Despite setting up less than a year ago, London-based consultancy Interabang named after a little-known punctuation mark that combines an exclamation and a question mark has already amassed a substantial portfolio, featuring clients such as Royal Mail and mental health charity Mind.
’That feeling of everything being very new and very fresh is something that we don’t want to lose,’ says Interabang creative director Adam Giles. ’We want to bottle that excitement.’
Although Giles and fellow creative director Ian McLean set up the consultancy ten months ago, the seed of the idea was sewn back in 2004 when the designers worked together at Hat-Trick Design on the Natural History Museum rebrand Giles as a designer at the consultancy and McLean as a freelance. Giles remained at Hat-Trick for eight years while McLean worked on projects at GBH, The Partners and Williams Murray Hamm, before the time felt right to go it alone.
’A lot of people think we were crazy to set up when we did, but it was a very conscious decision,’ says Giles. ’We thought if we could stay lean and make a go of it when in this climate, then nothing could stop us.’
Since its inception the consultancy has grown organically, working with like-minded clients who share the duo’s enthusiasm and are keen to push creativity beyond a straightforward brand identity or website. McLean quotes the oft-repeated sentiment that, ’You can have as many creative ideas as you like, but you’ve got to have a client that’s got the courage to go with it.’
Interabang’s identity for iced coffee brand Jimmy’s has achieved commercial success with its combination of 1950s Americana styling and the optimistic strapline ’Keep your chin up’ the product even finding its way for riders of the Foo Fighters and Elton John.
Attempting to inject as much fun into Jimmy’s packaging as possible, the consultancy played with standard collateral the Keep Britain Tidy stickman hurls some rubbish into a bin from one side of the pack to the other and introduced quirky features such as an icon which makes consumers look like they have a tiny moustache as they sip.
But ’like-minded clients’ does not preclude Interabang from working on serious projects. Just launched is a suite of booklets for Mind, called Understanding, which explain different conditions. Quickly identifying that the suite’s previous incarnation which used illustrations to depict mental health conditions ran the risk of being insensitive, Interabang created a clean, approachable identity focused around two overlapping circles and information hierarchy.
The minimalist roundels, one holding the Mind logo and the other naming the condition, aimed to show that the guides express shared knowledge and are about a two-way conversation, says Giles.
The group’s annual review for homelessness theatre charity Cardboard Citizens is also pared-back and considered, with a clear typographic hierarchy and interesting use of Newsprint. The report references the language of newspapers, giving it gravitas and immediacy, and keeps the costs down with its loose binding. Giles says, ’We’ve cropped the imagery very close with these almost uncomfortable crops just like the typography is split over two lines to give the sense that the photography and the ideas are almost too big for the page.’
Just as with the icons for Jimmy’s, detail and going that extra mile is key to Interabang’s approach. During an environmental graphics project for Marwell Zoo’s Cheetah enclosure, the consultancy created a self-initiated animation for its dormant digital screens and when creating a hand stamp for the Royal Mail’s WWF 50th anniversary coin first day cover, the consultancy researched at Whipsnade Zoo to exactly replicate the handprint of a pigmy marmoset. With future projects in the pipeline from both clients as well as Cardboard Citizens, Interabang’s fastidiousness seems to be paying off.
Although both Giles and McLean stress that they are still very much in the midst of developing their long-term goals, their consultancy’s philosophy is already apparent: passionate clients and hands-on, engrossing projects. Giles says, ’I’d be very sad if I got into work and wasn’t touching every project. We’re being very careful about not getting too big too quickly, and retaining that energy and excitement.’