Category Archives: Design

Jelly and Scouse in Leaf

UK Jelly Logo

I attended my second Jelly gathering yesterday. It was held in Leaf on Bold Street, Liverpool. I met a number of very talented people (Matt, Emily, Dan) and enjoyed a few hours out of our studio working, chatting and generally having a very pleasant time. Jelly is an interesting concept. This is from the UK Jelly site: Our aim – to bring home workers, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs together in a relaxed, informal, working environment to maximise creativity and minimise the isolation that being your own boss can bring!

We discussed matters ranging from work placements in the design industry, the new iPhone, Android OS, Drupal, iPads vs MacBook air and all while working on our own laptops using the free Wi-Fi and receiving a free lunch – what’s not to like! For me it was a breath of fresh air and really good to hear the opinions of others in the creative industries.

All this brings me to Emily. A young design graduate who showed me her on-line portfolio. One piece impressed me more than any other.

Beat lettering

This is from Emily’s site.

BEAST (celebration of scouse slang + typography)

This project stemmed from a personal interest in local dialects. I wanted to explore scouse slang via the visual language of locally sourced typography.

I took photographs around Liverpool to source typography and drew up an extensive list of scouse slang with the help of some scouse friends. I wanted to contrast the informal nature of this language with the formality of dictionary-style definitions and synonymns.

I produced some large posters featuring some of my favourite scouse sayings using treated found type and an accompanying book. The book includes all the scouse colloquialisms I collated in a dictionary style, letter features and a section at the back which reveals the origins of the type featured. It is packaged in a screenprinted bag along with postcard versions of the posters.

Beast bound as a book

To see the rest of Beast use the link above.

Thank you Emily for showing me your work and thanks go to the Jelly organisers and the staff at Leaf who made us all so welcome. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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Responsive Design and responsive designers

Berthold Photosetter

Berthold Photosetter

I’m trying to get my head around Responsive Web Design. Not the easiest thing I’ve had to do. In my time I’ve gone from hot metal type, through mark-ups and photosetting and finally to computer-based design. Programs come and go and are upgraded along with Operating Systems and we designers just have to keep up. It’s like a marathon but you also have to second guess the turns in the road ahead as some will take you to a dead end. (Freehand, PageMaker).

Apple Computer Desktop

Apple Computer Desktop showing System 6

But don’t get me wrong as I’m not moaning here. This progress is truly amazing and to design a page that can be delivered from my screen to other desktop computers, laptops, pads and even smart-phones is comparable to the first pages coming off the Gutenberg press.

Ye olde printing press

Ye olde printing press

The critical point, I guess, is to design that page as well as you can by continually expanding your knowledge base in the hope that you arrive a suitable solution given the constraints you are working with, or as a famous athlete once said, “keep up”.

Responsive Design requires a fluid approach to design and to site building and that flexible mindset is the one to adopt if you want remain a designer in the twenty first century. It’s just that sometimes during this never ending marathon, you need a break… I know I do.

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Design on a budget

I’ve decided to add a page to this blog listing useful free resources, aimed at young designers on a budget. Don’t expect Quark and InDesign killers, but there really are some useful packages out there, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

If anyone out there reading this would like to add anything to the list, please let me know.

I’ll be adding to the list and improving the supporting comments as I find out more.

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Funding Sport and the Arts for 21 Years

FSA History Book Cover

I don’t usually use this blog to talk about the work our studio produces, but for this project I’m making an exception.

Gina (my partner) and I began working on this case-bound book back in September 2011 when we were asked by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts to design and produce a book celebrating their 21 year history.

FSA History Book Reflections page by Sir Tim Rice

Reflections section written by Sir Tim Rice

With privileged access to the FSA’s archive we drafted the story of the Foundation and it’s amazing work with Sports and Arts organizations and people up and down the country over the last two decades and more.

FSA History Book Timeline spead

The Timeline spread

The text pages were printed on Hello Silk, with Colorplan endpapers in Dark Grey and a dust jacket in Colorplan pale grey with a buckram finish. Silver foil blocking was added to both the dust jacket and the red leather cover itself.

FSA History Book cover foil blocking

Silver foil blocking on the Colorplan Pale Grey Buckram finished dust jacket

FSA History Book spread

A double page spread featuring Wilton’s Music Hall with pictures by Barry Hale

FSA Case bound book cover

The case-bound book cover with foil blocking

FSA History Book endpapers

Endpapers in Colorplan Dark Grey with the dust jacket and foil blocking

This project became something of a ‘Labour of Love’ for us. The limited edition book has been very well received and hopefully will be on the owners bookshelves and maybe coffee tables for many years to come.

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New Penguin English Library range

Penguin book covers

Just browsing in my local Waterstones and saw this display of the new Penguin English Library range. Beautiful cover designs and a refreshing change from so many ‘bestsellers’.

Penguin also have a very good little animation to advertise the range. Makes me want to buy the lot, but I don’t have the shelf space.

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Jonathan Ive gets knighthood

Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive (2009)

Ive began working for Apple in 1992 and it’s fair to say that his influence as a designer has been immense and the products he has been responsible for set new standards in industrial design.

To quote Dieter Rams on Apple in an interview with The Telegraph: I have always regarded Apple products – and the kind words Jony Ive has said about me and my work – as a compliment. Without doubt there are few companies in the world that genuinely understand and practise the power of good design in their products and their businesses. 

I’m glad to see a designer awarded in this way. Whatever you may think of the ‘honours system’.

For more on Jonathan Ive go here.

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Artists not Designers for London 2012

1972 Munich Games Poster Max Bill

1972 Munich Games Poster Max Bill

Twenty nine artists are commissioned to produce posters for the Olympic Games, Max Bill among them, but this is not the London 2012 Games, this happened back in 1972 for the Munich Games.

It was a success and made over 2 million Deutschmarks. Let us hope the twelve artists commissioned for the London posters can do as well.

2011 London Games Sarah Morris Big Ben poster

2011 London Games Sarah Morris Big Ben poster

It would have interested me to see what leading designers in the UK could have produced if they had been given the chance but maybe something put the organisers off that particular idea.

London 2012 logo

London 2012 logo

For more on the 1972 poster designs you can go here.

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The hand written letter project

Hand written letter

Hand written letter example

When did you last receive a hand written letter through the post? When did you last write a hand written letter? With all the means at our disposal thanks to technology, letter writing in the ‘traditional’ sense has all but vanished. I know the state of my handwriting is so poor that I would always use any other means at my disposal from a typewriter and more recently a computer to produce my written communications. But I have always enjoyed reading letters and postcards from the past and due to the nature of the work we have done for libraries, museums and the National Trust many examples have passed through the studio.

When I came across ‘The hand written letter project’ via swissmiss, I was intrigued. This is from their website:


The HAND.WRITTEN.LETTER.PROJECT was after a conversation about how personal a letter can be:
a fact that is currently drowning in a tide of depersonalisation, with junk mail and automated correspondence.

There is always something nice about receiving a letter, especially these days when email, text, status updates, and tweets, dominate our communication, leaving many to lose sight of the things that have been around for a while (like
ink and paper). However, it is important that they do not.

The project extends an invites leading designers and creative thinkers to write and share their thoughts in handwritten form and on their own letterhead. The finished examples can be viewed on the website.

The hand-written letter project exhibition runs from 5 – 27 August at the KK Outlet 42 Hoxton Square, London,N1

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Comics Letterheads

Batman letterhead

Bob Kane, Batman letterhead

Being a comics fan and a designer, it was interesting to take a look at how identity design meets comic books via their company letterheads. All is revealed at the Comics Alliance where you can see 24 (mainly vintage) letterhead designs featuring characters and companies such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Marvel Comics, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbs.

Wonder Woman letterhead

Wonder Woman letterhead

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Dieter Rams on Apple and design

Designer Dieter Rams at Vitsœ

Designer Dieter Rams at Vitsœ

I am troubled by the devaluing of the word ‘design’. I find myself now being somewhat embarrassed to be called a designer. In fact I prefer the German term, Gestalt-Ingenieur. Apple and Vitsoe are relatively lone voices treating the discipline of design seriously in all corners of their businesses. They understand that design is not simply an adjective to place in front of a product’s name to somehow artificially enhance its value. Ever fewer people appear to understand that design is a serious profession; and for our future welfare we need more companies to take that profession seriously.

From Wikipedia:
Rams’ ten principles to “good design”

  • Is innovative – Rams states that possibilities for innovation in design are unlikely to be exhausted since technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. He also highlights that innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in and of itself.
  • Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
  • Is aesthetic – Only well-executed objects can be beautiful. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products used every day have an effect on people and their well-being.
  • Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  • Is unobtrusive – Products and their design should be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools and are neither decorative objects nor works of art.
  • Is honest – Honest design should not attempt to make a product seem more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It should not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  • Is long-lasting – It should avoid being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even when the trend may be in favor for disposable products.
  • Is thorough down to the last detail – Dieter Rams states that nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance in the design of a product since care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  • Is environmentally friendly – Good design should make an important contribution to the preservation of the environment by conserving resources and minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  • Is as little design as possible – Dieter Rams makes the distinction between the common “Less is more” and his strongly advised “Less, but better” highlighting the fact that this approach focuses on the essential aspects thus, the products are not burdened with non-essentials. The desirable result would then be purer and simpler.





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Thought for Friday

Madmen title card

Madmen title card

We’re going to sit at our desks and keep typing while the walls fall down around us because we’re creative – the least important, most important thing there is.
Don Draper

As you can gather from the quote above I’m a big fan of Mad Men and last night I watched the penultimate episode of series 4 on DVD. I don’t normally get hooked on TV shows, particularly from the USA, I’m more of a Wallander viewer, (the original Swedish version) but this series is well crafted and extremely polished.

But I digress, this is more about Don’s quote. Arrogant maybe, but I’m convinced that creativity is the major ingredient of many successful organisations. Now more than ever business needs the courage to be truly creative. Those that use creative approaches are far more likely to succeed than those who stick to tired and outmoded formulas. The current economic climate coupled with the speed of change mean we all have to take Don’s words seriously.

Speaking of the speed of change here’s a little message I received from from WordPress…

Goodbye, IE6

With this update, WordPress has discontinued support for Internet Explorer 6. It has required increasingly complex code trickery to make the WordPress dashboard work in the IE6 browser, which was introduced 10 years ago and does not support current web standards. Even Microsoft is counting down to IE6’s extinction!

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Walter Gropius – master of modern architecture

A portrait of Walter Gropius

A portrait of Walter Gropius

I wanted to write a longer post on Walter Gropius today but time and events have conspired against me and this is going to have to be brief. I hope to write a little more another day covering a wonderful exhibition of Bauhaus material in Manchester a number of years ago.

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

For more go here.

Walter Gropius House

Walter Gropius House 1938

For more on the Walter Gropius House go here.

Impington Village College is the only building designed by Gropius in the UK.

Impington Village College

Impington Village College 1939

Impington Village College is a remarkable achievement and influenced the design of school buildings in subsequent generations. Designed by Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry it was later described by Pesvener as one of the best buildings of its date in England, ‘if not the best’

For more information on Impington go here.

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Thought for Friday

“My basic idea is that the world has changed so much, what people need isn’t more data but a new mindset.”
Hans Rosling

Think Quarterly web page

Think Quarterly web page

A companion website to a book Google sent out to a small number of it’s customers, Think Quarterly is a well designed and interesting on-line site dedicated to information and how to handle it. (Well it would be). A number of articles may be of interest generally but the one that grabbed by attention was a piece by Hans Rosling.

This is a brief extract:

But even when people act within a fact-based worldview, they are used to talking with sterile figures. They are used to standing on a podium, clicking through slide shows in PowerPoint rather than interacting with their presentation. The problem is that companies have a strict separation between their IT department, where datasets are produced, and the design department, so hardly any presenters are proficient in both. Yet this is what we need. Getting people used to talking with animated data is, to my mind, a literacy project.

For more on Hans Rosling – this from Wikipedia:

Hans Rosling (born 27 July 1948) in Uppsala, Sweden is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician and public speaker. He is Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system.

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Help Japan

Help Japan poster

Help Japan poster by James White. $29.99 high-quality print, 100% donated.

The poster above designed by James White is one of a number that can viewed or purchased from Colossal. For donations to the Red Cross go here.


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Thought for Friday

Future city

A vintage image of the future

Here I go again with A thought for Friday but due the fact that on Friday I’m going to be in that place again where I have no access to the internet, I’m going to have to post this today (Thursday). So forgive me.

I was having lunch with a good friend of mine in FACT recently. We were discussing the details of the architecture of the building surrounding us and the methods by which both architects and designers approach problem solving and project management. My friend is an architect by profession and was telling me how architects don’t like looking backwards when designing a new building and would prefer to develop something new or even cutting-edge given the chance, but often the client would prefer something that looks, shall we say, ‘more traditional’. This got my grey matter working (what’s left of it anyway).

In an earlier post I mentioned “design at the centre of economic and social renewal”. I think the ‘looking back’ attitude that designers and architects and probably many others encounter is largely based on fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to take risks. This attitude is often repeated in government where vision beyond the next 5 year term is sadly lacking. If politicians were influenced more by engineers, architects, designers, writers and artists instead of bankers, civil servants, and accountants I sometimes wonder what kind of society we could make.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that’s part of my forward-looking attitude.

On the other hand: Sir Richard Lambert (outgoing chief of the CBI) recently cited the government’s failure to publish a promised white paper on growth, originally scheduled for publication last autumn. “The impression was given that there simply weren’t enough good ideas around to justify such a publication,” he said.

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