Design: a Force for Positive Change

In September last year I wrote a short thought piece which posed the question “Is constant change the only certainty left?” In that post I reflected on the changes around us happening faster than ever, many of these were being accelerated by Covid.

At Wolffe we used the challenges brought about by the first lockdown almost a year ago to start the process of changing ourselves.

Why Change? Well, we’d got too comfortable with the way things were, we hadn’t properly reviewed our business for years and this resulted, in a roundabout way, in client and staff churn. As founder of the business, I had some mantras I held true and adhered to stubbornly, change was expected but was an organic and slow process, and frankly, being brutally honest with ourselves, we were stale.

We needed to ask the same question of ourselves that we ask our clients; How could we stand out in a crowded marketplace? How could we differentiate ourselves? How could we remain relevant? The business environment, our personal lives and the wider world was changing before our eyes and everyone spoke about the new normal. We quickly realised there was no new normal, if anything was new, it was going to be different, and we wanted to be part of the movement. We wanted to force change and not be forced to change.

Our massive transformation during 2020 involved a change of focus, a change of image (but not logo), a change of team, a change of studio, and a change of method.

In changing our focus, we now use design as a force for positive change. That means that everything we do will be done for clients and with collaborators who dare to be different, who are willing to challenge, who want to innovate and adapt. As the planet faces major societal, economic and ecological challenges, how can Wolffe and our clients and collaborators effect positive change? Well, if we don’t, how can we sleep at night?  

Read about positive change and how the hummingbird tried to put out the forest fire

In changing our team, we have become a multinational group and that has brought cross-cultural, broad minded and unblinkered thinking to our studio.

In changing our studio, we’ve elevated brand Wolffe to a new level. We have almost the same postcode, but a change of space and being the other side of the (tram) tracks has re-energised our people and our perception of ourselves.

Our change of method has seen a root and branch review of our processes, our services and our products. We launched our Creative Accelerator , and as economic grey clouds gathered, we designed RESET by Wolffe

Our culture has changed too; we embrace team wellness, we practice what we preach, we do what we do with optimism and with a positive mindset, we look after our clients and we nurture our network.

Most importantly, design is still, and will always be the beating heart of Wolffe. Designers in my experience, are adept at embracing the challenge and opportunity of change. We (designers) are prepared to explore ideas, to be radical, to try something, to fail and learn, and to pick ourselves up and go again.

We practiced what we preach last year and we’re very excited to maintain the pace of change for ourselves and our clients during 2021.

Are you ready to embrace the power of positive change?

Let’s talk

Andrew Wolffe

Bring On The Roaring 2020’s

The whole world has experienced a very strange year. Some of us are fortunate enough to have avoided the ravages of the virus and managed to continue to work. Very sadly many have lost their jobs and in extreme cases, have lost loved ones.

My theme for the year has been change; now, more than ever, we need to change. We need to change daily habits; we leave the house with our facemask, we work from home, we spend endless hours on zoom calls, and we queue at local shops. Our shopping habits and holiday patterns have changed, and our Christmas lunch will be very different in a few weeks’ time. Change was happening anyway, but the virus has accelerated digital transformation, it has accelerated the decline of the high street, it has accelerated businesses ability to allow working from home. All this amounts to a phenomenal burst of change across the globe.

Dial back 100 years; the First World War (to end all wars) ended in 1918, by 1919 Spanish Flu hit the world and caused over 20 million deaths. Change was in the air though, and in the decade that became known as the Roaring 20s a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in both the United States and Europe was kicking off. Cars, telephone, movies, and radio changed the lives of millions. Rapid industrial and economic growth along with accelerated consumer demand caused significant shifts in lifestyle and culture. Design weas all about Art Deco, glamour, geometric skyscrapers and an over-abundance of shininess. The spirit of the Roaring 20s was marked by a general feeling of novelty associated with modernity and a break with tradition. 

Sound familiar?

With an eternally optimistic and positive outlook on the world, I anticipate next year we’ll look back on a challenging year and there will be innovation and design opportunities in abundance. Will 2021 be the start of a new Roaring 20s?

Bring on the Roaring 2020s.

Credit: with thanks to Kirsten Speirs from KDMedia, who mentioned the Roaring 20s and inspired the title of my blog!

Andrew Wolffe

RESET by Wolffe

You’ll have noticed. The forecasts have been dismal lately. There’s the onset of winter. But the broader climate means that even when the sun’s shining, dark clouds remain above many businesses and individuals. Wolffe wants to shine a little light amid the gloom. To offer a supportive leg-up for those whose chips are down. We like our glass half full – and we love a beverage and a blether with inquisitive, enterprising souls.

The Reset is our latest initiative. In the first instance it’s a flexible, informal and fee-free dialogue. For people who’ve recently lost a job and would like to find their mojo again, along with a new income stream. For those who’ve closed a business but whose entrepreneurial spirit remains, undimmed or otherwise. And for anyone who’s suffered a career setback, 2020-style, and wants to relaunch themselves or flesh out a fresh idea. 

Ready for The Reset?

Get in touch on

How would rural hospitality cope with recent upheaval?

Post-lockdown, we’ve all been desperate for a short break away from the confines of our work-from-home spaces. Cabin fever had certainly set in chez Wolffe and during the depths of lockdown, I took the risky decision to book a short staycation break for the end of July. Risky, because at that point (early June), we weren’t sure if lockdown would be eased or not.

But where to go? Our daughter had a hand in this as she’d been reading the Katie Morag Stories which are set on the fictitious Isle of Struay. Turns out Struay is based on the Island of Coll and our daughter made sure we knew she was very keen to go. As an end of term ‘prize’ for doing so well at home-schooling, we announced we were going to Coll. Happiness all-round.

The Coll Hotel has been run by the Oliphant family since 1964 and is the only hotel on this sparsely populated Hebridean island. Online it looked just right. Having booked in advance during lockdown, we were reassured that the hotel had a policy of not taking cancellation fees (nice touch #1). The next challenge was booking the ferry. We were going to leave our car in Oban and travel on foot, but we heard that there were restrictions on who could travel on CalMac ferries. Looking at the new timetable though, there were thankfully no issues there. However, we subsequently discovered that no food or drink was being served on the ferry and it was obligatory to wear face masks.

We enjoyed a first-class welcome, amazing freshly-landed seafood, bikes we could borrow (nice touch #2) and a generally fantastic stay on Coll. I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough. Especially when you think about the challenges they’ve faced. Their market disappeared overnight with lockdown and on top of that, once lockdown eased, travel restrictions meant people couldn’t even get to the island. Yet the hotel has clearly invested heavily in its bedrooms, a new wing with a kitchen, bar and dining room, and above all, they’ve invested in their staff. If rural hospitality businesses want to research how to look after their guests, I suggest they take a look at the Coll Hotel. Not only do they cater to their guests superbly, they look after their staff, and just as importantly they look after locals. Which must help, because come mid-winter on Coll every pint of beer, birthday lunch or mums’ meeting in the hotel supports their income off-season. They’re certainly doing something right because when we were there, on sunny days and even rainy evenings, there was a good amount of local business in the beer garden and around the property.

Above all, the sanitisation and social distancing in place wasn’t intrusive, nor did it feel like staff were under any social distancing pressure. Additional service tables were also set out and food and drink placed on them for us (nice touch #3). One-use menus on thin paper were given out, or QR codes were available if tech-heads preferred them. Hand sanitiser was also at hand, but not obtrusive. There was a general happy, relaxed vibe about the place. Some residents wore face masks, some didn’t, but we were all relaxed and felt welcome at this delightful place. If you haven’t been, book a staycation on Coll – go!

Andrew Wolffe

Is constant change the only certainty left?

Change is all around. We’ve been dealing with all that Covid-19 has thrown at us, zooming on computers rather than here and there, and amending how we work and play in all sorts of ways. Companies have had to accelerate their digital transformation, while consumers have had to rethink how they do pretty much everything. Social distancing is the norm, we talk about our bubbles, and we wear masks in public places. 

On top of the pandemic, let’s not forget, BREXIT is just round the corner. We have 100 days until we leave Europe. It’s been somewhat off the radar as the pandemic uses up all the column inches and media channels, but I can guarantee we’ll have a whole gamut of change to deal with around this huge issue. 

We humans are an adaptable race. We’re good at dealing with change, that’s why we’ve been so successful. Pulling big stones was a bore so we invented wheels. Riding horse-and-carts was a bore, and slow, so we invented the internal combustion engine. Driving fossil-fuelled cars is bad for the planet (and our lungs), so we invented electric vehicles. I moved to an electric vehicle over a year ago and it’s taken a while to get used to it, but I’m one of an adaptable race of eco-warrior humans and it’s become my new normal. I look at gas-guzzling vehicles idling outside petrol stations, then at windmills generating clean energy (to fuel my car) with a degree of smugness.

At Wolffe we see this time of significant change as a chance to change ourselves. We’re still a team that has design running through every vein, but we’ve adapted our thinking to be problem-solvers. We help companies and individuals react to the changing world, to find solutions that will help them grow and ensure their brands are relevant in future.

Some designers will remember a world before the now ubiquitous Apple Mac – we still designed, plus ça change. A few years later the mobile phone arrived. Can you imagine a life without your handheld phone? Most of us also used to watch just three or four TV channels. But we’ve fast-forwarded to a world of on-demand streaming, with any programme you want available 24/7. Change is all around and it’s happening quicker than ever.

Plus ça change… we’re now a team of Boundless Solvers.

Andrew Wolffe

What does graphic design look like through an architect’s eyes?

I had been working as an architect in Spain for just under two years when I realised the aspect of the job I liked best wasn’t designing buildings, but signage. I discovered that I enjoyed finding the most creative solutions for guiding people through buildings. Rather than designing floor plans I liked designing logos. Instead of making technical drawings, I loved creating the perfect presentation layout. Once I realised this, there was no going back.

Wolffe has given me the opportunity to explore the aspects that I enjoyed so much within architecture, in a new focus area of brand strategy and design. When I left my previous studio I was only too aware of venturing into the unknown territory of a new career. I thought my background would be an obstacle to the hiring process. In fact, what I’ve observed is the strength of an interdisciplinary approach to design.

I discovered that my knowledge of interior design and materials became useful in conceptualising brand design. All the architecture studios and projects I got to know through my studies and work experience became a reference point that I could turn to, for generating new ideas. I also realised that even an abstract concept, like my interest in working with geometry, could help to strengthen design structures.

All of this has become clear since I started working at Wolffe. An efficient way of solving problems in design is to remain open to alternative methods and ways of thinking – to be boundless. I’ve learned from working here that although we come from various fields, we can all benefit from each other by sharing ideas.

At Wolffe we all speak the same language, just with a different syntax.

Sara Zanigni

How do we tackle retail challenges post-pandemic?

We all know that the retail industry is changing drastically as we come out of the lockdown. Consumer trends are moving and the way we shop is being redesigned. Many find change daunting, especially in times that feel as uncertain as ours.

As a design consultant, I see this period as an opportunity to be extremely proactive and prepare for the future of retail. We have to work with the changes and see positives in what the results might be. If we don’t have faith, the outcomes are likely to reflect that. So we should plan strategically, but be prepared for the likelihood that such plans will have to change and be continually revised – like the government guidelines that are changing so regularly.

It’s essentially a giant problem-solving exercise. The challenge is so big because retail has been affected at an international scale and none of us have had first-hand experience of retail after a global pandemic. Because of this, we’re creating strategies based on evidence to date, and how we think we should react to it. We’ll all learn from this as we’re all going to experience the changes that will happen. Wrong decisions will no doubt be made, but the only way we can grow is to learn from our mistakes, be aware of the changes we identify within consumerism and have a proactive attitude as we travel towards a retail world post-Covid-19.

I believe that to progress retail we must go beyond the expectation of just implementing safety precautions and cleaning procedures, which feel like temporary and short-term solutions for making consumers feel safer. We need to think bigger, more long-term. Innovations will be key and we should utilise technological developments to our advantage, focussing increasingly upon online sales, social platforms and opportunities that are accessible via smart devices. One solution that’s stood out is MishiPay and its mobile self-checkout technology, where you minimise human contact in stores by scanning and paying for your shopping using a mobile app. This idea is likely to be successful long-term because not only does it make people feel safer, it also makes their lives easier, cutting out hassle and the time spent at checkouts. Ideas like this are what we need in an era of shifting sands – and it’s up to us to make it happen!

Emily George