PROJECT

We Sailed From The Apex is a journey through the influences
and references that have shaped and defined four23’s
approach to design over the last decade.


Founded by friends Warren Bramley and Darryl Hardman, four23
has grown from the two of them sharing an attic space in Manchester,
known as The Apex, to become a global communication design studio.


A reflective audio/visual installation, the soul of the exhibition is a written
narrative by Warren, sharing 10 lessons and observations from the last decade.

EXHIBITION

As part of London Design Festival 2014, the studio was open to the
public from midday to 8pm for nine days from 13th to 21st September.

INTRODUCTION

four23 started out in an old attic space in Manchester, a space that became known as the Apex. The space had not been used for twenty years and had no functioning electrics. But it had some considerable personality and the amenity of its own front door. After some weeks of effort, and the voluntary endeavour of an electrician, it was made ready. The two founders organised a party, hired a hydrogen tank and let 423 balloons float out of the window. The film is somewhere.

We all need a
mentor to help
show the way

My first mentor was the late Anthony H Wilson.

Factory Records was my first job after leaving University but I soon realised that working for Tony was just the start of my education. This was 1998, and long after the heyday of Factory, but that didn’t matter. Spending time in Tony’s company, listening in to his conversations, watching his reactions, observing his ability to engage and entertain was like learning a whole new language.

Don’t worry about
the name, it’s the context
that’s important

I used to go to university with a guy called Matt White. He played guitar, sang

nicely and decided to form a band. “Matt White and the Emulsions”. Following logic – that a great name should guarantee success – they should have been huge. We called ourselves four23 in a rush and with little consideration. We had been asked to complete our first piece of work for a record label. They had the belief that we could shoot a great music video for one of their artists. But we needed a name so we could send our first invoice.


Strike a balance between
Turnover vs Romance

There’s a story about Factory Records,

that may or may not be true, that comes from a time when they were battling against bankruptcy in 1992. The founders called an emergency board meeting to try and decide how they could cut costs as they were losing substantial amounts of money on a weekly basis. After much discussion they decided they had two options. The first was to lose the receptionist who had been with them for eight months and was good but not great. The second was to lose the weekly flower delivery. They agreed unanimously to lose the receptionist.

There’s a story about Factory Records,

that may or may not be true, that comes from a time when they were battling against bankruptcy in 1992. The founders called an emergency board meeting to try and decide how they could cut costs as they were losing substantial amounts of money on a weekly basis. After much discussion they decided they had two options. The first was to lose the receptionist who had been with them for eight months and was good but not great. The second was to lose the weekly flower delivery. They agreed unanimously to lose the receptionist.


We have
always created
a HOME

The Clash had Rehearsal Rehearsals, Picasso had Le Bateau-Lavoir, Talking

Heads had The End of the World, and we at four23, at the start, had the Apex. Our first home back in 2004. The building, in the Castlefield basin of Manchester, was owned by a chap called Phil Chrisp and it had been in his family for over 100 years. It had always been a family letterpress printing business; it was a craft that ran through four generations of his family. We went to collect some print one morning and he showed us his storeroom – the top floor with a pitched roof. It became our studio and the first thing we did was to christen it the Apex.


Take the time to
explain what’s in
our heads first

In 2007 four23 was selected by the Department of Trade and Investment as a business who was trading successfully internationally. We had a global client who was taking us across the world on creative missions and the DTI had seen this activity and offered us ‘coaching’ on international trading. After a few courses they offered us a trip to the Chicago Business School to join a programme on Creative Leadership. It was an education. A high-intensity atmosphere of US academia. Read the cases, argue your point, show no hesitation, stay up all night, and when the morning comes go for a 10-mile run. It was great learning. One thing we brought back was from a session taken by a Professor of Communication. We’ll replay it here.

Take the time to
explain what’s in
our heads first

In 2007 four23 was selected by the Department of Trade and Investment as a business who was trading successfully internationally. We had a global client who was taking us across the world on creative missions and the DTI had seen this activity and offered us ‘coaching’ on international trading. After a few courses they offered us a trip to the Chicago Business School to join a programme on Creative Leadership. It was an education. A high-intensity atmosphere of US academia. Read the cases, argue your point, show no hesitation, stay up all night, and when the morning comes go for a 10-mile run. It was great learning. One thing we brought back was from a session taken by a Professor of Communication. We’ll replay it here.

Doctor,
our flamingo
is sick

Tom Waits was an established artist when he met his partner and future wife, Kathleen Brennan, in 1978 (they married in 1980). They met during a period where to his own admission he wasn’t creating his best music. Far from it. His early creative spark had gone. But with Kathleen as his collaborator, Tom Waits found a new voice (literally) and a newfound wealth of creativity, sparking a decade of possibly his most interesting work. Together they developed a code for a troublesome moment when creating.

Tom Waits was an established artist when he met his partner and future wife, Kathleen Brennan, in 1978 (they married in 1980). They met during a period where to his own admission he wasn’t creating his best music. Far from it. His early creative spark had gone. But with Kathleen as his collaborator, Tom Waits found a new voice (literally) and a newfound wealth of creativity, sparking a decade of possibly his most interesting work. Together they developed a code for a troublesome moment when creating.


Planning the final
destination is important,
but allow the journey route
to evolve

The Christmas of 2009 we took the four23 team to Marrakech for

a celebratory weekend and I packed into my bag a book on the Cuban invasion of 1959 to read on the trip. Apparently when Castro left the boat on the shores of Cuba, he turned to his small team, a handful of men, and asked them for the compass. They all looked at each other, checked their pockets and realised they had forgotten to bring one. Che Guevara stepped forward and said: “Don’t worry men, I used to work on a farm, so I’ll plot our path by following the stars."


We are all creatively
unique and can only
unite as complementaries
not as similarities

The title is a quote taken from a recent exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

It told the wonderful story of the creative relationship between the artists, and husband and wife, Ben and Winifred Nicolson. It reminded us of a project four23 embarked upon with Paul Robertson in 2011, a virtuoso violinist and the founder of the acclaimed Medici String Quartet. His quartet had been together for 20 years, practicing and rehearsing every day in the pursuit of musical perfection. And Paul had developed a theory that there are four different but complementary types of personality, namely the Cleric, the Phlegmatic, the Sanguine and the Melancholic.


Individual
ambition is best
realised through
the prism of team
success

A friend of mine, many years ago,

was a few months into a relationship with a woman who was training to be a psychiatrist. One evening she handed him a notepad and a pencil and asked him to draw a picture. Knowing that this wasn’t simply just about drawing a picture, it was instead a veiled psychology test, he tried to swerve it.

IF YOU SELL ONLY YOUR
EXPERTISE, THEN YOU HAVE
A LIMITED REPERTOIRE

Orson Welles was 24-years old and a succesfful Broadway

theatre director when he embarked on his first Hollywood film, Citizen Kane. The first day at the studio lot, Orson walked through the different stages and sets, watched the cameramen set up their tools and observed one thing: none of the sets had any roofs.

ABOUT

four23 is an independent communication studio with an interdisciplinary team featuring
designers, researchers, writers, producers, coders, engineers and filmmakers.