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…

Liberty London now selling Thickest Human Snot

It used to be that when you fancied picking up a jar of Thickest Human Snot, or a tin of Collywobbles, you had to head over to east London, to Hoxton Street Monster Supplies (or visit their online store of course).

But, for a limited time only, monsters can now pick up all their daily supplies at London’s smartest department store, Liberty. They’ve created a fantastic Pop Up Snot Shop, with an entrance right on Carnaby Street.

The entrance even has little peepholes, so that more nervous monsters (of any stature) can take a look at what’s on offer before venturing in.

Inside, a sign explains what the shop is all about.

The shelves are full of a range of the very best monster supplies, including Tinned Fear, Human Preserves (Thickest Human Snot, Old Fashioned Brain Jam and Organ Marmalade), boxes of Cubed Earwax, bars of Impacted Earwax, and of course, Zombie Freshmints.

There’s even a height chart, usefully sized for younger monsters:

Fantastic work by the creative team at Liberty, with art direction by We Made This.

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.

Share More Air

What would happen if you asked a group of children to write the lyrics for some songs, and then asked a bunch of adult musicians to write and record music to go with the lyrics? That’s the premise for the brilliant new album Share More Air, released jointly by the Ministry of Stories and Communion Records. It features lyrics from children aged 8-13 from east London, and music from artists including Ben Folds, Matthew and the Atlas, and Marcus Foster.

It’s a really wonderful project, and the finished songs sound fantastic.

We put together the CD book and the microsite for the album (built with skill and speed by Alex Wybraniec).

If you want to know more about it, check out this wonderful short film – there’s a humdinger of a moment part way through that may well get your tear ducts going:

Jarvis Cocker even dropped by to chat to author & Ministry co-founder Nick Hornby (one of the founders of the Ministry of Stories) about the project for his show on BBC 6 Music. Look, here are Jarvis and Nick hanging out at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies:

Buy the digital download of Share More Air now on i-Tunes, or pre-order the CD from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies (available from 25 November).

Milk Tooth Chocolate

We’ve been busy lately on a variety of projects for the Ministry of Stories and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, and this is the first to hit the shelves: Milk Tooth Chocolate – a smooth milk chocolate with utterly delicious chunks of delicately roasted milk teeth.

It is of course ethically sourced: “Our chocolate is made with only the finest quality molars, gathered by our skilled team of tooth fairies – and children are always paid a fair price for their teeth.”

It’s truly delicious (with an uncanny similarity to milk chocolate with hazelnut pieces).

And, there’s an added bonus – the inside of the wrapper has the beginnings of a short story by Francesca Simon (author of the Horrid Henry books). The story is about the tooth fairy, who is bored and fed up. Francesca has asked for any budding young writers amongst the shop’s customers to help finish the story for her – with the best results being published on the Ministry of Stories website.

As with all Hoxton Street Monster Supplies stuff, the profits from the sale of the bars support free writing workshops for children and young people in east London. You can order them from the monstersupplies.org website – and with Christmas looming, they make fantastic Secret Santa gifts, or stocking fillers.

The bar is produced by the lovely people at the rather brilliant Divine Chocolate - the only Fairtrade chocolate company 45% owned by farmers.

Packaging design and copywriting are by We Made This.

Rapha City Cycling Guides

The good folks at super-smart cycling brand Rapha sent us over a boxed set of their brand new City Cycling Guides to have a look at – and what a wonderful thing it is.

The set features eight small guide books – covering Antwerp & Ghent, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Milan and Paris. Each one is densely packed with information for the cycling tourist, or the touring cyclist, or even just any old tourist to be honest. They each have a short introduction to the city, and feature a mapped day-ride that takes you round the main parts of the city, before diving in to more detail on a few specific neighbourhoods. They’re written and designed by Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard.

By way of example, with the London guide you’re given detailed information about Soho & Mayfair, Shoreditch, Borough, Notting Hill and Hampstead – including shopping, eating, stuff to see and do, and of course a few bike shops and cafés.

At the back of each book there’s also a great (and detailed) guide to the cycling habits of the city you’re visiting – invaluable when you consider the starkly different riding habits of Londoners, Milanese and Parisians.

Each book is illustrated by a different local illustrator: Amsterdam is by Joost Stokhof, Antwerp & Ghent by Sebastiaan van Doninck, Barcelona by Judy Kaufmann, Berlin by Mikkel Sommer, Copenhagen by Simon Væth (pictured below), London by Henry McCausland, Milan by Riccardo Guasco, and Paris by Louis Thomas.

The Rapha website also has a set of additional ride routes for each city which you can download to your bike’s GPS thingamajig if you have one.

Very lovely, and, given that these are produced by Rapha, surprisingly affordable at £25.

Tony’s Chocolonely

Alistair was out in Amsterdam this weekend, and stumbled across this fantastic typographic packaging: Tony’s Chocolonely.

The brand has a fascinating story behind it. It was set up in 2005 by Dutch journalist Teun Van de Keuken. A couple of years before he’d done an investigation into the cocoa industry, particularly in the Ivory Coast, where he discovered a significant percentage of the cocoa farm owners were engaging in what he saw as slave-labour practices. As an avid eater of chocolate, he saw himself as complicit in these practices and handed himself in to the Dutch authorities for trial. The case was thrown out, but on the back of it he set up the Chocolonely brand, to create chocolate that is produced entirely ethically.

It’s really interesting to see an ethically-based brand that looks fun rather than worthy.

They produce a line of bars that are shaped as big chocolate letters too. Brilliant!

Even the inside of the packaging is great, with a spot-the-difference illustration for the kids.

As it says on the inside of the label, “Crazy about chocolate, serious about people”. Lovely stuff.

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.