Sutherl& Studio’s recent Start-Rite visual identity is one of my favourites of the year so far. And mostly due to its appeal to me as a parent rather than as a designer.

So many other brands out there aiming their wares at the toddler parent market rely on fluffy illustration and pastel colours. The new Start-Rite brand ignores all of those trends and instead aims for a level of wit and charm that’s more sophisticated; appealing to parents on their level, rather than trying to entice their toddlers and kids (who obviously aren’t the ones choosing which footwear brand to plumb for anyway).

Start Rite are in the serious business of looking after new little feet – they’re pioneers in providing shoes in multiple half sizes and widths, so that little ones get a pair of shoes that are just right for their chubby feet. They’ve got a reputation for producing shoes that are practical and ergonomically sound – investing in testing and research. They’ve taken the ‘do one thing and do it well’ approach – they’re proper experts in little feet. So it’s right that they have a rebrand that feels solid, expertly executed and authoritative. That’s not to say it’s all work and no play; far from it. For me that’s the beauty of this identity – it toes the line (pun intended) between the two just perfectly.

This is engaging graphic design at it’s purest.

For starters lets admire that word mark – sans serif, clean, modern, British in vibe, but with a deft sleight of hand (or maybe foot) that gives it a charming step forward via the addition of feet on the two Rs. Not only does it neatly nod to the original Twins logo, it also lends itself to the jewel in the crown of this project – the TypeFeet font. The typography is grown up and kiddie, authoritative and playful, expert and friendly, all at the same time. I mean you just have to look at the number 4 or the ampersand and you can’t help but smile. This is engaging graphic design at it’s purest. Not design for designers. This is the stuff I strive for every day. This is the stuff that makes me plain old jealous – the ‘I wish I’d done that’ moment that keeps me doing what I do.

Old branding

I could end my praise right there. But then there’s the Twins to talk about. In a nod to the heritage of the previous brand, Sutherl& Studio have redrawn the duo to give them a bit more purpose in their stride. And rather than try to lock them up with the logotype (which lets face it has enough charm on its own), they’re free to roam around the design applications. So we see them scaling giant shoes in press adverts or skating around crops of type on the website. Which ties in neatly with the new brand propositioning of ‘Keep Exploring’, plus it’s a lovely way to retain some brand recognition and heritage without resorting to a safe brand refresh.

Last but not least is the product photography. Another designer would have quit with all of the above whilst they were ahead. But the final cherry on the cake for me here is the clever way the products are shot. Simply photographing the shoes as if they themselves are walking. A lovely final touch that doesn’t detract from the product, but makes the shots unique and own-able. Cover the logo in the corner and you’ll still know this is from Start Rite, without props or colour or over-styling. Genius.

This is a rebrand that’s been pitched perfectly. And one I hope turns around the fortunes of a brand that’s a bit of a British institution. It’s certainly given them a new spring in their step…