We headed over to the he highly anticipated opening of Grand Central Birmingham yesterday to see what all the fuss is about. We were 2 of around 54,000 people who had flocked to the grand opening.
The building itself is absolutely beautiful. It has taken over 5 years to construct and has cost around £150 million. It truly is a new landmark building for Birmingham. With the stunning stainless steel facade wrapping around the entire building and the amazing new roof floods the atrium space with natural light. It is the largest covered space in the whole of the city centre, and is as high as eight double decker buses!
We were spoilt for choice for shops and restaurants to explore, as there are more than 60 housed underneath the beautiful glass roof. From the long anticipated opening of John Lewis to Cath Kidson. If you are peckish whilst waiting for your train you are spoilt for choice from Cocomacs, who specialise in providing a mouthwatering range of freshly baked coconut macaroons to include traditional, Belgian milk, dark and white chocolate to Pho restaurant who are a family-run, authentic Vietnamese street food restaurant specialising in pho noodle soup – the national dish of Vietnam. To name just 2.
There was a true buzz of excitement and we completely forgot that we were at a train station.
This is a massive boost to the local economy and the redevelopment is a key project for the city, stimulating economic growth, it has also provided one of the best-connected retail spaces in the country. It is now a light and airy travel retail destination that you would want to spend time in rather than a dark concrete expanse of a train station with a dreary array of shops sprinkled in.
And to top it all off they even have prosecco on tap!!
Loving these cute beauty boxes that seem to be cropping up everywhere, they have been around for a little while but still so pretty. Glossybox and birchbox are both beauty box businesses that send miniatures to customers which are neatly packaged in the company’s namesake cardboard boxes.
Glossybox is a beauty treat, you pay a monthly subscription and get a beautiful wrapped parcel sent to your doorstep with 5 surprise beauty products.
Beauty, like packaging is about emotion, discovery and inspiration. Glossybox strive to create a special beauty experience that enhances all these elements for you, they also commission illustrators and fashion houses to create beautiful designs for limited edition boxes which you can keep for all your bits and pieces after… Perfect!
Morris kitchen is a Brooklyn based company that began with a simple idea to create and share food. They produce some outstanding cocktail mixers and syrups for the home mixologist as well as high end bars and restaurants. But its what the products come in that we have fallen in love with.
The kraft box, with intricate, delicate and beautifully illustrated fruits and vegetables, the clean sophisticated type in black and white with a pop of colour just makes us smile.
Spring has well and truly sprung and with it comes new beginnings. For boxer, our new beginning starts with a move to Birmingham City Centre to energise and fuel our creativity.
This season brings a world of possibilities and excites all of the senses.
What puts the spring in your step and what makes you think positively about new possibilities and the future?
Christmas – it’s still the biggest holiday season in our calendar and the one that creates much anticipation year on year.
Many of us have seen the latest John Lewis ads, which created warm, fuzzy feelings as a young boy gifted his toy penguin Monty a companion, identified with the Mulberry ‘BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER’ advertisement and felt our opinions divided by the Sainsbury’s tribute to World War One.
At this time, when many familiar archetypes – the Creators, the Magicians and the Jesters take over our retail environments, we went out and about to Soak It Up™ and enjoy the festive offerings some of our best retail stores have to offer. Here’s what we saw and what we thought:
Harrods – the land of make believe
A land of enchantment – silver birches, toy soldiers, a rotating ballerina, a carousel and uniformed mice in Harrods colours brings the archetypal talents of the Creator’s skill and imagination to life. A touch of the Jester delivers total joy – the attention to detail is a marvel. Everywhere you look there’s a little mouse polishing the jewellery, or a nutcracker selling, well, basically nutcrackers. Snow falls in every window and of course Santa Claus makes an appearance with his flying reindeer alongside a pirouetting ballerina. It’s magical.
Harvey Nichols – an enchanted forest
The story of sisters Snow White and Rose Red comes alive in the enchanted forest in Knightsbridge. Metallic tree trunks inject colour into a dramatic scene of woodland creatures who are dressed by courtesy of the fashion house collections of McQueen and Maison Martin Margiela. A touch of genius includes the application of moss to the street outside of the store, inviting and drawing people into the magical scenes within. Demonstrating the Explorer’s motto ‘don’t fence me in’, Harvey Nichols presents a grown up and seductive sense of Gothic for the season.
Selfridges – Storytelling
As Brand Storytellers ourselves, we adore the way that Selfridges brings brands and experiences to life. Linda Hewson, Selfridges’ creative director said: ‘This year, we have gone back to the simple pleasure of a great story well told and have decided to celebrate the art of storytelling’. (Source: the Guardian). Stories are certainly everywhere – Rumpelstiltskin in golden splendour, Sleeping Beauty cocooned in a neon pink Perspex casket, Hansel and Gretel have their gingerbread house and a forest adorned with My Little Ponies. We can’t help but think a master class in bringing both the goals of the Creator and Jester to life is plainly evident here: the realisation of a vision by lighting up the world.
John Lewis – Monty
The fact that this was the busiest store we visited is testament to the power of both the John Lewis commitment to customer care and a perfectly executed holistic Christmas campaign. Monty and his friends as curious Explorers at play are everywhere – in the laundry, in the kitchen, messing with the tech and finally delighting children (as well as adults) with his presence throughout the store. An absolute winner is the switch from a Santa’s grotto to Monty’s World. Using Samsung technology, kids and parents are invited to bring in their favourite toy to have it animated on screen with Monty and his buddies. Oh yes, you can also buy a Monty toy, socks, handkerchief, gift bags and make a donation to better the future of wild Penguins via the WWF. It’s cute, it’s smart and a superb example of telling a consistent story whatever the touch point – take a bow JL.
Best of the Rest…
This weekend the Custard Factory in Birmingham hosted the City of Colour street Art Festival. A veritable feast of creativity seeing over 100 street artists painting every wall in sight, live music, Dj’s, Hip Hop, B-Boy battles, Beat Boxing, Capoeira, Spoken word artists, street food, illustration Battles, Photography & film workshops, Graffitti workshops, BMX Flatland riders and sooooo much more!!! All in all a fabulous weekend! Well worth a wander around Digbeth and the City centre to see the superb works of art still on show!
This is the new design for 7up created by TracyLocke New York. This design will be rolled out in several countries around the world, apart from the US, where 7up is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group and rest of the world by PepsiCo.
Personally, me not like. – I can understand a re-design and a simple evolution for the brand may be needed. It indeed will have great shelf stand-out, but this design is too flat and lacks all personality. It’s come a long way from Photoshop spritzing all over the can, but maybe too far? – source CreativeReview
Checkout the brief 7up biog of designs below, (some very nice ones indeed) - images usasoda.com
This piece of work by Brian Jungen caught my eye. Very striking in color ‘the peoples flag’ was made entirly of mass produced items, clothing, toys, bags etc.
Here at Boxer, we were rather jealous of how comfortable this lady looked, so we wanted to experience this seating innovation for ourselves. Unfortunately the first batch of Chairless have sold out so we had no option but to get creative. Thanks to our ever resourceful Account Director, Helen T, we were able to create our own device using two straps from a laptop bag. See below…
If you have such materials available to you, we thoroughly recommend you give it a try because quite frankly, it’s one of the most comfortable sit downs any of us has ever had.
As you will see from our photos, the contraption is able to cater for the small and tall among us with equally satisfying results. Due to this earlier article on PSFK we have named our copycat invention, ‘The Ninja Knee’. Quite apt I think you’ll agree. All I have to say is…turn that frown upside down and have a sit down.
So here it is people, our blog entry from our SoakitUp™. We all know that the Jewellery Quarter is steeped in history, so one fine sunny Friday afternoon my SoakitUp buddy Georgina and I went on one of the first SoakitUp excursions. Before embarking on our excursion, we decided to do a wee bit of research. This is the official overview:
The JQ has been synonymous with the manufacture of jewellery and coins in Birmingham from as early as 1553 when one of the first goldsmiths popped up. Throughout the years Birmingham grew into its industrial boots, and a recognition grew for the JQ’s grand traditions, history, architecture and environmental beauty.
There is a definite community here, which in itself makes the JQ a destination. My personal favourite part of the area has to be St Paul’s Square, this quaint little square hits the metaphorical nail on the head, moving with the times but also keeping the heritage of the area at its core. This is a fab place to have a bite to eat, or a quiet drink, or just a chill out in the sun, I feel the rest of the Jewellery Quarter could follow suit.
St Paul’s Square… standing since 1779 and still doing the job. Definitely worth the visit.
Other icons throughout the JQ include the Chamberlain Clock and the Big Peg. The Chamberlain Clock, built in 1903, restored in the 60’s, creates a focal point for the central part of the JQ. The Big Peg provided a workspace for 100’s of jewellers, and more recently for creative enterprises…Unfortunately this building is outdated and not in-keeping with the history of the area. There is a missed opportunity here, to make the building and surrounding area a real creative hub, to reignite creativity, somewhere you would be proud to work. Its doesn’t have to be just jewellery.
There are Plans to spend £1.5 million on the rejuvenating the car park below the Big Peg, transforming it into what is to be called the Golden Square, but is there much point in making the car park a beautiful place to be, if they aren’t going to re-skin the building itself?
Chamberlain Clock… Standing since 1908 The Big Peg… Standing since 1960
The majority of the jewellery shops seem to be stuck in a bit of a time warp, they don’t seem to be moving with the times. Some may construe this as keeping it traditional, but the layers of dust said it all to me (and that was, buy a duster!!). On the whole they could do with an up lift, not losing their long standing status, which for some is hundreds of years, but updating to new trends and consumer needs. Using neon signs in the shop window seemed to be common throughout, they seemed to be missing the point somewhat. Instead of drawing the consumer in, these signs just made the shop seem outdated. In both of these shop windows just removing the neon signs would have made a massive difference, and would have renewed the displays instantly. For the most part the jewellery shops ran mainly along one street, one end being promising and in-keeping with tradition and heritage, however its seemed to get less tasteful the further on you walked, the shops becoming more and more outdated and tacky.
Which would you go and buy your jewellery in? Neon heaven or traditional but modern?
With a bit of investment the JQ can be somewhere extraordinary once again. The area definitely has a pull on creative people, and the creative industries, with just a bit of work, it could be the place to be for young and old alike.
JQ short for Jewellery Quarter
As promised by George we will be adding posts from our SoakitUp™ trips around Birmingham. Here is a short account of Mark F and my trip around Birmingham’s Markets, which consist of the outdoor, rag and indoor markets. The outdoor market is mainly a fresh produce market, with a few clothes, video stalls etc smattered on the edge and is open 5 days a week. The World famous Rag market is a general materials, clothing and other useful bits and bobs market and is open 4 days a week. The indoor market is the place to go to get your fresh meat and fish, with an extensive range of produce to choose from, open from Monday to Saturday. All 3 sit next door to each other and have a slightly different personality.
One thing that interested us, and can almost relate to any retail sector, is that if you are one stall in 20 that are selling the same thing how do you stand out in the crowd?
One answer was the way you merchandise, there seemed to be two schools of thought, either pile it high or neatly laid out. And depending on whether you were selling fresh produce or clothes, material etc either method seemed to have different successes. As you’ll see in the image below, this can give a consumer a different perceived value when actually the produce is the same price.
which would you buy your bananas from?
It was difficult to get close enough to this table selling clothes
Another answer was to have clear signage, so you knew what you were getting for how much.
Excuse me, how much are your jeans?
And of course there is always the “who can shout the loudest”, grabbing your attention option. As with all markets the vendors themselves play a huge part in selling their wares, and this adds the colour to which you expect to see in any market. The personality of the stall really stands out by the different approaches the vendors have and obviously attracts different types of customers.
You expect to find confusion and clutter at a market and this is often what draws people to them, whether you are a regular market shopper or just a part time tourist. For me it’s the more organised and well merchandised stalls that stand out from the crowd, although for the actual market crowd the “£1 on the table” stall was the busiest. It just goes to show that whatever retail arena you shop in, there is a place for beautifully merchandised product using space to their advantage, and a place for the value orientated stock filled stores.
Last Friday saw the inaugral boxer ‘butty morning’. Happening weekly, the aim of these hour long chinwags is to enable some good old fashioned debate about what’s going on ‘out there’ in the real world. The whole company is involved and it’s an ideal way to get our creative juices flowing and to get some inspiration from outside the office that can feed into our work.
This first morning focused on two insightful presentations from two teams, each made up of a designer and an account handler, who had been assigned an area of Birmingham to go and ‘Soak it Up’. The brief for the expeditions was to find anything that’s good or bad in our home city, stuff that makes you proud or makes you cringe; whatever it is, we want to know about it. They can then come back into the office with a playful smile on their face and armed with lots of insights, findings and general views that they can share with the rest of us.
One team went to the markets, whilst the other visited The Jewellery Quarter, and last week they went off photographing, documenting, gathering, listening and any other things ending in ‘ing’ in their specified area. On their return, it was great to get some conversation going in the office that allowed everyone to free up their minds from their current work and help dig deeper into each teams findings. We’ll be posting some of the thoughts and questions from the first ‘butty morning’ later this week.
In the meantime, enjoy the shots of us merry bunch deep in conversation accompanied by some good looking butties just to whet your appetite.
If you want some exotic plants, indoor or outdoor, african artifacts, furniture and a spot of lunch while you are shopping this is a fantastic experience. I went last sunday and enjoyed a spot of lunch in the shade of one of their many bamboo huts, and marveled at the huge range of plants, trees and shrubs!! They also have a fantastic range of artifacts which range from superb carvings to jewelry and furnature….it’s a lovely way to spend a few lazy hours on a sunny day!
New Year sales come but once a year (surprising that) and 2009 is no different, except for the fact that the High St is in freefall and the only thing retailers want to do about it is discount, discount, discount. Ideal if you are an avid bargain hunter and good with your fists, but if like me, you’re looking for an actual shopping experience when you go into a store, then it’s rather lacking.
I decided to brave it though and armed with a camera and a positive attitude I headed out into the retail Mecca that is Oxford St, to see “just how low will the retailers go?”
Two brands really stood out for me amongst the chaos and they were NIKE and UNIQLO. Nike used colour to distinguish them from the sea of red, at the same time as keeping it very Nike in the way they positioned their sale as a part of their overall brand story. While Uniqlo used their windows very effectively to create product stories and window film that actually allowed you to see the products (imagine that).
As I was pushed and barged along the High St, with the worst culprit being Zara where I almost lost a limb, it raised two questions, What were these retailers going to do to build value after January? And if they can afford to slash 75% off their prices now, have they been cheating us all along?
But through this mist of despair, it was the decision to go for a cheeky tipple in the Long Bar at the Sanderson Hotel that resulted in the best find of the day. They were running a t-shirt campaign called, “Recess is on, F#%K the Recession’. All staff in the bar were wearing them and it was great to see someone cutting through the clutter and sending out a message that was positive, unique and most of all fun. Where most are zigging, Sanderson is zagging and it’s downright refreshing to see.
Our Chicago office has launched a new blog called In No Particular Order, showcasing innovations and technology. Go check it out.
Lovely image taken by plasticflesh off hh <3
Was so excited when I saw this near Russell Square tube. Wonder if I could be bustin’ combos on Street Fighter II whilst getting a nice steam and rub down.
When it comes to no smoking you see. Wonder what plonker did this…
Me. Rutter and Big Al ducked out the office to go down to london and drink some beer. Oh. and also go to this Pecha Kucha
Rolled over from the G Breezey (thats me slang for Great Barr where I live) to Da Heat (that’s also me slang for Kings Heath…proper street me) to pop into see the lovely folk at In a City Arts. Ginny popped in a few weeks back and mentioned it to us so I knew I had to check it out…was well worth the 10 or so miles crawl across town.
Hooked meself up with a lovely t shirt and some graffed spray cans which are now looking ace in my hall way
Show some loves. In a City Arts
Everyones been weeing themselves over the slickness of apple products for nearly 10 years now…but some folk from back in the day may have a sense of deja vu.
Soakitup is the name of our blog. It came from a philosophy that we have here at Boxer, a philosophy that we should not sit on our laurels and wait for good design, such as print, packaging and retail, to come to us! So we go out into the big wide world and find it! To keep our proverbial “finger on the pulse” we visit other countries as often as possible throughout the year to bring back exciting and cutting edge design from others cultures. This inspiration taken from all over the world helps us to keep our thinking fresh and inspired.
Keep an eye open on this site, as we will be adding a few images from each trip we undertake. So far this year in 2007 we have been to Helsinki, Berlin, Milan, Amsterdam, Paris and Munich to name a few.
Me and Ollie went to Finland, Helsinki in Oct 07. Here are a couple of images we took:
My god i flippin’ love this image. Whoever made it is a genius!
Anyhow. I’m going to talk about tea. I love it. and i love this site nice cup of tea and a sit down.
AND! you can make tea in one of these bad boys!
AAANNNNDDDD you can dunk in some
just like us. they soak it up…
Thanks folks i’m here all week.