Category Archives: Design

Watch where you’re going

I like finding inspiration in unexpected places. Things that have not necessarily been ‘designed’, but perhaps originated with little thought to aesthetics, impact, consistency or any of those other tiresome ‘brand values’. Such as these small instances of everyday graphic information from all kinds of pavements, paths and roadways.

All of these examples (and I have a lot more, that’s the kind of fun guy I am) have their own charm and resonate in their own way, mainly because of the materials used in their manufacture, the limitations of their given environment and their overriding functionality.

I like the simple ingenuity of the gas cover manufacturer in duplicating two of the three letters and filling the square space. I love the Suprasteel name that, because of the heavy-duty metal it’s reproduced onto, has a kind of sculpted wobblyness that would make a great logotype. And who doesn’t have a sneaking regard for the ‘it’s-not-kerning-it’s-anti-kerning’ on the CATVGI?

So, keep your head down the next time you’re out and about and take a closer look at the ordinary.

Getting ahead in book design

Why is mainstream, contemporary book cover design so formulaic and dull? Why are so many novels designed in such a generic way? Perhaps the design departments of publishing houses are just pressed for resources and time and that it is simply a case of slotting the latest cover into whatever design template is in vogue.

These covers, taken from a recent visit to Waterstones, (or as Wikipedia has it; formally Waterstone’s) show the tiresome trend of removing the head of the front cover figure. Why? What might once have been an interesting way to suggest, without actually showing, the main character of the book, has now been turned into a repetitive, everybody-does-it, stacked floor-to-ceiling, mass of decapitation.

Parallel to publishing, the music industry has also faced huge, digital-age, challenges over the last few years. Would you ever though, see such tiresome repetition with a random set of new release cds? Short answer; no. What you do get (most of the time) is fantastic creativity, a desire to try new things out and a need to push boundaries a little. A bit more of that please, publishing people!

Signs of the times

I don’t want to have a blog simply to slag off the latest identity/logo/advert/design from whichever flavour-of-the-month creative company happens to be in the public eye. Yes at the time, I had my thoughts about Wolff Ollins Olympic logo, but so did a lot of people. It’s not very constructive to criticise high-profile work like that, that’s too easy isn’t it?

I’m much more interested in the humble, the unimportant, perhaps the low profile things that go under the radar and maybe pass people by. I like design like this and in the main, that’s what my blog will be about. And sometimes yes, even though it’s easy, I do criticise; these two signs for example.

A lot of contemporary designers simply produce things which aren’t creative in their essence or spirit. We have become more productive but maybe less effectual in the visual language that we use. Perhaps because of the demands of ‘the market’, some designers have lost genuine creativity. Both of these signs have the same noble purpose, but both fail miserably on how the finished item appears.

The hospital sign has been etched on to a cheap-looking, thin metal plate and the type has that ‘knocked-it-out-on-the-PC-in-default-Times’ look about it. No kerning, no thought, no care. The typography is not much better in the other. Zero thought seems to have gone into how the type actually looks and reads.

And these signs deserve better. There was a chance to do something with an acknowledgement (though not a slavish replication) of the past, a bit of grace and a bit of well, respect. And how would a sign-maker from that time approach such a task? He certainly wouldn’t have just typed it in and sent the pdf over to KwikSigns without a second thought. A real opportunity missed on both.