The Vinyl Countdown

Some of you may recall a fairly regular feature on my old blog on items from my old vinyl record collection (and my dad’s too). Just as vinyl has made a remarkable return to the fore, I too will be returning to my old stash for the blog.

This has been inspired by my daughter’s recent interest in the format and acquisition of a suitably modern record player with retro styling. I’ve been excited about seeing vinyl albums back in the house – even though are musical tastes are poles apart, I have found much satisfaction looking at her small but growing collection, reading sleeve notes I can actually see without a magnifier!

Just handling records has an emotive pull for me; takes me back to my youth, saving up and heading to the record shop in town to browse through the racks, next to rockers, mods and hippies, all doing the silent shuffle down each column, usually from left to right, trying to time your move to the next column just as the next guy did. It was almost always guys as I remember.

This was in the mid eighties when Top of the Pops and the Sunday night chart rundown was the main place most people heard new music. For some of us, John Peel filled in the gaps, and when I started getting in to punk and indie clubs (I went many times and didn’t get in – bloody puberty!) I really started to hear some interesting and exciting music.

Until then, in the days before instant streaming, I learned about music through artwork. I formed my ideas and opinions on the visual relationship I made with the cover art. I could name you the entire back catalogue of certain bands and describe their individual sleeve design while never having heard any of them.

I was aware of all sorts of music, bands and singers because they were all listed alphabetically, regardless of genre. You had to look through them in order to find something you wanted. You browsed. B-R-O-W-S-E-D! We spent hours in those places, just looking. Absorbing the visuals and slowly piecing together a general, if limited knowledge about music.

I took a few chances too and bought albums purely on the cover art alone. Some were good records too. Others less so. I still loved the covers though.

Its worth noting here that during this time I was studying graphic design at college – I ultimately wanted to design record covers – so I was understandably more turned on the visual elements of music but I know I was not alone.

So it’s back into the garage to dig out a few old favourites. Stay tuned, pop-pickers!

Colour me pink

Each January since the dawn of the 21st century (I’ve always wanted to write that – it sounds better than since the year 2000) there has been a proclamation made by the high council of all things colour – the ‘PANTONE® Color of the Year’  whereby a mysterious coven of colour alchemists (I’m sticking with the British spelling of colour from now on) who have scoured the globe for new and exciting tones, shades and hues, and spent months deliberating, cogitating and very likely bitching about each and every one of them.

After a lengthy and protracted battle of wits, and I dare say a fair amount charm, cunning, logic and subterfuge is deployed by each of the secretive fraternity of colour, just one is chosen. One.

One single, special colour. The colour of the year! The whole year. One special colour for 365 days. Or more for the leap years. Imagine that.

For 2019 that colour is PANTONE® 16-1546 Living Coral. Oh yes. Feast your eyes on this:

Living Coral. I guess just coral wasn’t enough. Or maybe this is a political comment on global warming? Perhaps this is a subliminal prompt to remind us of the alarming rate of coral reef depletion? With experts predicting between 60-90% destruction in the next 20 years this would be a worthy cause.

But no. The only reference to actual coral comes in a couple of short lines:

“In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.”

Oh really? Do go on. But what does the Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute have to say about this? Well, this actually:

Well that’s cleared that up then. I thought it was all getting a bit woolly and soundbitey for a moment.

Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit oversensitive here. I don’t mean to criticize PANTONE® generally, after all, where would we in the creative industries be without our precious swatches and international colour matching system? I shudder to think.

But would it have hurt PANTONE® to link up with environmental action groups and raise awareness. Maybe even donate a little from sales to help slow (and hopefully reverse) this ecological disaster? Encourage designers and their clients to get involved in environmental issues.

No it wouldn’t. This is a real opportunity to get people talking, encourage wider debate and research, and put pressure on governments to legislate against industrial fishing practices, ocean pollution and address global warming seriously. This is an opportunity lost.

I’ve added a few links at the end of this post. A Google search for ‘coral reef depletion/bleaching/conservation’ will bring up plenty more  information. Please take a little time to find out what is happening. Don’t let this happen on our watch, while we fetish over the exciting new applications of the 2019 PANTONE® Color of the Year on Pinterest.

Can we really be this glib about the state of worldwide coral reefs? Is it really more important that their colours are trending this year? Or maybe I am hoping for too much?

I know it’s only January but I expect that the exalted bureaucrats of the Pantone Colour Institute have had a couple of days off to recover and already begun their Sisyphean task to explore strange new colours, seek out new tints and new tones; to boldly go where… etc.

Maybe in 2049 the PANTONE® Color of the Year will be Dead Coral, or Bleached Coral. Just saying.

Coral Reef Conservation
United Nations Environmental Programme
Coral Guardian
Earthwatch Institute

Happy New Year

New years resolutions don’t usually feature in my life, but I have decided to put more effort into blogging after the dismal efforts last year, so I guess this can be classed as a resolution.

I hope you all had a great holiday and that you gave and received a few good pressies too. I did. Oh boy.

I was gifted a wonderful vintage DYMO label maker by my good friend Michelle (who always gives great presents, but this year she outdid herself!) and I want to show it off.

These were also known as ‘Tapewriters’ and I remember having a cheap plastic one in the 1970’s that looked like a Star Trek phaser. This one, however is from 1963 – five years older than me! – and is chrome.

Chrome! And it’s about a foot long too!

It has a purposeful heft and everything operates with a satisfying ‘clunk.’

In itself, I think this is a fantastic present. But it gets better. It came in it’s original packaging – this is new old stock!

It all fits in a nifty stiff leather case complete with carry handle and gold logo print…

And it also has its original shipping packaging too – I have photographed each side and assembled it as a net:

You gotta love those line illustrations!

And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, it had all the original literature with it!

And for the the afficionados of such retro graphics, here is the main leaflet in more detail:

I’ll be clicking away in the corner if anyone wants me.

Thanks Michelle. X


A Long Time Coming

For the last few days I have been posting some small asemic teasers on Instagram. Oh yes, my asemic mojo has been revived… For those of you who are new around here and are not too sure of what asemic is, you might want to read this first. Trust me, it will make sense of what is to follow.

I first wrote about asemics back in 2010 and published my first book ‘Four Fools’ the following year with the intention of creating a tetralogy. The book was a combination of hand written and typographic compositions based upon a style of asemic writing that I had developed independently. I expected it to be of little interest beyond a few of my friends and was surprised to see how well it sold!

In 2012 I published ‘Pabulum’ as the second installment and featured several new typographic and symbolic writing styles, along with new and original calligraphic writing.  The book was more explorative than the original, with more variety in style.

The following year ‘Underovary’ was released. The third book was pared back to two primary scripts, both of which were developed digitally for this purpose, along with a range of brush calligraphy. Having created three books in three years was mentally exhausting and the final installment was put on indefinite hold. Until now.

It’s been 5 years in the making, but the final installment of my tetralogy of asemic novels is now complete. I proudly present ‘An Isochronous Apologue’.

This book was created to complete the series by returning to hand written asemics and calligraphic brushwork with less typographic material than the previous books. There are suggestions of an additional commentary, debate and censorship within the compositions along with articles of evidence and ephemera.

Like the first three books, ‘An Isochronous Apologue’ is an 8×5″ softcover trade book, and at 64 pages is over 20 pages longer than the others.

All four books are now available from those lovely folks at Blurb.

If you like these books, you may also be interested in ‘A Kick in the Eye’ – a collaborative graphic novel created by 12 asemic artists (including myself) which is currently available at Amazon.


Pulping the pulp

I’ve been taking advantage of the recent warm weather to get some pulp prepared ready for some papermaking during the summer. I’ve been storing offcuts, spoils and spares of a wide range of papers and cards that I have used during the last year – mainly cartridge/watercolour stuff as this has good fibres for repulping, but also junk mail, bits of packaging and packing too, along with a few egg boxes for good measure.

I spent a leisurely afternoon in the garden, sat in a deckchair under a wide parasol tearing everything into little bits and dropping them into buckets of water. There may have been a cold drink or two but not from the buckets!

These were left to soak overnight before pulverising in a blender. If you’re interested in the process, I covered it here in some detail back in 2012.

I had quite a lot of blue scrap too and decided to make a separate batch – I may add this to the white during the making process, but I thought I would like to see how dark/rich the blue was before I did:
I had got a decent amount of grey and black scrap too and made a third batch – I have got plans for this but want to darken it up a bit more.

All this is leading up to some new prints which will be for sale in my Etsy shop later in the year. Watch this space.

The Results of the Print Auction

The print auction is over, everything sold has been carefully packaged and dispatched to the successful bidders by a team of dedicated genetically modified pigeons and should be gracing the walls of satisfied printophiles in due course!

The total amount raised by the auction is £162.50 – all of which has been deposited as a donation to my daughter’s fundraising account here.

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part, whether you made a bid (sorry if you missed out!), retweeting and reposting the auctions, the comments and all the ‘likes!’ Thank you.

Print Auction for Charity

I am putting up 10 prints for auction to raise money for East African Playgrounds, a charity that provides playground equipment for disadvantaged communities and refugees in Uganda.

The project provides opportunities for young people to make a real change for children in East Africa and relies on volunteers to work with local people to improve their school facilities and encourage play for young children who are often required to work and have no opportunities to simply be children.

My daughter, currently studying at the University of York, is planning to go to Uganda later this year to take part in such a project and is raising funds by various methods, including a 10k sponsored run! All monies raised from the auction will go directly to this*.

The prints are all from my archive, some of which are the very last ones, never to be reprinted! The work is all my own and each piece is signed and numbered where appropriate. Many of them are prints that have been recorded in progress and featured on my blog.

The first print is a large(ish) screenprint and apart from my own copy, this is the very last one…

I am setting the starting bid for each print at £10 and hope to raise as much money as possible for this.

The auctions will all be on EBAY and will begin on Saturday 3rd March, with a different print launched each day. I will also be posting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – please spread the word!

Charity website:
My daughters fundraising page:

*excluding postage and packaging

Smaller prints will be mailed flat between boards. Larger prints will be mailed in a cardboard tube.

Trumpet Blowing

Hello again. It’s time to blow my own trumpet.

As a freelance designer, I am usually called upon by design agencies to create something that will be a part of a much larger project. Quite often I only see the part of the project I am directly  involved in and sometimes never see the end results. This means that I am somewhat detached from the finished work and unable to show the end result which is why some of the work in my portfolio is presented out of context.

Occasionally I get to do a little more and a little while ago I was engaged by Elmwood NY to produce a series of icons to be used in the background of a rebranding project. This eventually turned out to be almost 500 different icons!

These included:
65+ cups and mugs
30+ coffee paraphernalia
25+ donuts and pastries
30+ other edibles
30+ trees, foliage and flowers
20+ animals
40+ cultural references
20+ coffee spoons
and a large amount of other things too numerous to list!

The final project has been successful at the Mobius Awards, an international competition that recognises excellence in a wide range of creative disciplines (more here – scroll down for the listing).  The project was awarded a First Place Statuette in the Food and Beverage category.

source: Elmwood

More images and information on the project can be found on Elmwood’s website here and here.

You can see the full range of icons in their background compositions by clicking on the image below.

Also, the project won first place in the USGD 2017 Awards and if you look at the credits you’ll even find me there! (Thanks guys!)

It’s great that Elmwood have won these awards for this project and I am proud to have contributed.

There, trumpet blown!

Keeping you covered

More booky goodness from Nick’s collection! This time three German titles with interesting cover papers and neat tipped-in titles. If the internet translation tools are correct, this first one is entitled “Curriculum Vitae of St. Wonnebald Pück”, a light-hearted satire apparently…

Originally published in 1905, this edition is dated 1953 and is printed in the traditional heavy fraktur blackletter, with an insert promoting other titles in roman.

The second is entitled “Mozart on the Way to Prague” and appears to have been in print since it was first published in 1855. There is no date in this book so I would assume this too is from the 1950’s.

The type is a lighter fraktur, and much more elegant to my non-germanic eyes.

The last, in its elegant muted green cover is entitled “The Meadow Book” and appears to be some sort of philosophical musings upon nature…

The title also notes ‘with 16 scissor-cuts by the author’ which are these beautiful silhouettes of meadow herbs:

Two of these books are marked with the name of William Forward of Berlin. I love the evidence of past ownership in books.

And as I mentioned at the start, each cover has a separate title frame stuck to the front. Nice.

Thanks Nick – I’m sure you’ll find more gems as you sort through your collection!


Patterns of Poetry

There was a time when most serious readers had a poetry section on their bookshelves but alas, no more I fear. These few gems were rediscovered by my friend Nick recently and I thought they were beautiful; elegantly understated but playful.

Penguin led in the design of these collections, but other publishers soon caught on and developed their own. A recent visit to a major High Street bookstore showed me that there were precious few poetry books on the shelves, and those that were used banal stock imagery.

So take a deep breath and settle into a moment of calm and let the patterns do their work…

The Browning, Chinese Verse and e.e. cummings each have patterns credited to Stephen Russ, who I assume probably created the rest.