Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Talk to me

Writing about the language used in Timmy Time reminded me of an article I had read in September’s Creative Review by Gordon Comstock on the new chatty language used in design. He warns:

“Thanks to Innocent, chatty label copy has become ubiquitous. But imitators beware: it’s not so easy”

Comstock talks of the language of the label, the ‘use by’ the ‘serving suggestion’ and the ‘best before’, things that designers know, the stables to packaging design. But now, with this chatty style, a bottle says “hello”, “how you doing?”, the rules of packaging language have changed, and designers scramble to stay in touch with this new informal style as addressing the audience. Malmaison does it, Innocent definitely does it, filling labels with irony with chatty anecdotes. This certainly works for their brands, but what does it mean for the rest of design?

I for example don’t want medicine chatting to me before I take it. I want it to tell me, to instruct. Not to make me laugh, but is this the era of packaging we are being led into?
Though medicine is an extreme example, and I am fairly confident that it’s tone of voice will remain authoritarian for ever more, it is true that more and more brands are trying to engage us in conversation, a quick trip down a supermarket isle and your having half a dozen conversations with your cereal, your milk and your juice. Though this style suits many brands it is often my opinion that quieter is better. Just give me the information I need. But then again I am the type of person, who does not want to talk to the hairdresser as they chop away, and instead am happy in the comfort of knowing I am not involved in idle chatter which both of us don’t really want to be engaged in.

It's Timmy Time!

Today whilst looking for something acceptable to watch on TV (tryin my hardest to avoid GMTV) I stumbled across Timmy Time on CBBC (BBC2). I was about to flick staright for something even more senseless on perhaps a channel 4 variable when the animation caught my attention. The show is a spin off of Wallace and Gromit’s Shaun the Sheep. The animation style of Nick Park is continued in this children’s version, though a more colourful, and obviously more childlike style has been adapted for Timmy. This style of annimation is fun and accessible to every one, as the massive success of Wallace and Gromit shows. It is possible to adapt the style of clay modelling into many genres for advertising, design and animation, I would love to give this sort of thing a try and possibly incorporate it into future projects. It can also be a way to put across more serious messages in a different way, which perhaps would be more well recived.

What I also found really interesting about the animation is that none of the characters speak, well that is to say none of them actually say words. Instead they simply make the noises of the animals that they are. ( For example to owl simply says: “ Hoot Hoot HOOOOT Hoot!!”). This is perhaps for the benefit of the under 5 target audience which the show aims for. But I also find it raises an interesting question about language in design, as though no words are spoken the plot is easy to follow, and fairly witty when you put your own words to the sounds of the characters. This raises the question of how important language is in design, and with companies such as Innocent adopting a chatty tone of voice, how long before we give up on proper English altogether?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Jordan gets dropped

Jordan or as she now prefers to be known Katie Price has been dropped from Asda’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign after she moaned on her T.V show that she hated the scars on her own breasts from her bouts of cosmetic surgery. This has caused uproar from breast cancer sufferers who found the comments she made both hurtful and offensive. This lead to her being dropped from the Tickled Pink campaign. One sufferer went event further to attack the phrasing of Adsa’s campaign “Tickled Pink”, saying she was definitely did not find her condition funny. I feel this is a bit extreme as Asda’s campaign is designed to raise money and awareness of the condition and certainly does not make light of it.

Jordan may be forgiven for the comments but firms will think twice about involving her in advertising campaigns in the future. This is what happens when celebrity endorsement backfires, especially when dealing with sensitive issues. However, Kate Moss came back fighting after her fall from advertiser’s grace.

Cadbury's goes Fair Trade

Cadbury has released a single and music video to accompany it to celebrate the chocolate becoming a completely Fair Trade product. The single, titled Zingolo is made in collaboration with Ghanaian music star Tinny, and the video directed by Ringan Ledwidge, and the video was shot in Ghana. This is because Ghana is at the heart of the fair trade industry, and I suppose this is Cadbury’s tribute to that fact. The project was created by Fallon advertising agency, who were also responsible for the Gorrilla and Eyebrow ads. This video follows the weird and wonderful standard exhibited by the other Cadbury adverts, however this runs just under five minutes. I love the concept that the adverts for the chocolate can be enjoyed just as much as the product its self. This opens the door to imagination, and perhaps the product is secondary to the advertising. With this idea you can do anything… and simply flash the product up at the end, a genius idea.

I have watched the video quite a few times now and though I like it something does not fit quite right with me. It’s great that this massive company has gone fair trade and used the country that inspired that change to advertise it. However, for me, this video is not up to the expected gorilla standards.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bike Furniture

This amazing querky furniture has been made entirely from recyled (pardon the pun) bikes, from handle bars to tyres. The primary designer for this range Andy Gregg was inspired by his work on bikes and in bike shops. The furniture created is marketed as contemporary and comfortable, and would certainly be a statement piece in any living room. I love the way a passion for bikes can be turned into furniture, two seemingly totally different areas. It shows that a good designer can create something really interesting design wise for something everyday. The key to these designs is the designers love of the objects in the first place.

Great North Run

Today is the day of the Bupa Great North Run. An exciting day in itself, the run has become the most popular half marathon in all of the land, so I am told. And thousands of runners flock to the North to run over that famous bridge. This day however has a certain more excitment for me as the runners run across the bottom of my street. The days leading up to the event runners can be seen training and signs for road closures go up. It's an exciting time. The mood on the day is tangible and it is impossible not to smile as the runners jog past you. Standing in the crowd gives you such a buzz, I cannot imagine what you must feel running it (though I have considered it...then thought better of that idea).

As far as advertising, it's a dream come true for charities, who not only raise thousands of pounds via the runners but also get to splash their logos across T-Shirts and tents. It's such a positive place to be it seems the right thing to give to others. Other businesses also gain from their presence at the run, ice cream sellers being just one. A great advertising oppotunity, a great feeling and a great day out.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Product Placement

The Government are considering lifting the ban on product placement, something which in America is already very familiar with and indeed the film industry thrives on. But how will it work in Britain? Casually placed Guiness in the Vic? Perhaps we wont notice, we are inundated with subliminal messages through are tv screens already. In reality TV I am sure it wont make a difference, as I am ore likley to notice the gaint white stickers placed over products, which though despite thier name being blocked out are so obvious that it seems barley worth the effort. Product placment however can oftern be over powering and corny. Though it can give some much needed revenue to our economy is it worth distracting from the message of a film or programme? It is a worry that it will cheapen programs.

This is a clear exapmle of blaintant product placement.
Is it up to designers to ensure that products are not slapped in the face of the viewer. For some it is more a moral desision. For example Quentin Tarantino does not use any real products in his films, and instead makes up products to be placed in his films for example 'Jack Rabbit Slims' cigarettes are an invention of Tarantino. I think these made up product placements are much more interesting than simply advertising existing products, and opens up far more possibilities.

Ben Tallon

I came across Ben Tallon while reading the Guardian, who Tallon illustrates for. I love his hand crafted style and use of typography mixed with clever imagery to convey oftern controversial and sharp meaning. I like hand draw/made illustarion in design as I think that you can feel more of the personality behind it, there has been real connection between pen and paper and not simple Control Z if a mistake is made. It is perhaps even mistakes that give personality to this hand rendered style. In readin a review of Tallon's work I found that some of his deisgns have been comissioned and produced in an hour, which keeps his ideas fresh and alive. I think you can see this in his work. Though I can't imagine producing something within an hour as I have a great tendency to overthink. This quick style has a great energy to it and perhaps I could try it in future projects.

Christmas Terroists

Staying with the Christmas theme, just for now I promise, this is not going to become a blog obsessed with the season to be jolly.

It seems however that there are others which agree with my thought that christmas may be coming to early this year. They are called the "Movement for the Contianment of Christmas" and are apparently based in Leeds. This group has sent threatning letters to charity shops in Leeds with damage to thier property if they sell christmas cards before November the first. One threat is that the doors will be filled with glue if the shops fail to comply.

This to me rings of a fight club type anochy. Normal people driven to extremes by the commercialisation of the world, and in this case a season. Though in theory I belive that christmas should be confined to December this to me this seems somewhat extreme. If it is leading to violence perhaps the card comapnies can have thier day

Disney Buys Christmas

It's offical Disney has taken over christmas. Borris Johnson, Mayor of London has agreed to turn the West End lights on to coincide the relsease of Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'. Yes, the lights are going on crazily early at the 3rd of Novemeber none the less. This seems crazy to me, a company has now bought the right to when we should start celebrating. I am not a religious person, but it seems to me that we have lost the meaning of christmas, surley some of the excitment and magic of chritmas will be lost if we sell it.

We already gave Santa to Coca Cola and the Christmas lights to Disney. What's next? I feel we should reclaim christmas from the companies, and yes perhaps even the advertisers, who we all know thrive on this time of year. Especially now if it destined to start early November. Is christmas becoming too commercial?

Drugs, Driving and Really Big Eyes.

This advert has been running for a while now, and I have to admit that it didn't grab me as the drink drive campaign, or indeed the alcohol awareness campaign that the governement have been running. This ad seems to almost make light of drug driving, not showing horrifc crashes or consequences that the drink driving ad showed. It seems simply that the only side effect from taking drugs (which it does not mention is illegal in the first place), is getting overly large eyes. Not that much of a problem one would assume. I think the FRANK adverts show much more effectivley the effects that taking drugs can have, it reaches it's target audience of teen to young twenties and also gives them something to think about. The new govenment ad simply passes you by, with maybe a humourous look at these people with large eyeshttp://

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


These figures stand at the mouth of the Tyne, on Sandhaven Beach close to where I live. Weebles is the name given to them by us “locals”, the real name for this piece of work is Conversation piece, by Spanish artist Juan Munzo. These weebles however don’t wobble, they stay standing against all the elements that can be expected to hit a beach in the North. This piece is a modern take on the 18th century genre of painting informal social gatherings, and yes, when you see these sculptures, there are a lot of questions to be asked. What? Why? Who?

They are weird, but I think that’s why I like them, strange creature that share my beach. They are eerie, especially at night and add to the strange feeling of aloneness against the waves. I really like how there are a group of them, it’s not a lonely sculpture. It’s a happy one, surreal but there is a feeling of togetherness in this group, perhaps even conversation.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Timeless art

Today I went into a local school to help with some wall displays for the halls and classrooms. I worked mainly with Year One, on the way they interpreted  piece of music into art, and then on some more straight forward "zoo" themed displays. I thought the way that the children thought was very refreshing, and though what I created with 7 year olds today, I am sure will win no design awards I feel that art or design which children produce is truly timeless. It has an innocence of imagination that only children can produce, for example one boy wanted to make a space police crown...this was, in our zoo disscution, totally out of context. Though for the originality of the idea we made it anyway. It made me remember that the cleverest or most witty solution may not be the best, some times its good to be just plain weird and have fun with what your doing. Unfortunatley no pictures to add today, but I will be going back to the school so some should be posted shortly.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

It takes a puzzle to get people thinking

Derren Brown succesfuly predicted all 6 lottery numbers last night ( 09/09/09)... But how? People are getting creative when it come to explainations. My personal favorite is that Debbie McGee was wearing an invisibility cloak


Yes, it's that time of year already, birds start to consider forgein climes, trees change subtley from green to red and orange and students visit IKEA. We do this with the vauge idea that it's cheap and we can totally transform whichever hovel we have decided to rent this year with a few "key" pieces. I feel this is especially true for us "designers". I recently made the pilgramige to my local store. But I ask you...has anyone ever managed to walk away from IKEA with only what they went in for? The layout tricks you walking around seemingly lost in a maze of MDF I am always convinced I need something more. The book shelf, those cushions which will match nothing else in my room. I am now totally convinced of the IKEA nesting instinct mentioned in Fight Club.


The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Mayer has swept America, the series consists of four books, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. The first has already been released as a film with New Moon due to be released in cinemas later this year. I decided to see what all the fuss about what as far as I could see was simply the same story reproduced in a new way, could this really take over from Harry Potter, the book which got the nation reading again? I read the first book, I watched the film. And then I was hooked, I devoured the other three books, easily caught up in the narrative. Though perhaps it was such an easy read because subconsciously I had heard the story, the saga follows the plot of a basic love story, with a few vampirey twists. I also found interesting the way in which the authors religious beliefs (Meyer is a Mormon) filtered into the book, where perhaps they weren’t necessary in the development in the story. I am, sorry to say, a Twilight convert and now looking forward to the next film.

From a design point of view however, I think the covers are stunning and really capture the essence of the books, the dark and the delicate, the hope against the balckness and the fragility of life. They have been reporduced in a hundered diffeent ways from rubixs cubes to posters, however my favorite is the special addition books with red tipped pages, very poinant.

Inglourios Basterds

I recently went to see Quentin Tarantino’s lastest addition to his collection, Inglourios Basterds ( UK released Aug 21st 2009). The film is set in World War Two, in Nazi occupied France and takes the form of a comic revenge fantasy. Though yes, Tarantino is a world class director renowned for such films as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. His films are not exactly to my taste, that is to say I wouldn’t choose to watch them on a rainy Sunday afternoon…I’m much more a Bridget Jones Diary kind of girl. Tarantino however does truly interest me in the way he combines design and cinematography. One of the first directors to really consider the sound track as adding to the film rather than being simply background music.

What really interested me in Inglourious Basterds was the typography, the opening sequence is really clever, using different typography to represent the actors in Brad Pitts “Basterds”, typography reminiscent of the American deep south, where Pitt’s character is from and those who were playing Germans, are given a far more Germanic type face. Another effective use of typography in the film is a shot scanning a room full of famous erman Soldiers ( Hitler, Goering etc. Type appears beneath them in a scratchy handwritten type giving the audience a clear idea of who important is in this room. The typography doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film and would seem more suited to a film such a Juno. This however is another way the Tarantino instils comedy into this film, by undermining characters with out of place typography, a very subtle and clever trick.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Coat Hanger Dinosaurs

The current window display at Harvey Nichols in Leeds really distracts fro the rest of the windows in the city centre, making the efforts of the likes of Topshop and Debenhams look dim by comparison. I love the way that the traditional wooden coat hanger has been used to create the enormous and complex displays. I feel that this these displays sum up the store well, with the traditional department store being represented by the standard wooden hanger while the modern and intriguing designs created hint at the chic layout and luxurious products inside. Harvey Nichols often use interesting and unusual concepts for their displays, far more interesting than the standard clothes on manikins that other stores offer. It shows that displaying everything in store may not be the best way to sell. Instead they hint seductively at products which are surrounded by intriguing design. I am really looking forward to seeing what they produce for the Christmas season.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, which you read and somehow feel enlightened and though it is fictional, more knowledgeable about the world as you read the closing pages. The book, first published in 2005 is set in the midst of Nazi Germany and focuses on a young girl named Lisel, who is sent to live with foster parents by her mother. Lisel learns to cope with her new terrifying environment through the comfort of books and escapes into the written word. As expected form a WW2 book there is tradgedy is a main theme, and the story of Lisel is aptly told by death.

Death is sent to pick up the souls destroyed by the war, and interestingly describes each soul as being assosiated with a  certain colour of the sky. Death is compassionate and a new understanding is given to life when told through the eyes of the grim reaper. What most struck me in this story however was the book a Jewish man makes.

Hiding for months in Lisel's basement Max Vandenburg occupies his time by painting over the pages of Mein Kampf to tell his own story. The images of these pages are featured in the book and are striking. It is perhaps these images more than the words which fill the rest of the book which best tell the story of  the loss and love which the book thief has to come to terms with. The emotion that is evoked by Mein Kampf being painted over by a Jew to tell his story is incredibly emotive. These images are strikingly powerful. Graphically I feel that is the emotion behind a piece of work which gives it power. Though these are simple rough sketches on paper which words can still be seen, there is a clear message. I urge you to read this book.

Shoulder pads...Should we have left them in the 80's?

Recently shoulder pads have been sauntering up and down catwalks around the world, and are tipped to be a must have in every girls autumn/winter collection. But is this just societies cry for vintage...are we looking past the fashion mistakes of the 1980's? Why do designers bring back trends which, lets face it, unless you have the body of Kate Moss, look pretty horrendous and often stupid on us mere mortal women? Just because something has been done sucesfully before does not mean we need to recreate it, or that it will work with a modern twist.

I am all for vintage, the luxurious feel, the glamour. But these things are evokes by the 1920's classic cuts, the makeup of the 1940's. Personally I don't feel that the 1980's has that glamourous edge. Should designers have left the 80's well enough alone? It could be argued that leggings have made an unbeliveable comeback, and who saw that coming? And it is true that celebrities such as Lady GaGa have become the embodiment of the 80's. Though, yes, she often looks crazy and I would be shocked if anybody walked into a lecture looking like that. Vaintage chic? yes. Re-embodied fashion disasters? No. I certainly will be missing out on this particular must have.

However if I do get shoulder envy I could always did my mothers out of the attic...