Home > Graphics, Photography, Visual Design > Visual design in Birmingham

Visual design in Birmingham

Last week in our lecture we had a mini field trip to central Birmingham to explore visual design in the city and how it contrasts in different areas and also how it has changed over time. Below I have included 6 examples of visual design I found in Birmingham, and below that an example of  what someone else found, and my thoughts on that.

To see all the photos check out my flickr here


1) Shaws passage



This arrangement of signs was found merely a 5 minute walk away from the busy city centre and the bullring. Already within a 5 minute radius you can see a contrast between the modern, sheik architecture and signs to the some what industrial and basic scene you see here. To me, I think the wall acts as a practical basis rather than a creative one where businesses can advertise there locality and trade. The advertisements put here aren’t very visually appealing as they use very basic sans serif fonts and simplistic colour palettes. Personally I wouldn’t be drawn in by any of these advertisements but I think that this perhaps is just an advertising space.

Here you can also see a very basic directional sign towards Digbeth and the Bull Ring. The sign, quite like the advertisements is used for a practical reason rather than a creative one. The sign is simply a way of guiding someone so the sans serif font makes the sign very easy to read and the white and black colour scheme is clear and readable. However, I think it is important to contrast this sign to some of the other signs around Birmingham (which will be in another post)

Finally I think it is important to comment on the brick wall itself. The dark colour of the brick reads as very industrial and practical but also provides a substantial back drop to all the signs which use pale and bright backgrounds. Additionally, the graffiti highlights how ‘the everyday man’ as it were is becoming creative or even artistic within the street art and graffiti medium. However, because this location is just outside of main tourist Birmingham walls like this not be readily viewed, taken in or noticed so the signs and graffiti reflect that fact.

2) The Bullring


“The ambition of this scheme was great. Our brief was not only to design a state of the art department store but also to create an architectural landmark for Birmingham so that the building itself would become a genuine catalyst for urban regeneration”

After analysing the Selfridges logo, I think it is important to analyize the building itself. The designers of the building in my opinion have certainly accomplished what they set out to do, by creating a iconic landmark that is widely associated with Birmingham. The shape of the building is unique and dramatic, the repetitive detail work adds to the drama and also the building itself reads as highly modern, urban and almost futuristic.

“The fluidity of shape recalls the fall of fabric or the soft lines of a body, rises from the ground and gently billows outwards before being drawn in at a kind of waistline. It then curves out again and over to form the roof, in one continuous movement. The skin is made up of thousands of aluminium discs, creating a fine, lustrous grain like the scales of a snake or the sequins of a Paco Rabanne dress. In sunlight it shimmers, reflecting minute changes in weather conditions and taking on the colours, light and shapes of people and things passing by – an animate and breathing form.”

This building truely reflects the moderisation of 21st centuary Birmingham and highlights the creative future of Birmingham. The building breaks the conventions of the typical straight edge architecture around Birmingham and provides a heavy contrast to the churches, markets and shops that surround it.


3) Public transport – van

Public transport design

This photo is of a van I found when walking around the creative hub of Birmingham – Digbeth. The image shown on the van is reminiscent rather than modern and stands out due to it’s strong black and white contrast. However, although I love the way the designer is using visual design on public transport and in new ways I don’t know why it’s there. Is it for a photography business? or is it just to make a statement? Although the meaning behind the design isn’t very clear the van is striking, dramatic and amazing!


4) UB40 recording studio

UB40 recording studio

“DEP International Studios was a recording studio situated in Digbeth, Birmingham, UK. Designed by Recording Architecture, the studio is owned by dub music band UB40 Situated in Birmingham’s Eastside area, the DEP buildings were demolished in March 2008 to allow for the improvement of the area.”

I think that this building is very important in representing visual design in Birmingham. I see Birmingham as being extremely diverse, creative and ever changing. To me, this building signifies a definite creative movement within Birmingham both in music and art/visual design. The choice of the black walls makes the graffiti extremely striking and stand out and also acts as a way to combine all the bright colours cohesively.

The building portrays a place that is highly creative and diverse however, If I had not researched this building i wouldn’t of known that this is actually a recording studio, but I love it all the same!


5) Selfridges



Contrasting to some of my images captured outside the city centre, this piece of visual design is very central to Birmingham and one of the infamous logos associated with the Birmingham shopping scene. The bright yellow colour scheme contrasts brightly against the grey pavements and roads and also the silver Selfridges building. Additionally, by using continual capital letters and a strong sans serif font, the logo contrasts strongly against the Selfridges building. The building is constructed with a dark blue background and repeated silver circles, and the bright yellow, very straight text contrasts both stylistically but also with the colour scheme.

“The Birmingham store, designed by architects Future Systems, is covered in 15,000 spun aluminium  discs on a background of Yves Klein Blue. Since it opened in 2003, the Birmingham store has been named every year by industry magazine Retail Week as one of the 100 stores to visit in the world”

To accompany the bright yellow font and to make the writing stand out even more, each individual letter is bordered by yellow neon lights that flash to make it extremely modern and eye catching, and also practically make it stand out at night and draw even more attention to the building, the logo and the brand.


6) Graffiti

Graffiti in Birmingham

This piece of visual design contrasts heavily to any of the other pieces so far. This designer has a true creative license to say or do whatever they want. This is represented through the chosen text of ‘art fag’ which is mirrored through the cigarette graffiti in the background. The designer here has chosen to use contrasting pinks, whites and blue to make the overall aesthetic playful and stand out. The effect of it standing out is further intensified by the strong black backdrop which acts as a strong basis for the piece. By using contrasting shades of pink and blues the piece has developed some depth and texture. Ironically, other people have expressed their creativity upon this designers creative stamp by graffiti-ing on top of this piece. I found this example of graffiti away from the central and modernised city  which highlights the contrasting perspectives and areas with Birmingham. I think the shading is good on the simple sans serif typography but personally I think the cigarette is a lot better than the type. I think this is a good piece of visual design because it is not limited by the creative boundaries that a brand might employ but just shows free creative reign to highlight the designers own personal perspective rather than a perspective that is set to promote or sell something.



1) Canal studios
see the image here:


I commented:


“I really like this photo! It’s a really unusual but clever way to promote canal studios – perhaps It’s a little bit to obscure to really be noticed or to create an impact. Also the white
background and light really contrasts to the bold, black serif font used.”

Reflecting upon this lecture, I’m intending to post another blog about some of the leaflets I found around Birmingham with analysis and also draw more comparisons through the photos I took on the day.

  1. November 11, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

    • November 24, 2010 at 12:48 am

      Thank you for such kind comments. If this has helped you in anyway I feel extremely proud and thankful.

  1. November 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm

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