‘It all started with a conversation’: Developing a Visual Identity for Translation Architecture

For our first journal entry, we wanted to share a little of the process through which we developed our logo and visual identity with Alister Shapley of asdesign.


We wanted our visual and typographic identity to foreground the connections that Translation Architecture makes between writing, the design process, collaboration, dialogue and building. Conscious of how important writing is to translating abstract ideas into design concepts, we explore new projects and develop ideas through drawing and writing, which we see as a crucial aspect of dialogue and collaboration. It is also through writing that we reflect on the challenges and achievements of each project, which may then inform future design decisions. Writing cannot be separated from our design process, and ultimately, its translation into built structures, spaces, and environments.


Alister took the idea of writing as a departure point and revisited pictographic traditions which are still relevant today, for example, Chinese characters, as well as the historical precedents informing the western alphabet: ‘Translation Architecture is really into writing and written communication. This allowed me to focus on my passion which is typography, that idea of communicating through symbols, mark-making and the movement of your hand.’ Exploring ancient forms, systems and technologies of recorded communication in historical sites around the world such as Sumerian cuneiform script and Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Alister notes: ‘We actually went right back to the very beginning of how written communication was formed through visual symbols. The one that really grabbed me and seemed to work perfectly was the origin of the letter B which is actually also an ancient symbol for house in some scripts.’ Alister designed our logo as a ligature of the two initials in the studio name. It can be seen as the two letters, a space, a building or a view out of one. Our design process, which is invested in the idea of translation - from concept to drawing, drawing to building, building to use - is embodied in this glyph.


The concept of translation is also key to the relationships we envision between heritage, retrofit and low energy design. Attentive to the dialogues that can be forged between historical architecture and the contemporary priorities, we are sensitive to conservation and the transformations that take place in buildings over time. We wanted our logo to encapsulate the dialogue, as architects, between historical and contemporary approaches as well as between traditional building techniques and craftsmanship.


In the process of designing our logo, Alister brought the aesthetic of the brushstroke to digital design technologies: ‘We played with the aesthetic of nice thick brushstrokes, the feeling of a more immediate, physical form of mark-making, together with the possibilities of these in a digital form and the crispness that comes with it. With the logotype we’ve focussed a lot on the idea of brushstrokes which is why you have these elegant flicks. It’s the idea of taking something old in handmade traditional techniques and moving it to a more structured, modern, digital functionality.’ Alister developed Translation Architecture’s logotype using Highgate by Dalton Mag while thinking about the material quality of a brushstroke: ‘Highgate is very much an engraved form and actually comes from British stone carving seen in Highgate cemetery.’ The idea of carving visual symbols and imagery in materials such as stone, clay or rock extends across time and space. These symbols represented sounds and words that tell stories of commercial transactions and commodities as well as abstract ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Alister refers to design histories that have a relationship to specific places such as Highgate in London, together with more abstract concepts and visual symbols that extend across geographical sites and historical time. As the reference to the Highgate logotype suggests, Translation Architecture was founded in London while embracing an internationalist approach; we consider this to be a valuable creative tension to explore in our work.


Alister, who originally trained as an architect, has an inherently collaborative design process which reflects our own emphasis on collaboration: ‘I try and do things a little differently when I run through the process with the client. I base it on the architectural co-design process, which is all about collaboration and communication and involving everyone’s ideas. That’s why working with Translation Architecture was really good because they understood this process. It’s not about me imposing my ideas and views of what the design should be. It’s more about trying to create a visualisation of the ideas that Translation Architecture have for their business. It all started with conversation.’

‘It all started with a conversation’: Developing a Visual Identity for Translation Architecture

4 Oct 2021

Yvette Greslé

The Relais Henley: Historical layers and the Charles I wall painting

The site of The Relais at The Red Lion (Henley) includes architectural elements that extend from the fifteenth century through to the present day. The construction of the Chantry House, situated between St Mary’s Church in Hart Street and the Thameside courtyard of The Relais, has been dated to 1461 by means of dendrochronology. Historical layering is also evident in a wall painting which dates to 1632, during the reign of Charles I, and is in fact the monarch’s coat of arms.

The Relais Henley: Historical layers and the Charles I wall painting