Whilst we recently spent a week over in Dallas and New York meeting clients and taking part in some very exciting creative sessions, we thought we’d put a small blog post together about some of the really awesome creative areas that we had time to explore whilst visiting.
Deep Ellum - Dallas, Texas
This was an area on the outskirts of Dallas city centre, just east of downtown, that we heard had some really cool shops, bars and restaurants popping up and a great creative culture since it’s fairly recent gentrification process.
We decided to spend a few hours walking around during the day and also go back and night when it started to get a bit more lively. Both our experiences here we really enjoyed and would definitely recommend if you’re ever visiting Dallas. On the grid describes it as a unique intersection of art, music, history, amazing food, and companies who are doing something different and we can’t argue with that.
Located in East Dallas, which is quite a bit further out than Deep Ellum, Lower Greenville is a smaller neighbourhood out in the suburbs of Dallas. It was closer to where our hotel was located and we’d heard from the locals that there was a really cool scene over there so decided to jump in an uber one afternoon and stay through to the evening to see what all the fuss was about.
We certainly weren't disappointed. A mix of charming old establishments and exciting new ones with new flavour make for a great mix in urban Dallas. We visited some really exciting and interesting bars and eateries and one that stood out in particular was called TruckYard. This is basically an open backyard filled with mish-mashed seating areas, street food vendors that change daily and even it’s very own treehouse!
Other places we’d recommend are Good Records for their extensive selection of vinyl. Voodoo Chile Thirft Store for a trippy but thoroughly enjoyable experience with Crazy Jimi who offered us a glass of vino and a tour around his weird and wonderful shop. And last but not least, Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, for the tastiest slice in Dallas.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn - New York
Our Flight back from Dallas was via New York, so we were lucky enough to be able to spend 24 hours in NYC exploring the creative scene. We stayed in the McCarren Hotel and Pool, which is located in North Williamsburg, just around the corner from the infamous Brooklyn Brewery and just a short walk away from Bedford Avenue which is littered with brilliant independent shops, bars, coffee shops and restaurants. The once grittier-than-grit neighbourhood has dramatically changed its image and now has worldwide appeal, attracting folk from all over to create and cultivate.
Our favourite place during our (very short) stay had to be The Meatball Shop, located on the Upper East Side, just off Bedford Avenue, specialising in, you guessed it, meatballs. We ordered using marker pens on the check-box style menu which was a pretty neat idea and chose the classic beef meatballs and tomato sauce on a brioche bun. These were literally the most delicious meatballs we’ve ever eaten and definitely recommend this one if you’re ever visiting NYC.
Our other top Brooklyn picks would be visiting the Brooklyn Bridge for a slice of history and an excellent view of the New York City skyline from across the water. Walking around and getting up close to the hand-painted (Yes, really, hand-painted) billboards around the local area. Visit Brooklyn Brewery for a tour and some free samples. And last but not least, Breakfast at Bagelsmith for the tastiest bagels that have ever entered our bellies!
All in all, a great trip for business and a bit of pleasure too. Our small slice of two very different cultures of America was eye-opening and inspiring. We’re looking forward to taking some of our American inspiration into our upcoming projects.
Here at Alphabet, we always make sure we work closely with our clients to dissect their ideas and needs, no matter how big or small. One of the ways we do this is with our series of workshops we have developed to help build and deliver brands. It's a unique lesson plan that helps us learn more about the client, as well as hopefully giving the client a vivid new insight into their company.
Our workshops range in size from a one-to-one level to a group workshop and activities. From following us, or even browsing our website, you have probably seen that we're passionate and build our process as a design agency on the principle of "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." The Brand Workshops we carry out help us fulfill this and allow the client and their idea to have a voice full of personality and purpose that resonates with their audience.
We recently carried out a workshop with GIG Retail, based in Leeds, which we thoroughly enjoyed it and took a lot of information from the workshop that will help our process moving forward. We hope GIG took a lot away from it too, and we're excited to build our relationship further.
Our Brand Workshop is available to anyone, of any size. You could be a start-up that needs a new perspective to allow you to stand out, or an already established company looking to move with the times and reconnect with your audience. If you are interested in our Brand Workshops and would like to find out more information, drop us a line at email@example.com and we'll be more than happy to explain our process in more detail.
We were delighted to be asked to create the Brand and Identity for Present!; a week long exhibition that brought together designers from across the world with the end goal of raising enough funds to build a 12-child home for street kids in India. The exhibition took place at The Proud Archivist as part of the London Design Festival programme last year and was a huge success. Thanks to everybody involved!
India is a beautiful, bold country full of rich culture, variety and colour. It’s a place you certainly don’t forget in a hurry and a place that is as intense as anywhere in the world. Luke and Elena (aka. Equals) visited India in 2014 and came back with unforgettable memories that will stay with them for a long time. Unfortunately what also stayed with them was the story of a railway child they met along the way. This same child was the key source of inspiration for Present! and the idea of design for good.
Equals wanted to make a difference and with both Luke and El working within design and PR, the two felt a purpose to focus on creating a platform for design for good that would make the design community come together and raise money towards the poverty in India. When Luka and El approached us with the idea, we were similarly as passionate to create a platform for equality and common good. While India is one of the most prosperous and fastest growing countries and economies in the world, poverty is also sadly equally as prevalent. India is estimated to have a third of the world's poor. We wanted to help make a difference in any which way we could by utilising the skills we had to facilitate a positive contribution.
The culmination of this dialogue was the creation of Equals – a not-for-profit project ran by Luke and Elena that looks to raise money through design to help those less fortunate. We were lucky enough to collaborate with Equals on creating Present!; A design exhibition as part of London Design Festival with over 60 designers from around the world coming together for a greater cause.
We had support and sponsors from a wide variety of sources, and to help us over the finish line we needed a little help in the form of crowdfunding. We worked with our friends over at Hungry Sandwich Club to help bring the story of Present! to life in the form of a campaign video. Thankfully the funding target was gained and the full potential of the exhibition could be a reality. You can read more about the Present! Kickstarter campaign here.
It was important for us to create a cohesive brand identity for the exhibition. The subject of India was a huge luxury and a perfect opportunity to create something bold, colourful and intense, just like the country itself. The visual identity for Present! utilised a display typeface that is condensed, bold and has hand rendered qualities. This was paired with a colour palette that references Indian sign painting and the milky hues of Jaipur.
Our messaging style referenced being in the streets of India and hearing the many voices shouting over each other whilst receiving visual messages and signals from all around you. It was important for us to create an event that referenced this and was positive in tone, whilst still not forgetting the reason why we were there, to raise money and make a difference to the lives of street kids in India. We did this by creating a messaging style that was positive and loose, whilst still containing the more serious call to action.
One of the most eye-opening and positive things about Present! was how the design community came together for a greater cause and was so open to help in ways that went beyond just a design submission. We exhibited 65 submissions from 65 designers located from over 16 countries around the world. A key theme throughout the exhibition was equality and a level platform – to emphasise this, we had globally renowned agencies exhibiting next to young designers just starting their design career. All designers created a poster in response to a set of specific briefs.
Elements of the exhibition were interactive and generated user-created content. An example of this is where we printed off a charity video by Angel House frame by frame, and encouraged exhibition guests to write and draw on the frames. Once the exhibition was complete, we scanned the frames back in and re-animated them for post-event promotion and social media.
We held design talks on the day following the opening of the exhibition featuring insightful talks by Craig Oldham, Stuart Watson of Design Studio London, Murray Sommerville and Malika Favre. The topics of the talks ranged from design in a global culture, to the growth of India as a global economy and a growing hub for the creative industries. Stuart Watson also talked about working alongside Present! on Design Studio's own project – Conversations with India.
Luke and Elena of Equals are travelling Asia as we speak and have recently had the chance to visit India again to see the results that Present! has had on the small underprivileged communities, helping to improve the facilities that are available to Street Kids. This wouldn’t have been possible without the design community and all who took the time to advise, collaborate, house, attend and submit to the week long event.
A big Thank You to everyone involved from all of us at Alphabet!
Special Thank You: Pressision, Hungry Sandwich Club, Wetransfer, Fedrigoni, Analogue, Dot Laser, Hire an Illustrator, Represent, Stuart Watson, Craig Oldham, Malika Favre, Murray Sommerville and The London Design Festival.
&Larry (Singapore), Aaron Vinton (USA), Alphabet (UK), Analogue (UK), Asylum (Singapore), Attak (Netherlands), Bedow (Sweden), Ben The Illustrator (UK), Bleed (Norway), Bravo (Singapore), Bread Collective (UK), Brody Associates (UK), Build (UK), Casper Heijkenskjold (Denmark), Chantal Chya Hsu (Taiwan), Chistopher Burnett (UK), Craig Oldham (UK), Demian Conrad (Switzerland), Design by Toko (Australia), Design Studio London (UK), Dominic Kesterton (UK), DR.ME (UK), DU.ST (UK), Estudio Primo (Spain), Eve Warren (UK), GBH (UK), George Simin (UK), Giulia Garbin (UK), Hague + Hague (UK), Heydays (Norway), HORT (Germany), Hungry Sandwich Club (UK), James Clapham (UK), James Reid (UK), Jay Cover (UK), Joe Leadbetter (UK), Jon Bland (UK), Joseph Veazey (USA), Luke O'Brien (UK), Lundgren + Lindqvist (Sweden), Made by Tung (Canada), Malika Favre (France), Marcel Hausler (Germany), Monikers (USA), Mucho (USA), Murray Somerville (UK), Oh Yeah Studio (Norway), Only (UK), Orlando Lloyd (UK), Raw (UK), Roots (Singapore), Sam Barclay (UK), Sam Cook (UK), Sarah Boris (UK), Sarp Sozdinler (Turkey), Side by Side (UK), Sneaky Raccoon (UK), Spin (UK), Tom Love (UK), Tsto (Finland), Two Times Elliott (UK), Wade Jeffree (Australia), The Work Bench (Singapore), Yoni Alter (UK) & Zipeng Zhu (USA).
We recently had Jordan in for a few weeks to help us out with a variety of live projects. One of the latest and greatest graduates from the Graphic Design course at Leeds College of Art - his talents and creativity helped us out a whole lot and we hope we helped Jordan in some way on his journey too. Plus points for knowing all the words to Shook Ones Part II by Mobb Deep...
Jordan's approach is based on design, branding and illustration informed by a strong emphasis on concept and craft.
We asked Jordan about how he found his time here and this is how it went.
How did you hear about Alphabet?
The Alphabet boys (Abbas, Sam & Seb) were all in the year above me at university and had always produced work that was stylish, considered and really set a high benchmark for quality. Through knowing them at university I already followed their work on portfolio platforms like Behance and actually initially found out they had started their own studio through a social media platform online.
What made you want to work with us?
I was already following Abbas, Sam & Seb’s work individually and found the design they were producing balanced style, concept and function in a way that was both memorable and really appealed to my personal taste. Also, the idea of eventually starting or founding my own studio has always interested me, so the chance to gain some first-hand knowledge from a group of young, ambitious designers that were already making moves was really appealing.
What projects did you work on?
During my first few days in the studio I was working on developing merchandise concepts for a new music label, dropping the outcomes I developed into a client ready proposal. From the get go they had me working on live projects so I really hit the ground running to make sure that the work I created was both up to scratch and was produced at high level of productivity the guys all work at. Other projects they had me working on while I was there included branding proposals for the new Leeds Kirkgate Market, merchandise concepts for Tiesto and a branding proposal for a huge LinkedIn networking event.
Learning so much in such a short period of time. The pronunciation of Jiu-jitsu (Jouuu-ji-suuuu).
What was it like being in the studio?
The guys were friendly, relaxed but super focused which made for a great working atmosphere – Add in daily MMA updates from Joe Rogan and studio banter and you're onto a winner.
What did you learn that stuck with you?
Take your work beyond the standard deliverables, consider each projects true scope and create work that inspires innovation.
It was a pleasure having Jordan as part of the team for a while and we wish you the best of luck with everything!
We recently collaborated with Duke Studios to fabricate and work on the artwork for a series of light boxes housed inside the awesome Headrow House; a brand new multi-storey venue in the heart of Leeds which encompasses a Beer Hall, Music Venue, Restaurant, Cocktail Bar and not forgetting the Roof Terrace.
The Lightboxes are positioned within the corridors and stairwells that connect the sub-venues of the building and they needed to be bright enough to light the spaces at night whilst also acting as pieces of art in their own right.
Using the Headrow House mother brand colour scheme of White, Black and Orange, we decided to focus the designs around abstract patterns that reference the different sub-venues and the city of Leeds that surrounds the venue.
Some patterns are more industrial, focusing on the materials, interior and forms found within the venue. Others are more abstract takes on Culture, Food, Music, Drinks. All key components of the new venture.
When creating the designs for the Lightboxes, as well as them being functional in lighting up the corridors and stairwells, we also wanted them to be a standout feature within the venue, particularly when the place comes to life with people at night.
We worked on creating a grid system for all graphics. The grid system allowed the visuals to remain consistent and controlled for existing and future iterations. It also allowed the light boxes to extend the gridular modular spatial design and tiling throughout the space.
When creating the design, we always had user interaction in mind and it's great to see the lightboxes proved to be a focal point of the venue, with lots of people getting creative themselves, taking photographs in front of the installations and uploading to Social Media.
Headrow House is an awesome new venue right in the heart of Leeds City centre and we're proud to have been a part of the process of bringing it together. We look forward to seeing people enjoy the venue and the light boxes for some time to come and hopefully we'll be working with Duke Studios and Headrow House some more in the not too distant feature.
We've been busy working with a brand new Leeds-based Brewing Company over the last couple of months who go by the name of Play Brew Co.
The name is actually a play on the founder's surname as well as a reference point to the inspiration that started the whole idea of the brand, which is retro arcade games.
Over the past couple of months, we've been working closely with the founder of the company to develop a brand that is totally unique for this sector and we're super excited to be sharing more with you soon.
For now, here's a couple of stills from the Brand Film that we Art Directed recently which will be revealed in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes well and truly peeled.
It was a delight to have our latest intern Daria in the studio for the past couple of months helping us out on a few exciting briefs.
Daria is a third year Leeds College of Art student with a multidisciplinary approach to editorial design, publishing, advertising and branding within the art and fashion world.
We asked her about her time at Alphabet and here's what she said...
How did you hear about Alphabet?
I heard about the studio through Leeds College of Art students and fellow peers who spoke about their great work regularly.
What made you want to intern with the team?
The studio had such a good reputation in Leeds and particularly LCA that I thought I could learn a lot by spending some time with them and learning their work processes.
What projects did you work on?
One of the best projects I worked onto was concept generation for the Branding and a Promotional Package for a Yorkshire based contemporary dance company called Gracefool Collective. I also helped out to build and paint some physical signage which Alphabet developed for a local cinema, the Hyde Park Picture House, which was a lot of fun!
What was your favourite project?
The best project I worked onto was the one for Gracefool Collective. It made me learn a lot in terms of Concept Development and its application for Branding. It was the first time I worked into cultural identity and it was a great learning curve for me personally.
Not big surprises but there was a lot to learn in terms of fast paced design making.
What was it like being in the studio?
It was good to work in a team where ideas were continuously bouncing around. It really allowed the projects to get developed fast and at a very high quality, giving me a great insight and understanding of what it's like to work in a real studio.
Finally, what did you learn that stuck with you?
I learnt how a studio is run in general. Fast paced work, attention to detail and a will to work not only hard, but smart.
It was a pleasure having Daria as part of the team for the last couple months and we wish her the best of luck graduating from Leeds College of Art and with her next steps as a young designer!
Recently we were approached by Leeds City Council to be a part of the design team behind a new installation for Leeds Train Station.
Following the success of the British Art Show 8, there has been some really exciting cultural and visual public art pieces springing up around the city of Leeds and we were super excited to be invited to be part of this one, which was commissioned by Leeds Bid.
The brief was to create a visual welcome to the city that celebrated the culture and diversity of Leeds. This was to be located in the entrance of the Train Station, on the main concourse, which is a highly visible space with thousands of visitors daily.
We worked as part of a team of Leeds-based Design Studios, Illustrators and Artists which consisted of Ourselves, Hungry Sandwich Club, Kristyna Kaczynski and Idiot's Pasture, and was led by Something More.
After multiple workshops and idea generation sessions, we agreed that the piece needed to be highly visual and have instant impact. We also wanted the installation to be a celebration of the city and have the potential to be constantly changing, updating as the city grows.
The final proposed idea was to create a typographic structure of the word 'Leeds' which was a confident and bold welcome to the city. We decided that each letter form would also double up as a blank canvas for artists to display their work, with the opportunity of this being updated regularly to provide new art that can be themed around big events in the city.
When designing the letterforms themselves, it was key that each letter had a lot of internal surface area. This was to maximise the size of the canvas that the commissioned artists could work with. After lots of different stages of design with the whole creative team, we settled on a bespoke typeface that had a 'bloated' treatment. This treatment allowed us to be able to remove the cuts in the 'E' and 'S' as well as the counter in the 'D', which in turn provided the maximum amount of surface area whilst retaining readability and legibility of the word 'Leeds'.
We wanted the letters to be placed in a 'scattered' formation within the main concourse of the station in order for the installation to become a natural part of the overall space. We wanted people to engage with the piece by walking in between the letterforms and even sitting on them. This meant that the physical form of the letters needed to be visually engaging but also structurally sound.
In the end, and with help from XKX Projects and Something More, we decided that the outer shells of the letterforms would needed to be formed from Steel to be robust enough. As this was a public art piece, we decided to apply a white powder coating finish on top of the steel to provide a clean, blank canvas for the art as well as smooth inviting surface for passers by to touch, sit on and interact with.
The clear polycarbonate sheets were attached to the inside of the letterforms with small Metal lugs. The sheets were printed using clear vinyl film which allowed for parts of the design to be opaque, emphasising the interactive value with the passing commuters.
The 5 contributing artists (including ourselves) created the initial pieces of art to be displayed in the letters and worked to a brief entitled 'Celebrate Leeds', where we each visualised what was great about the City, and what it means to us.
You can read more about the project on the Windows of Leeds website. A massive thanks to everybody involved with this project and we were delighted to be a part of it.