Recently I worked with the owners of Argonaut Books on the design of their first brick and mortar shop in Edinburgh. For them, their company was a passion project – it was the culmination of many years of hard work to bring an independent bookshop to Leith. They serve the Foot of the Walk and broader EH6 area as well as selling books online.
Who is My Client?
What I loved about the main inventory of the shop was that it focuses on independent publishers, interesting genres and local authors – it was a curated and thoughtful selection of titles and writers. The owners wanted a physical space to set up shop and also provide an area to be used by book clubs, charities, film enthusiasts and poetry slams.
Their business resonated with me because they valued accessibility, transparency, fair pay, and good working hours for staff. It was a delight to see, so I was happy to help them out. I love designing spaces and areas which can be used by people from all walks of life. To me, good design is all about building something which focuses on the future we want to see, so when clients put accessibility at the forefront of what they’re doing, I love working with them.
What Did We Do?
The design of the bookshop was a collaborative effort between myself and the client. They’d built temporary bookshops before for events and had lots of great ideas about functionality, but it was my job to bring clear retail identity and influencing customers journey and decision-making. Inspiration was based on the 60s and 70s film aesthetic, Saul Bass and built with complementary elements of Grecian urn and Ray Harryhausen. It was an absolute pleasure to work with the in-house graphic designer Alex and discuss different ideas.
The client wanted hardwearing, wooden floors – I had the perfect solution for it. The minute I’d seen reclaimed gym flooring, I knew it would be perfect for this space. The shelving was built according to a design the client had used before for a book festival, so the books were both modular and stacking, which helped us get as many bays in as we needed. Plus, the bottom shelf was tilted for accessibility.
The inspiration for the round counter came partly from the fabulous logo designed by Alex and the Doric columns of ancient Greece. Later we decided to just use half a circle which is attached to casters so the layout can be changed.
My client was keen for the whole space to be wheelchair accessible and inclusive, so we designed the entrance to be level with the street, ensuring that the tables had room for a wheelchair to move between them and that the toilets were all on the same level.
We managed to get some amazing help from the client’s family, who assisted with painting and decorating. It was a wonderful team effort that I was so proud to have been part of. You can tell that this is a passion project, and every person involved was keen to see the shop come to fruition.
I also had a pleasure of working with a lovely Edinburgh based textile artist and designer Emma, who did a bespoke window book display.
Another Happy Client!
This project was a lot of fun, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to help design this bookstore. I hope that it’s everything my clients want, and I look forward to seeing how the shop becomes part of the community!