The Hill Valley Project

So this is kinda cool. To coincide with the anniversary of the date Marty Mcfly first went back in time, Back to the Future is being tweeted in real time, right now, by all the characters.

The project has been created by Gavin Fox (creative director at Poke), Martin Rose (creative director at Mother), and Tom Hartshorn (founder member of Nation). All to increase awareness of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which raises funds for research into Parkinsons Disease.

Go follow.

The Gentle Author’s London Album

The Gentle Author’s London Album is the wonderful new book, designed by David Pearson, written by the author of the fantastic Spitalfields Life blog. Alistair just picked up his copy from the author, suitably enough right in the middle of Spitalfields Market. The book has been published by the author’s own imprint, Spitalfields Life Books, and financed by the readers of the blog.

If you don’t read Spitalfields Life, you should. It’s a beautifully written treasure trove of stories documenting London’s history, all based around a small patch of east London. It has been written by the anonymous Gentle Author since 2009, who made the bold promise of writing every day until 10,000 posts have been written (sometime in 2037).

As with the blog, the book is a sumptuous pictorial record, a dense feast which includes myriad morsels from London’s past and present, and features over six hundred pictures, many of them taken from glass slides from the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, which have never been printed anywhere before.

The book also features the atmospheric London Underground photographs by Bob Mazzer which have been all over the internet recently (after featuring on Spitalfields Life of course).

You’ll also find the wonderful typographic designs of Roy Gardner, market sundriesman:

Here’s a rather marvellous little film celebrating the launch of the book:

There’s also a rather fine slideshow that the BBC have put together about the book.

It’s an absolute labour of love from both author and designer – we share a studio with David, and have witnessed first-hand the painstaking care and attention lavished upon the book.

Buy a copy directly from the Gentle Author, inscribed and signed if that takes your fancy (and really, why wouldn’t it?).

Go on, off you go. Buy one right now.

Ten rather fine iOS7 wallpapers

So iOS7 has finally dropped. It’s mostly lovely, though with a few glitches here and there, and a rather over excited colour palette.

We thought it might be an idea to update some of the iPhone wallpapers we created a few years back (originally for the iPhone 4, way back in 2008), and add in a couple of extras. So here, for your downloading pleasure, are ten rather fine iOS7 wallpapers. They’re sized 72dpi at 744 pixels wide by 1392 pixels high, and are lossless .png files, so they should be just perfect for iOS7.

Click on the images below to download them – scroll to the bottom of the post for full installation instructions.

Because sometimes you just wait and wait and wait.

 

This roundel will be familiar to anyone in the UK who’s old enough to remember rotary dial BT phones. Just putting you through now caller.

 

Is it me you’re looking for?

 

And this little fella will be familiar to anyone old enough to remember Dan Dare.

 

And? What exactly?

 

Courtesy costs nothing.

 

This is what phones used to look like. In olden times. Ask your parents.

 

Otherwise you’ll just trip over your words.

And finally, these two, Little Monster (perfect for the Lady Gaga fans amongst you no?) and Boo!, are on loan from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. Go check out their shop for more monstrous goodness.

To install them if you’re browsing on your iPhone:

1. Click on whichever image you want, and it should open up the full size image.

2. Hold your finger on the image, and select Save Image. It should save to your camera roll.

3. Go Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness > Choose Wallpaper

4. Select Camera Roll from the Photos section, and choose the image.

5. Move and scale it as necessary.

6. Click Set > Set as Lock Screen.

7. Boom. You’re done.

To install them if you’re on your computer:

1. Click on whichever image you want, and it should open up the full size image.

2. Download the image to any image folder that syncs with your iPhone – iPhoto, Google Drive, Dropbox, wherever. Or you can email it to yourself as an attachment.

3. Navigate to the image on your phone, and save it to your camera roll.

4. Go Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness > Choose Wallpaper

5. Select Camera Roll from the Photos section, and choose the image.

6. Move and scale it as necessary.

7. Click Set > Set as Lock Screen.

8. Boom. You’re done.

These are designed to be used as Lock Screen images, rather than Home Screen ones, and work best when the parallax effect is off. (To turn it off, go Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion, and switch the toggle button to On. Do this before you set your wallpaper though, otherwise it goes weird.)

A logo for London

If you think about London, certain images immediately dance around in your mind.

Perhaps some of its buildings: Charles Barry’s Palace of Westminster, Sir Horace Jones’ Tower Bridge, or Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Or something more recent – Marks and Barfield’s London Eye, Norman Foster’s Gherkin, or Renzo Piano’s Shard?

All individually iconic, but perhaps not representative of the entirety of London.

Often a city becomes known by its skyline, but London has no single point from which it is best viewed, so no single arrangement of its architecture has become dominant. (Though for our money, the view looking east from Waterloo Bridge is hard to beat.)

Other London icons, as evidenced by the wares sold in a thousand tatty tourist shops, include the red double decker bus (probably in the form of Douglas Scott’s Routemaster), and the London black cab (most probably in its Austin FX4 incarnation).

 

Those are the ‘things’ that quickly spring to mind.

But if you’re asked to think of a piece of graphic design that most represents London, then you can’t help but think of the representations of London’s transport systems – either the iconic Transport for London roundel (the name for the circular logo with the bar through the middle), or the ingenious Underground map (shown here in its current incarnation).

While we are familiar with the story of Harry Beck’s design of the map, the story of the roundel has been a little less celebrated (though there is a good short history of its creation on the London Transport Museum site).

Fortunately, David Lawrence’s new book, A Logo for London, sets the record straight, in exacting detail.

The book documents the genesis and evolution of the roundel, demonstrating that rather than being the offspring of any single creative genius, it is the child of many hugely talented designers and administrators – including Frank Pick, Harry Ford, Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, Hans Schleger, and Misha Black from Design Research Unit. It has grown and changed over the course of more than a hundred years to become the defining graphic symbol for London (despite the occasional attempt to find something else to do the job).

Lawrence describes how the roundel had two direct antecedents, in designs used by companies that later became part of the London Transport group.

Firstly, there was the logo of the London General Omnibus Company, designed by a gentleman known as Mr Crane, featuring a spoked bus wheel with a bar through it, adorned by a pair of wings.

Secondly, there were the station signboards of the Metropolitan District Railway, blue enamelled signs with white lettering, which announced which station you were at.

In use around 1906, these were beginning to be swamped by a proliferation of text based advertising which surrounded them at stations. Frank Pick, the real genius behind much of the London Underground’s branding, suggested testing out new signs of different shapes and sizes. A year before, Joseph Carter, Company Secretary of the District line, had done exactly that sort of test, and had come up with a red disc bisected with a blue bar with white lettering. This new design, used for station signboards from 1908 onwards, looked something like this:

These two pieces of design were then brought together by calligrapher Edward Johnston, who had been commissioned by Frank Pick in 1913 to create a single typeface for the Underground (which is a whole other tale in itself). There’s a lovely section in the book detailing Johnston’s correspondence with Harry Carr at the Underground Group about the design of the new Underground logotype.

Johnston’s new Underground roundel, then known as the bulls-eye, was used from around late 1919, and is the moment at which the roundel found the form that is still with us today. Here is a drawing from 1925 detailing its exact proportions:

If we deconstruct the logo, we can see that although it grew out of the spoked wheel logo of London General, and the red circle of the early signboards, it artfully represents both a tunnel, and a train running through it. Or perhaps (at a stretch) a bus running across an abstracted representation of the city. Perhaps, even, the river running from west to east across the city.

It’s possible it doesn’t really matter at this point – its meaning after all is self-defined through use.

Lawrence goes on to show how the logo is gradually introduced across London’s entire transport network, on signage, posters, leaflets, maps and uniforms.

So the old solid red circular sign at South Kensington would have changed to look something more like this:

The design of the roundel stayed more or less the same through to 1935, when Hans Schleger* was commissioned by Frank Pick to put together new designs for bus stop signs. Schleger stripped back the roundel to its simplest form – a coloured circle with a coloured bar, with the type reversed out of the bar. His redesign was gradually implemented right across the network, so that by 1955 station signboards looked more like the one below, stripped of their keylines:

They’ve remained that way more or less until the present day. (Though interestingly, the latest crop of signs have reinstated a keyline, in the form of a silver grey border on some of the signboards.)

Rather brilliantly, nearly all of the Transport for London visual guidelines are available on the TfL website, so it’s easy to see how the roundel is now being used across the city’s vast transport system.

For example, here are all the different networks it represents:

 

 

Not bad for a hundred year old logo. (Although it doesn’t always work perfectly – Taxi·Private Hire roundel, we’re looking at you there.)

A Logo for London, while occasionally a tad dry, is a great addition to the recent crop of books detailing the design of the capital’s transport system (you should also check out Mark Ovenden’s fantastic London Underground By Design).

For more roundel goodness, take a look at the London Underground Poster and London Underground Signs groups on Flickr.

*No Wikipedia page for Hans Schleger? Astounding.

Graphics Summer School 2013

Alistair was teaching on the Graphics Summer School at Central Saint Martins for the last couple of weeks, so we thought we’d present a small sample of the students’ work here.

The summer school allows students from a mix of backgrounds, experiences and ages to sample four disciplines in rotation across two weeks: illustration, advertising, photography and typography. For the typography section, Alistair set a brief to the students: create your own personal alphabet.

There was a fantastic variety of responses. Kaja Slokewska created a bubbly alphabet (above) from acrylic and glue, to represent her love of diving; while Gina Hollingsworth created an alphabet out of a single sheet of paper, just with cuts and folds. Beautiful.

Jonathan Yip created a really pleasing set of letters using guitar strings – first playing about with them in real life, then vectorising the results. Mighty fine.

Meanwhile, Andrea Sartini revealed a love of ice-cream with his set of melting letters (below).

Chris Hall created a fantastically complex grid for his alphabet, and went to town creating a set of properly bonkers letters.We particularly love his 3.

The students also had a half day introduction to the delights of letterpress, thanks to the wonderful Helen Ingham, which featured a quick whip through the history of type, followed by the chance for each student to set a line of metal type, which was then combined together in one souvenir print.

Check out more of the work over at Alistair’s Flickr set. Lovely stuff.

Carters Steam Fair

A couple of weekends ago we got the chance to visit the fantastic Carters Steam Fair while it was visiting Clapham Common.

Carters is a vintage travelling fun fair, entirely run by the Carter family, after John and Anna Carter bought their first ride, the Jubilee Steam Gallopers (below) in 1977. The ride was originally built by Robert Tidman & Sons of Norwich, in 1895; and the Carters extensively repaired and renovated it to get it looking as fine as it does today.

The other main ride they have that’s run on steam is the glorious Excelsior Steam Yachts ride (top and below), built in 1921.

The whole fair features a staggering wealth of traditional fairground art and signwriting, featuring work by Hall and Fowle:

“The later rides owned by Carters Steam Fair are painted in a style of dramatic three-dimensionality by the masters of fairground painting in the first half of the 20th century: Hall and Fowle. Edwin Hall was a master painter producing some beautifully set out and composed Art Deco designs that still stand out to this day; Fred Fowle joined forces with him later. Fowle’s work is unmistakeable in its design and skill, using gold and aluminium leaf, flamboyant enamels and a lot of guts he made some of the most extraordinary and exuberant artwork that can be seen on the fair to this day, most notably the Skid, the Octopus, and the Hook a Duck hoopla stall which are owned by Carters Steam Fair.”

Everything on the fair is still hand-painted, with incredible skill and style, by the Carter family. Indeed, Joby Carter even runs 5-day signwriting courses – the next one coming up this November.

It’s just an amazing place to visit. They even have a coconut shy, and a fantastic penny arcade, which even has a suitably creepy Jolly Jack:

And of course the rides themselves are brilliant.

The fair will be at Belair Park in West Dulwich for the next two weekends, and travelling all round London through to November (check their full diary here). Do go along if you get a chance.

Potter prints

Yesterday, at one of the Clerkenwell Design Week events, we bumped into the very lovely Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who worked on the graphic design for all eight of the Harry Potter films. Collectively known as Minalima, they’ve recently launched The Printorium, an online market place for a series of lovely fine art prints based on their work for the films.

The prints come in two formats – limited editions of 1,000, embossed and signature stamped; and limited editions of 250, hand signed, which have additional hand-worked details like gold foiling. Where possible, they’re delivered by owl.

It’s really great to see this stuff living on after the movies, and heck, they’d make the most amazing gifts for Potterheads (we had to look that up).

The print below features some ads from from The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper in the films.

Miraphora and Eduardo also have a selection of self-initiated prints available on the site, which are equally lovely.

There’ll be an exhibition of their work at The Conningsby Gallery in London from 17 to 28 June.

Wizard.

RDI Summer School 2013

Well now, would you look at this – after an absence of four years, the RSA’s Royal Designers Summer School has risen up like a phoenix!

The Summer School is a chance for twenty-four young designers (they’re using the word ‘young’ in its most forgiving form – it means any designer with between five and fifteen years of industry experience) to go and get creative with a cluster of the RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry. The Royal Designers are an august bunch of the great and the good from the design world, and include folk such as: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Sir Peter Blake, Margaret Calvert, Mike Dempsey, Mark Farrow, Sir Kenneth Grange, Thomas Heatherwick, Margaret Howell and Sir Jonathan Ive. Not a bad bunch of people to spend four days in the country with…

They’re also looking for twelve ‘Wildcards’ – people who use design, commission it, or are otherwise touched by it – to add a bit of spice to the event.

We designed the identity for the school, and can’t recommend it enough. You never really know quite what form it’s going to take, but it’s always really inspiring, and creates connections that reverberate for years afterwards.

The school takes place from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 September, at Dartington Hall in Devon, and is subsidised by the Royal Designers and their supporters – so the cost is just £200. Bargain right?

Applications are open until Friday 28 June – so get your skates on!

Tinned Fear

So it seems, unfortunately for London’s monster community, that Spring has arrived. The days are getting longer, the sun is out, and the painfully joyous sounds of birdsong, human laughter and children playing are now unavoidable. Suddenly it’s twice as difficult to scare humans. Children in particular are unpleasantly confident.

So Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is offering a gargantuan 50% discount on all varieties of Tinned Fear for children*. Up until 8 June, each of the five kinds of Tinned Fear will be available for just £4. Or you can get the whole set of five for a laughable £17.

“Being unable to terrify even the smallest child was embarrassing and demoralising. Tinned Fear helped me out when nothing else could. I feel whole again.” Mr Hyde, London

*Rumours that they’re doing this because of a stock error by a zombie in the ordering department are entirely true.

 

Secret Cinema 20 – All G.O.O.D.

Watching a film at the cinema is largely a passive activity, right? You sit back in your seat at the local fleapit or multiplex, munching on snacks, and let the film wash over you. The film ends, you get up and leave.

The folks at Secret Cinema think differently though – they think that the experience of watching a film should be just that – an experience. Since 2007 they’ve been creating interactive experiences for film-goers, blending the worlds of cinema, theatre and cabaret into single events.

They start by finding a unique location, and then work outwards from there to see what classic film most suits that building or space. They then build a dramatic world around their chosen film, creating site-specific sets and narratives inspired by it, all fleshed out with a host of talented actors. Instead of just watching a film, the audience interacts with the space, the sets and the cast, before, during, and after watching the movie; a sort of immersive cinema.

With each event, you don’t find out what the film is until you get to the location. Hints are dropped in the lead up to the events, through a mix of websites, social media, and warm-up happenings, but to be honest, everyone is generally still guessing until they get there (hence the name).

The latest Secret Cinema show (their twentieth) kicked off a couple of weeks ago in London, and we went along last week to check it out.

Now, of course, because of their policy of secrecy, it’s a tad tricky to review one of their events until after it’s finished its run. If you do a full review, you totally give the game away, and risk spoiling it for anyone who’s not yet been.

So, we’re going to talk about the build-up to the event (let’s call it SC20), and talk in general terms about how it felt to be there. We’re not going to tell you what the film is, nor mention anything too specific, but if you want to steer clear of knowing anything at all about it, you might want to skip the rest of this post.

We were initially booked in to go along on during the opening week, but due to a last minute licensing issue, the first few shows were cancelled. Given the massive complexity of putting on a show of this kind, that must have been a nightmare for the organisers, but judging from the online chit-chat it was for ticket holders too, many of whom had booked time off work and travelled fair distances to attend. To their credit, the SC team put on a replacement screening of Footloose over the weekend by way of apology, and offered replacement tickets too – but it shows the risks you run when you’re putting on such unique events.

For the online and social media side of SC20, we were asked to log-in to the G.O.O.D. Intranet system, where we had to fill out a work appraisal, as new employees of the G.O.O.D. organisation. This created a unique Social ID number which would provide access to the event.

All new employees were also invited to attend a global gathering warm-up event in London’s Docklands, and directed to a video showing dance instructions for a collective dance based on the promo for Atoms for Peace’s track Ingenue, featuring Thom Yorke’s singular dance moves.

We didn’t make it along to the warm-up, but a fair few folk did, and it looked like a fun old time.

Of course, this left us wondering whether Secret Cinema were doing something different with SC20 – was it going to be an Atoms for Peace gig instead of a movie? Or perhaps something to do with music videos? Based on our experience, these were red herrings – though the music and the dance did still form a hugely enjoyable part of the evening. But there’s definitely an art to managing the expectations of an audience for a secret event – if you hint at something that isn’t going to happen, you risk leaving people feeling disappointed.

Having logged in to the G.O.O.D. Intranet system (and following the organisation on Facebook and Twitter) we were issued with a Notice of Transfer, which detailed all the preparations we had to make for the event. The specifics differed for each person, but everyone was asked to dress up, and to prepare business cards and an ID badge. We were also asked to connect to other employees via the intranet, each connection increasing your ‘rank’ in the organisation.

Again, there’s a trick to getting that sort of thing right – on the one hand, there’s a definite sense that the more effort you put in beforehand, the more fun you have when you get there. But on the other hand, there’s a vague feeling that some of it is just fluff, and that your efforts aren’t fully recognised on the night, and that feels like a shame and a missed opportunity.

So, the event itself. We don’t want to tell you too much. But it was certainly great fun.

It was less of a movie screening, more of a site-specific interactive theatre event. The movie is screened in part, but we decided not to sit down and watch it – there was too much other interesting stuff to be doing. One of us hadn’t seen the movie before, and the other had, and it definitely felt like familiarity with the movie added a huge amount to the experience, but that it wasn’t absolutely essential.

The location is on the outskirts of town, but not beyond the bounds of an Oyster card. The set building within the space is really extensive, including bars, a restaurant, interactive technology, dance performances, installations and more. Some of it is really slick, but other parts are enjoyably lo-fi.

Upon arrival, audience members are sent to various different entrances. So if you go as a group, you’re likely to be separated from the start – though you can meet up again once you’re inside.

Following on from the online stuff, the plot of the evening is that you’re a new employee on your first day at a new company. There’s a lot of interaction with the actors, all of whom manage to pull you in to their narrative without making you feel awkward or patronised. They give you small nudges as to where you might head next within the space, gently giving shape to your overall experience.

Because you’re free to roam, everyone has a slightly different experience of the evening. The more you explore, the more fun you have. There were a few shared moments when everyone in the building was doing the same thing, and there’s a very clear climax to the event too.

All in all, it’s a great night out. Just don’t go along expecting to sit down quietly and watch a movie.