Welcome to We Built the World. We’re an art project created by Better, a brand agency born on Teesside and based in the former home of the forefathers of steel, Bolckow and Vaughan.
From our window, we can see the world-famous Transporter Bridge. We were born and brought up in Teesside and we spend our spare time sampling all the diverse delights the area has to offer. We’re deeply devoted to the mighty Boro and, come rain or shine, our Saturday afternoons are spent on the terraces at the Riverside.
Our vision is to create a collection of high quality limited edition screen prints that celebrate Teesside’s unique character, creativity and spirit of innovation. They’re aimed at anyone who likes accessible art, appreciates good design and has a fondness for the region.
The poem says: “A giant blue dragonfly / Across the Tees / Reminds us every night / We built the world.”
Yes… once upon a time, deep inside the mythical Ironopolis, gritty alchemists cast the spines of far away bridges. They forged the molten metal bones of foreign cities. And they rolled out the rails that kept the world on track.
But the steel they brought to life is more than a memory. It was made with more than just iron and carbon. It had two extra ingredients that burn brighter than any blast furnace: North East pride and ingenuity.
The steel industry sprung from the same spirit of innovation that saved lives by inventing the lifeboat, the same spirit that shed light on coal mining with the Geordie Lamp, that same spirit lit those lamps by inventing the world’s first friction match.
Now we build brands as well as bridges, in the same building that once housed the fathers of the steel industry. Instead of steel railway tracks, our digital innovations travel worldwide, instantaneously on fibre optic cables.
Our steel built the world.
But our creativity changed it.
And it always will.
Our cast iron commandments
Thou shalt be positive
Our prints are a celebration, they positively remind people of home, of where they come from and why that is good. We are here to raise spirits and smiles as well as raising the bar.
This can be done in a tongue in cheek, self deprecating way - it’s what we’re best at after all. But it should never be overtly negative, there’s plenty of people queuing up to casually mock, dismiss or even kick the region. That is never, ever, what we do.
Thou shalt not create confusion
Our prints live in the crossover between pleasing ambiguity and visceral impact. We make accessible art not baffling ethereal thought pieces or long dull lectures.
The results are beautifully bold, fine crafted and fun or intricate and intriguing.
They should never totally alienate the viewer or require a lengthy explanation. We want people to get some degree of instant gratification without needing a degree in art appreciation.
Thou shalt not be basic
Our prints do not contain unfiltered local cliches nor descend into souvenir tat. We are here to raise the bar, not lower our standards.
Outline versions of the same old local landmarks, football shirts, parmos, the Evening Gazette — all these things are all forbidden unless they have a dramatically different spin put on them first.
Thou shalt not look only backwards
Our prints are proud of our past but they’re not stuck in it. We are forward facing, forward thinking and forward moving. If you’re looking backwards, it better be in the mirror of a fast moving and beautifully designed new idea.
There is plenty of mileage in nostalgia but make sure that any celebration of the past is done in an innovative and inventive way that celebrates the skills and direction we have today.
Thou shalt not be bland
Our prints always have impact. We think the only reaction worse than “What is it?” is “So what.”
The former wants to be convinced but the latter just wants to leave. Love and hate are very different to bold and bland. You may love some of our prints and hate others but they should all provoke a reaction and that reaction should never be “So what.”
Celebrating Teesside's history and its future
Our steel was strong enough to travel the globe, our design can do the same. But it’s not just about history and heritage; it’s about investing in our future too. As part of our partnership with The Northern School of Art, we’re directly sharing profits to help the next generation of creatives realise their ambitions and reach their potential.
It’s a commitment that brings our story full circle. The art and design college, which has campuses in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, has been at the heart of our region since 1870 — around the same time that Teesside became the iron-making capital of the world. In the years that have followed, it’s become a staple of the regional creative scene, inspiring and nurturing artists, designers, and photographers from across the north and beyond. In fact, it’s the only specialist art and design college in the North East and one of only three nationwide in the further education sector. Alongside course leaders and experienced screen print technicians, our partnership will continue to support students and allow them to experience the complete creative process first hand, from idea and design to prep and print.
Our work with The Northern School of Art, and others such as the High Tide Foundation, Teesside University and BBC Bitesize focuses on opening young people’s eyes and minds to the diverse career opportunities in and around creative, media and design. We invest heavily in supporting young talent, providing real world experiences which increase understanding, improve skills, raise confidence and build aspirations.
We built the world, now let’s wake it up... one print at a time!
View our launch collection.