It’s not every 29-year-old who inspiresthis kind of naked emotion in his boss: “I’m deeply, andunforgivably, envious.” That’s the chief creative officer ofOgilvy & Mather’s Brand Innovation Group, Brian Collins, talkingabout new kid Christian Cervantes. As his dramatic name suggests, thedesigner has an impossible dream: to reawaken brands as familiar to usas our own faces.
Take, for instance, Coke. Cervantes forged aradical new campaign for Coke Zero, which is marketed to young men.“The word ‘masculine’ brought up images of dudesbro-ing out over ‘chicks’ and football,” he groans.“I wanted to do something a lot more subtle but stillpowerful.” He commissioned the British studio iLovedust to helpcreate an iconography of playfully masculine illustrations(“exploding fire hydrants, sensual lips, predatory animals andtheir prey . . .”), adding silhouettes of snowcaps and icefishermen to provide the necessary chill. “I had so much funcreating these little worlds within worlds,” he says, and notesthat the freedom the creative directors afforded him made all thedifference.
Another challenge was the re-imagination of Kodak’sthoroughly imprinted logo, a gigantic job Cervantes tackled right out ofschool with one other designer and a creative director. “Mychildhood memories are all documented by Kodak,” he says.“It’s more than a brand—it’s a significantcultural phenomenon, and I was given the opportunity to participate inthe changing of the guard.” When he studied Kodak’s oldidentity, he saw not outmoded letterforms but a powerful nostalgia,which he incorporated into the type: A newly rounded a and itsfriendly associates, tucked between the high-tech k’s,become an homage to technology’s sentimental side. Cervantes andhis team also created a colorful new visual language for the brand,based on the idea that however photography evolves, it will forever bemarried to light. As with all big-cheese clients, Kodak’s redesignrequired a necessarily long timeline. Cervantes says he has learned tolove the process, and finds inspiration even in projects that never cometo fruition. One of these, an (unused) makeover of Hellmann’smayonnaise, makes the white stuff with the stodgy design seem almostcutting edge.
Cervantes made his way from a photography-mad SouthernCalifornia childhood to the highest end of advertising via the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. One of his most enthusiasticteachers was Clive Piercy (head of Los Angeles firm Ph.D), whomCervantes credits with steering him in the right direction. Piercy callshis former student a “totally hip cat” and notes admiringly,“He was pursuing both graphics and photography courses with equalinterest. Apart from his work, the greatest compliment I can pay him isthat I always feel more energized and hopeful around him.”
Everyone who encounters the tall, cheerful Cervantes seems to agree.Collins sums up his impressive range: “He can drive his ideas withvisual as well as emotional power. This ability is remarkable, andI’ve only seen it grow stronger in his design work and hisphotography. But he’s as likable as he is talented.” Inturn, Cervantes has a continued appreciation of his elders: “I canhear [Brian] in the back of my head saying, ‘What’s thestory you’re trying to tell?’”