Which brand’s archive would you most like to delve into?

Which brand has the most fascinating design history? Designers tell us about the archives they would like to investigate.

Nick Asbury, co-founder, Asbury & Asbury
Nick Asbury, co-founder, Asbury & Asbury

“I’d like to spend a year in the Mars archive and ideally come out of it with a six-season Netflix drama about the Mars family.

I always thought Mars was just a fun, space-inspired brand name. But the company was founded by Frank Mars, who contracted polio at an early age and learned to cook candy with his mother. The company was later taken over by his son Forrest Mars, who grew the business in Slough (having fallen out with his father), before moving back to America.

For years, the family shunned publicity – no one got big bonuses or was allowed to fly first class. But they produced these sweet, joy-giving products. Their design archive must be like a mini social history of America.”


Mike Dempsey, founder, Studio Dempsey
Mike Dempsey, founder, Studio Dempsey

“This is an easy topic for me because well, I have already done it. Back in 1978, I produced two books back to back, Bubbles and Pipe Dreams, both now long out of print.

They came out of a wonderful plundering session of two famous companies, A&F Pares, the soap manufacturers and the Imperial Tobacco Company. I spent a glorious time in their respective archives cherry-picking the very best of the gems from the Victorian period to the 1940s.

What is so evident looking at the work now is the incredible craft employed in their advertising, vitreous enamel signs, and point of sale material. Handcrafts that are long gone, stone lithography, beautiful inventive lettering and the sheer wit that one rarely sees in this digital age.”


Jamie Ellul, founder, Supple Studio
Jamie Ellul, founder, Supple Studio

“I think it would have to be Channel 4 – they’ve been commissioning and producing consistently good, brave design and advertising for years. The design archive is sure to be chock full of hard-hitting ideas, but also plenty of wit, which is the bit that appeals to me; the channel have never shied away from using wit and humour to engage its audience.

But I think most of all I’d like to get to see all the great ideas that got rejected or nearly made it – that would be a real insight into the brand.”


Alex Swatridge, creative director, Hat-Trick Design
Alex Swatridge, creative director, Hat-Trick Design

“I wondered how much I’d find in a brand’s archive that I haven’t seen before, so I’ve chosen an organisation whose archive feels somewhat unloved and undiscovered.

I have already visited the St Bride Foundation archive several times and I found it fascinating, inspiring and intriguing. Every time I’ve left with a list of ideas longer than I went in with.

They have an eclectic collection of all sorts of ephemera and objects, from the most intricate 3D watermarks you can ever imagine, to Haynes manual illustration blocks. They even have a copy of Dr Johnson’s first dictionary…”


Pali Palavathanan, founder, TEMPLO
Pali Palavathanan, founder, TEMPLO

The Canadian National railway – and particularly the CN logo, designed by Allan Fleming in 1960.

Growing up in Toronto, I would always see the trains cutting through the bleak landscape and was intrigued by the simplicity of the mark. This was the first brand I fell in love with, and over half a century since its launch the brand is still standing strong.

The extreme weather conditions and terrain in Canada need a robust brand to ensure trust. I think the boldness to unify the ‘C’ and ‘N’ in a single stroke and the confidence to drop the name helps reinforce this strength.

This identity is a great example in distilling a brand to the bare essentials. I’d love to track how and why the brand evolved over time from the Grand Truck Railway to the two letter acronym CN we know and love today (including the six name changes inbetween!).

Seeing the logo now, I can almost hear the trains in the distance…”


Tom Lancaster, senior digital creative manager, Topman
Tom Lancaster, senior digital creative manager, Topman

“There are a few archives I’d love to delve into. The first would be the brand archive of Fiorucci – from what I’ve seen there are some really expressive graphic design ads in there, along with amazing photography from the disco era.

The others would be Farrow’s archive – especially for the studio’s music work, such as for Deconstruction, and The Designers Republic, for its album covers and of course all those WipeOut graphics.”


Briar Levit, assistant professor, graphic design, Portland State University
Briar Levit, assistant professor, graphic design, Portland State University

“I would love to dig through the archives of the Alexander Girard years for Braniff Airlines’ corporate branding. Girard’s system boasted an incredibly striking, and always fun graphic identity, that only the most dour of people wouldn’t garner some delight from.

From the bold orange striped seats and matching sugar packets, to the groovy dresses on flight attendants with a kaleidoscope of color, nearly every surface was adorned with playful vibrance. I have to believe that visuals like that must have a positive impact on moods of travellers!”

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