There’s something fishy
about retail in Lisbon

Steve Stoner sniffs out the strange in Europe
Lisbon is currently one of the hottest cities on the planet. It’s hip, historic and bursting with terrific eating, drinking and shopping opportunities. But amongst all the cool retail spots there’s something strange lurking…and it involves tinned fish, particularly sardines!

The humble sardine is a Lisbon institution and even celebrated in June with a full-blown festival. Yep, it’s true. This sardine obsession has also led to some fantastically weird retailing. On a recent trip, I visited no less than four different stores in Lisbon that sold just one thing – tinned fish. Every one of these peculiar shops presented their wares with beauty, precision and a spectacular whimsy. I’m not sure I have ever seen such an ordinary product sold with such reverence.
The most bizarre of these stores has to be the brilliantly named ‘Mundo Fantastico Da Sardinha Portuguesa’ which literally translates as ‘The Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines’. With a wild fairground vibe including a carousel and colourfully uniformed staff, it’s a surreal wonderland dedicated to the humble fish. The can designs are gorgeous and obviously fuel a strong souvenir trade, prominently displaying a date and the significant events of that year. A perfect birthday present, if slightly weird.
Other stores present the colourful cans as if they were luxury confectionery, with elegant lighting and lavish wall displays. Comur, the leading cannery in Portugal even has a basement vault in its flagship store stacked with special edition ‘gold bullion’ sardine cans containing edible golf leaf. Simply bonkers.
Whatever you think about this seeming lunacy, there’s plenty to admire in the can designs to be found throughout the city. As a visual creative, I was constantly delighted with the contemporary, considered graphic designs that take something very ordinary and turn it into something very special.
So, if you’re ever in Lisbon, make sure to check out at least one of these stores. You’ll be hard pressed not to be impressed, even if it seems slightly baffling. The only thing preventing me being a total advocate of this wilful barminess is the fact that I’m not sure I want to actually eat any of the can’s contents! Maybe this is a food that should ONLY be eaten with the eyes.



Digital Lead

Whippet AUS

When Less Is More

Creative office

Creative industries are notoriously high-pressure environments, with agency life no exception. The classic claim that tight turnarounds are the enemy of creativity is a popular one, but are looming deadlines and fast turnarounds always to the detriment of the work and team?

Well, that depends. It’s clear to us here at Whippet that there are different kinds of fast.


The first kind is negative. It fuels a way of working that decreases job satisfaction. More often than not, it comes down to fear. Fear of not having enough time to meet expectations and fear of not getting results. With fear in the driver’s seat there’s always an inclination towards recycling, sticking with “safe” options and churning out work deathly similar to what came before it.


Then there’s that other kind of fast; the kind fostered in a creative environment where ideas are free flowing, with little emphasis on who came up with them.

The goal of a level playing field is not one person hitting a home run and basking in the glory. It’s assembling the right team, within which everyone is free to tap into his or her instincts. The team can then ping pong through the creative development process with a workshop mentality, making the work better, faster.

This is one of the ways a smaller agency has an advantage. Without a hierarchy of multiple layers, we know each other well – our quirks, strengths and weaknesses. The most junior person regularly interacts with the founder. We trust that colleagues will get the job done because we’ve seen them do it before first-hand. Not mandatory, but a helpful reassurance when under pressure.

Working within a tight timeframe demands focus and undivided attention; it can actually align stakeholders externally as well. Clients appreciate the feeling of momentum and third parties know the project won’t bleed across into their next project.

Decisions are made quickly, and despite popular opinion, the sheer lack of time can lead to more ingenuity. We can all point to examples where creativity seemed to be sparked by extreme time pressure. If traditionally a project could take six months, when you’re actually given just two, figuring out how results in innovative ideas from the outset, not just reduced production times.

The way in which ideas are quickly generated and pulled through into execution is a proven process, fine-tuned over many years. It’s a framework everyone knows how to work within; again, much easier in a small agency where everyone is exposed to the work.

New team members learn the process by taking part in it and are encouraged by the knowledge that mistakes are okay until they are well versed. When you create an environment in which your processes are in sync with a democratic ideas culture, deadlines are merely a date by which we need to hit send.

We took this approach on a recent project for national bedding retailer, Snooze. From successful pitch through to completed assets, we had six weeks. We assigned a senior, streamlined team and delivered a new brand platform and campaign across TV, radio, outdoor, social and digital channels. It was exceedingly fast, and the work was decidedly polished.

With the dust settling, we had a minute to reflect and were reminded of a few things. Firstly, on a pragmatic level, projects tend to fill the time they are allotted. But more importantly, an agency’s biggest capital is its people. People are often more capable than they think, and when trusted will step forward and do their best work.



Digital Lead

Whippet AUS

Whippet takes home Silver at the Melbourne Design Awards


The awards keep coming for our brand transformation work on Sri Lankan supermarket chain Keells, this time a Silver at the Melbourne Design Awards last night!


Whippets (left to right) Tod O’Reilly, Pete Forbes and Kate Watts were in attendance to receive the award.

“It’s always nice to see our work acknowledged by industry peers. It’s praise for a job well done.”

– Tod, Whippet ECD

See the work here.



Digital Lead

Whippet AUS

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