Since leaving Facebook a while ago I’ve been meaning to update or remove other online presences of mine. As a result I have now spent some of this morning on a purge. I am only notifying Dubdog readers here in case trawling through previous posts you find some links are now broken.

With my long time project McJunk on hiatus, I’ve updated its website to take account of this and deleted McJunk’s Facebook page and Tumblr submission site. Unfortunately, as McJunk on Tumblr was the first Tumblr I set up it was automatically my ‘primary site’, which meant I couldn’t delete the site with out obliterating all my other Tumblr projects, (it seems crazy Tumblr doesn’t allow you to switch ‘primary sites’). I don’t regret loosing most of these other projects as none were particularly useful to me now, except that is for my type and print publication research archive The Small Letter. That said, I was never overly happy with the format of Tumblr for this archive so I bit the bullet and hit delete. I plan to resurrect The Small Letter, or a variation there of, at another time in another online space in the future when I have a little more time on my hands.

Along with these changes, the McJunk hardback book is now no longer available to buy so if you do own a copy it is now a very rare thing indeed. However, the essay and accompanying presentation are still available to download for free from my Academia.edu profile.

Lastly, I have also removed my ‘archive’ portfolio page from this site. It had moved further and further away from representing what my current interests and activities are.

Scrutinising an Innocent drink carton several weeks ago I noticed that it was recyclable “in certain areas” and that I was to check with my local authority to see if it could be recycled in my area. I didn’t of course, not looking forward to either an elongated phone call being passed through various different departments or trawling through an impenetrable menu system on my local council website. I therefore forgot all about it and sent the package merrily onto landfill. To be fair, I had previously checked several years ago whether I could recycle this sort of packaging in Ipswich and finding out that I couldn’t, I didn’t hold out much hope that this would have changed.

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Then when walking to work one morning last week I found myself confronted with a large graphic on the side of a bin lorry telling me that I could now recycle orange juice cartons in my blue bin. I was astounded for two reasons: firstly I was surprised that my local council was actually quite advanced; and secondly that this information was bought to me and that I didn’t have to hunt it out.

This is a prime example of design that works. Not only has it bought this important bit of information directly to me, but also to all the houses on the route of the bin round. In my neighbourhood the houses are no more than 3 metres from the road, with small front gardens and pavement the only things between window and residential traffic. This means anyone opening their curtains at refuse collection time will be delivered the same information. This is an excellent example of taking the message directly to its audience.

This advert won’t win any awards though because it isn’t necessarily a great piece of design. The non-threatening cheeky bin man sticking his thumb up giving recycling encouragement to locals isn’t exactly ground-breaking or particularly inventive, and for my money I find it a little patronising. It isn’t even particularly well laid-out. But none of that actually matters because this design ultimately works. This evening I cleaned out the first Tetra Pak style carton I’ve finished since seeing the billboard ready to put in my recycling bin tomorrow. For that this advert should win an award because fundamentally it does what all design should do: it works. In my own experience the message has been effectively delivered and I have acted upon it, regardless of personal aesthetic tastes and design criticism. There often isn’t enough research done into the effectiveness of a design after it has been implemented, especially for social design, (where as increased sales figures can justify a piece of design in a commercial setting). But in this case, job done. Give a yellow pencil to whoever created this advert and decided to stick it on the side of a bin lorry.

UCS graduate Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration students are hosting an exhibition at London’s Coningsby Gallery next week.

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The money to put on the show came from the very successful International Design Auction held at UCS that was organised by the students in 2013, their final year. On display will be work created both on the course and since.

Check out the This is… website with links to the exhibitors personal sites.

Check out This is… on Twitter: @this_is_2014

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Image: Kemistry Kickstarter

After 10 years of exhibitions, London’s Kemistry Gallery is being forced from its Shoreditch premises because of redevelopment and rising rents. However, Kemistry Gallery is far from dead and buried as the team behind it launch a Kickstarter campaign to realise a ’10 years of Kemistry’ exhibition in 2015. This exhibition will be the start of the search for a new gallery space in London.

Why is Kemistry important? Well, it is the only exhibition space in London that is dedicated to Graphic Design, and in its 10 year existence has become the leading graphics gallery in the UK. In its history some of the biggest names in Graphic Design such as Saul Bass, Milton Glaser and Alan Fletcher have graced its walls. Alongside this, there have been exhibitions showcasing over-looked and emerging talent alike.

The Kickstarter campaign hopes to raise £15000 to match the same amount awarded by the Arts Council. This pot will then be used to put on a major exhibition featuring the work of everyone who has shown in the gallery in the past decade, and act as a pilot for the next stage of Kemistry. As stated on the Kemistry Kickstarter webpage: “‘Kemistry Gallery: 10 Years 60 Works’ promises to be a truly unique event, not just a taste of things to come with the new permanent Kemistry Gallery, but in itself one of the most ambitious and exciting explorations the past, present and future of graphic design to take place in London for many years”.

You can donate as little as £1, with rewards starting from a small £5 donation. More details here.

For current, future and past exhibitions at Kemistry, visit their website here.

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Image: Kemistry Kickstarter

 

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I’ve discovered Scarfolk.*

Scarfolk is a story pieced together by Dr Ben Motte, who discovered a package one day stuffed with printed ephemera from a town that never left the 1970s. And as the story unfolds, you discover that Scarfolk is a very dark place indeed.

Never

Imagine Quatermass, Survivors and The League of Gentlemen rolled into one in the minds of Chris Morris and Douglas Adams, with paranormal children, tacit-racism, mind control and mythical folk tales thrown into the mix. If you can’t imagine it, then just think what it would be like.

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Scarfolk is the brilliant invention of Richard Littler, a graphic designer who has a very keen eye for detail in recreating the 1970s and imagining the worst town to move to in the north of England.

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Scarfolk has been a blog for a while, and is now a book. I can’t wait for the soundtrack and the documentary, they are sure to be coming soon.

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You should visit Scarfolk and discover it for yourself. *

* For more information please re-read.

 

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I made the decision recently to leave Facebook. I had been mulling it over in my head for a while and the final push came last week when my wife, during one of her sleepless bouts, had checked Facebook and saw a timestamp against my name that suggested I was actively on Facebook despite being sound asleep next to her. While I have little control over my online activity being logged somewhere, I at least want it to be accurate.

I’d been considering leaving for many reasons: the fact I found it conducive to compulsive behaviour; that it wasted my time; the knee-jerk commentry; getting friend requests from work colleagues and ex-students and accepting them because I liked them but then feeling I wasn’t so happy for them to see so much of my personal life; the data trawling and potential privacy breaches; the trolling; reaching for my mobile to ‘check-in’; the armchair politics; the adverts, particularly the adverts … I could go on.

But now I have made the decision I feel liberated. That said, there’s been some work involved in leaving the 21st century. Firstly I have been reacquainted with some long lost friends in my 5 years of using Facebook, so I wanted to notify them I was leaving and make them aware of where they could reach me in the future if they so wished. Secondly, I manage a couple of different professional and personal project Facebook Pages so I needed to set up an admin account to continue doing so—this led to the strange scenario where I had to ‘like’ myself in order to pass on admin rights to myself! And finally I wanted to delete any photos I had there that I didn’t want sitting in virtual space forever, (although I think it highly unlikely I will have truly managed this as there’s always a digital trail out there somewhere).

So from tomorrow I’ll be Facebook free when I deactivate my personal account. I only hope it doesn’t lead to me sounding smug when I say I’m not on Facebook if asked; you know, smug in the same way people sound when you ask someone if they saw a particular television programme only to be told pointedly that they don’t have a TV.

September is a busy month for me in the run-up to the start of a new academic year, hence no new posts here for a month. However, I’ve been far from idle and I’m proud to announce one particular project is about to come to fruition. ‘This is us’ is something I’ve been working on with colleagues at University Campus Suffolk for a few months now, with the launch set for Tuesday 29 September and press ads to hit the news-stands from 1 October.

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3 of the 11 portraits in the UCS Waterfront Building lobby

The campaign was envisaged by UCS Provost Richard Lister who wanted to celebrate the individual stories of both students and staff at the institution as it turns seven years old this September. After initial idea sessions between Richard, Graphic Design Senior Lecturer Russell Walker, UCS Head of Marketing Michelle Wootton, Photography Lecturer Matthew Andrew and myself, we decided large portraits of some of the individuals who have been involved in the UCS story over the last seven years would be appropriately fitting.

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UCS Librarian Becky Blunk—Becky is American, before anyone comments on the spelling

After Michelle selected some initial candidates for the project, Matthew set about shooting them in-house at UCS over the summer. Michelle then copy-wrote the text based on interviews with all the sitters while I worked on handwriting samples, scanning them in at ridiculously high resolutions and cutting them about to compliment Matthew’s stunning portraits.

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Course Leader and Senior Lecturer for Photography, Mark Edwards

After Matthew had finished the post-production, we worked closely with printing and hanging the images, using a low tack and re-positional adhesive paper that was completely new to us. The scale creates a dramatic statement as you enter the UCS Waterfront Building lobby, where the 11 images are currently hung.

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Esther Faniyan, current BSc (Hons) Bioscience student

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UCS receptionist, Jon Coy

It is hoped that this project will develop into more portraits and stories over the coming years, but in the meantime, the full scale images can be seen in the UCS Waterfront Building until the end of October, and over the coming weeks will be run as press ads, one-a-week, in the East Anglian Daily Times which will expand upon the sitters’ stories. Alongside this, postcard packs will provide further information about the individuals’ accounts of their time at UCS.

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It has been an honour to work alongside my colleagues on ‘This is us’ and it has been a mark of pride to be able to help showcase the difference UCS is making not just to Ipswich and East Anglia, but to the individuals involved; from students to academic and support staff.

For more information, go to: ucs.ac.uk/thisisus

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Tom Gauld’s response to reader’s letters about Steven Pinker’s article on grammatical rule breaking. The Guardian Review 23.08.14.

Do we need less or fewer pedants in this world? Well, according to Steven Pinker’s article in last weeks’ Guardian Review, (16.08.14), there are some grammatical ‘rules’ that we can afford to break. If you are convinced by his argument, then we can clearly agree we need less pedants in the world.

Personally I’m with him on this. There are just too many English language rules, many of which I have no knowledge of. And if you don’t know what they are, how can you change your behaviour? One of the problems with language pedants is they adopt a moral high ground that judges the character of the person who doesn’t quite get it right, despite the fact they may be communicating perfectly well.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my pet peeves. My wife and step-daughter will warn anyone in my company they will fuel my wrath if they start a list-based sentence with ‘A’, and then progress to the second part of their list without saying ‘B’ beforehand. This in my mind is less about pedantry though, and more about committment. Worse though, they will tell you about my hatred of the use of the word ‘evocative’ to describe something without stating what it is evocative of! I find this particularly annoying if used to describe music. But again, this is less about pedantry and more about ensuring what you are saying actually makes sense.

Professionally however, when it comes to communicating clearly, use of language is important. My degree design students don’t know it yet, (they will find out in approximately one month, unless any of them read this post), but in one of my second year modules I ban certain words. That’s not quite true; I have a list of words and phrases that they aren’t allowed to use unless they are followed with a qualifying statement. For example, I don’t allow them to use the word bold. In and of itself, bold a meaningless describer for something visual unless it is being used when talking about a typeface, in which case it is entirely appropriate. Otherwise, it is just a subjective descriptor. I want my students to dig deeper than that—for starters, what makes something bold as opposed to not being bold? It is important to acknowledge such distinctions otherwise such phrases are meaningless. Likewise, the phrase ‘eye-catching’ has me thinking of someone playing ‘catch’ with an eyeball. What does eye-catching actually mean if it isn’t qualified; it is not something that can exist in its own vacuum. And while this might mark me out as a pedant to my students, it is an important aspect of design education, because as graphic designers we have to justify our rationale for the design decisions we make. We have to convince clients that we have analysed their communication problems and aim to successfully deliver their messages to their target audience, rather than employing our own artistic tastes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when we are designing we are not artists.

Despite not classing myself as a pedant, there is one area where I will confess to such a trait and that is when teaching typography. Students get sick of me discussing the difference between dashes and hyphens and appropriate usage of an ampersand. I’m not about to go into a typographic lesson here, but I think it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of pedantry at the heart of any typographer.

The contradictions in my views are not lost on me. Where I’m happy for the English language to be adapted over time, and accept this as part of a cultural/societal evolution, I am more resistant to the bastardisation of typographic constructs. But I equally accept that this is all they are, constructs—rules some people have mutually agreed to adopt that then become standards that others follow. Despite this dichotomy I am able to accept both my pedantry and that some of the things I believe in will fall out of usage by the simple fact others don’t accept it as that important as I do. I shudder that the em dash could disappear within my lifetime, but by rights, what should I really care?

Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in the future of typography, I still believe it is important that graphic designers should understand what they are doing, (or not doing), and why, and to be able to justify their reasoning. The ability to communicate is at the heart of being a designer, and to choose to break ‘rules’ is fine if, A: you can demonstrate this is appropriate for the communication that needs to be delivered; and secondly: errr… if it makes a point.

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Snape birdwalk by Peter Silk (Spring, 2011 brochure)—image courtesy of Silk Pearce website

I popped up to Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh in Suffolk at the weekend to find two great, if small, exhibitions.

The first celebrates 15 years of Colchester based graphic design agency Silk Pearce‘s work for the annual Aldeburgh Music festival. Their branding of the festival and programme designs have often featured in design magazines such as Creative Review, and a large display of all of their programme covers collected together features as you enter the show. This is followed by many framed prints of artwork they’ve created over the years, featuring techniques including collage, photomontage, screenprints and digital illustration that reference many aspects of Snape and Aldeburgh. Often fun and full of wit, the work vibrantly shows a diverse approach to image making, and visually dispels any notion of Aldeburgh Music being po-faced as many similar ‘serious’ music festivals might come across. Whoever commissioned Silk Pearce 15 years ago made a wise decision, and the brief must be an annual joy for the studio to anticipate.

Max Gill exhibition—image courtesy of LCAT website

Max Gill exhibition—image courtesy LCAT website

The second is an exhibition of the work of Max Gill, the younger brother of the more famous Eric Gill, at the Lettering & Commemorative Arts Trust‘s centre, also at Snape. The centre is worth a visit in its own right for the amazing letter craft, stone masonry and calligraphy on display, but Gill’s maps and book work are absolutely stunning in the main exhibition room. I was particularly taken with his Tea Revives The World map, being a big tea fan myself.

It is unusual enough to get exhibitions of Graphic Design anywhere, but the fact these exhibitions are on together is a rare treat. You’ll have to be quick to catch the Silk Pearce show as if finishes at the end of August, coinciding with the Aldeburgh Music Proms. The Gill exhibition is on until 12 November.

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“You’re not an artist, you’re a wanker,” or so Viv Albertine claims her husband said to her in her brutal and honest autobiography: Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys. Neither the former nor latter are true, actually. The latter is proved wrong in the book’s opening with Albertine claiming in a chapter dedicated to the subject that she has never masturbated; the former isn’t true as her story is one of struggling for self-expression against the many obstacles life has thrown at her.

Viv Albertine is most famous as the guitarist and co-songwriter in the all female punk / post-punk band The Slits. But Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys is about so much more than this brief period in her life. It obviously covers her growing up as punk emerged around her, and her friendship with some of the key characters, not least showing a fascinating insight into Sid Vicious’ character. But as the book moves on from her being a central character during the early punk years, it covers her struggle with her own creativity as a film maker, surviving cancer, being traumatised by IVF treatment, domestic boredom, to finally to her throwing away all of her comforts in exchange for feeling creatively fulfilled again. This is the story of an artists’ struggle to survive as a creative individual regardless of the worth of her output, as she readily accepts the flaws in her work, but champions the need for expression and taking her own path far beyond any desire to be deemed ‘good’ at what she does. As a result she demonstrates a real bravery and determination that should be a tonic for any aspiring artist.

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Sid Vicious and Viv Albertine circa 1976

The book is raw throughout, with Albertine being nothing but completely and refreshingly open. She never attempts to glamorise her experiences and keeps coming back to her lack of self-esteem throughout—the constant tension between lack of self-belief but determination to do her own thing provides a driving force to the narrative all the way through the book. Her matter-of-fact tone adds believability to an extraordinary life story that could otherwise be read as a movie script. Sex, drugs, blood and bodily functions are spoken about as easily as discussing record deals and famous associates. Her thoughts on domestic boredom in a stale marraige are laid bare alongside tales of battles against sexist attitudes that she has encountered in all areas of her life. Despite this, Albertine’s deep routed feminism never displays an anti-male agenda, but it does expose her experiences with individuals that left this male reader with a sense of disbelief that such attitudes still exist in the twenty-first century. But ultimately, her story is one of trying to be an individual—to be herself—and the fact that she is female has just thrown the added obstacles of sexism and misogyny into the mix.

I initially picked up Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys because I loved The Slits first album ‘Cut’. But the book gave me so much more than just a history of the group and the evolution of punk in mid-to-late 1970s Britain. I would go as far to say that this is an important story that even goes beyond Viv Albertine herself. See through the shock / marketing tactics of the publishers putting a chapter about masturbation at the very beginning and read a book that is focussed on the quest for individuality and artistic endeavour against the odds of a lack ‘natural’ talent and closed worlds. Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, in my opinion, should be on the national curriculum as an honest account of individualism, determination and refusing to accept your lot.

Below, Confessions Of A Milf, from Albertine’s 2013 album The Vermilion Border

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