Phoenix Wharf donates creative time to support ‘Do Something for Nothing’ Founder Joshua Coombes

Bristol-based design agency Phoenix Wharf has volunteered some of its creative expertise to help inspirational ‘Do Something for Nothing’ Founder Joshua Coombes with the creation of a new book and website. The grassroots pioneer’s initiative to give haircuts to homeless people has helped spark a wider, socially-conscious movement, focusing on how we can all play a part in positively affecting the lives of those around us. Musician Nick Cave called the initiative ‘A simple, big-hearted and world-shaking idea’.

‘We’re great admirers of everything Joshua has achieved’, Phoenix Wharf Creative Director Chris Gwyther commented, ‘and were only too happy to gift some professional design time and expertise to help with this initiative, especially as author profits from the new book are going to fund future not-for-profit art projects, which will give voice to the lives of the people Joshua meets.’

#dosomethingfornothing – The Background Story:
In 2015, while working at a London salon, Exeter-born hairstylist Joshua Coombes took to the streets with his scissors to build relationships with and offer haircuts to men and women experiencing homelessness in the capital. He began posting transformative images on social media to amplify the voices of those he met. The stories that accompanied these photos resonated, and others began to get involved in their own way.

#dosomethingfornothing encourages people to connect their skills and time with those who need them; a mission that also caught the attention of media outlets first in Europe and then worldwide. Coverage has now included National Geographic’s ‘The Story of Us’ on Netflix with Morgan Freeman, for example. Today, Joshua continues his efforts, working on the streets in new countries, humanising the issue of homelessness globally. Across the world, people have joined in with the initiative to express their humanity, from yoga instructors volunteering in rehabilitation centres to students spending time to have lunch with senior citizens who don’t have a family to visit them or neighbours helping one another with shopping.

How Phoenix Wharf Got Involved:
Contact between Phoenix Wharf and Joshua Coombes began in 2016 when Istoria Group (Phoenix Wharf’s parent company) Founder Claire Menzies first spotted Joshua’s initiative on Instagram @dosomethingfornothing and got in touch. Istoria Group already supports local Bristol homeless charity The Julian Trust and is passionate about the cause, so when the book project started, Claire put Joshua in touch with Phoenix Wharf’s Chris Gwyther, whose company mission statement, ‘Substance with Soul’ made it a perfect fit for creative involvement beyond the purely commercial.

The design agency started helping with the artwork, layout concepts and templates for Joshua’s forthcoming ‘Do Something for Nothing’ book, which covers the birth and development of the movement and is due to be published in the US on May 18th 2021, in the UK and Europe on May 27th and Australia/New Zealand on June 1st. The book’s readers will be taken on a geographical and emotional journey into the lives of humans experiencing homelessness in different cities across the globe, exploring themes of love, acceptance, shame and perseverance and inviting us to see ourselves in one another and dissolve the negative stigmas surrounding homelessness.

Following on from the creative direction for the book, Joshua Coombes asked if Phoenix Wharf might also help with the design of a website to provide further information for readers. The website has now launched, just ahead of the book publication, at

‘Whilst the last year has been tough for everyone, including an SME design business such as ourselves’ Chris Gwyther commented, ‘there’s a clear difference between that and the people Joshua is giving such a lift to and for whom life is continually tough, virus or no virus. Helping in a small way with the creative work on the book and website was a pleasure for us all and shows you don’t have to be a huge corporate offering financial support – donating time and professional expertise can be just as useful. Luckily, Joshua had a great before-and-after photographic record of his initiative and an established handwritten typography, created by an artist associate, which made our work more straightforward. He was an ideal client in terms of being receptive and fantastically easy to work with!’

The team at Phoenix Wharf adapted a theme-based platform for the website to create something simple to maintain but with a bespoke look. The design is photography-led, making use of Joshua’s bespoke, handwritten typeface and illustration details that tie in with Do Something for Nothing’s current design aesthetic.

‘Huge thanks to everyone at Phoenix Wharf for their creative efforts to help this cause’ Joshua Coombes added. ‘I’m a firm believer in using our skills to positively affect the lives of others. By helping with the book and turning the idea of a website for Do Something For Nothing into a reality, that’s certainly what Phoenix Wharf has done. They embodied this spirit from our first conversation and couldn’t have been more accommodating. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone involved and very happy with the result. I know the website will provide a strong hub for this message moving forward.’

‘All that remains for us is to wish Joshua luck’, Chris Gwyther concluded. ‘We hope that the book sells incredibly well and that Joshua continues to be able to help those in most need and provide an inspiration to everyone else to do the same. He certainly has for us!’

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