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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!

Shakespeare Schools Festival: His Words, Our Play

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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’. 

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

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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. 

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

Which are fine words indeed.

Unknown Pleasures and CP 1919

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Last night print guru Daniel Mason gave a brilliant talk at the Wynkyn de Worde Society about his work researching, developing and manufacturing facsimile record sleeves for Joy Division, including their album Unknown Pleasures. We’re working as the honorary designers for the society this year, and created the piece above as a memento of the talk.

Unknown Pleasures was Joy Division’s debut album, and featured Peter Saville’s fantastic and iconic sleeve design:

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Famously, the illustration used on the cover came from The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy, and represents successive pulses from CP1919, the first ever discovered pulsar. More recently, Jen Christiansen, art director of information graphics at Scientific American, did a bit of detective work, and found out that the image was originally created by Harold Craft for his PhD thesis.

We wanted to make a piece for Daniel’s talk that referenced the source material, reuniting the graphic with its caption, so we did a bit of digging around and found a copy of the Encyclopaedia for sale on AbeBooks. A few days later we had the book open on page 111, and there was the original image:

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We scanned the page, vectorised the image, and reset the type from the caption (using Elsner+Flake’s Modern Extended) so that we could create a foiling die.

We worked with Benwells and Mason to create the finished piece, which uses a holographic foil on Colorplan Ebony Black, all set at the same size as the original. The holographic foil picks up the light brilliantly against the black:

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Find out more about the Wynkyn de Worde Society here.

10×10

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So this year We Made This is 10 years old. Getting on a bit right? I mean, not quite a teenager, but heading in that direction (so expect some tantrums, angst, and questionable fashion decisions over the next few years).

To celebrate our birthday, we decided to make a book, 10×10, featuring 10 short stories all about the number 10. We produced the book in a limited edition of 100, with 10 different colour covers, of which there are 10 copies each.

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The book is 10″ x 10″ square, and each of the stories is just 10 lines long, and set in 10pt type. Each story title is a single word which ends in the letters ‘t’, ‘e’, and ‘n’. Here are the spreads for the stories Brighten, Heighten, and Often:

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To give you the flavour of it, here’s the first of the stories, BITTEN:

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She was the last.

She hadn’t been anyone special before it all began.

She wasn’t sure how she’d survived so long, but she had.

She’d thought that was a good thing, but now… it seemed more like a curse.

She’d watched as everyone around her had fallen to the sickness.

She remembered how it began with the dogs and cats, their terrible eyes and bloody mouths.

She remembered how it spread to the people, their eyes just as terrible, mouths just as bloody.

She’d hoped for a cure, they all had, but that hope seemed stupid now.

She’d finally been bitten that morning, while searching for water.

She was ten.

 

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The books were beautifully printed by our friends at Benwells, using just a single spot colour - metallic silver (Pantone 877 U). The text was printed on 170gsm Munken Pure Rough, and the covers were printed onto 350gsm Colorplan with a cord emboss. Both stocks are from the good folks at G·F Smith.

We’ve sent the book out as a thank you to all the people who helped us get this far. Here’s to the next 10.

Random Spectacular Two

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The good folks at St Jude’s Prints recently sent us the second issue of their rather wonderful periodical, Random Spectacular, and it’s quite fantastic.

As with the first issue (which we reviewed back in January 2012) it’s a “collaborative exploration of the visual arts, literature, music, travel and much more”.

For instance, there’s a wonderful piece by typographer, designer and teacher Catherine Dixon about the letterpress scene of Buenos Aires (featuring the fantastic work of both Gómez Broncería Artística and Prensa La Libertad):

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and a lovely set of images from photographer Finn Beales, all shot on an iPhone.

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There’s also a lovely feature about Ralph Steadman’s illustrations of extinct and nearly-extinct birds:

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and an article by James Russell about the Submarine series of lithographs by Eric Ravilious:

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The format, somewhere between A4 and A3 (240mm x 350mm), means that the imagery is all gloriously detailed.

All proceeds from the sale of the magazine are again going to Maggie’s Centres (which support people with cancer) - so there’s no reason not to buy a copy for yourself right now!

Planting Poetry for the Ministry of Stories

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Our memories of poetry at school mainly consist of being forced to sit and read aloud various impenetrable and ancient poems in a hot and stuffy classroom while glancing out of the window and thinking “I’d so much prefer to be out there right now”.

So it’s a massive pleasure to have worked on the latest Ministry of Stories project, where poetry is written rather than just read, and where it’s done outside rather than in.

Planting Poetry is a project the Ministry runs with primary school children. It runs over the course of five sessions, with the support of a facilitator and Ministry writing mentors. For this year’s project, thirty Year 5 children (aged 9-10) at William Patten Primary School in Stoke Newington explored a garden attached to their school, responding to the various edible and decorative plants they grow there.

They then created ten poems inspired by the garden, written in the Mesostic form – where a vertical word is formed from within the horizontal lines of the poem.

We then took their poems, and turned them into 3D signs which could be ‘planted’ in the garden. (Our designs are entirely based on the wonderful ones created for the project last year by Burgess Studio.) Each line of each poem is laser cut into pre-painted lengths of wood, which are then drilled and mounted onto a rod, before being installed around the garden. The fantastic folks at Beam Laser Cutting did an incredible job, doing all the production, and the poems looked really wonderful.

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Brilliant poems, and the children from the school seemed genuinely thrilled at seeing their work made real.

Penguin Random House Learning Journal

Often, when you get a job back from the printer (having laboured over it for hours, days, weeks, and often months), there can be a certain sense of disappointment, with the final result not living up to your by now unjustifiably elevated expectations. That’s not to say that the finished object isn’t worthy of love and pride, just that you can easily have an idealised view of what you hope to have created, a view which reality can never match.

But every now and then, the reverse happens. Despite having those same supposedly unrealistic expectations, the finished object manages to exceed them.

This happened to us with this learning journal we created recently for the Penguin Random House Academy – the in-house training programme for the company’s UK staff.

We were hoping it was going to look great, but once we got it in our hands, we couldn’t help but grin. It just felt right – the cover stock, the text stock, the print process, the finishing – it all came together in one lovely package. (And yup, we know we’re blasting away on our own little trumpet here, but heck, sometimes it’s okay to do that.)

We started out by designing the identity for the Academy, a simple circle. We then carried that circle through as a motif throughout the book.

The book is designed in two separate sections, each of which has its own front cover. Start at one end and it’s an informative guide to all the training and career development possibilities at the company; flip it over and it’s a travel journal, where you can make notes and doodle.

The text pages are printed onto a cream stock using the CMYK process, but with the black swapped for a Pantone grey.

The two halves of the book meet at a spread which reads in both directions, letting you know that it’s time to flip the book:

The covers are 2000 micron greyboard, foil-blocked in white.

The travel journal pages are a mix of blank pages, inspirational quotes, and many different types of lined paper pages:

Our thanks to Jo, Bethany and Erica at Penguin Random House, and printers Colophon and Lavengro for their help in creating something we’re dead proud of.

Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments

The good folks over at GraphicDesign& sent us a copy of their fine new book Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments.

It’s almost two years since their first book, Page 1: Great Expectations, explored the world of literature via the first page of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Where that book was mainly typographic in its explorations, this one principally illustrative, looking at the relationship of the Golden ratio to graphic design. We particularly liked the wonderful illustration by Malika Favre:

‘I decided to approach the brief as I remember approaching mathematical exercises in high school, setting strict constraints and rules before moving on to the more instinctive part of the process. As a starting point, I constructed a golden ratio grid within the double page spread without thinking about what I wanted to draw or how I would draw it. Once the grid was finished, I looked at what the lines were showing and saw a silhouette emerging. I started drawing shapes and lines as an overlay, using the lines and angles of the grid as a loose guide but relying on my instinct to create what became a woman walking by.’

Grid and overlay above, finished illustration below.

Other contributors include:

Adrian Talbot

Bibliothèque

Jerzy Skakun and Joanna Górska at Homework

Matt Rice and Christoph Lorenzi at Sennep (play with their design over here - it’s fun).

It’s a lovely book, very much sitting on the ‘book as object’ shelf thanks to a lovely format, foil-blocked cover, and the use of a single spot colour throughout (gold, of course). There’s a slight whiff of the degree show catalogue about it, because of its repetitive portfolio format (each contributor gets an introductory page, then one or two spreads), but with students of this calibre, who’s complaining?

Two more books are already in the pipeline (Religion: Looking good, and Social Science: Graphic designers surveyed), and they should build into a solid collection.

We’d really like to see a book that pulls together creative teams of Designers & Others, where designers are teamed up with philosophers, musicians, biologists, teachers, doctors, dramaturgs and others. That might start some really interesting conversations…

The Best Kids’ Shop in London

Boom! We’re hugely proud to announce that Hoxton Street Monster Supplies has just been nominated as the Best Kids’ Shop in London by the good folks over at Time Out London magazine.

The latest issue of the magazine lists the best 100 shops in the capital, and singles out Hoxton Street Monster Supplies as the very best place for young folk to do a spot of shopping.

Of course, it’s not really a kids’ shop. It’s a shop for monsters. The clue is in the name really. But it would seem impolite to quibble, and the staff are generally fairly tolerant of humans, especially the younger variety.

If you can’t make it along to 159 Hoxton Street, you can buy some of the shop’s wonderful goods at their online store at www.monstersupplies.org

Read more about how we designed the shop, and how we helped set up and design the Ministry of Stories.

Design for Ministers and Monsters

As you might have noticed from our two previous posts, things have been pretty busy lately at the Ministry of Stories and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.

It’s been three years since the Ministry, a young people’s writing centre in Hoxton, opened its secret door at the back of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies – the only shop in the world catering exclusively to the needs of monsters. (Check out this post if you need a bit of background to it all.)

In that time, the Ministry (thanks to a small army of volunteers) has helped thousands of children and teenagers to discover their inner authors. They’ve published a series of anthologies of writing by those children, as well as a Guide to Monster Housekeeping (designed by Ed Cornish).

They’ve published a regular newspaper, Hoxton A.M. (designed by Alex Parrott), filmed a soap opera, created a new republic in Shoreditch (designed by Burgess Studio), and, most recently, released an album (designed by We Made This).

Meanwhile, the monster shop has continued to do great business, constantly releasing new products, including Salt made from Tears (from a concept by StudioWeave), and Milk Tooth Chocolate (designed by We Made This).

And that’s just a few of the highlights – there’ve been a whole bunch of other projects, all designed by various brilliant designers (with art direction by We Made This), all of them giving their time and skills for free.

But the Ministry has a whole heap of new projects (small, large, and gargantuan) coming up in the next couple of years, and needs to add to its design roster. That means you!

So if you’re based in London, are ridiculously talented, and want to create something brilliant for the Ministry or the monster shop, drop Alistair a line. We’re happy to hear from freelancers or studios, and from graphic designers, web & interaction designers, and illustrators. There’s no money, but it’s for a fantastic cause, and you’ll get the chance to create something incredible.