Selling everything from wooden building blocks to explorer helmets (a creative interpretation of a bucket hat), Woset is all about creating a world of imaginative items for children. The brainchild of husband and wife duo Brad and Jenna Holdgrafer, the brand creates products that aim to spark storytelling, enable open play and have multiple uses.
The founders and art directors have worked with an array of creatives to help bring the world of Woset to life, including animator Zac Wax, digital studio Mouthwash, toy designer Waka Waka and illustrator Jay Cover, who Brad had already worked with on a book project several years earlier.
“Me and Brad would chat about our lives, the way we looked at the world and our philosophy toward creating things,” Cover tells CR. Inspired by their own two kids, they wanted to create a children’s company that stuck to design principles rather than being market driven. “When Brad and Jenna were conceiving Woset, we had very open discussions on our thoughts on books and objects for children and how didactic or gendered a lot of them seem to be,” says Cover.
“We wanted to create something that was about engaging children’s imaginations. Creating garments and toys that aren’t overly specific, so that children can imagine what the toys do, rather than them having a specific function, like a set of trucks or dinosaurs. It’s about opening up the parameters of play, much more like taking a cardboard box and turning it into something, a blank piece of paper in the form of a set of wooden shapes.”
Cover’s role in the brand evolved into creating its visual side and filling it with characters that reflect its principles. “I wanted to populate Woset with a set of characters where there’s a lot of them and there’s room for more … perhaps not as familiar as a robot or an adventurer or superhero, the kind of well-trodden character tropes you find in things made for children,” he says.
The names of the characters are inspired by Cover’s home on the Isle of Man, while aesthetically they are mostly the illustrator’s interpretations of different emotions. “I like the ordinariness of them as well, the simplicity of being ordinary, not being particularly special or ambitious, the characters are usually just doing or trying to do something that makes them feel content, rather than trying to conquer a mountain or a monster,” he says.
After populating Woset’s world, Cover also created a logo that would feel consistent with the rest of the brand, although the end result is more of a placeholder motif that is intended to evolve over time. “I like this way of un-branding, of course it has all the tropes of a way of doing things that might appear like a brand, that’s just how things that are coherent appear. But it’s not necessarily a strategy for keeping everything the same and on-brand over time, it’s much more about putting something down that says what it needs to say then is open to being changed when the time comes,” says the illustrator.
This may even extend to an entirely different set of brand images in the future. “We did discuss perhaps getting another illustrator or creator to completely re-invent the whole Woset world at some point, like getting a new curator in to change the direction so the world I’ve opened up would completely evolve into something else,” Cover adds.