News that Richard Seymour has been appointed consultant design director at Elida FabergÃ© couldn’t be more welcome to the design industry. Though it might be difficult in our minds to place the wild man of motorbike design within the world of toiletries and fragrances, it is surely the most interesting client move so far this year, and one with fantastic potential to influence other brand owners into taking design to their hearts.
One of the most significant things is that, at a time when marketing has become the god of brands, a designer can still be trusted to bring dynamism – and performance – across so wide a brand portfolio as Elida FabergÃ©’s product stable. The likes of the Dove cream bar and its spin-offs and the Timotei haircare range are massive enough in their own right to justify an overarching involvement. That Seymour should be taking on the whole of the way the company handles design as a long-term commitment should provide a useful model for other clients to assess.
Seymour likens his part-time role with Elida FabergÃ© to the consultancy job Pentagram partner John McConnell has long carried out for Boots the Chemists. But there is arguably more to it than that. McConnell is largely concerned with packaging at Boots, while Seymour’s remit is very broad. More to the point, McConnell practises as a graphic designer at Pentagram, whereas Seymour, though graphics-trained (by the great Bob Gill, among others) with an advertising background, now designs products. His role at Elida FabergÃ© celebrates the existence of design all-rounders – a concept over-specialised design education has all but obliterated in recent years.
Then, of course, there is Seymour’s personality and charisma, cited by Elida FabergÃ© innovation manager Margaret Jobling as an important reason for the company’s choice. Our eccentric hero has already charmed TV viewers through his appearances alongside Seymour Powell co-founder Dick Powell on the Channel 4/ Design Council series Better by Design. While David Crisp does have a point about the council seeming to show favouritism to the London product consultancy when others might do just as good a job, it is great to see that personality has not been completely ironed out of design with the proliferation of so many “suit-led” businesses in the industry.
So the Elida FabergÃ© appointment is good news all round – and what interesting TV Seymour’s involvement in its design decision-making might make over the coming months. But then a media heavyweight like Seymour has probably already thought of that.