Our logo has been a long time in the gestation. As usual, designing for ourselves was the most difficult project, but we have finally settled on the latest iteration.
We’d never purposefully rip-off someone’s site and I’d be gutted if we were ever accused of it. But we are so often inspired by a lot of design that I worry we might accidentally steal. And that’s before we even get to the fact that there’s a lot of ‘samey’ looking sites out there. It’s healthy paranoia and we have a few internal checklists to try and avoid such things.
Rather than spend lots of money on printing wedding invites and then posting them we decided to do it all digitally.
The text is too big! Has been something of a reaction to the Rationalist Association site.
I’ve been attempting to write something concise about the Rationalist Association for some weeks and it’s not happening. Prompted by a writer friend I’ve decided to start by breaking it down into little chunks. Part one then, the team.
Today we’ve released another piece of the Rationalist Association puzzle. For me this release isn’t about visual design, really at this stage I see a year ahead where we iterate and chip away at the visual design and refine as we go along.
I’ve been quietly watching a little ruckus develop on Twitter about the so called A-listers, the same old faces, the leaders in our field, the speakers, the ones sent down from on high to inspire and inform. There appears to be some resentment and I mention it only because I see it crop up quite frequently.
Since the very start of the Rationalist Association project we’ve been sketching ideas for a simple, responsive nav and nothing so far has hit the mark. It’s all adjusted too much on screen resize.
There’s something satisfying about thinking for yourself once in a while and the Rationalist Association project has been an opportunity to brush the cobwebs off my CSS editor and find out what the youth have been up to whilst I was gone, it seems they have been busy!
It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely excited on finding new tools to help me do my job better but Kirby and Gridset are two such tools.
I’ve now had the chance to have a good play with my new toy, the Wacom Inkling (thanks John!), which essentially is a really quick way to turn sketches on any paper into digital drawings, and wanted to share the results with you all.
Today we launched an expriment. It’s early days, the design needs a lot of work but we’re testing/measuring a concept. It’s one little piece of a much bigger puzzle.
Anybody who knows me well will know I am a cynical old git, although these days in an effort to improve my image I might tell you I am a believer in the scientific method… as an excuse for being a cynical old git. I often feel cynical about personas but use them a lot.
Facing the challenge of design in a responsive world, we’ve introduced the concept of style tiles to the Rationalist Association project, which has been a very interesting process.
Finding a way to efficiently blog about design process as we go along is in itself a bit of challenge. So I’ve decided be less chronological and try out challenges and potential solutions instead. One of the big ones, we need a paywall.
It’s not often a client comes along and agrees to let you talk openly about the work you are doing. So when the team at the Rationalist Association (http://newhumanist.org.uk/ra) gave the thumbs up last week for me to do just that, before we’ve even really got started, I felt excited and scared in equal measure.
We have long been fans of “Brain’s Fairy Aiding Inventions” so when Samantha Bryan (aka “Brain”) recently came to us with a problem we were happy to help. She has been sending her ‘fairy inventions’ (sculptures made from a combination of wire, leather, found objects and collected materials) out into the wide world for ten years and wanted to come up with some way of tracking where they are.
Using the Google Maps API, and taking inspiration from Samantha’s ‘Victorian invention’ aesthetic, I created and recently launched Fairies Reunited, a fairy track and trace tool where those with a Brain’s Fairy can send their photo to be put on the map.
I recently redesigned and built the website for former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, for one of his publishers, HarperCollins. Michael is currently more popular than ever with the release of the film of his bestseller, War Horse. Given this, the brief was to create a website that was more easily maintainable than the previous site and also provided more opportunities for interaction for his legions of fans.
In terms of design, HarperCollins wanted to reflect the more cinematic look and feel of some of the recent covers for his books. The site had to cater to an audience of parents and teachers as well as children, and display not only Michael’s writing but also his extensive charity work. The navigation had to be clear and simple in order to work for all the different audiences.
Working with Canonical (the people behind the Ubuntu operating system), I illustrated and designed a page for “Ubuntu for Eyewear” which entirely coincidentally went live on April the first.
The concept is that “Ubuntu for Eyewear provides a full Ubuntu desktop, projected onto the lenses of your glasses.”
For John’s Birthday card, I drew our family as pandas off to celebrate. It was done as a series of ink and pencil sketches, scanned and pieced together in Fireworks. Here you can see some of the evolution of the idea.
The initial sketch was a much more traditional panda shape but too static. Looking at the shape of the pandas I drew inspiration from Alex T Smith’s picture of a polar bear on his excellent blog. You can see me working out how to translate this into a panda on my second sketch.
Having spent a week back at my mum’s in my home town of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you some of the legends of its past.
Situated between Dewsbury and Huddersfield, Mirfield may seem unremarkable, but it has many claims to fame. The Brontë sisters all spent time here during the 1830s at Roe Head, a boarding school for refined young ladies, with Anne then going on to become a governess at Blake Hall for the Ingham family. The enigmatic Dumb Steeple on the western edge of the town was a gathering place for an army of Luddites before a notorious attack on Cartwright’s Mill at Rawfolds. A couple of people died in the attack and several more were injured. For some people most impressively, Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame was born here and went to my secondary school, Mirfield Free Grammar (a fact which they have commemorated by naming an assembly hall after him).
From the very start, The Long Song by Andrea Levy makes you more acutely aware than usual of the physical book you are reading.
The book you are now holding within your hand was born of a craving
The foreword plays with your expectations of a foreword, which is usually expected to be outside of the world of the fiction, and tends to be a factual piece of writing written, crucially, by a real person other than the main author of the work. In The Long Song, the writer of the foreword is the fictional son and publisher of the fictional main narrator, July. The effect is twofold; a gradual awakening of understanding in the reader that we are already in the world of the fiction and seemingly conversely, that the fiction of the novel is framed as fact.
I have recently been talking to a publisher about a minisite for a children’s book, which has led me to think more generally about what websites for children’s books are for, why they are there and what people want from them.
I don’t know about you, but when I am immersed in a book, particularly one which successfully creates a world for you to inhabit (think Northern Lights, Mortal Engines, Harry Potter), the end of the book comes as a kind of mini bereavement. That is what creates the desperation for the next instalment - the door to the world has closed and, though you can reread the book, there’s no more discovery or exploration of that world until next time. You sit and look at the cover for a bit, willing it to be new again, and then maybe, maybe you go online. You are looking to be allowed into the world again, even if it can only be for a jaunt, an excursion, rather than the prolonged stay you would get from another book.
I thought it might be interesting to show the making of this little illustration I did. It was inspired by our surnames (once they are combined), Oxton King, and has been christened ‘The Ock’.
The image started as a pencil sketch on a bus, just a doodle really. This sketch was then scanned into the computer.
Taking the sketch into Illustrator, I started to block out the basic shapes of the ock with the pen tool over the top of the sketch. When doing this I find it helps to have the transparency of the shapes set fairly low, so that you can still see the drawing underneath.
Then I started to play with colours on the blocks of the ock, I didn’t really have a colour palette for this but knew I wanted warm shades of browny orange. The other step at this stage was to ‘live trace’ the pencil drawing in Illustrator, which basically converts the pencil to a rough vector. This was moved to the top layer of the image and set to 20% opacity and blend mode ‘darken’, which starts to add a bit of texture to the illustration.
What caught my eye most of all on my trip to the Museum of Brands was a small display dedicated to the paraphernalia produced to advertise and accompany the 1951 Festival of Britain.
The Festival was intended to mark the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition and also to raise the grey, rubble-filled, harshly-rationed spirits of post-war Britain. It was to be a beacon of modernist design and set the template for the coming decades.
The distinctive logo I had seen before, but the other quirky design details were new to me. The overall effect was celebratory, striped, bunting-bedecked, good old-fashioned, but also forwards looking, British fun. It almost had a seaside feel to it.
The Museum, tucked away down a pretty side-street in Notting Hill, moments from the hustle and bustle of the Portobello Road, houses an astonishing collection of ephemera collected by the social historian Robert Opie. It is an extraordinary testament to the collector’s obsession, which began at the age of 16 with a packet of Munchies and now extends to thousands and thousands of items from every day life.
When the thousands of pieces of our social history are assembled into some giant jigsaw, the picture becomes clearer as to the remarkable journey we have all come through.
The museum is laid out as a ‘trip down memory lane’, starting with the Victorian era and tunnelling through to the present day. The amount of items on display is almost overwhelming - every inch of the museum is filled with packages, toys, games, books and advertisements from each era. This saturation allows the visitor to become fully immersed in the style (and aspirations) of the time.
Beyond the time-tunnel is a fascinating exploration of brand. Individual items such as Johnson’s Baby Powder or Cadbury’s drinking chocolate are followed on their journeys from conception to mass-market popularity today. Interestingly, to my mind, the most successful (in terms of design) brands today have stayed very to true to their original packaging. Take Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Brasso, mental images of which are immediately conjurable to the British anyway, the packaging is almost identical to their original packaging.