Who are The Beautiful Meme?
You know the D&AD Festival 2017 identity with the bubbly, wooshy, trippy morphing pencils? That was The Beautiful Meme. An agency that focuses on branding and advertising they've worked with clients from the V&A, The Design Museum and The British Council to AXA IM - Real Assets and Innovate UK. We wanted to peer behind the curtain and so spoke to Tom Sharp, Creative Director to find out more...
Who are The Beautiful Meme?
That’s too much of an existential question. The best I can offer is that we’re registered in England & Wales at Companies House under the number 4612709.
Where did the name come from?
In 1976 Richard Dawkins published ‘The Selfish Gene’, a book about evolution. In it he created the term ‘meme’ to mean a unit of culture that passes from person to person, much like the biological gene carries genetic information. Like genes, memes can evolve. All the best branding and advertising has an infectious, spreadable meme at their heart. Our role as an agency is to create these units of culture for our clients. We seek to make them beautiful as well.
"All the best branding and advertising has an infectious, spreadable meme at their heart."
How did The Beautiful Meme come into being?
We opened in Whitechapel at the start of 2015.
When you get a brief in, what’s your creative process? What happens behind your studio door? (I have images of yogic flying while goblins and robots serve drinks – anything like that?)
There is drinking, yes. And esoteric thinking is always welcomed. For a while the studio was dominated by a giant mural of Austin Osman Spare, the progenitor of Chaos Magick. And we did once build some robots to live with us, but they were tiny and rubbish. More prosaically, our process is built on three things. We have all our work in development, at whatever stage, printed out and up on our studio walls for everyone to consider. We sit in a big open space and people rarely wear headphones so there is constant conversation about projects. Finally, we put a lot of energy into our own creative projects – whether that’s a data Happening in the Design Museum or a limited edition poetry pamphlet. The experimentation that comes from these endeavours always feeds back into our client work.
Your clients are an eclectic bunch – do you have a plan as to who you’d like to work with?
We should do shouldn’t we? But we don’t. People generally approach us.
"Experimentation that comes from [our own creative projects] always feeds back into our client work."
Your work is pretty radical – do clients always take to your work?
We’re very comfortable with the fact that we’re not for everyone. I suspect we find our way on to far fewer pitch lists than some of our contemporaries. But if clients have commissioned us they want us to take them in unexpected directions.
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
The UK Space Agency.
If you could rebrand any brand what would it be and why?
The NHS. If it stopped looking like a bland corporation then maybe the government might treat it less like a business, and more like the life-affirming example of humanity at its finest that it is.
Is there one piece of creative work that’s made you think ‘I wish I’d done that’?
What advice would you give to someone starting out in design now?
Think of yourself as starting out in culture instead.