How to transform the streets to bring more joy!

I believe colour and pattern can make a positive impact in the world!  The right colour can uplift mood helping people to feel more positive.  Pattern and imagery can help connect people to places and add meaning to placemaking.

Joyous Ground Graphics

Cobalt Collective, commission by V&A Dundee. Photo Credit Louise Kirby

One way to add more colour into the public realm is through adding ground graphics and colourful crossings transforming dreary tarmac streets into colourful ones! Look how joyful these are! Cobalt Collective in collaboration with with some community groups decorated the plaza around the V&A Dundee to create this colourful positive artwork.

Plaza by Cobalt Collective outside V&A Dundee. Photo credit Cobalt Collective

Examples of colourful ground graphics from around the UK

Camille Walala, 2016, London, commissioned by the Transport for London’s Future Streets Incubator Fund.
Photo by Better Bankside

“The aim of the Colourful Crossings commission is to explore how everyday infrastructures in the city, such as pedestrian crossings, are perceived and can be transformed,” said Better Bankside.

Stobswell Colourful Crossing 2021, Dundee by Louise Kirby, UNESCO City of Design Dundee funded by Sustrans Scotland.

I (Louise Kirby) created this design inspired by the local area taking elements from the historic architectural details, green spaces and public art after consultation with locals wanting more colour into the grey streets. You can see more about it and a blog about the whole process here

Eley Kishimoto, 2016, Brixton, London. Photo from Brixton Buzz

I’ve always loved this graphic iconic print design by Eley Kishimoto. It’s got great movement with the use of strong graphics in the positive and negative space. It looks great on the streets of Brixton, also in the variations of colours.

Graphic design by Callum Laird, Union Street, Dundee, UNESCO City of Design Dundee funded by Sustrans Scotland.
Photo credit David P Scott

It brings great joy to walk up and down through the colour of Union Street, Dundee to and from the V&A Dundee. I love the limited colour palette and bold graphics. Nice to see local businesses making use of the street, it reminds me of cafe culture on holiday! I look forward to seeing what happens next in this project to create a more permanent enhancement. I am really inspired by Dundee City Councils vision.

Craigie Compass by Bigg Design and Fun Makes Good, 2022, funded by Sustrans Scotland.
Photo by Bigg Design

Hamish from Bigg Design and Eleanor from Fun Makes Good created these cool ground murals called the ‘Craigie Compas’ to help with wayfinding in Perth, Scotland. Great to see the ground graphics used to help wayfinding, brighten up the area and the addition of fun signage giving it a 3d feel. You can read about it here

Practical Considerations

On ground graphics we have a limited colour palette. By using different colour combinations we can get varied results.  There are options from the material used to apply the designs depending on if it’s a temporary or longer term installation and what the purpose of the area is used for.  When designing a ground graphic in the public realm consideration and consultation needs to be in place for accessibility for all users’ needs.

They are a great way to inject a bit of fun, playfulness and joy!

Dundee cake inspired design in Puebla Mexico for UNESCO City of Design Dundee, designed by Louise Kirby.
Photo credit UNESCO city of Design Dundee

An example of taking a bit of Dundee to the other side of the world in Puebla,Mexico, representing UNESCO City of Design Dundee. You can read more about this project where students from Puebla painted my design and used design to highlight a safety issue on the roads you can read more about it here

I have a vision of the world full of colourful creative interventions to bring more joy to the spaces we play, live, work and travel through.  My aim is to uplift and connect people and highlight the positives by creating artworks that capture a sense of place which creates a sense of belonging.  I love to do this with my use of playfully applying colour and pattern.

I am ready to take on new design challenges and if you have a project, collaboration or commission in mind please get in touch hello@louisekirby.com or you can check some samples on my website to give you a flavour of previous projects.

Stobswell Shutter Arts

I’ve loved painting the shutter art designs on 3 businesses on Albert Street in Stobswell Dundee. All designs are inspired by highlighting the positives in the area.

It’s been a joyful experience with lots of banter from locals giving me positive encouragement ‘what you up to?’ and me replying I’m bringing a bit of colour and pattern to the area to brighten it up!

Here’s a flavour of what folk have said over the weeks I was painting: “You’re doing a braw job of this, it’s keeping you busy, it’s so cheerful “, “Amazing what a difference it makes”, “That’s smart”, “You must have good patience, it’s lovely!”, “Radical Colours”, “He’s fascinated with your swans”, “Are you painting the whole street?”, “I hope you’re getting paid for this, it’s lovely and making a real difference”, And to top it off ‘Eh Ken you’

Colour is really important to me and I believe it can change how a place feels, which in turn can change how people feel. I want the people of Stobswell to feel positive and uplifted. For these designs I used the same vibrant colour palette from the Pocket Parks I designed in 2021 on Craigie St and Eliza Street.

The Albert Bar

The Albert Bar design is filled with colourful patterns, shapes and colours taken from the local area, such as the row of 7 arches inspired by the arches of the windows of the Baxter Park Pavilion, zig zags from the public art sculpture on Princess Street and geometrics from the brickwork gable end on Craigie Street.

Initially I was only to be painting one shutter but I extended the design onto 2 other shutters to look like the squares were falling off like an old school video game and bouncing in the shape of a zig zag to echo the detail. I think having all 3 together gives a stronger impact and the zig zag directs your eye to the main shutter.  Great to hear The Albert Bar or should I say L’lbert is planning on upgrading their frontage and fixing their sign now that they have shutter art!

The Property Shop

The Property Shop design is inspired by the Swannie Ponds featuring rows of swans, leaves and rippling water to create stripes of colourful patterns. This design idea developed further as I was painting as I wanted it to be more engaging to the children that walked and wheeled past as the bottom section is at a good eye level for them. I added 2 larger scale swans and some boats to give a nod to the Dundee Model Boat Club. It was nice to hear “He’s fascinated with your swans” as a lady and wee boy passed daily.

Lucky House

The Lucky House bold circular design is full of decorative details on the inside and outside and I think the clashing red and pink just sing together.  I was keen to include red as it represents happiness, beauty, success, and good fortune in China.

Can you spot where the patterns come from?

Ornamental details from the Baxter Park railings and the ironwork on the rooftop of Morgan Academy, zig zags from the public art sculpture. Some of these elements are also seen in my colourful crossing on Eliza Street. (you can read more about it here)

While painting the Lucky House shutter a local said ‘That’s not an oriental design’ and I explained the meaning of the patterns which started the conversation and hearing the history about how the Morgan Academy railings were removed in the 2nd world war to be used for bullets. You learn something new everyday!

I wanted each design to look unique but also to work as a series. I think they make a stronger impact being positioned quite close together, just imagine if they went all the way up Albert Street!

This commission was part of an open call from Sustran Scotland who are encouraging walking and wheeling in the area. We approached business owners with possible designs to find out if they were interested. I created sketches and shared for feedback, then agreed suitable times I could paint that didn’t interfere with their opening hours. I got all layered up in my painting clothes. The designs were painted by hand and I used some stencils and I created the circle shape using the lofi method of a bit of string and chalk. Thanks to all the help from Stobswell Forum and Dundee City Council Community Officer to encourage businesses to take part.

We had a Celebration Day to showcase the shutter art where myself and artist Gordy Crawford did tours talking about our inspiration and process. This event was in partnership with the Stobswell Form, Sustrans Scotland, Dundee City Council, where fun chalk activities were happening on Craigie Street and info about the future regeneration plans.

I really hope that the shutters bring joy to the people of the area who use it. Let me know what you think or how they make you feel!

`You can find out more about my projects here

This project was funded by Sustrans Scotland, Pocket Places programme where local communities shape their neighbourhood and take a lead in making their local area a better place to walk, wheel, cycle – and live.

Explore. Play. Create.

DCA Windows Inspiration and Process

I was delighted to be commissioned by the DCA to create an exciting, vibrant window design that celebrates all the activity, energy and sense of community found across all the programme areas of DCA.  Bringing the inside activity and energy to the outside of the building in the window areas.

The process involved research, development, prototyping and good communication with the DCA team and fabricator to creating the final designs on display.

Research

I got a feel for the building by visiting all the different departments, taking lots of photos that I could refer to in the studio.

I found lots of geometric shapes within the building from the angular windows, step shaped walls, winged gallery roof plus so many circles, from the vintage projectors, printing press wheels, pegboard, retail display units, circular fairy lights fittings in Jute Café Bar to products in the shop.

I am naturally drawn to seeing pattern and texture and loved the overlaid wire racks in the print studio that created modern checks and the negative space of the screen-printing racks full of irregular stripes.

I found colour references from the bright cinema seats, pots of ink in the print studio, participant artwork on display in the creative learning store, bright colours of the Riso print samples to the more subtle cladding of the building. 

Development

To process ideas, I created sketches in pencil and ink then found visual connections.  I created rough thumbnail sketches of designs in situ and mocked them up digitally to test various colour combinations and played with different juxtaposition of textures within shapes.  I played with rotation and scale of the spots to capture the energy from the activity from inside of the building.  I referred to the brief, discussed technical details with the local fabricator RobertSign and worked within design constraints so that the design would work practically.  I selected and rejected elements to create coherent concepts for presenting to the DCA team.

The final designs are inspired from the bold geometric shapes with a playful feel using my signature style that retain the hand drawn feel of my linework and confidently uses a vibrant colour palette with clashing and contrasting of patterns bringing together all the activity of the building. I wanted the circles in the top windows to have a lot of movement the capture the energy of the building and connect to the shop windows below. 

With my design work I like to capture a sense of place by creating bespoke designs that are meaningful and unique to the space and I hope these designs help people to connect to the DCA and remind past visitors to come inside and entice new visitors to see the variety of things it has to offer, from a trip to the cinema to taking part in a workshop to grabbing a bite to eat with friends or seeing the latest contemporary art exhibition.

You can find out more about my work here

Art Shows the Way

ART Shows The Way!

New dementia-friendly art and design projects at three Perthshire sheltered housing units have been created to help residents find their way around the complexes while adding new positive character.

Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust (THAT) in partnership with Perth & Kinross Council has commissioned these creative art and design solutions at the Carpenter Court and Strathmore Street sheltered housing units in Perth and at James Court in Pitlochry

Developed using dementia-friendly principles, the artworks and enhanced design will help make navigation around the buildings easier for the tenants.  

THAT commissioned designer Louise Kirby to hold consultation workshops with staff and tenants looking at themes and colours that residents responded well too. Louise then devised different plans, each appropriate to the individual sites. The concept was to use imagery that was based around the changing seasons and nature, and reflected the established colour coding system for each floor of the Carpenter Court and Strathmore Street. Within the third unit at James Court Pitlochry these designs reflected tenants’ and staffs’ love of the local animals and landscape and provided positive images that brighten up the corridor.

Louise said: “I loved the challenge of using my design skills to improve how tenants find their way around and across these sheltered housing units. The buildings are very different in size and layout and so required different solutions, but the principle is the same. The design elements link and flow with the established colour coding to provide positive visual markers for people. This has been a great opportunity to see how my design can help people living in these complexes.”

Perth & Kinross Council’s Housing and Communities Convener, Councillor Bob Brawn, added: “These   are lovely images and we have been getting a lot of positive comments about them from both tenants and visitors, who are really enjoying the colour they’ve brought to the complexes. They are a great addition to all the units and our tenants and staff are really pleased with the outcome.”

THAT promotes the therapeutic value of the arts based programmes to enhance environments, quality of life, and promote social inclusion by empowering individuals to make an important contribution to their health and wellbeing.

For more information about the THAT project, please contact Karine Neill Development Officer THAT on 01382 835509 or if you would like to chat to Louise Kirby about enhancing your space contact hello@louisekirby.com

Explore Dundee Guide

Dundee’s location is the best! I love that I can be in the city, on the beach or in the countryside so quickly.  I love to get out in the fresh air and be inspired by what I see! Here are some of my top places to walk and explore.

Broughty Ferry Beach is a regular spot for me and Rhubarb the dog.  I’m always on the lookout for interesting colours, textures and patterns and Rhubarb is on the lookout for crabs!   You can sometimes spot dolphins too if you’re lucky! 

Barnhill Rock Garden always looks great with an abundance of textures of plants and flowers. Visocchis is a must for an ice cream and Jessies Kitchen for lunch or coffee and I highly recommend their strawberry tarts! Pretty Fly is great for gifts or treating yourself.  You can pick up some of my Dundee Delights products there – prints, tea towels, cards, pins, bags and notepads!

7 Arches walk is part of the Monifieth Path and is great for exploring along the banks of the Dighty. On my walks I’ve spotted deer and love the wildflowers plus listening the the songbirds early in the morning.

Somewhere I’m going to check out is the Spaces for Places in Union Street as it’s now pedestrianised with planters and outdoor seating just next to the penguin sculptures. You can explore some of the streets you don’t normally go down part of the Open Close Trail in the city centre, and you can do it in Stobswell too. I love that this project brings colour and art to the city! My favourite doors are Jen Collins next to Forte cafe on Dura Street and Lindsay Brown owl on a wee lane behind Albert Square.

There are some new murals down near the V&A Dundee of the whales and check out the amazing artwork of Fraser Gray and Martin McGuinnes on the legs of the Tay road bridge. You can read more about it here.

On a clear day The Law is great for 360 degree views of the city, and going uphill really gets those leg muscles going but I do admit I’ve driven up to the top too! Balgay Hill walk up to the observatory (not currently open) is nice and you can go over the blue bridge to the graveyard. I love seeing the highland cows and great views over the river Tay on the Riverside Nature Trail.

As a student I used to spend lots of time drawing the cacti in the glass houses at the Botanical Garden and its a lovely place to wander amongst the range of trees and plants in their outdoor space.

Further afield Crombie County Park is a perfect length of walk amongst the trees around the loch. For me it’s really inspiring and I have lots of photos of things that inspire me from here! Monikie Country Park is great for feeding the ducks (they like peas and seeds instead of bread) and you can pick up an ice cream or coffee from Byzantium Cafe.

Kinshaldy Beach has the great combination of the beach and the woodland area, and check out the Crepe Shack if it’s there too. East Haven beach past Carnoustie has such a picturesque feeling.

For those of you who like the water I’ve seen some really cool pics from people going on the Outdoor Explore trips on the river Tay and Clunie loch.

I’ve always  got my camera capturing some inspiration for my designs everything from wildflowers, textures to patterns in the sand.  My designs bring into focus the positives to capture a sense of place so it connects people to the local area. You can read more about my design work here.

Recently I’ve been inspired by the wildflowers growing during lockdown and started to add this into my Dundee Cityscape. You can see the full Dundee Delights collections here with free postage on all orders.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LouiseKirbyShop

Vote for the Oak

I am delighted to be commissioned by The Woodlands Trust Scotland to help draw attention to an oak tree in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park to help it win European Tree of the Year. Continue reading