Love in the Time of Corona

20.04.20

An ongoing list of things getting team O Street through the days of COVID-19 quarantine

I may be channeling my inner goth but I have a soft spot for bats. Like fireflies and silver birch, they are things of wonder. On odd slow evenings of lockdown, their antics have moved me to poetry. Sorry about that.

 

Release the Bats

Sleek imperceptibles are back

Instantaneously around and past my window

At this height they are in their city element

Dancing

Weaving splendour

Glimpsed only at the bank of a turn TV slowed

You will crash into me

Then graceful a halt

Away

Where I used to hear in the child woods

Insanely fast at the back of your head

And fragments of mayfly bent

Tiny pips squeaks chatter rattle

Sadly I no longer detect

Old sounds

Out of old range

Leaves

Just a black dizzy blur

Quick

Beautiful

And gone

Tarred

To the back of mine eyes

 

— Neil

 

MOM I CAN’T SAVE, IT’S ONLINE

When I was in secondary school, there was a period where I played a lot of Halo 3. There was a group of us who strived to make the time between saying goodbye to each other at school and greeting each other on Sandtrap (the best Halo 3 map don’t even argue) as short as possible. This period of life is long gone, as other things just took precedent, such as pubs and the great outdoors.

Turns out as soon as those are taken away again, I’m back to shooting strangers with friends, and it has been an extremely comforting form of escapism. Apex Legends is the game that has stolen my heart, and too much of my time, perfectly riding the line between ‘challenging enough to make a win feel just fantastic’ and ‘really fun gameplay that makes it enjoyable to play regardless of skill or lack thereof’. This is great when you lose 98% of the matches you play, and what’s even better is when you are losing all those matches with GOOD FRIENDS.

– Jonny

Crafty Carving

“Every year since moving to Glasgow, Jason has cycled round the Isle of Cumbrae for his birthday. We couldn’t go this year, for obvious reasons, so I made a wooden representation of the island (and local seals)for him.”

Anna has been carving wonderful creations. Follow her magic over on Instagram @annalisedunn, and get inspired to get a saw for yourself!

– Anna (sort of)

The Super Smooth & Soothing Sounds of Hiroshi Yoshimura

A pioneer of Japanese ambient music, Hiroshi Yoshimura perfectly blended minimal electronic music with babbling brooks and singing birds. It’s exactly what you need right now. Trust me.

As a starting point, listen through his best regarded on Spotify, settle into a chill evening with the perfect track Dance PM, or melt into the floor to the sound of my personal favorite, Quiet Forest.

– Josh

Freer Bros. Decade Playlists

As the most competitive four brothers this side of the Clyde, the Freer brothers have combined two lockdown clichés into one epic battle: online quizzes and playlists.

For the past four weeks we’ve agreed a decade and each voted for our fave song in each year, then all voted on the final ten at the end of the week. We’ve limited ourselves to choosing an artist only once a decade (no need to create another Bob Dylan greatest hits playlist!) and have scrapped it out on a zoom call if there is a draw on any years.

I’d like to say I have dominated each playlist, but there is no account for taste, and even my misspelling of the songs on the Google form (bonus points if you spot the deliberate mistake in the pic) is not influencing their decisions. We’re back in the Seventies this week, what a freakin’ decade, the Beatles’ last album and the Cure’s first. Hell, this is gonna be hard!

(Message me if you want me to send you any of the winning playlists!)

– David

Letterboxd

It’s likely that right now you’re watching more movies than you’ve ever watched since the days of first year uni where you’d crush a couple DVDs over your morning bowl(s) of Frosted Wheaties. It’s also easier than ever, with a new streaming service to pour your cash into every couple of weeks.

To make the most of this new frontier of home cinema, we need recommendations from trusted sources so that we don’t accidentally watch all of Sandler’s back catalogue. Letterboxd.com is a social media platform created solely for watching, logging, loving, dissing, researching, scrolling and bragging about films.

And I love it! I’ve watched loads of stuff I’d never even think about if it wasn’t for a glowing review by a trusted Letterboxd follow. Get it! Follow me! @jmowatstuff! I follow back!!!!!

– Jonny

Those Quirky Old Observer’s Books

With green spaces surrounding my new rural dwelling, my latest screen distraction takes the form of bird watching. My dad gifted me this observers book of birds when I was 8, but it’s been dormant and forgotten during my years of city living.

Now in lockdown, taking a bit of time in the morning with this book and the binoculars is giving me a new appreciation for the flow of little lives , of changing seasons and the consistency of nature that is always shifting, always moving forwards.

– Tessa

‘I got blisters on my fingers!!!’

I’ve taken this enforced lockdown as a chance to sit down and learn a new tune on the guitar. Inspired after listening to the soundtrack to Devs (see previous inspiration!) I’ve been following some YouTube tutorials to learn how to fingerpick Guinnevere by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

YouTube is amazing for guitar tutorials, I wish I had had it as a teenager. Not blessed with perfect pitch or a good ear, I don’t know how the hell else I would have worked out David Crosby’s fiendish picking pattern or guitar tuning.

Not sure my wife was too happy with the first two days repeating the first three notes for hours, but now I have the pattern down, its sounding pretty good. Just need my fingertips to heal up a bit!

– David

Living on the Earth

“This book is for people who would rather chop wood than work behind a desk”.

I stumbled upon (literally, I found it outside) this 1970 hand-written and illustrated hippie classic by Alicia Bay Laurel and it’s been a magic ride lazily picking through it on sun-baked afternoons. Touching on everything from backpacking to gardening to handmade clothes to building your own funeral pyre in the woods, it’s a nice reminder that just a few decades ago, there really were people who made a go of choosing the slow—but vigorous—life.

It’s worth thinking about as a slower life is now being forced on us. Now back to the garden to water the tomatoes.

–Josh

Instant Noodles

In a time where comfort is a precious commodity, my teenage love for 3 minute noods has returned. Stronger than ever. I’m currently in the midst of a ramen packet Battle Royale, trying as many flavours and brands I can get my hands on (which is a surprisingly varied thanks to the Tesco and Morrison’s international food sections). Give it up for the quickest, tastiest, saltiest lunch out there.

–Jonny

Climbing Mountains (Sort of)

This past weekend, I was supposed to be bouncing around the hills in Torridon with a few gals from my walking group Mountain Burdz. Four days of big hikes, scrambles and cooking up mountain-fuel dinners together. With certain things getting in the way of our plans, we still wanted to do something together, something beyond a zoom call.

A trend that’s been sweeping the outdoor community during lockdown has been climbing the equivalent height of mountains on your staircase. So, inspired by this, we opted to create our own challenge of climbing 1326m of ascent—the height for Liathach in Torridon—on our various steps and stairs. We invited anyone to join us and ended up with a group of eight of us across the country messaging, sharing videos and snaps from our walks and steps.

All in all, a weekend of running up and down steps isn’t quite the same as climbing one of Torridon’s finest hills, but we gave it our best shot anyway and had a fun time walking ‘together’ from home. It’s a weird time we find ourselves in, but it was great to do this as a way of staying motivated and feeling connected even though we’re apart.

We’re taking on a similar challenge this weekend, this time in aid of raising donations towards Women’s Fund Scotland. So, if you’d like to help us stay motivated as we do hundreds of reps up and down our stairs, please donate if you are able!

– Tessa

Bob Dylan, Murder Most Foul

On Nick Cave’s ‘The Red Hand Files Issue #91’, Douglas from Glasgow wondered whether Bob’s new recording ‘Murder Most Foul’ might be a masterpiece. I listened to the song over and over and found myself in agreement. I had the sense of everything being drawn down; all the music Dylan has ever made; everything everyone else has ever done, copied or borrowed from the things Dylan has made.

The books of modern America distilled into permanent poetry and all this rolled into one mesmerising assembly. Perhaps the demands of this record go some way to explaining why Bob is Bob? Why the rest of us listen to great music and also terrible music? For a medium with a singular vinyl groove, Murder Most Foul seems very non-linear. It follows its own abstract path.

Coming as it does in a strange and disjointed time of virus, it feels as if something seismic is forming. Both comforting and distressing, it is a profound reminder of the power of song. I wonder where the path will take us?

– Neil

Baking Sourdough

Yeah yeah, every dude and betty is baking during quarantine. However, the fascination with sourdough among the fellas at O St predates the epidemic by months and we have the ‘sourbros’ Slack channel to prove it.

If you’ve been resistant until now, we do heartily recommend you meet your inner sourdough baker. There’s something essential and elemental about the physicality, science and self sustainability that makes it a perfect storm of a hobby.

Jonny recommends this wholesaler for flour, and Pizza Camp if you want to take the journey to the next level.

–Jonny

Radiooooo

As a global studio, being stuck at home has been frustrating. To help create the illusion of international (and time!) travel, we’ve all been dipping into this map of musical hits spanning decades and the world! I highly recommend Cuba in the 1970’s for some fun, or Mongolia in the 80’s for a trippy chill out!

– David

(Radiooooo is also a free mobile app and we suggest using it for social distance street parties with your neighbours.)

Devs

Devs is a tale of Silicon Valley dystopia from visionary writer and director Alex Garland (who gave us Ex Machina — it’s time to see that as well if you’ve missed out). Nick Offerman plays a brilliant tech founder haunted by personal loss in a tense, beautiful drama that only asks for eight hours of your life.

It gets into the weeds of parallel universes, determinism, free will, and living in a simulation, so make sure don’t you watch it with your theoretical physics enthusiast friends. They’ll spend the whole time blabbering over the beautiful soundtrack.

– Josh

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

Beer is the Best Beverage (and Other Learnings From the Brewer’s Congress)

11.12.19

The good folks at Brewer’s Journal (shout out to Tim & Jon!) invited us down to this year’s Brewer’s Congress last week, which is a day filled with talks about beer, food served alongside beer, and beer. Having attended some Brewer’s Lecture events as both speakers and beer fans, we’ve realised that passionate brewers share a lot of common traits with passionate designers, so we were positively stoked to hear from some of the most influential and renowned breweries making shit-hot beer for the world.

Don’t Dismiss Traditional British Beer

As designers, we know that ‘newer’ does not equal ‘better’, but as beer drinkers we do get tempted by the new, shiny brewing styles that are popping up all over the place. It was hard not to be infected by the enthusiasm for traditional British beer that radiated from speakers such as Miles Jenner, Head Brewer & MD at Harvey’s Brewery, who actually grew up on a traditional British brewery, or Derek Prentice, Brewmaster at Wimbledon Brewery, who was celebrating brewing equipment innovations inspired by UK brewing history. While some of the intricacies of Victorian-era brewing engineering flew well over our heads, we did leave feeling inspired by our own national drink and its rich history.

Authenticity or Perish?

Most of the speakers united in a common derision of beer geeks. They had an unwavering belief in their craft that almost dismissed the end consumer. They just wanted to see how to brew the best goddamn beer they could. In response to the proliferation of fruity IPAs, Master Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets of Brasserie De La Senne offered my favourite line of the day: “if you really like magoes that much…go eat a mango.”

Yvan went on to say, “You should know what you want to drink, then make it”. This chimed with Burning Sky founder Mark Tranter’s belief in brewers needing an unwavering focus. The general feeling was that brewers that just followed the whim and fancy of each passing trend were doomed for failure.

I took from this consideration that the craft brewers had recognised the one trump card (an authentic, artisanal approach to brewing) they can play against the big brewers.

Collaboration Leads to Inspiration

Christian Townsend from North Brewing made an excellent comparison at the end of his talk. Imagine if the automotive industry collaborated and shared knowledge as freely as brewers do. I’m picturing myself in a car that looks a bit like a classic super safe & comfortable Saab, with the speed of a Ferrari and the electric power of a Tesla.

It’s evident from the good feeling and sharing of knowledge at the congress that brewers are really good at this already. In such a competitive market, it’s an inspiration that rival brewers brew together to create collabs and explore new techniques together.

We do feel that UK brewers are also at the cusp of an even bigger collaboration. With Big brewers being able to take advantage of market share and economies of scale they are crushing the commercial viability of many smaller independent brewers. Sam McMeekin from Gipsy Hill, as well as obviously being a whizz at data crunching and excel spreadsheets, has identified the advantages that independent craft brewers will have if they work together to lobby government to level the playing field. It’s obviously a tall task—at one point even defining ‘craft beer’ seemed beyond the speakers—and there are already UK wide groups like SIBA & CAMRA that have up until now struggled to get the leverage they need to make real change. However, the combined might of an industry that is already teaching us all how tasty collaboration can be is sure to succeed.

Brewery Culture Can Be Used For Good

One of the best parts of the Brewers Congress was seeing what brewers are doing for their communities all the way from a local level to a global level. Gabe Barry from Brooklyn Brewery gave us a great history lesson regarding beer and its power to bring communities together. Describing pubs and taprooms as shared spaces where people can interact and talk with others shines a positive light on the kinds of places we may take for granted, and she encouraged us to view a good beer scene as having potential for positive change. This is before we even look at all the charitable donations made by breweries across the UK and beyond. The grassroots nature of most craft breweries tends to foster an attitude of generosity and sharing, which is a great thing to see.

Embrace Your Controversial Opinions

The brewers congress was also a safe place for people to voice some more controversial opinions, and you know what, people were all too nice—or tipsy—to get angry about it. Here are a few of our faves:

‘You know these Citra IPA’s everyone is drinking, don’t you think they taste just like the lager & lime we used to drink in the 70’s’
Miles Jenner, Owner of Harveys Brewery

‘Sell your brewery, and you will go to beer heaven’
Anders Kissmeyer, Nørrebro Bryghus

‘We should be looking to America to get a healthier balance between Craft Ale & Big Brewers as Craft’
Sam McMeekin, Gipsy Hill Brewing

‘Craft beers are all under-baked and worty’
Rod White, Assistant Professor (of brewing) at University of Nottingham

‘I try to feel what my yeast feels like sometimes’
Yvan De Baet, Cofounder & Brewmaster, Brasserie De La Senne

‘You can’t get drunk with eye shots, or soaking your feet in vodka’
Dawn Maskell, Director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University

Brewing excellent beer is no longer enough

This title is lifted from a great talk by Anders Kissmeyer, global brewing titan, best known for his work with Carlsberg and Nørrebro Bryghus. His point was that in today’s saturated market, making excellent beer is a given. Especially in the ‘craft’ space, uniqueness and individuality is key. This of course is not just in your beer flavours, but also the personality you present, be that via your brand or the way you communicate to consumers. This might explain the habit a lot of craft brewers have taken to keep pushing for new flavours, new hops, new techniques.

This habit however was much derided by many speakers at the congress. Mark Tranter from Burning Sky brewery said “People want you to make something new; you just want to make something good.” The practice of squeezing as many hops as you can into a brew, with tonnes of fruit etc… seems to be becoming a dangerous ‘my penis is larger than your penis’ competition (ahem, Yvan De Baet’s words, not ours).

As a branding studio we see that uniqueness and personality are more than just your core product, it’s the story you share with the consumer, the journey you take them on. Although, as Roger Ryman (brewing director at St Austell’s) says, “Marketing will get people to try a drink once… good beer makes them want to drink more”. The tough truth here is you need to do both, make excellent beer and then develop an excellent way to tell the consumer about it.

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.

Japan’s Extra-ordinary Everyday Design

14.06.19

What we think of as ‘ordinary’ in graphic design (the road signs, the brand logos etc.) often become ‘extra-ordinary’ when viewed by someone from a different part of the world.

During a recent trip to Japan, whilst most folks were taking photos of sunsets and locals wearing traditional kimonos, I spent my time photographing drain covers and empty drinks cans.

Sad, I know, but for all you design geeks out there, here is a selection of my favourites:

Every little thing is Japan is so visually rich, you can be forgiven missing the forest for the trees. Maybe next time I’ll notice the temples and landscapes.
– David