Week 2

Design Culture in my City

Okay, the second week of my MA is a little more thought provoking than last week, and I have to admit I have found it quite difficult!

We have to select 3 design practices that represent the ‘design culture’ in our city. For me, this is Basingstoke, Hampshire in the UK.

Basingstoke

I moved to Basingstoke in September 1998 after leaving University and accepting my first job offer at IBM. I was nervous about starting at such a huge company but also nervous about moving to a town I knew nothing about! I soon learnt that Basingstoke was known as ‘Boringstoke’, ‘Concrete Central’ and ‘The Doughnut City’ for its large number of roundabouts!

I remember driving on my first day along the ring road towards town and seeing the high rise building with the IBM logo at the top, in the distance, still not quite believing that I was going to work there.

At that time IBM had 2 or 3 buildings in Basingstoke along with other businesses located there including, The AA, Eil Lilly, Barclays, Sun Life Financial, GAME, Sony and Motorola. That is what I came to associate Basingstoke with – a hub for businesses. An over spill for London.

Whilst living there, did I ever have the thought that there was a culture of ‘design’ in Basingstoke – no, never!

Fast forward 22 years and things are very different. Do I now think that Basingstoke has a culture of ‘design’ – still no, but I do think that design (graphic, architecture and fashion) has changed Basingstoke considerably over the years and definitely for the better. The biggest change that took place, was when the shopping centre was redeveloped and ‘Festival Place’ was built. It opened on Tuesday 22nd October 2002.

More recently over 2018/19, Festival Place and The Malls have had further development and now it has its own ‘brand’, which I can’t help but notice each time I visit.

Signage, logo design, marketing material, tv advertising, interior design and interactive digital screens have all been developed for the shopping centre along with an updated and coloured co-ordinated car park – all under the one brand. It is fresh, up to date and adds an element of style to Basingstoke.

When thinking about this week’s task, I immediately thought about the re-design of Festival Place and assumed that a local design agency would have produced and completed the work.

My research led me to Air Design www.airdesign.co.uk, a design company based in central London who specialise in ‘Interior Design Solutions’. These are the guys that completed the rebrand for Festival Place – not a local company in Basingstoke!

Festival Place

They have a team of about 13 people – a mix of designers, interior designers, managers and directors. Their goal is “To create unique places that people enjoy and want to return to!”.

Looking at their portfolio they have rejuvenated shopping centres, riverbanks and markets all over the world, including UK, Egypt, China and Russia. It is clear that ‘Air Design’ have the knowledge and experience of rebranding and redeveloping shopping centres and it is understandable why they were chosen to rebrand Festival Place.

Does it matter that a London based company completed the rebrand for Festival Place? In this case, I don’t think so. If you can’t find what you need locally, you tend to go with reputation and expertise. And, to prove my point, they were one of the finalists for the ‘Creative Retail Awards’ in 2019 for the work completed on Festival Place.

Since the rebranding of Festival Place, I have noticed more of a push on ‘Branding’ around the area. Basingstoke and Deane Country Council have developed a brand called ‘Love Basingstoke’ which is across social media and various other advertising. It is also has a sub-brand called ‘BLove’ which is a music festival held in Basingstoke War Memorial Park annually (although cancelled this year due to COVID).

My local town has its own ‘brands’, which is setting itself apart from other towns and is very exciting! Where once, friends and family went to other towns to shop – it has been known that they have come to Basingstoke to shop too!

I struggled to think of what else would speak ‘Design Culture’ in Basingstoke but as I researched ‘Graphic Design’, I realised that there is quite a big design community in the area.

One design/marketing company that I know about and have been following on social media is ‘The Typeface Group’ – www.thetypefacegroup.co.uk

I began following them because I like the name and thought they may be a design agency that focused on the use of Typography. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, which asks the question ‘is how you name your company important?’. However, they specialise in ‘creative and cost-effective design and marketing services for SME’s’ and they are an all-female workforce.

They have a range of clients, predominantly in the south of England, across all sectors of business including, interior design, jewellery, local council, clothing and fitness.

From what I understand, they have built a team of women who are experts in their field, photography, copy writing, SEO, design and marketing, which allows them to offer a complete package for a potential ‘start up’ business or an ‘over-haul’ of an existing business.

The Typeface Group

My final choice for a design practice in my city, is ‘Point & Pixel’ – www.pointandpixel.co.uk
I really like the name and think it fits perfectly with what they do – Graphic Design! I also like their website – I thought it was simple and clean and very easy to use. Similarly, to The Typeface Group, they have a pool of individuals who specialise in certain areas, describing on their site:

‘Unlike most ‘agencies’ we work as a collective of individuals that each contribute unique talents and expertise as and when required. We recognise that different projects require different skills and think you should only have to pay for the services relevant to your project. Working this way means you have direct access to the people doing the work and it allows us the freedom to be more flexible and versatile when working with our clients.’

They mostly produce branding and websites for clients which include furniture design, event catering, rent a beach hut and science training courses – a nice variety.

Point & Pixel

The three ‘Design Production’ companies that I would like to choose for my local area are:

The Liquorice Press – theliquoricepress.co.uk
Greenhouse Graphics – greenhousegraphics.co.uk
Image Evolution – image-evolution.co.uk

All three of these companies are printers based in or around the Basingstoke area and I have visited and used them at one time or another.

Printers

They are all very different and specialise in specific areas. The Liquorice Press is known for Letterpress and Litho printing. Greenhouse Graphics for sustainable printing and Image Evolution for digital printing only. Each are based in very different locations one in a business park, one in the country and one in the town.

I now live about 3 miles outside Basingstoke in a village called Oakley, where I have my own design business. I have given thought to the name of my business, my premises, my location, my clients and what effect it all has on my business. I may not be a huge agency in the centre of London but reflecting on a quote taken from our lecture this week, Maziar Raein says:

“The endless websites where you can scroll, you can see what’s going on anywhere in the world, means that local practice has been almost ignored. I think that there are young designers that are being ignored. I call it micro utopias. I see lots of young people really interested, not changing the world but their little bit of the world, what they can change in a positive way. They are interested in collaborating with each other.”

I may not be changing the world, but here in Oakley, I am making a difference and having a small mark on the design culture in my own little part of Hampshire.

Some big questions have been asked this week that really require more thought and investigation. The final question asked is ‘name 4 evolutionary design steps?’

I am going to answer this as just the 4 steps and hope that I can come back at a later date to discuss and research them in further detail.

The Gutenberg Press (1450) – The Apple Macintosh Computer (1984) – The Internet (1991) – Social Media (1997)

 


References