Pushing The Limits

We’re used to taking on challenging tasks and punishing deadlines. But after meeting endurance swimmer Adam Walker and legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, we’ve reframed our definition of ‘impossible’ – and learned that we’re all tougher than we think.

We all need heroes: people to look up to, who challenge our notion of what’s possible, and encourage us to test and redefine our own physical and mental limits. The trouble is, the word ‘hero’ is bandied around so much these days, it’s lost much of its power (the same could be said of ‘epic’, ‘tragedy’, ‘disaster’ and ‘celebrity’).

Our image of the hero originates, of course, in classical literature. To the Greeks and Romans, and later the Vikings, he was a warrior, often a demi-god or blessed with amazing powers, who lived and died in the pursuit of honour. Today, we tend to think of heroes as those who have done great deeds, or undertaken perilous journeys and assignments and lived to tell the tale.

In November 2016, we had the amazing privilege of meeting two people who definitely meet the second requirement. We were invited to a Breakfast Club event, organised by Kruger Cowne, to hear two modern-day adventurers talk about their lives, challenges and expeditions, and their personal viewpoints on overcoming the challenges they’d set themselves.

Of the two, Adam Walker was the less well-known, at least to us. A self-professed ‘ordinary guy’, he was working as a toaster salesman, of all things, when he suddenly decided to change his life and take on the ultimate endurance swimming challenge, the Oceans Seven. This involves swimming seven sea crossings: the English Channel; the Strait of Gibraltar; the Molokai Strait in Hawaii; the Catalina Channel in California; the Tsugaru Strait, where the Sea of Japan meets the Pacific; the Cook Strait, between the North and South Islands of New Zealand; and the North Channel, running between north-eastern Ireland and south-western Scotland, connecting the Irish Sea with the Atlantic. He became the first Briton and only the fifth person in history to complete this incredible endeavour, and just the second to swim all seven at the first attempt.

Walker really impressed us with his dedication. He gave up everything to achieve his first goal, which was to swim the English Channel, but having suffered near-hypothermia in the attempt, he was advised by doctors not to continue his Oceans Seven quest. Naturally, he ignored them: during subsequent swims, he suffered a ruptured tendon, was hunted by sharks, and got stung by a Portuguese man-o’-war jellyfish, but never quit. He now shares his incredible motivation and drive to overcome pain where most would give up to help others tackle similar open-water challenges of their own. His success is built on replacing negative thoughts (“I’m cold”, “I’m tired”) with positive thoughts (“I’m strong”, “I can do this”) – through his experiences, he’s learned that mental fitness is as important as physical stamina. He’s not a household name, but that didn’t seem to worry him: he does it for himself, not for the glory.

In contrast, the second speaker was someone we definitely HAD heard of. Even getting round his full name – Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE – is quite daunting, while his life story reads like one of his own numerous, and highly successful adventure novels.

Born into an aristocratic family, Fiennes was educated at Eton College, where he made the first ascent of Lupton’s Tower without ropes. He told us the only Etonian to emulate him since, Bear Grylls, had claimed it was harder now because of the barbed wire the school authorities had put in place. To which Sir Ranulph haughtily retorted that this actually made it easier!

True to the classical warrior-hero tradition, ‘Ran’ went on to serve in the Royal Scots Greys and the SAS, before becoming a full-time explorer and adventurer. He was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles by surface means, and the first, with Dr Mike Stroud, to cross Antarctica on foot. In 2009, aged 65, he became the oldest Briton to conquer Everest, raising over £2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Sharp-witted and very charismatic, he had some great stories to tell – not for self-glorification, but just to explain the harshness and extremity of what he had endured and achieved. (He once sawed off the frostbitten fingers of his left hand with a hacksaw to RELIEVE the pain). He reminded us that many had lost their lives attempting these challenges, but that the desire to just keep on going had enabled him to succeed.

If any people could motivate you to push your personal limits, it would be these two.

Truly Enlightened

After more than 80 years, the Anglepoise Lamp remains a British design classic: a familiar and much-loved object whose perfect combination of form and function gives it a universal appeal.

For us, one of the best bits of a Pixar movie is the opening sequence. You’ve probably seen it: an animated lamp bounces up and down, squeaking and chuckling to itself, on the letter ‘i’ in the company name, until it flattens it. The lamp swivels its head briefly, and somewhat sheepishly, towards the audience, then flicks itself off. It’s a brilliant piece of work, giving real character and personality to a familiar but otherwise inanimate object.

The object in question is, of course, an Anglepoise lamp. And it’s revealing that the world’s most technologically advanced animation studio should choose a humble domestic appliance dating back more than 80 years as one of its most recognised characters. What’s more, the origins of the Anglepoise lie a long way from the glitz and glamour of Silicon Valley.

In fact, it was invented in a garden shed in Bath, by British industrial engineer George Carwardine. A specialist in vehicle suspension systems, Carwardine was fascinated by springs, cranks and levers, and developed a theoretical concept that used them to balance weights. His model depended on special ‘constant-tension’ springs, made exclusively by Herbert Terry & Sons in Redditch, a town known mainly for producing needles, fishing tackle and (another favourite design icon of ours) Royal Enfield motorcycles.

Carwardine realised that, through his research, he had inadvertently created the ideal mechanism for a work lamp. Its articulated design gave it amazing freedom of movement, while the constant-tension springs ensured it was always in perfect balance. In 1932 he filed a patent, and a year later launched his first four-spring lamp these details. It caused a sensation. Demand rapidly overwhelmed Carwardine’s limited supply, and in 1934, he licensed the design to Terry & Sons, who launched volume production under the Anglepoise name.

They quickly identified that the four-spring design, while perfect for workshops and drawing offices, was a bit too ‘industrial’ for home use. In 1935, they introduced a three-spring lamp, known as the Original 1227 – a design that, with only slight refinements, has remained in continuous production ever since. And although Anglepoise is a registered trademark, it’s become a generic term for everything that’s followed it, like ‘Hoover’ for ‘vacuum cleaner’ – which is surely one of the greatest accolades any design can receive.

There have been many variants over the years, for use everywhere from operating theatres to military aircraft. (A navigator’s Anglepoise was found in the wreckage of a World War Two Wellington bomber raised from Loch Ness in the 1980s. It still worked.) But the Original 1227, as brought to life by Pixar, is still the definitive article.

For discerning creatives like us, the Anglepoise remains a must-have item; a totem of our craft – so much so, we recently contributed to The Design Museum’s ‘adopt-an-object’ fund to help it acquire one for its collection.

We have a deep affection for it, and a real respect for it as an iconic piece of British design. Rather like the bicycle, which we’ve discussed elsewhere in these pages, its appeal lies in its simplicity, purity and sense of purpose – and the fact that it was basically ‘right first time’ and has proved essentially beyond improvement since it first appeared. And that’s surely the kind of work we all aspire to create.

Cycle Revolution

The Warren Creative team includes a number of cyclists, so an exhibition dedicated to the bicycle at London’s Design Museum was perfect on every level.

Britain voted it best invention of the last 100 years. Albert Einstein said he first thought of relativity while riding his. American civil rights leader Susan B Anthony reckoned it had ‘done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world’. It won Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins their knighthoods, as well as numerous Olympic gold medals. Curious, then that the bicycle is still so often described as ‘humble’. Not that there was anything very humble about the two-wheeled exotica we saw at Cycle Revolution – the last exhibition to be held at the Design Museum’s current home on Shad Thames before it moves across London to Kensington in November 2016.

Museum founder Sir Terence Conran, a keen cyclist himself, chose the bicycle as the theme to reflect the massive resurgence in cycling over recent years, especially in London. After decades in the doldrums, and inspired partly by Team GB’s success on the track, plus three Tour de France wins in four years, cycling is now more popular in Britain than at any time since the Second World War. Described as ‘part design exhibit, part museum of sport’s greatest moments’ the exhibition featured 77 machines from across the cycling spectrum. Some, like the cargo bikes, and the prototype Brompton folding commuter bike, could reasonably be described as ‘humble’. Others, like the space-age Lotus that won Chris Boardman Olympic gold in 1992, Eddie Merckx’s hour-record bike, and Chris Froome’s Tour de France-winning Pinarello definitely could not.

We were lucky enough to snag tickets to the Private View, opened and introduced by Sir Terence in person. Wandering round, we were struck by the simplicity and elegance of the bicycle’s core thinking and design. Although materials and technology have advanced immeasurably, the diamond frame essentially hasn’t changed much since James Starley produced the first ‘safety bicycle’ in the 1890s. It’s one of those rare inventions that was pretty much right first time, and age has only added to its genius. That basic shape can be adapted to suit any specific purpose perfectly, without compromising its structural or aesthetic integrity. Whether you’re a speed freak or a Sunday stroller, there’s a bike for everyone to enjoy.

What came across most strongly from the exhibition was the joy and purity at the heart of cycling. There’s a feel-good factor in the act of riding a bike that transcends borders, cultures, lifestyles and  abilities. Cycle Revolution was a fitting tribute to a machine that’s enhanced our lives – and changed the world – in so many positive ways.

Tulip Landscapes

Tulip Landscapes is a boutique garden design firm, creating gardens and window boxes of all styles and sizes for clients in London and the South East of England. The owner, Henrietta Norman, came to us via a recommendation, looking for a refreshed brand identity and website (www.tuliplandscapes.co.uk). Her budget was modest, but the project appealed to us, and we immediately recognised that Henrietta’s creativity and love of making chimed perfectly with our own. We needed to create something small but beautiful, fit for purpose and easy to use, which would provide a solid platform for the business’s planned expansion. We created a colour palette based on charcoal, light grey and light peat, echoing Tulip Landscapes’ blend of the urban and the organic. We selected a classic font style to lend gravitas and credibility, supported by the beautiful illustrations we commissioned from Emily Faccini. Whimsical and distinctive, these original drawings highlight the bespoke nature of the business, and reflect the care and personal attention that goes into every project.

Harlequin London

Harlequin London at Decorex 2015

Held during the London Design Festival, Decorex is internationally regarded as THE annual showcase for the latest and greatest luxury design and interior products. Among the 400 hand-picked exhibitors at the 2015 event, staged in Syon Park, was long-time Warren Creative client Harlequin London. Based in Chelsea – where else? – Harlequin London provides bespoke design services for interior designers, specifically for tableware, interior accessories and decorative lighting.

Managing Director Jamie Horton and PR & Marketing Manager Sophie Burns came up with a broad concept for their stand, based around a 70s retro theme, but created using contemporary production techniques. Many of their ideas were inspired, some possible-but-tricky, a good few were frankly bonkers. Our first job was to sort through them and produce a workable brief. Then, we helped the Harlequin team establish a fluid creative process that was fun, but always had an eye on the one thing that was non-negotiable: the deadline.

Projects like this are a truly enjoyable aspect of our work. Helping to create a theme, then coming up with little touches of magic (our set of 3D space-invader prints, for instance) is always rewarding. Having everything come together beautifully is wonderful: when, as in this case, it happens just in the nick of time, it’s truly exhilarating (if a bit nerve-racking).

The flip-side, of course, is that all too often, the audience doesn’t see or appreciate the depth of thought, energy and emotion that lies behind creative work: the ideas that never made it, the elements that had to be left out, the last-minute revisions and game-changing flashes of genius. So, we also produced a brochure entitled ‘The Making of Luxury’. In it, we gave visitors to the stand a greater insight into what they were seeing, from the condiment set shaped like magic mushrooms to the one-tonne molten metal table. In a sense, it was also a manifesto for our own approach to creating luxury brands: the creativity, the materials, the scale and the processes we work with every day to produce something truly unique.


These days, long-haul flying is routine – even dull. But it wasn’t so long ago that travelling by air was a glamorous, romantic luxury reserved for the privileged few. And in the days of propeller-driven aircraft, flying the Atlantic was slow and potentially hazardous. After the first successful crossing by Alcock and Brown in 1919, it was another 20 years before regular air services were established between Britain and America.

By the late 1950s, however, transatlantic aviation was enjoying a golden age. In 1958, with the up-and-coming jet airliner still in its infancy, the prop-driven aircraft reached its apotheosis in the Douglas DC-6. Originally designed as a military transport plane, it proved amazingly capable with commercial airlines worldwide. More than 700 were built: many are still flying on cargo and fire-fighting duties.

One, however, is destined to carry paying passengers again – and in some splendour, too. British company Cloudmaster is restoring a DC-6 for a syndicate of private owners, who plan to operate it as a charter aircraft, as well as using it for their own pleasure. In its original form, the aircraft could carry up to 102 passengers. Its new interior, created by renowned designers Bannenberg & Rowell, will accommodate just 28 guests, with separate areas offering lie-flat beds, meeting areas, a VIP cabin, bar and lounge, as well as general seating.

It’s an extraordinarily ambitious, and challenging, project. The Cloudmaster team is undertaking a complete restoration of the airframe, avionics and all four engines to as-new specifications and standards. The aircraft also has to pass a complete set of flight trials and crew training before it can re-enter service.

We’ve been lucky enough to play a very small part in this amazing venture, by recreating the master logo artwork from the original design shown on the tailfin. It was a rare opportunity to be involved in something so unique and exacting. In industrial terms, ‘aerospace-grade’ is a generic expression for ‘the best in the business’, which fits exactly with our own fondness for working with top-quality materials and finishes.

We also love the story behind the project, and the spirit in which it’s being conducted: true to the original in its glamour and exclusivity, yet entirely contemporary in its intentions and execution. The team’s vision, determination and refusal to compromise through more than 30 months of technical, aesthetic and regulatory challenges is truly uplifting.


Eileen Sheridan

Today, Britain’s elite cyclists are highly-paid celebrities. It was very different back in 1950s, when Eileen Sheridan dominated the sport – and doing it the hard way.

She’s only four-foot-eleven, but Eileen Sheridan is a giant in British women’s cycling. Yet, despite her formidable palmares, she’s almost unknown outside the sport – and not that well-known to the current generation of Middle Aged Men In Lycra, either.

And that’s a shame, because hers is a remarkable story. Born in 1923, she joined Coventry Cycling Club in 1944. Within a year, she was both club and National 25-mile time-trial champion: in 1948, The Bicycle magazine declared that she had ‘rocked the racing world, setting up completely new standards for women’s records’. Three years later, she turned professional with the legendary Hercules team specifically to break records, which she did in spectacular fashion. Her 1,000-mile record of 3 days and 1 hour stood for 48 years: her time of 20h 11m 35s between London and Edinburgh, which she set in 1954, is one of her five records that have never been broken.

What more, Eileen had none of the space-age technology, clothing and nutritional products available even to rank amateurs today. “We used to ride in our baggy shorts, not padded of course, and a sweater with a pocket on the front where we kept our food. It opened like a sail as we cycled!” she told one interviewer. “I wore chamois leather shorts when I was racing, but that’s as smart as it got. There were no showers or anything. We used to finish, find out our time and ride home.’‘ According to another champion racer, now cycling historian, Ramin Minovi: “Her hands were blistered because there was no padding on the bars, just a winding of rough tape, and she kept going on blackcurrant juice, soup, sugar and chicken legs.”

In many ways, hers is a quintessentially British tale: the plucky, sporty girl from the Midlands who reached the top by her own efforts, yet was always modest about her achievements. But make no mistake: this is one steely lady. She once said she’d always regretted that women were never allowed to race against men: “The rules were very strict, which was a shame, because it would definitely draw out the speed. To chase is built into my personality.”

But Eileen wasn’t just a racing cyclist: she also rode for the sheer fun of it, going on long tours with her husband, whom she met through the cycling club and married when she was just 19. She’s a great reminder that life itself is an adventure – and that even when you’re working at the very highest level, you’ve got to love what you do.

Bare Conductive

How do you make a physical connection with the digital world? Bare Conductive has some simple, innovative – and very cool – answers to this fundamental question.

Creativity is what keeps us alive and fresh, both as individuals and as a business. So, we’re always excited when we come across people who surprise us with something truly innovative, and a different take on the norm. Bare Conductive falls firmly into this category.

Bare Conductive describes itself as being ‘at the intersection of design, technology and material innovation’. In that respect, we have a lot in common: our own brandcraft involves all those things, too. Bare Conductive, however, arguably goes a step further, by making technologies that physically connect any surface, object or space to the digital world.

To those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, Electric Paint sounds like something out of science fiction – one of those wholly plausible but utterly impossible ideas Douglas Adams conjured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Bare Conductive has made it a reality. As its name suggests, it’s an electrically conductive paint you can use to cold-solder components – ideal for repairing PCBs. More enticingly, though, it can turn any surface into a sensor. Combine it with Bare Conductive’s Touch Board, and the possibilities are mind-boggling.

Touch Board is a piece of hardware that transforms Electric Paint sensor data into sound, light or data in the cloud. So, for example, you can make a photo frame play an appropriate piece of music to go with the image when you touch it, or make lights come on (or an alarm go off) when you step on an area of floor. With a dab of electric paint on the relevant bottle or vase, you can even set up reminders to take your vitamins or water your houseplants. These examples might sound simple, even trivial. But we see this as really important technology, making a tangible link between the real world and the virtual one we’re all living in to an ever-increasing extent.

We’re desperately hoping that, any day now, a client will bring us a project we can look at and say, “You know what would be great for this?” and start playing with Electric Paint and Touch Boards ourselves. You know where we are…

Find out more at www.bareconductive.com


By presenting luxury watches as conversation pieces, Adrian Aldred clearly recognises the importance of understanding the customer’s mindset – something we bring to every Warren Creative project.

At an early age, Adrian Aldred became fascinated by the design and construction of Swiss watches, acquiring his first (used) Rolex at 19. Clearly a man after our own hearts, while studying for a BA in product design, he used his student loan to expand his collection, eventually turning his obsession into a thriving business. Adrian soon realised that the fine watch market was dominated by a few big brands. While respecting and admiring names like Cartier, Patek Philippe, Breitling and Omega, he wanted to offer his customers watches from lesser-known high-end Swiss manufacturers.

Through his Convopiece website, Adrian is championing new atelier Swiss brands such as MCT, Akrivia and Andreas Strehler; emerging talents who constantly push the creative and technical boundaries of watchmaking. He offers a truly bespoke service, matching a specific timepiece to the customer’s needs, desires and personality. Crucially, these unique and quirky watches, from unfamiliar brands, prompt the question ‘what IS that?’ They’re conversation pieces – hence the name – and address the thorny question of what to get the man or woman who has everything, including (probably several) watches from the big luxury brands.

Adrian describes Convopiece as being about ‘exceptional taste and personal expression, not conformity or price’, and his mission ‘to understand, compliment and inspire your personal brand’. The very same things that drive us, and underpin every project we undertake.

Stack Magazines

Never knowing quite what we’re getting next is half the fun of our STACK MAGAZINES subscription.

From mainstream giants to those obscure gems that feature as ‘this week’s guest publication’ on Have I Got News For You, it seems there’s a magazine for every niche, taste and interest. In our own industry, we have a plethora of titles, led by Creative Review and Design Week, and we naturally subscribe to both to keep ourselves up-to-date.

But while the periodical press clearly has no issues with quantity, it’s a different story when it comes to quality. Publishing is warfare, and production values are easy targets for finance departments looking for a competitive advantage.

As people who value anything thoroughly considered and beautifully crafted, we’re always delighted to find a magazine that refuses to compromise. The subject matter may be unfamiliar, arcane, or just plain boring; but if it’s skilfully designed, cleverly written and impeccably produced, we’ll fall in love with it just the same. So when we stumbled upon STACK Magazines, it was like being given the keys to the sweetshop. Created by Steven Watson, STACK is an independent publishing house, producing sumptuous journals devoted to everything from art, design and creativity to music, travel, food, sport – even plants.

Every STACK magazine is completely individual, yet they’re united by superb production values. Everything from the size, weight and feel of the stock to the design, typography, writing and imagery is perfect. They’re the kind of magazines you deliberately leave lying around for people to admire and envy. The best part, though, is that you subscribe not just to one title, but the whole range. So, each month, a different magazine drops onto the doormat – and we never know which one we’re getting. Thus far, every delivery has been an aesthetic and journalistic delight.

We also take real pleasure in supporting a small independent publisher. They’re an increasingly rare breed, and one we appreciate all the more through our work with Yacht Investor magazine. Based in Monaco, Yacht Investor is run by a small team, but it’s making a big noise in the rarefied world of superyachts, thanks to our understanding of the target audience, and insistence on doing the job properly.

If we’ve inspired you to see what STACK has to offer check out their website – www.stackmagazines.com