Studio profile: Holy Cow!

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Published:  February 7, 2011
Studio profile: Holy Cow!

Based in a large warehouse in Surry Hills, one Sydney’s creative hubs, Holy Cow! is a boutique design, multimedia and advertising agency. Melissa Webber founded the agency in 1995, after returning from living overseas for a few years. With her own background stemming from graphic design, she not only acts as the creative director of Holy Cow!, but also oversees the general, everyday running of the business.

The name ‘Holy Cow!’ comes from Webber’s childhood love of cows, their docile faces and gentle natures belying their size and strength. “The statement, ‘Holy Cow!’ is also often made when someone is surprised,” says Webber. “And we aim for people to exclaim, ‘Holy Cow! That’s a great idea!’ when they see our concepts or visual solutions!”

Holy Cow! Promo Apron

Holy Cow! Promo Apron

Holy Cow! has a diverse range of clients on its roster, from Pie Face and Mad Mex to Greenpeace and Squire. “We deliver high-quality visual solutions to our clients and provide all the benefits of a large advertising agency without the limits and constraints of the traditional agency hierarchy,” Webber explains. “We also offer a unique environment that encourages creative thinking for both our staff and our clients. With an open plan studio and three varied meeting areas (including a fully serviced bar and pool table!), we’ve created an environment to enable conceptual thinking and positive workflow.”

Refreshingly, Webber continually finds inspiration for her life and work in the successes of those around her, especially those of her fellow women in business. She also believes that for Holy Cow! a ‘flat structure’ as opposed to an office hierarchy works more effectively. “Of course, there are senior members on staff, but we are not overly concerned with the levels or rankings of certain staff members,” says Webber. “We approach our work as a team, and team leaders motivate the staff to come up with visual solutions that meet the client’s brief. I have been very fortunate to have a low staff turnover and have had some employees for well over 10 years. We have really rewarding long-term working relationships and both our clients and the rest of the team benefit from this. I always aim to ensure my team enjoy coming to work as much as possible and we do have a very friendly, close working environment.”

Mad Mex Darlinghurst

Mad Mex Darlinghurst

Mad Mex Tuggerah

Mad Mex Tuggerah

Recently Holy Cow! has been working with BBC Worldwide, which commissioned it to create environmental graphics for its new Sydney headquarters. “Part of the brief was to interpret the global BBC master brand graphics for the Australian audience. We collaborated with an Indigenous graphic design company who developed an Aboriginal motif that we then incorporated into the overall design. The resulting graphics not only represent the BBC Worldwide corporate brand, but also ground them firmly in Australian history and culture.”

Maintaining brand consistency across campaigns and, in this case, continents is obviously important. “The brand is the one, clear statement that an organisation makes among the incredible amount of imagery out there in the world,” says Webber. “Every day, we are bombarded with visual stimulus almost continuously, especially on the internet. If your brand is not well-considered and exactly the same every time it is viewed, its impact will be lessened and even confusing.”

At the same time, when a brand’s public image lies in your hands, awaiting creation, a new set of challenges arises, and there is always the danger of overdoing it. “It’s this oversaturation of imagery that creates the biggest challenge for us when creating a new brand. With so much out there in our consumer society already, it is vital to design something strong and clear, and totally original. This comes down to thorough research, great design and close communication with the client. “We always tell our clients that we work with on developing brand identities that every time people see their logo on their website, on their letterhead or on a t-shirt or on a napkin, they have an opportunity to communicate something about their business or product. Don’t waste it!” she adds.

Pie Face website

Pie Face website

Yet despite the challenges, Webber advises the process is still exciting. “From the very first conversation with a new client looking to start something new, or an existing client wanting to do something completely different, the journey from beginning to end is great,” she says. “Especially if we achieve particularly good results, like fantastic sales or winning an award. It’s also very exciting to see something that you have created from a single idea, out there in the world for everyone to see.”
Holy Cow!’s preference for working closely with its clients, with its focus on building relationships as well as creative ties, seems to be paying off. Webber explains how they approach a new project. “If it is a new client, we invite them into our studio to meet the team, and to give us as much information as they can about their project or business. We then go away and research in various areas – for example, competitors, visual approaches, product information and so on. Our design team then brainstorms ideas and we come up with several directions to explore and develop into initial concepts. We then develop these rough ideas and reconvene to see if we still believe they are worthwhile. We then prepare a visual presentation for our client and present them.

Holy Cow! Reception

Holy Cow! Reception

“Based on their feedback,” Webber continues, “we then further develop the chosen concept into a more complete or whole design, depending on the medium. We confer with each other as much as we can throughout this process and the group dynamic definitely forms a really important part of the outcome.”

Moo’ving forward, we can expect a lot more from Holy Cow!, so keep an eye out for the pink cow in the near future. “We will continue to work with some of our clients to help them grow their businesses. We’ll also keep coming up with new and innovative ideas to help all our clients meet their objectives. We are always on the lookout for new and interesting clients who would like to join forces with us, to combine clever ideas with beautiful designs.”

holycow.com.au

All images copyright Holy Cow!

From Desktop magazine.

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