Illustration by Paul Davis
When Ravi Naidoo, inspirational founder of the Design INDABA festival, invited NB to appear on stage in Cape Town, he threw down a giant gauntlet. Ravi challenged us to go way beyond the conventional portfolio slide-show and do something so different that we'd scare ourselves.
So we decided to make a play.
Our idea was to capture all the emotions, nerves, adrenalin and anxieties that surround a pitch presentation to a new client in a half-hour drama. Having been in these excruciating situations for over 20 years it felt like we had plenty of personal experience to draw on. But we’d never produced a play before; never worked with actors, playwrights, props, sound and video engineers; and certainly never used a revolving floor.
Knowing you're going to be up in front of an audience of 2,500 people and streamed live to a further 10,000 focuses the mind. The tables literally turned: we became the client for the first time. It was our job to audition and find the playwrights Jimmy Osbourne and David Aula (who also acted on stage alongside Georgia Clarke-Day). We worked closely with them, rehearsing, rewriting, rethinking, refining, literally right up until the moment the curtain lifted.
The medium of a play allowed us to voice all the things that usually go unsaid in those first interactions between a client and an agency. The play's episodic structure also allowed us to reveal something of an NB manifesto:
– Learn the rules before you break them– Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups– Indecision kills– Become your customer– If everything is important, nothing is important– Tell the truth, be on time– Life’s too short not to be a designer
As a footnote, the play was also taken to Design Yatra in Jaipur, India in October 2016. More gauntlets please.