GDE720 - Week 11

GDE720 – Week 11 : Workshop Challenge

I was considering choosing a different idea for this week’s work – I’d been really inspired by some of the Green Spaces or 2nd hand clothing posts and ideas, but I think I’ve just got this need to look more into the empty shops in York. I picked up on it in the first module and shocked myself at the vast amount of empty stores.

Following a bit more research into this issue and how other cities have managed to overcome the empty spaces issue, I’ve decided to email a number of small businesses and the Indie York community to get some more valuable insight.

I appreciate this kind of project has been looked at in other cities, but York has a special magnetism with tourists, and the sheer amount of empty spaces can be very detrimental to the city as a whole. Around 3 years ago, SPARK:York was created, bringing empty shipping containers into the city and offering cheap rents to small local businesses who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to start out. I’d love to ride on the side of this and create an option for small businesses in the city centre stores too. PopUp:York would provide cheaper rents for different sized units or stalls within existing empty shops, providing rent to the landlords, making the city look better, and offering a space to local small businesses to get their feet on the ground.

The main things to consider is how to get the landlords to agree to short term lettings (currently 10 years minimum let) and how we could involve local schools or communities to host pop up workshops or training events within these spaces too.

I’m intending on sending my questionairre to those businesses who reply to my initial email, and I will create an inventory of the empty shops we currently have, and how the possibility of splitting them up would look.

I’ve also been considering Meanwhile Spaces in London, and a number of other city council campaigns to fill their local stores.

To kickstart my research, I sent the below through to a number of small businesses and the collective Indie York:

Good Afternoon, I am hoping you might be able to help me. I am a Masters Student in Graphic Design and I live in York. We’ve been asked to conduct a small amount of research into a local project that can breathe new life into our local City. I have lived in York for over 10 years now, I own my own small online business whilst also working in retail in the city centre.

I am looking to create a hypothetical campaign for York which would involve small local independent businesses to fill our empty stores. I appreciate that the amount of empty shops in our city centre is a bigger issue than just “fill them with small businesses”, but I am just looking into the options and possibilities of splitting these units up and renting on a short term basis to smaller businesses.
Again this is very early stages, but having considered London’s Meanwhile Spaces campaign that was very successful and the success of SPARK:York, I thought it’d be a really interesting project to continue looking into.

If you’d be happy to, I would love to send a small questionnaire (I promise it’d be very short!!) to look into how a project like this could help improve our beautiful City!

Many thanks for reading this email,
Kind regards

It was very well received and I sent through my short questionnaire:

Ok so it’s the end of Week 11 and I don’t have any responses yet… I will keep checking but I know the past two weeks have been hectic for local businesses with reopening… I will keep updating here as soon as I get responses…

In the meantime, I wanted to create branding and marketing for this new initiative as it stands:

popup : YORK

Firstly I needed a logo – I wanted something quite simple but effective that could be used large scale across posters and adverts in the City, as well as something that is still legible on a small scale for in store advertising.

By image tracing a black and white photo of York Skyline, I added a simple but colourful gradient and used the clipping mask to overlay this skyline within the text:

This has also been redeveloped in white font so can be used against a black background.

I also knew that there would be city-wide marketing for this, a lot of the time York uses lamp-post hanging banners which could be a really great way to show off this idea and get people interested:

The marketing would also include large scale posters in bus stops or around the city:

Alongside physical marketing, a website is vital. I decided that every business would have it’s own “landing page” introducing the business, who they are and what they sell, as well as a direct link to their website and social media if they have it. Please scroll through the below slideshow to view the website mock ups:

The below is an example of the stall layout recommended – Each business would have the opportunity to design and print their own branding like this through the campaign, ensuring all businesses have the appropriate marketing for their own shop.

I have also created a full PDF as if I am advertising this campaign to a small business – I’ve included all the information needed to inform a local trader about the campaign:

You can also read the full PDF here.

Reflection and Feedback

I got some really useful feedback from James on the Ideas Wall – As you can see, I wrote back about the existing “vibrant” artowrk used in our City:

When Spark YORK opened a number of years ago, it had taken inspiration from cities such as Amsterdam, London and beyond in installing shipping containers in the City Centre as a cheaper alternative to small businesses for renting retail space.

I loved the initial idea and they hired local graffiti artists to really “give it some retail zhoosh”. Something that gave the whole area a really boost in vibrancy and all the artwork was really York related and relevant. It was well received as a whole, and there seemed to be no issues.

However, York Council decided it wasn’t “in keeping” with the City and ordered the artwork to be covered up with something more “York-like”…

I would be TOTALLY on board with encouraging local artists to create abstract and vibrant artwork for the stores, however I just know it wouldn’t be well received. In terms of “zhooshing” up the shops, I’ve gone down a more traditional Instagram friendly route of flower displays around the windows and the company logos in the window (I want to also ensure the small businesses get the marketing they deserve whilst being inside the stores).

By utilising examples from around the world which are highly instagrammed or shared on social media, the reach of these images would be far and wide. Take, for example the Harrogate photo frame outside Bettys – it encourages people to pose behind the frame and share the hashtag and location to encourage others to visit.

With the Ivy in York using local florists to create their magnificent displays, other shops have jumped on this bandwagon and there are a large number of shops with extravagent floral displays.

As “boring” as this may be, sadly York is a fairly sleepy City and I fear coming in with a proposal for “brightening” up the stores would not be well received. Of course, I could have just agreed with this and created some pzazz artwork, but I know we need to be sensible and considerate of our locality as per the task?


Indie York. (n.d.). Contact Us. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr. 2021].

Available Spaces. (2020). meanwhile-space. [online] 1 Nov. Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr. 2021].

Edemariam, A. (2019). “Meanwhile spaces”: the empty shops becoming a creative force across the country. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

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