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August 26 2013


Tuts+ & Envato Are Coming to the UK

We’re excited to let you know that we’re currently planning our first Tuts+ and Envato meetup in the UK! We’ll have a great venue, some exciting goodies to give away, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet various Envato staff (as well as fellow Tuts+ readers!). If you’re interested in joining us, read on to find out how you can RSVP, and help us choose the meetup location.

What’s Happening?

Although Envato has organized plenty of meetups to date (in places such as Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Chicago, and New York!), this will be our first official UK event. First and foremost, it’s a brilliant chance to meet lots of like-minded creative professionals and developers, as well as various members of the Tuts+ team. A few of the editors likely to be in attendance are Michael James Williams, Johnny Winter, Sharon Milne, Joel Bankhead, David Appleyard, Ian Yates, Neil Pearce, and one of our top authors — Martin Perhiniak.

We’ll have a fantastic, funky venue, free food and drink, and lots of exciting goodies to give away to attendees. You’ll have the chance to talk to our team about what we’re doing at Tuts+ and Envato, as well as picking their brains on anything from web design and game development, to illustration and electronics!

Just to give you a feel for what to expect, here’s a selection of photos from last year’s meetup in New York:


When and Where?

We’ve fixed a date of Saturday 9th November. It’s far enough away to give you plenty of time to plan, and close enough to the holidays for you to also do a little Christmas shopping before the meetup in the evening! The meetup will be happening late afternoon/evening (although we’ll let you know all the final times closer to the date).

We’re going to be holding it in either London, or Manchester — it’s up to you to decide! If you’re interested in attending, we’d be thrilled to meet you. Submit your RSVP below, and be sure to let us know where you’d like the meetup to be held. We’ll keep you updated as we get closer to the date.

RSVP to Join the Guest List!

Online Form – UK Meetup

We’re incredibly excited to have the opportunity to meet lots of our wonderful readers, and we really hope you’ll be able to make it. Let’s bring Tuts+ and Envato to the UK!

August 02 2013


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July 16 2012


Quick, hide the chips

It wasn’t enough that “brand police” check every bathroom in every Olympic venue removing or taping over manufacturers’ logos (on soap dispensers, wash basins and toilets).

“At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving chips to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald’s.”

Quoted from The Independent.

Fish and chips in newspaper
Fish and chips ad by Joe Public, via Ads of the World

The one exception is the fish and chips combo, seemingly allowed.

In addition, during London 2012 businesses can’t have these banned words in their advertising: “gold”, “silver”, “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”.

I wouldn’t be as bothered if more of the bill was footed by corporate sponsors, but…

“Some £1.4bn of the Games’ £11.4bn budget comes from private sector sponsors.”

That’s £10bn of public funding, despite an initial estimated total cost of £2.375bn (PDF).

Let’s just close the blinds and watch films.

The Truth About The Branding Of The Games, on Sky News
Olympic ring bagels banned from cafe window, on Mail Online

Identity Designed

Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

Related posts worth a look

April 28 2011


UX London 2011 In Review

One of the biggest UX events of the year recently came and passed. Were you there? In case you weren’t, we’ve compiled a two-part writeup sharing all that we learned. Here’s our summary of this year’s UX London event.

To help report from the front lines, I recruited local, Boston-based designer, Sean Duhame. His background in set design and prop construction – and his degree in illustration – ensured that we gave readers markedly different perspectives on the event. Sean’s coverage of the UX London workshops will follow in a later article.

Getting there

Getting over to jolly ol’ London proved quite simple, despite a few hiccups. Sean had never been to the UK before and I booked two separate, overnight flights to London’s Heathrow airport. Naturally, we departed from Boston on Monday evening to arrive dreadfully early on Tuesday morning (UK is 5 hours ahead of us on the East Coast). That alone wouldn’t have been too bad, except that I realized our cell phones didn’t work only after we arrived. D’oh. We were subsequently left to wander around Heathrow airport looking for one another, all on very little sleep.

Pro tip: If you’re flying from the United States to the UK with a group, consider a more defined meeting point than “we’ll figure it out when we get there.”

We eventually did find one another, though. Eighteen pounds (30-ish dollars) and a short taxi ride later we had arrived. And boy, was it beautiful.

Getting settled

As soon as you set foot in The Cumberland Hotel, it’s obvious that ClearLeft has paired a great event with a great venue. Nestled comfortably next to London’s Marble Arch (not to mention an ample shopping district) with convenient access to the London Underground, The Cumberland has it all – even moderately-hard-to-use, slightly over-designed bathroom fixtures! Fixtures notwithstanding, the art-deco inspired Cumberland Hotel conveys an air of prestige that all attendees will appreciate.

There’s only two other mentionables regarding the Cumberland Hotel. First, the wireless in the hotel is paid-access only. Because the conference didn’t begin until Wednesday, this left the early birds wanting for an entire day. Not to worry, though; there’s a coffee shop around the corner with free access. Additionally, ClearLeft provides free wifi on the days of the event.

Second, it worth be noting that the coffee served at the event is quite good. On most days it was served piping hot, strong and delicious. Maybe it’s just because I attend more than a couple of conferences throughout the year, but the quality of a conference’s coffee matters to me. Three cheers to both The Cumberland Hotel and ClearLeft for hitting a home run there.

Getting Started

The morning of, a full, English breakfast was included for those that stayed at the Cumberland. For those that didn’t, pastries and coffee fit the bill. Around 9am Andy Budd welcomed everyone to the event and prepped us all on the massive learning ahead.

The rest, as they say, is history. Sean and I live-tweeted updates from the @uxboothlive twitter account. (For those of who that tuned in: what did you make of it?) I noticed, also, that the event was collaboratively outlined and added to over on See UX London 2011′s Lanyrd page for a crowd-sourced version of this writeup.

Without further adieu, though, here’s my account of the presentations from the second row of UX London, 2011:

Alan Cooper

These Sketch notes illustrate some Alan’s major points: efficiency, collaboration, and autonomy.

© Amanda Wright 2011. Used with permission.

Alan’s (@mralancooper) presentation was the perfect way to begin this year’s UX London event. Inspiring as it was insightful, Alan’s “It’s All Us,” described where we’ve come from, the challenges we presently face, and what we’re going up against as a design community. It’s worth noting how useful this sort of recap is for those of us who are new to this profession. The software world has seen a tectonic shift in the past two decades, whether we were there for it or not.

Alan called our attention to its effects. An economy of atoms – based on efficiency – has given way to an economy of bits – based on efficacy. Management structures that worked for the former don’t necessarily hold for the latter. Today, our products are defined what makes them different. And “you can’t get that right [by managing] from a distance,” Alan says.

Successful software teams marry the best parts of Interaction design and Agile development processes to manage themselves. The natural yin/yang struggle between them adds a healthy tension – and a means of accountability – to the creative process. Today’s contemporary, agile approach reintegrates deciding and doing. It doesn’t need yesterday’s managers. And therein lies our call to action: “it’s all us, there’s no ‘them.’”

Lou Rosenfeld

Promptly after Alan finished his presentation on the possibilities afforded to today’s designers, Lou (@lourosenfeld) – of Polarbear book and Rosenfeld media fame – took the stage and changed our minds regarding the “traditional” design process.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lou Rosenfeld and Alan Cooper, both of these presenters are luminaries in the world of UX Design. They’ve each written a landmark textbook in their respective fields. But whereas their views often overlap with regards to user-centered design, their presentations could not have differed more. In contrast to the empowering, even liberating views proffered by Mr. Alan Cooper, Lou’s “Redesign Must Die” forced us to ask some very tough questions.

Namely, Lou contends that some of today’s laziest designers offer their clients (what amounts to) little more than half-baked redesigns of their existing sites. He says this from experience, at least vicariously. His own alma mater, The University of Michigan, has tried over 12 different variations of their first website with no end in sight.

If it’s a universally acknowledged project anti-pattern, why does it persist?

The problem with the “redesign it” approach is that its easy to prescribe and hard to avoid (at least from a competitive standpoint). Redesigns can successfully ignore the difficult, systemic issues that often lie beneath our clients’ more readily apparent woes.

Lou explains that we must collectively refine our client’s approach to Design rather than approach their design outright. If it’s the right thing to do we should help clients dive deeper and refine what’s they’ve already got. Lou reminds us that “[websites] are moving targets built upon moving targets. Their problems… their goals, necessarily change based on the context of the design effort.” By helping our clients understand the design context they embody, we can move them to make more prudent decisions long after we’ve walked away.

Kim Goodwin

Kim Goodwin

A former VP of Design at Cooper (Mr. Alan Cooper’s firm), Kim spends her days providing research, design, coaching and training to a variety of clients – all the more reason for freelance and in-house designers alike to listen up. Fortunately, this couldn’t have been easier. Because Kim spends her days working with clients both big and small, her presentational style is altogether relaxed and engaging.

In Making Personas Work… Without Breaking the Bank, Kim accompanied her talk with no less than sixteen (16!) persona case studies – about fifteen (15) failed attempts and one (1) successful one. Ouch. Common issues – such as over or under budgeting, lack of trust or buy-in, and documentation to excess – were all addressed.

To help us derive better personas, Kim recommends we:

  • Derive personas (and test them) based on behavior rather than job titles or demographics.
  • Consider a staged approach for larger research projects, whereby existing or initial personas inform future ones.
  • Be mindful. Personas are only as good as the change they facilitate. Don’t create them if they won’t stick.
  • Be rigorous. Coach your team in order to create a shared understanding of what personas can and can’t do.
  • Budget wisely. Spend money on your designs rather than your design tools.

The title of Kim’s talk comes from a Forrester research study on personas, conducted in 2003. In their report, Forrester found that not only were one third of the people surveyed using Personas unhappy with them, the average cost of developing Personas was around $80,000 dollars. Eighty thousand dollars? Yikes! Kim says that clients with those kinds of research budgets shouldn’t hesitate to contact her so that she can change their minds.

Oliver King

Oliver, Oliver King. What a curious presentation you gave. For more than a few of us in the room, Oliver’s bright vision for the future of Service Design was vaguely reminiscent of past Interaction and IA Summit events. Isn’t this all the same stuff as UX Design? Well, not exactly. But, then again, that’s the point of Oliver’s talk “Service Design and User Experience: same or different,” to elicit this very question.

Because both Service Design (SD) and User Experience Design (UXD) deal with the emotional and functional affects of our design artifacts – in other words, what happens as a consequence of the things we create – there are dozens of similarities between them. Oliver says there is no mistaking that UXD, SD, product design, etc. are all on converging paths. Where they differ, however, are their respective approaches.

Service designers (in much the same fashion as Lou advocates…), look at an organization’s procedural hierarchy; specifically, how variables at one level affect the whole. They then hypothesize how to affect the change they want, play with the variables, and observe/modify their impact. Yes, I said play. Service designers occasionally employ improvisational acting to see how curious differences affect an entire system.

Service Designers are called upon to refine any a number of processes that run an organization. Oliver points out that, to the untrained eye, Service Designers will often appear to be management consultants. However, whereas management consultants would focus on managers as their element of change, Service Designers are more apt to designate a Call Center employee, for example.

Although the subject of Oliver’s presentation was difficult (I imagine) for most in the room to contend with, it was nonetheless valuable and relevant. Oliver showed SD’s impact throughout. When service designers were called in to overhaul the BBC 2′s entire listener engagement program, their comprehensive, user-centered process was the only way to find out. And that’s something everyone can agree on.

These Sketch notes illustrate some Kate’s major points: strategy, clarity, and authenticity.

© Amanda Wright 2011. Used with permission.

Kate Rutter

Returning from lunch, it was Kate Rutter’s Strategy Patois: Language and Tools to Connect Design and Business Value that got everyone back on track. In many ways, Kate’s presentation reminded me of Sarah Nelson’s 10 Secrets from a UX Design Strategist’s Toolbox, which I first saw at An Event Apart San Francisco back in December, 2009. Both of these women insist that facilitating collaborative design is essential to cementing design’s credibility, its viability, within an organization’s process – and I couldn’t agree more. “Your colleagues [simply] won’t throw their weight behind something they don’t believe in,” she adds.

If you’re as curious as to where the title comes from as I was, patois is a word of French origin. You can kind of kind of think of it as a niche of the vernacular. In other words, jargon. We’ve got it; our managers have it; and it’s time we shared it.

Another undercurrent to Kate’s talk was that designers shouldn’t focus too much on their own panache. Instead, they do well to consider how their artifacts affect their company’s product strategy. Strategic, actionable deliverables are infinitely more valuable than hi-resolution, beautiful ones because they serve as conversation pieces; they evoke forward-thinking responses. Kate recommends that we use Isikawa diagrams, product evolution maps, and prioritization maps as jumping off points.

By tempering the change we seek with empathy for our business-minded colleagues, we actually gain more control over leading our company’s design charge. In the end, Kate reminds us to practice our elevator pitch, find a business buddy to pitch ideas to, and, most importantly, not to lose our souls.

Robert Fabricant

The penultimate presentation, Robert Fabricant’s The Behaviour Chain provided a bevy of “heady” issues for our altogether fatigued minds. Therein, Robert addressed Interaction Design, or “design with a capitol D.” This vantage point that was first brought to my attention in Jon Kolko’s wonderful book Thoughts on Interaction Design. To wit:

Interaction Design is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, service, or system. This dialogue is usually found in the world of behavior—the way someone may hold his knife and fork while cutting into a steak, or the way one chooses to purchase a beautiful chair, trading off cost for beauty or brand for convenience. Structuring dialogue is difficult, as it occurs in a fourth dimension—over time.

Jon Kolko, Thoughts on Interaction Design

Time, then, was a recurrent theme throughout the presentation.

Robert began his talk by asking for a show of hands: “Do you work online?” “Do you work in mobile services?” “Do you design physical products? environments? processes?” Robert’s line of questioning suggests that Design is a universal agent of change. We – the designers – are only bound by our ability to transcend our own labels and work outside of our media. In his own words, “we’re responsible for shaping the connective tissues that binds [our] systems together.”

© Amanda Wright 2011. Used with permission.

Robert pointed to powerful examples of the cultural impact of design: graphic equalizers have forever changed how we visualize music and ZipCar has forever changed how people think about renting cars. Robert’s own work, too, manifests change. His team, Frog Design, recently created a device that allows people in South Africa to respond to their own AIDS and HIV concerns in a private, prudent way. Although the path that led them to their final product was certainly protracted, its results were readily apparent.

In the wider context, designers are all-too-often forgotten about as agents of change – their designs get all the attention. When we look for the greater impact of design, though, it lies not in fashion or fad. Instead, it’s in behavior, in a cultural, cognitive shift. Robert concludes with an apt quote from fellow UX Designer Joshua Porter: “What you are seeing is [the change] you designed for.”

Matt Jones

Even before Matt Jones got settled onstage, he openly acknowledged that he served as UX London’s beer barrier. “You know that guy standing between the audience and the pub? Yeah, that’s me,” he said. Therefore, Matt promised to make it brief. Given the upbeat timbre of his presentation, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, though, I doubt anyone noticed if he went a little long.

Matt Jones blocked us from beer such as this.

© William Cho 2011. Used with permission.

Jones exudes a quirky vibe as he speaks. Standing on the balls of his feet, he sort of bounces around stage, calling to and fro a wide variety of sights and sounds to pique your interest and direct your thoughts. Curiosities witnessed include: A robot that emotes your iChat status (Matt made this just for fun), a video of Mary Poppins (“Imagine she’s a time traveller and you end up with a cross between Neo and Sarah Conner,” Matt says), a clip of R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars, a video of robots playing tennis, and a video of Roombas carrying kittens.

Throughout his talk, Matt encouraged designers to reconsider how far we must go to create objects to which people will relate. All of the sights and sounds Matt presented shared this common thread. Sure they’re silly and they’re simple but, more importantly, they’re captivating.

Matt notes that the brains, the computer chips, inside GoGo Pets (a toy similar to a Furbie) cost about $0.07, yet people play with them for months. Why? “Instead of designing for artificial intelligence, we’ve designed for art. We’ve designed for empathy,” he says. Matt believes that designers have a responsibility for playing with things and discovering how people will respond.

Our role, then, is not so much to design a predictable system but to cultivate an adapting, changing entity. One of Matt’s favorite quotes is: “Lying about the future makes history.” Merely creating the conditions for interpretation, for storytelling cultivates empathy. It allows people attach their own meaning to the artifacts we create.

For more information on this topic, Matt recommends the book after which his presentation was named: “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” by Ted Chiang. There’s also another slightly-obscure blog that I can’t remember. Does anyone have this?

Getting excited

What more is there to say? My UX London experience was something I’ll never forget. In between the fantastic presentations and the thorough, hands-on workshops, there was bowling, karaoke, and some great, low-key parties. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better place for experience designers to share their passion.

One of the best parts about the event was its atmosphere. Working as a consultant on many of my projects, I find that I have to explain what I do again and again. No more at UX London. People there get it and want to engage in progressive conversations. By the end of the first day my head was spinning. My wrists were cramping, too, but I couldn’t wait to get up and do it all over again.

Your thoughts?

One final question for you guys: if you attended, what was the most important thing you learned? If you didn’t, what did you miss that we didn’t cover?

Books mentioned during the event

Advertise here with BSA

November 06 2009


The Beauty of London in Design

Smashing-magazine-advertisement in The Beauty of London in Design
 in The Beauty of London in Design  in The Beauty of London in Design  in The Beauty of London in Design

Spacer in The Beauty of London in Design

“There is no specific London style.” At least that’s what the ‘Super Contemporary’ show at London’s Design Museum proclaims. During an exploration of London’s art and design scene in September 2009, what did emerge was a city with a unique sense of its own personality and history, a fertile hub of international thinkers, and a community working towards a future that is designed to be interactive, environmentally responsible, and prosperous.

Here is a look at the visual personality of London, based on visits to the city’s major art museums, attendance at the 2009 London Design Festival, and interviews with artists and designers who call the great city home.

Identity of a City

Street Style

Brody in The Beauty of London in Design

Neville Brody served as Art Director at The Face and Arena.

London magazines including The Face, i-D, Blitz, and Arena became major influences on international design during the eighties and nineties. The Face was known as a showcase of London street style and experimental graphic design during Neville Brody’s tenure as Art Director from 1982-86. Brody incorporated hand-drawn typefaces and custom graphic symbols into his page layouts. His work for The Face – and later, Arena – put an emphasis on striking photography, the impact of simplicity, and occasionally jarring juxtapositions of text and imagery. Brody is responsible for fonts including Industria (designed for The Face) and Arcadia (designed for Arena).


Truman in The Beauty of London in Design

Supermundane’s ‘Truman’ font, based on the bricks of the Truman Brewery tower

One example of a physical representation of London in design is the Truman font designed by illustrator and designer Supermundane, a.k.a. Rob Lowe. The font is based on the iconic tower of the Truman Brewery, located in East London. “The reason I did that was because I couldn’t believe anybody else hadn’t done it,” Mr. Lowe says of the project. “(The tower) is just sittin’ there!”

Typography in The Beauty of London in Design

Public street signage around town.

London as an International Hub

London is a metropolis that is proud to be composed of international residents and ideas. The 2009 London Design Festival featured a great diversity of artistic fields (product design, furniture design, digital media) represented by artists from all over the world. The ‘Make Believe’ show presented by Goldsmiths, University of London featured emerging designers who came to London from locales including India, California, Switzerland and Bangkok. All designers seemed to bring their unique cultural perspective to their work; one even boasts of his quadri-lingual skills in his bio.


“It’s a city steeped in history and heritage,” says London-based photographer Haider Kikabhoy. It is impossible to review London’s entire art and design legacy here, so two elements of its history have been chosen: a legend from a distant era and a cultural phenomenon from the recent past.

“England’s First Great Native-Born Painter”

Hogarth in The Beauty of London in Design

A self portrait by William Hogarth (left) and an example of ‘the line of beauty’ in his work (right)

According to the Tate Britain Museum, William Hogarth is “England’s first great native-born painter.” His depictions of London life tell visual stories about the lives of archetypal characters: the harlot, the apprentice, the drunk. He symbolized his unique theories on artistic beauty with an icon he called ‘the line of beauty,’ a curved, serpentine line which can be seen over the palette in his self portrait (above left) and in compositions of his such as Beer Street (above right). Hogarth incorporated this element in his compositions because he believed that this curved, S-shaped line excited the viewer’s eye with its energetic movement (as opposed to straight lines or right angles).

Hogarth is also considered a pioneer of sequential images and therefore a forefather of the narrative structure used in comic books. One example in Hogarth’s work is his series ‘A Rake’s Progress,’ which includes eight paintings that tell a story when viewed sequentially.

Punk Rock: High Versus Low

The often tense relationship between upper and lower classes has been a dominant theme in English culture for centuries. Many entertainers and designers have relished the act of thumbing their nose at a perceived snobbery amongst royalty and the upper class. No one did it better than the punk rock movement that blossomed in England during the 1970’s. The impact of punk has made an indelible impression on generations of designers that have come since. Acclaimed graphic designer Neville Brody said that punk was “the most influential thing that happened to me in London.”

Reid Designs in The Beauty of London in Design

Two Sex Pistols designs by Jamie Reid

Punk design was dominated by D.I.Y. (do it yourself) techniques, outrageous subject matter, collage, photocopied imagery, defaced images, and basically any technique that broke the rules or seized the viewer’s attention. Punk fanzines like Sniffin’ Glue empowered amateur designers and liberated audiences from the limitations of mainstream music media. Jamie Reid’s ‘ransom note’ typography for the Sex Pistols seemed to capture the spirit of the movement.

Clash Elvis in The Beauty of London in Design

Elvis’ debut record; London Calling by The Clash

The cover of The Clash’s London Calling (1979) was partially based on the cover of Elvis Presley’s 1954 debut. The London Calling cover was designed by Ray Lowry with a photograph by Pennie Smith. The typography and colors of the two records are nearly identical, but Elvis is pictured playing his guitar while Clash bassist Paul Simonon is smashing his. The design pays mildly satirical homage to the Presley cover while signaling the change that London Calling represented in music: The Clash had come to destroy their audience’s perception of rock and roll.

Pentagram: London Roots, London Presence

Merger2 in The Beauty of London in Design

This announcement for the merger of designers Fletcher, Forbes & Gill (1962) features split pages so that photos of the three men can be merged. A different incarnation of this design firm would become Pentagram in 1972

London Roots

Pentagram was formed in London in 1972. The studio began as Fletcher/Forbes/Gill, but after aquiring and losing several members, they tired of altering the name of the firm. Alan Fletcher chose the name Pentagram – a star with five points to symbolize the partners – after reading a book on witchcraft. The acclaimed design firm has since opened offices in New York, San Francisco, Austin and Berlin. Pentagram was the world’s first multidisciplinary studio; its partners work independently but share knowledge, experience, and the legacy of the brand name. The formation of this global organization in London seems to symbolize the city’s thirst for international ideas and its expansive creative curiosity.

Bus in The Beauty of London in Design

A clever footwear advertisement by Fletcher/Forbes/Gill on the side of a bus

The Influential Career of Alan Fletcher

Fletcher2 in The Beauty of London in Design

Two designs by Alan Fletcher: his logo for the Victoria & Albert museum (1989), and an illustration of a glass of wine from his classic design book, The Art of Looking Sideways

Graphic design legend Alan Fletcher was one of the founding members of Pentagram in London in 1972. One of the most influential designers in history, he was once called “the most highly regarded graphic designer of his generation” by The Daily Telegraph. Fletcher had a gift for cleverness and simplicity. His illustration of a glass of wine (above) uses only the simplest shapes to convey form and perspective.

Pentagram at the London Design Festival 2009

Festival in The Beauty of London in Design

Logo and identity of the 2009 London Design Festival, designed by Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa

Today, Pentagram’s influence is indelible and ubiquitious. The 2009 London Design Festival included identity and collateral materials designed by Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa as well as a ‘London Posters’ show curated in part by Mr. Lippa at the Victoria & Albert museum – an institution whose logo was designed by Alan Fletcher.

An Eye on the Future

A thorough exploration of the London art and design community in September 2009 has revealed a glimpse at what’s to come. Here is a look at the designers who are leading the way as well as the themes that emerge in their work.

‘London Posters’ at The London Design Festival 2009

Posters4 in The Beauty of London in Design

Two posters from the ‘London Posters’ exhibit. Designs by Andy Altmann, Why Not Associates (left), and Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell, FUEL (right).

Some of the brightest talent in today’s London design community was on display at the ‘London Posters’ show in the London Design Festival. The show was curated by Domenic Lippa and Sir John Sorrell, Chairman of the London Design Festival. According to Mr.Lippa, the show was “a reflection of how our capital is seen by some of the country’s most renowned graphic designers… certain themes cropped up frequently – transport, location, structure, heritage and even love.”

Posters2 in The Beauty of London in Design

Two posters from the ‘London Posters’ exhibit. Designs by Morag Myerscough, Studio Myerscough (left), and Jonathan Ellery, Browns.

Another element present in the work was the renowned dry British sense of humor. The poster by Morag Myerscough, Studio Myerscough (above left), reads, “London BORN London BRED until I DIE and then I’m DEAD.” Using stark photography and typography, the poster conveys London pride, playful morbidity, and a delight in language and rhyme.

London Goes Green

London hopes to lead the way to a more environmentally sound future. Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham remarked on the issue of climate change during a London event held by British Airways in September. “The answer to this issue is science,” he said, and went on to remark that leading economies of the world like the U.S. and the U.K. made their wealth while polluting the Earth, so we should lead on solving the problem.

Designers at the ‘Make Believe’ show presented by Goldsmiths, University of London sought innovative ways to approach environmental topics. Mina Papathanasiou proposed a structural system to build housing that would function “as a living organism, while re-using and recycling construction materials.” Among her innovations were roof tiles designed to collect rain water for redistribution throughout the housing structure.


Interactivity was another theme that emerged at the London Design Festival. Visitors at the Victoria & Albert museum were invited to draw ceramics and the results were put on display. Children visiting a boutique called Few and Far were invited to participate in a drawing competition affiliated with illustrator Christopher Brown. But the most exciting interactive element of the festival was Kioskiosk (pictured below), created by designer Wayne Hemingway.

Kioskiosk in The Beauty of London in Design

Although Kioskiosk was featured in the ‘Supercontemporary’ show at the Design Museum, its main component is an actual shop where start-up designers sell their wares in a public venue. Hemingway’s goal was to encourage business growth by providing low-rent or free space to designers and entrepreneurs who face difficult economic times and high London rents. This project gives back to British design community by supporting its artists. It also provides an exciting new way for shoppers and art lovers to interact with featured participants like SonoDesign and The Arthouse. Kioskiosk is now on tour.

Seventeen British Artists and Designers You Should Know

This list has been assembled to inspire and inform. It is not an attempt to summarize the entirety of a nation’s visual arts. The selections range in their style, era, and cultural impact. A certain continuum of creativity is evident: Bacon had a profound influence on Hirst, Hockney extolls the virtues of Turner, and so on.

Francis Bacon

Bacon2 in The Beauty of London in Design

Irish-born painter Francis Bacon worked in London for much of his life and is known for his gruesome, nihilistic imagery. “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them like a snail,” Bacon said of his work, “leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of the past events as the snail leaves its slime.”


Fuel in The Beauty of London in Design

Two books designed and published by FUEL

Since 1991, graphic designers Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell have worked together as FUEL. The designers split their time between commercial work (album covers for The Thrills, film titles for Lost in Translation) and self-initiated projects like the publication of their own magazine. In an interview with the Design Museum, FUEL cite The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia (on which they served as editors, designers, and publishers) as one of their favorite projects. The series of books serves as an ethnographic study and includes thousands of tattoos accumulated by author and former prison warden Danzig Baldaev.

Damien Hirst

Shark in The Beauty of London in Design

Hirst’s installation piece The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (above) features a 13-foot tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde. The piece shocked the London public during its first display (at the Saatchi Gallery in 1992) and launched Hirst to international fame. The piece is indicative of Hirst’s sense of morbid, outrageous humor.

John Everett Millais

Millais Ophelia in The Beauty of London in Design

John Everett Millais’ painting Ophelia (1851-52) is an example of the great British tradition of Shakespeare as subject matter for painting. Millais’ dedication to capturing every lush, vivid detail of the wooded scene was so intense that he sat painting by a stream in conditions of great discomfort for nearly five months. Ophelia is pictured holding flowers that she herself listed during her mad scene (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5).

Edward Johnston

Underground in The Beauty of London in Design

The logo and typeface of the London Underground were designed by Edward Johnston. The logo (or ’roundel’) has become something of an international symbol for London.

Calligrapher and typographer Edward Johnston is responsible for the logo and font that have graced the London Underground for almost a century. In 1915, Johnston was commissioned to design the font by Frank Pick, the first Chief Executive of London Transport. For his ultra-modern sans-serif font, Johnston looked to a few unlikely sources for inspiration: calligraphy and Classical Roman capitals. The influence of Roman typography is evident in the perfect circle of his capital ‘O’ and the square outline of his capital ‘M.’ The diamond-shaped dot (or ‘tittle’) above the lowercase ‘i’ and ‘j’ resembles the dots made on paper by a square-nibbed pen. The result is a font that has become an influential classic due to its modern nature and profound communicative power. Johnston is author of the revered design textbook Writing & Illuminating & Lettering.

J.M.W. Turner

Buttermere in The Beauty of London in Design

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) has been called “Britain’s greatest artist” by The Times and was even dubbed ‘the Shakespeare of landscape’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Turner’s gift for graceful light and sublime color helped him elevate the landscape to an artistic height that had previously been reserved for historical painting.

John Isaacs

Isaacs in The Beauty of London in Design

Untitled (What Makes Certain), 1995

John Isaacs has shown work at London’s Saatchi Gallery along with other artists affiliated with the so-called ‘Young British Artists’ that included Damien Hirst in the 1990’s. Isaacs’ work suggests an insidious danger lying in wait just beneath the surface of conventional reality.


Bibliotheque in The Beauty of London in Design

This gallery guide accompanied the Cold War Modern exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Bibliothèque designed the guide and other exhibition materials.

A glance through the portfolio of graphic design firm Bibliothèque reveals a consistency in the style and quality of their work. Although their clients vary from a manufacturer of electrical components to a company that makes mattresses for babies, Bibliothèque brings an austere simplicity to each project. Another unifying feature of their work is a keen understanding of color: many projects include a limited palette employed in bold compositions.

David Hockney

Hockney in The Beauty of London in Design

Pool With Two Figures, 1971

David Hockney is “the most enduring British artist” according to The Times. An important contributor to the Pop Art movement, Hockney is an artist known for painting, photography, printmaking, chain-smoking, and conspiracy theories. He was born and educated in England, but some of his most famous works depict the sunny, laid-back lifestyle that he experienced while living in California.

Chris Cunningham

Cunningham in The Beauty of London in Design

Stills from Aphex Twin’s ‘Come to Daddy’ video, directed by Chris Cunningham

Chris Cunningham is a filmmaker, video artist, and photographer. The twisted, disturbing style of his music videos for Aphex Twin and Squarepusher have made the director infamous, although he claims to find his imagery more “silly” than scary. Robotics and anatomy emerge as themes in Cunningham’s work, and he often works in color palettes that are cold, muted, or spare. Cunningham’s recent experimental short film Rubber Johnny applies inane, childlike humor to spazzed-out scenes of a disabled mutant dancing in darkness. It’s a truly bizarre vision that is exciting for its sheer individuality.

William Blake

Blake in The Beauty of London in Design

Plate 1 from Europe a Prophecy, 1824

According to Andrew Wilton’s Five Centuries of British Painting, William Blake was a “maverick rebel” best known for his historical paintings of narrative subjects from The Bible and Paradise Lost. Although he failed to attract many patrons during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a key figure in histories of both poetry and the visual arts. His work was motivated by grandiose creation myths and also by visions he claimed to have seen of Gods, angels, and other spirits throughout his life. To William Blake, the imagination was ‘the body of God.’

Gilbert & George

Existers in The Beauty of London in Design

Existers, 1984

Since the 1960’s, the duo Gilbert & George have been producing provocative, ambitious work from London’s East End – their home and an area they consider a microcosm of the world at large. Their career has been a subversive exercise in branding; the artists incorporated themselves into their body of work as ‘living sculptures’ and thereby “sacrificed their individual identities to art,” according to the Tate Britain.

Lucian Freud

Freud3 in The Beauty of London in Design

Girl with Roses, 1948

Lucian Freud was born to Jewish parents in Germany during the winter of 1922. Eleven years later, Lucian and his family moved to England in order to escape the rise of Nazism. The anxiety and despair of war and the Holocaust would inform some of the painter’s greatest works.

Girl with Roses (above) is a portrait imbued with fear and discomfort. The subject is the painter’s wife, Kitty, who clutches her roses so hard that she appears to have broken one. The sensation of the thorns in her grasp is almost palpable. Her enlarged eyes are wide pools of angst – what does she see that we cannot?


Airside in The Beauty of London in Design

Airside’s logo for the Pop Art gallery at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Airside is a “creative agency working across the disciplines of graphic design, illustration, digital, interactive and moving image.” Airside co-founder Fred Deakin says, “we have a real pride in bouncing around different media.” In early 2009, Airside designed the identity for a Greenpeace initiative called Airplot. Airside shared some of their design process on their blog and the work was featured on notable design sites including Brand New and Logo Design Love.

Clare Leighton

Leighton in The Beauty of London in Design

Breadline, New York 1932

Clare Leighton devoted her life to the medium of wood engraving, cultivating a style of great detail and heavy contrast. Born in London, she later moved to America. In Breadline, New York, she captures the grim mood of depression-era Manhattan. The heavy contrast of light and dark mirrors the contrast between the anonymous poor and the shimmering metropolis that looms over them like an alien landscape.

The Vorticists

Blast in The Beauty of London in Design

Cover of the first issue of Blast magazine, 1914

Vorticism formed in 1914, spurred partially in response to Futurism. The debut issue of Blast magazine shocked with its bold pink cover and huge, diagonally-set type. Along with publications from other groups, notably Fluxus, it is a precursor to the radical printing techniques and typographic experimentation of the punk ‘zine. Author Richard Hollis remarks in Graphic Design: A Concise History that the pages of Blast “exhanged symmetry for the consciously crude layout of popular advertisements,” thereby solidifying the Vorticists as the first in Britain to exploit typographic form at a time when “tradition remained the most powerful influence in Britian.”

William Morris

Morris in The Beauty of London in Design

‘Bird’ textile design by William Morris, 1878

William Morris was a central figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was led by artists and designers who romanticized personal crafstmanship while rejecting Victorian-era opulence and an age of mechanical reproduction ushered in by the Industrial Revolution. In 1861, Morris and several colleagues founded a prolific decorative arts firm that produced stained glass, metal work, printed paper, tapestries, decorative carvings, and more. Morris himself was a master of two-dimensional design and his work should prove inspirational to any contemporary graphic designer. In textiles like the one pictured above, Morris searched for the “force, purity, and elegance of the silhouette of the objects represented.” He also sought to return to the “crispness and abundance of beautiful detail which was the especial characteristic of fully developed Medieval Art.”

Further Resources

© Dan Redding for Smashing Magazine, 2009. | Permalink | 14 comments | Add to | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
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