Since its inception in 2004, Rapha has garnered a reputation as a brand with a definite, slick design aesthetic. It’s one that’s earned it a whole host of fans, both in and outside of the world of cycling. With the launch of its new customisation platform and publication, insight into the brand’s approach and design guidelines are now available, providing the chance to understand all the minute decisions that go into forming such a consistent brand image.
The customisation platform, made in collaboration with London-based company Unmade, offers cycling teams and clubs access to over 300 Pantones, as well as “curated starting points” designed by Rapha, referencing the history of cycling. From these, infinite pattern and logo combinations are possible, allowing customers freedom over the look of their team’s kit.
Unmade proved to be the perfect collaborator for the project, Rapha having seen the work it had done for brands like Christopher Raeburn, Opening Ceremony and Farfetch. “It was intuitive and unlike anything we’d seen in the custom clothing marketplace before, and we thought ‘What if we could apply this approach to Rapha products?’,” Patrick Mafham, an art director at Rapha tells It’s Nice That.
Patrick and the rest of the Rapha team noticed that the “custom cycling apparel offering was generally antiquated, and there were commonly lots of tenuous loopholes the team had to jump through before being able to have any fun with design”. Their own customisation tool then emerged as a way to “simplify that and put design at the centre from the moment you begin”.
Alongside the tool itself, customers can gain an insight into Rapha’s design process via a publication distributed in its stores. As well unveiling part of the brand’s approach and ethos, the publication acts as a guide, allowing customers to work as designers themselves, and to make decisions in the same way Rapha’s designers would.
“Hours, weeks, months and years are poured into hairline details and research that legitimises Rapha products, not only to root them to cyclings history, but to proof them for the sport’s future and solve problems,” Patrick explains. “The large format print piece takes you through the milestones of the Rapha design process while you’re at a Custom studio in one of our Clubhouses.” There are six sections in the book – layouts, colour, typography, logos, patterns and starting points which chronologically guide users, “exposing the wellsprings of detail that can be exponentially unpacked before transitioning to [each] next stage”.
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