Ashley Kinnard’s identity and typeface for underwear brand OR ELSE is “Bauhaus with feelings”
Hand-crafting fun, colourful and sustainable underwear, London-based makers OR ELSE pride themselves on the quality of their garments, the comfortable experience of wearing them, and the uniqueness of each item – undergoing a hand-dying process in the creation of each piece. Requiring an identity that matches not only the enthusiasm for process but also the tone of the products themselves, OR ELSE turned to London-based designer Ashley Kinnard who has subsequently achieved as much and more.
In line with the hand-crafted nature of OR ELSE, Kinnard created a bespoke typeface for the identity; one that’s beautiful aberrations and unusual, yet immediately striking, construction mirrors the personality and vibrancy of the brand itself – achieving a playfulness without falling into naivety and crudeness.
“The product reminded me of the Bauhaus,” Kinnard explains, finding comparisons between “the visual form of the product, the craft and the processes involved” in Bauhaus, and the small-batch production, natural dye and shibori techniques used by OR ELSE. “When playing around with initial ideas I noticed that a serif looks like some pants,” Kinnard tells us, setting out to create a typeface that is abundant with, if not purely, serifs. “It was almost an experiment against the Bauhaus whereby I salvaged all of the serifs they cut off their letters,” he recalls, “and then used them to construct a font using Bauhaus principles,” simply adding, “it’s Bauhaus with feelings.”
With the resulting typeface as strong as it is, Kinnard began to apply individual characters in isolation, such as the “unintentional” use of the question mark glyph as OR ELSE’s logo. “It’s a very beautiful character even though it breaks the rules with the dot,” Kinnard explains, using Clarendon Light Extra Wide as the supporting typeface across the identity due to its similarly distinctive and prominent serifs. “Conceptually it synthesises a few ideas without being too obvious or too boring,” Kinnard adds, whilst not being too contrary and distracting from the incredibly vivid colours and constriction of the clothes.
Similarly, Kinnard’s choice of colour is purely monochromatic in order to not take away emphasis from the products, whilst simultaneously drawing in the audience’s attention. “It was also a bit of a reaction against a trend in graphic design at the moment to clumsily use a few bright block colours in combination in a sort of slick but lo-fi attempt,” Kinnard adds, “don’t get me wrong it looks good but it’s driving me a little mad,” concluding, “they know who they are.”