FUSE Speaker Spotlight: Tess Wicksteed

In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! Today we have Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher. Ms. Wicksteed will be presenting "Reviving An Icon: How to Stay True to Your Roots Whilst Becoming a Global Icon" on Wednesday April 13th in the Brand Strategy track at FUSE along with Sandra Lee: Company Owner, CEO and Brand Guardian Of Crabtree & Evelyn who we will feature later this week. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

Tell us about a project you are working on or recently completed that you are proud of?

I like working in China – they are so quick and entrepreneurial, imaginative and clever. We recently redesigned one of their biggest water brands, Nongfu. The express intention of the brand was to celebrate a Chinese future worthy of the best of their past. They invested in a proper immersion upfront, which meant we really understood their objectives and preferences – throughout they were decisive and immediate in their feedback. The working relationship was very respectful – a real partnership.

Think 5 years ahead, what major changes for design do you see?

It depends how depressed I am feeling. In a positive mood I think that all the creative branding industries will fold into design. Design is really the definitive form of brand media – it is preoccupied with the big idea at the heart of the brand and finding a form with which to express it at its most impactful and long-lasting. It’s the precursor to everything else. If you have a bold idea it only counts if you have a strong and unified aesthetic with which to communicate it.
Or, if I am feeling a bit depressed then I think that the design industry will sigh gently and fold into the other sectors. Design is sometimes a bit too nice for its own good.

What inspired you to get into the field? What keeps you motivated?


I like good culture. Good brands are an important part of creating good culture. Good brands tend to be the ones that are preoccupied with ideals or ideas and that use design to propagate them. I’m motivated by the very large amount of really awful and unnecessary stuff that is out there.

What is one thing you’re excited about for this year’s Fuse?

I’ve never been to Fuse so I am very excited about understanding what everyone else is so excited about!

What is your favorite brand?

New York – I believe in it. It has all the characteristics I look for in an icon – intensity (it keeps on suprising me), intimacy (I have a special personal relationship with it), popularity (its intensely democratic anyone can belong here) and longevity (it has lasting appeal)

If you could invite 2 people to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be?


Franny and Zooey

What is your dream project?

Redesigning the UK on American principles: America has a narrative of itself that is both verbal and visual that the UK could have and doesn’t really. The UK has a lot going for it but it doesn’t have a public narrative about its role in the modern world for people to get behind – it’s a repositioning exercise that I would love to do. I see my time here in America as an opportunity to learn from her and see what works and what doesn’t and then take it back home. America has a dream even if it can’t always live it.


Learn more about Pearlfisher at www.pearlfisher.com or follow Pearlfisher on twitter here.

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