From Woolworth’s rebrand to naked Nike shoot – the design projects that got scrapped

Last week, the Japanese government decided to scrap its design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic stadium and start over. We ask designers about their favourite and most painstaking projects that never made it to reality. 

Angela Drinkall, partner, Drinkall Dean

“We have to tender a lot and after recently losing one that we put our hearts into, we shared our woes with a good friend and collaborator while discussing the pros and cons of pitching.  Our friend said that in his studio they call this the ‘graveyard’.  This has amused us and I can imagine this as a section on our web site where we showcase numerous ready-to-go museum projects – we have an A-Z of exhibitions available – and retail projects.  Featuring in our graveyard is a fully-developed fashion store concept for an ‘edgy’ brand, complete with mobile fitting rooms, bar, screening area and events space. Any takers?”

Alasdair Lennox
Alasdair Lennox, executive creative director, FITCH

“The ‘one that got away’ was our survival work for high street chain Woolworths. We all loved our ‘Woolies’ and even today still reminisce about the stores like Marathon bars. However, in 2008 hardly any of us actually shopped there and if we did it was for low margin random stuff and bags of sugary pick n’ mix. We worked with them to develop a new proposition, brand platform and a killer store design but just before this was about to launch, they suddenly entered into administration. If only, if only…”

Matt Baxter (background), creative director, Baxter and Bailey
Matt Baxter (background), creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“I’ve just been taking a look around the ‘Lost Projects’ folder on the Baxter and Bailey server. Always worth a poke around its dusty, digital shelves if you fancy feeling gloomy.

Truly, there are some stopped, stalled or scrapped gems in there; like a recent tech start-up whose main competitor launched with a logo almost identical to the one we’d designed two weeks ahead of our launch; or the client who came to meetings armed with logo ideas sketched by his wife over dinner.

But perhaps the unrealised project we pine for the most was for a lovely European furniture designer and manufacturer. We flew out to meet the teams. We sat in their chairs and worked at their desks. We even cycled around their factory on branded bikes. Have you ever cycled round a spotless, wood-smelling factory on a Belgian pushbike? No? You’ve never lived.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. But we’ll always have that bike ride.”

Dana Robertson, creative director, Neon
Dana Robertson, creative director, Neon

“A project that never came to reality for me was a third year college project for Crufts that I love to this day, but still can’t seem to make happen. Another was for a Tate Modern sponsor event, where we were going to create a giant Etch a Sketch type thing to create abstract paintings on the floor by using the Turbine Hall’s giant ceiling crane hooked up to a laptop, with a paintbrush on the end of the winch cable . It died due to the last minute intransigence of health and safety – sigh…”

Silas Amos, co-founder, Studio Minerva
Silas Amos, co-founder, Studio Minerva

“The first cut is the deepest. 25 years ago and wet behind the ears, I designed a mailer heralding the launch of BSB TV. The logo had a rainbow colouring, and the station launched in March. I proposed putting packets of seeds for multi-coloured blooms in the Radio Times, branded ‘coming up this spring’. Everyone’s happy, and I have a feather in my cap. Then Murdoch is seen in the BSB foyer, overnight the station becomes BSkyB and that’s that. You dust yourself off, realise there are plenty more ideas in the pot, and that the next project might not be the one that gets away. As Churchill said, ‘Never give in – except to convictions of honour and good sense.’”

Simon Waterfall.
Simon Waterfall, creative director, OnCue

“That’s an easy one. We shot four short films on sport for – but everyone was naked. It included people running, playing football, and playing basketball (which was my favourite). At the time, it was way too racey for them but years later they copied it shot for shot, with a crap script.”


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