Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Designers Republic

Sheffield-based The Designers Republic were shut this week by what is effectively a perfect storm in the advertising world - they lost a few major pitches, a client owed them a massive amount of money, a huge tax bill came through that should've been rectified and they lost a couple of clients. You're pretty much dead in the water if one or two of those happen but if all four occur at the same time then you're done.

When I was at Michaelis, everyone in the Design & New Media department idolised Designers Republic simply because they were doing everything that we wanted to do, namely working with cutting-edge record labels on artwork where money wasn't an object (to a degree). I mean who doesn't want to work for Warp? 23 years in the business has seen them work from a multitude of clients that most agencies would give their front teeth to have, and especially have those same clients who pretty much gave them free reign which is almost unheard of. They were anti-establishment but at the same time they did embrace brash consumerism and this juxtaposition lead to arresting work that still catches the eye all of these years later. This is of course the agency that had the balls to open their own shop in Shibuya, The Peoples Bureau For Consumer Information™, in an area that is so heavily trafficked ideal space isn't the easiest to come by and did so with aplomb.

They've designed everything from record sleeves to the packaging for Wipeout to their own Swatch watch to rebranding an entire city, Quito in Ecuador, not bad, eh? How you ever get the chance to rebrand a city is beyond me. In an age where cutting-design slowed down and because dull and monochromatic they stepped forward and produced work that at times felt like someone was eating your brain out with a spoon - check the Aphex Twin 'Windowlicker' cover for further proof - and for that I salute them but this may just be a turning point in tDR story as Ian Anderson's parting words do give me a glimmer of hope that this great design institution hasn't had its last laugh just yet - "I’m looking out the window and it’s a lovely sunny day - as it always is in Sheffield - and I think there are a lot of plus points. The Republic is dead… long live the Republic."

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