Framing The Artworks – bringing handmade visuals online

Over a decade has passed since I first started working with The Artworks, an illustration agency based in Hoxton imbued a fierce independence and entrepreneurial spirit I identify with all too well. In that time we’ve devised three very different websites for the company. Each site spanned a different era in web design, programming, download technology, social media and fundamentally the way we consume the internet.

It’s been an amazing collaboration.

However one thing has remained a constant in that time, namely each website we’ve done has applied handmade visuals online at its heart. It’s the very essence of what The Artworks do: they are their artists. At each turn this has reminded me of the way that well-made, beautiful art, custom-created for a client, can act as a defining and entirely brand-unique approach to visuals for a business.

Part one: a pencil sketch

To date, The Artworks have never had a logo. Every time the team have wanted to do a piece of promotion, one of their artists has drawn up a new typographic rendering, entirely different from the time before. At the studio I have several fantastic pieces of print the agency have produced which showcase their work. Every time, this has been a joy to receive, its difference being its strength and distinctiveness. However, we had an idea this time around which we thought might appeal to them.

Unbriefed, we came up with an idea of combining two pieces of lettering which combined to create an identity which could also act as a concept for the way we used type on the site. The type we chose was Euclid Circular by Swiss Typefaces and Queens by Kilotype. The idea of the contrast was to hint at the idea of both the art that the agency create and the fact that they are a business at the end of the day. Two sides of the business blended in one.

The team loved the concept – and then asked artist Debbie Powell to complete our ideas. Debbie has drawn around the type, creating a soft, charming symbol that truly captures what The Artworks is all about. I just love it.

Our new branding for The Artworks, combining a typographic notion of Art and Work, then a second version with hand-drawn additions by Debbie Powell

Part two: a polished pastel

We began this project in that strange spring of 2020. Neither The Artworks, nor us, knew what was coming next, or even if we’d survive commercially as the pandemic unfolded. The project was put on hold and we mothballed our work, assuming this was going to be one of many such cancellations. However, that wasn’t what happened.

During the lockdown, photo shoots proved impossible. Yet we were going great guns on producing websites, digital projects which were desperate for image-based content. We began a dialogue with The Artworks, discussing how we might commission visuals for websites. During project briefs, we repeatedly put forward the idea of handmade visuals online as a creative option for many businesses who wouldn’t ever have considered such an approach. One huge success was our work for Moonfire, another was Anamcara, both financial services businesses based in Europe and the Middle East.

Both of these are fantastic projects, but the latter of these two, by illustrator Jesús Sotés, plays a starring role in the first iteration of the new Artworks website. His work comes to life with a subtle charm – playful animation makes the character in the centre of the illustration wink deliciously.

Part three: the finished portrait

At the heart of this (and every) website we’ve created for The Artworks is a portfolio page of each artist. As time has passed, the way we’ve showcased each of these wonderful creative people has subtly evolved: the most recent iteration of this is a documentary style short film which begins each page.

Each page introduces the artist, their background and work, then introduces two new features. The first is a link to a fascinating longform interview within the busy blog which gives a sense of background, how they work and seek inspiration. The second is this film which is embedded at the top of each artist page. In it, a particular piece of work is discussed in depth from initial doodles and first thoughts through to the finished work. In this way it’s possible to really get a feel for the way a brief can travel from initial conversation through to a printed piece of work which couldn’t really be shown on a website in any other way.

This idea of having a website be more of a conversational introduction to such a special group of people is one more way we’ve found to put handmade visuals online, bringing these incredible projects to the heart of an artist’s portfolio. The end result is an engaging, irresistible blend of conversation and promotion that is uniquely suited to such a wonderful agency.

Using handmade visuals online will transform your website

If you’re interested in an approach to a website which considers life beyond the off-the-shelf stock image, we’d be interested in your brief. Considering the commission of handmade visuals online can fundamentally shift perceptions of your business, whatever industry you work in. We can help you achieve that, working within your current brand imaginatively.

Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email direct to tell us all about it.