Ali Hanson designs an identity for Hyht that references British design heritage without falling back on nostalgia
The London-based creative director and designer talks us through future-facing visual identity for Hyht, revealing the many pleasing idiosyncrasies that help tell the brand’s story.
- Ruby Boddington
- 28 September 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Hyht is a new knitwear brand, launched by Caroline Fay-Fright, aiming to revive the wool industry in the UK. There are 30 million sheep in the British Isles and up to 72 native breeds, yet the price of wool in Britain has been steadily falling since the 1950s when synthetic fibres inundated the market. Farmers today are paid pennies for fleeces, often not even enough to cover the cost of shearing, so wool is uncollected, buried and burned or simply left to rot. Caroline, therefore, saw an opportunity to replenish an industry while creating high-quality garments that are ethical, long-lasting and transparently produced while most importantly, offering an alternative to fast fashion.
There’s often an aesthetic to sustainability, especially within fashion, but Hyht’s branding – designed by independent creative director and designer Ali Hanson – eschews this. It’s clean, fresh and exciting, pulling from the past and the heritage of British design to inform a contemporary visual identity. It uses the core principles of Hyht as a brand to directly inform typographic choices and art direction and, in turn, it’s not only apt but overflowing with pleasing idiosyncrasies too.
Driving the creative direction of the brand from the onset was Hyht’s boundary to source materials and produce garments: the British Isles. That same boundary set the parameters for where Ali looked for inspiration so there are nods to the processes used to create the brand’s garments and the locations in which they’re produced. For example, littered throughout Hyht’s visuals are abstract graphics and a code referencing the OS coordinates and the landscapes that the wool was sourced from. “Alongside this was Hyht’s purpose to help revive a struggling industry in the UK, so ‘revival’ became a big consideration and throughout the branding, we are looking to ‘revive’ aspects of visual communication and culture associated with the British Isles,” Ali adds. “I didn’t want anything to feel nostalgic, though. Hyht is working with some materials and processes that have existed for a long time, but it was really important for the brand to feel fresh and future-facing.”
One example of design “revival” can be seen in the logotype, which was directly inspired by a trip Ali took to St Bride, a library primarily devoted to printing, book arts, typography and graphic design. “[It] allowed me to look through over 30 books of past British type foundries, some dating back 100s of years,” he explains. “I documented so many interesting letterforms from my visit and this became the inspiration for the style of lettering I drew for the logotype.” The result is dynamic and unusual, its geometric aesthetic feeling like the perfect blend of gothic and contemporary type styles. A merging of the old and new; much like Hyht’s ethos.
The primary typeface Ali opted for is Helveesti by Dinamo. It presented as the best option as it’s a “clean, contemporary typeface that connected to the brand in some way,” in essence because of its “sharp, pointed edges, which I liked as it connected to the ‘prickly’ feel of wearing a new woollen jumper.” And there are yet other ways Hyht’s identity expresses its personality. For the emblem, Ali combined the style of the lettering used for the lowercase “h” in the logotype with “the idea of a yarn connecting together to form an uppercase ‘H’.” Then when working with Helveesti, he searched for ways to connect any words with double letters to draw similarities between the primary typeface and the logotype, again, inspired by the typographic styles he discovered at St Bride. “This is evident in some of the regularly used brand words including ‘wool’, ‘woollen’ and ‘locally’,” Ali outlines.
Finally, the photography and casting proved to be a space to visualise the stories behind the brand. Ali worked with photographer Jack Johnstone and set designer Imogen Frost to create a series of images highlighting the six properties of wool. Jack also took on shooting the collection in a more traditional product sense to ensure everything had a “unified look and feel”. Even this turned into an opportunity to create meaningful work though. Collaborating with Laura Vartiainen, who lead the casting and styling, they wanted to shoot the collection worn by people who align with the brand in some way. You’ll therefore spot illustrator Joey Yu, chef Lori de Mori, artist Connie Harrison and nutritionist Lola Ross sporting the debut collection.
On the mission of Hyht, Caroline adds that the brand is “built on the principles of slow fashion and challenging always-on consumerism when it comes to our clothes. That’s why the British Isles are our boundary – it isn't about national pride or patriotism – it’s about overcoming the frustration that, when we now need to be more thoughtful about our impact on the planet, it’s almost impossible to buy clothes locally. Public understanding about local food has started to shift in the last 20 years – we see it with local markets and 25-mile restaurant menus. We’re far from this way of thinking when it comes to the clothes we wear.” Hyht, hopefully, is going to change that.
Ali Hanson: Hyht, photography by Jack Johnstone (Copyright © Jack Jonhstone, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.