There’s a lot to like about Lovers, the London-based creative agency that only takes on clients it’s head over heels about. Creative Director Alex Ostrowski says when assessing potential work, his policy is, “no bread and butter, only pudding. It’s not always possible in life, but at Lovers, it’s the law.”
The creative supergroup is actually a collective of designers that fluctuates from three to ten core studio members, to upwards of 90 collaborators. It’s only been operating for a few years, but in a short amount of time has produced rebrands and campaigns for the British Film Institute, Greenpeace, and the Royal Court Theatre to name a few. “We’re independent practitioners from different fields,” says Ostrowski of Lovers’ diverse portfolio and flexible studio team. “This shows our multidisciplinary hands, often bringing together animation, code, writing, design, illustration, film, and other practices.”
One of the studio’s long-term client relationships has been with Green Man Festival, an independent music and art event held every summer in the Welsh countryside. Lovers has been building on the original identity it designed for Green Man in 2013, keeping it fresh each year with subtle branding tweaks and new, delightfully weird illustrations by the likes of Sarah Mazzetti and Rick Berkelmans. “This became the starting point for the creation of a rich and wild illustrated Green Man world,” Ostrowski says of the pagan monsters and masked characters that inspired the identity.
In lieu of incorporating a literal Jack o’ the Green into the branding, Lovers designed a custom typeface to “assert his omnipresent booming voice.” Ostrowski says that while searching for that perfect voice, “we stumbled across a dusty old type specimen with the right chunky primitivism we were after. We then added a few Celtic quirks, turned it into a woodblock typeface, printed it and digitized the scuffed physical prints into a working font.”
Lovers also created a set of symbols that Ostrowski says not only “signal the locations of each area, but they’re also used by the audience to display an emotional connection to Green Man.” Glyphs like Babbling Tongues represent the stage featuring comedy and literature, while others like Mountain’s Foot denote the main event stage, a curved amphitheater built into the hillside. By adding narrative elements to the physical layout of the festival grounds, maps and wayfinding systems become immersive experiences that create the sense you’re existing somewhere between the real world and an “imaginary pagan universe of illustration and bold typography.”
Another great rebrand executed by Lovers was for the Royal Court Theatre. “The Royal Court have been fascinating to work with,” Ostrowski says, “because they put on entirely new plays that have never been shown before—what a great visual challenge. The identity we created for them took its lead from the iconic sign above their door.” Each play received its own typographic identity and was paired with a surreal still life, which was photographed and later animated for use across the brand’s digital platforms. Clown masks, wigs, broken porcelain figurines—all of these uneasy elements combined in each poster, “made certain the Court’s ‘Revolution’ season would visually confront the public.”
When it’s not branding freak folk festivals and avant-garde theater, Lovers also works with some of the largest educational and cultural institutions in the UK. One of Ostrowski’s favorite clients has been Oxford University. “They are a lot of fun to work with because they own some incredible treasures, including dinosaurs.” As for future projects, he says, “we can’t wait to get started with the Scottish National Gallery. We’re about to team up with their curators for something big. Also the government in Greater Manchester are orchestrating major change to the way they run their region. We’d love to help a country next, if you know any?”