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

Bored by the dull ‘motivational’ posters I saw every day, I decided it was time to come up with something more interesting. Certain quotes are so overused they’ve become meaningless, which is what prompted me to come up with Unspiration — a shop that sells horribly honest gifts. They’re perfect for people who need a reality check, or those you want to wind up.

My goal was to create a brand that stood out from the rest, and what better way to do that than by communicating the sad truth of life in a fun and playful way?

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.

I wanted Unspiration to be bold, colourful and have a sense of playfulness, which is why I chose a vibrant colour palette designed for its versatility.

“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 through 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 cheap and low-quality insults. It’s too easy to drop the F-bomb without giving it much thought. Unspiration is better than that.

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

3. Products

I designed a range of products including posters, t-shirts, hoodies and mugs, all of which were manufactured in collaboration with printing houses in Europe and the US. All posters are printed on thick, durable, fingerprint resistant matte paper, wrapped in tissue paper and shipped in a tube. T-shirts are made using a 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

After launching on ProductHunt, the first month saw orders placed in the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Finland and the US, along with over 40,000 sessions. Notable offices that ordered prints were customers from Google and Facebook.

People are tired of bland gifts. We fill a niche in the market that serves customers looking for something interesting. Our primary audience is male and female 25 – 34 year-old creative professionals living in big cities throughout 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