Designers are rarely presented by an opportunity too exciting to turn down, especially when their time will be entirely donated. However for Sheffield based design studio Side by Side, this is exactly what young person’s literary charity Grimm & Co offered when they approached them to brand, design and build a ‘Magical Apothecary’.
This Apothecary will function as a mentoring space to help children tap into their imagination through writing workshops, so Oliver Booth and David Greasley from Side by Side set out on a design which inspires creativity. They were given a blank canvas and free reign to transform the Rotherham shop into a totally immersive experience, transporting visitors back into a story set in 1148. Grimm & Co. founder Deborah Bullivant said of the duo;
“We told Side by Side our aspirations, a work of fiction which they turned into fact. Our brief was complicated – 2 sets of customers (magical and real), a background story set in 1148, a fictional character presiding over all and a mission to create a brand which would raise much needed funds for our children’s charity.
Side by Side worked with us and whittled our vision into an authentic personality, which is unique yet classic, no-fuss yet stunning. Their expertise is unsurpassable in holding us to our story – helping us to build our identity into a world-class image beyond anything we had imagined for ourselves... and then they went a step further and created it!”
The venture allowed the small studio to develop a lot of skills, and soon turned from a portfolio piece to an addictive project. The branding spiralled around the fictional owner of the emporium – ‘Graham Grimm’, who with help of League of Gentlemen writer Jeremy Dyson was created to direct a narrative approach to the creative process. The formation of an actual character gave a strong basis to build an identity on which to base the branding and design;
“The backstory we created included lines like ‘Sandpaper, Spit & Sausages for Tea.’ which we thought gave a great insight to how Grimm would have ran his business. We constantly had to ask ourselves ‘Would Graham have done it like that?’ We’d portrayed him as an ill-tempered, hard-grafting, thrifty chap, so those traits had to flow through everything, from the hand-torn packaging, to the up-cycled interior.”
With a strong focus on authenticity, Side by Side managed to highlight the importance of storytelling in branding, which in turn should capture the imaginations of visitors to the apothecary. As the charity is funded by the magical (but very real) shop selling everything from “wild schemes to kitchenware”, the interior had to reflect the story to the tiniest of details. Booth says ‘to follow on from the overarching story we created, the products celebrate imperfection. Some are misaligned and the ‘Extract of Genius’ is spelt wrong on a few labels. It was surprisingly hard to design things incorrectly!”
The launch of the eagerly anticipated Apothecary
Side-Side poured over £100,000 worth of time into the project, and even reached out to local artists and makers to build the stock of the shop. The design ignites wonder and awe to those who enter, and was a perfect way for a studio who built a career on creativity to help arouse the creative streak in the younger generation.