Saturday, 30 April 2011

Eastern Electricity

Back when electrically powered utilities were still a novel idea! I found these adverts from a set of magazines that my dad had been given from the 40s and 50s. They were found in editions of "East Anglian Magazine", which featured many thrilling articles including "East Anglian Humour", "Small Pox in Norfolk" and "Goat Keeping".  Totally spiffing, I'm sure you'll agree.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

All Tropic Competition Entry

So here's the design I've entered into All Tropical's latest competition. Based upon one of the nation's favourite ice lollies, 'Like we did last Summer' evokes happy, sunny memories of the seaside, ice cream vans and days out. Please vote for me so I have a chance at wining their brilliant prize (£150, plus the t-shirts printed and sold online)! 

Follow the link here:


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Kemistry Gallery: Roger That!

While in London, I also nipped across to Shoreditch to Kemistry Gallery. I'd heard about a typographic exhibition that was being held there, titled "Roger That!", based upon the phonetic spelling alphabet, developed by The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The work had been created by EatSleepWork/Play, Inventory Studio and Julia. It seemed such an intriguing concept to me; I am very much interested in experimental and exploratory typography, so I was really looking forward to it. 

After getting lost for a while I discovered the gallery, which was a tiny unit down a lovely little cobbled street. I was a little disappointed that it was so small, but the exhibition itself was so charming that I soon overcame my disappointment. Spread across 3 of the walls was a narrative, broken up by the letters of the alphabet, printed on A3 sheets in 2 colours only. Each of the posters portrayed the phonetic spelling of each letter, some in an obvious way, some in more abstract ways. It was a really lovely representation, and certainly brought a smile to my face. It was a great approach to marry a narrative with the phonetic spellings, as it made the experience more interesting and I loved the witty and imaginative tone to their work. It has definitely given me the desire to create work that has more character and fun to it. Here are a coupleof my favourite letters:

C - Charlie > Charlie Chaplin. 

E - Echo > The story of Echo the Greek nymph

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

More stamps...

Saw some of Wim Crouwel's designs for postage stamps at his exhibition at the Design Museum in London the other week, they're beautiful. Images  from Iain Follett's flikr collection found here.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


I found this old stamp from 1965 on an old envelope containing a letter to my grandparents. It's not a rare one, but I think it's lovely. This was before they had introduced first and second class postage. I really want to start looking for more stamps, (even if it is a little on the geeky side) and I've been encouraged to do so by Mike from SoMuchPileUp (one of my favourite blogs). They have a great selection of amazing stamp designs from the 1960s-80s, be sure to check them out.

Wim Crouwel: 'A Graphic Odyssey' at London's Design Museum

I'd been hearing about this exhibition for a while on Twitter and via various blogs, so I knew I had to take a trip down to London this Easter so to not miss out.

As I walked across Tower Bridge (which is a breath-taking experience in itself), I could see the Design Museum, with Wim Crouwel's recognisable identity design emblazoned across the exterior walls in the distance, and my excitement grew rapidly.  I've sadly not yet been able to visit the Design Museum, despite it showcasing many amazing design exhibitions in the past, so I was really looking forward to my visit.

The Dutch designer has had a prolific career, and this is evident as soon as you stepped into the exhibition space. I was totally overwhelmed with the size of the display, and the amount of work that was being showcased. Crouwel is regarded as one of the 20th century's leading designers, and you can see why when viewing his work. I was really taken aback with how much he had produced; from posters to brochures, and typefaces to calendars, it really was an inspiring collection of formats and designs. I was particularly drawn to the far wall, which showcased some of the identity designs he had produced, as they were all such simple - yet impressively clever - pieces of design. It surprised me that I was drawn to this particular area of his work, as I really struggle when trying to create identity designs. For some reason, it isn't my strong point, but definitely something I want to push myself into doing more often.

Another area of work that I was really excited by was the work he produced for Stedelijk museum, Amsterdam (with Total Design). He helped create a series of really beautiful posters and brochures, which blew me away. Their bold use of colour and type was expertly considered, helping to produce some incredibly striking pieces of design.

I felt completely in my element while at the exhibition, I probably spent over an hour studying his work and making notes and sketches. I even felt inspired to start generating ideas for one of my projects. It was a really great experience, and has made me want to try and see more exhibitions when I have the chance.

Abram Games: Talk from Naomi Games

I was extremely excited to discover that the daughter (Naomi Games) of one of my all time favourite designers, Abram Games, was coming to present to us the work and story of her father. I've long-appreciated his work, and had already been to see the exhibition that Naomi had curated in Sheffield last year, so was eager to discover more about Abram, especially from someone with such a close connection to him.

Abram Games first learned about being creative from watching his father, who was a photographer, at work. It was here that he was first introduced to the most influential tool of his career - the air brush, which his father would use to touch up and add colour to the slides he had taken. At 15, Games left school with the desire of becoming a poster designer; yet his head teacher dismissed this by saying he would never make it. Little did he know...

Games went on to produce some of Britain's most iconic poster designs and, in 1942, was appointed as the only ever official war poster artist. According to Naomi, his posters told the truth; which hadn't been done before, and yet many couldn't handle these truths. This led to some of his designs being discontinued and banned. A great example of this is his famous "ATS" poster from 1942, more commonly described as the "blonde bombshell". This beautiful poster was banned due to concerns that it was far too risqué for a British audience, and perceived the Auxiliary Territorial Service woman as more of a sexual object than as a persuasive tool. 

It was really lovely to be able to see Games' work from a more personal standpoint, however I was a little disappointed with the overall atmosphere of the talk. Naomi was clearly very proud of her father and his achievements but the talked seemed less of a personal insight than I was anticipating, causing it to feel a little forced and lack-lustre. This was probably due to the fact that she has done countless talks similar to the one we were involved in, but I still felt a little disappointed that she didn't go further in depth into Abram's design approaches.

Despite this, the lecture was still quite inspiring and I discovered a lot more about Abram that I hadn't previously known. His work is truly beautiful and it is clear that a lot of time and skill went into producing his designs. He was definitely passionate about what he did, which was apparent from the advice he would give to his students: Always remember the '3C's': curiosity, concentration, and courage. I find the last two particularly difficult areas to get to grips with when approaching my own work, so it was encouraging to hear it from one of my favourite designers! 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

All Tropical

My blog (this thing right here) was selected as All Tropical's favourite blog of the week! Really humbled that they  found it and were impressed by what I have to say. They gave me a lovely write-up:

"Another blog from an All Tropical Member. Gemma is studying Design and Art Direction at Manchester School of Art. There is a lot of interest here for up and coming designers and fans of visual art more generally. Gemma is a brilliant writer and it is very refreshing to see a blog that somebody has put so much care and attention into."

 Thanks guys!

All Tropical is a platform for designers to promote their work by entering designs to be screen-printed on t-shirts. What's more is that there's the opportunity to win £150, as well as your t-shirts being printed and sold if your design is picked as the favourite of the week. Check out what they do here.

I've recently entered a design into their latest competition, to produce an idea based upon your representation of Summer. I will post some images of my design once the voting is open on the 27th April. Keep your eyes peeled!

Hand drawn type

Experimenting with some hand drawn lettering, wanting a more crafted aesthetic for my latest project, (but also because I've wanted to be able to enjoy the sunshine and unfortunately the glare on my screen has limited me from creating anything digital...)


Friday, 22 April 2011

punctuation marks

Here are some illustrations I have produced for my latest project. They need a lot more development yet, but looking forward to where this project is heading. I've been looking at punctuation and grammatical errors (as it is one of my biggest pet peeves) and a way in which I can help people to overcome their mistakes in a light-hearted way. NB: I am aware that I too can make mistakes, I'm sure you'll find some on this blog!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


A few weeks ago, my tutor John invited me to attend a lecture that was being given to another of the university's courses about Typography. I wasn't told who was speaking, or the purpose of the lecture, but was intrigued to discover more especially as my current project was type-based.

(Images courtesy of Creative Review)

I soon discovered that the session was being given by Jim Williams, a lecturer from Staffordshire University, who is an advocate of good type design. He is also a member of the prestigious New York Type directors club, and has been awarded with many notable design awards. Recently, Jim has completed a small booklet titled "Type Matters!" (a more detailed book format is due to be released next year), which highlights the importance of correct type usage and the common mistakes people, particularly designers, can make when designing with type. It's a lovely little publication, really nicely designed, however not widely available (you have to contact Jim and pay a small fee of £5 to purchase a copy).

Jim's talk was really helpful and interesting. He ran through the main elements of type usage that are often used incorrectly or misunderstood, including sizing, column width, hyphenation and widows and orphans. I've discovered personally, that these elements can be so easily overlooked so it was great to have this refreshed in my mind for when I came back to my projects. 

Jim also talked us through some of his favourite and most influential type designers. These included some of my favourites also, such as Herb Lubalin, El Lissitzky, Jan Tschichold and Fabien Baron as well as many I wasn't as familar with. These included John McConnell, Gene Frederico and Otto Storch, who have all produced some really beautiful type-based design and definitely work that I will refer back to again further on in my studies.

John McConnell

Otto Storch

Gene Frederico

Jim explained that, although his book focuses mainly on type from printed formats, it doesn't have to just be a 2D representation on screen. Designers such as Sagmeister have used more crafted techniques to produce their type pieces. This was really significant for me, as I'd really been struggling to produce more experimental type work; I was too focussed and concerned with producing it digitally, which as I soon discovered is not my strong point. 

I really enjoyed Jim's talk, he was clearly passionate about everything that he did, including teaching the students at Staffordshire Uni. He showed us some of the work they had produced in response to an experimental format brief. The pieces varied from large-scale A0 sized books to books encased in perspex and moulded into shapes. They were really beautiful and incredibly imaginative, and I was highly impressed with the amount of creative skill his students presented. A fascinating session.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Graphic Design and the Dotted Line, Russell Hancock

Lecture and Portfolio Discussion.

Russell Hancock is a freelance graphic designer, who came to talk to us about his experiences in the industry, but more importantly about what to expect / how to set up as a freelance designer when leaving university. I was really interested to hear what he had to say about this, as so far this is an area we haven't yet covered while on the course.

Before becoming a freelance designer, Russell worked in a collective called "Soup" that he set up with friends from university. They gained a series of small-name clients, which gained him experience, but his most influential work was the publication they produced for free titled "From Carn to Cove". It was this that gained Russell more work. Although the majority of the work Soup created was small-scale and for free, Russell told us to be very wary of clients expecting free work. Although good "for exposure" this is often just a way of taking advantage of your skills for free.

After a while at home, Russell gained a job at Empire design agency, who create many of the movie posters that we see advertising films today, but sadly lost out to a permanent position there (much to his disgust) and then worked for ASHA (Arthur Steen Horne Adamson) where he found it to be a bit of a pyramid-shaped business and his opinion didn't matter. Despite this, he got to work on some brilliant projects and gained a lot more experience.

Russell's biggest job to date however, happened a lot out of luck - he saw that his local old art-deco cinema was becoming more and more dilapidated, so he wanted to improve it, and try to get the owners to re-open it. He and a friend helped to decorate the exterior of the building for free and he produced a petition to open up the cinema again. The cinema was bought by a new owner and is in the process of being renovated and restored. The owners also have plans to create a franchise, and now Russell has the opportunity to create the branding for a whole series of cinemas.

In terms of freelance, Russell gave us a lot of really helpful hints:

- Get money upfront and a signature
- Be sure of your opinions, but rememeber... it is just an opinion
- Demand respect, but all in all keep learning
- Assess free work carefull
- Act professionally
- Remember people, and be remembered
- Sometimes clients are bad(!)
- Don't be afraid to talk about payments / salary
- Be organised
- Digital portfolios are a MUST

These may seem like common sense, but can be so easily overlooked, so it was really helpful to have someone drill them into us.

I also spent some time talking through my work and portfolio with Russell, which was really helpful. He gave us even more tips on how to create and present a successful portfolio, be it in paper or digital format. I was really pleased that when talking through mine he was very impressed with what I had to show. My portfolio has always been one of those "hazy" areas, where I've never been too sure how to present my work best. I've had quite a lot of contradicting opinions on it so far, mostly less positive from my tutors because they want me to push my presentation further, yet a lot more positive responses from others. I'm a little bit confused at the moment, but I think I want to develop it more as it is a little... generic. Here is an example:

The Value of Design, MDS. 23/3/2011

Forgive me, once again I am incredibly behind on my blog entries!

There was a lot of buzz about the Manchester Design Symposium on various social networking sites and forums, which got me really excited to find out more about the event. Unfortunately though, I wasn't able to purchase a ticket, so when I discovered that my university course would be holding a "lucky dip" competition to win one, I leapt at the chance and was very pleased when I discovered I had won one.

Organised by Design Initiative, in partnership with Independent Northern Creatives, Manchester City Council and Manchester Metropolitan University, the symposium focussed on a central theme throughout the day – ‘The Value of Design’. Many speakers were to participate in the symposium, Si Scott (Si Scott Studio), John Walters (Eye Magazine), Bruno Maag (Dalton Maag), Jonathan Barnbrook (Barnbrook) and Tom Dorresteijn (Studio Dunbar). With such an exciting mix of speakers, I couldn't wait for the day to begin.

"Bee" part of Si Scott's "Airborn" illustration series.

Professor David Crow (Dean of MMU and designer/writer) opened the symposium, and introduced Si Scott, a UK based artist / designer who primarily works with hand-drawn typography and illustration. I felt a little bit sorry for Si, as he seemed a little overwhelmed by the size of the audience (most likely down the fact he was on strong pain-killers for a back injury) but he gave us a great insight into the work that he does. He has such a laid back attitude about what he does, and spent a lot of his session talking down about the work he creates (which is a shame seeing as it is all so beautiful) but he was interesting and his talk was thoroughly enjoyable.  Si gave us insight into the value of originality and his annoyance towards those who try to imitate his very distinctive style - "the whole idea of my work, is that it is my work" he explained. He also described how he dislikes using computers to produce his work. "I'm rubbish at it," computers are too fast for him, and he finds that they have the ability to dilute design too much. Si prefers to be spontaneous, and doesn't like to plan ahead with his ideas - which often causes problems with clients who like to see the development of ideas. Si has even walked out on prospective clients because they wanted to restrict his personal style. A really interesting talk.

Second to talk was John Walters from Eye magazine. A writer, editor and publisher, John isn't necessarily a designer but has always been involved with it. John explained how we should value design in 5 ways: editorially, culturally, functionally, financially and educationally. "There's more to design than just following a brief" - as a graphic design student, I couldn't agree more with this response! John talked us through some of his favourite covers, articles and interviews from eye magazine, which was fascinating.

Current issue (79) of Eye magazine

Next up was Bruno Maag of Dalton Maag, who specialise in type and identity design. For Bruno (and many) type is the fundamental element of design, and fonts are some of the most valuable assets a designer can make use of. I found his talk so interesting, as I am currently developing my own typeface and it is a process that is somewhat overwhelming. "All you need is some black and white gouache," explain Maag, "technology is not a necessity". This was a useful tip - when working on my own designs after the symposium, I closed my laptop and just used a paintbrush and ink. It allowed me to create more interesting free-hand characters than I would have been able to produce using computer software. Bruno talked through Dalton Maag's "Ubuntu project", an open source system that offers free applications and software to the community. Dalton Naag developed a 13 style typeface in order to speak to all of Ubuntu's customers, an example of how fonts can give value to the community.

Example of Dalton Maag's Ubuntu typeface

Jonathan Barnbrook gave a fascinating, and often hilarious, talk about the value of fonts. His talk was structured under various different topics, all of which he linked back to the work that he and Barnbrook and Virus fonts creates. The topics were as follows:

1. A better society through more rational typeforms (in which he talked about his first font, Utopia and one of his more controversial typefaces, Prozac).
2. Appropriate forms for new technology (his font Bastard was created as a response to "legible" commercial letterforms, Barnbrook wanted to created the most illegible, legible font)
3. Appropriate forms from new technology (Shock and Awe was created based on the type found on the side of tomahawk bombs, and Stealth was created from Stealth bomber letterforms)
4. Appropriate forms for new language (Nixon was a typeface to tell lies with, Drone is for text without content)
5. Appropriate forms for showing the parameters of language (Tourette - based on swearing but not aggressive in aesthetics. Expletive, also based on swearing but has the charm of someone who wouldn't)
6. Subverting existing forms to tell a new truth (Olypukes; olympic pictograms changed to represent the more negative side of the event)
7. Creating and utlising beauty to understand the past (Exocet and Infidel, both based upon historical scriptures and lettering).

Again, discovering more about the type designs Barnbrook creates was really helpful for me and my own typeface explorations. Barnbrook's talk really aided me in my research, especially as he is quite experimental and controversial in his approach. A really great talk.

Section of Barbrook's "Expletive" typeface.

Last but not least was Tom Dorresteijn, from Studio Dumbar based in Holland. Tom's views of the value of design, or the "design of value" often linked back to the ability of turning people on; how design should touch the emotional channel of people. As well as taking though some of Studio Dumbar's work, his talk was filled with a lot of very thought provoking statements and pieces of advice, for instance he explained how we "shouldn't try to become someone else, but become who we are. Try to enrich what you do with the broader horizons of design. If you don't you will limit yourself". It was a really insightful talk, especially for those of us in the audience who were students about to embark on careers in the industry.

Dutch Chamber Choir from Studio Dumbar on Vimeo.