Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Studio Ditte brings us new ribbon wallpaper to go with their Scrap wood version. I like that there is some back story to scrap wood see below. Also reminds me a little of Louise Body.
"Authentic ribbons, lace and straps from grandma’s needle box decorate this cheerful wallpaper"

"Each board is unique and has its own history. Where does it come from? What was its function? Studio Ditte copied the history and beauty of scrap wood to wallpaper."

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Having been a follower of Absolute Zero Degrees and minimoderns for awhile now and having posted about them often - I thought it was about time I found out some more about them. Keith Stephenson kindly agreed to answer some of my questions, in order to get a bit of an insight into the company's inpsirations and workings. It's great reading hope you enjoy it as much as I did! (posted in 3 parts)

1. Can you tell me a little history of you business, what are your backgrounds and how did you come to start a creatively diverse business? How did the twin companies idea come about?

I started Absolute Zero degrees in 2001 as I was disillusioned with big branding agencies and felt stifled by the structure of the agencies that I worked in. My experience had always been diverse, working predominantly in the fashion industry as a graphic designer and print designer, and I felt that any expertise and experience that I had was always overlooked. So from the start Absolute Zero Degrees was created to utilise all my skills and not be seen as a pure graphic design company. This meant that the fledgling company took on diverse projects from branding, retail interior design to commissions for textile prints for fashion companies.

When Mark Hampshire joined a short time later, the offer became more diverse as although his experience was as a brand strategist, he had also been a partner in an interior and furniture design business, featuring in the very first edition of Wallpaper magazine. So even though both Mark and I had very defined roles in larger design and branding agencies – we had an opportunity with AZD to explore our skills and interests, and to also create a seamless process from brief to delivery.

In 3 years AZD gained in reputation – and we were commissioned in 2004 to create a collection of wallpaper designs for innovative design store Places and Spaces in South London.

The collection featuring the now classic ‘Swallows’ was an immediate hit with press – appearing 9 months consecutively in Elle Decoration, and eventually being short-listed for their design awards in 2005.
The wallpapers appeared in international publications and on television. Following the success of ‘Swallows’ wallpaper, we wanted to create another collection, which would appeal to what we saw as an untapped market. At the time we felt no one was producing wallpaper for contemporary kids , that parents would also like – most of what AZD found through their research was too twee or was a marketing vehicle for toys, TV programmes or films.

As proof of principle of our experience as a branding agency - Mini Moderns was born. The patterns are good sellers and manage to straddle the kids and kidult market successfully.

2009 will see the launch of Mini Moderns first clothing collection in collaboration with Clothkits, who have used our print catalogue on their collection of classic shape children’s and women’s wear.

Mini Moderns exists as a privately funded, stand alone project and has its own website, which now sells a collection of 16 wallpapers, chinaware, plastic tableware, textiles and accessories, as well as wholesaling to numerous design stores in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Australia and the US.

Absolute Zero Degrees is responsible for all the designs as well as continuing as predominantly a design and branding agency using their pattern making expertise in our work.

We were also recently commissioned to create and produce wallpaper for Southbank Centre – featuring the classic carpet design ‘Net and Ball’ designed for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

We have have also co authored 6 books on design, four of which make up the ‘communicating with pattern’ series which have sold 100,000 copies of each, internationally, and have been translated into 10 languages.


2. What is your design philosophy, if you had to describe in words how you go about starting and developing your design process?

We don’t have a direct design philosophy as such, though we are reluctant to take on work that we don’t feel interested in or that doesn’t exploit our talents or experience to the full. Our client list is very diverse as a branding agency and we are quite discerning about who we work with. With regards to the Mini Moderns part of our business – we are constantly designing prints for the collection which are stored in our ‘print bank’ – we are never influenced by trends or contemporary design in our collection – so the prints are unique to us – and tend not to date. The design process for this is fairly loose – a design concept can be triggered off by a TV show, films, travel, a conversation or vintage design finds.

3. You seem to have a diserning eye when it comes to design, What are some of the best pieces you have seen recently, exhibitons or old pieces that you have newly remembered? (from all areas of the design world) Do you consider yourselves collectors?

We have both just visited the Hussein Chalayan exhition at the Design Museum – and were blown away by his intelligence and creativity. He really is an artist – but whereas a lot of artists have a thought provoking ideas behind their work – the execution often is less than satisfactory – Hussein Chalayan’s resulting pieces - be it film or fashion are always incredibly beautiful. A lot of designs that we find exciting are things that feel have longevity, so we don’t always love the latest thing. We love textile designers of the 1950’s like Lucienne Day, and Marian Mahler,
and surface pattern designers like Susan Williams-Ellis, whose designs for Portmeirion pottery in the 1960’s is a great influence on us. We also love the life enrichment panels by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller, in the late sixties and seventies. We never copy or appropriate their design work - it just has an influence in the way we see things.
Contemporary designers who we feel are interesting are Jonathan Adler, People Will Always Need Plates, Donna Wilson’s original doily rug has proved very influential to new designers, and for us Peter Saville is will always be the king of Graphics, and I am a great admirer of the work of Build. The illustrative work of Kam Tang and Sanna Annukka featured previously on this blog, are also something that we admire as well as the illustration work of the late Charley Harper, which we are lucky enough to have 2 ltd edition screenprints by him, which we managed to get from the US just prior to his death. One of Mark’s favourites is the lino cut aesthetic of Stanley Donwood’s work. With regard to collectors - hoarders would probably better describe it - we collect lots of things from magazines to vintage crockery. It all goes into the 'inspiration pot'.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


4. What advice would you give to someone buying wallpaper, what are the main factors they should look out for in a design?

We produce all our wallpaper using a traditional flexo method –using paper from sustained forests, and printed with water based inks. We would say look out for paper produced like this or created using a production method that you feel comfortable with. We have always produced this way, and the feel of the paper has much more warmth, and visually has much more depth, than say, digital wallpapers. Hand screened wallpapers are beautiful but tend to be expensive – which is something we try to avoid. Depending on what look you would like to achieve – always check that you understand what the repeat is of the pattern, and what scale the overall pattern will be, and always read the hanging instructions carefully. Be aware that when choosing a wallpaper with a very dark base that before you unroll the paper –you colour the edges in the same colour as the base colour – otherwise dark wallpaper will have white edge strips once its hung – ruining the effect. The best policy is if you haven’t hung wallpaper before is get a professional in. It is always a good idea to get a swatch of your selected paper so you can make sure it co-ordinates with your overall scheme.

5. And Finally if you could install or exhibit your wallpapers in any building where would that be?

We have already been incredibly lucky with where our wallpapers have been used. The ‘Net and Ball’ wallpaper (shown in previous post) in black and gold, lines the entrance of one of our favourite restaurants, Skylon, in one of our favourite London landmark buildings, the Royal Festival Hall. Our Mini Moderns ‘Town’:-

‘Sitting Comfortably?’:-

and ‘Tick Tock’ wallpaper :-

has also been used in the bedrooms of new Conran hotel, Boundary, in Shoreditch which we are really excited about. We love it when we see our wallpaper used anywhere – our ‘Bees’ wallpaper from the collection for Places and Spaces is in our local pub – so we love that too as it really makes us feel part of the community.We also feel proud when someone we admire has our wallpaper on their walls too – People Will Always Need Plates - have our town print which we spotted when The Times featured their flat.

Monday, 9 February 2009


These are a recent set of prints in tribute to Charley Harper - the illustrator that has inspred many people. He worked to a form of minial realism and mainly seemed to draw animals and birds. I often look at his work and couldn't resist doing a these prints to pay respect to his draftsmanship.

"Fox Family"
"Dirty Mouse"
"On a Zebra's back"