GDE710 W2 | Lecture Two: Harriet Ferguson of Pearlfisher

I am remiss to say that I’ve never heard of Pearlfisher. It was a delight to be able to learn of a new studio and that they have a location right in my backyard here in San Francisco. I am going to spend a little time exploring their site and see if I can pop over to say “hi” if opportunity allows. Here is my summary from this guest lecture.

Harriet broke the lecture into three unique categories: collaboration, inspiration, and future as it applies to the globalization of design.


  • Harriet described a “treasure trove” of talent across Pearfisher’s four global locations: LON, NYC, SYD, SF

  • Pearfisher utilizes technology such as Slack and Zoom to collaborate and stay connected

  • There is cultural diversity within each of their four global locations which further enhances their collaboration, perspectives, and quality of work product

  • Being a global studio has presented more opportunities

I loved the case study of Taylors of Harrogate and how they used different approaches to artistic expression (painting, illustration, etc.) to uniquely identify their numerous product segments and distinctively standout against the competition.



  • Harriet acknowledges the “blessing and a curse” in reference to the internet as a source of inspiration and originality. If you’re seeing work and ingesting it into your work, there is a strong likelihood so is everyone else which can lead to the dilution of our craft. She mentioned Pinterest as a usual suspect for internet design inspiration and potential sameness.

  • Harriet challenges the viewer to look “beyond the form” for alternative sources of inspiration (art, book design, magazines, museums, film, etc.)

  • The internet’s global connectivity can provide an immediacy of response to new works or adaptive works. For example, the launch of new brands or redesign brands are often pounced upon in social media in both positive and negative ways (often negative). Gap, Inc. had a notorious brand refresh flop which resulted into a return to a previous look. Harriet mentioned Wattersons as another company’s wherein society rejected their rebrand forcing a return to their legacy mark with a twist.

  • Whether you’re able to travel to distance locations for first hand research and immersion on behalf of a brand or need to rely on the internet, globalization has created opportunities to tell visual stories through localization like never before.

Pearlfisher’s research trip to Cuba on behalf of Havana Club #3 provided an immersive experience yielding an authentic, yet contemporary take on their identity and visual story. They uses hand tooled creative, local textures and color palettes, and mixed historical visuals with modern culture elements to engage audiences young and old alike.

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  • Harriet refers to Apple as a leader in designing for the future. The brand accomplishes universality through iconic simplicity and remains consistent across the globe.

  • Globalization has created much savvier consumers with greater expectations of brands. Harriet challenges the brands to be: authentic, sustainable, have principles and stand by them, bring benefits to our ever-changing lifestyles, and go beyond their offerings to satisfy the modern-day consumer.

I felt that Karma Cola was a exceptional case study in brands that are upholding the future of design: one that is holistic, authentic, bold, culturally respectful, sustainable, fun and has plenty of character and personality. It just seems real and in our present day of “fake news” and loads of other “fake” it’s refreshing to see a brand that can make you feel so passionately for cola. It goes far beyond the undeniably cute polar bears of Coca-Cola and makes a mark far more authentically than Pepsi’s Kardashian-lead attempt social commentary. Well done, Karma Cola. :)

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