Words Gordon Ritchie
Portraits Kirk Truman
“Every twist and turn uncovered something new – an old local business, a beautiful Fitzrovia residential mews…”
The sky dark, the moon full, illuminating rain clouds, glinting on black tiled roofs, metal and glass constructions. The BT tower watches over empty streets.
“I’d heard about Fitzrovia without ever really knowing what it was. I began to explore the area. I realised how charming it was. Every twist and turn uncovered something new; an old local business, a beautiful Fitzrovia residential mews, calm, with the craziness of the West End a stone’s throw away, I landed a job as the brand designer for LOVEFiLM. I grew up in Hampshire and it always felt London was on my doorstep. The job gave me the chance to fully commit to the city.”
An indistinct figure appears, collar up, partly concealed, keeps moving along; Not in any hurry, no clear destination; Keeping close to doorways and shop fronts; Stopping sometimes, something catching their attention, then quickly moving on again.
“I had a meandering route into web design. I had no education in design or development. I had little idea what I wanted to do. I started out on a sports degree but quickly changed to Creative Writing and Journalism. The element I loved the most was designing a newspaper layout, so the tutor invited me to take his web design evening course. I was instantly sold. The classes taught me enough to scrape a part-time job at a really good e-commerce agency. When I graduated the following year they gave me a job as a designer. I worked and learnt every day and after work I’d go home and learn and practice some more. Those late nights self-teaching are where the name Dark Blue comes from.”
It was shortly after midnight. I had filed the last of my copy, was about to turn in when ‘ding’, the iPad pings, out of the night a communication. Iggy Hammick had made contact. I opened it.
As I read through the document, his story unfolded in front of my eyes. Training in journalism had made him a talented wordsmith and it revealed his addiction for aesthetics, his pursuit of print perfection and dignified looking digital domains.
“My style is really clean and minimal. I love interacting typography with big photography. I’m fascinated with replicating and advancing editorial/print style design for the web and digital space. That maybe comes from a natural love of the printed press – type, photography and layout. I can’t walk past a magazine shop without losing 45 minutes browsing. Not even reading, just looking at how the type and photography work together!”
I’d been on his trail, tipped off about his talents, told he frequented or resided in Fitzrovia. Determined to track him down, I pounded pavements. Euston Road in the North, behind Oxford Street in the south, spent rainy days around Goodge Street and wound up being blown up Charlotte Street. I spent days in Fitzrovia doorways reading the names on silver intercom systems. Nothing.
Then word came from the other side of the dark tarmac thoroughfare that divides the city. He might be in a newsagent on the Soho side of the tracks. Damn, it was out of our jurisdiction. “I work from the Central Working, co-working offices on Bayley Street. It’s a great place as there’s so much talent and energy around with a plethora of creative technology start-ups. It was from starting there I came across Fitzrovia.”
Determined, I had kept asking after him, but my investigative instincts were exhausted. Maybe he didn’t really exist. I’d tried to track him down online, heard he used the name Dark Blue, but there was no evidence to be found. I spent weeks revving my search engine, trying to get it to crunch into gear. No luck. There are a million stories and mysteries in Fitzrovia. This was just one of them.
“I believe geographic identity is an important aspect of a company’s culture. You should be proud of the neighbourhood you call home. Active in your community, collaborating with local companies and protecting the area’s heritage you develop a strong geographic culture. At Dark Blue we build successful websites for our clients and grow as they grow. My dreams go beyond building a successful company. We run the company as a for benefit organisation. We earn profit and use it creatively for socially responsible projects. At Christmas we sent 100 boxes containing thermal shirts, flasks, USB sticks and Costa Coffee cards to a homeless shelter. We’re privileged to work within this incredible industry, so if we can work harder and put the extra profits into creative ways to help those in need that can only be a good thing. To me, that’s what being socially responsible is and it forms the culture I want inside this company. I hope this is the beginning of a life-long adventure.”
In Iggy’s story I could sense the reluctance to boast of his skill and talent. I minimise the page to find a second email with some links. “We’ve created campaigns for Secret Escapes, South Africa Tourism, Visit Scotland and British Airways. The travel industry is a great place for design as you get stunning photography to work with. Lonely Planet, I see them as the pinnacle of editorial travel. Throw a dart at a map. Wherever it hits, Lonely Planet will tell you where to eat dinner! I’d do anything to get those guys!”
It’s clear that Iggy has his eye on the sky, but his head’s not in the clouds. He talks of nocturnal thoughts, dreams, and the power of taking your mind out of the city and looking up. Scrolling through the showcase of work Dark Blue has produced, it’s the quality and the clear concise nature of the design that stands out. Ethical concerns, entertainers and aesthetes have all had the Dark Blue treatment.
“A lot comes through referrals. Every project has led to more work. It creates a consistent flow, and means we’re doing our jobs well! If there’s a customer I really want, I’ll do my homework and drop off a little handwritten note, with some Dark Blue propaganda and a gift. There’s an Indian themed bar near my house, so I dropped round and gave them some hand-painted postcards I’d picked up from Pushkar a few years before. I got a call within 48 hours. I think people appreciate the attention to detail.” So one late night, the dark blue sky pierced by the BT Tower, you catch a glimpse of a silhouette, flitting from doorway to doorway, pausing momentarily; surreptitiously leaving calling cards. Iggy Hammick is out. Out of sight.