Creative Review: Sibling Rivalry

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Sibling Rivalry wanted to create the best branding with the best people, so in 2011, three partners came up with a simple idea: found a creative studio that includes a a roster of directors working together to focus on the big idea instead of the aesthetic.

Joe Wright, Maggie Meade and Mikon van Gastel have backgrounds in graphic design, advertising and title sequences (all at powerhouse design agencies around the world), so the three partners combined their talents to form Sibling Rivalry, a studio and creative collective that boasts well-known clients and a list of top directors. The studio, just more than three years old, runs offices in New York, Los Angeles, Europe and Asia and boasts 18 directors on the roster.

The group behind Sibling Rivalry had plenty of experience in the storytelling department, with Wright coming from Trollbäck+Company, Meade from Droga 5 and van Gastel working on main titles at Imaginary Forces.

“The Siblings,” as many clients now refer to them, launched their studio in 2011 – “which wasn’t the best time economically to launch a company, but you can’t wait for the perfect time, the perfect time doesn’t exist,” according to Wright. Soon after, Sibling Rivalry joined forces with White Label to create A White Label/Sibling Rivalry Product, adding on a roster of directors that has since grown from three to 18.

“We were getting a lot of work and didn’t have as large of a roster as we wanted,” said Meade, partner and executive producer at Sibling Rivalry. “We had a conversation with them [White Label] and they thought the same thing – it’s better to have more capabilities under one roof, so we merged our abilities together.”

The group creates work for TV branding projects, commercial ads, film, experiential design and digital outlets all over the world – telling stories and solving problems.

“We really just love [solving problems] and we do that in many different ways,” said Wright, Sibling Rivalry’s partner, creative director and director. “With networks, you’re branding, figuring out solutions for the brand. We tell stories – sometimes in literal or abstract ways, but that’s what we’re doing – we’re eliciting an emotion from people.”

The studio got its feet wet working for ESPN in South America for a soccer channel, building client relationships as they went. It also completed branding work for other sports brands, including the UFCand Fox Sports 1.

Wright attributes a lot of Sibling Rivalry’s early success to its unique working style, which is a concept-driven design that’s fully dependent on collaboration. The company is sure never to call their clients vendors (or even clients) – they’re always creative partners, working together toward a common goal.

Wright says it’s their experience in European design (Wright is from London, van Gastel from Holland), TV work and advertising that makes the studio stand out.

“Our core background is European graphic design, which is a very particular kind of thing,” said Wright. “Concept is king. The design should always be driven by a strong idea – not the other way around.”

“I love it when an idea really has legs across many platforms and is something that continues to surprise and engage over time,” adds van Gastel, partner, creative director and director at Sibling Rivalry.

Most recently, that translated to a branding project for E! Network. The channel wanted to find a new look for its “Live from the Red Carpet”events, which span the People’s Choice Awards to the Grammys to the Oscars. E! wanted fanfare for the brand, so Sibling Rivalry came up with an elegant and contemporary way to sell the pre-event. The new look also had to be flexible for E!‘s many social channels, so Sibling Rivalry created a gold-standard feel that stands out on air but also feels perfectly at home on Instagram.

Wright points to this as one of the company’s most rewarding projects because they were able to work with E! from the very beginning of the idea all the way through to execution, re-working a package that became ownable and cohesive for the network.

Branding projects like this have become the backbone of Sibling Rivalry’s client list, which also spans all types of subjects. Nicktoonswas actually an early partner of the studio, working with it to rebrand the channel as the home of original animation.

The rebrand uses everything from 2D animation to Claymation, live action stop-motion and 3D to answer the question: “What does a 9-year-old boy think is awesome and exciting?”

According to Meade and Wright, the scale was scary but also creatively rewarding.

“They wanted most of their deliverables to be unique,” said Meade, “so it gave us a great opportunity to be extensive and unique with mixed media.”

“What it enabled us to do,” said Wright, “was to really push ourselves in an interesting way. Sometimes it’s nice to do projects that are just a little bit bonkers.”

The network relationship continued in 2014 when Nickelodeon wanted to launch a sports offshoot. The new programming block, Nick Sports, needed a sports brand that could appeal to its young audience, so Sibling Rivalry came up with a graphics package involving two new fonts and a comprehensive icon system that brought the look together.

The solid client relationship, according to Meade and Wright, is but one staple of Sibling Rivalry’s assets.

“Collaboration and partnership with our clients and employees is the backbone of the company,” said Meade. On the commercial end, Sibling Rivalry boasts a slate of clients including Target, IBM, Nike, Jaguar, H&M, Dior, Reebok, Verizon and Ford.

“Our work is quite diverse,” adds Wright. “We can do work for the Lincoln car company and then Nicktoons. We are always evolving – there are certain design companies that have one particular look and we’ve never fallen into that. We always love the challenge of getting a message across in a unique and dynamic way, on any scale – that can be from your phone or on the side of a building.”

For 2015, Sibling Rivalry is already working on several big projects, including two rebrands that are already sparking creative challenges for the group, which is where they feel most at home.

“We approach each project with fresh eyes and intellectual curiosity,” said van Gastel.

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