Not every redesign needs to start from scratch, and some don't need any rework at all. Sometimes the best design is already there, just hidden by lots of unnecessary visual noise. I'm a big believer in not redesigning for the sake of it, and my recent work with the Truck Store in Oxfordshire is a perfect example of this.
Last September, I was over the moon that my local independent record shop Rapture contacted me about working with them. Rapture's been Witney's independent music and film store since 2004, while its sister store, Truck, opened in Oxford in 2011.
The owner Gary Smithson had read my post about getting back into vinyl, and asked me if I would be interested in helping them with a redesign. Their plan was to simplify by renaming Rapture to Truck as well, a name that carries a lot of weight with its association with Oxfordshire's Truck Festival. Then they needed a new unified brand for both physical stores, as well as their online shop. Obviously the budget wouldn't be huge, but it was an opportunity to be involved in a fun project for a local shop with lovely people that's become very special to me. How could I resist? I was buzzing to get started.
Doing an audit of their current brand usage, it became clear to me they pretty much had everything they needed already. Let's delve into that…
The Truck monster character is well known locally - everyone I spoke to immediately associates the shop with the Monster. There's even a Truck Monster suit that makes an appearance at Truck Festival:
It's a clear, impactful image that they own, but was mostly being used for things like email sign-offs and the occasional social media post. It was incorporated into the Truck Oxford logo, but was lost amongst everything else going on:
So I decided to pick that out and discard the rest. I didn't make any changes to it, with the exception of an optimised version for smaller uses, such as the favicon. For this, I made the eyes larger to keep them visible.
The original Rapture logotype was based on Radiohead's The Bends (except using Arial Bold), while Truck used a custom 'handmade-looking' font made for its launch. It had plenty of character, but was a bit too rough - having the appearance of being vectorised from a bitmap image. It made sense to follow on from the Truck logotype, rather than Rapture's, but it needed some cleaning up. I removed some of the roughness and balanced the letters better, while retaining the handcut feel of it:
This then combined with the logomark to create a much more memorable and impactful logo:
The monster character can also be playful and flexible, such as in these genre markers I created for use in-store:
While Truck had existing brand fonts such as Knockout , a variety of free fonts were being used. It was clear that they just needed a flexible brand font and then use it consistently everywhere.
I liked the space-saving practicality of Knockout Condensed, but there was something aesthetically that didn't fit right for me. It took a long time to find what I had as the right font in my head, but eventually I found it - Neue Plak, an update of Paul Renner's other classic typeface that isn't Futura. It has a great range of weights and widths, with nice elements such as the curve of the bold lowercase letter r.
I was particularly pleased that Truck agreed to purchase the whole family, which will stand them in good stead in the future.
One thing that did stick in my mind about their previous type usage was a handwritten sign at the Oxford store. I really liked the style of this as it helped reinforce the people element of Truck. Good legible handwriting fonts are notoriously hard to find - and I didn't feel my own take was quite up to the task. However, I found Finurlig, and used the italic version to get where I wanted. This is specced in the styleguide to be used very sparingly, but acts as a nice foil to Neue Plak:
Here's an example of how these are used together, on a recommendation sticker:
Their previous brand styleguide had some very odd dingy colours, but as the brand would be competing against multi-coloured album covers, a straight black and white approach would work best. This way it would harmonise with everything, and also echo the tradition of photocopied music ephemera like gig flyers and Nightshift, Oxfordshire's long standing free music magazine.
In contexts where the logo is used on it's own, there's flexibility to use most colours if need be (e.g button badges). The key part is not to reverse the monster colours, and and keep the eyes shining white:
The next part of the project was to combine their existing Oxford and Witney websites into one new site. My first suggestion to them was to purchase the more concise domain truckmusic.store to replace truckmusicstore.co.uk, rapture-online.co.uk and rapturewitney.co.uk. We then moved all the email addresses to the new @truckmusic.store domain.
Their website is built on Wordpress/WooCommerce, and after much discussion, the decision was made to stay in this platform but to create a custom theme. Originally, I'd considered starting with a pre-made theme, and then add some light customisation on top, but nothing worked quite how I wanted it to. In the end I made my own, by creating a new child theme for the official 'Storefront' theme, but 'dequeing' all the CSS. This gave me all the templates and functionality but zero styling so that I could start from scratch. It became a sort of CSS Zen Garden exercise where I was styling someone else's markup. Small changes were possible via the
functions.php file, but generally it was working with whatever structure and classes existed. It's not an ideal way of working, but we're still iterating and improving. Overall I'm really pleased with how far we've got doing it this way.
As well as the custom styling, I also implemented flexible content fields with Advanced Custom Fields. I'd considered Wordpress's new 'Blocks' feature, but I got the distinct impression that it wasn't quite ready, so ACF was used to allow them to customise the homepage with it's ever changing content.
More to come
The transition from Rapture to TRUCK is ongoing, and I'm still involved in some parts of that process. Merchandise next!