Archived posts: June 2010

Ones to watch: CSM BA Graphics Show 2010

Well heck. Not sure what they’re feeding the students over at Central Saint Martins, but this year’s graphic design degree show is a humdinger.

It’s being held over at the spacious Nicholls & Clarke Building on Shoreditch High Street, and has been tightly curated so that you have a real sense of what you’re looking at – which is a huge help when you’re faced with such a vast quantity of work.

It’s always interesting to see what the visual vibe is each year – this year there was a lot of work that had the scent of the AA Print Studio about it (sometimes huge stinking whiffs of it in fact). That’s fairly natural, and just part of the ebb and flow of what’s hip in the design industry at any given time… but we hope that those students will find time to develop their own distinct visual language.

We’d been invited to pick out our favourite piece from the show for the annual Joss Turley award, so got a chance to have a fairly decent wander round before the beer really started flowing. Here are just a few of the faces we think are worth keeping an eye on:


Maria Gruzdeva has put together a frankly beautiful, hugely polished book about the Yuri Gagarin Russian State Science Research Cosmonauts Training Centre (also known as the Star City) – a secretive military research facility where cosmonauts have lived and trained from the 1960s onwards. The book features her stunning documentary photography (above and top) from the Centre, as well as a wealth of archive material. It’s a hugely substantial piece of work, really brilliant.


We were blown away by Brendan Olley’s vast photographic prints, taken on a large-format camera on a trip to Svalbard, the world’s most northern town, sitting 300 miles from the North Pole. Brendan says the work “identifies the oddity of human behavior in relation to the landscape. Playgrounds and basketball courts are engulfed by snow and made redundant. Cars become reclaimed by the planet until eventually they become inseparable. It brings into question the reasons why one would wish to occupy this isolated place.”

They’re truly fantastic pictures, and you really need to see them at their actual size to get the full effect.


Jamie Hearn has created a beautiful pair of screenprints, one showing simplified household products stripped of their lettering, and then a second print showing just the lettering, which he’s hand drawn. Really delicious, and he’s also documented the work in a rather fine book (above). Great stuff.


We really liked Helen Lovelee’s series of hand-drawn prints inspired by traditional Aboriginal philosophy – this one reads: “To stay warm on a cold desert night sleep between two small fires and close to your dog”. Which sounds mighty fine.


We were also really taken with Chihiro Sasaki’s whimsical illustrations, particularly her series “The Territory of Human Being”, which looked at the invisible barriers people form to distance themelves from others. The illustrations have a really distinctive and charming style. Dead good.


Okay, full disclosure, we’ve had Ed in here on a placement, so we already think his work is great – and he didn’t disappoint with this series of beautiful letterpressed prints. Tasty bit of framing too Ed.


We chuckled at this one. Sometimes graphic design is allowed to be funny.

There’s stacks of other fine work, and the show runs until Monday 21 June. Get along there if you can.

Fantastic Four in the House of Horrors

While we were at the Ephemera Fair (check out our previous post), we also picked up a brilliant Fantastic Four Whitman Big Little Book (No.19 fact fans) from the late 60s, a bizarre little thing that’s a fusion of comic and book, setting single panel captioned images against facing pages of large type text.

In the story, the Fantastic Four are pitted against the evil Dr. Weird in his House of Horrors. The illustrations, and their accompanying captions, are, well, fantastic.

Check them out in our Flickr set. Nuff said.

More ephemeral goodness

We trundled along to the latest Ephemera Society Fair on Sunday, and stumbled upon a whole stack of labels from the Leicester chemist W. T. Hind. Some lovely stuff – we’ve uploaded it all to our Flickr Ephemera Set.

The next fair is on Sunday 1 August.

That’s the way to do it

We get a fair few CVs and portfolios emailed in to the studio each week, particularly at this time of year: some okay, some good, and some, occasionally, brilliant. Which is what happened the other day, when Xavi Garcia sent us his screenprinted Work:Fail manifesto.

We figured it might be helpful for other students out there to use him as a good example of how to get a foot in the door, as well as being a fine way of giving Xavi a bit of free publicity.

Often the first point of contact is an email. Some tips on that would be: always find a named person to send your email to; don’t CC all the agencies you’re applying to; and make sure you tailor your email to each company individually rather than copying and pasting (we have a stack of emails sent through from students telling us why they’d really like a placement at NB:Studio).

Now and then someone sends something physical through – obviously that involves more time and effort on their part, so we’re more likely to take a look. Of course, it still needs to be a good bit of work…

Xavi sent through his Manifesto, and it’s a lovely piece – Work stands clearly in the foreground, in both the sense of ‘labour’ and ‘function’, but it’s supported by failure – a willingness to give things a go, and to experiment. Which is a fine philosophy.

He attached a friendly and informative covering letter. Some tips on that: spellcheck is your friend, but don’t rely on it; don’t tell us why you’d benefit from working with us, but do tell us why we’d benefit from working with you; and keep it concise.

The letter included a link to Xavi’s online portfolio, and since his poster had excited our interest, we took a look. The site’s built with Indexhibit, which is a great way for anyone to get a clean and functional portfolio site up and running. But blogs (Typepad, WordPress and the like) work just as well. Heck, even Flickr can do the trick.

His site has some really lovely work on it, so we invited him to drop by and show us the real stuff, which included some handmade banknotes (above), and an editioned notebook (below).

Some tips at this point are: check you’re going to the right address; arrive on time; and bring physical work with you – we’ve already seen your stuff on a screen.

From that point on, it’s down to your work…

Now, Xavi has only just finished his Foundation course at Central Saint Martins, and normally we’d say, well, go do a BA, and give us a shout after that. But his work’s really great, and he’s already got a Business degree under his belt, so we reckon the normal rules don’t apply. We don’t have room to take anyone on here at the moment, but we’re going to find some way to do some work with him, and in the meantime, hopefully this post might nudge him in the right directions.

So. That’s the way to do it.

An Ace package

Postal happiness! This little package of loveliness arrived this morning from Richard at Ace Jet 170, as a swap for one of our Twickenham Carnival posters. Tastily wrapped in a French route-map, it held a stack of lovely print stuff, including a Penguin book with a cover illustration by Milton Glaser. Very lovely all round – so thanks Richard!

Google: more is less

Google’s homepage has gone all pictorial this morning, with a full-bleed image cluttering up their normally pristine page. You can change the picture, choosing from a range of pre-selected shots (including shots of work by Dale Chihuly, Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness, Polly Apfelbaum, Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), Kwon, Ki-soo (권기수) and Tord Boontje, as well as shots from Yann Arthus-Bertrand and National Geographic.

You can stick in your own images too (that’s one of ours above), choose one from a public gallery, or set it to a single colour (as below), or even back to white (which is actually quite elegant, leaving a shadowed logo, rather than the usual mulitcoloured one).

Except if you’re using Safari, which isn’t playing along at all, just showing the classic Google homepage. Wonder if that’s a tech issue or just a low-level skirmish in the browser wars…

And frankly, as Safari users, we’re happy with the standard page: we don’t want our search window to be anything other than a search window. Less, as ever, is more.

GF Smith archive show

We nipped across to 33 Portland Place yesterday to check out an exhibition of delicious archive material from the paper company GF Smith.

They’ve been producing paper stocks for the design industry since the 1880s, and have an archive collection that includes work by Sir Peter Blake, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and Milton Glaser. It was interesting to see how their various bits of promotional material had changed over the years, but also to see how much had remained the same.

The show is invitation only, but they’re touring it all over the place, and they’re also digitising their archive, so there’s more than a chance that you’ll be seeing much more of this stuff before long…

As little design as possible

We found a bit of time this weekend to catch up on the BBC’s Genius of Design series, which is available on the iPlayer for just a few more days.

The first show took a look at the birth of the design industry at around the time of the industrial revolution, and we were particularly taken with the No.10 Double Bow Drummer Boy sheep shears, which they picked out as an exemplary piece of design.

The steel shears are made by Sheffield firm Burgon and Ball, and have been hand-made in more or less the same way since 1730. They’re designed to be used single handed, so that the shearer’s other hand can hang onto the sheep. As they point out in the show, they have been stripped back to their absolute essence – two single pieces of steel, shaped and sharpened, part rigid cutting blade, part flexible handle. A truly beautiful instance of form following function, fitting well with Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design (which feature earlier in the programme):

1. Good Design is innovative

2. Good Design makes a product useful

3. Good Design is aesthetic

4. Good Design helps a product be understood

5. Good Design is unobtrusive

6. Good Design is honest

7. Good Design is durable

8. Good Design is thorough to the last detail

9. Good Design is concerned with environment

10. Good Design is as little design as possible

We’ve been musing on the idea that products can evolve into a perfect form, much as an animal might, given a stable environment.

We’d love a shop that sold only those distilled, pure products; the ones that exemplified the form. Somewhere where you could get the most perfectly evolved mug, glass, watch, chair…

Lovely stuff.

The Ride Journal: Issue Four

The latest issue of the delicious cycling journal The Ride (No. 4) launched last week at Look Mum, No Hands!

We’ve been gently wheeling our way through it since then, and it’s the usual brilliant mix of engaging stories and beautiful illustrations, from a whole range of bike folk. It’s not showing up on their website at the time of writing, but you can pick it up from Magma in the meantime as well as a whole bunch of other places.

We Made This Wallpaper* cover…

Well, sorta.

The clever kids at Wallpaper* magazine have done some mighty clever technological tinkering and created an online app that lets you design your very own one-off cover for their upcoming August issue – though you’ll need to move quickly – designs have to be created by Tuesday 8 June.

The app is hugely intuitive, with a selection of elements to drag and drop: texts from Anthony Burrill (including WE MADE THIS, handily for us), shapes from James Joyce, textures by Nigel Robinson, patterns by Kam Tang, and images by Hort. You can customise things to a fair degree, particularly by layering, scaling and colouring the elements. Dead good.

Be warned though: once you start playing, it’s fairly hard to stop…