Magpie’s identity for London’s epic new Design District shines a spotlight on its residents

The branding is designed to have “visual neutrality” using a frame to bring many different creative businesses under the same roof.

Date
14 December 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

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The vast Design District development on London’s Greenwich Peninsula represents an epic financial investment – and therefore a vote of confidence – in the city’s creative community at a crucial time. Due to complete in spring 2021, it will provide permanent and affordable workspace for up to 1,800 creatives plus a members’ club, food hall and string of public spaces across a whopping 16 buildings, designed by eight top-class architects including Selgas Cano and 6a. Behind the brand identity is Magpie Studio, a London practice with a history of branding for creatively led organisations such as the Roundhouse, Channel 4 and Wayne McGregor, and a concept that allows the creative businesses who take up the studio space to take visual priority.

The identity is based on the core purpose of the development, to “build a thriving home for ideas,” so the symbol is the simple shape of a house, which flipped on its side and multiplied becomes a ‘fast-forward’ double chevron. Beyond that, the identity features a framework within which the businesses and their own branding and information can sit, which puts them in the spotlight. This was vital to the identity, finding a careful balance between a memorable identity and one that can also sit in the background. “I like the idea of the district retaining a visual neutrality,” Magpie creative partner David Azurdia explains to It’s Nice That. “When you consider the diversity of content that will sit alongside the brand, championing creativity in all its manifestations, it makes complete sense for the brand to embrace simplicity. Equally, this isn’t just creative for creatives. With an audience that stretches from government ministers to O2 gig-goers, a clean, bold and simple aesthetic made most sense.”

To do this, Magpie approached the brand as if it were a gallery, designing an identity that could sit with “quiet confidence” behind great works of art. Azurdia says he loved the “controversial” rebranding of Stedelijk Museum invited Mevis & Van Deursen. “At the time, it drew criticism for its simplicity, but it was always intended to give precedence to the art.” Though here, Magpie has worked with “more characterful” typography in Colophon Foundry’s Mabry, “the principal of supporting, not obscuring, the output from the District defined our approach,” he says.

The graphic device is dynamic and adaptable to any canvas, from fly posters to Instagram posts, and can be used to contain and amplify images and information. The content in the frame appears to be projected on to the foreground, while in its ‘beam’ lies the Design District branding and a range of textures and colours. This palette is drawn from the buildings themselves and the potential creative processes that will be taking place within, with tones of clay, ink, leather and paper, and textures of brushstrokes, marbling, textiles and particles.

Overall the identity looked to be inclusive for the community that will be supported and hopefully thrive here. “I see Design District as a development delivered by long-termists,” Azurdia comments. “Nobody could have predicted the year we’ve had, but I see this as a deliberate move to safeguard the legacy of British creativity. So that tomorrow’s Dysons, Heatherwicks and Westwoods can get a foothold in this frenetic, beautiful, expensive, inspiring city of ours.

“For me, it’s an acknowledgement that British innovation plays a key role in defining our national identity, and bolstering our economy. That we’ve got something here that’s worth protecting.”

GalleryMagpie Studio: Design District identity (Copyright © Design District, 2020)

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Magpie Studio: Design District identity (Copyright © Design District, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent over a decade working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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