Bringing history to life with design
Four months ago
Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to work on a wide range of design projects for a diverse range of clients. Taking a stroll down memory lane through our archives recently, I was pleasantly reminded of just how many incredible briefs we have worked on, from branding to bus-backs, signage to sweat shirts, and websites to wobblers – we even designed the graphics for an Australian GTP Production Car! Not long before the GFC, there was even talk of designing a helicopter for one of our clients, but sadly that never got off the ground…!
As designers, the projects we love the most include a true partnership with our client, as well as the time and space for research and thinking. When this combination takes place, the results always speak for themselves.
We have especially cherished several unique projects, which have all had a historical basis. With each of these projects, we were given the opportunity to fully research the specific time in history and the cultural influences and visual style of the era in order to develop a creative response appropriate for a modern context and a specific target audience. In each case, we also worked collaboratively with our client and shared a common vision and in each case, the results have stood the test of time.
Tramsheds Harold Park
In 2016, Mirvac Retail commissioned us to develop the visual identity for Tramsheds Harold Park.
Formerly known as the Rozelle Tram Depot and one of Sydney’s lost treasures, Mirvac was lovingly restoring it to its former glory from its long-term derelict state. It was to become home to a range of restaurateurs and providers and one of Sydney’s most dynamic food destinations.
Completely taken with the story of this building and its former lives, we found ourselves immersed in a very absorbing research phase, which commenced with a visit to The Sydney Tramway Museum in Loftus in the Sutherland Shire.
Originally built in 1904, it was the second largest tram depot in Sydney during the ‘Golden Era’ of public transport in Sydney in the 1950’s. in 1958, the government of the day made the unpopular decision to phase out trams and invest in a ‘one-man’ bus system due to traffic congestion caused by the rise of privately-owned cars. The tram tracks and overhead wiring were quickly removed and there is now little evidence of the huge network which once criss-crossed Sydney.
We gladly immersed ourselves in researching this period in Sydney’s history and uncovered a wealth of visual and thematic detail to inform our design approach.
The unique chamfered-edged typography on the original scrolls used to indicate each tram’s destination was refined and incorporated into the logotype, as was its distinctive stitching. The symbols used to indicate each tram line also were incorporated into the design of the stylised destination scrolls we designed to feature the names of each restaurant and provider at Tramsheds. We also created a primary colour palette based on Sydney’s extensive tram line system.
We will always be very proud of playing a part in continuing the story of this iconic building and we will always carry a sense of nostalgia for this bygone era in Sydney’s history.
The Mill House, Melbourne
In 2014, we were briefed to develop the name and visual identity for the basement bar of 277 Flinders Lane in Melbourne. During our initial research phase, we uncovered a dramatic true story about three generations of the Degraves family which informed every detail of the visual language of the venue.
Brothers William and Charles Degraves constructed the building as a flour mill in 1851 so the name, ‘The Mill House’ was chosen. We then explored the decorative typographic styles of this era favoured by the emerging nouveau riche in defiance to the austerity of the industrial revolution to create an authentic link to the building. The logo we designed represents the visual excess of the Victorian era while standing alone as a contemporary word mark.
We also developed pictograms to symbolise words or parts of words as word puzzles were a popular form of entertainment in Victorian times. This became part of the overall visual identity and they are still used to entertain patrons and to inspire promotions.
We also designed an eclectic range of signage and placemaking installations to create a unique sense of place within the large-scale venue, to tell the story of the Degraves family and to honour the history of the building.
Working on this unique project so collaboratively with our amazing client was not only a rewarding project with a successful outcome, it was also a wonderful period in our own history as our studio. We were fully immersed in all things Victorian – including lettering, collectibles, costumes, language, naughty past times! – and we all learnt to communicate in pictograms!
The rich and colourful story of the Degraves family that we uncovered continues to inspire and inform those who visit The Mill House today.
In 2007, we won the pitch to design the branding for Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill. The brand and visual identity was built around a Mexican wrestling character – a luchador – and based on the overall visual style of Mexican wrestling advertising posters from the 1960s.
The textured typographic style was also used to reflect this style and to capture the rustic nature of Mexican culture during that era.
This unique identity was designed to position Mad Mex as a provider of truly authentic Mexican food through the use of other authentic cultural influences. The signature Mad Mex Mask environmental graphic seen in every Mad Mex venue also forms the visual language of the brand and contains the brand messaging, Defender of Freshness and Fighting for Flavour.
To ensure the visual identity evolved in an authentic manner as more Mad Mex restaurants were opened, we created a graphic style that was also based on original Mexican, hand-painted signage.
We designed Spanish advertising slogans, which were hand-painted onto unfinished surfaces within various tenancies to convey the brand’s core values of freshness, flavour and authenticity.
As Mad Mex has grown from its first restaurant in Crown St, Sydney to a thriving chain of 60 today, the visual language in each store has remained fairly consistent and true to its origins and the rich cultural heritage of Mexico continues to inspire the brand over the last decade.
For more information about these projects, please visit these links: