Responses by Jamie Ellul, creative director, Supple Studio
Background: Empress is one of the few litho printers left in central London, based in an ex-royal naval store in Woolwich Dockyard. For over thirty years, it has serviced the design community with high-end repro and beautiful finishing that’s won the printer many print awards and an enviable client list. It needed a new identity that better reflects its position as one of the most respected specialist printers and finishers in the United Kingdom—and one that appeals to its core audience of designers.
Reasoning: We worked closely with copywriter Jim K. Davies at totalcontent from the beginning of the project. He coined the phrase “London’s Print Royalty” to tie in with Empress’s name, location and impeccable service, which led us to the crown and E monogram idea. Which, in turn, sparked the thought of taking heraldic patterns and making them super graphic and modern.
Challenges: The website built by Mud. The identity is very bold and graphic on print items—a chance to show what Empress can do with foiling and even a specially mixed fluro ink—but on the website, we felt it was essential to let the portfolio of print work do the talking. Striking a balance where the Empress brand sits back a little and lets the portfolio of print work shine was key to the success of the design. The solution was hero imagery, which features Empress’s work laid out in a way that mimics the patterns within the brand.
Favorite details: The monogram. It’s a simple idea, but I always like a solution that involves turning something on its head a little to give an unexpected twist.
Visual influences: We actually looked more towards the luxury market for our inspiration on this. We felt the kind of print Empress produces is like a luxury product. Very well crafted and clean—and definitely not cheap—so we looked to watchmakers and high-end hotels for influences, rather than other print companies.
Specific demands: The client wanted an identity that would win a D&AD Pencil. That’s quite a demand! But in all seriousness, Empress hired us because we’re its target audience and because we’ve worked together on print projects for over eighteen years, since I was a junior designer at hat-trick design. The demand was to create an identity that we’d be engaged by. So far, it seems to have gone down well with the design community, and we hope it will fulfill its role and get more agencies to use Empress.