O Street’s Favourite Albums of 2018, Illustrated

18.12.18

Last year we treated you to tracks, and this year it’s albums. Being designers and music geeks, we felt a good way to recap our year would be to each pick a favourite album of 2018 and illustrate a cover for it. Have a listen to the top songs from each album on this neat playlist we made here.

boygenius, boygenius

I could listen to these three extraordinary artists together on repeat all day, and the studio will testify I do often try to do so. Lucy Dacas, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers blend their individual dreamy melodies and mournful songwriting in this disarming self-titled first album. They each bring a bit of themselves to the EP—you can get a feel for the driver behind each song as you listen—but their collaborative voices and styles work so well together to create something new. Something that is truly beautiful to listen to.
–Tessa

Parquet Courts, Wide Awake!

Man, I really like Parquet Courts.
–Anna

Incredibles 2 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Michael Giacchino

I have a confession to make: I don’t really listen to albums as albums anymore. Especially not current releases. Not through any hip effort, it’s just that I kneel before the Almighty Algorithm when it comes to discovering music these days. However, I am more intentionally selective in watching films, and the Incredibles 2 was such a big deal for me that it has straddled multiple genres for being my biggest release of the year. That said, the music is a huge part of what makes it so nostalgic. It’s like if James Bond knew how to have fun, and also played alto sax. P.S. I condemn any & all acapella covers that may be hanging about at the bottom of the album.
– Jonny

Modern Leisure , Super Sad Rom-Com

Some of my favourite music is more than just good tunes, but a trigger that reminds me of a time or a place. This one reminds me of a great few weeks I had in Denver at the end of the summer in 2018. Especially consuming sour beers and chicken wings with my very good friend Hercules Campbell, while discovering this band playing at the bar. (Bonus points for the band having the album on audio cassette on their merch table)
– David

Peter Perrett , How The West Was Won

I’ve always loved the Only Ones, even when everybody said they weren’t cool and they weren’t punk and they weren’t blah, blah, this or that. To me, they were off-beat contrary and catchy as hell and that was good enough. Frontman Peter Perrett just had something going, like he was on his own louche South London planet rock. And he was funny with nice hair too. Thus I noted the Only Ones untimely demise and his subsequent demon struggle of a solo career with some sadness. So listening to 6Music, his deadpan raucous toe-tapping gem of a comeback after all this time was kinda special. It’s the record I thought I’d never hear… and I’m not the only one.
– Neil

Jon Hopkins, Singularity

Do you remember the first time you put on Jon Hopkins’ Singularity really loud, laid down on your IKEA rug of choice and experienced a head-exploding-body-melting-into-the-floor union with the whole cosmos? No? What are you waiting for?
– Josh

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

In Miffy Memorandum

23.03.17

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!

boshi-3

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.

boshi-1

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.

miffy

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…

Ladies, Wine & Design / Here come the girls

08.11.16

Last week, our studio was taken over by the conversation series Ladies, Wine & Design. Facilitated by ilka, the series brings together a small group of women every month to drink wine and chat design, creativity, business, stuff, life and kind of everything in between… It’s basically the WI. But for design.

sign-paint-1

This month the talented Rachel Millar ran a workshop on sign-painting—taking over the studio to allow seven fellow lady designers and myself to get covered in paint and wine. All whilst trying to teach us a crash-course in hand lettering.

sign-paint-3jpg

Rachel threw us in at the deep end, as she recommend it was the best way to learn. Despite the evening passing in a blur of wine and popcorn—helped along by some heady enamel paints—I managed to pick up a few things along the way. Here’s what I learnt:

sign-paint-4

1. Draw more letters.

Free-hand drawing letters was something some of the group had never tried before. Rachel was amazed. We are all designers and know our favourite typefaces and fonts—but it was necessary to work with our own set spacing and forms to create our signs, instead of drawing from an existing typeface. Really thinking about letter forms with only one reference sheet was a new kind of challenge; something that I think is good for all designers to do more of (it turns out free-form typography is pretty liberating).

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2. Practise your lines.

We were started off using One-Shot paints to do some basic lines to get a feel for the consistency of the paint. We learnt how important it is to palette your brush properly before trying a stroke. The trick is to make sure you get just the right amount of paint loaded onto your brush. Too much means uneven strokes that bleed out; too little means irregular strokes with rough edges.

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3. The lift and twist

Rachel showed us a specific corner stroke technique to really nail getting crisp sharp corners on your letter forms. It involves a delicate lift and twist stroke that sounded oh-so-simple when she explained and deftly demonstrated it… Turns out it takes a wee bit of practise to really grasp the movement naturally. But we all gave it a good shot, making sure we had the straight even lines pinned down first.

sign-paint-6

4. Set squares are extremely useful.

Being as anti-maths/measuring stuff as I am, I had previously thought set-squares were about as useful as a chocolate teapot. How wrong I was; I’m now on the hunt for a good adjustable one for the express purpose of drawing big letters on pieces of wood.

sign-paint-gif1

5. Sign painting is freakin’ hard.

I already had a pretty healthy amount of respect and admiration for sign-painters—but having dabbled in the craft for an evening, its about doubled ten-fold. Huge props to those out there with the patience and skill to create beautiful and complex hand-painted signs. It’s bloody difficult, but very rewarding when you do get it. Plus, just look how cool it is >

sign-paint-2

All in all, it was a bloody brilliant night and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Rachel’s next workshop—in the meantime you can see some of her work exhibited alongside a bunch of other lovely typographers in Navarah’s exhibition Good Type, held at Old Hairdressers, Glasgow on 27th November.

Taking Stock: Paper, Book Design and a Place Called Kenema

06.07.16

Choosing the right paper for a print project can be tricky. The tactile nature of paper conveys tone, quality and character before a single word is read, and especially applies to designing a book (which we happen to be doing).

O Street Kenema

As you may have seen flying around our various social media channels, we are currently working on a stunning portrait photography book by British photographer Peter Dibdin. He has been working to capture community life in Kenema, Sierra Leone. This book will seek to capture the powerful photographs taken by Pete during his visit to the newly built girls school, run by Swawou School Foundation.

O Street Kenema

To represent Pete’s journey and experiences of this vibrant culture, we have worked with him to develop a design that allows the photography to do the talking. We chose a minimal colour palette inspired by the earthy brick used in the development project itself. Handwritten text—Pete lent his own hand—is used to note the subjects of each portrait. Alongside these design choices sits the ever important selection of paper stocks and finishes.

O Street Kenema

In some ways, its a designer’s dream to be sitting surrounded by piles of paper samples, stacks of photography books and heaps of beautiful inspiring pieces of print. In other ways it presents a challenging process. With Kenema, we want to bring the warmth of the people into the tactile aspect of this book as much as possible—think ivory, cotton rich, textured pages. On the other hand, we need to allow the photography to sit on crisp clean white spreads to really express the colours and lighting by Pete.

O street Kenema

All in all, this has lead me on what can only be described as a paper trail *ahem* to end all paper trails. I’ve gone from Mohawk and Crane’s Crest to Tatami and Woodstock; from Shiro and Biancoflash to Conqueror CX22 and recycled Keay Kolour. In a very short space of time I’ve gone from a samples novice to the new studio paper guru…okay, not quite. But if Ed is Yoda then I’m definitely Luke. And in this analogy our huge studio bookcase is Dagobah. I’m getting side-tracked. Either way, I’m feeling a lot more knowledgable and excited for how this lovely piece of print will turn out. And that’s not even taking into account all the foiling, finishing and bindings I’ve got in mind…

If you would like to get your hands on your very own copy of the Kenema Book then simply follow this link and pledge some money to help us produce this stunning photography book. If you can’t pledge all that much, even a small amount would be appreciated to support its production and make it possible. Once published, all profits from the book will be going to the Swawou School for Girls to help them carry on the amazing work they do.

We’re super proud to be part of such a great project and we hope you’ll join us to continue the story.