RoomFifty is a new online shop selling prints by 50 of ‘the best contemporary illustrators and graphic designers around the world’. Aiming to be ‘Fair to everybody’, prints are available at a reasonable price for customers and a good profit for artists (i.e. 70% of profit goes straight to the artist), and women and people of colour represent a large proportion of the artists. Prints are in limited editions of 50 in A5 (£15), A3 (£30) and A2 (£60), and you can add a handmade frame for £20 (A5), £40 (A3) or £60 (A2).
RoomFifty has teamed up with Spectrum Lab to produce all of the prints. Spectrum are a Hahnemühle ‘certified studio’, which means that they are capable of creating digital fine art prints consistently and predictably on Hahnemühle Fine Art papers, with the expertise to reproduce age resistant prints with a consistent quality.
Where did this whole thing start, had the idea been brewing for some time?
Leon: As an illustrator, I’ve tried to sell prints of my work off and on, but you go to the effort of setting up a big cartel store and then maybe sell one or two prints. That seems to be the story of most illustrators. There are some galleries that sell work by illustrators, but they’re not widely known, certainly not outside of London, and they can still be pretty expensive. I was at a party in September and a woman was telling me that she’d wanted to buy prints by some contemporary female artists but couldn’t find any. I thought that was crazy. I told her I could give her a list of fifty amazing female artists that would probably sell her prints of their work. Then I had a hunt around online for a place that sold really great contemporary art for a reasonable price. But there really wasn’t any, so I thought I’d make one.
Chris & Ben, how did you get involved?
What was your brief from Leon, and approach?
Chris: Leon and I have worked together for sometime across various publications. I’ve always had a huge respect and admiration for Leon’s visual storytelling and it was enthusiasm and curiosity that peaked my interest. Originally Leon contacted me to exhibit as one of the 50 practitioners, however as we discussed the concept I quickly became enthralled by the idea. Leon’s values that he instilled at the core of roomfifty really resonated, creating affordable limited edition artwork to fit all walls and wallets.
Leon and I bounced around ideas, names and initial concepts around for several weeks before we found something that chimed. The design we settled with hopefully communicates a sense of honesty and timelessness giving enough display to the headline acts (the artists) but still remains a level of design integrity aiming to reflect the quality of practitioners within the roster.
The design aims to touch on the concept of three sizes using the graphic shapes to help reinforce roomfifty’s concept.
Working full time on the Guardian’s (soon to be released) redesign — The timings were fraught and the concept, design and build was realised In a remarkably tight deadline, with each of us giving up mornings, evenings and weekends to realise our shared vision.
We enlisted Ben Longden, to help develop on roomfiftys digital presence. Having worked with Ben for several years, I sincerely trusted his judgement and ability to deliver the build of the site in time without neglecting the detail. Ben brought some really smart thinking to the evolution of the brands digital impact, creating a narrative online to complete the journey.
Ben: I have worked with Chris for a couple of years at the Guardian, and have now done a couple of projects outside the Guardian with him. When he asked if I would be interested in working on this, yet to be named project, I jumped at the chance, partly because I am a big fan of Leon’s work and partly because I thought the idea was great.
Leon was after something simple but unique, something easy to navigate and understand — these were the driving principles behind the design. The sites design developed fairly organically out of the amazing work Chris had done working on the branding, the main challenge with the design was to balance introducing a unfamiliar brand without overwhelming the artists — the stars of the show. Through the unexpected usage of the artworks, the branded graphic elements and typography I wanted to bring as much surprise and delight to the website as possible. Something which is fairly simple when you are working with such amazing artwork to start with. As the website is the primary point of contact for people it was really important that we achieved this, and I really hope we have done this.
I think the relative familiarity of the artists and illustrators is part of the draw, the fact that it is a limited roster makes you want to explore all the people — you are not overwhelmed by choice, but you are at the same time inspired by the quality and creativity of all the people on display.
With lots of ways of finding/buying art online these days, what makes RoomFifty stand apart?
Leon: There are lots of places to buy art, but I guess the point is that there isn’t one place where you know there is a carefully curated selection of really good art for a reasonable price. There are places like Society 6 where the quality of the work really varies and you can get the same piece of art as a print and phone cover. Not on the High Street, that sells a variety of different things. Or galleries that are expensive or feel inaccessible to most people. There seemed to be a space for a curated site that catered for everybody. A place where everyone could go and buy an amazing piece of limited edition art regardless of the size of their walls or budget. I wanted the standard of the site, branding and artwork to be extremely high, but to make it open to everybody. It means people who aren’t in the industry are now able to buy work that was previously unknown to them. The site is really easy to use and you don’t have to spend hours looking through stuff you don’t like. You just pick the ones you like, then the size and price you want to pay. We also give the artists 70% of the profit, which is more than other galleries/sites.
Chris: Personally I found the diversity within the roster really inspiring. It has a wonderful mix of established and younger art makers that compliment each other within roster.
How did you go about selecting the 50 contributors?
Leon: A few of us in the studio made a list of who we thought were the best artists working today. Once I had a long list, I made sure that there was a variety of styles, so that there was something for everyone, while still being a cohesive group. I wanted to make sure that a high proportion of the roster was made up of women and people of colour. With how bad everything is at the moment, that felt really important. Then I contacted everybody. I contacted over 50 as I wasn’t sure how into the idea people would be, but we had our 50 within a week. I was really chuffed by how much everyone was into the concept of the store. The quality of the work is amazing considering the artists only had 4 weeks to do it. From concept to launch was 6 weeks.
Any personal favourite pieces from the collection?
Chris: Having worked with a large majority of the list I have a strong affiliation to many on there, with some already on my walls. I only wish I had enough space to fit them all.
Before you order check out the (always brilliant) Adam Buxton podcast Ep.60 for a discount.