We all like a bit of DIY, don’t we? Bang up that shelf, doesn’t matter if it’s a bit wonky and there’s nails hanging out of it, I saved myself a few quid on a handyman, plus all the related hassle of finding a handyman, and waiting for them to turn up, etc. etc.
It won’t have escaped any professional graphic designer’s attention that this attitude has, in the last 20 years or so, entirely pervaded our field. Once we were the sole gatekeepers to archaic terms and equipment, squirrelling away in our garrets with films and bromides and scalpels and spray-mount, practising our arcane arts quietly happy in the knowledge that our rarefied position couldn’t be usurped by some young upstart with a Pritt stick and some scissors.
This is no longer the case, and the tools are available to all. To be used, and, sometimes abused. This might be a source of fear to some designers, their livelihoods melting away before them like a set of French curves in a George Foreman grill. It’s harder for me to feel and chagrin, though, as I started as a DIYer myself. Plus, many of these DIYers are not looking to rip anyone off or make a quick buck, they are simply people with no great means to hire a pro, but the desire to create something and make it look like a saleable item. I’m all for that, and I’ll help where I can. I like helping people. For a very modest fee, obviously.
One such situation occurred recently when I noticed on Twitter the fine folk singer-songwriter Jim Moray asking for some help with his latest project. He had come up with something in Photoshop and wanted to make sure the printers would be able to handle it, and just give it a quick check. I volunteered. The artwork looked fine, conceptually sound, and thankfully clean and simple. I suggested a couple of tweaks, and a suggestion for finessing the front cover – which happily Jim liked. He generously offered to pay for the consultancy – DIYers seeking help, please note.
Anyway, a month or two passes, a parcel is left with the neighbours, and ultimately retrieved. And there it is, the beautiful False Lights blue vinyl record, with the lovely lines I suggested adorning the front.
I’m listening to the storytelling electrofolk sounds of it now, and reflecting on what all this means. Something has been made, a beautiful something, I’ve wafted a bit of fairy dust over it at the end, and received fair recompense for my small amount of time. It’s no substitute for art directing something from the ground up, but as it involves fine music and good people, I’ll take it. Good luck to all involved.
Self-promotion not being my forte, it’s taken a while to get around to writing about this, but after the fourth person stopped me on the street to remark on it, today’s the day I probably should.
To cut a long story short, the tremendous feast for the eyes and mind that is Derbyshire arts magazine Artsbeat saw fit to feature me and my work in their April issue. Amanda, its implacable editor, interviewed me over my dining room table and saw fit to edit out my cynical and largely incoherent ramblings on the nature of design, and leave in a load of good stuff that, while all true and correct, I don’t even remember saying.
It all came about thanks to my unexpected triumph in the Internet Movie Poster Awards – Amanda had got wind of it and wanted to capitalise on my imminent fame and riches. She quietly absorbed the news that the victory didn’t come with any, and proceeded with the article anyway, which was very decent of her.
Anyway, I couldn’t be more pleased with it. And also great to see the Love New Mills design pop up in the later pages (in an article expounding the boundless joys of New Mills), as well as a little mention of the folk band that tolerates my noise-making exploits, AKA The Gally Canters.
If you live in or are visiting Derbyshire, please seek out a copy. It’s available at most galleries, and information places around the county. I’ve been so tardy in writing this that you’ve probably missed your chance to get this April issue, but I dare say that it’s well worth reading even if it doesn’t feature me.
UPDATE: You can now read the text of the article online, if that’s your thing.
Slightly amazed and dumbfounded that the good movie-poster loving folks over at The International Movie Poster awards website have voted my quad for THE ROAD as the best UK poster of 2013, and given an honourable mention to my London Film Festival quad for Scott Graham’s SHELL. All the other award-worthy posters can be seen on the IMPAwards site. Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, but considering the size of my studio (ie. just me), to have beaten all the big agencies is quite a surprising coup. I’m still waiting for the news of an administrative error, and them giving it to Alpha Papa instead, or something.
Anyway, I’m delighted to have worked on these projects; they are both excellent examples of British filmmaking at its indie best. Thanks to Verve Pictures for the help, trust and support as usual. I’d urge you to watch them both – THE ROAD is available here, and SHELL is available here.
To top off the weekend’s awards glory, filmmaker Kieran Evans won a BAFTA for his brilliant debut KELLY+VICTOR, for which I designed the poster, here.
Just to be clear, I don’t get wined and dined at exclusive London locations for any of this, so I’m just having a nice cup of tea and a digestive.
I was just archiving away some old designs and thought it would be a good time to write a few words about my thoughts on community and a designer’s role therein. I’m a big believer in the transformative power of community, and I consider myself very fortunate to live in a town where I am far from alone in this idea. A number of initiatives have been started here over the years, dragged kicking and screaming into existence by people with passion, energy and an iron will. From the groundbreaking community-owned Torrs Hydro scheme to the massive community two-week jamboree that is the New Mills Festival, there is clearly some magic at work here.
I arrived about eight years ago with a partner, a baby, and the matching cynical baggage of someone who had lived in London for over a decade. As a Southern softy blow-in I was perfectly prepared to hunker down in the house with the nappies and take the occasional long walk on a windswept hill like a scruffy Essex Wordsworth. It didn’t really work out that way though, as a couple of weeks after moving in, boxes barely unpacked, I heard some sounds of merriment outside, and saw people streaming past our street holding weird wicker & paper contraptions.
“Hold on,” I thought, “They’re on to me. Like in that film about the giant man made of wicker. I forget what it’s called.”
I shoved the baby under my arm and went outside to investigate. Following the crowds I found a massive throng of thousands all assembling by the station, buzzing with anticipation, lighting their paper lanterns. I had stumbled upon my first New Mills Festival Lantern Parade. I got chatting to some people, and found out they had been making their lanterns together in the Town Hall, and how it was all run by a small, dedicated team of volunteers, purely for the benefit of the town and its people.
The trouble with being confronted with this sort of intense all-round awesomeness, is that you cannot but help feel it getting under your skin.
A couple of weeks later a newsletter from the town council made its way into our hall. It contained the usual mundane announcements, probably about bins or dog poo, I don’t remember, but there was a small piece about starting a community orchard, asking people to get involved.
A few days later still, I found myself perched on a chair in the Town Hall chamber, volunteering myself to help get it up and running.
Over the following couple of years, I planted some trees, laid some paths, helped design a logo and design and erect some signage. That was my gateway into community volunteering. Since then I’ve inserted myself into a variety of local initiatives (and been dragged unwillingly into others).
So, while it might involve a lot of detachment, sitting in the dark, pushing pixels around on a screen, I have also found it is possible to actually tangibly increase your living conditions by doing some design in my spare time. I think we all flourish better when surrounded by things that have been crafted, rather than cobbled together. It creates order, signals commitment, and helps tickle the mind into action. You can, with just a little work, actually be a part of galvanising a community, be a force against chaos and decay. The big cities have known this for a while, Manchester’s appointment of Peter Saville being a case in point. But I think the role still exists, even in the smallest communities.
Milton Glaser once said something about the idea of beauty being the driving force that is key to human survival, that being delighted as well as informed makes us better as a species. In today’s world, this force is often harnessed as a means to enhance or invent needs, and thereby sell things, but I think in a local context in can also be about enhancing community. And we could all probably do with a bit more of that.
I had a quiet moment the other night, the pub being a distant fantasy while my snoring bairns were unwittingly relying on me as their sole carer, so obviously I made a silly physics joke into a design. I’m sorry, it’s an illness.
I contemplated just posting it on social media and waiting for the LOLs to roll in (or, more likely, not), but then thought it might make for the kind of fashion statement that makes science nerds so irresistibly appealing in any kind of social or formal occasion.
So by the magic of the internet you can buy a veritable Scheherazade of products bearing this image by visiting this here website. Yes, not just t-shirts like the one shown above, but other useful things, like umbrellas, tote bags, hats and dog bandanas.
(That’s right. There is such a thing as a dog bandana. This is the point to which human evolution has inexorably led us: the mindless, wanton consumption of dog bandanas. I’m pretty sure this is what Bob Thiele and George David Weiss had in mind when they wrote “What a Wonderful World.”)
Anyway, in the spirit of Christmas, Khordad Sal, Yule, Loy Krathong, St. Swithin’s day or whatever delightful ritual you prefer, I’ll be splitting any profits between three excellent and important charities: WellChild (because I’m very fortunate that my kids are healthy, while many aren’t), Sense About Science (because we need evidence based policy), and Code Club (because programming is cool and should be taught to kids).
But most importantly, the t-shirt makes you look like you’ve got tiny green boobs.
Note 2: Alternatively, you could just give some money directly to the charities, and miss out the whole dog bandana farce altogether, and we’ll forget this ever happened.
In a strange turn of events, I was recently asked by a local estate agents if they could use the LOVE NEW MILLS heart design in their new expanded shop. Obviously this initiative is all about improving the local area, so I said yes, with the proviso that they make a large donation to their neighbours, the New Mills Volunteer Centre, that does a great deal of work giving the elderly and vulnerable people in the area any extra help they need, as well as being a bit of a social hub as well. They happily agreed to the donation, and are so pleased with the final result that they intend to make another donation in the New Year.
Not only that, but they asked me to officially open their shop for them. I can only presume the mayor was busy elsewhere. Anyway, it was an enjoyable morning, especially with the addition of some champagne. And we did our obligatory local news posing, and here is the result!
If anyone else would like me to open their shop or business, I am available at very reasonable rates. 😉
I’m a big fan of this Stephen Kijak documentary about Scott Walker, so much so that I have designed some alternative poster artwork (I designed the original theatrical campaign, and the subsequent DVD and blu-ray packaging). I intend to do more of these as time allows. It’s always fun, and a little cathartic, to do something outside of commercial constraints, especially when it’s for something you have strong feelings about.
The first is based on the original image of Scott Walker that I used on the original Special Edition DVD artwork. The second is based on the idea of meat – both in his treatment by the record industry that caused him to become a recluse, and his use of meat as a percussion instrument (possibly as a means of his own catharsis for the former) as shown in the film. It also conjures some of the visceral imagery of the album (The Drift) itself. The final poster uses the imagery of a vinyl record, but re-imagined as the mechanism of a combination lock.
I intend to make these available to buy sometime soon as limited edition prints. In the meantime, you can buy the original artwork I did for the film, wrapped around a blu-ray or DVD here.