Once I’d arrived at the idea to use architectural elements from Bristol’s buildings, changing them into simplified 2d forms and shapes and blocks I sat and considered what these design elements were actually communicating. It’s all well and good picking visually interesting architectural features from fancy old homes around Bristol to use but I’d need to consider the providence and history of the buildings I was choosing. If I just used flourishes from buildings owned or paid for by the wealthy merchants of the past I could inadvertently be communicating a kind of colonial or even racist message without realising it.
I started to delve into Bristol’s architectural history, specifically seeking out buildings around the city with connections to historic civil rights & protest movements, community empowerment, socialist politics etc. It didn’t take me long to start finding loads and loads of fantastically interesting architecture to use. The city even today has a whole district that self-identifies as a ‘people’s republic’ (Stokes Croft). Protest and community action are baked into the fabric of the city and so I started walking around both in person and through google maps for further away places. Through this research I gathered together tons of shapes and forms to use for this project:
I played around with a number of different options when it came to type but wasn’t happy with anything that I already had in my library. I took a step back and asked myself some questions to try and guide my choice. What did I want to communicate with this typography? I decided that what was most important was that it was friendly and welcoming and that it mirrored the rest of my strategy by being accessible to as many people as possible. I was conscious that I didn’t want to create something that looked really experimental and alien, I didn’t want it to look like a design student’s project basically!
As I sat and thought about these things I asked myself, what is the most commonly used typeface that you see around? Not Helvetica, sure it’s used a lot but it’s a little pretentious and not very friendly. Then I remembered a video I’d watched only recently –
Cooper Black was a typeface that was absolutely everywhere. It’s friendly and round but it’s almost the opposite of pretentious. You see cooper black on everything from barbershops to taxis, it’s such a widely accepted part of our shared visual language in the west, it was perfect.
I had a go at changing all of my titles to Cooper but there was something that didn’t sit quite right, I liked the bubbly round forms but it didn’t seem to gel with the rest of the design sadly. Undeterred however I headed to google fonts and searched for other rounded black typefaces, eventually finding the font that I would go with – Fraunces. Fraunces has all of the fun, chunkiness of Cooper but with a slightly more mature looking profile. Some of the roundedness is contained by more pronounced verticals and when i tried it in situ I immediately knew that this was the one.
I’d already decided to pull my colour palette from the colourful houses around Bristol but I wanted to take it one step further. I wasn’t content to just pull my colours from one of the fancy rows of houses in Clifton or Hotwells. Although prominent landmarks within the city sitting up on the hill, these are the houses of wealthy folks and aren’t very representative of the city as a whole.
Instead I thought to look further afield at a range of different parts of the city that represented a broader range of racial and socioeconomic groups. The point of CurioCity Collective is that it’s for everyone and so I decided that the best way to really communicate that was to draw from as many different people’s experience of Bristol as I could.
I was actually really pleasantly surprised as I toured around the different areas of the city though that a love of vibrant bright colours seems to be something that is universally shared across the place. Whether I ventured to the ethnically diverse area of Easton or the predominantly white working class area of Knowle West, bright friendly colours were everywhere:
I decided that I’d draw up a list of six areas of the city that between them represented a really broad range of resident demographics. The list I settled on was:
- Knowle West – Predominantly a white working class area
- Easton – An area of the city with residents from many different minority cultures
- St. Pauls – A central area of the city with a majority black population
- Bedminster – South of the river, home to many of Bristol’s young adult & creative residents
- Clifton Down – An area full of students
- Hotwells – A wealthier part of town full of historic buildings
From each of these areas I found and took one colour for my palette. I also added black and and off-white and the resulting palette looks like this:
Between these three elements, the colour palette, the typography and the architectural motifs I believe that I’ve managed to build a thoughtful brand identity that is truly reflective of Bristol and which will have a broad appeal to the city’s young adults.