Head of Design, Emma Bramwell, keeps us posted on the latest sights to capture her imagination while on the road
In my role where I oversee the design studio, I’m always keeping up with design trends, making sure that what everything we produce not only meets the brief and delivers impact, but exceeds clients’ expectations.
I’m continually inspired by what I see, whether it’s a magazine, a poster, type on a sign, a building, or even a beautiful sunset. Everything we produce is about form, colour and structure so getting ideas from things around me really helps… often without me realising.
Everyone sees things in different ways and I enjoy keeping my eyes open to my surroundings while I’m driving, and not just for safety reasons.
My not-insubstantial 50-mile drive to work passes through three different counties and often provides a rich source of inspiration. I pick up all kinds of ideas that if I commuted by train, I would miss out on.
There’s the telephone box that’s been turned into a defibrillator point, the (fake) cow wearing a cycle helmet in a hedge designed to slow people down, the amazing 3D illustrative village signs in Leicestershire and even the clouds in the sky and leaves on the trees. They all inspire me and give me ideas that I take into work, back home again and use in my life.
So what’s caught my eye most recently? Post boxes.
It all started when I needed to post a letter on the way to work. I became aware that there were boxes on posts, in walls and ones that stood alone. I realised I saw quite a few each day, but hadn’t paid much attention to them. I’d become oblivious to them on my journey, but when I got to certain villages, I knew exactly where they’d be as somehow you see them without realising. They’ve quietly become part of Britain’s daily scenery.
So, while posting my letter in sleepy Sheepy Magna, I took a minute to study the post box. The top was different to others I’d seen; more rounded and not as fancy and the ER logo was in a different place. It started me thinking about their history, why they were that shape and how long they’d been around. So, I thought I’d do a bit of research. You know, as you do.
I won’t go into the full findings from my foray into post boxes, but I was surprised to learn they weren’t all a standard colour until they became green in 1859. However, it turned out that the green was unobtrusive and people kept walking in to them so they became red in 1874. I mean, who knew?
They were either round or hexagonal as square ones proved unpopular and there are more than 6,500 combinations on the security locks with no skeleton keys. Each box had its own key. Imagine being a postman with 20 boxes to check each day – that’s a lot of keys!
Some of those boxes I pass have clearly been there for years. Some have GR on them, most have ER and in my lifetime, that will change again. Who knows, they might even design a new box.
I don’t have time to stop at them all, but occasionally I take a quick snap. The lettering, decorative tops in cast iron and bright red thick paint are fascinating and it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone in to the design, security and usage of these boxes. And at the same time, not only are they a British icon, but they’re also a thing of beauty.
So next time you spot one of these high-street historical treasures, take a closer look and consider how many letters have passed through them and how the design has stood the test of time so that they’re still around 159 years later. The humble post box has proved to be a genuine design classic.