Once upon a time, deep inside the mythical Ironopolis, gritty alchemists cast the spines of far away bridges. They forged the molten metal bones of foreign cities, and they rolled out the rails that kept the world on track. But the steel they brought to life is more than a memory.
We Built the World; our creativity changed it
We’re proud to launch our very first art project, celebrating Teesside’s unique character, creativity and spirit of innovation.
3rd January 2022
3rd January 2022
Estimated Reading Time 7 Minutes
It was made with more than just iron and carbon. It had two extra ingredients that burn brighter than any blast furnace: North East pride and ingenuity. The steel industry sprung from the same spirit of innovation that saved lives by inventing the lifeboat. The same spirit that shed light on coal mining with the Geordie Lamp. The same spirit that lit those lamps by inventing the world’s first friction match.
Now we build brands as well as bridges. Instead of steel railway tracks, our digital innovations travel worldwide – instantaneously – on fibre optic cables. From the former home of the forefathers of steel, Bolckow and Vaughan, We Built the World is a new project, aimed at anyone who appreciates good design and has a fondness for our region.
Our cast iron commandments
Our prints are a celebration, designed to positively remind people of home, of where they come from and why that is good. But they should never be basic or contain unfiltered local cliches. We are here to raise the bar, as well as spirits. It may be that you love some of our prints and hate others. Either way, they should always provoke a reaction and that reaction should never be “so what.”
To do that they need to be accessible — that’s another golden rule. Our designs live in the crossover between pleasing ambiguity and visceral impact. We make accessible art not baffling ethereal thought pieces or long dull lectures. The results are beautifully bold, fine crafted or intricate and intriguing. They should never totally alienate the viewer or require a lengthy explanation; we want people to get some degree of instant gratification without needing a degree in fine art.
Capping off our cast iron commandments is a promise to always be forward facing, forward thinking and forward moving. We’re undoubtedly proud of the past but we’re not stuck in it. There is plenty of mileage in nostalgia but any celebration of the past should be done in an innovative and inventive way that celebrates the skills and direction we have today.
Inspired by ideas and invention
To kick off our first collection, we’ve produced a series of high quality prints that are influenced by the ideas, inventions and attitudes of our region. Starting close to home, we’ve taken Bolckow and Vaughan as an inspiration to create Bricking It, Fathers of Steel and Men of Iron — all a tribute to the very forefathers of Ironopolis.
Elsewhere, we’ve looked at some of the region’s structural feats with Long Gone and Spanning the Globe, each focusing on the buildings and bridges associated with our steel making heritage. There’s also a nod to local colloquialisms with It’s All Mint, as well as the lesser known story of Stockton’s role in the world’s first friction match through Strike Now!
Our launch collection wouldn’t be complete without an ode to the River Tees. This once rusty ribbon has been celebrated in River of Steel, which looks at the origin of the Tees name as well as its industrial activity.
From match striking burgundy to Bolckow ocean blue and gold metallic mint, all prints are individually screen printed on GF Smith paper in collaboration with The Northern School of Art. An experienced screen print technician guarantees every design is created with care, quality and vibrancy, while allowing students to experience the complete creative journey first hand.
Whether it’s Colorplan, Textured or Specialist, each high quality GF Smith paper stock is the result of 80 years of continuous refinement and innovation. This means every We Built the World design combines a hand pulled screen printing process with a sustainably made paper choice.
Celebrating Teesside's history and its future
Our steel was strong enough to travel the globe, and now our design can do the same. That’s why it’s about investing in our future, just as much as looking at the past. As part of our partnership with The Northern School of Art, we’re directly sharing profits to help the next generation of creatives realise their ambitions and reach their potential.
It’s a commitment that brings our story full circle. The art and design college, which has campuses in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, has been at the heart of our region since 1870 — around the same time that Teesside became the iron-making capital of the world. In the years that have followed, it’s become a staple of the regional creative scene, inspiring and nurturing artists, designers, and creatives from across the north and beyond. In fact, it’s the only specialist art and design college in the North East and one of only three nationwide in the further education sector. Alongside course leaders, our partnership will continue to support students and allow them to gain insight into agency life and a fast-paced, fully working studio.
Our work with The Northern School of Art is part of our wider support to organisations including the High Tide Foundation, Teesside University and BBC Bitesize; all of which focus on opening young people’s eyes and minds to the diverse career opportunities around creative, media and design. Whether it’s through We Built the World or our commitments as an agency, we invest heavily in supporting young talent and providing real world experiences which help increase understanding, improve skills, raise confidence and build aspirations.
We built the world, now let’s wake it up... one print at a time!
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