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

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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‘On finding design work in a new country’

September 1, 2012, 9:32 AM

I’ve written a guest-post for David Airey’s excellent blog, entitled ‘On finding design work in a new country‘. As you might guess, it explains my approach to finding work as a designer in London, after leaving Bucharest in September 2010. You can read it below in full.

The good, the bad

Moving from one country to another isn’t easy, unless you’ve just won the lottery. The good news is graphic design has become an almost universally spoken language all over the globe. It’s almost impossible to tell the nationality of a designer just by looking at his or her work, unless it’s expressed deliberately. This means that, in theory, you could do just as well in New York, London, San Francisco, or Sydney. The bad news? It’s hard to get your foot in the door as people are still reluctant to trust foreigners, even when your work is good enough.

The approach

When I decided to move from Bucharest to London, I knew I was taking on the world’s best. There are around 46,000 designers in London, so competition is fierce. My first task was to research the “enemy.” A year before moving, I subscribed to Design Week and began to read the Creative Review blog on a daily basis. I was familiar with superstar agencies of Pentagram and Wolff Olins calibre, but I would’ve been naïve to think I could get a job at such companies so soon.

Knowing who’s who, even at lower levels, was a must. The Design Week’s top 100 provided a good start, and relentless reading of other articles and blogs helped me build a list of companies I thought I’d enjoy working with. I wrote emails to more than 200 of them, regardless of whether they had openings or not, each time trying to find who the creative director was and writing a little about their company so the email wouldn’t look like a mass-sent one. The strategy was to ask for an interview, not a job, and as most designers are helpful people, that was harder to refuse. This approach would get me far more than a chance for a job: I’d be meeting the right people, learning about their companies, getting good advice, sometimes even some freelance work.

“Creatives in general tend to move around in rather small, everyone-knows-everyone types of communities. Make friends with a few and you’ll soon know most of the others. And most importantly, you’ll be among the first to hear about new opportunities.”

Creatives in general tend to move around in rather small, everyone-knows-everyone types of communities. Make friends with a few and you’ll soon know most of the others. And most importantly, you’ll be among the first to hear about new opportunities. Blogging helped me a bit, but Twitter was by far the most useful tool, as people on Twitter don’t mind if you reply to them out of the blue. If you’re interesting enough, they might reply back — soon, you might just have a new Twitter-friend. It might seem like a long shot, but trust me, it works. For example, Mr Spiekermann was kind enough to say he likes my website.

I’ve also applied to more than 300 jobs posted on boards such as Design Week’s, but almost all of these are placed by recruitment agencies who very rarely consider someone with less than six months of UK experience. They also tend to focus more on people with known studio experience in their CV. Only a few recruitment agencies would recommend you solely based on the strength of your portfolio. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try — you might just get lucky.

A nice photo of me that illustrates David’s article, taken by the talented Noctvrna.com.

The results

I got my first UK freelance project after a month. It was small, but I was working with one of the well-known UK designers, who was also very kind to introduce me to a few other established designers. Before moving, I had emailed him, asking if he could find the time for tea and advice. He was very busy then, so, instead, he asked me if I could help him on a small identity project. Of course I agreed. I’ve learned this way that it’s all about finding the courage to ask. Or, as Jay-Z says, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

The second UK project came after two months, another collaboration with a creative director (meanwhile I was busy with a new client from back home and also helping my former employer — it always helps to leave on good terms). He got one of the emails I’d sent to many London design companies. As he was setting up his own business at the time, he needed help on a pretty big project. We met for a chat and he was very glad to find out that we had a similar, rational design approach. I worked with him over the next six months, learning a lot on a very interesting project, designing the identity of a publisher and its four different newspaper supplements. So four months after moving, I got a three-month contract and another freelance project. Six months after moving, I got a full-time job with Appetite, a top 100 agency based in West London. Two years later (after moving), I’ve quit my job and gone freelance again, this time working on one of the biggest rebranding projects I’ve ever been involved in, all thanks to another creative director I met because of my initial emails.

“Luck plays an important role as well, but just as inspiration has to find you working, luck has to find you looking.”

What I’ve learned

It’s all about patience, perseverance, and the courage to ask. Luck plays an important role as well, but just as inspiration has to find you working, luck has to find you looking. You still need a good portfolio, of course, but that’s just the starting requisite, as London’s full of good designers. Write and talk to as many people as possible, be helpful and nice and people will remember or even recommend you. And it’s always a pleasure to hear from a person you’ve just met that they heard good things about you from someone else.

You might also be interested in my thoughts on moving, written back in 2010. Hope you’ll find my experience of some use, and, if you’re about to do something similar, best of luck!

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Ten Books — A Graphic Designer’s Reading List

March 27, 2012, 2:30 PM

Thinking about Eye Magazine’s question, ‘How should we choose texts to guide students through the info-blizzard?’, I checked my library to see what I would recommend reading first to a younger me. I remember that when I was in college, and during my junior years, I was always struggling with which book to buy next. Choosing one on a specific topic, say typography, meant many late hours spent on reading reviews, looking for photos of spreads and so on. So many, but which one would ‘teach the most’? There were no libraries or bookshops to check first, and I couldn’t afford to get a ‘wrong’ one, postage was quite expensive.

Unlike the lucky ones living in London, New York or other big cities with proper libraries, book shops and art schools, the rest have to settle with buying online. Without guidance, this can be daunting, especially on Amazon, with its huge range. You might get a bibliography from your school, or you could find reading lists of great designers (see end of article for links), but these are rarely short, affordable or, most importantly, helpful and relevant for a less experienced person.

This is why I’m keeping my list to ten books. Five ‘basic’ books that will get you through almost anything, five more that will help you build on the first. Most of them are about graphic design, but those that aren’t will help you just as well, maybe even more. Here they are, each with a short reason-why:

 

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul
by Adrian Shaughnessy
ISBN-10: 1856697096
ISBN-13: 978-1856697095
This book will give you a very good general idea on what it actually means to be a graphic designer. Whether you plan to find a job or start on your own, Mr Shaughnessy offers plenty of details on what you need to know and do. He also interviews several high profile designers, asking for their tips. The table of contents, laid out on the cover, is more than self-explanatory.

 

The Elements of Typographic Style
by Robert Bringhurst
ISBN-10: 0881792128
ISBN-13: 978-0881792126
While there is no such thing as too many typefaces (unless they’re on the same layout), this is less valid for typography books. Good typography is the backbone of any design, whether it’s a small Christmas card or a large supergraphic signage system. Hermann Zapf’s ‘wish to see this book become the Typographer’s Bible’ written on the back cover says it all.

 

Grid systems
by Josef Müller-Brockmann
ISBN-10: 3721201450
ISBN-13: 978-3721201451
The 80’s are some thirty years back now and fortunately David Carson is just one, so you’ll need to learn the basics of grid systems, especially now that webdesign has finally caught up in using great typefaces and proper, even flexible grids. While the previous book will explain some of the basics, this book by Müller-Brockmann is the cornerstone. You don’t have to become a gridnik like Mr Crouwel, but any piece of design – just like architecture – needs a good structure.

 

The Brand Handbook
by Wally Olins
ISBN-10: 0500514089
ISBN-13: 978-0500514085
Unless you’re living on a remote mountain, growing your own vegetables, you’ll know by now that brands are all around us. In this day and age, understanding branding has become maybe even more important than classic skills like typography or grid design. This book explains what brands are and how they work. If you’re involved in any commercial business, branding is essential for success, whether you’re a designer or not. You’ll rarely find such concise, no-bullshit writing on branding as from Mr Olins – and these days everyone writes about branding.

 

Steal like an artist
by Austin Kleon
ISBN-10: 0761169253
ISBN-13: 978-0761169253
This book has just recently been published, but I’ve rarely seen such concise pieces of advice for any creative venturer. You can read its ten short chapters in less than an hour, but you’ll find invaluable advice, ranging from copying as the best form of learning or freedom from debt to the importance of habits and perseverance. Buy it, read it, keep it on your table and browse it again and again.

Graphic Design, A Concise History
by Richard Hollis
ISBN-10: 0500203474
ISBN-13: 978-0500203477
Graphic design has changed significantly with the introduction of PCs in the 1980s and with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s and especially the 2000s. Still, the core ideas remain pretty much the same as the ones used by the Bauhaus or Paul Rand. The past is a great source of inspiration, as long as you keep in mind that you need to steal from many, not just one. Hollis’s book is a great start (also look for the Meggs tome if you have the time and the money).

 

A Smile in the Mind
by Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart
ISBN-10: 0714838128
ISBN-13: 978-0714838120
Design without ideas is mere styling. This book shows plenty of memorable examples of fine design, the kind that makes you smile with admiration. The projects shown range from playful, witty to humorous or ironic, covering the main business sectors. It also contains interviews with 26 of the best designers, explaining how they got their ideas. A must have for any designer striving to learn how to think.

 

Paul Rand
by Steven Heller
ISBN-10: 0714839949
ISBN-13: 978-0714839943
Probably the best monograph ever written about a designer, especially about Paul Rand. He is regarded as one of the finest thinkers, with work spanning from advertising, publishing to corporate design and children’s books. This book will show you the endless possibilities in design (even before the web) and introduce you to one of the best heroes you could have.

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami
ISBN-10: 0099526158
ISBN-13: 978-0099526155
It’s not about design, but this book will teach you about the importance of perseverance. Murakami offers great insights into what it takes to have a long and fruitful career. It also talks about the benefits of sport, especially for creatives that are bound to their chair for most of the day. Btw, this cover shown here is designed by Chip Kidd, look him up too.

 

Siddhartha
by Hermann Hesse
ISBN-10: 0141189576
ISBN-13: 978-0141189574
This is my all time favourite book. There’s so much to learn from it, but the main reason I’m including it here is that it talks about the importance of leaving your familiar places to experience diversity and about the search for meaning. It’s a great book for any designer that learns that best things come from ‘seeing’ (not just looking) around you, and dares to step out of the ‘bubble’ designers usually tend to live in.

Ending note
Making the list hasn’t been easy. I had to leave out many gems like ‘From Lascaux to Brooklyn’ by Paul Rand, ‘Make it Bigger’ by Paula Scher or the wonderful “The Art of Looking Sideways” by Alan Fletcher. Also, the recently published ‘An A-Z of Visual Ideas’ by John Ingledew and ‘LogoDesignLove’ by David Airey are worth reading and keeping close, for daily references. All these will help you a lot, but in the end, the best way to learn is still working with a senior (in addition to doing a lot of work yourself, paid or personal). Read these and go out and find somebody better than you, learn everything you can, then find somebody even better and repeat. Good luck!

FURTHER READING & LINKS
— read the Eye Magazine article that triggered my post;
— browse my Anobii online library — ask me if you want more recommendations;
— read my reviews of the LogoDesignLove book and other great books;
— check out Designersandbooks — the favourite books of many great designers;
— also worth browsing, Frank Chimero’s and Jason Santa Maria’s book lists.

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How to overwrite iCloud & recover your lost iCal data

October 16, 2011, 2:30 AM

I’ve been using MobileMe for more than two years, so I’ve gotten used to having my calendars and my contacts synced all the time between my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. It was pricey, but except for a few problems in the beginning, it worked well. A few days ago, when Apple made available their new iOS5 and iCloud, I upgraded, anxious to try the new features and see what usability gems Apple have hidden all throughout their new products. In spite of the long time to upgrade (about two hours and half, all in all), it went well and everything seemed to sync properly between all my devices.

Today however, I tried syncing my 2Do app on my iPhone — I haven’t opened it much lately as I’ve gotten used just to iCal, but if you need something more, 2Do is the best task & reminder management app you can find. After syncing, some of my calendars had been duplicated. I checked the ones that had tasks and deleted the others that looked empty — big mistake: when I checked my iCal a bit later, the same calendars were gone with no duplicates left behind. Luckily, I had a complete backup from earlier today (I must’ve had a feeling something would go wrong). I imported the backup, but to my horror, as soon as the calendars would be back, iCloud would start syncing and promptly deleting the ‘new’ calendars. Unlike MobileMe, iCloud considers the data it has in the cloud as the main ‘mother’ source, and all the other sources are considered its ‘children’. You don’t have the option to merge or overwrite the iCloud data with the one on your Mac, as you had with MobileMe. Frustrated, I tried various ways of importing back the data but each time iCloud would reject anything that wasn’t already in the cloud. In the end, I was left with no calendars at all and just a useless backup file — Apple should seriously think about this, what good is the iCal Archive backup if it doesn’t work?

So, if you’ve lost your calendars like me, or if you had duplicates and you or iCloud deleted them (some seem to have this problem), here’s a way to merge local data with iCloud and repair the syncing between all your devices:

  1. Obviously, you need a back-up (an iCal archive or .ics files) — if you don’t have that, you could try getting back the data using Time Machine (if you have one, of course). You can learn how to do that here, but it might take a while if you had a lot of calendars and events.
  2. Open the iCal preferences and delete your iCloud account — a warning will inform you that all your calendars will be deleted, including the reminders (only ‘On My Mac’ calendars will remain). You have to press on the minus button, as you can see below.
  3. Go to your Mac’s System Preferences and in the new iCloud section uncheck the Calendars — this will make your iCall ‘free’ from the iCloud. You have the same option in the ‘Mail, Contacts & Calendars’ section, either is fine.
  4. Go to www.iCloud.com and delete all your calendars and reminder calendars manually — you might have to create a new ‘temp’ one as you can’t have zero calendars. Now you should have a clean iCloud, with just two empty calendars, the second for the reminders  (just to make sure, check on your iPhone too).
  5. Cut your internet and import your backup file into iCal — now you should have all your data back, but since the calendars are already set as iCloud ones, not ‘On My Mac’ types, they’d be deleted as soon as you go online again. You need to manually export each calendar as an .ics file.
  6. Unfortunately, for the reminders it’s a bit tricky, as you can’t export them as .ics files — you need to create as many ‘On My Mac’ Reminder calendars as you have for your reminders and copy all from each calendar and assign them to a new ‘On My Mac’ calendar. Be sure not to use the same names for the new calendars.
  7. Now, delete all the iCloud calendars and the reminder calendars except the ‘temp’ ones that are already online — you should be left with a clean iCal, similar to what you had in the cloud before going offline plus the ‘On My Mac’ reminder calendars.
  8. Import the .ics calendars one by one, choosing the ‘New Calendar’ option — this will create similar calendars as you had before, but instead of being ‘iCloud’ calendars, they are ‘On My Mac’ ones.
  9. Put the internet back on and check the Calendars option in the System Preferences — since iCloud thinks this is the first time you’re setting up your iCal to sync, it will merge the data from your iCal with what you had in the cloud (the two temp calendars, which you can delete after the sync). With a bit of luck, you might even have the same colours you had before the mishap.

That’s it, less complicated than it looks, you just need to follow the steps properly and you should have everything back, working nicely, in about 15 minutes. Let me know if you have more questions.

Good luck!
Iancu

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Later update:

Mr Gruber (Daring Fireball) points out that iCloud calendars are now type-specific, meaning they’re either event-based or reminder-based. This means that when you upgrade, your calendars get split into two calendars bearing the same name, one for the events and one for reminders. While this is no problem in iCal, if you’re using BusyCal or 2Do (and maybe other 3rd apps too), you will get duplicate calendars. If you delete those, you’ll lose data, just as I did. My solution was to rename all the reminder calendars. Read more on Daring Fireball.

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Changing light metering on the iPhone with Camera+

January 14, 2011, 11:53 PM

Long before every school kid had a photo-taking phone, or even before point & shoot cameras were cheap as dirt, photography was something you had to make sacrifices for. As a student, I could only afford shooting, developing and printing two films per month at most. Each shot meant taking a really good look, carefully setting the aperture and the speed and waiting for the right moment. After that, I would jot down on a small paper the film’s position and the used settings — the only way to learn how everything worked, days or weeks later, after I’ve finished the film and see the the printed photos.

But enough about the good ol’ days. Digital photography is king, and today Flickr’s most used camera is Apple’s planetary-successful iPhone (Nokia still don’t know what hit them). The iPhone4 has a superb 5 MP camera, with a very interesting HDR ability. Like always with Apple, it’s not about the specs — I bet the 5 MP iPhone photos look a lot better than most 6 or even 8 MP other phone-taken photos, but you can call me biased. Still, typical for Apple, you can’t manually set anything except the flash (my old Nokia N73 had quite a lot of manual settings, including 8-steps exposure compensation). Light is mostly spot-metered around the focus area, which doesn’t help much, since you can’t even lock the setting in any way. So, almost each time I took a photo, I wished I had my old Canon Eos 33 with it’s trust-worthy exposure compensation dial.

In comes Camera+ 2.0.

This handy app had quite its quarrels with Apple, being pulled off the App store a few times for making use of the iPhone’s volume buttons to snap the photos — a smart idea, which says quite a lot about the developers, but Apple didn’t fell for it, considering it an illegal use of the device. The 2.0 version got approved though (minus the nifty volume trick), and comes with a lot useful features, but most of all, with a simple way of controlling the metering.

… but add a second finger on the screen and—boom!—magic happens.

It’s all done very easily: the camera focuses just as the default one, when you touch it; but add a second finger and in comes the touch exposure control. You can play around with it on the screen and see how metering the light in different areas provide quite different results, from dark under-exposed photos to bright, over-exposed ones. Here’s an example, first metering the light in the brightest area, the clouds:

A beautiful sun-setting sky: the light is metered on the brightest spot, the clouds.

then metering the light in one of the dark spots, the shadowed house:

An eerie, washed-out sky: the light is metered in one of the dark areas of the frame.

Now, some will say that’s no big deal, as the iPhone’s standard camera can do pretty much the same thing. But what will you do when you’d like to set lens focus in one area of the frame, but measure the light in another? Take this case, for example:

Different focus areas, with similar metering — also, different White Balance settings.

In the first case, the focus is almost macro-like, very close. The metering is in the same area as the focus. In the second image however, the focus shifts towards the back of the picture — but the metering remains in the same area as before. There is however something else changed now: the white balance. Enter the White-Balance-lock button, the second reason why this app is great. In the second picture, the white balance is measured on the screen, locked, then the “touch exposure ring” is moved back to the same area as in the first picture.

These two features are the things that convinced me to buy yet another photo app for my iPhone. It has plenty more, like editing (cropping, rotating, flipping), scene modes and some crappy borders (heh, must give something to the muggles as well, right?).

So, Camera+ is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a manual settings camera feeling on your iPhone. And, for just £1.19, I’d say it’s a steal :) But just in case you’re still not convinced, you can also read the Camera+ 2.0 review on TUAW.


Note:
Some might ask why would anyone bother with SLR-like settings on a phone camera. I’ll just say this: the best camera is the one you have. Hope that’s enough to shoo the trolls :)

Further reading:
• If you want to see some real old-school film photography, check out Kit’s blog — Two words: Leica Noctilux.
Stanley Kubrick’s perfectionism leading to some special Zeiss lenses /via Gizmodo.

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Periodic Table of Typefaces

March 13, 2009, 2:32 PM

I’m glad there are insane type maniacs among us, creating such useful things as the Periodic Table of Typefaces. Up on the wall with it!

Right-click, Save As — this is the large version

Right-click, Save As — this is the large version

(thanks Adrian for the tip)

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The Abbreviated Typography—what means what

January 29, 2009, 12:59 PM

Fontshop kindly explains for all of us ignorants what those initials that usually come after the typefaces’ names mean. Be sure to bookmark it!

type-abreviations.jpg

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Quick tips, apple ones

January 9, 2009, 7:39 PM

I switched to Apple last july after working dual, mac at office, pc at home for two years. I wanted portability and the best OS on the market, so an MBP with the new Leopard was the best choice. Unlike many creatives I don’t blog about Apple because I’m not a zealot—or maybe because of my inborn stubborness in doing the opposite of what the majority of my kin is doing :) Besides, my colleague Kit is a lot more well informed than me, not to mention passionate — his MBP review is quite thorough.

But since I’ll always have geek tendencies, I do enjoy shortcuts, tips and especially hidden stuff the Apple guys like to put into their machines. Here’s two of them:

1. Getting fast to the Video panel in System Prefs — especially useful when using a second monitor, there is a strange bug that f*cks up the colour profile usually after the screensaver sets on, making the colours on your MBP screen bluer. Everything returns to normal when you open the Display System Pref panel, but that’s some annoying clicks away unless you press Alt(Option)+F2 (the brightness button — works just as well with F1). The same type of shortcut works for other panels, like the Sound, Expose, Spaces when pressing Alt plus the corresponding F.

2. Zooming in Quick View
— the classic Photoshop zoom, Cmd+/- works only in PDF files, so it’s quite annoying that such a great tool doesn’t let you zoom in while viewing jpg or other formats. Well, it does, all you have to do is to keep Alt pressed and you’ll have a magnifying glass to click your way through the picture. Alt+Shift for zooming out, of course.

I hope you’ll find them useful enough, I know I use them daily. And while I’m at it, don’t forget the fun Ctrl+Alt+Cmd+8, which inverts all the colours on your display (sometimes quite useful), a fun prank to play on less experienced users :D Cheers!

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Fude Pen — no way back

August 30, 2008, 3:14 PM

This post has been updated, check the bottom.

Last year I had the pleasure of playing with a “brush pen”. The beauty of its lines blew me away. Writing and drawing with it was such a pleasure! Drawing type, logos, sketches, everything looked different from a normal pen, free, vibrant, ever-changing in thickness, ranging from hairline-thin to broad, thick brush strokes. And everything without the hassle of dipping it in ink every three or four strokes. Just cap it back and put it in your pocket. I had to have such a wonderful tool.

fude_pen.jpg

Fude pen from Jlist

Several weeks of searching on the web only brought me frustration. Sure you could find it easily. But finding someone that would ship it to Romania was a different story. After a few months, a colleague told me she was going to Tokyo. You can easily guess my plea :) She brought me some brush pens—thank you Delia—and I was finally able to enjoy drawing with them every day (another friend brought back from Paris a big Corto Maltese poster, one could not ask for a better subject to copy and practice the brush pen). But the pleasure would’ve soon ended, since you can’t refill them (there are other refillable brush pens, a little more expensive, but the problem is the ink, you have to use special ink since other types would dry and make the brush tip useless).

Fortunately, last weekend I showed the brush pen to my sensei and he told me its real name: fude pen (“foo-day” pen). Searching again on the web, this time with the proper name, gave me the much expected results: someone that would ship fude pens to Romania. So here you are, JList ships almost everywhere in the world a lot of Japanese merchandise, fude pens included. Be sure to check out the wide variety of fude pens. I’d recommend the bold line one, the others I still have to test (the shipment’s on the way, can’t wait).

So, if you’re an illustrator, any kind of designer or artist, or just an asian-caligraphy enthusiast, the fude pen is a must have—no other drawing tool will ever compare (ok, fineliners excepted) :)

(foto taken from wikimedia commons)

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Later update (Oct 2009):
I’ve found a much better and practical fude pen at MUJI (it’s called a calligraphy pen on their site, but with just one ‘l’), you can buy it online here. I bought myself half a dozen last time I went to London, they last at least two years without drying and they’re the best ones I’ve had so far (the tip is made of synthetic hair, not soft rubber).

Calligraphy pen from MUJI Online

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Another later update (Jul 2012):

You can now find a wide range of ‘fude’ or brush pens shipped internationally by Cult Pens. Still, the Muji pen remains my favourite, as its brush acts more like a real hair brush, not a syntetic one. And they last for years (if you don’t use them daily, of course). My only gripe is they don’t come in other colours (red at least).

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