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Urban Safari

January 28, 2017

3 sets of cold hands, 2 flatmates (plus one media friend), and 1 big old walk later and we have completed the Urban Safari.


It took us about an hour to complete it, but it was really fun to walk around exploring. The amount of places that we found that we had never seen before was really quite remarkable. It's amazing what you can find when you take your time and pay a little more attention to your surroundings.


Question 1: What is this building?


The very first building we came across was located pretty much across the road from BCU. This was Birmingham Curzon Street railway station, which was formerly known as Birmingham Station. After researching the building a bit, we found out that it first opened 1838 and eventually closed in 1966. It was used for passenger trains for roughly the first 20 years, then it converted to transporting goods only up until it's closure.  The building itself is really quite beautiful, with the imposing columns on the face of the structure and the delicate stone carving decoration placed above the doorway. Both combined to give it a majestic and grand manner to the Grade 1 listed building. The age of the building was present, with wear and tear being evident, while the surroundings were nothing but derelict land covered with litter. Nevertheless, the building remained very pleasing on the eye and is one the represent an period in Birmingham's history.

Question 2: What company works in this building and why might it be important to a visual designer?


This building really wasn't hard to find. By this, I mean that it stuck out like a sore thumb! The entire structure is covered in graffiti that makes it stand out with pride, as it's positioned on the corner of Fazeley Street/Andover Street. It is used by the company Mission Print, which is a printing company based in Digbeth. They create a wide variety of products from flyers, to t-shirts, to stickers, to posters. I personally find it a fantastic way of advertising what they do and branding themselves, by having the building designed in such a unique way. The black and white contrast creates the perfect urban feel for the location it's in, whilst also showing off what the company is capable of creating. This company would be important for a visual designer, because it is one of the places that they could use to print their work onto different mediums. Furthermore, it also a place to get a job in visual design as they do have their own set of visual designers within the company to make logos, brochures, branding, and more.


Question 3: What did this building used to be?


This question required us to take a little detour off of the route we were given. This was mainly so we could have a bit more of a look around to see what hidden gems we could find in Digbeth. After a while of trying to find the building (our navigation skills aren't fantastic), it took us a little while longer to find some form of a clue about the building's history, but when we did find it, it only lead us further into it's past. The hint we found was on a massive billboard sign from a former company that was based in the building: S. Rose & Company Ltd. This was a company that made and/or sold clothes. However, upon researching the company, we also found that prior to this, the building was once a factory making Typhoo Tea. It was fascinating to find this out, as prior to this, around the corner we had discovered some graffiti saying 'make tea not war'. This also had the Typhoo logo next to it. It's amazing to see how the history of Digbeth had been remembered through modern street art. The history is clearly something that those who live in the area are somewhat proud of.


Question 4. What is the name of the art gallery in this building? (Bonus points for telling me what font is on the side of the building).


I have to say, this was a bit of a tricky one, purely for the fact that all of the studios in this block seemed to be art related in some way. It wasn't until we got to the very end of the lot that we found Centrala Art Gallery. This is run by a non-profit organisation, which holds various exhibitions and has it's very own cafe. We didn't get to go in and have a look around, as we went in the late afternoon and it looked as if they were just shutting up shop, but it is definitely somewhere I would consider going back to. As for the font on the wall, all I know is that it says 'Minerva Works'. The font is a bit of a mystery for me. I recognize it so much, but as for the name, I'm clueless. 


Question 5: Are you brave enough to go through the big blue door? Go on, they won't bite...


No,w we were definitely brave enough to go in. However, we couldn't as there was a private function on inside. I was gutted, as I really wanted to have a look around. Although, we did find out afterwards that it was Fazeley Studios, a place offering office spaces, as well as communal spaces and facilities that are often used to host events and social gatherings. The intentions of the company are aimed to help and support the creative and digital community within and surrounding Digbeth. Maverick TV and the BBC are just a couple of big names that have had the pleasure of using these spaces for their projects. We shall definitely be returning to this building as well. Hopefully next time we will be able to go inside!


Question 6: Tell me something about 'The Bond' and what it is used for?


The Bond is located in Digbeth and is an event and business center. It has a whole variety of different spaces within it. For instance, they have the cafe, meeting spaces, office spaces, and more. You can hire it out for weddings, which I personally think would make a beautiful setting for anyone's special day. A lot of companies are currently using the spaces The Bond have available, including Blue Hippo Media, Blueberry Software, Design,Print.Multimedia, and Slinky Productions. Most of those occupying the center at the moment are media related companies. This is a place that I would definitely consider using should I need to put on any events in the future, as it has great spaces that can be used, such as the Gatehouse, the Conservatory, and the Gallery.


Question 7: What is the name of this building and why might it be useful to you as a working media professional?


We walked straight past this one, didn't we! We did find it in the end though. The name of this building is 'Boxxed', which is a space used for events and the business also has a programme running. This is called 'Business Incubator', which is set up by the company to help those who are just starting out in the early stages of creating a business. It aims to help them grow and develop, which I believe will be important for us as media professionals if we are looking to start up our very own businesses. Additionally, the event space that they have available would be a great space to host any events that we may put on, such as exhibitions or gigs.


Question 8: The Custard Factory - Spend some time here. The likelihood is that some of you will end up working here during or after your time at university.


The Custard Factory is a brilliant place, isn't it. I love the atmosphere there. It feels very innovative and relaxed. The area has a cafes, a range of different/unique shops, office space, and areas that can be hired out for events. There's also a graffiti shop, which sells various products and offers workshops in creating street art. This is clearly a big selling point for Digbeth, with the vast amount of street art that is all around. The building for this shop is a tall structure that is usually covered with a giant piece of artwork, but when we arrived, we found that they had painted it white ready for their next project to go up. It's really refreshing to see the work on their building when it is there. Not only does it entice people into their business, but it allows people to appreciate a different format of artwork. I enjoy looking at their work and admiring how passionate it makes me feel about the creative industry and those who work within it.



'One example of some design in the wilds of Digbeth':


As well as searching around for all of these buildings and points of interest, we also had to keep an eye out for the different kinds of design that are featured all over Digbeth. There were so many about, such as gig posters, street art, and advertising. They were dotted around everywhere! The one that I have chosen to study is a poster to a free music event at The Night Owl.



After researching the event, I found out that it was one that happened last year (2016). It has become clear to me whilst walking around that Digbeth is about legacy and the mark you leave behind. This poster simply reinforces my trail of thought. The event was one that was created by collaborating artists Unpronounceable and The Deviant to commemorate the life of J Dilla, an American Hip-Hop producer who died 10 years ago (in relation to the event). This makes the idea of a legacy even more important when looking at this device.


The design of the poster is one that I am very fond of. The main black and white colour contrast ensures that the details are clear to the viewer. However, the specks of colour breaking free from the orb-type item in the center of the poster makes it more interesting, by breaking the boundaries of the strong black and white theme featured elsewhere on the poster. I feel as if the bursting orb represents the power of the music that came out of the event, whilst also reflecting the passion for the music that those who are performing have. Personally, it makes me feel as if this event was literally ground-breaking, as it reminds me of the Earth shattering, maybe due to how big the event was or maybe due to the heavy bass often featured in the Hip-Hop style of music. When accompanied with the word 'beat' in 'Brum beat down', it reinforces that this was a violent and massive event, as well as the idea previously mentioned about it being ground-breaking. 


The solid style of fonts used, I feel represent the scene of music the event is encompassed in. The names of the artists at the bottom has an 'electronic' feel, an element that is often featured within the Hip-Hop genre. The main San-Serif font used for the events details and slogan are modern and bold. The modernity of the font was probably used by the designer to appeal to a modern audience interested in the modern style of music being advertised. Furthermore, the boldness of it allows the reader to be drawn into poster from far away and makes it clear and easy to read without any confusion, which often occurs from the use of Cursive fonts.


Overall, I find this poster very engaging. It is appealing to myself, is straight forward and clear. I also like the fact that there isn't a large amount of negative space left over, whilst also not having lots of factors being present on the page. There is a nice balance of elements in general. I find that it is a strong, empowering, and well constructed poster. The only thing that I would like to improve on it would be to include the fact that it is an event created in the memory of J Dilla, as I believe that would entice more people in and make it more sentimental as piece of legacy in Digbeth. 




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