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A Smile in the Mind

A-Smile-in-the-mind

We nipped over to The Partners on Wednesday evening for the launch of the revamped A Smile in the Mind – Witty thinking in graphic design.

The book was originally published in 1996 (that’s our grubby copy on the left up above, which we picked up around 1999), and presented a wealth of the sort of graphic design that deals with ideas, play and wit. When we were at college, it was considered a key text for ideas-based design.

With a fresh neon pink coat, the new version has been extensively revised and updated, with over 1,000 examples of witty logos, book covers, posters, illustrations, packaging and photography – about 50% of it new material. And we’re ridiculously chuffed to have our work for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies included in amongst that.

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hsms_0015_Vague Sense of Unease

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We thought we’d show a few more pieces from the book here. Up first, a cover for Nabakov’s Lolita, by the offensively talented Jamie Keenan. Quite possibly our favourite bit of graphic design from the last twenty years.

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Sticking with book covers, our studio partner David Pearson’s wonderful cover for Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, from the Penguin Great Ideas series, is rather brilliant too – with the spine of the book duplicated repeatedly across the front cover.

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This logo for The Guild of Food Writers by 300 Million is a perfect example of graphic wit and economy:

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Sticking with food, this pack by Design Bridge for Tiger Nuts is, well, the nuts.

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There’s a good section at the back of the book where various design folk talk through how they came up with an idea, including this corker of a poster by Arnold Schwartzman for the Los Angeles Olympics:

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A Smile in the Mind is a fantastic compendium of witty thinking, and a real credit to both Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart who put together the original edition, and Greg Quinton and Nick Asbury who put together the new edition.

You can see a further selection of work from the book (including our stuff) over at Creative Review.

60 years of TV commercials

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We made our way over to Hixter Bankside yesterday for the annual Clearcast party, for which we’d designed an 8 metre long backdrop.

Clearcast are the clearance service for the TV advertising industry – they review TV commercials at the script stage, checking that they conform to the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising. That way, before production begins, advertisers can make sure their ads aren’t harmful, misleading or offensive.

Clearcast asked us to create an eye-catching backdrop to celebrate the recent milestone of 60 years of commercial television. We looked through the archives of the most popular TV adverts, and pulled together a selection of the best bits from the scripts. We then created a huge typographic backdrop, designed to fit onto a glass partition in the venue’s main room. (The backdrop was produced by the event organisers, PR Live.)

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If you click the image below, it should open up the full artwork.

Here are the ads from which those bits of copy come – nostalgia-fest!

Cinzano – with the fantastic Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins:

 

Gibbs S.R. Toothpaste – this was the first advert shown on UK television:

 

Sugar Puffs

 

Renault Clio

 

Guinness

 

Boddingtons

 

comparethemarket.com

 

British Telecom

 

Um Bongo

 

R Whites Lemonade

 

Heineken

 

Budweiser

 

Yellow Pages

 

Birdseye Steakhouse Grills

(Going through those ads made us realise that commercials with great dialogue are few and far between these days. We have a feeling that might be because ads are made to work in many different countries now, so dialogue (except in voice-over) is far less common. Or perhaps witty copywriting is just out of fashion? Seems a shame.)

There was also a photo-booth at the party, run by the good chaps from Lots of Little Ideas, and we designed a series of prop-cards for that, featuring taglines from some old adverts – all set with the correct typographic styling.

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British Pathé

 

So we’ve just lost a few hours browsing through the fantastic British Pathé archive on YouTube. We thought we’d share a few highlights here.

Up above, a short film from 1967 showcasing the new British road signage system. Check out how a handy guide helps drivers to decipher the new signs.

The film below shows how a Mr Batley can produce portraits on a Monotype caster.

 

 

The next film, Wallpaper, is brilliant, showing how wallpaper is printed – all set to a swinging soundtrack that lets you know this is just about the most fun a human being can have.

 

 

And how about this one – showcasing how Ordnance Survey maps are produced?

 

 

Or, say, when you’re enjoying your favourite magazine, do you ever wonder what went into its making?

 

 

This short film shows how neon lettering is made by remarkably smartly-dressed men in Acton:

 

 

Here are a couple of chaps engraving postage stamps:

 

 

Finally, meet Mr Leonard Ware, the rubber man:

 

 

Find more over at the Pathé channel.

British Hardware Federation

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We stumbled across this little paper bag the other day, and crikey it’s peculiar.

It features branding for the British Hardware Federation, the national trade association for independent hardware and DIY retailers in the UK. We’re not quite sure when this particular bag dates from, but we’d guess it’s the early 1970s. (We’ve been in touch with the BHF to ask them if they know anything about the branding, but they’ve not got back to us with any answers yet.)

So that symbol. That’s the male gender symbol right?*

So, hum, was the British Hardware Federation really suggesting, as James Brown would have it, that DIY is a ‘man’s man’s man’s world’? Because that seems kinda outrageous, even in the 70s.

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The symbol itself, the circle with an arrow pointing outwards at an angle, and its equivalent female symbol, the circle with a cross below it, have an interesting history.

Their use as markers of gender dates back to the work of Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus, in his dissertation Plantae Hybridae (1751), where he used them for male and female parents of hybrid plants.

But Linnaeus didn’t invent the symbols, he just appropriated them from the scientific study of alchemy, where the male symbol was originally used to refer to the metal iron, and the female symbol to the metal copper. In fact he’d previously used them as such in his 1735 piece, System Naturae.

The symbols’ use in alchemy derived from a shorthand for the names of the planets, each of which was associated with a metal. Iron (a hard red metal used to make weapons) was associated with Mars (big red planet, god of war); and copper (a soft metal that turns green) was associated with Venus (goddess of love). Read all about that over on this Today I Found Out article.

Which is all well and good, but doesn’t perhaps explain why the male gender symbol was used to brand a DIY trade body. It’s possible it was something to do with iron, but it feels like most people would have connected the symbol with maleness way before they thought about a hard red metal.

Of course, there’s a much more contemporary instance of the symbol being used as a key part of a much larger brand identity…

volvo-logo

Volvo refer to their mark as ‘the iron mark’, so they’re definitely anchoring (sorry) the symbol with that meaning. As opposed to subtly suggesting that cars are just for men.

*If anyone knows any more about the British Hardware Federation identity, get in touch. It’s always possible that the symbol refers to something very DIY specific. We’d love to know.

Wynkyn de Worde Society

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Founded in 1957, the Wynkyn de Worde Society is ‘dedicated to excellence in all forms of printing’. It’s a rather fantastic society which gets together regularly to eat, drink, talk about design and printing, and drink some more. The membership is made up of talented and frankly fascinating folk from right across the graphic arts spectrum – printers, graphic designers, calligraphers, publishers, typographers – all sorts. Each year they ask a different member to be their Honorary Designer, and this year they asked Alistair, creative director of We Made This, to take on that role.

The society holds a series of wonderful lunchtime and evening events across the year, and one of the Honorary Designer’s jobs is to create the booking forms for those events. Alistair designed each leaflet to respond to the theme of the respective event. We thought we’d share a few of them here.

In March, Daniel Mason gave a wonderful talk about recreating the packaging for Joy Division’s albums. Having found a copy of the original image used to create the Unknown Pleasures cover art, Alistair created a Factory-style booking form. This was printed onto Colorplan Pristine White. Alistair also created a memento for the event.

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In July, the Society held its annual Members’ Garden Party. For this Alistair created a botanic pattern based on a Gunnera leaf.

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The leaflet was printed onto Colorplan Pistachio with a leaf-like embossed texture.

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In September, Professor Lawrence Zeegen gave a fascinating talk about the history of Ladybird Books. For that Alistair created a leaflet that matched the exact size of the Ladybird books, and reworked type from one of the original books to create a text page inside it.

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Later this month, Nick Newman will be giving a talk about The Wipers Times, the newspaper written, printed and published by British soldiers in the trenches in the First World War. Alistair carefully replicated the typographic style of the newspaper for the booking leaflet, and reworked some text from the newspaper too, making it specific to the event. (He’s also worked with Matt Mackenzie at Paekakariki Press to recreate a letterpress printed edition of the newspaper – we’ll tell you all about that next month.) The leaflet was printed onto Colorplan Stone.

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And finally, for the Christmas party, which is held at the Garrick Club, Alistair created a leaflet that looked like an old theatre playbill, playing with some of the lyrics from the ‘Deck the Halls’ Christmas carol.

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If that’s whetted your appetite, take a look at the Wynkyn de Worde Members’ Handbook too.

(Graphic) Designer Watches

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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:

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

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Clean, simple, functional.

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

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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?

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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:

watches-mondaine-helvetica

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 Apple Watch should be included in this list?

watches-iwatch

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 Apple Watch 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?

UPDATE (21 October 2015)
We couldn’t let this post stand without including the newly launched Sekford Type 1A watches, which feature bespoke lettering and numbers drawn by Commercial Type. They’re not cheap, by my they’re beautiful.

sekford

Browse through the comments below for watch links from other readers.

Also, it’s interesting note how popular the time around ten past ten is for setting the watches to when photographing them. Evidently a watch and clock photographic tradition.

The 2015 D&AD Annual cover

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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.

pencils

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.

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yellow_proof

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Greetings and Thanks from Benwells and We Made This

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Hello!

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.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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And then there’s the Thanks pack:

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

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

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

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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.

Thanks!