Profile: Campaign

Launching a retail design consultancy in the current climate is risky, but recession, digital innovation and the environment are sparking its creativity. Anna Richardson talks to founder Philip Handford about new concepts and being cutting-edge

In its newly minted studio in east London, design consultancy Campaign is busy challenging the status quo of retail interiors. Founder and creative director Philip Handford set up the consultancy with encouragement from Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative director.

andford had designed Bailey’s apartment, and with future work for the luxury brand in the offing, starting out on his own was a risk worth taking.
In January 2009 he founded Campaign with Aaron Richardson, design director for graphics, and Neil Sharman, design director of interiors.

hile last year was not the best of times for a retail interiors start-up, Campaign sailed through the recession. It is now collaborating with Bailey on store concepts as well as a comprehensive range of furniture for Burberry’s headquarters in London and the US and the stores globally, and work for clients such as Dunhill and Dr Martens.

Three months ago, the consultancy moved to bigger premises and now has 15 full-time employees, with graphic and interior designers, architects and experts in animated architecture and 3D visualisation.

Campaign aims to be ’at the cutting edge of retail design’, says Handford. But while both the consultancy and its founder – an alumnus of Imagination, Virgile & Stone and other design groups – have a background in luxury retail for high-profile international clients, Handford wants to challenge the ideas that drive retail design. He says, ’We’re keen to explore the catalysts for change and try to establish what trends are happening.’ The clue is in the name – ’We want to drive our own campaigns,’ says Handford.

One of those catalysts was the recession, which has driven creativity across the sector, he believes. Designing a pop-up store for Dr Martens last autumn, for example, Campaign responded to the small budget of £15 000 by creating a store concept that delved into the origins of the brand and used a variety of warehouse materials to express them.

Another catalyst for change is the environment, reckons Handford. ’There will be a point where everyone will have to change the way they work.’ Campaign explored that theme with a pop-up ’foldaway bookshop’ during last month’s London Festival of Architecture. Created with RIBA Bookshops, the pop-up store was completely recyclable and could potentially be re-assembled elsewhere.

Digital innovation is also occupying much of Handford’s thinking right now. ’Everyone is talking about digital and all our clients are asking for digital – what I’m trying to work out is what that means,’ he says. ’We want to establish what the outcomes of all the trials and tribulations [in the digital sector] will be – those that are really commercial and inspiring.’

Campaign is working on many projects that explore how digital innovations can be integrated into an environment. Some of its clients are online retailers looking to establish a high street presence, for example. ’You have to ask, what would that presence have to do?’ says Handford. ’We’re not interested in the gimmicks but in the actual commercial value, and the solutions are really straightforward – it’s not about complicated technology.’
Handford is tight-lipped about specifics, but adds that he would class certain technology such as augmented reality firmly in the ’gimmick’ category.

Back in the real world, Campaign has just completed the interiors for Radio, a salon for hairdresser Corrado Tevere. Again, the notion of origins and heritage informed the design, with the salon taking up an ’inherited space’, as Sharman puts it, in east London’s Redchurch Street. It also features a gallery wall, allowing local artists such as Helen Amy Murray to exhibit their work.

Other projects include a fast food brand and interiors for a spectacles retailer -both new concepts that aim to push existing notions of retail space. There is also talk of new offices in Asia and New York.

The high-minded talk and the background in sleek luxury interiors go hand-in-hand with Campaign’s inclination towards humour and quirkiness. During last year’s London Design Festival, it created a treasure-hunt trail of golden pigeons pointing the way through east London, and there’s a laid-back buzz in the studio and workshop – occasionally punctuated with the excited bark of Sharman’s pug Effie Star. ’We’re all very hands-on,’ says Handford. ’We tend to thrash out ideas together – that’s how the magic happens.’

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