Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Three things to think about from David Bailey

April 6, 2014, 6:49 PM

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“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.”

Indeed, it often seems easier to start from scratch, rather than work with something that’s already ‘on the canvas’, done by somebody else, be it a person or ‘nature’. This can be due to objective reasons (poor quality, outdated etc), or due to personal reasons (ego being the usual suspect).

However, I find it much harder to begin from ‘nothing’ rather than start with a defined idea, brief, a pre-existing situation. Christoph Niemann’s illustration about the creative process is one of the best portrayals of the sheer despair a blank piece of paper can fill you with. Excepting a few ‘lucky’ ones (for various reasons), most of us go through this almost daily.

I’ve often thought that, in photography, the work is mostly done by the time you get there. Nature, fate, chance, God, or whatever you call it, has already prepared ‘the scene’, whether it’s done, or being done right in front of your eyes. You just have to frame it, not much else. Of course, framing can be done in so many ways, and it often alters the way the subject is seen. Sometimes it can even change it completely.

“I try to simplify things by just having a white background and no distractions. I don’t care about ‘composition’ or anything like that. I just want the emotion of the person in the picture to come across … to get something from that person, even if I have to force it out of them by being rude.”

Making people feel something (interest, delight, compassion etc) is the best way to reach them, maybe the only one. It’s very easy to get caught up in details and forget the main thing: if people won’t find it interesting enough to ‘read’ it, consistency, ‘good design’ or any other high standards are worth nothing.

On the other hand, Mr Bailey is just making a point. Many of his photos are fine examples of composition. But that’s just a detail, the cherry on top of an idea that grips your attention in the first place. How many people did you hear saying ‘wow, what a brilliant composition’?

“The pictures don’t get better the longer you’re around the subject. The moment’s the moment. And you don’t want them to get bored with you either, because the magic goes. You have to get the magic quick. If I go to Delhi, I get off the plane and I start photographing, because five days later it all starts to look normal.”

What a brilliant bit: “five days later it all starts to look normal”. Our capacity to adapt quickly helps us in many ways, beginning with survival, but when it comes to creativity, it’s more of a problem. Things that are new, even amazing at one moment, are quickly taken for granted, even invisible. This goes especially for the last ten, fifteen years, with the rise of computers, internet and smartphones. New becomes old so quickly.

I usually get the best ideas in the beginning, thinking and sketching about it before I know too much about the subject. During this period, my mind keeps making connections, some obvious, some surprising, some maybe weird. ‘Five days later’, having gone deeper into the subject, it’s a lot harder to come up with anything unexpected. These ideas might be more relevant, informed, but they’re also less interesting, more fitting for the subject, and more like ‘the others’ (usually the competitors). Of course, the ‘fresh mind’ approach does need a bit of initial knowledge (one of the moments where constant curiosity pays off), just enough to get you going.  Sometimes you realise when you look back that those connections were common sense, in that field or another. But common sense gets left out so often when you get caught up in the brief, or the process.

On the other hand, some ideas you only get in pieces, incomplete. Time often helps, more pieces falling into place, usually if you don’t force it. Leaving them running in the back of your mind is the best thing to do. Most will grow, in time for the current project, or for a future one if not. Some never make it, and you can only hope that somebody else will make them happen at some point.

I know I said three, but here’s one more, to end on an encouraging note:

“I don’t think you’re ever successful. I think if you become successful artistically – as opposed to financially – you might as well stop and play chess, like Marcel Duchamp. There’s no point going on.

I’m distressed every time the contact sheets come back, every time I see the results of a job: I think, ‘My God, after fifty years of mucking about with photography I’m still getting it wrong.’ I get it wrong all the time, and it’s so depressing that I want to keep trying.”

Glad to see that I’m not the only one, endlessly digging in search of gold, feeling like a failure or a fraud most of the time. Judging by how many greats say similar things, it seems that once you stop feeling like this, you’ve lost the spark. Or, in other words, there’s no easy way to do it, it’s all about doing a lot of work. Strive for it to be good, and maybe some will even be great.

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All quotes are from “Bailey Exposed“, a new book edited by Bailey himself. A quick read, with great photos by Bailey, next to quotes from himself and a few others. Another proof that great ideas don’t need hundreds of pages, maybe even the contrary.

The top photo is a crop from Phaidon’s Look monograph of Bailey. Second photo is my own, taken at the National Portrait Gallery, the entrance dominated by one of Bailey’s portraits of Michael Caine. Classic. Worth visiting if you’re in London till June 1.

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If there’s any magic, it certainly happens at sketch stage – Craig Frazier

February 23, 2014, 4:16 PM

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Lately I’ve been less and less interested in ‘design’ and more interested in ‘visually expressed ideas that can be understood by non-designers’. I won’t call it illustration, as I think it’s about much more than that. Sadly, with the rise of computers and internet that led to the commodification of most creative arts, ‘illustration’ has lost a lot of its value (just like ‘design’).

Editorial illustration (of the fine type) is arguably the best example on how wits and graphics can be delightful for almost anyone, not just us self-centred ‘creatives’. Christoph Niemann is the first that comes to mind, and not only because of my obsession for his work lately – but more on this in another post.

Craig Frazier is another of the finest illustrators that have worked for NY Times, Time, Bloomberg Businessweek and many more. Two quotes from him stayed with me especially, from a short film in which he talks about the importance of sketching (video and link below):

“If there’s anything magic … it certainly happens at sketch stage. If it’s not there, it’s not gonna show up later on”

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“There’s a level of perfection that I’m looking for in the idea, but there’s a level of imperfection that I’m willing to accept, and actually embrace, in the rendering of the drawing itself.”

There’s almost never just one way of doing things, so I wouldn’t say that all creatives should have good drawing skills, but I do believe that working (thinking) away from the computer makes a big difference. Whether you do it by drawing (well or not), writing, or any other way that’s disconnected enough from the medium that you’ll eventually finalise your work in, your work will be much better. I love drawing and I’m constantly trying to improve my skills, but that’s just my choice.

Mr Frazier’s beautiful and witty illustrations always start on paper, shaped out as great sketches. He is kind enough to show many of these, together with the finished illustrations, in his book ‘The Illustrated Voice’. The introduction is written by Ivan Chermayeff, which should say more than enough.

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The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

Needless to say, a great book to learn from. More can be seen on Mr Frazier’s website, but watch the film first:

Worker Series #1 Craig Frazier – Illustrator and Storyteller from Jeff Hurn on Vimeo.

RELATED LINKS

98pages, a website showing 98 of Mr Frazier’s beautiful sketches;
— an interview with Craig Frazier (he mentions Christoph Niemann too);
— video via @Issue Journal, The All-Important Sketching Stage.

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Thoughts and wishes on the old and the new year

December 31, 2013, 5:07 PM

 

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It’s been a bit quiet on my blog for the past two years, mostly because I post on Twitter the interesting bits and pieces that I find. However, I’m hoping to get back on the blog in the new year, as I miss its ‘journal’ quality, and clearing my thoughts through writing. Twitter, even if very useful for many things, is much more ephemeral. I’ve already back-posted a few things, I’ll add more in the next days, especially photos and quick notes from some inspiring exhibitions.

This year has been a gut-wrenching ride, reaching the highest and lowest points in my life in the last four or five years.

One of the most challenging projects I’ve ever been involved in was launched in January, the rebranding of the ITV network (you can read Rudd Studio’s case study and blog post about it) — quite a maturing experience for me. After that, I took a break and did a self-promo package, two booklets, sent together with handwritten letters to people that I admire and want to work with. The black booklet showed my work and explained my background and beliefs, inspired by Mr Michael Wolff’s saying that ‘nobody hires portfolios, you hire human beings’. The red one showed my Picturing Thoughts personal project. The ‘set’ you can see below was sent to my former colleagues, Brandient, as thanks for our work and relationship over the years, both before and after my move to London.

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The booklets turned out to be the best idea and investment ever, leading to conversations, meetings and interviews with many top British designers, people that I’ve been looking up to for many years, including Mr Wolff himself. The list is too long to include here, I’m thankful to all of them, especially to those that I got to work with, as they are among the very kind ones that have helped me get so far as a designer, doing work that reaches pretty much all the continents on this planet – a thought humbling and amazing at the same time.

I was also lucky to be included in the After Hours exhibition, the Picturing Thoughts booklet was featured on It’s Nice That, I became a TypeToken contributor and one of my logos was included in the Animal logo book, published by Counter-Print.

It hasn’t been easy though, I went through more than a decent share of lows, doubts, mistakes, sacrifices, some big, some small. Some were for the better in the long run, some, I don’t know yet. All I can do is keep moving, strive more and hope that things will be even better next year.

Thank you, have a great, happy new year!
Iancu

Later edit: lest I forget, the arrangement of a word, calligraphy, handwriting etc to form an image is called a calligram.

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Picturing Thoughts

, 2:05 PM

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‘Born out of a relentless need to explore, Picturing Thoughts is an ongoing personal project which turns thoughts into images, thereby creating space for more interesting thoughts. — The title is inspired by Alan Fletcher’s book, Picturing and Poeting, its own title being borrowed from a remark allegedly made by Kurt Schwitters.’

This description sums up what my Picturing Thoughts project is all about. It can be found on both the project’s website and on the second page of the project’s first booklet, which I printed in the beginning of 2013, collecting the best twenty of the first fifty pieces. At the moment (end of 2013), there are seventy pieces on the website and more than a dozen in the works.

It’s Nice That, the popular online magazine, featured the project in July and were very kind in their description of both the project and my work. I photographed the booklet for their feature, you can see the images below (click on images for larger versions).

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My initial plan was to do and post them on a monthly basis, but reality rarely matches our initial plans. I work on them in my sketchbooks almost daily, after which I finish them in Illustrator in batches of five and post fifteen or twenty pieces every two or three months, sometimes more, depending on my workload and other personal projects.

All pieces are usually designed as posters, but I have no plans of selling them at the moment. What matters most is doing them, the process, learning through it. I plan to print a second booklet sometime in 2014, but I have two other booklet projects that I have to finish first. If you’re wondering, I use the booklets for self-promo purposes, they’re printed digitally on an HP Indigo by the fine folks at PurePrint (they print the Eye magazine, which says it all). You can hardly tell the difference from litho (offset), digital has come a long way.

By the way, eight of the Picturing Thoughts were also included in the ‘After Hours’ exhibition, showing work by some well-known designers, and a few young designers among which I was very lucky to be included. You can read my blog post about it.

If you’d like to see all of them, please go to PicturingThoughts.com — subscribe or follow on Tumblr if you’d like to be notified when new ones are posted. Thank you, hope you’ll find them inspiring.

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Igarashi Alphabets

November 25, 2013, 12:53 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Takenobu Igarashi is one of the Japanese greats, his work ranging from graphic design, industrial to environmental and even sculpture. He’s been a member of AGI since 1981. His book, ‘Igarashi Alphabets: From Graphics to Sculptures’ showcases quite a few of his typographic projects and experiments in both 2D and 3D mediums. His interest in three-dimensional letters and typography has led to projects like ‘Aluminum Alphabet’ (1983), ”Ori (Folded) Alphabet’ (1985), his impressive ‘MoMA Calendar Series’ (1984-1993) for which he’s drawn over six thousand different numerals (isometric, done before computers), ‘Transformable Alphabet’ (1981), ‘Mirror Alphabet’ (1981), ‘Scultpure H’ (1981) and many others.

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Igarashi’s philosophy is best summed up by his own words:
‘My approach to design and sculpture has always wavered between my wish to do something useful for society, and my desire to create something beautiful with my own hands. In my opinion there are three essential things in work: passion, challenge and discovery. Without that, work gets boring; with that, work is enjoyable. And artwork that is enjoyable also results in success.’

Have a look at the Igarashi Studio website for more projects.
You can also read his AGI profile.

Book details:
Publisher: ABC Edition Zurich (1987)
Language: English, German, French
ISBN-10: 3855041024
ISBN-13: 978-3855041022

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Isidro Ferrer

September 15, 2013, 1:02 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Isidro Ferrer is a Spanish graphic designer and illustrator, member of AGI since 2000. He graduated in drama and scenography, and worked as a stage actor before turning towards graphic design and illustration. His ‘plays’ with ordinary objects, different meanings, photography and typography have led to an awe-inspiring body of work that reminds of greats like Pierre Mendell, Armin Hofmann, Anthon Beeke or Polish poster designers. He’s been involved in a wide range of projects, from posters and identities for cultural institutions, illustration for adults and children, comics, TV cartoons, packaging, publishing to monumental and wayfinding. He has published more than 30 books, been involved in many exhibitions and won a lot of prestigious awards.

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You can admire more of his projects on his website, IsidroFerrer.com. Some more info on his AGI profile, an interview from AGI Open Barcelona in 2011 and another interview by IndexBooks.

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Anthon Beeke – It’s A Miracle

August 9, 2013, 1:10 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Dutch design is well-known for its boldness, but even among Dutch designers, Anthon Beeke is certainly one of the most provocative. His work not only informs and surprises, but it often tests the limits of free expression. “It’s a miracle” is a new book from BIS Publishers, celebrating Anthon Beeke’s impressive body of work. Chapters are introduced by well known names, such as Steven Heller, Marian Bantjes, James Victore, Erik Kessels and others, each portraying different aspects of Beeke’s life in design, including Amsterdam, jazz, erotica, collecting, typography, photography, provocation and communication.

His works range from beautiful and elegant pieces like the “Body Type” alphabet (created in reply to Wim Crouwel’s computer alphabets), playful, like the poster for Dick Bruna’s fameous Miffy character (done as he says, to beat his friend Bruna in his quest for simplicity), to gut-wrenching, like the “Troilus en Cressida” theatre poster, in which he portrays a woman as a Trojan horse, emphasising the play’s story. Either way, his work will hardly leave you without a reaction.

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“I don’t know a single maker of images who thinks more freely and is more all-round than Anthon Beeke. As far as I am concerned, he is the freest spirit in Dutch design history.” — Erik Kessels

Book details:
Publisher: BIS Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9063693303
ISBN-13: 978-9063693305

You should also visit Anthon Beeke’s website.

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After Hours…, a designers’ personal projects exhibition

June 13, 2013, 2:00 AM

As a designer, you’re constantly looking around, searching, questioning, measuring, discovering. It’s not something you can actually turn off – and even if you could, you probably wouldn’t. It might be tiresome sometimes, but the joys far outweigh the tolls. This restlessness leads many designers to make work without a client, brief or fee. Some are collectors, some photographers, film makers, painters, sculptors, illustrators, musicians etc – the list is incredibly diverse. As are the reasons. Some do it for their own pleasure, some for educational purposes (personal improvement or teaching), others for promotional reasons or just because nobody else has done it before in a particular way.

The exhibition takes place at the Jerwood Space, a very nice spacious gallery close to Tate Modern

‘After Hours…’ is an exhibition that explores designers’ personal projects, curated by Nick Eagleton (in his ‘after hours’, obviously) of The Partners and hosted by the JVA at Jerwood Space. It’s a wonderful mix of curiosities: prints, sculptures, clocks, chess boards, films, flags, 3D-printed objects, badges and remote control drawing machines. While some can be easily called ‘art’, others are the result of typical design approaches: solving a problem or communicating an idea to an audience. Either way, their authors share the same drive, to make their own work. Names range from very well-known, like Anthony Burrill, Alan Kitching, Michael Johnson (johnsonbanks), Phil Carter (Carter Wong) to a selection of young designers in which I was very lucky to be included.

A large Anthony Burrill wall-painted piece is the first thing visitors see and sets a good mindset for the rest of the exhibition. There’s also a reading table in the middle, with books and booklets from several participants, either personal projects on their own, or accompanying some of the pieces in the exhibition (click on images for larger size, or open them in new tabs for full size).

Anthony Burrill’s piece sets a good mindset for the exhibition

Below, on the reading table, Craig Oldham’s beautiful book ‘The Handwritten Letter Project‘, the exhibition’s leaflet (scribbled by a visitor) and my ‘Picturing Thoughts‘ booklet, showing twenty posters from the growing collection.

My Picturing Thoughts booklet (right) on the show’s reading table

Two more Burrill posters, the ‘Work Hard & Be Nice to People” one being a long-time favourite with designers all over.

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Among my favourites, six wonderful letterpress typographic maps of London by the master Alan Kitching, based on his experiences throughout the city.

Alan Kitching’s superb letterpress typographic maps of London

One can get lost in Mr Kitching’s details, but such a beautiful experience

‘Antigraffiti’, by Steven Royle of The Chase, is an interesting ‘anti-typeface’ made up of the shapes a paint roller leaves after covering up various wall messages.

Covering up graffiti becomes a language in itself

More projects in the second room, including Joe Phillips’s ‘Remote Drawing’ which proved to be very popular during the show’s launch event, and Craig Oldham‘s ‘The Flag Bearers’, a self-initiated project asking questions about self-initiated projects.

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Hat-trick’s Jim Sutherland is probably the most prolific, showing just a few of his many projects: ‘Garage’, a book plus posters about creatures and typefaces ‘found’ in his dad’s garage, ‘Type(chess)set’, a typographic chess set, a typographic deck of cards, a witty pencils set and various re-arrangements of chess boards, shown both as objects and booklets (you can get most of them from the Hat-trick website).

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The most prolific in the exhibition, Hat-trick’s Jim Sutherland

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The lovely ‘Garage’ booklets remind me of my grandpa’s tool shack. The spread bottom-right shows ‘Zorro and his collection of moustaches’.

Don’t miss Zorro and his moustaches

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Michael Johnson’s ‘Arkitypo‘ project is also based on typography, originating from johnson banks’s relationship with the Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. The initial brief was to do something more interesting with 3D printers. They came up with stories for each of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 3D-illustrating them.

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For example, Bodoni was initially based on Baskerville, so the twisting shape starts with one and ends with the other. Nearby, a Fraktur ‘F’ morphs into Germany’s map, as the typeface was at some point banned for being ‘too German’.

Twisting from Bodoni to Baskerville, and from Fraktur to Germany

An eclectic mix of projects by younger designers take up the opposite wall (open the image in a new tab to view it in full size).

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Below, eight of my Picturing Thoughts posters, followed by guyandherbert‘s ‘Youth and Immortality’ and Myounghee Jo‘s ‘Trace the Memory’ shadows project.

Eight of my Picturing Thoughts posters

Still in the same room, two projects from Magpie Studio founders: Ben Christie’s lovely ‘For a Rainy Day’ coin box …

Ben Christie’s saving money for rainy days in a charming way

… and David Azurdia’s ‘ABC rule’, combining millimetres with markings for standard paper sizes.

A designer’s rule, with paper sizes markings, by David Azurdia

The third room holds one of the exhibition’s highlights and a personal favourite, Phil Carter’s (of Carter Wong) ‘Found Folk’ – wooden characters mostly made up of driftwood found along rivers or beaches. Some are as they came, some are painted while others are burnt for a more unified look. All fascinating.

Phil Carter’s charming ‘Found Folk’

My favourites, the thin fellow made of woodblock punctuation marks and the Brancusi-reminding one on his right :

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Next to them, two other interesting pieces …

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… Jamie Ellul’s (the third founder of Magpie Studio and now founder of Supple Studio) fine-looking ‘Time Is Money’ clock …

‘Time is Money’, as Jamie Ellul proves

… and Jack Renwick‘s (former Creative Director at The Partners) charming solution to moth holes: moth badges that cover the damage.

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Nick Asbury‘s ‘Pentone’ is another highlight, being ‘an artificial system for dividing language into different tones of voice’.

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Like many of Nick’s projects, it’s a beautiful combination of wit, humour and well-crafted writing.

Get it while it’s hot! — sorry, couldn’t help it

Next are Alex Swatridge’s (designer at Hat-trick) food-themed screenprints and the comic-book illustrations of Robert Ball (also of The Partners).

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Worth a good look too are the show’s details panels, bearing Nick Asbury’s rhyming ‘description’ for the show (he says it’s not a poem) and each contributor’s photo and bio, some almost as interesting as the exhibits themselves (open the image in a new tab for full size).

A fascinating collection of portraits and bios (open in new tab for full size)

Here are some photos from the show’s opening (May 25). It went really well, many showing up in spite of the rain. Nick Eagleton talked about how the show came to be and the challenges behind it.

Nick Eagleton during the exhibition’s launch

Below, Craig Oldham and Michael Johnson ‘endorsing’ my Picturing Thoughts posters :)

TWO TALKS

Two other events have accompanied the exhibition, the first one (June 3) being Adrian Shaughnessy‘s talk titled ‘Autonomous practice in graphic design: good or bad?’. Pros and cons were debated, the conclusion being that it’s good, and ‘definitions are meaningless’, so we shouldn’t worry too much about whether it’s art, design or whatever, doing it is what’s important.

The second talk, titled ‘After Five Minutes…’ (June 10) was in Pecha Kucha format (each speaker gets five minutes only). Six of the ‘After Hours…’ participants talked about their personal projects. Phil Carter was first, sharing the process behind his ‘Found Folk’ project and other related pieces. I was especially impressed by his practice of picking up sticks, writing on them and then throwing them back in the water for somebody else to find and enjoy. Such a selfless, giving-back act, something that designers, artists (and people in general) should think about – and do – more often. The others were interesting as well, you can read a good review of the talk on the johnson banks blog, from where I’ve borrowed these two images below with Mr Carter’s sticks.

Phil Carter’s writings on sticks found in the water …

… which he throws back for somebody else to discover and enjoy

[later update] You can view the whole talk on Jerwood’s Vimeo:

BOOK

A small book showing all the work from the exhibition was launched at the Pecha Kucha event (you can still get one if you visit, details below).

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My Picturing Thoughts posters in the exhibition’s book

CONCLUSION

Nick Eagleton summed it up very well by saying that there’re two kinds of people: wishers and doers – many have said to him that they wish they’d done this or that, referring to various pieces from the show, while those involved in it have just done it. So it’s all about which kind you want to be, a wisher or a doer?

Wisher or doer – which type are you?

THANKS & VISITING DETAILS

Many thanks to Nick Eagleton and Jerwood Visual Artists for making this happen, and a hat tip to all the people involved, it’s been such a pleasure. Also thanks to all that have visited and spread the word. The exhibition is still on till June 23, so if you happen to be in London, don’t miss it (visiting details here).

LINKS

— The show’s details on the Jerwood Visual Arts page, in case you missed it above;
— Review of the show on the johnson banks Thought for the Week blog;
— Review of the ‘After Five Minutes…’ talk on Thought for the Week;
— Review of the show on Creative Review blog by Nick Asbury;
— Review of the launch on Design Week;
— Review of the show on This is Tomorrow art magazine;
— Details about the show and ‘Pentone‘ on Nick Asbury’s website.

You can find out more about the participants and their websites on the black board with the bios, just open the image in full size.

On a similar subject, look up the ‘No Brief: Graphic Designers’ Personal Projects‘ book.

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Design Student Questions

April 22, 2013, 1:25 PM

I was recently approached to answer six quick questions for a student’s project on self-promotion and working in the industry. It’s always great to share what I’ve learned, knowing that I would have never gotten this far without the help of some very kind people. Here they are:

1) How many projects do you work on in a week?
I usually work on two or three projects in a week, sometimes less or more, depending on the workload and clients’ feedback speed. Aside from these, I also work on one or two personal projects. Picturing Thoughts is one of them.

Three of the 'Picturing Thoughts' posters — many more on the website

Three of the ‘Picturing Thoughts’ posters — many more on the same-name website

2) Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew earlier?
I wish I had better teachers, but maybe it’s better that I’ve learned most on my own and by ‘stealing’ from the great people that I was lucky to work with. The best piece of advice I ever got is this: “decide if you want to be one of those looking at others’ work, or one of those doing their own work”. No amount of looking or teaching beats doing a lot of work yourself, paid or not.

3) Other than design what other things would I expect to work on as a designer?
It’s really worth keeping an eye on a few other subjects, not just design. Reading a lot will get you far, and an interest in photography helps as well. In the beginning I also worked in advertising, so a bit of knowledge about that is very useful. Not long ago I’ve put together a list with ten great books to read for a young creative, each with a few details. Aside from those, there’s also a very good book on copywriting, by Roger Horberry. Rory Sutherland’s (from Ogilvy) book is a lot of fun (really) and full of insights on how people buy things (behavioural economics, it sounds fancy but the book is not). All this reading will not only teach you a lot of useful things, but it will also make you more articulate, very useful especially when dealing directly with clients. A good designer is an educated one, with many interests outside ‘design’.

4) How did you get your first design job?
My first job came through a recommendation from one of my teachers, but at the time I was still a student so it was a part-time. I got my first ‘real’ job, after finishing school, by emailing all the top agencies in town. A couple of them called me for interviews and decided to hire me, I picked the first one. Since then, I’ve often used this approach (writing to the people I thought I’d enjoy working with and learning from) with quite good results, even if it meant just meeting them at first — projects usually came a bit later on. I’ve recently written a blog post for David Airey, you might find it interesting as well: On finding design work in a new country.

5) Do you feel as a designer it is better to be an all rounder or work in a specific field?
I’ve always been interested in working on a large variety of projects, maybe because I’ve studied both graphic and industrial design. The most interesting ideas and solutions appear from apparently unrelated subjects, and you can’t come up with them if you tend to do the same things. Not to mention how boring it gets, working on just packaging, just editorial or just identity design.

6) What is your favourite piece of design work and why?
This one’s very difficult, I don’t have just one favourite. I have a few favourite companies that I follow and try to learn from. Here are some great projects from a few of them, in no particular order: Pentagram, Wolff Olins, Lava, Studio Dumbar, EdenSpiekermann, johnson banks. Out of my own projects, it’s a bit tough picking one, as I always feel things can be improved, but let’s say I’d go with Baudeman, as it relies on a simple idea and is very striking visually.

The questions were sent by Laura-marie Saul — thank you.
You might also find Peter McCabe’s answers interesting.

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Miles Newlyn on the succesful creative team and the design process

September 19, 2012, 12:03 AM

Miles Newlyn is one very rare designer that seems to be involved in almost every significant rebranding project across the globe. Browsing his website (links at the end of post), you’ll be amazed to see how many top companies’ identities, logos or custom typefaces have been ‘helped’ by his hand. Miles was one of the speakers at this year’s Brand New Conference, and his presentation is just as unconventional, inspiring and thought-provoking as his work.

Two things have stayed with me the most — first, Miles’s description of the ideal creative team:

[…] the most successful teams consist of a classicist, a mannerist and a romantic — classicists have the attitude of being in harmony with their place in time, they rejoice things as they are; mannerists have the attitude that creates its own little cosmos amidst the chaos, and the romantics dream of better times and places than here and now — these three human qualities I feel always provide the best team. Ocassionally you may have somebody who embodies both, or all of them, or it might be a bit lopsided sometimes […]

and second, his thoughts on the design process:

My process begins with ugliness […] Part of design is to perceive what is ugly, and a deep understanding of ugliness is the flip side of what we do — how can you make something better if you don’t know what is wrong with it? That understanding of ugliness is necessary to be able to move towards beauty […] Once you got beauty, the next stage for me is realness […]  Once we’ve understood what’s ugly in a piece of work […] the next stage is an understanding of which particular beauty it posesses […] falling into three main categories, the same categories that I’ve mentioned earlier […] classical, mannierist and romantic. Each of these categories of beauty are particular human perspectives, and so each of them are beautifully flawed. I tend to think very deeply about which particular beauty something posesses, and wonder whether that’s appropriate for the job […] The end of the process, which is always the point where you know you’re finished […] is ‘Have I found truth?’ — that’s when I know it is finished.

There are many other bits of wisdom, don’t be fooled by the slow first part. Here’s Miles on stage, with one of his beautifully crafted designs:

One quote that seems to have become quite popular is this one:

Stories have an end, and unless you want to think of your brand as having an end, then forget the storytelling idea, and forget people who talk about brand storytelling.

While I like its wittiness, I can’t say I agree with it. Good stories are always worth being told again, even if they end (Disney aside, Jack Daniels comes to mind here, they always have so many nice stories about their founder and their traditions) — plus some stories have a way of going on an on an on, sometimes never ending. I hate to use this as an example, but Eastenders and other soap operas are like this, people don’t seem to mind their way of continuing, they come back for more, no matter how absurd. And there are also some stories (especially Asian ones) where the reader has to add, continue or complete them. But I do think that ‘brand idea’ as a term is better than ‘brand story’.

Here are some of the logos shown in Miles’s presentation that he has designed or improved (and that are not on his website). You can recognise quite a lot of them from other big agencies’ portfolios:


The video of his presentation is available for download on the Brand New Conference website (you can hardly spend £3 / $5 in a better way). And of course, do visit Newlyn.com to see Miles’s impressive portfolio and maybe get some of his beautiful typefaces up for sale.

OTHER LINKS

— some more quotes from BNC 2012 can be found on the BNC website;
— photos of Miles by Eric Ryan Anderson.

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