“Stop whining, start grinding?” Nope, thank you very much.

I got bored by the dull motivational posters we see every day and felt it’s time to come up with something more interesting. These quotes are so overused that have become meaningless, don’t you agree?

And that’s what’s prompted me to come up with an Unspiration — a shop that sells horribly honest gifts. Perfect to make your worst friend feel awkward, and probably mad at you.

My goal was to create a brand that would stand out from the rest by communicating the sad reality of life in a playful way. The project includes the following brand elements: name, logotype, colour palette, tone of voice and digital and print applications.

Client: Unspiration (Self-initiated)
Date: 2019
Services: Branding, Art Direction, Design, Marketing​​​​​​

1. Logo and typography

Simple sad face mark pairs with Montserrat, a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by the Argentinian designer Julieta Ulanovsky. The bars in the word Unspiration – horizontal strokes in letters P, R and A – are slightly weighted down, and that naturally combines with the frowned curve in the mark.

Since I wanted Unspiration to be bold and colourful, as well have a sense of playfulness about it, I’ve chosen a vibrant colour palette that was designed to be versatile.

“Unspiration is a company that's had enough of the platitudes and false aphorisms”

TrendHunter World's largest trend-watching community

2. Tone of voice

Finding a brand’s voice is important. It’s not just about having some words written on a t-shirt. It’s about telling the story throughout various brand touchpoints (including a message about cookies).

I wanted our tone of voice to be simple, straightforward and of course tongue-in-cheek. Having said that, we deliberately avoided easy and low-quality insults. It’s super easy to drop an F-bomb without giving much thought to it. Unspiration is better than that.

Discounts codes are extremely popular nowadays as they incentivise customers to make a purchase. Unspiration doesn’t have a special code or anything like that but it does offer fantastic value for money — zero percent discount on every purchase.

3. Products

I designed a range of products including posters, t-shirts, hoodies and mugs, manufactured in collaboration with printing houses in Europe and the US. All posters are printed on thick, durable, fingerprint resistant matte paper and ship in a tube, wrapped in tissue paper. T-shirts are made using soft and breathable Bella + Canvas tri-blend fabric.

“This company took my internal dialogue and turned it into a business”

@ashaglenn User comment on Instagram

4. Launch

Within the first month after launch on ProductHunt, we got first orders placed in the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, Finland and the US, as well as over 40,000 sessions. Among the offices that ordered prints were customers from Google and Facebook.

People got tired of bland gifts, and we’re in the right place to serve these customers. Our primary audience is 25-34 years-old creative professionals, both males and females, living in big cities in the UK, Europe and the US. They’re independent, open-minded, and have a wonderfully droll, self-deprecating sense of humour.

“The most Edinburgh brand I can possibly imagine”

Ben Werdmuller Investor and entrepreneur


Ilya Ilford — art direction, graphic design, copywriting, marketing
EJ Tee — custom hand lettering
Elena Ilford — copywriting and marketing​​​​​​

Awards and features

Site of the Day, Mindsparkle Mag
Design Award, One Page Love (Frustration)
Top Five Products of the Day, ProductHunt
Muzli — Design Inspiration
9Gag & Bored Panda