A moral or amoral designer


As our studio approaches a move to Colorado, we have a decision to make: does working with weed make you a moral or amoral designer?


Information design from the Colorado Department of Public Health

It’s easy to work away as a graphic designer just making the things on our desks look and work better. Brief comes in, lovely work comes out. We sniff the blood of a juicy creative problem and take the bait, I mean brief, without digging a little deeper to understand the impact of what we do. Where are the morals that help us decide the kind of work we should, and shouldn’t, be doing?


The reason top graphic design studios charge such high fees is that the success of the work we do has a tangible impact on people’s lives: on what they buy; what they click on; which beer they buy; and how much profit our clients make. We can sometimes even change somebody’s mind, help them make a decision, or educate them on a matter they didn’t know much about.


O Street for Edinburgh International Film Festival

One of the reasons we started O Street over 10 years ago because we wanted to have more choice in the kind of work we did—we chose not only a career in graphic design, but also a smaller boutique studio because we wanted to work on projects we enjoyed, ones that enriched our lives! Certainly that means the kind of work we choose to do should be for goods and services that we fully believe in. Initially, we just wanted to do cultural work.

When the arts funding bubble burst, we widened the net to whisky clients without thinking too much about it. It is lovely, well-paid work, and a local product we are proud of in Scotland.


O Street for Glenglassaugh


O Street for BrewDog

But working with alcohol is a tricky one. We’ve all woken up with the mother-of-all-hangovers and sworn off the poison for life. We all know people whose life would have been a lot better without the demon drink. Does choosing whisky and beer design work make us bad people? Would drinking it, but then refusing to work on it make us hypocrites? The classic designerly moral conundrum, of course, sits with tobacco.


I’ve always secretly loved cigarette packaging: Lucky Strikes, Marlboro Reds, Camel lights, American Spirits…they were romantic classics. However, a recent ban on cigarette branding in the UK (following Australia’s example) has rendered all packaging completely devoid of brand presence.


While this was certainly bureaucrats sticking it to the designers who hadn’t yet jumped the tobacco ship, I do see this as an endorsement from the government in our industry and our work. It proves that they feel the importance of strong branding in making those products more appealing. Good design sells more fags!

The impending question for us, however, is this: does good design sell more weed? More specifically, do we want to facilitate it?

We are setting up shop in Colorado later this year, and this moral conundrum was brought sharply into focus. A friend and Coloradan said to us, ‘you do realise that as soon as you open up shop here you’ll be approached by a bunch of the marijuana dispensaries’.


We are in need of some big spending clients to help fund our expansion in the US, but would we be happy if that was to help sell drugs? It’s also not just a moral decision but a legal one: would we be able to take profits from selling drugs into our UK bank account? Some high-profile design outfits—such as Pentagram—have firmly taken sides.


Pentagram for Leafs by Snoop

I have a feeling I know which way we will fall here, but find the dilemma fascinating. Above everything else though, it reaffirms my belief in the value society should place on great design.

– David, O Street

True to Life


Are you in Edinburgh this weekend? Pop down to Modern Two for True to Life, a look at British Realism in the 1920s and 30s. The show gathers some 70 paintings by a hugely talented yet overlooked generation of artists.

ostreet-ngs-truetolife-1-01 ostreet-ngs-truetolife-1-02

O Street designed the exhibition identity and marketing. True to Life focuses on a particular style of “hard edge” painting. We play on this theme by setting typography along a hard edge.


We also selected a colour palette pulled straight from the paintings; a literal approach for literal art.


It’s a riveting exhibition, so don’t miss it. True to Life is on at Modern Two until 29 October.

Things to do in Denver when you’re a designer


We’re looking for a new USA-based home for O Street. With a booming craft beer industry, burgeoning tech scene and tons of sun, Denver Colorado is a good bet. Here’s a few designerly things we got up to in the mile high city amid hangovers and altitude sickness.

Type safari


You can’t beat grungy old type. Graphic leftovers from the industrial age are always a designer’s highlight in American cities, and Denver’s got them.

Play ball

O Street supports the Tigers and Cubs, but we couldn’t argue with watching the sunset over the mountains from Coors Field. With rooftop tickets going for $15—and the Rockies doing great this year—it’s a steal.

Imbibe some craft

<.>Craft beer is gaining traction in the UK, but Colorado has been the beating heart of the movement in the US for decades. The range of beers available are great research (that’s our excuse for all the taproom receipts) and it tastes good, too. We were treated to tours at New Belgium and Odell, learning a lot about craft production and packaging.



This was the scene from our window on a Wednesday. Sadly, we’d left the longboard in Glasgow.

Hit the Road

It’s a must with the mountains nearby—rent a car and head for the hills. Just take it easy on the 90’s movie quotes or you may bring the driver to tears.

Get colourful

RiNo #denver #summer #streetart #graffiti

A post shared by Josh Rooster (@drawjosh) on


Denver, especially the RiNo neighbourhood, is a treasure trove of street art and graffiti. Grab a kombucha for the road and soak in the colour.

Be happy


The creative scene in Denver is a social one. We hustled over to a happy hour generously organised by RJ Owen of CreativeMornings Denver. There were beers, ax-throwers, and one of the voices behind the fantastic Sprint Podcast. Treat your ears and give it a listen!

Sign hunting

Well, we wouldn’t be good graphic designers if we didn’t take photos of random signs. Digesting visual vernacular is second only to local eats when it comes to getting to know a new place.

Our take? Colorado is up to its ears in beer and culture—we’re in.

wHY & O Street: Concept for Ross Pavilion and Princes St Gardens Unveiled



Excited to share that the concept the team we’re part of have submitted for Edinburgh’s £25m Ross Pavilion and Princes St Gardens competition has been made public today >

O Street are part of a multi-disciplinary team led by eminent US firm wHY. Alongside Stuco and Creative Concern our role is to consult on the project narrative & presentation, audience engagement, wayfinding concepts and place branding.

It’s a hugely collaborative project—part of the strategy set out by wHY founder Kulapat Yantrasast to deliver not only a showcase piece of architecture and landscaping, but a design that really works for all.

Our core team is comprised of wHY with GRAS, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth. The wider team includes actor Alan Cumming, writer Beatrice Colin and other influencers and voices; Aaron Hicklin, Peter Ross, Alison Watson and Adrian Turpin.


The vision is to make the site a vibrant, engaging and welcoming place that can be celebrated locally and internationally. With that in mind we’ve already been engaging with both the public and leading voices alike to ensure this is a design for everyone, with people and community at it’s heart.

This nationally-important space, perfectly positioned below Edinburgh Castle in the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage site and adjoining the city’s most famous shopping street, is definitely ‘a place for people’. For much of the year a tranquil space in the lively city, it then needs to transform to become the seasonal focus for some of Scotland’s most high-profile events and celebrations like Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Festival’s closing fireworks concert.


There are seven finalist teams who have submitted detailed concepts for the new landmark Pavilion, visitor centre with café, and updates to the listed West Princes Street Gardens in the heart of Edinburgh.

Naturally, with such a high profile location, there will be a lot of opinions and ideas. It’s our aim to ensure we listen and find the common threads and views. Edinburgh’s civic realm has always been one of its strengths, but as competition between world cities intensifies and city residents increasingly value public green spaces, so it has become a priority for both the public and private sectors.


Accordingly, the Ross Pavilion International Design Competition focuses on regenerating and renewing an emblematic site at the heart of the city.

The designs were submitted in early June and will now be followed by a public exhibition with the winner announced in early August.


The Ross Pavilion Exhibition will be held at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre
(2 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE) between Wednesday 21 June and
Sunday 30 July 2017.

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday noon – 5pm. Attendance is free. Each design will be displayed in an identical manner, featuring the design boards and the physical model.

Online Exhibition:
Basic outline of all seven design concepts are online here >

The project is being managed by the Ross Development Trust —a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Real to Reel Craft Film Festival



Ours and Pretend Lover’s film Roadliners is opening the Real to Reel Craft Film Festival next week at London’s Picturehouse Central Cinema.

Real to Reel is produced by the Crafts Council and Crafts magazine. It runs from May 2–4 and takes place during London Craft Week. It then moves north to Blackburn’s The Bureau: Centre for the Arts for May 5–7.


After an open call the final programme has been edited down to 44 films and includes documentaries, animation and profiles of makers such as Kate Malone, Simone ten Hompel and letterpress artist Martin Clark. We’re chuffed to see some hard work pay off and enjoy such quality company.

Tickets and the full programme available here >

Still-from-The-Wilds-of-5-Lely-Court-©-Katie-Spragg-2016Still from The Wilds of 5 Lely Court ©Katie Spragg 2016


Still from Undercurrents © Nicola Stephanie 2016


Still from The Craft of Carnival ©Benjamin Wechanje 2016


Still from Martin Clark Letterpress Printmaker ©Moss Davis 2016


Still-from-Film-Makers-©-Simon-and-Lorna-Mills-2016Still from Film Makers ©Simon and Lorna Mills 2016



In Miffy Memorandum


Total simplicity allows space for imagination, especially when it comes to children.

For the past year or so, our resident studio ‘waving’ cat has sat pride of place at the front window—beaming at the school kids that pass by our window each day. With the addition of a tiny red wool hat, she has become a well-known character in the neighbourhood. Kids line up each day to get their ‘waves’ in… and to throw tantrums when they don’t!


Witnessing this ritual between child and cat captures just how easily something so simple can bring just that little bit of magic to those mini-people. It even inspired our resident ol’ softy Mr. Wallace (a former resident of Japan) to create our little lucky cat in illustrated form.


Whether intentional or subconscious, Neil’s adorable drawing brings to mind the illustrious work of Dick Bruna—the creator and author behind the much loved character Miffy—who sadly passed away last month aged 89. Miffy’s genius lay in the intense simplicity of her features and the bright pops of primary colour used to bring her to life. These themes are beautifully reflected in Neil’s own illustration; red and gold being traditionally lucky colours and the large inquisitive eyes referencing the original design of the plastic figurine.


In the spirit of keeping the magic going, we’ve given our wee cat a name: Bōshi, for the signature hat that she wears. Her illustrated self seems to embody a strong sense of character and realism, and the sticker version has certainly captured the attention of local youngsters (a bonus addition to their daily waving, they each now can claim a sticker as a reward).

Stay tuned for more Bōshi adventures, we’ve a feeling there might be a story or two to tell…