Smiling Wolf

Wondering who’s behind the extremely slick design of Camp and Furnace? Wonder no more…

For anybody who’s popped down to the Baltic Triangle recently, odds are your destination was Camp and Furnace on Greenland Street. A multi-purpose space, it is a very welcome addition to Liverpool’s cultural landscape at a time when only recently concerns were running high over our venues.

A bar/eatery equipped with a huge space for gigs and exhibitions, plus photographic studios, one of the first things that strikes you about the place is just how well thought through it is. From the Scandi-themed menu to the Brown Bear beer, nothing has been left to chance.

A large element of that thinking is due in no small part to creatively-led design agency Smiling Wolf (established in 2000). Wanting to know more about the project and how they work, we spoke to founder and creative director Simon Rhodes about their part in the process, and what’s on the horizon for them in the months to come.

Also a director at Camp and Furnace, Rhodes says Smiling Wolf “worked from scratch with the design and had to practise what we preach … really thinking about who’s going to use [it] and respond to every element … down to the smell of the place”. We wondered how and where the process begins. “We develop a set of brand guidelines: what is the tone of voice, what kind of food would it serve? We think about everything, and that strengthens those brand guidelines. Then you take the next step which is a natural extension … that’s when an agency is really working with a company to develop as a business.”

“Anything that stands still is dead”

Job done then, right? Well, no, not quite. “All brands need to evolve and there are always ongoing projects to do within any business. You develop a package that the company can work with, and then there may be a new part of the business that needs to be communicated. It’s always an evolving approach. Anything that stands still is dead.”

That being the case, what about Smiling Wolf itself? “We’re quite small and still working with global brands like Sony and Virgin, and clients like the Biennial” (whose website SW have recently redeveloped). They seem to have struck a fine balance between attracting multinational monolith brands while continuing to work with creative clients. Earlier this year they also developed the new identity for DaDaFest, Liverpool’s innovative disability arts organisation. “They wanted an agency to express how they were – exuberant and brave”, says Rhodes.

They’re working on an interesting spin on the music app, too. Rather than the usual algorithm driven search, this app – called View Music – will work along similar lines to rock family trees, so that if you really wanted to delve into a piece of music, you can find out the lineage of the songwriter, guitarist, or even producer involved in that recording (that noise you can hear is the sound of TDN geek-ily dribbling at the prospect).

November will see Smiling Wolf – in conjunction with fellow design agencies Black & Ginger and Uniform – leave the safety of the studio to really put their heads above the parapet. When support body for the creative industries, Design Initiative (which had been in existence for 20 years), was subject to cuts forcing it to close down earlier this year, it left something of a hole in the provision of a showcase for the region’s designers.

It is into this void that the three Liverpool agencies step, hoping to fill it with their planned – and only recently confirmed – Design Festival. Featuring open studios, talks from industry professionals, and a celebration of the best the city has to offer, when asked about the strength of studios here, Rhodes commented: “Art and music is really strong in Liverpool … there seems to be a lot of design studios that collaborate more with artists and musicians.”

Early signs suggest a dynamic approach to providing a real showcase for Liverpool and the quality of work going on here, and as soon as we have more details on the confirmed make up of the festival, you’ll be the first to hear. One thing’s for sure, it represents a serious attempt to affirm Liverpool’s reputation as a hotbed of ambitious design.

Posted on 08/08/2012 by thedoublenegative