Insight

Behind the design: The Grand Press.

Join us as we dive into our process to develop The Grand Press brand – from the monumental structure with ink splattered walls, to utilitarian signage that inspired the identity and design system.

The Printworks building in Canada Water has long been an integral part of London’s cultural landscape, from printing the Daily Mail and Evening Standard from 1989 until 2013, to cultural venue Printworks London opening its doors in 2017. As the city evolves, so has the iconic structure; now British Land are redeveloping the industrial building as a world-class destination called The Grand Press, with plans for the cultural venue to remain as well. We worked with the British Land team to create a brand for The Grand Press that embodies both the rich heritage of the site and the ambition for its future. This is how we did it.

A building with magnitude.

We visited the building many times, taking hundreds of photos of the long, labyrinthine corridors, the epic concrete columns with splatters of paint and the intricate, overlapping pipework. It was a journey into the past, uncovering the layers of story baked into the building. The different colours, the contrast of materials, the weathered surfaces fused with the utilitarian and functional machinery were incredibly inspiring. The scale of it all is hard to quantify.

Experimenting with projections, models and textures.

Our initial exploration led us to the building's print heritage and looking at authentic textures that could be used in new and modern ways. The dramatic, graphic and angular shape of the building itself was also something we explored. Lorenzo, one of our designers, made a sturdy card model of the building and we used it to find interesting angles which led to some striking graphic compositions that we could fill with colour, images and type: a strong visual metaphor for the energy inside the building. 

We projected various textures, animated typography and fields of colour onto the surface of the building model – then photographed and filmed the mini-installation to create an immersive visual expression. Making it real, blending digital and tactile surfaces, felt artistic and moved away from a purely flat aesthetic. It became one of the approaches that we developed further, and informed our vision for the brand.

"It was important that the typeface had a similar visual presence to that of The Grand Press. GT Cinetype is bold, graphic and utilitarian, reminiscent of the found signage and angles of the building’s facade."
Agata Walas-Popiel, Designer, DixonBaxi
We explored the dramatic, industrial shape of the building to create a graphic canvas.
Projecting type, colour and texture to evoke the feeling of The Grand Press.
Starting with simple, graphic forms and real textures.
Projecting the brand led to ideas for clothing and interaction.

Inspired by beautifully functional signage.

There were signs everywhere in the building. Signs for warnings, directions, machinery, pipework, levels, buttons, exits, entrances and countless other things, all pressed into plastic with a striking, industrial look. The signage was so undesigned, it felt truly beautiful in its functional simplicity. 

There was one sign in particular, that demarcated the zone and levels in the building, that stood out. A simple circle with two lines dividing it into three parts. As much as a striking graphic icon, it felt like a good metaphor for the different facets of the building. And it's that sign that led to the development of a deceptively simple logo.

The logo became the foundation for a brand system with a distinct and pure utilitarian look and, in the end, this was the approach that felt right for The Grand Press. A black and white palette with dashes of colour drawn from the building itself, a typeface with faceted edges reflecting the angles of the building with an industrial feel, lots of white space and a simple, flexible grid structure, and the contrast between huge scale and crafted detail all became motifs within the brand.

Every surface was a piece of art – we had to capture that in the brand.
Colour inspired by the building, translated to hex, RAL and Pantone.

"The colour palette comes directly from the space. It’s inspired by the iron, concrete and stone throughout the original structure, with Grand Green a lasting reference to the original cladding and the complimentary Press Orange a reference to the refurbishment."
Libby Tsoi, Senior Designer, DixonBaxi

Making it real.

To capture the essence of the brand, we decided to create a physical object with heft. More than guidelines, we designed a tactile manual with different papers, translucent sheets, all inside a square case, infused with the same industrial aesthetic as the building and the brand. The team experimented with a variety of sizes, first quite small, and then scaling it up which felt better. It was really a focused team effort to craft every page and detail – a designer's dream. The book marks the building’s history in print, ensuring that anyone shaping its future engages with its heritage as they do so.

"Every choice surrounding The Grand Press book was made with preserving heritage in mind, from the archival feel of the ring-bound casing, to the different paper stocks and tactility of the cover."
Aja Abrahams, Producer, DixonBaxi

Alongside the guidelines, we created a launch film with the help of Greenaway & Greenaway. We filmed part of it in the studio, with light projections of typography, textures, and colours onto different surfaces and people - Eliot, one of our senior producers, and Libby, one of our senior designers, to be exact. These moments became part of a nonlinear, abstract but evocative film with a dramatic, electronic and orchestral soundtrack. We built the film up over a number of weeks, creating a framework and intuitively crafting the compositions and juxtapositions of messaging, colour and sound. Then we fused key film beats with the lighting at Printworks to stage an epic launch event with the film projected on the 12x4ft vertical screen. It was thrilling to see and feel the brand come to life, filling out the iconic Press Halls in front of over 500 guests.

Special thanks to Alex Maclean, Head of Marketing, Canada Water, British Land.

Sketches and test prints of the guidelines.
The Press Halls next to a colour test proof that echoes the industrial feel.
Staying true to the stories within the building.

Take a deeper look at the design here. Or, check out the launch event.