(Graphic) Designer Watches


So, we were at one of the events at the London Design Festival last month, and bumped into a couple of design colleagues. We noticed that all three of us were sporting the same type of watch – the INSTRMNT 01 (above). This made us realise that, although we like to think we’re all special unique unicorns with our own free will, we’re actually just brainless automatons who can’t help but be sucked in by the same things.

But, it did get us wondering: which watches are most popular amongst the design community?

The INSTRMNT watches are made by a small team in Glasgow, and they have a stripped back simplicity that (evidently) appeals to graphic designers. They’re the polar opposite of bling, and adhere closely to Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design, particularly ‘Good design is as little design as possible’.

For a very similar feel, you don’t have to go much further than Uniform Wares, who started up in London in 2009, and seem to be a particular favourite of architects:


Of course, you could just go direct to source, with a Braun watch:


Clean, simple, functional.

Another favourite we’ve spotted adorning the wrists of more than a couple of designers is the Max Bill by Junghans:


Max Bill was a Swiss designer, type designer, architect, painter and sculptor (polymath much?) who studied at the Bauhaus under Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Originally made at the beginning of the 1960s, the watches and clocks he designed for Junghans have a really refined elegance.

For something a little chunkier, but still iconically Swiss, perhaps the Mondaine Official Swiss Railways Watch?


These are based on the patented design of the Swiss railway clock, designed in 1944 by Hans Hilfiker, an employee of the Federal Swiss Railways. The watches were first produced in 1986, and quickly became a classic. They’re sort of the equivalent of big round black framed glasses.

And if you’re discussing Swiss classics, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid mentioning Helvetica. Last year Mondaine produced their Helvetica No. 1 watch:


Naturally they come in light, regular and bold. And as a little additional quirk, the lugs are based on the Helvetica numeral ‘1’. See what they did there? Now, we’re more than happy to see some elegant typography on a watch face… but perhaps calling the watch Helvetica, and sticking the word Helvetica on the face is slightly overcooking it?

Of course, designers are also historically more than a little partial to Apple products, so perhaps the iWatch should be included in this list?


We’ve seen a few of them in the wild though, and still don’t really understand what they’re actually for. Where the iPhone felt like a complete game changer when it launched, turning an existing industry on its head, the iWatch feels like a bit of a gimmick.

So, which watch ticks the right box for you (if you’ll pardon the pun)? Any of the above? Or something else entirely?

The 2015 D&AD Annual cover


I’m lucky enough to share studio space with two rather talented designers: David Pearson and Paul Finn. We work together from time to time, and our most recent collaboration launched last night: a series of covers for the 2015 D&AD Annual.

D&AD is a ‘global creative design and advertising association’, and the D&AD Annual collects together the best work entered for its yearly awards scheme. Dave was commissioned by GBH’s Mark Bonner, this year’s D&AD President, to create the cover for the Annual.

Dave, Paul and I had been discussing the brief in the studio, chewing over possible solutions. This happens a fair bit, even though we each run our own practices – it’s one of the many benefits of sharing space together. We’d been talking about the fact that when you boil D&AD down to its essence, it’s all about the awards that they give out each year. They come in the form of oversized pencils, and two new ones have been introduced this year: the Wood Pencil and the Graphite Pencil.


The Wood, Graphite and Yellow Pencils roughly equate to bronze, silver and gold awards. The White Pencil is for Yellow Pencil-worthy work that also affects ‘real and positive change in the world through creative thinking’. And the Black Pencil is for work that is ‘ground-breaking in its field’ – only a handful of them are awarded each year, if any.

With the introduction of the full family of five Pencils it felt like the right time to put them front and centre on the cover.

Dave had been playing with a delicious GF Smith wood-effect stock, Woodside Garden Pine, that I’d used for one of my postcards for Benwells, and was looking at ways to incorporate it on the cover. I suggested that it would look great used across the whole cover, and had fished out a D&AD Pencil that I had in one of the drawers next to my desk. Dave took it and stood it on a sheet of the Woodside, and then Paul laid it flat, and we had one of those lovely moments where you all just go ‘Ah! That’s it!’.

Very generously, Dave suggested we work together and make it a collaborative design. We decided on a series of five covers, each one featuring one of the awards at actual size, shown front and back. Clean and simple.






As the project progressed, we tried out a lot of different options, adding in copy, logos and spine text in various shapes and sizes. All along though, we were basically trying to hang on to the simplicity of that initial moment.

This is how the back cover of the Yellow Pencil version looks:


Of course, the idea still had to be turned into actual printed covers. The Woodside stock has a coating on it that can make some inks or foils react in unexpected ways – at one point the covers were all working except the black one, on which you could scratch the ink off with your fingernail. Fortunately for us, D&AD have a fantastic production manager, Martin Lee, who was exceptional at working out the best way to realise the idea. He provided multiple print tests and proofs until they were exactly right.

We’re dead chuffed with the results.

You can buy the D&AD Annual here, and read an interview with Dave about its creation over on It’s Nice That.

Anthony Burrill + Harvey Lloyd


Well now, this is all kinds of lovely.

The good folks at Harvey Lloyd Screen Print in East Sussex have just sent us this promotional booklet, showcasing their services. Designed by Anthony Burrill (who has his own work printed by the team there), it’s an absolute cracker. 14 pages of stunning printing and design on a range of heavyweight substrates (greyboard, acrylic, die-cut 2000 micron Cairn Eco Kraft and more). It even smells fantastic – that stark industrial smell you only get from screenprinting.





They also sent us a couple of promotional flyers – one on a slab of 10mm birch faced plywood, the other on a slab of 10mm thick cork, each of them printed with two flouros and white and black to the front, black only to the reverse.



Fantastic stuff – it’s made us hungry to get busy with a squeegee again.

See more of their work over on Instagram.

Books on our desk

you are the friction cover

We’ve had a few books on our desk recently that we’ve been meaning to shout about.

First up, You Are The Friction, a collection of short stories published by Sing Statistics.

Sing Statistics is the independent press set up by designer Jez Burrows and illustrator Lizzy Stewart. You Are The Friction is their fourth book following I Am The Friction (2008), We Are The Friction (2009), and Reverence Library, Vol. One (2011).

It was actually published at the beginning of 2014, but we only recently picked it up at Beach London (a small gallery just off Brick Lane) and it’s an absolute belter.

It features twelve stories inspired by twelve illustrations, and then twelve illustrations inspired by twelve stories. Short story collections can leave you feeling a little empty – like you’ve been grazing on junk food rather than having a really hearty meal. But this collection is varied and delicious – like the very best tapas, if you’ll excuse us extending that food metaphor just a little too far.

The impressive roster of illustrators even includes the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Tom Gauld and Rob Hunter.

you are the friction spread

Here’s a trailer for the book: a reading of the story ‘Flowers for Pinky Only in Theatres’, written by Joshua Allen, based on an illustration by Scott Campbell.

Great stuff.

Next up, published by Laurence King just last month, is Graphic Design Visionaries, by Caroline Roberts, editor of Grafik, and friend of the studio.


It’s a chronological taster of the work of seventy five leading graphic designers / graphic design studios from right around the world during the twentieth century. A lot of the names you’ll probably know (Abram Games, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Peter Saville, Stefan Sagmeister) but the reach is wide enough to pull in a fair few you may not. Each designer / studio gets a double page spread, just enough to whet your appetite to head off and find out more.




There’s a wealth of fantastic work on display – we particularly like Giovanni Pintori’s work for Olivetti.

Each spread also has a condensed timeline showing the highlights from each designer’s career.



As Caroline mentions in the introduction, there’s a glaring disparity between the number of male and female designers. Unfortunately, graphic design as a profession was largely dominated by men for many decades, but fortunately that’s changed in recent years, and it seems certain that the follow up to this book will have more balance.

You can win a copy of the book over on the Grafik site at the moment (the deadline’s 21 September 2015).

Last but not least, The Little Book of Typographic Ornament, also from Laurence King, will be published later this month.


A rich resource for plundering, the book features ornaments taken from 18th Century type foundry specimen books.

Typographic ornaments were decorative embellishments that could be set at the same time as metal type by a printer. They were available in various forms: rules (uninterrupted straight lines), borders (repeated decorative designs), and printers flowers (or fleurons). They could be used individually, or combined together in elaborate patterns.

Author David Jury lifts the book from just being a basic resource with a concise but thoughtful introduction, and short pieces preceding each section of the book.





You can download complete a zip file of the ornaments from the Laurence King website using a code in the back of the book. Each image is saved as a 1200dpi bitmap – most of them at a fairly decent size.

One Story, Many Endings

The Ministry of Stories recently hosted a conference, Write for a Bright Future, the first gathering of all the projects around the world inspired by Dave Eggers’ and Ninive Clements Calegari’s 826 organisation in the USA.

Over 150 delegates attended from centres all over the world – including Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words in Belfast and Dublin; Story Planet in Toronto; Sydney Story Factory in, well, Sydney; Porto delle Storie in Florence; and from a host of other centres, including of course 826 itself.

One of the many highlights of the conference was getting Dave Eggers, Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle together to be interviewed by three students from the Ministry. Check out the video above – it’s well worth a watch.

Read more about our work for the Ministry here.

Greetings and Thanks from Benwells and We Made This



Paul Haslam, director of the fantastic printers Benwells (we designed their identity a few years back) recently asked us to create a promotional mailer for his business. Paul wanted to have something to send to existing clients, and also to send out to potential new clients. We decided it would be great to create something that not only showcased Benwells’ particularly fine work, but which was also something that people could actually use.

So, we had a think about the sort of things you might send or receive in the post. Which got us thinking about postcards.

Now, it’s not that often you get sent a postcard these days. Email, texting and social media have usurped that role for themselves.

But when you do receive a card – well, it feels just great. It shows that someone thinks you’re worth just a little bit of effort - they’ve stepped away from their computer, found a card, then found a pen (that works), carefully hand-written the card, found your address, bought a stamp, and even walked to the postbox. Probably in the rain. (Actually, that’s quite a bit of effort – they must really like you.)

So we teamed up with Benwells to create some postcards that are a pleasure to send, and a joy to receive. A couple of limited edition packs of postcards in fact – one pack, ‘Thanks’, to say thank you; the other, ‘Greetings’, to say hello.


We created two alternate sets of packaging for the postcards – one set for Benwells, and another for We Made This. Both feature white foil-blocked Nomad Buff sleeves, and are sent out in tear-open Colorplan envelopes – green for Benwells, grey for We Made This.





Each pack contains ten different cards, all using delicious G·F Smith papers.

We don’t want to give the game away by showing you the whole lot, but here are just a few from the Greetings pack.

‘Howdy’ features a white foil on Woodside Garden Pine:


‘Hola’, echoing the Spanish flag, uses a yellow foil on duplexed Colorplan Bright Red and Factory Yellow:


‘Ey up’ features a white foil on a fantastically thick (1200gsm) Nomad Bedrock:


And then there’s the Thanks pack:


‘Much Obliged’ is blind debossed on 400gsm Moondream:


‘Lots of Thanks’ features white and super-diffuser foils on Colorplan Dark Grey (with a Buckram emboss) duplexed with Colorplan Factory Yellow:


‘Fanks’ uses a copper foil, again on the Nomad Bedrock:



The reverse of each card details the process used to print it, and what stock it’s printed on. So even if you don’t decide to send them on to anyone, they’re still really useful.

We (and Benwells) will be mailing the packs out over the next couple of weeks – so keep an eye on your postbox.


Horniman Museum


We nipped along to the Horniman Museum in south London yesterday. It’s brilliant. The ground floor features a fantastic Natural History collection, with more than a touch of Wes Anderson about it.



IMG_2847  IMG_2844






Some of the signs feature beautiful hand rendered text:



Well worth a trip.

Shakespeare Schools Festival: His Words, Our Play

_0003_Layer 0

The Shakespeare Schools Festival is the UK’s largest youth drama festival, and they offer school students from all backgrounds the opportunity to perform Shakespeare on their local professional stage. Which is pretty brilliant. 

They recently asked us to create a promotional pack of exercise cards to send out to schools, ‘to challenge, support and inspire teachers to inject some SSF style creativity into their classrooms’. 



We created an A5 buckram-lined box, with 24 foil-blocked exercise cards, and a few simpler introductory cards. 

_0000_Layer 9

_0001_Layer 10

The exercise cards are set in four distinct sections, so we used a separate colour foil to distinguish each section. The exercises each feature quotes from Shakespeare’s plays. We knew these could look fantastic lining the walls of a classroom, so we set them in bold, engaging lettering on the fronts of the cards. 

_0002_Layer 3

_0004_Layer 5

_0005_Layer 7



Our client’s response was: ‘They are beautiful! Thank you so much, I couldn’t be more pleased.’

Which are fine words indeed.

Wellcome Photographic Exposure Calculator

_0003_Layer 6

A couple of weekends ago we dropped in at the Bloomsbury Ephemera, Postcard and Book Fair, and picked up this wonderful little piece of print: The ‘Wellcome’ Photographic Exposure Calculator – Handbook and Diary 1939.






_0008_Layer 1



It’s a wallet sized handbook packed full of information for photographers. It’s divided into three sections – up front there’s a section on developing and printing your photographs (using Wellcome’s branded chemicals of course) - this is followed by a notebook and diary section, and then there’s a final section which details the specifics of getting the right exposure using the exposure calculator inside the back cover.

It’s quite a treasure-trove.

_0007_Layer 2

general trade mark


_0006_Layer 3



There’s a great bit advising budding photographers on how to sell their prints:

_0005_Layer 4

selling photographs


There’s also a page detailing the full kit needed for a photographic tour:

_0004_Layer 5

things you may need


The notebook section is just delicious, printed on a now-yellowed glassine-style paper:

_0003_Layer 6

No of negative

_0002_Layer 7



Just lovely stuff.

The diary section of course has added poignancy given that 1939 was the year that war broke out in Europe.

_0001_Layer 8

The inside back cover features the exposure calculator (as well as a great promotional tag for Tabloid / Rytol developer tablets, glued around a printed ribbon). The preceding pages of light tables are perforated so that you can tear them off at the end of each month – keeping the most up-to-date information easily to hand. Brilliant.

_0000_Layer 9

exposure calculator



Save Norton Folgate

We wandered over to the beautiful St Leonard’s, Shoreditch (as featured in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons) yesterday evening for a fascinating talk by Dan Cruikshank on behalf of The Spitalfields Trust.

The talk was about the threat of development that currently looms over Norton Folgate, a conservation area that forms the heart of Spitalfields, centred on the stunning Elder Street, most of which dates back to the 18th century.

In the evocative surroundings of St Leonard’s, Cruikshank detailed British Land’s plans (on behalf of the freeholder, the City of London Corporation) to redevelop the area, demolishing or gutting many of the historic buildings, leaving just a few facades intact. Behind those facades they’ll create huge office developments, entirely out of keeping with the architectural history of the area, and fundamentally changing its unique character. Watch the video above to get a sense of what Cruikshank had to say.

Incredibly, British Land tried to demolish portions of Elder Street back in the 70s, and were only stopped by the then newly formed Spitalfields Trust, co-founded by Dan Cruikshank.


A little bit of history repeating it seems.

The new proposal is astonishing in its potential to harm one of the most beautiful parts of London. The Spitalfields Trust is determined to stop the proposal though. They have even commissioned an alternative scheme of their own from architect John Burrell at Burrell, Foley, Fischer, which is far better suited to this wonderful area.

Read more over at the excellent Spitalfields Life, and on the Spitalfields Trust site.

Join in the protest over at the Save Norton Folgate Facebook page.