Mistaking Intention: The Stone Twins provoke at the March Workwhile Design Talk

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What is a mistake? Award-winning design duo The Stone Twins question the nature of mistakes in design, celebrate naivety, and shun chocolate sprinkles.


The Stone Twins are unsettling. In a good way.

Twin brothers. An award-winning design duo. With a cutting Irish sense of humor that’s sometimes impossible to read.

The Stone Twins is an award-winning creative agency, founded by Irish twin brothers Declan & Garech Stone. specialising in the field of branding, advertising, communications and everything in between. They have a reputation for ideas-based, strategic and witty design solutions, which range from branding, advertising, communication, and “everything in between”. Their work can be found all over Amsterdam (and beyond), and in many ways sets the context for Amsterdam’s culture today. From provocative cultural campaigns for Museum Quarter and Het Scheepsvaart Museum, to now-iconic identities such as Massive Music and A’DAM Toren, the Stone Twins’ influence on Dutch design defines the city’s culture. It stimulates conversation, laughter, and sometimes, slack-jawed shock.

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The pouring rain outside didn’t stop the crowd from queuing outside The Hoxton Amsterdam’s apartment waiting to see the Stone Twins speak. When the doors opened, it became all too clear that Garech and Declan had indeed not only made this fifth Workwhile Design Talk the most over-subscribed of all our over-subscribed talks. But they also had retention power: everyone - and more - showed up.

With the room packed from seats to standing room, the Stone Twins took the stage to share their take on the evening’s theme: ‘Get Good to Get Bad: Designers on their worst mistake and how it made them great’. They approached the evening as they do every project in front of them: by questioning it.

‘Is it a mistake?’ They questioned after every example presented.

 Garech Stone

Garech Stone

 Declan Stone

Declan Stone

Along the way, their position became clear: defining a ‘mistake’ in the realm of design is a tricky thing. What could be considered a ‘mistake’ in the technical sense of the term could actually be intentional, and therefore provocative. Take their Massive Music logo design for example. The absence of symmetry, shunning the rounded edge… technically, all this could be considered a mistake by a graphic designer. But is it?

And then there were less subtle mistakes. Putting sperm (not literal sperm) in the design of the A’DAM Toren parking garage... sparking outrage amongst unwitting guests. Designing a book featuring the best work of the year in Dutch design, and deciding to make a statement on the industry by having the Dutch army shoot bullets through each copy... and some very angry designers' work. Or letting inspiration get the best of them in a client meeting and proposing something outrageous (and unbudgeted) to which the client immediately agrees... without a budget extension.

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Were these mistakes? Intentional? Learning opportunities? Worth it in the end?

But even between them, the verdict was often fuzzy. What Declan might consider a worthwhile statement, Garech might consider a mistake due to the fallout or business loss. And what Garech might consider a learning opportunity, Declan might consider a waste of time. But they did seem to agree on one thing: Where there was intention, there was never a mistake.

‘Be naive,’ Garech encouraged. ‘The creative process is about making mistakes. Open up, learn.’

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Through the evening, it became clear that the Stone Twins are a different breed of designers. Sure, they’re provocative, surprising, and sometimes their designs are outright rude. But ‘intention’ is the thread that binds them, as everything they create comes from the starting point of intense research and excavation into the soul, history, and ethos of a brand. The result? Award-winning work that through its seeming irreverence reveals painstaking intention, perfection, and a statement worth making.

No detail escapes the Stone Twins, which is why their design ultimately creates entire experiences and worlds around a brand. Thinspires an intimacy between the brand and people, rather than a shallow identification.

‘Design should be invisible,’ Declan explained. ‘It isn’t the chocolate sprinkles on top of the cake. It’s the ingredients inside. Design shouldn’t be the stuff people talk about, but the stuff that makes people talk.’

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And talk, we did. With roaring applause, the talk ended as the audience rushed to the front of the room to continue the almost two-hour conversation that the presentation had quickly become. And with their signature inclusiveness and interest in others, Declan and Garech were the last to leave, taking the time to engage with each person who came soaking wet by rain, and left inspired to create something more.

 


Workwhile Design Talks at the Hoxton

Big thanks to our sponsors: The Hoxton and Lily Heaton Photography for supporting this fifth edition of the Workwhile Design Talks.

Our sixth edition - and final event before our events summer break - takes place at The Hoxton Amsterdam on Wednesday 18th April. Tickets available now

Text: Amanda Cardinale
Photography: (C) Lily Heaton of
Lily Heaton Photography