Archive for June, 2018

On how the Designers Republic sculpted childhoods

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The Designers Republic are somewhat legendary. The Sheffield studio had a look and a style that shone through their work. Confident architectural shapes, thick lines, constrained abstracts and a very modern almost Japanese asthetic. While the studio itself closed doors in 2009, their work which spans back to the late 80s, still looks fresh. They worked with Aphex Twin, Pulp, The Orb. As well as brands like Adidas, Nokia and MTV. The impact that Designers Republic had on the way the 90s looked can’t be undersold and the influence they’ve had on today’s designers runs deep.

Back in 1995, Sony began their quest towards world domination, placing PlayStation kiosks in dance clubs across the UK in a very targeted marketing campaign. This was a brave move, they were selling to a hyper-aware audience, quick to react to and to define trends. Importantly, this was a market that could smell bullshit. What Sony shipped in the demo kiosks was a genuinely exciting new experience that made full use of their new PlayStation hardware. However, while Wipeout was a technical masterpiece at the time; there are arguably more enduring aspects that define it as a cultural touchstone.

Firstly, Wipeout didn’t just take influence from the UK club scene: It took the UK club scene. Music supplied and produced by Orbital, Leftfield and Chemical Brothers was presented alongside futuristic 3d visuals, twisting and winding tracks. A truly visceral experience.

But there was something else there, under those flashy graphics, independent of the music and the visuals. A genuine beating heart that also had its roots in the UK club scene, that came from Sheffield design studio, Designers Republic.

It’s interesting to compartmentalise Wipeout. You can split it easily in to the music, the visuals and that other thing. The thing that makes the experience complete, that you can’t quite put your finger on. This game just looks great. Every part of it looks great. Everything belongs and nothing looks out of place.

Brand languages

Liverpool based developer Psygnosis asked Designers Republic to produce a series of brands for each of the games futuristic racing teams. Each team would have its own logo and brand language, this follows through to trackside advertisements sponsor logos and background billboards. In fact, each track is littered with adverts for in game teams and fictional products alongside real world Red Bull adverts. This is branding at it’s best, the fictional made tangible and relatable.

It’s this care and attention to detail that grounds the experience, creating a universe and a language that doesn’t need to be explained; it just exists. This is F1 with hovercraft, it has no story but the setting is established and the experience is rich. Wipeout is peak Designers Republic; it’s confident and bold, it references its pedigree and it has an ordered, other worldly feel to it.

Legacy

Designers Republic has a legacy that spans decades, genres, disciplines and media. But it’s their influence on the sport that they referenced 22 years ago that Typeface finds most interesting.

Wipeout came out in 1995, it was a snapshot of the future. Fast, smooth racing, pounding beats and slick graphic design. It referenced F1 and the brand language that surrounds modern teams and sponsors. Now either Designers Republic had the foresight and vision to take modern F1 branding to its logical conclusion, predicting the future only a couple of decades early. Or contemporary sports teams and brands are looking towards video games and esports to stay visually relevant. Here is the 2017 Formula 1 rebrand. It’s very slick.

And here’s the typeface, F1 Regular.

It’s not unusual for a brand to have its own typeface. With the saturation of high resolution screens on even mid range laptops, mobiles and tablets; brands are able to invest in and re-use high quality assets like custom fonts. The F1 font is gorgeous. Angular, architectural and kinetic. It’s familiar though, which starts to make sense when you deconstruct it.

The above is the typeface used in Wipeout. In menus, on screen text and background imagery. Produced in 1995 by Designers Republic. This is used at the very basic level of interaction, before we even get to see the hovercraft, the sponsors and the brand languages. Before we even get to race.

This is the typeface used on the cover of the box that the game came in, and it perfectly describes the content contained inside.

There is a very special breed of artist that can follow something to its logical conclusion. Almost seeming to predict the future. Graphic designers should be able to produce work that both references the past and looks towards the future. Enduring work that inspires trends doesn’t have to rely on them if it’s aware of its audience, how they react and where they’re going.

Designers Republic may have closed their doors, and Wipeout, while still a great experience, looks tired and is very much a product of its time. But the work produced by Designers Republic still looks unique and it still inspires modern brands, aesthetic and today’s designers.

More Reading

Graham Smith at The Logo Smith has written a great article that delves in to the history of the Wipeout logo, which you can read here.  

Working with Brooke

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Typeface has recently completed a project with Brooke. Originally the brief was to produce a series of colourised images for Brooke’s social media channels from their extensive archive of WWI imagery. As work progressed it became clear that this was more than fodder for social media channels, it became a series of creative assets that the charity has complete ownership over, and something that its audience continues to engage with on an emotional level.

Brooke has an enviable social media presence that consists of a very passionate, educated and engaged audience. Typeface wanted to create something for them, to highlight that the work carried out by Brooke is just as important 100 years after the charity was founded. Typeface took assets from Brooke’s archives and adapted them to the way we now connect with the past, and the way we consume media.

The concept itself was simple. Black and white images have a nostalgic quality that can make them difficult to connect with. Adding colour to the subjects while keeping the rest of the image intact helps to remove the subject from the past. Clothes that looked old suddenly look fashionable, skin tones pop and, importantly, to the viewer the subject becomes much more real and much more relatable.

Like all good design, the method is simple. Colour is painted on to the original photograph using a steady hand, a pen and tablet. Skin tone and shading is a quality of the original black and white image; the brain merges tone and colour and presents something that our eye sees as normal. Each image contains no more than four flat colours, but the end result is powerful because the subject has a story to tell.

Respect is earned

It was important that Typeface invest thought in to the most respectful way to treat these images. If a human is interacting with an animal then both subjects are colourised to highlight the bond that comes from relying on each other to such an extent. Out of respect, the decision was made to not completely remove the subjects from their past, and so colour fades back to black and white wherever feet touch the ground.

 

Simplicity is confidence

With a simple idea well executed; the finished creative ended up being a very emotive project to work on. Brooke now has a collection of powerful imagery to share. Out of the archives has come some fantastic creative assets that need no explanation, something a modern audience can quickly understand and connect with.

While the brief didn’t change, the scope of the project itself widened. Originally a series of simple images to share over social channels, the project has inspired the media team to use these solid creative assets in their centenary celebrations. Typeface produced two colourised images of founder Dorothy Brooke, and after consulting their empassioned community, Brooke have turned one of them in to a limited edition print for purchase on their website.

The Dorothy Brooke print is available to buy here, all proceeds go towards the Brooke charity.

 

Today marks the anniversary of the letter our founder, Dorothy Brooke, sent to The Morning Post in 1931 alerting the British public to the plight of ex-war horses in Cairo. To mark the occasion our CEO, Petra Ingram, reads Dorothy’s letter which you can listen to by clicking the link in our bio. This year marks 100 years since the end of WW1 and through our #EveryHorseRemembered campaign we’re raising awareness for the 8 million horses, donkeys and mules that died in the Great War, as well as shining a light on the millions of equines that still work around the world today. Photo colourisation by Typeface – @pete.morley . . . #horse #horses #horsesofinstagram #horseofinstagram #horsepower #horsewelfare #equine #equinephotography #equinesofinstagram #equestrian #equestrians #equestrianism #instahorse #instahorses #lovehorses #ww1 #firstworldwar #ww1horses #workinghorses #militaryhorses #horsesinwar

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