December playlist

For those unfamiliar with the Extrablack monthly Spotify Playlists, be advised it’s a journey of discovery that goes broad, from ambient electronica to 70’s funk via alt-folk, left-field hip-hop, neo-classical, post-rock and… oh jeeze everything in between!

We find it’s generally great to work to when in shuffle mode and chances are you might find something new and interesting to latch on to. Look out for the odd random Christmas classic for a touch of festive fun! Enjoy here.

We’ve been schooled!

We’ve recently been working on sharpening our digital game, attending workshops by various industry leaders.

Web guru Richie Meldrum (How To Run a Damn Good Website Project) and Greg and Carol Mackay (Design Business Institute LinkedIn For Designers) have given us valuable insights into their methods and strategies. It’s been reassuring to note that we’ve been using very similar methods, but that hasn’t stopped us from gleaning some valuable nuggets of wisdom from these industry leaders. We’re super-keen to share some of these insights to our clients so ‘get it while it’s fresh’!

Our top 3 takouts from these workshops:

How To Run a Damn Good Website Project

1. Respect the content. Allow plenty of time and effort for the ‘meat’ of the site (sorry vegos!). This means copywriting, photography and formatting to the design. Make sure it’s clear who is responsible for this and when it needs to be delivered. Beware, this stage of the process is nearly always underestimated.

2. Use Ananlytics to measure the current activity before commencing. This will give real intel on the focus for the new design and later on will help to measure the results.

3. Prepare. Expect the unexpected. Go soft. Push it live and check it before shouting it loud.

Don‘t panic! This is digital; so nothing is permanent and everything can be fixed!

LinkedIn For Designers

1. Don’t expect Linkedin to land you work. It’s merely a portal for starting relationships. Get your introduction and set up a face to face. From then on it’s all down to the fit (and your ninja social skills!)

2. Organic networking is the most effective way to get the most out of LI. If you can’t find a genuine connection or good reason to contact someone you become like a spammy cold call, and nobody wants that.

3. Comment on other people’s posts. Be authentic and professional but you don’t always have to agree. Starting discussions reaches new people and increases your organic reach.


So time has bent into a new paradigm in the latest Extrablack Spotify playlist. October and November have melted into each other to the sound of lively beats of Throwing Snow, Lake People and Bonobo’s Fabric mix, tempered by the easy groove of Auntie Flo (our new favourite Auntie) and new Onra amongst others.

As always, best in shuffle mode and totes suitable for the workplace. Set and never forget!

Get into it here.

New Fox Johnston website

Having worked with FJ on the Green Square Childcare Centre for City of Sydney we have a good relationship and understanding of their practice so when we were asked to redesign their website we were primed and ready.

We looked at creating a more visually rich and responsive layout for them, taking ownership of the yellow they already had in their identity. We felt that being architects actually proudly owning a strong and particularly lively and positive colour was a real point of difference in the largely monotone colourless architectural world.

Their imagery whilst beautifully shot came in many different shapes and sizes. Rather than attempt to standardise the imagery we  took the opposite approach and celebrated it with an asymmetric case study layout with a high degree of customisable options in the back end.

Take a look at the site here (and then come back!)

Sounds of Extrablack – The August playlist

Plenty of beats in this month’s edition of Something Extra.

There’s a new Bonobo Fabric mix, new Thom Yorke and Badbadnotgood, some not-so-new-but-great Maribou State remixes, Wild Beasts and Madlib to chew on. Extra tasty!

Hit me!

Local knowledge, big city experience

Our friends at Taylor were looking to amplify their presence in the newly rejuvenated Newcastle region with an experienced team of locals on board and needing a solid and exciting platform to make a splash in the construction space.

It’s a story of local knowledge and community involvement mixed in with some heavyweight construction knowhow, a contemporary vision and the capacity to move mountains. Job done.

Retail therapy

Teaming up with JLL we have designed a range of sales IMs for various commercial assets around the country.

The challenge being how to ramp up the excitement whilst delivering key data and results based content. Our approach is often to pull out key points and lead with them to create focus and hierarchy as these documents can often present a wall of visual noise to readers. And to bring some fun and colour to the party because investors are people too!!

A Sydney heritage classic transformed

Forty Four Martin Place is our latest and greatest property marketing campaign. This for a commercial lease of an A Grade asset of the entire historic old MLC building located right in the centre of Sydney’s CBD. The building is undergoing a transformative refurbishment to its interior and features a full height atrium and a brand new pavilion structure, designed by international heavyweight architects HASSELL to maximise the magnificent rooftop terrace. The rooftop garden will be one of the best in Sydney with a view of Martin Place and Castlereagh street to rival any global city.

With stunning CGI images by neighbours Studio Modus and lifestyle photography by longtime collaborator Martin Mischkulnig the campaign has an air of premium luxury that most of us can only dream of!

We’ve also since been commissioned to develop the signage and wayfinding for the building so there’ll be a unified design approach across the whole project.


Lawson place

Our dynamic identification signage for the new workspace in Sydney’s CBD. Created for boutique businesses and professional service firms, the newly refurbished Lawson Place offices were designed by regular Extrablack collaborators Smart Design Studio. Their trademark beautiful minimalism was punctuated by this standout signage in black steel, a favourite material of ours that’s robust, durable and just damn cool!

Tools for change

The good folks at FoodLab Sydney are all about providing training and support for local residents who want to start careers and small businesses in food.

They supply the tools for change – kitchen skills, business know-how, community and mentor connections, and sustainability practices – so that inner city people with limited access to opportunities can realise their idea for a future in food and in doing so create a more vibrant local food economy.

We love being involved in progressive projects like these that bring people closer together and are geared towards the long-term good for our future as humans on this planet.

Visit the website here

The sound of Extrablack

Our monthly Spotify playlist where we explore the musical spectrum with an eye to making it something you can work to. The latest incarnation here. File under chilled, curious and discoverable!

The Squire’s Landing has, er landed.

Many months in the making, much red tape and beuracracy and a major relocation of a 200kg exterior sign later, the latest and most magnificent Squire’s brew bar is open.

As spectacular as venues get the view of Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge can be savoured with some tasty fresh brews and a juicy steak.

Our branded environment brings together the unique Bottle Wall with subliminal cross shovels together with multiple hand-painted messaging telling the rich and entertaining story of convict turned Australia’s first brewer. As a bespoke installation the staircase displays a list of the First Fleet convict names including the man himself highlighted.

Bunnings Love

It’s not cool, it’s not edgy and has very little to do with design.

It might just be a life stage thing: new homeowner, fatherhood etc but I’ve admired the Bunnings brand for some time now. Sometimes I don’t hit the mute button during the cricket when one of their ads comes on. I’m genuinely interested in what Tony at Balgowlah branch has to say about plumbing technology (I told you this was my problem). But then I’ll be in store and the way Tony really believes that I can fix my dodgy cistern is incredible. Don’t you know who I am, what I’m capable of? Probably he inwardly dies a little, but by the end of the conversation I’ll have way more information than I need and it might even involve a downsell from the irrelevant piece of piping I have in my hand. These lovely souls are not sales people, they are truly obsessive DIYers who’ve smashed some personal goals with a career that asks them to share their incredible knowledge of shower heads and hammer drills. It’s like chatting to your granddad or your tradie uncle whose eyes light up at the mention of an inlet valve. Not always fun I know but just take a moment to appreciate the passion, the experience, the knowledge base.

The point is that the Bunnings brand perfectly encapsulates everything about the what, how and why of a strong brand. There is no disputing the top to bottom unity of purpose, from TV to shop floor to Wednesday night DIY drill workshop. The genius of celebrating the likes of Tony on television is a perfect demonstration of what Bunnings is about: he is a genuine brand warrior! I suspect he even scripted, shot and edited it too. It’s the authenticity that’s key here.

Lowest prices are just the beginning they say. It’s a bit of a bland line but it is true. Personally I prefer the simple enthusiastic jingle “Bunnings Ware-house!” In fact it doesn’t really feel like price is the main draw anyway. What I want out of this experience is help from a genuinely enthusiastic human who won’t let me go until I’m foolishly over-confident that I’ve got this. The task is virtually completed in store. And if I’m limited only to Greek or Afrikaans Tony’s got me covered there too. Man crush? Hmmm that’s a stretch…

OK, so I don’t agree with the corporate giant overpowering local businesses, the sourcing of questionably cheap products made in poverty-stricken countries, and overly aggressive pricing policies that make it impossible for others to compete. There’s the dark side, and I’m not happy about that.

But as a brand they are to be congratulated for their authenticity and totality. They say what they do and they do what they say. Plus they provide an instore experience which in retail land goes a long way to future-proofing their business. Unlike the recently departed Toys R Us who’s conversion to despatch warehouse represented retail suicide. 

And the cherry on the cake is of course the ubiquitous sausage sandwich. With onions and BBQ sauce, natch. Hits the spot every time!

Not my cup of tea

I realised long ago that I’m rarely the smartest person at the design table. More often than not it’s a copywriter that brings the wit, clarity and incisive thinking. After all, their world is communication in its purest form. What do we want the person who reads our crafted characters to take away? How do we want them to feel? To behave? And react?

So when I stumble across something like the new campaign for Lipton tea I wonder where it all went wrong. Because sat underneath the familiar Lipton’s logo was a line that I don’t remember seeing before, – ‘be more tea’.

be. more. tea.

Now, terrible straplines are nothing new (apparently this one was written in 2014), and there are plenty of articles out there that vent their frustrations all too well, the always sharp Nick Asbury wrote a belter. But when someone messes with my national drink I can’t stay silent.

be. more. tea.

Is that meant to be uplifting or some kind of veiled threat? And what exactly are the characteristics of tea they want me to be?… Warm? Milky? Sweet? Stewed?

The trend of the faux lifestyle sentiment misses the point of a strapline – if the logo is the visual shorthand, then the strapline is the personality shorthand. At its best it should embody the brand, it then has the potential to be that enduring earworm, fondly remembered and repeated.

Tea seems to be one of the few categories that still achieves some form of brand loyalty. Over the years this has given the market leaders the room to inject a little personality in their tone of voice:

You only get an ‘OO’ with Typhoo.
That’s better, that’s Tetley’s.
Let’s have a proper brew!

The broader FMCG market has been peppered with classics that bring a brand personality to life. They understand and reflect exactly what makes their product unique:

Beanz Means Heinz
For a hard earned thirst
It’s finger lickin’ good
Slip Slop Slap

Some straplines are so deeply ingrained in a company’s culture that they are almost inseparable. John Lewis, the UK department store, have used the line ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ since 1925. At its most basic it is a way of explaining their price promise. But it is so much more than that, it represents their commitment to service and transparency, a purpose and a promise that has endured as long as the line.

I’m sure ‘be more tea’ meant something to someone. Perhaps it resonated with the marketing manager, or maybe the focus group thought is was cool, who knows? Perhaps I’m just missing the point, or perhaps I’m just not the target market – after all, if it’s not Yorkshire it’s just not a proper brew!

Ferrier Hodgson relocation

Ferrier Hodgson are a team of forensic accountants who help financially restructure businesses. Working in close collaboration with Geyer interior designers we have developed signage and environmental graphics for their new offices in Barangaroo, Sydney’s newest exciting city precinct.

The hero piece is the spectacular 22m floor to ceiling feature wall which contains 970 polished and painted blocks in an abstract flowing configuration representative of the organic ebb and flow of business.



Sneak peek at the 2018 AYO campaign

The Australian Youth Orchestra’s 2018 Season starts right here!

The Programs & Application Guide for next year’s courses and events kicks off for the best in young Australian musical talent.

Extrablack has brought some light and energy to this year’s campaign, blending great portrait photography by Kris Washusen with a dreamy, energetic and ethereal element to signify the artist and audience relationship with the music.

Extrablack Ops: AGDA presentation

Graphic Means – A History of Graphic Design Production

As the blurb says:

” Up until just over 30 years ago, when the desktop computer debuted, the whole design production process would have been done primarily by hand, and with the aide of analog machines. The design and print industries used a variety of ways to get type and image onto film, plates, and finally to the printed page.

Graphic Means is a journey through this transformative Mad Men-era of pre-digital design production to the advent of the desktop computer. It explores the methods, tools, and evolving social roles that gave rise to the graphic design industry as we know it today.”

Sporting sharp new hairdo, Sarah cuts Ray short on nostalgic ramblings of the ‘golden era’ of design.

The Cheeky Squire launch

Another in the series of James Squire brew bars, this time in Melbourne. Some tasty hand painted graphics and a ‘bottle wall’ that magically reveals… well, you’ll see when we upload the final project.

2017 Season AYO shoot

“We’re getting the band back together!”

This year’s shoot took place at Mondo Studios in Sydney’s inner west, with our trusty team of creative minds hard at work making the next generation of talented musicians look like the (classical) rockstars they are. Thanks again to Kris Washusen, Kim Ellmer and Anna Le for bringing the look to the music.

Chrismas cards sorted

Are you one of the lucky ones???

OK, so we’re a bit late (standard) but we’re quite pleased with the end result. They even have whiskers. More importantly thanks to all our valued clients and suppliers. Happy holidays and let’s go one better next year.


Soldiers Avenue footpath plaques unveiled

Our cast bronze Footpath Memorial Plaques for Freshwater’s Soldiers Avenue were proudly presented to the public by Mayor of Warringah, Michael Regan yesterday in a simple but moving ceremony to coordinate with the upcoming Armistice Day commemoration. Poppies were attached to the Extrablack-designed plinth by all generations of local residents and representatives from council and interested parties.

Godfreys very first Annual Report 2015

Hot off the press, our latest completed project for Godfreys.

We’ve given them a bold visual makeover to communicate their new “We Are Clean” marketing strategy. The company is widening their product base beyond vacuum cleaners to a more comprehensive range of cleaning products.

Beautifully printed by Blueprint in Melbourne

AYO 2016 Program in our hot little hands

Another productive and enjoyable collaboration between ourselves (design and art direction) and Kris Washusen (photography) for the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Printed by Clark Murphy.

State Library of NSW project delivered

OK so delivery from Avon Graphics and Bambra Press was a little later than expected but the result is outstanding.

Time for the State Librarians to attract some funding for the next exciting stage of the Mitchell Library growth, and digitisation of their extensive and largely unseen collection. History comes alive!

The Charming Squire work in progress

Latest images of the ongoing transformation from concrete bunker on Brisbane’s South Bank to the next fantastic James Squire Brew Bar, a haven for craft beer lovers. The guys at A Sign taking us back to the days when signs were painted by hand by guys in high-visi shirts, using skills from the days of yore. Craft beer deserves craft artisan treatment.

Plus one

We have grown an extra person! It’s official, as of today Gemma Warriner is our new full-time Designer. Gemma is a recent Honours graduate from UTS Visual Communications and has gained solid experience with several top Sydney studios as well as developing strong ties with her own clients, primarily in the hospitality industry. We are really excited to have her on board and look forward to introducing her to you.