A shop for monsters and a brand new writing centre
Introducing the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, residence of the newly formed Ministry of Stories and the latest site for Dave Eggers's ongoing 826 literacy program. The branch, the UK's first, has been fully kitted out monster-style by We Made This...
As the designers explain on their blog, in keeping with the model of the other 826 writing centres in the US (where children aged 8-18 can get one-to-one tuition with professional authors) each is housed behind a fantastical shop-front designed to fire the imagination, and – through selling merchandise – generate income for the centres.
In San Francisco's Pirate Supply Store you can buy glass eyes and peg-legs, for example; 826NYC's Superhero Supply Company offers custom-fit capes; while Seattle's Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company sells – as the 826 site has it – "all your space commuting appurtenances".
The look and feel of the first 826 site in the UK, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies: Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind, fell to We Made This after they initially talked about the idea of a UK version on their blog – having seen Eggers talk at TED in April 2008 – and noted that several others had had similar thoughts.
Interest in the idea grew and arts entrepreneurs Lucy McNab and Ben Payne were able to secure support for the project from the Arts Council, as well as seed-funding from the JJ Charitable Trust. To help things along even more, author Nick Hornby – a keen advocate of bringing 826 to the UK – lent his support to the initiative.
The Ministry of Stories and its Hoxton Street Monster Supplies alter-ego is the result. "The shop was established in 1818, and ever since then has served the daily needs of London's extensive monster community," explain We Made This on their blog. "Step inside, and you'll find a whole range of essential products for monsters. You can pick from a whole range of Tinned Fears (each of which comes with a specially commissioned short story from authors including Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith), a selection of Human Preserves, and a variety of other really rather fine goods.
"The project has been an utter joy to work on, letting us flex both our design and our writing muscles in equal measure," they add, "as well as working with a fantastic team of collaborators including architects, writers, designers, dramaturgs (look it up) and others."
Of course, the shop also holds a secret – a disguised entrance that opens onto the Ministry of Stories. "The Ministry is designed to feel really special," say We Made This, "the space was architected brilliantly by Andrew Lock, Catherine Grieg and David Ogunmuyiw; with fantastic wall illustrations by the very lovely Heather Sloane."
The identity for the Ministry grew out of a series of branding workshops where hundreds of names for the project were mulled over, say WMT. "Alistair [Hall] then happened to stumble upon his grandmother's old post-war ration book, featuring the Ministry of Food logo, and that was that. The Ministry had found its name, mood, and identity."
You can follow more about the Ministry on the MoS website (designed by Manifest), the MoS Facebook page, and the MoS Twitter feed. More pictures of the Ministry are on Alistair's MoS Flickr set. WMT would like to thank Benwells, Robert Horne, Fenner Paper and Colorset UVI for their help on the project.
Love that the 826 stuff's making its way over here, and We Made This have done a great job. Only slight criticism is that the shop doesn't seem so decked out as their American counterparts (which really seem to be like stepping into a film set). Budget issues maybe?
The ident and concept are great though!
What Ed said.
I like imagining its real and the understated-ness does that perfectly. Very Ye Olde England(e?) We're always slightly more understated aren't we? Bloody bigg(er) brash(er) Americans.
Film sets always look fake. This ain't no Disneyland
I wasn't talking fibreglass and animatronics or anything. Simple stuff, like having a bucket with "torches to be doused in here" by the door on the way in. A massive shopping basket for the giants. A little door into the shop for goblins (and kids?). Have a giant-sized, human-sized and a goblin-sized sandwich board outside the shop. A cloak rack for vampire customers. Broom/club stand for witches & trolls.
Obviously there's a cost implication there, and I know it's pretty much (if it's not actually) a non-profit thing which was why I acknowledged budgetary constraints in the other post.
Point was the copywriting's great, but it'd be nice if it followed into the physical space a bit more. None of the US shops look disney-ish or brash, just fun – although none of this is intended to demean the fine work that's been done so far.
Hey there Ed - cheers for the constructive comments. You're dead right about budgetary constraints - we did this on less than half a shoestring.
We've got a long, long list of stuff that we want to do as soon as we have a bit more cash to do so - a shelf-load of new products, as well as a load of experiential stuff, pretty much along the lines you've detailed above.
The existing products are already selling really well, and we're doing stacks of fundraising, so hopefully it won't be too long before we can get going with all that. The shop's going to be a constantly evolving space, and this is just the very beginning...
Words cannot describe how amazing this is. Great work.
website seems a bit glitchy, took me a while to find the shop location – I am hungover though.
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