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Awl & Sundry democratizes the luxury of men’s hand‑made shoes.
Bespoke, hand-crafted men’s shoes have traditionally been the appurtenance and signature of wealth and success, and for good reason: a single pair can take weeks to create. The main alternative, ‘premium’ mass-produced brands, mostly employ machine stitching and adhesives and lack the unique character and resilience of made-to-order footwear. Awl & Sundry realized that the latest possibilities in configurable ecommerce API’s, GPU rendering, WebGL and OpenGL present an opportunity to bring made-to-order products down from the high shelves of luxury. Awl & Sundry intends to close the bespoke divide and revolutionize the way men buy shoes. This called for a revolutionary brand. Naming came as an expression of this spirit, invoking an anti-elitist manifesto while also retaining a subtle, stylish wit. We wanted the name to be distinctly unique and memorable. We wanted it to reference the art of old-world shoemaking. And, of course, we needed it to provide us a clean, and unregistered URL. Running these ingredients through a process of creative distillation, the name came naturally, and the Awl & Sundry brand was born.
A bespoke brand needs bespoke typography. My intention here was to introduce modern transitional features into a classic geometric sans serif. This required a bit of experiment on stem widths, apices and vertices on the A, W and N, the spine of the S and the leg of the R. As a distinctive touch and a subtle reference to the digital nature of the brand, I embellished the S and R with squared-off spurs.
I love ampersands, They are particularly difficult to design but can present great potential as a distinct signature typographic element. Geometrically, I wanted this one to feel refreshingly modern but not simplistic. The solution involved bringing about some stroke weight variations by cutting straight areas into the radius of the counters and a very subtle arc to the downward leg. The leg was then extended well below baseline as a designed reference to the needle-and-thread sewing process central to the brand.
This was an artisanal brand in need of a very modern personality. I explored symbolism imparting an assiduous devotion to craft. incorporating our namesake tool of the trade—the ‘awl’—and the industrious ethic of handcrafted industry. As a disruptive brand; it should also project the aesthetic of a revolutionary banner. Finally, I intended it to pay tribute to the hallmark crests of traditional high-street labels where regal birds such as hawks and eagles commonly roost, but with an ironic twist: ours would be a deftly-skilled, industrious and independent sort of bird: the agile hummingbird. I began by sketching gestural forms derived from images of this bird in flight. The rapidly blurred wings provided opportunity for a kinetic rhythm evoking the stripes of a revolutionary banner. With each iteration, I reduced the complexity until I had a rendition that could hold up in small reproductions and leather stamping.
Final Symbol/Wordmark Lock-up
The basic brand charter provides a full brand standards guide. This includes specifications for digital as well as print applications, program fonts and color specifications, and ‘do’s and don’ts’.A version of the brandmark contained within an oval border was developed for certain applications such as the shoebox and the insole placements. Download links to all artwork were provided.