It’s been a big year for PI Design. First, in May, its founder Sheila Clarke relinquished her hands-on role, opting instead to become a consultant; then there was the management buy-out by current chairman Chris Griffin and his team. And finally last month it cemented a “handshake deal” with US consultancy Libby Perszyk Kathman (DW 6 October).
Somewhere in all of this, the 11-year-old west London packaging group decided on an image change, taking a more aggressive stance in its marketing. The LPK deal enabled it to become truly global, for while it already had an office in Brussels, it now sports LPK addresses in New York and Cincinnati on its letterhead. Add to this the fact that 65 per cent of its work is currently outside the UK and you can see the logic in the subtle change of name last month to PI Design International.
At the same time a new marque was born, featuring the red white and blue “planets” that signify PI’s various activities. The consultancy’s history is rooted in structural packaging, its founders having broken away from Metalbox, and this stength is signified by the central white globe. Underlying that though is graphics, represented in blue, with the hotter areas of technology winging off into the future as a red orb.
The elements in the identity can change, says Steve Kelsey, creative head in charge of structural work. When taking in the consultancy’s computer tools – its product differentiation program REACT and sister software PIERS (PI Electronic Research System) – you notice, for example, that the solid balls have become “futuristic” outlines suggesting a computer modeller is at hand.
Nor is the new image only about the serious side of the business. This lot know about having a laugh. Last month’s relaunch party, staged appropriately at London’s Planet Hollywood, gave the creative team a fun brief to get their teeth into, yet everything – including drinks coasters bearing caricatures of the various directors – had an element of the identity in it. Even the cake proved a teaser for guests wondering which of the three three-dimensional globes wasn’t made of plaster (it proved to be the blue one that was edible in the cake that arrived at Design Week’s office).
Our sympathies were with the consultancy’s hapless clients who went to their offices that day to find the doors festooned with red, white and blue balloons. Was it an Anglo-American invasion or a remnant of VE Day? No, just PI making sure that everybody had a ball.