United Notions

20 Design studios from 20 countries were to produce two screen printed posters for United Notions Exhibition in Moscow and Berlin. Each studio was asked to write a brief based on a local expression or fact. The brief was then answered by that studio and another somewhere else in the world (in our case Brazil). Here is our brief:

Our studio is in Hackney, East London – traditionally an ethnically diverse, working-class area with a high crime rate. In recent years however, the face of the East End has changed beyond recognition. It’s popularity has grown dramatically and our street has turned into one of the hippest in the capital. Gone are the crooks, gangsters and most of the old East Enders. In came cool people with beards, skinny jeans and tattoos. Accordingly, the local shops have changed – coffee houses now line up beside organic food markets and hipster bars. In summer, its practically impossible to find a seat. Except at one location. In the midst of it all stands a bastion against gentrification: Bob Cooke’s Jellied Eel shop. Bob rather stubbornly defends tradition, managing to keep his shop empty most of the time. To fully understand why, it may be enough to google some images of jellied eels. Often accompanied by a scary looking green sauce, eels are a proper East End tradition. At the end of World War Two there were over a hundred eel, pie and mash houses in London, providing cheap and nutritious food for the poor. Nowadays, nobody except for a few hardliners wants to eat them. Bob’s shop (F. Cooke, 9 Broadway Market, London E9) is over 100 years old. It’s also one of the most beautiful around, with original Art Deco features. The shop could be full every day if Bob would just serve anything edible. But despite throwing away money every day, Bob sticks to serving food of days gone by. Ironically, the term ‘jellied eel’ means ‘deal’ in traditional Cockney rhyming slang. 

Although we would never eat the eels, we appreciate what Bob does. As designers, we are also stubborn people, often defending our beliefs against fashion trends and our client’s demands. The changes in the area have also meant that our studio rent has increased quite a bit. And with all the hipsters around, it’s too crowded to get a table in our local pub. This is unacceptable. 

The brief is to design a poster for Bob’s eel shop that will scare even more people away from the area.

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