Observations. Ideas. Passing thoughts. Likes and gripes. The following blog is something of a random visual and written notebook brought to you by totalcontent. We’ll be covering a wide range of topics, from words and writing, to typography and technology, graphics and popular culture, music and lyrics… and much more besides. Hope it tickles your fancy and feel free to have your say.
And here they are... literally hot off the press. The studio smells of printers’ ink. Nice. This is one of a set of three posters. I’ll put them up on the ‘Recently section’ with a bit of a commentary as soon as humanly possible. Shakespeare, monkeys and a gag. How very totalcontent
a chimp off the old block.
’s very first mailer is drying off at the printers as we speak. It was designed by the good people at Elmwood
, and features illustrations of monkeys by the highly talented Rob Ball
of the Partners
. Of course we’ll reveal all as soon as we get our hands on them, but in the meantime, here’s one of Rob’s excellent simian creations. Hope I wasn’t too much of a pain-in-the-arse client.
a date with Airside.
Following my moan about the dearth of decent 2010 calendars in Design Week
, I was delighted to receive the latest offering from the good people at Airside.
(It was a real oversight on my part not to have given these bold, bright and quirkily illustrated numbers a name check in the first place). Airside calendars are developing a serious rep in the design community, and have become highly collectable – people are still buying the 2004 model. This year’s features two weeks to view, and – though there’s plenty of graphic variety on display – the main theme is playful bold silhouettes and merged perspectives. The dates are particularly interestingly handled – crude, bitmapped type displayed in Escher-like columns, creating intriguing patterns and visual illusions. Many thanks to Nat Hunter
for popping one in the post. You can get hold of a (highly recommended) copy here
play your cards right.
Came across this quite brilliant pack of typographic playing cards the other week. They’re the work of Jim Sutherland
at hat-trick design
, who I’m lucky enough to be working with on the 2010 Royal Mail Yearbook
. Though they’re being used as piece of self-promotion for the consultancy, they’re actually an immaculately realized piece of personal work. The handling of the type is really witty and elegant, with negative and positive space used to act out suits, royals and numbers. Away from commercial and brand imperatives, the cards eloquently show a true love of type and pure graphics. Can’t wait to get my hands on a pack. There’s a YouTube clip here
where you can see all 54 of them in action.
Finding a suitable 2010 calendar has been a struggle. Usually I’m lucky enough to receive some beautiful unsolicited designer offering through the post, but as we all know, times are tough, and this year nothing has been forthcoming. After much internet trawling, and a couple of near misses, I finally settled on the Central Illustraton Agency
’s ‘Ace’ calendar. This dinky little number features a new illustration a week by eminent pencil-wielders like David Hughes
, Brian Grimwood
, Ian Bilbey
and Max Ellis
. It’s printed on grey recycled paper with vegetable-based inks and is a limited edition run of 600 – so you can feel green and exclusive at the same time. Oh, and my latest Design Week column
is all about the trials and tribulations of finding the perfect designery calendar. Pencil it in.
Once a sub-editor, always a sub-editor. That’s how I started out in magazines and newspapers many years ago, and it’s a discipline that’s stayed with me. Between you and me, sometimes I wish it hadn’t. Even the on most compelling page of narrative, it’s become almost second nature to scour for typos – and the scary thing is – more often than not – I find them. Whodunnit? I don't know, I was too busy getting out the red pen.
Professionally, the ability to spot errors is a blessing. Personally, it’s perhaps something of a curse. But without meaning to come over all Lynne Truss, spelling mistakes really irk me. I don’t mean the odd slip of the keyboard. We all do that. But real howlers like something being ‘highly sort after’, or ‘blacks and graze’. Spectacular gaffes that leave the poor helpless spell check for dust. (both are real examples from shopping sites).
English, we all know, is a difficult beast. The written word often seems to bear little relation to the spoken one. You can see why every so often pressure groups press for spelling reform to make things simpler and more logical. But to counter that argument, it’s also an incredibly rich and vibrant language, full of light and shade, of heritage and personality. Remove its foibles and eccentricities and you remove its character. Straighten the kinks and the road is far less interesting. You can’t have it both ways.
Many of the graphic designers I work with are less than comfortable with words. Which is perhaps surprising, as they deal with them all the time. That puts the onus right back on the writer to make sure everything’s tickety-boo. You could argue that’s not really our job – we’re here to come up with verbal ideas and tell stories. But someone’s got to take responsibility, otherwise you end up with the kind of disasters you’ll find on one of my favourite sites – ‘Cake Wrecks’
(see above). It’s an issue I explore at greater length in my latest Design Week column
. In the meantime, be careful how you order those letters.
a great lick.
I don’t want to come over as some sad old stamp geek, but thanks to a long association with Royal Mail Design, I’ve learned a thing or two about this minuscule art form. Strict rules about what you can and can’t do with the look and form of a stamp are gradually being loosened in an effort to attract younger collectors, and the January 2010 stamp issue by Studio Dempsey
continues to push the boundaries.
The set features classic British record sleeves, including the seminal London Calling by The Clash
, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Blur’s Parklife and Led Zeppelin II. I was among of a group of designers and music journalists to help draw up a shortlist for Royal Mail, and I’m glad to see that several of my suggestions made the cut. Mike Dempsey has cleverly played with the form of both the stamp and the sleeve, with a small crescent of record poking out of the right-hand side. Let’s hope the younger audience appreciate what this curious black stuff is.
Personally, I’ll be buying as many Clash stamps as I can get my hands on. The iconic Pennie Smith photo of Paul Simenon
smashing his bass still has immense power, and the type design by Ray Lowry – a homage to an earlier Elvis album – creates the perfect frame. Along with his many other achievements – bassist, artist, coolest man on Earth – Simenon becomes one of the first recognisable living people to appear on a British stamp. Until recently, only members of the Royal Family were accorded that honour. To see all the other classic British album sleeve stamps, check the Creative Review blog
. God Save the Queen.