I’m currently based in Leicester in the Midlands of the UK. Naturally I’m taking in all the new design influences around me – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m sharing my findings with the team at Transformer during our Show & Tell Skype sessions and will be rounding up the best with in this monthly blog.
Well & Not-so-good
Well is a chain of UK pharmacies (chemists in UK-speak). They have over 780 stores spread all over the country and feature in most towns and cities. Initially I thought this was a strong piece of branding. The stores look good day and night (an important point in a country where it gets dark in the afternoons in winter). The signage is simple but striking, standing out particularly well in busy high streets – less is definitely more in this example.
In-store innovations include interactive kiosks and consultations with pharmacists (a smart idea as it can take several weeks to get a non-emergency appointment with a GP here). Not sure about the colour coding system in-store – it seems unnecessarily blatant to me. The thing I don’t get is the odd additional illustrations as part of the co-branding. On its own there’s nothing wrong with it, in fact the illustrations are cute, friendly and add a bit of humour to a potentially dry subject. But the style seems all wrong alongside the sleek simplicity of the branding. Does it work? Well, the shops seem to be successful – in the UK if retail branding isn’t working it gets changed pretty quickly. But I can’t help feeling a sense of unease when I see the two styles together.
Abstraction in Apartments
I love this simple branding style. The washes of abstract colour are refreshing when so often real estate marketing relies on cheesy images of happy families or glamorous couples (yes, we’ve been guilty of a few of those). The logo is also nice and modern and simple.
The hoardings/signage are very striking. Note, this is in a part of the city that has a number of derelict buildings and not much colour so the designers have been clever in using this bold, colourful look to stand out. Even on a grey day (which it seems is most days here) it stands out well.
I think this is a good example of creating something out of nothing. This is a subject close to my heart. Some of my favourite design solutions involve creating a look and feel without needing photos or illustrations, just a strong abstract pattern. It reminds me of some Peter Saville work I saw a few years ago but that’s ok – every designer can take influence from the master!
Peter Saville’s Waste paintings.
Aria apartments hoardings.
The Old & New
Here’s some graphic design from approximately 2000 years ago. I came across this in the Jewry Wall museum in Leicester. It’s part of the remains of a Roman bathhouse that was in the centre of the city around 150AD. The thing that occurred to me was how abstract, decorative patterns have formed such an important part of everyday life throughout human history. This struck a chord with me when Kelsey (our most recent intern) showed some brilliant branding work for a climate change event that used some strong graphic shapes developed from the central themes of water, air and earth.
The student Shangning Wang became interested in rebranding the United Nations Climate Change Conference after he looked at their 2016 branding design and found it to be too common and boring. To commemorate the 25th conference which will be held in 2016, he based the visual system off a 5×5 dot grid– equalling 25 dots. By basing the visual system off of a grid, he created a system that can be applied to different media. By translating the elements and weather systems into icons, he was able to communicate the concept of elements and weather mixing as weather conditions depend on the elements. Therefore, the main logo is composed of the elements air, water, earth, and fire. The grid system was also used in the development of the typeface used in the logo. With the use of the grid, Wang is able to layer the icons and have them interact with the logo typeface– creating a friendly, fresh and interactive identity that captures people’s attention and communicates the conference’s goals.
The Romans used simplified patterns developed from the natural world around them. I think it’s part of our role as designers to create things of beauty – there’s more than enough ugly clutter created in the name of marketing – so we can learn a lot from the beautiful decorative patterns made by our ancestors and apply it to our contemporary work.