Archive for April, 2007

More designer bullshit

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Design Week has a brief article (their articles are rarely long, seeing as how the entire magazine appears to be made up of gloating press releases from various companies puffing about something insubstantial, and very little actual analysis) about the long-awaited (like 25 years) rebranding of Morrisons supermarket.

Now even though I’m sort of anti-supermarket (‘sort of’ as in I am currently forced to use them but would gladly not if I had the choice – as someone said on TV last night, the coming Scottish parliamentary elections are pretty much moot as Tesco basically own the whole country) I do have a soft spot for Morrisons, it being the Yorkshire supermarket I grew up with and that for a long time was our smug regional secret.

Their old logo, though, was a bit oppressive. It looks more like a construction firm than a family-run supermarket:

And here’s the new one:

Well, it’s okay. I like it. Keeps a link with the old version while looking much more friendly. I’m not sure what else you can really do, to be honest.

But here’s an example of the sort of designer bullshit that I reckon is more to blame for clients dismissing designers and refusing to pay good money for the job than the usual culprit, the PC and cheap software:

Peter Knapp, creative director at design firm Landor Associates, says: ‘We used yellow in a very dramatic way. It is a colour that Morrisons has ownership of. Lots of people are trading heavily for green, but yellow is relevant. It signifies brightness and freshness’

What exactly is ‘dramatic’ about a yellow circle? It’s a yellow circle, for crying out loud. It was in the old logo too. It’s not dramatic, it’s just familiar. And ‘Lots of people are trading heavily for green’ – what does that mean?
You could have said something less arty, like ‘it suggests the sun’ or something but no, you have to say something that will make most people say ‘Dramatic? I could have done that’ and then laugh at whatever was charged.

Seriously, we need to stop talking gibberish when it comes to design. It’s a nice, clean and bright logo, but it sure ain’t ‘dramatic’. War footage is dramatic, Bush resigning would be dramatic, Shakespeare is dramatic but this… it’s just a logo.

Limiting creativity

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Here’s a question I often ponder, and one that’s come up again recently as I mark student essays that ask them to examine the influences on their tastes, and why they are now studying design (graphic, textile, interior, product, and jewellery).
The thing that’s common among them all is ‘an interest in art’, which is odd, considering that design is not art. It looks similar, it uses similar materials and techniques but it is certainly not the same.

So why don’t students who study, say, maths or physics or history go on to study design?

Why is an interest in art seen as a prerequisite for an interest in design? Are we not limiting ourselves by only seeking students who take the art route at school and, in doing so, sending out the signal that other subjects are not important?
In product design, might an interest and knowledge in maths or physics be as important, if not more so, than the ability to paint a stuffed rabbit? So why is it the interview process for design usually uses the portfolio as the first, if not the only, filter to the course?

There’s no demonstrable link between artistic ability or temperament and design ability, so why impose one on 16-17 year olds (and younger, given that choices of specialism are made at 13-14)?

It would be interesting to see what would happen if we started saying to school kids ‘if you want to study design there is no need to do art – do history, English, maths, physics or anything’. I have a feeling we might find design leaping ahead if we widened the gene pool instead of narrowing it, and in the process putting up blocks to those kids who may be the greatest designers who walked the face of the earth, but had the misfortune to go to a school where the art teaching was crap. It shouldn’t matter.

Shame it’ll never happen though. Designers like to pretend they’re artists, and adopt the cultural swagger that goes with it. Maybe that’s the ‘use’ of art as a subject for design students – that’s all it does: lets you walk the walk and talk the talk. But it certainly isn’t a guarantee of design ability.

Amazon Apollo plugin

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Quick test of the new Adobe Apollo software…


Comics Conference

Friday, April 6th, 2007

This conference on May 25-26 might interest comic fans and academics – seems like it will have something for everyone (including a stall!)

“Biff! Bam!! Crikey!!!: Comics as Design and Entertainment” represents an opportunity for Dundee to celebrate its long history at the forefront of comics production in Britain. Leading comics historians Paul Gravett and Roger Sabin will present talks on the origins and importance of comics in Britain, while other talks will explore the contribution of DC Thomson, the work of contemporary British comics writers and artists, and the interactions between comics and other media (film, computer games, etc). Other presentations will tackle political issues in comics, as well as the role of comics as design and entertainment.

These lively and entertaining talks, spread over two days, are open to all, young and old, and entry is free.

Dundee is the perfect venue for this conference as the comics of Dundee based publisher DC Thomson are known all over the world, and 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of The Dandy, widely recognised as the world’s longest running comic. The conference is part of the Six Cities Design Festival, funded by the Scottish Executive.

Just say no

Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0862.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

Matt, my ex-student, is now art director of ‘Disorder’, a music magazine (if you can call that music, I mean…)

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, the mag had recently featured a club night, Neon Nights, organised by a current student of mine up here in Scotland (it’s a small world), and Matt, knowing he was coming up to stay with me for the weekend, got us on the guest list to take some pics for the ‘street style’ section.

So, several years after my last clubbing experience, off we trotted to the Reading Rooms, a weird, rather beautiful building in Dundee’s east docks area that has been transformed into a seedy den of iniquity in true authentic style.
There was a large queue of people outside but we sauntered straight to the front and got in without waiting or paying, which made me feel rather special.

Inside I became the designated photographer (as it was my camera) and we pitched up in the corner opposite the bar, trying to attract the strangely-dressed to come and be snapped for the mag.
The evening got really odd. I have a short video from my phone in which I can be heard accepting the offer of a drink from Matt and saying ‘last one’. That, if I remember, was around midnight. We got home at about 4.30am…

This is one of my favourite shots of the evening. I have another version without the flash obscuring the letters but as Matt has first usage rights I thought I’d post this one instead. The dress says “Fuck off I don’t sell E’s” (I’ll tell her when I see her that Es is not a possessive and does not require an apostrophe, but I was off duty at the time).

Anyway, it’s a charming message and one we should support. Clearly ‘just say no’ has had its day and no longer works the way it did in Nancy Reagan’s day.
Actually there’s a thought – this girl may well be Prime Minister one day, so I’ll hang on to this pic just in case…

Oh, and yes, we danced like idiots. Hopefully there’s no video of that

Drunken weekend

Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0793.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

Last weekend I played host to Matt and Shaun for a calm weekend of, ooh, drinking, pizza, Xbox, bitching, lewd conversation and – ultimately – dreadful hangovers.

Matt and Shaun are graphic design graduates of mine from Brighton (well, I say ‘mine’, clearly my input was marginal).

Friday night I showed them the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, though no art was consumed, it has to be said (I mean, they’re not students anymore, they don’t have to pretend – and nor do I) and over pizza and Stella Artois we watched Tom Baker in The Pirate Planet, a rather strange Doctor Who story from the 70s written by Douglas Adams.

On Saturday I showed them Edinburgh and we completely failed to make it to the Pixar exhibition. We did, however, stand outside the castle (third time I’ve been there, still not been in, thanks to the extortionate entry fee), go to ‘World of Whisky’ in the hope of a free tasting (sadly denied) and find a comic shop five minutes before it shut. (Which was quite handy as I found a couple of collections of PvP (my favourite comic strip) but couldn’t remember if I had one of them or not (memory like a small metal thing with holes in it) so being kicked out potentially saved me a few quid (oh yes, I’ll pay £7 for a comic book but not for entry to one of Scotland’s most historic buildings!)

Saturday night, back in Dundee, we drank, ate too much Indian, and staggered back to watch a recording of that night’s Doctor Who episode during which Shaun fell asleep and I wondered what makes Russell T Davies fool the world in to thinking he can write drama…

Anyway, a full ‘safe for work’ pictorial record is available if you are so inclined.

‘David Hume could out-consume…’

Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0787.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

Growing up a Monty Python fan I learnt more about philosophy and the great philosophers than you could ever wish to know (if you’re not a Python fan the title of this post will mean nothing).

Anyway, this is David Hume’s old house in a little close off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. (Actually, his house could have been the less picturesque one on the other side, but I doubt it).

I read Hume as part of my degree – a very interesting and readable man, still highly relevant today.

That person there completely failing to be impressed is Shaun, an ex-student of mine up for the weekend.

‘You can see the sea, it’s over there between the land and the sky’

Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0967.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

It’s worth the climb to the top of Balgay Hill behind my flat in Scotland. One minute you’re in a post-industrial landscape, the next you’re in the second best scenery in Britain (after Yorkshire, natch)

If you really want to see the rest of the photos from this walk, head over to my Flickr set


Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0945.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

Weird-looking buds on the trees…

Daffodils: it’s spring at last!

Friday, April 6th, 2007

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IMG_0924.JPG, originally uploaded by artistry.

Spring arrived for real this week in Scotland – real t-shirt weather. So off I went up the hill behind my house to take a few shots…