Build is a creative agency based in Leeds. We recently caught up with their Founder and Creative Director, Michael C Place.
Having recently moved from London to Leeds, how do the design cultures differ between the two cities?
It’s very different, and to be honest we are still trying to work it out! Leeds is obviously much smaller than London, and in comparison, they don’t have as many design studios. It is probably on the map as being a much more digitally focused city, which we can see shifting due to its fast paced nature and constant change – which opens up some good design opportunities. Our London studio was in Walthamstow, which at the time of opening wasn’t at all trendy. In fact there were very few design studios choosing to set up there as most wanted to be in the Shoreditch/Old Street area of the City. But London is very good at self-promotion, and it has a design scene that is very well established. The North is still evolving and finding its feet in the way of design but there are some really great studios here that are producing some exciting stuff. People here are very friendly and are very happy to help out, which means there is a good level of camaraderie between studios, which is always great!
“The icon has an important use in that it is intended to act like a makers stamp.”
Can you explain the concept behind the Plæy logotype and icon?
Through conversations and meetings with Matt Kelly (the man behind Plæy) we identified that the ethos and outlook of the brand was modular, playful & simple. This fed directly into the wordmark which is made from a few elements arranged into letterforms (modular). The resulting forms due to the limited elements meant the mark was very playful. We really wanted the logo to be quite quirky too, so for instance not all the construction of the characters sit in a traditional way on the baseline. The simplicity aspect comes in the way the characters are formed. Matt is a super friendly guy and we wanted to make sure the mark reflected his personality. The icon was born out of the desire to give the brand a face (literally). We didn’t want the brand to feel cold, or unapproachable so we quickly settled on a very simple face icon, again made using the same elements the wordmark is constructed of. The icon has an important use in that it is intended to act like a makers stamp. So it needed to be very simple and will over time become synonymous with the brand.
What were the challenges faced when working with Nike on the new Track and Field identity?
This project went incredibly smoothly. We worked very closely with the Nike brand team in the project and it felt like we were both on the same wavelength from the word go. It isn’t always this way with clients, but it was a really good meeting of minds with both of us having a healthy respect for each other’s design and working process. The biggest challenge with projects like this is the handover of final assets and making them flexible (and simple) enough for people to take and use in a consistent manner. For this we came up with a simple kit of graphic elements that could be joined together to make something really dynamic. Working with Nike on this part was really invaluable, as the guys there really know the world of sport, and track and field specifically.
Do you have a studio process for approaching new projects?
It always seems to be different for most clients. Things that don’t change are conversation and dialogue. Conversation; talking is perhaps the most important part of the design process. Really getting to know the client and the world they operate, their dreams and frustrations. Dialogue; design isn’t done in isolation, it’s important to make sure the client is included throughout the process. All clients are different, some want a lot of input others not much at all.
“The interface is designed to be unobtrusive and very easy to use.”
What were the key things you set out to achieve with the design of Timothy Saccenti’s new website?
We’ve worked with Tim for quite few years now so there is a really good level of trust. This trust enables us to quickly interpret what Tim is after on new projects. Key things on Tim’s new site were that he wanted the main thumbnail view to feel very airy, and for it to not feel regimented in appearance. We worked with Chris How, our developer on the site who is able to pretty much tackle anything we throw at him. The projects overview page rearranges itself on refresh with each thumbnail changing in size and position. Tim also wanted the site to be able to accommodate motion, stills and 360/VR. The interface is designed to be unobtrusive and very easy to use. The site has a gallery on the landing page which Tim can change depending on what he wants people to see. The site of course is optimised for viewing on desktop, tablet and mobile. The updating of the site needed to be very simple as Tim is often away on shoots and wanted to be able to update, or change the site from his mobile if need be.
Do you think it’s important for a design studio to have well curated social media?
Absolutely. It’s something we are very keen to keep up to date and looking as good as it can be. We try to not only show our project work but things we are reading and seeing. It’s a mini portal into the studio and is intended to match our actual persona and interests. We predominantly use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Behance alongside our studio website. Instagram in particular is a platform we really enjoy using. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that cannot be underestimated. It’s also a very cool barometer in terms of seeing which projects people like and enjoy. We have always seen social media as a way for people to see a bit of the inner workings of the studio, which can often be seen as impenetrable when viewed from the outside. We try wherever possible to reply and interact with people who contact/ask questions, that’s really important to us.
Why did you decide to use shades of green as a part of Gavin Coyle’s identity?
We decided from the outset that although Gavin’s material of choice is wood, we didn’t want the identity to include natural warm tones of colour. The acid green, and tints of green were decided on after showing numerous different colour combinations. Gavin in particular loved the very light green, so we used that as a way to introduce the colour on his site without it being too distracting. We used the ‘full strength’ colour sparingly on the site, on links, about page, info pages and map marker. This colour was then used in these instances to draw the eye to key bits of information.
“The woodpecker seemed like a good choice for the logo; it felt like it needed to feel like a natural object and not a tool.”
Why does the geometric approach to the woodpecker logo and typography compliment his work?
The woodpecker logo actually came after the main identity was finished. We had always intended to design an icon but we wanted to get the main wordmark finished and then see how we could approach the icon. The woodpecker seemed like a good choice for the logo; it felt like it needed to feel like a natural object and not a tool. The geometric nature of the woodpecker felt right, as Gavin’s work is very precise. It’s not rustic woodworking! His eye, attention to detail and craft is really beautiful. We wanted the woodpecker to reflect that. We also felt that it softened the identity package as a whole. The woodpecker was then produced in two ways, a full version which was used as a stamp and for signage outside his workshop and the cropped version for use on Instagram, which is the only social media Gavin uses.
The logotype is a customised version of Larsseit, with the customisation being the chiselling of the A and L, and slight change of angle on the V and Y. The use of a geometric sans was something we wanted to use as it has a softer, more approachable feel, with the chiseling added to create a nice sharpness to the logotype. This is also intended to literally mimic a chisel, a tool used daily in his workshop.
What are your favourite types of project to work on?
Favourite projects in hindsight tend to be those where the subject matter is really interesting. Great examples being the show identity for Barber & Osgerby at the Design Museum, Gavin Coyle & Plaey identities as well as sleeves for Squarepusher and Darkstar (Foam Island is a huge favourite of mine). Alongside the subject matter, it’s really invigorating working with people who are really passionate about their work; people with a point of view; people who are doing their own thing. It’s great working with people who are super smart too, it pushes us to create even better work in response. It’s also great working with really good content. We also love working with people who come to us with an open mind.
Which pieces of work have stood out to you in recent months?
Art; really enjoying the work of Gavin Turk and the work of Richie Culver (check his copy based pieces at his ‘Things That Didn’t Really Work Out – Most Things’ exhibition). Also a big fan of Jon Ellery’s (from Browns) art/books.
Design; I have always been a big fan of pretty much anything North do. I’ve always had a massive interest in typography and typeface design, so am always on the lookout for new foundries and designers.