D&AD – ‘Exceptional’ Coutts

For my D&AD submission choice, I was the only student in the year to choose the brief set by Coutts bank. While this contributes to my theory that I am not the “normal” embodiment of skills and attitudes  the course is intending to produce, the brief is as follows :

Design an installation that reflects the exceptional nature of Coutts and their unique heritage in a contemporary and engaging way. A copy will be installed in every one of its 43 branches worldwide.

The piece could be interactive or static, 3 dimensional or flat, but should fully engage the viewer and immediately convey a sense of unmistakable, but perhaps surprising ‘Couttsness’

Given the nature of it, I can’t say I’m surprised it had me champing at the bit to dive into the file of 67 very high quality photographs of artefacts (letters, medals, watches, hats, snuff boxes, spectacles…) that had been supplied with the intention of being used to base a response upon. I should add that this wasn’t so much stated, rather implied in the language as the basis for a more successful response.

Consequently, I am reinforcing my understanding of the underlying values and history of the brand by examining the materials more closely. In particular, the letters to/from members of the Coutts family  to the great and good of the ages, might provide an edge to the very human narrative that seems to run through the bank and its beliefs.

Theres something about the lines, the calligraphy of all the handwriting samples that I keep coming back to. Something fragile and old underscoring something much stronger?

Trust, security, stories of life and death, wealth, words, promises. None of these things really exist- money isn’t the gold it represents in a government vault somewhere. Even more so with electronic banking- we’ve moved right past a physical presence of finance and skipped to waves and blinking numbers on a screen. But that still counts for something, because someone has told us that those numbers could still be exchanged for bits of gold that we could put in our pockets. All these promises to ‘pay the bearer’ are insubstantial.  Foolishly, the only assets that don’t apply to this would be land or property, or maybe artefacts. Yet aren’t they worth only what people will pay for them or what people deem they are worth?

The word of this bank seems to be underlined by a core interest in the individuals behind the assets, both in their founders and clients. They seem to want to present a very human face to their organisation. Listening to their requirements and catering to them, speaking about personal and socially admirable traits such as generosity and responsibility. Their word seems to be golden.

Now THAT is ludicrous. That is the economy.

We’ll see. I’ve already done some running ahead of myself for the material and form of the proposed piece, which was probably a bad idea in some respects. I should be approaching the content with an open mind instead of making it fit into that-great-way-of-cutting-and-hanging-paper-that-I-saw-in-the-library.

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