Review of 2015

We live in a world where there are those who don’t do what they love. It takes a lot of risk to decide to do so, especially full time. There are securities that you leave behind, and you wonder whether all of your ideas will fall into place. When we launched The City Works, we were designers by heart, and still are. But we weren’t marketing gurus or business prodigies, we just loved cities. We designed and made stationery the way we wanted our own city memories to be, using the materials and colours we liked. No market research or trend spotting – what a risk. Read our review of 2015.


Trade Shows are interesting places to be. They’re carpeted venues, perfectly lit and geometrically aligned to the square inch. They’re both dazzling and seductive. At Pulse in Olympia in May, we saw gigantic, beautifully curated stands the size of shops themselves, populated with eager team members, carefully aligning stock positioned on large oak tables, with designer fixtures and fittings.

For The City Works, our modest recycled cardboard stand in the UAL Launchpad section was all we had, but all we needed. One Monday morning saw crowds gather.

Three days changed our business. Being at Pulse led to our ‘Lost in London’ collection being available in over a dozen stores. On the back of Pulse, we also created bespoke projects for Barbican and National Gallery.

University of the Arts

Ever since graduating from university, the UAL is still a provider of creative opportunities. Even before The City Works had stitched its first notebook, Sylvia’s intricate cityscapes had turned heads. She was approached by the university to design a trio of panoramic murals for three newly developed student halls buildings in Shoreditch, Finsbury Park and Elephant & Castle. It marked the beginning of what will be a big part of The City Works. Giving anyone and everyone their sense of place.

Through these large artworks, we learned that a building, whether it is an office block or a museum, becomes even more depending on the buildings, the infrastructure and the communities that surrounds it. They’re part of a fabric of complexity. And while difficult to understand sometimes, these communities are beautiful from afar, and integral to our way of life.


It took many photographs of the Barbican centre when researching our first stationery commission, and this extensive research was the result of a rather obvious but important lesson: Google only gets you so far. For our line of work it’s vital to visit the area and explore every corridor and scale every staircase.
Even returning to the same place at different times of day, changes its nature. These elements add new perspectives that simply can’t be achieved from looking at a screen. The ‘Where’s Wally’ design worked at different scales, allowing it to be reproduced from anything as big as a colouring in poster or as small as a greetings card.

We Built this City

An exciting project in 2015 was the storefront design for the best souvenir shop in London. We Built this City. We’re really proud to have been approached by Alice, and flattered to have our designs used as an attraction to passers by, to symbolise all of the great artists and designs that can be discovered inside. Long may the store, whichever shape it takes, continue. Visitors and natives of London deserve the best mementos possible, and it’s a vision we share.

We have a lot to look forward to for 2016. At eight months young we’re still finding our feet, but 2016 promises more. We will be undergoing some major changes. The studio will move to a new city in January, with new suppliers, stockists and designs. New bespoke projects and city collections will be released too. Thank you for reading our review of 2015 and for being a part of The City Works, big or small and a Happy New Year.

Article by Rowan Ottesen, Co-founder of The City Works.