Profile: Neil Hirst

07 August, 2015

Next stop was Design Bridge where he found he had to do nearly everything except make the tea. After a year he switched to creative director and client servicing.

“There is always a tension between engineers and graphic designers. I appreciate both sides. You have to understand manufacturing, branding and aesthetics. It has transferred from niche but it is still a small area,” he says.

In 2007 Hirst went to Seymourpowell. Where Design Bridge was very structured, everything clear, well defined, Seymourpowell was more diverse with no apparent structure. “I had to work out how I fitted in. The difference with Seymourpowell is you actually get involved with client research, we fill in the gaps.”

Asked which product he is most proud of, Hirst replies: “Gordon’s gin. Gordon’s is a brand staple recognised in the gin ‘hall of fame’. The bottle was its hallmark yet the team wanted a refresh. The end result was a modernised look and feel without losing the recognisable and traditional values.

“One of my proudest moments was hearing that the grandson of the original Gordon’s gin bottle designer
had got in touch to say that his granddad would have
been proud.”

“I love the richness and heritage of the drinks industry. It always adds an extra dimension to any product we are working on, updating the brand while at the same time maintaining its links to the past,” says Hirst.

What is his favourite drink? “In the same way I could not pick between my children, I could not possibly pick my favourite drink,” he says.

If he could change things, what would like to see? “Encouragement. Year after year, we see many new and exciting brands, distilleries, manufacturers popping up. I would encourage anyone, any business – any size – to give it a go. It is this movement that drives change. Embrace the naive. My message to buyers, specifiers and consumers would be: ‘Try new things and be brave.’”

So what does he do when he is not product
designing? “Anything on two wheels that goes fast,”
he replies.

He has had a chequered career with bikes and was not allowed to have one when he had children. “One caught fire while it was still at the dealer’s. Another one had wrong parts fitted and it seized up”.

He currently sits astride a Ducati Multistradea Aprillia when he’s not at his computer. It turns out that Hirst loves all things Italian. “I always have an Alfa Romeo and we holiday in Italy. I have a natural affinity with Italy. I appreciate the culture. The Italian service culture is: ‘You’re lucky to have bought my products. Put up with the faults’,” he quips.

He ‘blames’ his architect father. “He liked Scandinavian design. I grew up in a white house. My love of Italy is probably a reaction to my father’s love of Scandinavian design.”

Hirst’s epitaph: “I never planned that far ahead...”

Keywords: Neil Hirst


Nick Strangeway

Bottled cocktails: The dos and don'ts

Pre-made cocktails have always carried a stigma, which I find odd. The romance of watching bartenders make drinks from scratch left pre-batched cocktails feeling cheap to many consumers, but lockdowns have forced this attitude to change.