25 May 2012

Event Horizon

Most things in corner shops have a strong horizontal orientation.  In earlier drawings I did of a kiosk, it was obvious that this largely relates to the design of shelving units.  Candy bar displays are no exception -- shiny arrays of sweets are stacked in linear projections.  The design of the product packages, and the orientation of their logos, respect this assumed horizontal alignment.  Indeed some corner shop shelving is designed by the brand itself. 

Flying in the face of these conventions, a café/shop on Great Russell Street has created an exterior display of chocolate bars and -- in light of space constraints -- oriented them vertically.

Despite the familiarity of these brands, it's interesting how unfamiliar and strange these things seem when they're curated differently. 

21 May 2012


To locate material threads through the neighbourhood, I've been making typologies, meant to highlight not sameness, but difference.  The rectangular "Food & Wine" signs below all jut out from shop fronts at a right angle. They are all made on acrylic panels and encased in metal.  Many glow from the inside.  They announce the shop and its unique identity through font, kerning, leading, and colour. 


These "Off Licence" shops sell wine, of course, and often sell food as well.  (A rose by any other name...?)  It's interesting as well that, although many are not open 24 hours, some still read: Off Licence Open.

These open signs aren't all from corner shops, but are also part of the neighbourhood's signage landscape.  Each is composed of coloured flashing LED lights and most share the same no-nonsense all-caps sans-serif font.  Still, each is different from the next.


11 May 2012

Domestication of the Brand

Ad hoc shops in the King's Cross/Bloomsbury area share many types of surface material.  I'll post another time about the common use of astro turf in fruit displays, starburst neon paper signs, and dynamic pegboards, but here I'm interested in assemblages that bridge the branded and the domestic.

A textile knotted over a Haagen Dazs cooler reveals the corner shop's ad hocness -- how the shop is fashioned through everyday activity and how shopkeeping is a personal and creative practice.

Through the juxtaposition of branded and unbranded surfaces, consumption spaces are personalised, histories are embedded, and brands are domesticated.  The soft worn edge of a stool suggests warmth, humanity, and time, and brings adjacent brands new meanings.

In this corner shop on Clerkenwell Road, exposed pine shelves are reminiscent of an at-home bar and an icon of Ganesha shines between the flush display of cigarettes and liquor bottles glowing in the window.

On the improvised facade of this hole-in-the-wall kiosk on Tottenham Court Road, aluminium foil and gift bows ensure that every surface catches the eye -- and the lights of the adjacent theatre. (It must be said, that although the shopkeeper looks quite discontented, he was delighted when I asked to take his photo).

The complex textures of these shops reveal creative work and the everyday practice of shaping urban space.  They help form -- and slip into -- a neighbourhood which is itself a mix of everything.