I gave a presentation at a design conference in Berlin a few years ago called “Life’s a beach – don’t waste it’. It was inspired by my frustration about the garbage that washes ashore on my favourite kitesurfing beach, and during every second on any beach in the world. One of the most powerful images I put up on the screen was a conclusion that after 35-years in the business of doing what I considered to be the highest quality of design for brands, was the I realisation that, in fact, ‘ I am Rubbish designer’. It got a good laugh, but it underlined several sustainability initiatives from Pearlfisher that have been ongoing and led to a bigger question about my role and where we, as an agency, would like to go in future.

In order to answer that, I first talked extensively to my four teams around the world about a new direction, then some challenging clients and advisors, as well as spending some time reflecting on some personal life-changing moments. But all the time, almost disconnectedly observing how brand designers seem obsessed with their own messages of meticulous differentiation, yet show their work in exactly the same perfectly artificially rendered way – devoid of human interaction and any reference to the ultimate impact and consequence of wasteful beauty over the beauty of circularity.

How we live our lives as people of the world, not just as designers, is often overlooked by a creative industry obsessed with awards mostly based on aesthetics. Yet we all know that how people live their lives can be positively or negatively affected by design in the short or long term. Brands know this too, and any immediate consumer media attention on them in a negative light can change the whole nature of a brand’s perception. Culture is defined by the artefacts we leave behind, and looking at some of what human civilization is leaving behind now, may be considered with deep regret by our descendants in the future.

But the good news is that how we live our lives now, and into the future, can be really optimistic and positive if fueled by good design and creative thinking on an epic, culture-changing scale that is reflective of changing attitudes on all levels of consumption. I’d like, in my own small way, to be a part of this shift; working with clients who understand how people’s attitudes are changing for the better and doing great work with them that makes an impact in the right way. That is, designing for life first, and brands second.

Seedlip is probably one of our most recent stand-out pieces of work for many reasons but it clearly showcases our Design for Life approach. The world’s first premium distilled non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip has become the game-changing brand for the 21st Century, representing a shifting zeitgeist in attitudes towards health, drinking healthily and a need for quality, sophisticated alternatives that the soft drinks market had been out of date with. The natural and craft-driven process and ingredients of this category – and cultural – challenger are brought to life through a unique and illustrative design language ensuring that the bottle, and brand, has become a covetable bar essential and a desirable new lifestyle choice for a discerning drinking generation looking for ‘what to drink when you don’t drink’.

And when it comes to our food, not only are we increasingly looking for accelerated convenience and ways to push the boundaries of food exploration, but we also need to design for people who are increasingly mobile and living their lives on-the-go. Our re-imagining of Wagamama’s takeaway experience answered people’s desire for more convenient food options and opened up the opportunity to feed them in better, more exciting, resourceful, healthy, tasty and experiential ways.

The new design has revolutionised everything from food preparation and delivery to the consumer experience in the home, centring on a new bowl system that performs functionally, improves heat retention and maximises the freshness and presentation of every meal. In the absence of staff, the human-centric design tells the Wagamama story and reflects the care and consideration that goes into every bowl of food to deliver a unique and inspirational new eating out experience for Wagamama fans.

Seedlip and Wagamama both put people first, brand second and this has inevitably future-proofed their success and longevity. The designs speak for themselves meaning that I don’t need to bang on about brand design with everyone else. It’s time to change – or just cut – the chatter and focus on how we can actually improve our dialogue and connection with one another, with brands and with the world we live in, through the power of progressive and desirable design that’s created with one thing in mind. People.