Getting stuck in—the magic behind making a brand

12.04.18

What’s the difference between visual identity and a brand? There’s a hundred ways to skin this cat in design thinking, but one theory is this: the former is a visual toolkit, while the latter embodies the spirit of its subject.

While an identity sets one apart from competitors, a brand captures a certain “suchness” which exemplifies their nature.

You know a brand has achieved this magic when you see it. Rather than identifying its presence simply by a certain colour, font, or logo, you know it from the way it visually speaks to you. It is wholly itself, couldn’t be anything else, and feels like it’s always been around.

How does a designer attain this magic? For us, one way is to get stuck in and really get to know a client.

The advent of modern technology allows us to work with clients around the globe, which is a wonderful thing. For example, our Glasgow studio will have a 4pm video chat with our studio in Denver (where it’s 9am) to chat about our work with a client based in Luxembourg (where it’s 5pm). While this is a great way to work in this day and age, attaining true brand magic is best done in person. So, we pile in our Soviet tank and head for the hills.

To design a brand is to know a brand, and to know it is to live it. There’s an art to truly understanding how someone operates, and it’s through lived experience that you attain it. We roll down the same roads as our clients, pull through their gate and smell the same misty air. And we spend as much time with them as they’ll tolerate.

These design residencies give us mountains of insight. It’s not just the big things—operations, what’s what, who’s who—but the little things that matter. Who makes the coffee? How long has that graffiti been on the toilet? Is there a story behind that broken window? Who is the cow named after?

You never know what little bit of real-world inspiration will be the thread that leads to the perfect brand concept. In our experience, it’s these tangible, seemingly innocuous interactions that lead to capturing a brand’s “suchness”. One little detail can be the spark that’s the difference between a visual identity and an unbeatable brand.

Not to mention, we usually get to drink their beer.

Cool things brewing in London — women in the beer trade

19.03.18

Last week we raised a glass to the women of the world, and it gave us a thought: what’s the state of women in brewing?

Having designed the What’s On Guide for Walthamstow Forest Council and their community arts project Making Places, we’ve had a sneak peak at cultural events popping up around London. That’s how we discovered Wild Women Week, a beer-soaked musical celebration for women that raises money for Girls Rock London.

Heading up some of the activity around this is Walthamstow’s own Wild Card Brewery, featuring super cool head brewer Jaega Wise. They play a central part in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, a celebration for female brewers worldwide, founded by Sophia de Ronde of Burnt Mill Brewery. (Can we get a ‘YASSSS.’)

Photo: Wild Card Brewery

As big fans of both beer and female empowerment in general, we thought this was all great and wonderful. Unsurprisingly, however, the topic of women in the male-dominated world of brewing is also an on-point political topic.

Sorry, fellas…women were there first.

Photo: Wellcome Images, operated by Wellcome Trust

The original brewing profession was women’s work—they brewed most of the ale in England. Regarded as a domestic chore, women planted and grew herbs, ground grains and boiled ingredients in a large black cauldron over a sweltering fires, all whilst running a home. This eventually led to an accessible (and often lucrative) side hustle for many women, leading to ale-houses and a few women gaining independence through their trade.

Back in those days it was vogue to wear large conical black hats, a fashion supposedly adopted by brewers as a way of being identified in a crowded market. A geographical identifier for thirsty customers was a broomstick hung over the front door. As mentioned, the ale was brewed in a big black cauldron…one can imagine where this is going.

In short, growing male-led urban guilds and the Church turned against these women. The trademark alewife identifiers became associated with fire, hell, brimstone and all other terribly bad things. At first the talk of witchcraft was seen as merely insulting, but as guild communities grew, and urban life increased, screaming “witch” at the sight of a woman brewing became easier and easier, thus turning a once profitable, accessible career into a form of devil-magic.

With the rising tide of witch-hunts and persecution by death, we can see why brewing beer became a less appealing craft for women.

Photo: Wiper and True Brewery

Thankfully, we’re now in an age where people have (mostly) ceased walking around shouting “witch” at women in the street, and there is a resurgence of women being interested in the craft. The good work of making good beer for all to enjoy can continue. Black hat or not.

We’ll drink to that.
> Tessa

( Psst. My current go-to: the limited edition alewife-tribute beer XX from Wiper & True Brewery. That beautiful windmill illustration above is from the packaging.)

Inspiration and images for this post borrowed from these awesome sites…
wildcardbrewery.co.uk
wiperandtrue.com
ancient-origins.net
medievalists.net

Iceland, accidental design mecca

07.03.18

Since branching out to America, a certain island has become an obvious stopping point for Oventurers: Iceland. Yes, we too fall prey to travel blog fever, not to mention the extended layovers offered by airlines at no extra cost.

Iceland is no stranger to quality design, but we find inspiration in the low-brow, everyday graphics taking centre stage amidst stunning landscapes. Here’s a few of our favourites.

Hotdog Sauce Packaging

If you’re traveling in Iceland on a budget, there’s precisely one thing you can afford to eat out: hotdogs. They’re not glamorous, but they sure are tasty. Fortunately, they’re smothered in this amazing sauce, which comes in an even more amazing bottle. You’ll be clearing space in your carry-on for this smiling dog.

The Swimming Guy Sign

Whether in natural hot springs or a public pool, the hearty folk of Iceland enjoy a soak. So much so there’s signs about indicating where you might find some hospitable water. Pools are marked by this simple icon, which one could also decide to read as a man wrapped in giant bacon strips. Delicious.

Mountain Signage

If you’re in Iceland, you’re headed to the mountains. If you’re headed to the mountains, you’re relying on these signs to help you get around. They’ve developed their own amazing visual vernacular over the years, with primary colours, interesting icon illustrations, and local graffiti, er, input.

Brennivín

No matter the occasion, if the Icelanders are drinking (they are), it’s this. This potent schnapps will knock your socks off. In an effort to make it less appealing, the government forced the spirit to use black, boring packaging. Predictably, the brutalist design helped sales boom.

Boring old road signs

Signage in the UK is the stuff of design legend, but sometimes the snow is whiter on the other side. The utter simplicity of Iceland’s signs had us wondering if we could smuggle one or two back through customs.

Our Wee Peeing Man

An O Street list wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from our most-plagiarised work: the ‘desperate’ toilet signs we designed for Jamie Oliver restaurants way back when. This time, they’ve appeared at a public toilet at the base of a stunning waterfall some 100km outside of Reykjavik. When you gotta go

GSA Winter School in the Highlands

27.02.18

In January, students from Audencia Business School’s MSc in Management and Entrepreneurship in the Creative Economy (MECE) programme travelled to The Glasgow School of Art’s Creative Campus in the Scottish Highlands for the International Winter School. The event is a two-week intensive experience that brings together design practitioners, students and scholars from all over the world.

O Street have had links to Audencia since we created illustrations to help them communicate their course structures.

At this year’s Winter School, the students were tasked with researching contemporary interpretations of heritage. O Street’s David Freer was asked to talk to the students about both new models of working in the design industry and projects that dealt with ‘contemporary interpretations of heritage’.

The design industry has surely changed since O Street first started. Emerging technologies affect both the tools we use and the mediums we employ. There has also been a shift from fully integrated agencies to smaller boutique studios. With these smaller studios now working for bigger global brands, collaboration and the very definition of what ‘design’ means is being re-examined across a spectrum of services.

When it came to discussing ‘heritage’, we presented O Street’s redesign of the new RBS bank notes, a piece of work that will be in Scotland’s pockets for the next 30–40 years. In this project, not only did we have to think about presenting the heritage of the nation in an engaging way but we had to balance aesthetics with a timeless narrative that would remain relevant for decades to come.

Further to this, our work with cultural brands positions O Street in a unique place to understand how heritage can be used as a way to inspire, engage and excite.

Speaking with this new generation of designers reminded us how creative and powerful our industry can be and reassured us of the importance in harnessing their talents and providing them with the opportunity to really make a difference in the world.

“International Winter School is an opportunity to do something that is fundamentally different,” explains Dr Gordon Hush, director of the Innovation School at the GSA. “We’re actually engaging with communities; we’re engaging with real people and we’re doing it in an international context.”

As Dr Catherine Morel, associate professor of marketing and head of the MECE programme at Audencia, describes: the International Winter School atmosphere allows students to fully inhabit their creative and innovative potential. “Students have space to think and create,” she says. “It’s a marvellous place to be.”

Thanks again to both Catherine and Gordon for inviting us to participate in this year’s Winter School.

The Two Jonnys

22.01.18

AAI—Adopt An Intern / All About Incentives

 

Jonny N: Hello again, it’s nice to be with you, isn’t it Jonny?

Jonny J: Yes, it is, and in a packed programme tonight, we shall be talking to two graphic designers and asking ‘do your fonts really come from Monaco and Geneva?’

Jonny N: And ‘can the use of bad kerning ever be justified?’ So Jonny, you first came to see us almost a year ago, and I said to you ‘I really like the cut of your jib and I’d like to bring you in to work on a project with us.’

Jonny J: That’s right Jonny, but you were a bit rushed off your feet with one thing and another and because money is always tight in a small agency, you were unable to organise anything with me.

Jonny N: Indeed… and I also have a memory like a sieve.

Jonny J: Mmm–hmm, a bit rubbish, then?

Jonny N: Well… I, er…

Jonny J: So you must’ve been pleasantly surprised when the nice man from ‘Adopt An Intern’ got in touch to say that they would fund somebody for six weeks, giving you the chance to run the rule over them with a possible view to a full-time position?

Jonny N: I was delighted, Jonny, to say the very least. The signup and acceptance process was really straightforward and in the time it took to say ‘can’t you just turn him the other way round in Photoshop?’, we had everything done and dusted and you were in the studio, working on the old iMac next to the toilet!

Jonny J: (forces weak laugh) Ha-ha, yes. It was great…

Jonny N: Did you think it might lead to a full-time job or were you put off by the amount of foul language you heard in the studio.

Jonny J: No, I kinda hoped there would be an opening if I knuckled down and produced the goods, plus I wore earplugs most of the time, so the swearing wasn’t really an issue.

Jonny N: Ah, I couldn’t fathom why my constant requests for you to put the kettle on were met with complete inaction.

Jonny J: Oh yeah, I did wonder what it was you were saying to me!

Jonny N: Anyway, here we are… It’s all worked out jolly well, hasn’t it?

Jonny J: Yes, it has.

Jonny N: And you are now a much-valued member of the family. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a cup of tea then?

Jonny J: Um…

Jonny N: Well that’s all we have time for this week. Next week we’ll talk to a typographer who suffered an Arial attack and can’t ‘face’ it anymore.

Jonny J: And we’ve just been told the police are desperately seeking an art director who steals the end of design blog posts. He is described as tall and balding with a very big…

Jonny N: That’s all we’ve got time for this evening, so it’s goodnight from me…

Jonny J: And it’s goodnight from him.

Both: Goodnight!

– – – – –

Thanks, of course to The Two Ronnies and thanks to Tim Street at AAI. Below is some of the work that Jonny has produced with O Street in the last couple of months.

Attitude Sickness

10.01.18

When I arrived in Colorado, I thought I was good to go: thoroughly hydrated and ready to plow through the altitude sickness. And boy, was I wrong. After a few hours of throwing up my guts, I required some serious adjustments to get well.

While getting a hand from some seasoned Coloradans, I learned there was really a science to acclimatizing up in the mile high city. Eat these certain things, perform those certain actions, and you’ll get through it. Within a day or two I was physically feeling like myself again—but not mentally.

Moving to a new place, disoriented and homesick, I realised I’d gotten over altitude sickness only to be stricken by attitude sickness. I needed to get myself right, so I turned to the ways that got me acclimated to the altitude.

Hydration

We’re mostly made of water, and lots of it does us good in more ways than one. If you’re really dragging mentally, treat yourself to a day of heavy H2O consumption. You might be surprised that not just your body—but your brain—were begging for some oxygen from the liquid good stuff.

Routine

Steady bed and rising times, consistent recreation and exercise, and taking meals at regular times will get you through any rut. It’s also one of the most difficult things to do. Write your routine down. Tell someone about it. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail, just ride the wave and get back to it.

Train high, rest low

Mountain climbers employ this strategy to acclimatize. Climb, come down a bit to rest overnight, and day-by-day go incrementally higher until you’re at the top. You can do the same with sorting yourself out and getting things done: take a bite out of a big goal, come back down to a more comfortable level to recover, then go out and take a bigger bite.

Feed yourself

To recover from altitude sickness, I was given foods high in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts. Your brain also thrives on this good stuff and it gives you loads of energy, keeping you feeling full. Whether or not high fat foods work for you, avoid processed garbage—you are what you eat.

Prioritize

What really matters? Get a piece of paper and write down all the things demanding your time. Circle the ones that will really, truly help you get to where you need to be long term, and cross out the ones that don’t—banish those time-wasters from your life, and take that time to work on what matters.

A couple weeks later, I’m doing my best and feeling acclimated in more ways than one. Am I at the top of the mountain? Naw. But I did write this essay.
–Josh P