Remotely Interesting: We’re Going to Manchester

13.01.20

With a decade behind us, it’s now the 20s and we’re looking forward. As a small team and creative business founded by two blokes who’d done the whole Big Agency thing, flexibility is integral to keeping us afloat. We’ve made work/life balance integral to how we operate and how we grow our business.

From unique internal processes and flexible working hours to annual fishing trips and a weekly beer o’clock we’ve figured out a few things along the way that work for us and our team. When we keep the balance with everyone, it keeps us on an even keel at the same time… and stops us from being left high and dry. Too far with the fishing trip metaphors?

What I’m trying to say is, that there are a few things we bear in mind as we grow our team and expand our horizons.

First up, we try to maintain a sense of purpose behind what we do. What’s the big picture? Are we proud of our work? Are we making positive contributions to the world? This might come in the form of side projects that add value to what we do in a different way. Or it might be working with clients who are literally impacting the world in a positive way. Whatever it is, we like to dream big and beyond our humble graphic design studio status.

An arrangement of burnt tortilla chips. Inspiration everywhere.

Secondly, we keep an eye on our company progress, but not in the traditional sense. Success is often measured in terms of profit margins or hours worked, but we’ve found that allowing the O team a wee bit of extra time each week to work on ‘fun stuff’ can lead to unexpected results. Results we wouldn’t have achieved otherwise. Allowing Tessa her sketching hours, Jonny his random 3D animations and me my nap time (only almost joking!) means there is learning and growing happening over a longer period of time. It might not be measurable in the same way, but the results are tangible.

We also want our team to have freedom; to balance their personal and professional lives; to solve problems how they want; to structure their workday so they can be their most productive. It’s about working smarter, not harder, and if that means taking time out to attack the woodpile? Well, who are we to judge?

All of these ideas are helping us to become a company that embraces the future of business and the importance of work/life balance. A key aspect of this balance has been our ventures into remote working. There’s no argument that remote working is on the rise. Over the last couple of years, both employees and employers have seen the advantages and started remote working schemes. This enables employees to have a flexible schedule and work from any corner of the world where they feel most productive.

Alongside productivity and balance, creating opportunities for employees creates opportunities for business at the same time. When I moved to London, it meant meeting with some of our bigger music mogul clients much easier. Since opening our USA branch of O Street, we’ve worked with some amazing folk — including a maverick distillery owner, a new cannabis brand and a national fabric dye producer. These are projects that wouldn’t have come knocking at our door—we branched out.

So what’s next?

We’re expanding again, this time to kick-start a fledgling O Street hub in Manchester in the North West of England! Our creative designer Tessa Simpson will be taking the helm, going back to her roots and tapping into (not entirely) unchartered territories. We’re excited to revisit some of our previous projects down that way, continue collaborating with folk we admire and to grow our creative circle.

Most of all we’re excited to see one of our employees, who joined us a fresh-faced junior, continue on as an O ambassador. Tessa will be spreading the word, branching out into new markets and continuing to work on all things O Street. We’ve invested a lot of O Street’s ethos in Tessa and she has grown into a formidable creative force who is ready to venture onwards to the next step, flying the O ST banners.

Tessa is moving as of March this year, camping out with the wonderful Creative Concern at their Oxford Road studio space to start off with and exploring all Manchester has to offer. If you’re based that way, we’d love to hear from you. Friends, collaborators, clients — drop Tessa a line at tessa@ostreet.co.uk and go grab a cuppa with her. She’s just as smiley in real life!

—David

Ten Years and Counting Mixtape

13.01.20

We do like a good music compilation. And as we come from the mixtape generation, all we need is half an excuse for a theme—hey, a fresh decade will do! We thought we’d celebrate with a Ten Year Mixtape, looking back at a decade of O Street, big news stories and year-defining tracks.

Remember this guy?!

2009

This was the year where we began to feel like a proper grown-up business. We realised there were other great studios starting in Glasgow and had to take it up a gear. O Street expanded to a three-man band, hiring Ed Watt and continuing our growth in the culture industry with work for the likes of Edinburgh International Film Festival and BAFTA Scotland.

 

Steve Jobs releases the first of the ten commandments.

2010

The Ten Year Mixtape moves to the year we started our work with the flourishing Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. With this, our team was enlightened to the wonder of free gig tickets (which only unravelled backstage at the Royal Concert Hall when Neil almost got into a fight with one of the Chieftains).

 

A pretty memorable global moment.2011

After making the move from Otago Street to a remodelled launderette shopfront on Bank Street, we considered changing our name to B Street (and thankfully didn’t). With a growing client and employee base, we now we had a shiny new studio to match. We hosted—and performed in—the National Theatre of Scotland’s Five Minute Theatre project and won a national award for our whisky themed, social media-fueled #oHeresTo event.

 

Don’t forget about that logo either.

2012

This year was the peak in our cultural work, with a complete rebrand of the National Galleries of Scotland and their four venues, we spent most of our time in 2012 working with the Galleries. The year ended with a big party to celebrate founding partner Neil Wallace’s fiftieth (you’d better believe the Ten Year Mixtape contribution for this year is his). The studio also had our first job with one of our longest-standing clients, digital data music platform Last.fm.

 

Hooray for love!

2013

This was a momentous year, our work on the HOME arts venues in Manchester won a handful of national design awards, and even included collaboration with design titan Peter Saville. We began work creating interactive maps for the Scottish Government and David opened our first satellite studio just outside London. Vapp, a mobile app side project we developed was listed as a top 10 photo app in the Daily Telegraph and won the Glasgow’s Got Business Talent award.

 

Déja vu? Is that you?

2014

This was the year that with a heavy heart, we branched out from our cultural clients. Arts funding was drying up and marketing spends seemed to be the first thing to disappear. So we tried our hand at something different and began working with clients in the music (the Brit Awards) and whisky sectors, a heady combination. 2014 was also the year Tessa Simpson entered the scene, followed rapidly by a bouncing Josh Peter. Both have helped shape the studio ever since.

 

The dress that divided a nation.

2015

The big one for us this year was working on the development of the new polymer banknotes for the Royal Bank of Scotland. Designing money! Hard one to beat, although we tried with the beginning of a working relationship with the team at BrewDog in our first foray into the craft beer space!

 

The app that got people into parks again.

2016

We finally made time for a client we’d been avoiding for years: O Street. It was time to refresh our own brand and build a new website. Spinning out of this grew a short documentary about the typographer who drew our logo (Tam) which we created with pals and collaborators Pretend Lovers. The short film won a place on a BAFTA film festival and is still touring globally in 2019 with the Craft Council. We followed the work with O Street with a slightly bigger client called Google and ended the year with a live gig in the studio by long term idols of ours, The Burning Hell.

 

#throwback

2017

We started the year with the surprise commercial success of our fingerless BUCK–FAST gloves, selling out in a week. It was also the year O Street went international, with our very own Josh Peter opening an O Street studio in Denver, Colorado. Long term client relationships brought us work with both Sony Music and Spotify as our creds in the music sector grew and grew — keeping our new hire Jonny Mowat busy, busy, busy!

 

How the mighty have (not) fallen.

2018

The talented Anna Dunn joined the team and wriggled mackerel-like out of our ill-fated annual fishing trip on Loch Fyne. This was the year we managed to beach our boat two miles up loch! It honestly had nothing to do with the free samples from our latest client Fyne Ales which we had been reviewing on the boat… honestly. We were already oiled on other stuff.

 

Brexsh*t

2019

This year has been about more than Brexit with exciting new work coming from our US office (such as a full label suite for Denver Distillery), Tessa running branding workshops in Kenya and Anna taking numerous sixteen-hour train trips to a museum in Leeds. We also managed to not sink the new fishing boat plus taught Jonny how to play the Harmonium. Ten Year Mixtape sorted.

2020
Now we’re into a new decade, what’s next?

We’ve got a few things up our sleeve, with a new Scottish brewery rebrand, another campaign for Scottish Book Week and the launch of our third issue of CRUSH zine. We’re also excited to announce that we’re expanding* this year, read our Remotely Interesting blog to find out more!

So here’s to the next decade, onwards and upwards.

*sideways rather than out, but if you are a young gun looking for a new role, consider sending us your portfolio.

Branding Architects and Kissing Giraffes

10.01.20

Kenya believe we were in Nairobi? We barely remember the busy blur that was 2019, but taking a lengthy Christmas break helped to clear our heads. In-between the fishing trips, beer work and design events I really did fit in a trip to Kenya. And yes, I really did kiss that giraffe.

That giraffe.

How did I find myself here? At the end of 2019, we crafted a brand identity for Nairobi-based architecture firm BuildX Studio (formerly Orkidstudio). We also designed a new identity for their sister organisation Buildher. They’re a social enterprise that empowers Kenyan women by providing them with accredited construction skills.

Before starting the project, we ran a series of workshops to build a foundation for the brand. We also wanted to identify how these two brands would work alongside one another. BuildX and Buildher are connected, but working out how that connection works visually was a complex design challenge.

Alongside the BuildX and Buildher teams, O Street recognise the importance of getting ‘stuck in’ with a new client. To successfully brand an organisation, it’s vital to get a feel for the people behind the company and the projects they are working on. So at the end of September, we chose a designer to go to Kenya. And just like that, I was working out of Nairobi during the week and safariing on the weekend!

Evidence of me perfecting the art of snapping photos from a moving vehicle.

Of course, as I voyaged, I continued the O Street tradition of #otypesafari—hunting for typographic goodness. I was a kid in a candy shop upon discovering that nearly all of the signage in Nairobi is still hand-painted. It seems that skilled labour is more affordable than plastic vinyl alternatives. Casual signwriter ‘shops’ adorn the highways advertising their services. The result is a characterful array of shop fronts, signs and Matatus (wildly driven and decorated minibuses that service as taxis across the city).

Yes, that is a spoiler on the back of a bus.

The trip was a whirlwind experience and being fully immersed in the culture of both brands was the perfect way to kick off the project. It was also fun to join the ranks of O remote workers for a week. With a time difference of just plus two hours, it was surprisingly easy to keep up with the team. Continuing ongoing projects was a breeze. At the same time, I could recap the workshops I had run that morning, whilst the UK team were still getting their morning coffee!

Here’s to 2020, when we’ll finally figure out how to make conference calls without the deafening sound of Neil making tea in the background.

—Tessa

A Design Studio’s Must-Watch Christmas Movies

16.12.19

Ah, that time of year for a seasonal blog post. Put another log on the fire and curl up with one—or six—of our favourite holiday flicks.

Christmas Vacation

Penned by the crown prince of 80s films himself, John Hughes’ Christmas Vacation is a love letter to middle-class fatherhood steeped in Midwestern American lore. Picking a favorite scene like trying to rank order the Beatles’ greatest hits: this could take hours, just put the damn thing on.

In a film that’s as tragic as it is funny, witnessing Clark Griswald burn the perfect family Christmas to the ground is a necessary reminder that the only way to make sure something goes wrong is to obsess over it going right.
—Josh

Home Alone

A pure nostalgia trip, Home Alone has become one of those annual family traditions now — just like cranberry sauce or political debates at the dinner table. Growing up we considered Macaulay Culkin the smartest kid around town and I still remember marveling at those cartoonishly violent DIY traps. Also top marks for one of the worst and best insults ever to be gifted to children: “Kevin, you’re such a DISEASE!”
—Tessa

Edward Scissorhands

After exhausting herself arguing that Edward Scissorhands is, in fact, a Christmas movie to her terrible coworkers, Anna has nothing left to say. Just go and watch this beautiful film from Tim Burton at the height of his powers.
—Anna

Hooves of Fire

Steve Coogan. Ardal O’ Hanlon. Ricky Tomlinson! Paul Whitehouse & Harry Enfield!! I mean COME ON! This weird claymation TV short somehow made its way into my Christmas in when it was released as a Comic Relief promo in 1999, and somehow never left. Claymation at Christmas is a strong Mowat tradition, and this one was the one we’d watch when we’d ran out of Wallace & Gromit.

Full of gloriously dumb gags only made possible with claymation, as well as a good bit of blue for t’dads, it’s a great family watch. Robbie “I’m a rubbish reindeer. I’m even a rubbish elf. I’m worse than rubbish. If they tossed me in the rubbish bin, the other rubbish would say…” *Cuts to Robbie in a pile of rubbish* Rubbish: “There goes the neighborhood.”
—Jonny

Trading Places

It was proved to me how badly dated this movie is when I made the younger contingent of the studio watch it with me before last year’s office Christmas party—the politically correct millennial equivalent to torturing terrorists by making them listen to Britney Spears on repeat. Through their eyes I now fully appreciate the cringe factor of the overt nudity, racial stereotypes and surface level moral lessons that are rife in the film.

But man, this movie was formative in my comedic upbringing, and it will always hold a dear place in my heart. “Shit, when I was young you had to fart in the bath to make a jacuzzi!”
—David

White Christmas

I looked at a top 50 list of Christmas movies and picked the first one.
—Neil, full of cheer

The Bonnie Neon Signs of Denver’s Bonnie Brae

23.07.19

You’re walking along on a hot summer day and feel a craving coming on. The ‘ol sweet tooth. Panicked, with your very survival at stake, your eyes search for the first hit of sugar available. If you’re a mile within Bonnie Brae Ice Cream in Denver you’re in luck, because you’ll see this sign from a distance:

If you’re into visually rich signage, a quick scan of South Denver neighborhood Bonnie Brae will give you the feels. It sure did for us. We are a design studio born in Scotland that’s since moved out West, with an affinity for vintage visual culture.Therefore, we love stumbling on visual gems that tie us to home.

…And tied to home it is. Surprisingly, this hood isn’t called Bonnie Brae (“pleasant hill” in Gaelic) for nothing. According to the neighborhood’s historical record, it got its name when a 1920’s developer “strived to recreate the aura of peaceful Scottish village in Denver”. Tissue, please. We’re crying.

The neons are lit and the ice cream is handmade. So, what could be better? For designers who love to incorporate neon into logotypes ourselves (like our logo for Pretend Lovers above), nothing. Want to talk about getting your own bonnie neon sign or logo? You can sit down with us at Bonnie Brae Tavern, established in 1934.

O Street, buy me a pizza.

PARTY ON, WEANS

09.07.19

The Design Weans (Glasgow’s arm of global supernetwork The Design Kids) have put on another exhibition, and it’s an absolute corker.

Among the creative whipper-snappers exhibiting are creative duo Clubhouse Paradiso, ceramicist Ruth Mae Martin, illustrator Oscar Mitchell, and our very own designer Jonny Mowat (below).

‘CALIFORN-I-ATE’ is Jonny’s tribute to all the food that ‘stayed with him’ after his trip to the Golden State last year (we get it bro, you’ve been to America).

As well as the A2 giclee print on show at WEANS WORLD, he’s also made a batch of A3, 3-colour RISO prints, available for sale here (or at an even cheaper price if bought at the exhibition), expertly printed by our CRUSH buddy Friends in the Dungeon.

WEANS WORLD enters its final weekend this weekend (12th July – 14th July 2019, 12pm-5pm), so shimmy your heinies down to 16 Nicholson Street and show your support.

Also if you are very lucky, you might be able to grab the last of these bodacious hats.