Responses by Javier Arizu, cofounder, Pràctica.
Background: Named after the family business established in the same neighborhood 70 years ago, P&T Knitwear is a family-owned independent bookstore, podcast studio, event space and café on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We created an identity that began with its old signage as a starting point. The identity appeals to locals and tourists visiting New York City—all of them book lovers, of course.
Design thinking: We transferred its main visual attributes into a system based on the structure of book spines, reinterpreting them as a communicative signaling tool. This way, we relied on a familiar strategy to readers as book-spine browsing, directing the identity to an unprecedented medium and solving signage, daily communications and merchandise all at once.
Challenges: Although being a new business, P&T Knitwear takes its name from founder Bradley Tusk’s grandfather’s old family business that happened to exist 70 years ago a few blocks away from its current location. Hymie Tusk and his business partner Mike Pudlo opened the original P&T Knitwear, a small shop selling sweaters and collared shirts at 37½ Allen Street in New York. The two men survived the Holocaust and met in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. They immigrated to the United States to create better lives for themselves and their families through sheer grit and hustle. While P&T Knitwear was a new brand, there was a strong emotional component to the history and legacy of the family business; for this reason, the brief demanded us to get close to its origins by means of its old sign.
The reality was that all we had as a reference was that image, which wasn’t high-res enough for us to actually rescue. Instead, we tried to capture the essence of that vernacular surrounding not only the original P&T Knitwear store but the neighborhood as well. The old sign and its context gave us strong cues on the typographic approach we went for, which touches on the Americana vernacular of gothic condensed typefaces (we used Publish Gothic Condensed Bold by PLAYTYPE); the vibrant red, yellow and black color palette; and ultimately, the visual system made out of blocks that sit on top of next to each other, like their old sign or the signs surrounding the store.
I think the biggest challenge was rescuing the old sign and revitalizing it for today’s audience. This ultimately meant we needed to come up with a visual system that let us solve many different needs the bookstore would have across different mediums: from interior signage to everyday social media and events communications—which, in the bookstore industry, relies heavily on author photography and book covers—to merchandising and other collateral. That’s the key of the project, to transform the old sign into a system capable of adapting to its needs in a way that also speaks to what the business does.
Favorite details: There are a bunch of applications that we love, such as the rug in the kids area, the bookmarks or the overall signage system with its custom-made red bookends; however, if there’s one piece that really summarizes the entire project, it would be the notebook. Taking the logotype as the entire spine, it closes up the circle of the entire project and gives a nod as to where everything comes from.