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Alt Group’s Dean Poole appointed president of Alliance Graphique Internationale

AGI is a prestigious non-profit organisation of 500 of the world’s leading graphic artists and designers with a secretariat based in Switzerland. 

Poole is the first New Zealand president in AGI’s history and only the second elected president from the Southern Hemisphere. He was invited to join AGI in 2010.

The alliance includes some of the world’s design luminaries who have “collectively shaped global visual language”, says Poole. High profile members include Milton Glaser from ‘I Love New York’ fame, design ‘rock star’ Paula Scher, from design agency, Pentagram, and Kenya Hara, art director for more than a decade of Japanese design store, Muji.

Poole has worked with diverse clients such as Fisher & Paykel, Silo Theatre, NZ Opera, honey brand Lumojo, Auckland Art Gallery, Kiwi band Shihad, Auckland Council and City of Melbourne.

Under his creative direction, the pioneering multidisciplinary design studio has been awarded some of the highest design accolades around including a Cannes Gold Lion, ADC Gold Cube, Webby Award, eight Purple Pins, 30 Red Dots and the German Design Prize.

Last year Idealog spoke to Alt Group co-founders Ben Corban and Poole to find out what makes them tick, how the company started and fusing design and art.

Having met while studying at the Elam Art School of Fine Arts, Poole said their mentality as artists has prepared them well for risk.

“As an artist you need to make work, whether people want you to make work or not, and you need a place to do it in. So we basically rented a warehouse and started making work, with no sense that anyone would ever buy our service,” he said.

When talking about creativity, Poole said it’s a logical process, not a magical one. 

“Sometimes you have to break a whole lot of information down into a series of parts. I’m more comfortable not knowing anything and just imagining something and I think that tension between those two approaches has led us to some really interesting places.”

One of Alt Group’s first projects was helping to launch the iMax theatre in Auckland, which, at the time, was the biggest in the world.

“To us it was a piece of experience design. We engaged with this idea with the Tibetan community, made yak butter candles, there was music, a big manifestation of an eye that sat in Aotea Square, we got Graham Dingle to come in on a rope in a tuxedo, we had Edmund Hillary there, and everyone got a scarf that was blessed by the Dalai Lama because the first feature film was Everest,” said Poole. 

To them, it was art practice and, because they say they had no fear of failing, they did anything that came their way. 

“If someone wanted a website, we’d do it,” said Poole. “If someone needed a set design, we’d do it, if someone needed a new brand, we’d do it, if someone needed some copy, we’d do it, if someone needed a soundtrack for a TV commercial, we’d do it.”

In the interview, Poole spoke about reflection and awareness. 

“It’s really important to do what you do, but to reflect on why you’re doing it, while you’re doing it. The craft of business is that the material talks back. You have to have awareness of your actions and what they mean in the marketplace and what that says,” he said.

“Call it throwing the pot. You need to be aware of the pot you’re making. Crafting strategy is about seeing what those interactions are and deciding if we should carry on doing that.”

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