Picture this: It’s 2006. I’m 14 with a passion for skinny jeans, extreme black eye makeup, numerous belts and boys with long hair. I’ve fallen in love with someone who wears higher platform boots and more eyeliner than me. Camden is life. Camden is my jam every single weekend for years. I’m on first name terms with the donut stall lady.
We’re back in 2016: I read “Camden Market rebrand by Ragged Edge”. I’m ready to rage. “How dare they try to ‘brand’ a place like Camden!” I scream (in my mind, of course. I’m at work).
Fear not, it’s not as bad as I first assumed it’d be… Camden is the short of place that has always seemed to function on its own with little marketing or advertising – a place that has been successful through word of mouth and its appealing culture – a place that exists in its own world for freedom, self expression and alternative fashion. A place that helped me become me! As a teen, Camden was one of the only places I felt truly comfortable, free from judgement, free from the burden of being a misfit. I could walk around wearing whatever I wanted, looking like a freak, with the rest of my weird friends, and never feared persecution or humiliation.
So when I read “rebrand” I thought about how those feelings couldn’t possibly be emulated in a branded, marketed environment. However, Ragged Edge seem to have done a pretty good job! The design studio created a brand identity for London’s Camden Market, including two custom typefaces inspired by the area’s iconic bridge sign by John Bulley – Camden Slab and Camden Sans (each with 4 weights). Ragged Edge describe the rebrand as “an antidote to corporate conformity”, which I think they’ve actually done successfully. Not only did they want to maintain the uniqueness of Camden, they wanted to make it relevant to a millennial audience, which works both on and offline.
Ragged Edge did a great deal of research by interviewing stallholders, residents, workers and tourists. Studio co-founder Max Ottignon says the rebrand is:
a set of tools for self-expression… to give people the flexibility to use them in an infinite range of ways. Most retail destinations have a strict corporate identity, but this would be the antithesis of Camden’s individualistic, creative spirit
The typeface allows every aspect of the market to be rebranded without the need for a logo, so Camden Market collaborated with street artist David Samuel, who used the fonts for a set of hand-painted signs.
The Creative team launched the brand ‘Unfollow Convention‘ alongside a range of Camden Market products, way-finding throughout the market and a series of experiential installations.
My verdict: It gets a thumbs-up from me. I’m so relieved they didn’t go off on a tangent and try to create something entirely unrelated to Camden. Whilst it’s strange going from an anti-industry, anarchic, inclusive, independent business led area to a place that has its own app guide and toolkit… it was bound to happen. BUT I’m glad Ragged Edge were the ones to do it, because they’ve done it well!