Responses by Patrick Eley, creative director, DNCO.
Background: Silvertown is an East London neighborhood at the heart of the regeneration of the Royal Docks, a riverside industrial district. Nothing to do with silver, the neighborhood is named after the industrialist who developed factories in the area and, having lain dormant for decades since the closure of the docks in the 1980s, is currently being transformed into a new town center. Our work was to give the place a recognizable identity for Londoners.
Design thinking: To ensure the brand felt true to the history and future of the place itself, we focused on the incredible heritage structures still standing by the waterside and central to the area’s revitalization. The Millennium Mills—a derelict flour mill—is at the heart of Silvertown and has featured as the backdrop to numerous films and music videos over the years, from Spider-Man to Paddington 2. Inspired by the tiled lettering on the mill, we used the graphic components to build a bespoke typeface and create dynamic patterns. It was a simple yet powerfully effective way of threading Silvertown’s industrial character through the whole brand.
Challenges: Restraining ourselves! It’s sometimes easy to overcook an idea, but this was an exercise in keeping the original concept pure and not adding too many layers. As the project progresses, there will be a time to add detail and greater richness, but the foundations we’ve built ensure a coherent visual language.
Visual influences: Most designers love modularity; it seems to appeal to our sense of order and structure yet enables us to express that competing artistic desire for flexibility and individuality. Creating modular systems is often a goal as it future-proofs a concept and reduces the number of decisions that need to be made when designing something further down the line.
The lettering on Millennium Mills is a beautiful example of its type: raised tiles elegantly integrated into the fabric of the building. Their industrial character was the perfect starting point for a rigid yet highly expressive system. From letters to icons and super-graphic animations, the modular structure creates recognizable and unique forms that are endlessly malleable.
We didn’t set out to make an exact replica of what was on the building. A pastiche would have been rigid and unfeeling. But by using the concept as a guide, we were able to create a type system that was more functional and adaptable, ranging from condensed to extended letterforms that were all drawn with a cohesive approach.
Specific project demands: Perhaps the project’s biggest challenge was making sure that the new brand would also fit comfortably within the master brand of the developer. We needed to create an identity inspired by the area but would fit into a wider family of brands. Creating harmony between two competing systems isn’t always easy, but the modular shapes of the Silvertown identity were the key to bridging the different graphic systems.