Behind the design: Cyanotypes, Lego models and the brilliance of the sun for Paddington Central.

Paddington Central is a mixed-use development in London’s Paddington neighbourhood that features a captivating atmosphere and unique sense of place. Our team sought to capture the neighbourhood’s spirit and energy, resulting in a brand that embodies the area’s distinct character and charm. We delve into the innovative and exploratory design process behind visual identity.

Early expressions, tests and experiments.

A different everyday. 

With the strategy rooted in the idea of ‘launching into a different everyday’ locked in, the team set about exploring ways to bring that idea to life. 

Begin with play.

When we say go big, go wide - the team did just that. After numerous trips to the neighbourhood and canal, soaking up the atmosphere, it was time to bring that spirit to the studio. 

Our journey always begins by creating without judgment. To explore with freedom, allowing for uninhibited exploration and play, free from the constraints of a predetermined result. This approach led to the creation of Lego models, projections on buildings, and the fabrication of words that shift in visibility based on the viewer’s perspective.

Early sessions began with quick studies of what an ideal neighbourhood could be.
A wide range of styles, ideas, stories and ways to bring the campus to life.
From varied sketches to playing with ink and water.

“It all started with red bucket hats, paint-splattered hands, and cardboard sculptures.”

Sunlight reveals a story.

One early concept involved harnessing the power of the sun to reveal the Paddington Central ‘P’ symbol. Using of cyanotype paper and various natural materials, the team crafted striking forms that materialised over time, exuding a tactile and poetic quality. 

Location inspires exploration 

In a nod to the nearby canal, the team experimented with ink swirling in water, creating fluid abstractions that, when transferred to paper, captured the vibrant essence of Paddington Central. These dynamic patterns became integral components of the brand system, imbuing it with the energy and spirit of the locale.

“Once we were actually in Paddington Central’s environment, it just made sense to get hands-on and create naturally with what was around us. We projected textures and typography onto Lego sculptures of the spaces to see how they’d react. We cut out letters and watched how the water moved them. And we cast shadows using cardboard cut-outs to create an embedded sundial. It was like being let loose in a playground, and that freedom really shows through in the work.”

Jasmine Welsh, designer

Cyanotypes led to one approach that felt tactile and graphic.
A broad range of ideas included a P made from iron filings.
A Lego model of the amphitheatre captured the sense of the canal.

Make it real.

Within the heart of the campus lies a captivating sunken amphitheatre, which serves as both a central attraction and a gathering spot. Inspired by this architectural space, we constructed diminutive Lego models and cardboard expressions of the letter P. This allowed us to delve into the graphic form in a more intimately, paving the way for the development of a visual language.

As we brought the amphitheatre to life on a smaller scale, we experimented with projecting patterns and messages onto its surface, observing the interplay of light and shadow as they danced across the structure’s contours. This exercise encouraged us to ponder the concept of dimensionality and consider whether the brand could embody a sense of movement. A bird’s eye view of the Lego model revealed a fascinating resemblance to waves undulating across the canal, further emphasising the beauty and versatility of this space.

“Using the flashlight from an iPhone we cast shadows across the models and used that as inspiration for the motion and the idea that underpins the brand.”

Moving to the rhythm of water

A calming sense of motion was woven into the concept from dawn to dusk, resulting in a visual language that captures the canal’s serene essence. The team translated this fluidity into graphic shapes, typography that glimmers like the sun on the water’s surface, and the dynamic interplay of light and shadow. Further focussing on day-to-night direction we began to look at the ‘P’ symbol as a sundial and how that would interact with projected light. In motion this became a very graphic approach with the vibrant, yet calm colours bringing a warm, tactile quality that captured the approachable, sociable energy of the area.

A found plastic tray from Muji and black tape was used to create a shifting P.

The Spirit of Paddington Central

The process behind Paddington Central’s design is a testament to the power of play and exploration. The team took inspiration from the neighbourhood and canal, allowing the local atmosphere to infuse their work with a unique energy and spirit. By embracing freedom and unconstrained exploration, the team crafted visual elements using natural materials, sunlight, and ink swirling in water. Their use of diminutive Lego models and projections on the amphitheatre's surface offered intimate insights into the graphic form and dimensionality, ultimately leading to the development of a cohesive visual language. The design’s emphasis on fluidity and movement, inspired by the nearby canal, captures the serene essence of the area and reflects the neighbourhood’s character and charm.

Take a deeper look at the brand here.

Curating all of the ideas and why they work. Most of these sketches were left behind in favour of the simpler 'dawn to dusk' expression.
Jas, Maria, Leah and Tobi reviewing the strategy and creative principles.
The fragmented P, now part of the studio memorabilia.