technology-led group Sapient. Now Wickens offers clients a complete package of multimedia disciplines backed-up by large-scale systems development, ensuring the integrity of every creative and technical solution they put together.
For Wickens, San Francisco has some obvious advantages mixed with a few subtle drawbacks; “Design and technology converge here, risk-taking happens every day because the future is evolving right here. Mind you, there’s a disadvantage to being so close to the source. The blinding momentum of innovation means you get all the crap too! London benefits from being in the second wave, so technology is filtered by the time it gets there.” He also mentions the strange tension he feels at being engaged in “indoor work” in California, a place which fosters an easy-going, outdoors lifestyle, which, he muses, “Ã¤ leads to a different type of creative thinking”. Now that Sapient has set up a London office, the ideal arrangement for Wickens would be a “bi-city” lifestyle, as he confesses that he misses the old place.