Celebrating craft: Jeremy Matthews and Brett Wickens’ identity for Refractory honours physicality
When asked to describe their approach to messaging for Chicago-based furniture, lighting and object design studio Refractory, designer Jeremy Matthews simply states, “big, bold and authentic.” Setting the tone for the collective identity and strategy, made alongside designer and photographer Brett Wickens. Leading the charge, Refractory’s composed wordmark exemplifies the collaborative relationship between craft and craftsmen; featuring an inverted ‘R’ that takes the place of the title’s ‘y.’ The character is then also used in isolation as a maker’s mark throughout the expanded system.
Embracing Refractory’s confidently contemporary and ‘distinctly American’ design approach, the identity realises and honours its physicality, shaping an ultimately tactile and typographically textural brand. “The primary brand typeface is Founders Grotesk Condensed by Klim Type Foundry,” Matthews details, introducing a timeless tone indicative of the company’s own design philosophies.
“I chose Founders because it feels both contemporary and classic,” he continues, “which reflects Refractory’s work process of layering traditional methods with modern tools,” again contributing to the sense of craftsmanship at the brand’s core. “Founders also looks durable and strong,” Matthews concludes, “which felt appropriate for artisans specialising in foundry processes such as metalwork and casting.” A context that further inspired Mattews and Wickens’ use of yellow as the feature colour due to its appearance in the sulphur crystals and powders found in furnaces and kilns.