As meteoric rises go, Wear it With Pride's (WIWP) ascent of the design community has been truly stellar.
Since its launch in September 2003, the BBC, adidas, Orange, Motorola, Nike, MTV, Puma and, of course, Computer Arts, have all benefited from the talents of WIWP's members. And with the likes of Scarygirl, Jeremyville and Uglydolls, and set-ups such as Insect, Build and Ded Ass Associates among its contributors, WIWP certainly has creative firepower.
The brainchild of Darren Firth and Tim McKnight, WIWP had over 100,000 hits and a user base of around 3,000 within just a year of its formation. From humble beginnings as a badge design site, it has evolved into a global platform for designers and illustrators, promoting online collaborative projects and exhibitions, and attracting attention from the Design Council, The Guardian and Pixelsurgeon, among others.
WIWP's latest venture is Two Faced, a project that paired up creative people working across a number of different disciplines and challenged them to create portraits of each other. IdN will publish the results in a special book in October this year.
Two Faced is the inspiration of Firth, senior designer at Un.titled and also WIWP's brand manager. For him, putting together a book was a new experience, and he readily admits that the print side of the industry was an unknown entity to him. The solution was to draft-in collaborator and Adapt or Die main-man, Iain Follett, to aid the book's design and development.
"The point of the book is to capture all those creative people whose work has impressed and influenced me over the last few years. People who in my opinion have influenced the industry I know and love," says Firth of the book's initial concept.
"It is important that these people are represented as 'people' and not just for the great work they produce or have produced. These people are design icons, and what better way to present them than by collecting them all together in one publication and having their portraits done by the people they too admire and respect?"
The notion of separating the creations from the creator manifested itself in portraiture, and it was obvious from the outset that rather than an exercise in self-congratulation, Two Faced needed to be different.
"Artists were paired off and given the task of creating a portrait of the person they had been teamed with, using the style for which they have become renowned," Firth explains. "There were no strict rules concerning the creation of their portraits - they could be abstract or photo-realistic, hand-drawn or digital. They could even have something manufactured, such as a toy or sculpture."
The outcome of such a broad melting pot of style and creativity can be seen in the work of some of the project's more high-profile names, including the likes of Kinsey, Shynola and Josh Davis. And while there were over 100 designers involved in the project, the sense of community and intent to push the boundaries of modernday portraiture was never far from the surface, as Firth explains: "We created the book to bring together individuals who wouldn't necessarily have worked together. I'm really excited about the fact that we have reached people from outside of our immediate community, such as Rankin, Trevor Jackson and Wayne Hemingway."
To coincide with the launch of Two Faced, several exhibitions are currently being organised, with the main exhibition opening in London before it goes global. It's an exciting time for WIWP, and for Firth himself, who takes pride from the achievement of gathering together many of the creative people who have influenced and impressed the WIWP collective over the years.
The results are as exciting as they are bold, and underline the project's initial goal to explore modern portrait concepts and celebrate the design community itself. Firth, for one, seems more than content with the results.
"There have been a lot of very good submissions, all very different in their approach - quite a few pleasant surprises in-between, but most of them consistent with what we were expecting. Some of the more experimental pieces were supplied by Tom Muller, Grandpeople, eBoy and Marc Atlan, among others, with submissions ranging from etchings in glass to people being depicted through various abstract shapes and objects."
And for now, at least, Firth believes WIWP has achieved precisely what it set out to do with the innovative Two Faced venture. "Essentially, the book was an experiment, an experiment that would hopefully produce some unique work and redefine the classic portrait format - and I think we have definitely achieved that."