Recently I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro; the tallest freestanding mountain in the world for a charity that inspires me with creative and sustainable ideas that really make a difference to those who need it most. The experience of the climb literally put my working life at Pearlfisher, and some of the stuff we’ve done, into perspective.
It took six days and was exhausting but extremely exhilarating, made all the better by meeting great people from different backgrounds, cultures and ages. While I felt relatively well-prepared, having walked all over Tarifa, London and Dorset in the months leading up to the climb, all the training in the world couldn’t have prepared me for the eye-opening marvels that each hour of that amazing climb brought with it: constantly evolving landscapes, awe-inspiring views and achievements – both individual and collective – culminating in the big one at the end.
But the climb was long, and even though I was surrounded by people all the way, there was a lot of time to think and reflect. Against the backdrop of some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the world, I found myself struck by both wonder and unease, uncomfortably aware of the destruction mankind is wreaking on places like this.
Standing at the awesome barren summit at 19,000 feet, seeing how the glaciers have shrunk during that time and how a meltwater lake has formed, reminded me too of the meltdown in the world of creativity and brands brought on by cultural shifts, technological firepower and of course, human progress and consumption.
Looking back on that trip of only a month ago, it seems like that odyssey – from misty rainforest beginnings to high-altitude crystal-clear views at the summit – was some kind of physical metaphor for the amazing 25-year journey that Pearlfisher has been on. We started small in October 1992 with an idea that we try to find the gem in every brand. We grew organically, always pushing on, sometimes stumbling, always resilient and always discovering new ground while sticking to our own independent path.
Getting to the top of Kili made me reflect less on achievements and more on how the brand design landscape of 25 years ago is very different to where we are now. So, as Pearlfisher marks this moment in time, rather than look back at what we’ve done, I am excited instead to commit ourselves to a more sustainable future during the next 25 years.
It is design that has the power to solve society’s problems and in the next quarter of a century, the best brand designers will be the ones to realise, if they haven’t already, that there is greater merit in designing our way out of waste than putting pretty images on more of it. It’s happening here at Pearlfisher in a big way and is a growing part of what we are asked to do. It’s not just about the reduction of rubbish though – it’s about truly understanding the value of sustainable design as the most important driver of brand desire in the future and realising, ultimately, that if you are not desirable, you have no future.
I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in support of Haller which teaches creative, sustainable and low-tech farming methods which reclaim degraded land and provide sustainable livelihoods to lift people out of poverty.
Find out more here. Any donations would be much appreciated.