Something About the Boy

The average length of time someone spends looking at art in a museum isn’t clearcut. The Tate Modern suggests it’s eight seconds; the Mona Lisa commands, on average, 15. A 2017 study by the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests it’s 27 seconds, but only for ‘a great work of art.’ In all this confusion, one thing is clear: the time people spend engaging with a work of art is fleeting.
  • Client: Studio Something
  • Industry: Creative Studio
  • Location: Somewhere
  • Company size: 2-10 employees
  • Year founded: 2014

James Turrell

The work of James Turrell contradicts this theory. Turrell’s art explores the materiality and perception of light, often taking the form of large scale installations which challenge our perception and spatial awareness in ever more extraordinary manners. Unlike the fleeting viewing times gifted to da Vinci’s masterpiece, experiences of Turrell’s work frequently break the hour barrier His work leads viewers into a state of ‘ganzfeld,’ amplifying neural noise and leading to perceptual deprivation as the artist toys with the mechanics of our vision in a world crafted of enigma.


In his own words, Turrell says: “my work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought.”

About James Turrell

Turrell is able to commandeer the time and focus of his viewer as only a true master can. Revered and respected across disciplines, his work was thrown into somewhat unexpected focus following the 2015 release of Drake’s Hotline Bling music video. Heavily referencing the artist, the Canadian rapper welcomed a whole new wave of admirers into Turrell’s world with a music video pastiche of the artist’s work.

The Challenge for Studio Something

In a world where such experience is more available than ever and stimulation awaits us from multiple avenues on tap, how might we design to truly capture our audience’s attention? Establishing themselves within a world more connected than ever before, Studio Something aim to meet this challenge head on, whilst staying true to their mission to ‘make something people genuinely like.’ Founder Ian Greenhill explains what drove him to explore this whilst working to hold our attention across media, banking and more.

Become a Changesourcer

Acquired Taste

When I was a wee lad I was what could be described as an ‘acquired taste.’ I used to run around the primary school playground on my own and pretend I was a character called ‘James Bond Jr,’ shouting his catchphrase wherever I went. The catchphrase was “four four four” and, to this day, I have no idea what it means or why I shouted it. Just a wee lad with curly locks hurtling around the concrete playground shouting “James Bond Jr, four four four,” capturing attention simply by doing his own thing.


This sadly led to a lot of bullying as people couldn’t quite understand what I was all about. I remember my mum said to me: “the people who get you will love you and the people who don’t – you’re not for them.”


I took this notion of doing stuff that only some people would like – and understand – into my business, which I started with my pal Jordan in 2014 [I’d left primary school by then]. Studio Something is on a mission to ‘make something people genuinely like.’ We do brands and advertising campaigns, we make TV shows and we even make other companies.

Loved By The Right People

But all these things we make don’t need to be liked by everyone; we believe in making things that stand out and get noticed, drawing attention simply by being. Because of this, and by its very nature, a lot of what we make isn’t liked by a lot of people. But, generally, the stuff we make is loved by the right people.


For instance, one of our TV shows – ‘A View from The Terrace’ – skews high with an audience demographic the BBC is desperate to reach. We believe we reach them and engage them because we make something that speaks directly to them, rather than trying to speak to everyone.


Our branding work for Innis & Gunn has seen the lager brewers consistently align with their drinker’s wavelength, whilst simultaneously polling outwith the ways of demographics we’re not targeting. Further focussing on how we capture certain audience’s attention, we came up with an app called Binder which people could use to dump their other halves – which made the internet completely freak out. Because it evoked such a strong reaction, it helped our client skew to an 18-24 year old demographic for the first time in a decade. You see, there’s power in doing something different and, by nature, leaving a lot of people out.

This is a heading

Our project with Label Ventures for Standard Life was no different. We helped create the brand for a smart-money app called Choices. Within the app, we decided to create a series of characters called ‘Choicemakers.’ 

The theory behind the Choicemakers was that, because money is both emotional and scary, creating a series of characters to guide you along your financial journey would make things a little bit easier. So far so uncontentious, except we knew we wanted to make the Choicemakers look a little less than conventional.

Andrei, the illustrator, and our head of design, Ken, decided they’d take references from places outside of start-ups and fintechs. With a fresh perspective and starting point, we crafted a series of characters with large features and floating heads.

When the insight team at The Label researched them, the reaction was extremely mixed. Some people loved them, some absolutely hated them. But, for me, the main thing was that they elicited a response. Fintech branding is awash with neo-bank copycats; our challenge was to get people to take notice of our app above all others, retaining their attention and inciting a reaction I’d rather be hated by some, but be memorable and grow salience, than be ‘sorta liked’ by everyone and quickly forgotten about.

We’ve had a lot of research sessions go awry, so we know when to listen to consumer feedback and change things. But if you listened to all notes from feedback sessions you’d end up with some very bland work; the trick is knowing what to concede and improve on. For us, that one thing was the Choicemakers’ thighs. They were massive and, seemingly, all people could look at. I’m all for being memorable but I didn’t want to be known as the thigh guy.

We’ve taken this ethos into some new work we’ve done with Royal Bank of Scotland as we’ve given them a new visual identity. Again, it’s very different from what people would expect and I’m sure a lot of their audience won’t like it initially. However, it’s tested overwhelmingly well with the audience we’re going after [millennials & gen z,s, yo].

There’s something quite empowering about being intensely hated by some but loved by others. Getting attention both positive and negative; I guess that’s the world we live in. 
I recently bumped into someone I went to primary school with and, after the usual chit-chat and niceties, she stopped and said: “I remember at school you’d run around shouting ‘James Bond Jr, four four four.’” Sometimes being different can make you memorable, even 25 years later. Just wish I knew what four four four meant.

“I took this notion of doing stuff that only some people would like – and get – into my business. For me, the main thing was that they elicited a response. There’s something quite empowering about being intensely hated by some but loved by others. I guess that’s the world we live in.”

James Turrell Illustrator