Drew Smith, Founding Partner and Creative Director of LUMEN Group: “We are ten years young!

Ten years ago Canadian Designer Drew Smith together with the Italian Pietro Rovatti decided to redefine the brand and design industry—that is how Lumen Group, the agency that illuminates brands, was born.

Drew Smith, Founding Partner and Creative Director of Lumen Group, has told Popsop what this anniversary means to him and his team, about major achievements, challenges and future plans of the agency.


Ten years old

Ten years old. It is hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday when Pietro Rovatti and I started this adventure. But ten years in today’s world is a very long time indeed. It is astounding how much the world and our lives have changed.

Ten years ago phones were stupid, people still rented DVD’s and if we received spam it was at night from a fax machine.  «i» didn’t mean anything to most people, neither did «lol», «omg» or «bff». «Carbon footprint», «likes», «avatars», «blogs»…»Tweets» were the sounds that birds made.

And back then only about 5 people in the world had heard of Lumen. Now we are about 50 people working with clients in South America to the Far East. More than the business we’ve built or the work we’ve done, I’m proud most of all about the relationships we’ve made along the way. The talent that has given us their best. The clients that have trusted us and the many friends that supported and believed in us.

Our work has changed a great deal over the years both in approach and scope. The ad agencies no longer rule and the brand experience has become more important than the product itself.

We have had to learn new ways of doing things and work in fields that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Now, it is much more about creating ideas that work across all media than simply doing beautiful design.



I wonder how my profession will change over the next ten years and to be honest I haven’t a clue. No one does. The one certainty is that technology will be the driving force. The professors at MIT classify tasks into those that a computer could eventually do and those which only humans could perform.

They were convinced for example that a computer could never completely drive a car. There is just too much sensory input and intuition required on today’s city streets.

Recently they were idle passengers in one that drove through downtown LA at rush hour. One thing that technology won’t replace though, is creativity. Intuition, inspiration and crazy ideas will still need a human mind at least for the foreseeable future.


The consumer

At Lumen, we are involved above all in developing relationships between brands and consumers. Branding was born just over a century ago when consumers started shopping independently in supermarkets that offered a wide range of choice. Before that, they put their faith in the local retailer and his recommendations.

In a way we have come full circle. The rising power of supermarkets and their own labels is going to be the death of a lot of brands unless they can play a greater role in the lives of their consumers.

How they will interact will increasingly be determined by technology.  The shopping malls we are used to are becoming the size of the world. We will soon be able to get anything we want, custom made and delivered the next day for less than we used to spend. Creating a distinctive emotional expression with the power to emerge in this scenario will be our main challenge for the next decade.


The world

The world is interconnected like never before. The expression of a butterfly fluttering its wings on one side of the world and causing an earthquake on the other has never been more true.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is being able to travel and meet different people. The striking thing though is how similar we are.  Consumers, even in emerging or developing countries are exposed to everything the world has to offer.

And I am finding that we all have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations, regardless of where we live.


Investing in our future

It is not an easy moment for anyone, particularly in Europe. What worries me most about this economic and political crisis is the pessimism that permeates society today.

Especially among the young. Their future is far from bright. This may be the first generation since the war to see a decline in their quality of life compared to their parents.

Lumen will be doing what we can to help. Besides offering ongoing internships we are announcing an initiative that will bring together brands and the best art and design schools in Italy to offer scholarships, work experience and cultural trips to the most promising students. The first edition of «ArtProLogo» will be a collaboration between Lumen, Campari and L’Accademia di Brera.

It’s a great time to be a designer and I feel privileged and proud to have had the opportunity to lead such a great group of people.


The Lumen story in pictures and figures: our infographics