Shaping Up

Shaping Up is a series of gently humorous illustrations created by Barcelona-based Albert Tercero for the new collection from Established & Sons, playing on the seemingly unstoppable popularity of yoga. Liv Siddall explores the role of the illustrator in bringing to life the values of a brand.

In an age of endless screens, where everyone can be an amateur photographer with a platform, illustration has been enjoying something of a comeback. There’s something reassuringly human about an inky brushstroke, an imperfect sketch, or a clever cartoon.

Illustration also offers a way to inject a sense of personality into design, in a way that photography simply can’t match. For its 2018 collection, Established & Sons’ Design Director Sebastian Wrong commissioned Albert Tercero to create a series of unexpected, playful illustrations showing the new furniture pieces being used as part of a yoga practice – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the lifestyle trends of social media and of east London, but also a subtle nod to the balance that the brand is creating in its new approach.

The aim was to create something a little bit out of the ordinary and revive some of the sense of Established & Sons as a “wonderful, experimental ideas factory”, explains Design Director Sebastian Wrong. “Today, in order to experiment, you need to have a solid foundation to allow you to cover your costs of research and experimentation. That’s what we are working on right now: trying to build a strong foundation for the brand to grow from for the future. Illustration was a way to express that balance.”

“Albert came up with the yoga idea which was spot on,” he says. “I asked him how he could play with the idea of human interaction and express some of the character of our pieces.”

“From the beginning, we understood we wanted to approach these images as a play between furniture and an individual,” says Tercero. “I like a brief that implies trust, as this one has. This is one of the things I value the most in a client.”

The partnership grew out of a chance encounter with Tercero’s work. Wrong knew he wanted to collaborate with someone outside of the world of design to bring in a fresh perspective. He came across the Barcelona-based illustrator’s pieces on the popular art and design site It’s Nice That and fell in love with them.

“I like the clarity of his visual language: it’s simple, it’s uncomplicated, it’s humorous. It’s also slightly European, which I really like,” says Wrong.

Tercero’s crisp, neat line drawings are often character-based, showing modern men and women in a variety of often slightly uncanny situations. They gently echo and subvert the old illustrations of in-flight safety manuals and retro children’s books, with a gently incongruous humour.

The series has been dubbed Shape Up and will appear on tote bags during Milan design week – a treasured Established & Sons tradition.

“It breaks away from the industrialisation of the furniture, makes it a little warmer, a little bit more crafted,” says Wrong. “Who wants to just go and see a collection of furniture in a cold, bleak environment? You want to be excited by it and remember it. So that’s where his illustrations are really important for us. We’re embracing character.”

The decision to work with Tercero also reflects Wrong’s desire for the world of furniture and design to be more open, daring and celebratory of the human relationships that make it all happen. Collaboration between different creative worlds – publishing, fashion, architecture, graphic design, illustration, furniture design – will lead to stronger work and better communication with any and every kind of audience.