Failing art at school is not necessarily the best way to get into design, but Sam Stone knew better. ‘I wasn’t very good at art, but I knew I enjoyed it and that I needed to improve,’ she says. And that she did. After a BA in Graphic Design at Buckinghamshire, she secured a placement at Landor – ‘I knew then that I’d made the right decision,’ she says.
Stone joined Fitch in 2000, and has since climbed the ladder to design director, applying her 2D graphic design background to 3D projects. She has developed brand strategies, created brand languages and realised consumer environments for corporate clients including Dunlop, Sony, Audi and Apple, and has developed an assured sense of what they need. ‘Sometimes clients are not clear what story they should be telling consumers – that’s where a graphic designer can help,’ she explains. ‘We think about messaging, communication, brand languages, colours and typography in a way that tells a story.’
A recent project illustrating her approach is the new retail environment for car garage Hi-Q, which won this year’s Design Week Award for retail interiors. It was clear that the design of the services and the customer care area needed to be more attractive, as garages are generally thought of as grubby, dirty and uncomfortable. Consumer insight also showed that a main fear was getting ripped off, so it was vital to provide the reassurance customers need. The solution included clear pricing signs and glazed walls that allowed customers to see their cars. Stone explains, ‘The interior aspect was a given, but the tone of voice and messaging that we put in was most important.’ Stone describes that process as ‘media neutral’ – ‘You start with what you think the consumer wants and then you decide what the solution is,’ she explains.
The consumer is at the heart of everything Stone does at Fitch. ‘You design to fit consumer aspiration or perception, rather than designing to win an award,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t enter into any project with a particular style. The style should be born of what the consumer insight is.’
Stone believes that businesses need to be increasingly savvy in how they approach their consumers. Where previously clients would feel the need to splash out on a high-profile ad campaign, ‘sometimes the very smallest thing has the most impact with the consumer’, she says, citing a set of earplugs created when designing for Honda’s Formula One car.
It is something that Stone finds satisfying. ‘I like the bigger projects because I can influence consumers a lot more. I can change people’s behaviour and perceptions through my design,’ she adds. ‘When I can make people a bit more reassured when they walk into a car garage – I know it seems small in the scheme of things – it means that I’ve done my job properly, that I’ve made somebody’s life a little bit better.’