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

Five takeaways from the Craft Brewers Conference

30.04.19

As you might have heard, we don’t just drink beer. No, our relationship with the beautiful brew is much deeper than that. You might call it our muse. But our inspiration doesn’t just come from guzzling the stuff down—we also take to putting ourselves in the shoes of brewers to better serve them.

So when the Craft Brewers Conference came to Denver, our resident American put on his coolest hat and braved the booths to see what’s happening in the industry. Here are our five takeaways from #CBC2019:


1 Ingredients matter.

The Denver Convention Center is a scary big place and the floor was crawling with farmers and salespeople pushing hops and barley. With the big names in craft brewing now available in Colorado supermarkets and ever-increasing consumer consciousness, brewers have got to be picky with what they put in their beer. The moustached dude dropping $6 for a can at his local shop cares where those hops come from and we designers need to help brewers put that information front-and-center.


2 The merch game has transcended simple branding.

In an overwhelming space, it was Brist MFG’s booth that really caught our eye—and for good reason. Their quality hats (given away for free!) and 90s throw-back Hawaiian shirts, gave off relaxed, too-cool vibes in an otherwise sterile space. Think about how this applies to your brewery’s merchandise: cheap logo t-shirts are no longer enough. Felt baseball caps, real flannels, technical hoodies and other quality wares should be in your future if you want today’s consumers to hit the town sporting your logo.


3 Quality print finishes are still the exception.

Surprisingly, quality still doesn’t seem to be the norm with packaging. Although some craft brewers work with artists and designers to push boundaries, most of what we saw on the floor at CBC was pushing efficient but uninteresting print finishes and can wraps. Just like with fine food, you don’t simply experience it with your taste buds. You also drink it in with your eyes and feel it with your hands. As long as you can work within the bounds of regulations, it looks like there’s plenty of room in the craft space to do something special with packaging.


4 Look up from your phone.

It’s the bane of our times, isn’t it? We met some amazing people, formed meaningful business connections and learned a lot in just a couple hours at CBC. One interaction really stands out though: one that didn’t happen. A company threw a lot of money at a booth, only to be squandered by their representatives sitting down to stare at their phones (they were middle-aged men, by the way, don’t blame the millennials). This is less about brewing than a general reminder that engagement is a human phenomenon and nobody is safe from apathy if you let it waltz in through the front door.


5 There’s just a LOT going on.

Hops. Barley. Water. Kegs. Cleaning systems. Brewing technology. Label printing. Regulations. In-house canning. Marketing. Merchandise. Branding. Sustainability. Brewing is not a simple endeavor; you could spend three days at CBC and still fall well short of stopping by every booth. It’s sort of like running a brewery, actually: there’s just more to do than you have time for. So, pick your battles and delegate what you can. May we humbly suggest design?