Archive for the 'Something I thought' Category

Cold at Christmas time

Having a bad cold leaves the victim wallowing in a state not dissimilar to that of being a designer. Whining and self-pitying, constantly comparing yourself to other people (well I’ve got a hacking cough, an oozing nose and my feet hurt, what have you got?) and a deep down suspicion that no-one else really understands you, sometimes ‘designers disease’ can turn you into the most irritating little <insert swear word> on the planet.

I’m not being very fair, but as you’ve no doubt guessed I am suffering from a nasty cold, the dreaded man flu, and fair just doesn’t come into it. I’ve lost my sense of taste so the rainbow of different soups I’m swallowing twice a day all taste like liquid newspaper and I can’t think in a straight line for more than five minutes without needing a lie down. Incidentally I don’t know if there’s such a thing as lady-flu but I guess girls have to deal with the mucky business of periods once a month so maybe it’s just the lads trying to leverage some sympathy by inventing a male-only affliction. Like getting a football to the man vegetables.

What I dislike most about having a cold is the pathetic lethargy it enforces on you. I don’t want to watch 6 hours of day time tv in my pyjamas, I went to university, I’ve already done it. I even made it into work one morning, so fed up was I of endlessly boiling the kettle at home to make lemon squash (one of the few highlights of having a cold is being allowed to drink hot squash) but, shamefully, by the time I arrived I was sweating like a pig despite there still being snow on the ground outside and to return home with my colleagues words of ‘just rest up’ and ‘relax’ ringing heavy in my ears.

Now you might say, “Haha, you moppy sack of potatoes, you’re clearly well enough to write a blog post, get your arse out of bed and back to grindstone, if you’ll pardon the confusing metaphor of arse to grindstone”. Well thanks for that voice from the internet, but consider this, the only things I’ve written over the last couple of months have stayed largely on my laptop and in my lemsip addled brain and it’s more a testament to how much free time being sick affords you that I’m able to write this now. Maybe I’ll write two, just to spite you. Also small children and politicians keep blogs although this is clearly never going to win a Webby award, you don’t need to be Pulitzer prize winner to be able to write stuff on the interweb. You don’t even need hands.

Enough whinging, I’m off to see if there’s a repeat of Come Dine With Me on, I think I’ve still got a tin of Cream of Newspaper soup kicking around the place too.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Work placements – the design industry’s secret shame

>>>>>>> Note on this article: This is a provocative and very topical theme. Right now there are hundreds of graduates about to enter an industry that will not treat them very well and it’s all your fault. Well partly. <<<<<<<

Photo © Rachel Hendrick (licensed under Creative Commons)

Before I managed to get a full-time job, I spent a year doing placements at loads of different agencies, some I did for free, some I got travel expenses for, only one paid me more than minimum wage, the rest didn’t even make pay me that. I should point out that none of these placements lasted more than three weeks, but through these short internships I gained experience far beyond anything I could have learnt on my own and eventually made a contact who got me my current job.
Continue reading ‘Work placements – the design industry’s secret shame’

A Designer’s Bookshelf

As has already been noted, I blimmin’ love books. Also this year I’ve been treating myself to a new design-related book every month. This image (have a click to see a larger version) shows my current design book shelf, although I don’t keep them organised by height order all the time, I just like the aesthetic this creates.

There’s actually a few missing as I tend to cycle having a couple at work for reference, so I might even do an updated post with the full selection. You can see I’ve got all three It’s Nice That journals, the almost compulsory No Logo, and a few gems like Ideas Have Legs, Bruno Munari’s Design as Art and Type, A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles.

My most recent purchase has been the info-porn that is Dave McCandless’ book Information is Beautiful, which I heartily recommend, not just for it’s lovely graphs, but for it’s playful, witty tone. Each and every page is crammed full “wow, I never knew that” moments.

So what’s next for my bookshelf? Maybe Adrian Shaughnessy’s new book, Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, or Elliot Jay Stock’s Sexy Web Design. Seriously tough call.

How about you o handsome reader? What’s on your bookshelf?

It never rains…

[image kudos due to Leonard John Matthews]

…then all of a sudden it starts widdling it down. And it’s raining creative custard. Which is a good thing.

I’ve decided to start a project I’ve been pondering for a while, one requiring the editorial skills of one Chris Scott, recently returned from Down Under. It’s early stages so I’m not going to start mouthing off about it now, but it’s going to involve other people and me getting back to my bookbinding skills that I learnt during my last year of uni.

I’ve also been trying to get involved with Jim Goreham’s new Late Night Disco Party zine, you heard it here first, a print version of the Norwich based indie dj party. As you might be able to tell, I’m missing my hand-made/print-based media and I’m really (really) hoping to literally get my paws dirty and do some screen-printing somehow. I’m thinking pull-out A1 poster.

And that’s not all. On the 18th of March, along with Chloe Wooldridge, I’m giving a talk at my old uni to the 3rd Years on the subject of ‘Life After Graduation’, the poor young fools! I’ve been pulling together some thoughts over the last few days, which has involved going through my email sent box and seeing how many companies I contacted when I was looking for work and how many job applications I put out. It was a LOT. Bit depressing, but then I remembered how much fun I had visiting studios, meeting designer-types and sleeping on people’s sofas. I actually miss it sometimes.

So shed-loads going on at the moment dear reader, but never fear, it’ll all be recorded here at some point.

Hairy New Year!

You may remember that last year I made a big deal about how I was going to grow a beard. That didn’t go so well, opinion was, shall we say divided on whether it looked bad, or just plain ridiculous. Well I’ve decided, partly because beards are cool, and partly because it’s pretty cold right now and a little more fur can’t hurt.

Enjoy this montage of my varying states of beardiness over the past year!

The rise and fall (and rise again) of the political designer

This year saw the end of renowned design studio the Designer’s Republic, tDR for short. The CR blog gave an excellent account of what happened here, well worth reading for anyone interested in this ground breaking agency. For me their end has signaled something that has been a long time coming; the end of the politically motivated designer. Ian Anderson, tDR’s founder, has always been outspoken, especially on the subject of consumerism. Some of his most memorable work were the manga dolls and his slogans “Work, Buy, Consume Die“. There are few designers that I am aware of these days working within the mainstream of graphic design that are producing work with politics as the central theme. Most studios will produce some altruistic work for charities, events and so on, but the appearance of design like some of the political stuff done by tDR is increasingly rare.

Political is probably the wrong word, very few designers make direct political statements in their work, outright, unsolicited support for one political party over another. The obvious recent exception is the recent rallying cry behind Brand Obama, with artists and designers lining up to create their visual messages of support, most prominent of those being Shepard Fairey. This grass roots support undoubtedly helped to secure victory for America’s first black president. The man owes a huge debt to the creative industries, one he is indeed starting to repay.

The subject of Obama’s promises brings me neatly to next week’s climate change summit in Copenhagen, the first of it’s kind since the only mildly successful Kyoto agreement in 1997. Once again world leaders will meet and attempt to thrash some deals on carbon emissions etc, and there has been much speculation on how much will be actually achieved. I like the Guardian’s in-depth analysis of how it’ll all go down.

Of course there’s been a load of blog activity on the subject of the conference, but I have been unable to find any chatter at all about the graphic identity that has been produced for it, not even on the usually-reliable Brand New. I’m pretty disappointed, especially when you consider how bent-out-of-shape everyone got when Ikea announced they were using Verdana as their main font. Is this really of more interest to designers than this potentially world-changing meeting?

Go and check out the identity designed by Denmark’s NR2154 on their portfolio site, and decide for yourself.

But I’d be wrong to imply that designers don’t care about politics anymore. Whilst the world focuses it’s attention on Denmark, back in the UK, the British government is introducing a Digital Economy Bill that has among other boring bits of legislation is a rather heavy-handed and unwieldy attempt to block internet piracy. There has been a massive swell of discontent among internet types, chiefly against what is being seen as ideas from stuffy old men who don’t understand the web being pushed by corporate fat cats to try and contain the free file-sharing that is part of everyday life online. The Open Rights Group have all the detail of what’s wrong with the bill over here, and Fellow Creative (it was Carl’s blog that first made me aware of the existence of the bill) has the some more approachable methods of taking action as well as great collection of links here.

Should designer’s care? Well yes they should, I for one am getting very twitchy about it. I’m taking the view that “they’ll be coming after us next”, I’m imagining a world where Peter Mandelson, drunk with un-parlimentary power, starts to ban us from posting images on our own website and sharing links on twitter. There hasn’t been the kind of fly-posting that characterized the old style of political graphics, but people have started talking and, I hope, this is just the start of resistance to the Digital Economy Bill.

UPDATE: Brand New have now done a critique of the COP15 identity (hurrah!) courtesy of Dutch designer Mads Jakob Poulsen. Check it out.

‘Til design do us part

a day to remember

There are definitely some similarities between the designer/client relationship and a marriage. Stay with me, there is a reasonable and straight-forward explanation for this statement. Both require considerable commitment from both parties and the actual ‘wedding’, the affirmation of intent whether through the signing of a contract or the exchange of little gold bands, will, generally, take place after some period of courtship and fact-finding about each other. And it is more often those relationships that are rushed into, where there hasn’t been sufficient time to get to know the other’s bad habits, that falter.

This thought swirled around my brain whilst I sat at the wedding of my cousin last weekend (see I told you there was a good explanation). A wedding is a celebration of the commitment that two people are willing to make to each other. Designers seem spend a lot of time bitching about their clients, but maybe if they viewed the relationship more like a marriage they would be more willing to compromise rather than sticking their heads in the sand. That and we’d also have an excuse for a big party with cake.