The ABCs of McKinsey Design

This is a short story about a project that was just our type.

It all started when two graphic designers from Barcelona created a daily creativity exercise that became 36 Days of Type, a global design challenge that now partners with Adobe. This year, the project asked designers everywhere to come up with visual interpretations of the letters A through Z, and the numbers 0 through 9, and share them on social media between April 2 and May 8.

The project caught the eye of Rob Mathis, a communications head with McKinsey Design. “We really felt this would be a great chance for us to showcase the range of McKinsey’s design talent and creativity,” says Rob. “We also thought our colleagues would have a ton of fun with it.”

So, Rob put out a call for submissions, asking designers to loosely follow the McKinsey color palette so that all 36 characters would look cohesive together. But beyond that, people were free to do as they saw fit.

“Our designers are often creating solutions within any number of constraints,” says Rob. “This project was more of a blank canvas, allowing them to show off their artistic sides. It’s fascinating to see the various ways each designer approached the challenge, and how unique and distinctive all of their output has been.”

Almost 50 designers and graphic artists from across the firm, including client and non-client facing colleagues alike, volunteered to submit artwork. You can see all of their pieces right now, along with captions explaining their process or inspiration, at McKinsey Design’s Instagram account.

Some of the illustrations are animated, like Senior Product Designer Kazumi Terada’s stop-motion, claymation 9 that concluded the series. “The ‘professional art materials’ I had long ago in art school are gone and I’ve been mostly absent from making art,” Kazumi wrote in her caption, “but I am now surrounded by ‘kid art supplies’ like Play-Doh and toy pizza making tools.”

Elsewhere, Design Lead Mohamed El Abbassi created a sharp, computer-animated M (for McKinsey, naturally). “M as in Motion, a medium we use to tell stories, present concepts, and showcase complex ideas,” Mohammed wrote in his caption. “Motion involves timing and spacing, rhythm and pace, a connected path that leads the eye and talks to the mind.”

The ABCs of McKinsey Design
“D” by Dave Hoffer; “E” by Mitul Iyengar; “S” by Jason Forrest; “I” by Jill Yorke; “G” by Nick Evans; “N” by Meenakshi Rauthan.
The ABCs of McKinsey Design

Others, meanwhile, took simpler routes. Yin Thum, a Junior Designer with McKinsey Digital, used a photograph of a pencil shaving for P. “P for ‘Pencil’ and ‘Paper,’” Yin wrote, “the simplest, most powerful tools anyone can use to ideate and create.”

Earlier in the series, Lead Interactive Designer Megan Dweck produced a luminous, almost Yves Klein-blue I. “I for ink. I for idea. I for inspiration,” she wrote. “Design itself is a fluid process—you might start with a structured idea, but the creative journey leads you to a result you probably didn’t expect.”

And Melanie Carnsew, a designer with our Brand Communications team, created a Rorschach-like image of a Q by splattering black ink against a cutout stencil on white newspaper. “How do you question?” asked Melanie in her caption. “No matter, just keep questioning.”

This project made clear that creators of all kinds, both at our firm and beyond, are eager to answer that call.

To keep up with the latest art, insights, and impact from McKinsey Design, follow them on Instagram.

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