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.

Saturday night at the movies…

Well, Sunday morning, actually, to catch an early tour around King’s Lynn’s Majestic Cinema, a lovely late 1920’s building with an arched entrance and copper domed clock tower.

Even before you get in the door you are confronted by lovely mosaic tiles – when I’ve mentioned this to people I have found that many regular cinema goers were completely unaware of this! There are also some delicate stained glass panels above the doors too. You don’t get entrances like this at your newfangled multiplex cinema experience, do you?

After a tour of the projection rooms, sadly not worth recording here*, we headed for the tower (the bit I was most interested in because I had been informed that there were original movie posters pasted on the walls. First was an old classic that probably wouldn’t stand up to modern scrutiny…

Another classic that had been elegantly enhanced by an electrician at some point.

I bet you were thinking “Zibber zibber zum” weren’t you?

After the fiddler comes the King! I love the headline – HIS NEWEST – HIS BIGGEST! Ironically though, not his best!

A little composite was at the top of the stairs…

I love the moustache – we don’t seem to do this anymore…

The Robert Redford graphic appears to have been cut from a Great Waldo Pepper poster which appear to be fetching decent money these days. D’oh!

And my favourite here was the overlayed, peeling poster for The Magnificent Seven:

A little research revealed that the poster below was The Intelligence Men by Morecambe and Wise – I was hoping it was going to be The Magnificent Two, but that was a wish too far!

Anyway, if you’re interested in the art of movie posters there are a couple of documentaries worth looking out for:
24×36: A Film About Movie Posters and Drew: The Man Behind The Poster.

*Alas, the the cinema has no team of sweaty projectionists changing vast spools of 35mm film – it’s all digital these days. Plug and play. No romance. A sign of the times…

It’s on the cards

Playing cards are often overlooked for their graphic qualities, probably because of the familiarity and repetition of symbols and numbers. Granted, not all sets of playing cards are graphically distinctive and so they all tend be much of a muchness.

I’ve recently acquired a few packs of cards, all of varying vintage, and enjoyed examining their details, so I thought I would share a few images with you. The first two packs are not traditional playing cards, but are a card game called Lexicon that originated in the 1930’s.

This set comes in a nifty gold slipcase but I am not certain that this is original as the cards are a little shorter and do not fit as snugly as they ought to. The cards are nice, and there are a few additions to the main deck:

This next pack is definitely original and wears its vintage with distinction! I’m not able to date the packs, but I would guess that they are both quite early – maybe late 1930’s/early 1940’s.

This pack also contained the original rules sheet!

The next pack is a luxury faux snakeskin double pack…

With two pristine packs of corporate branded playing cards of the traditional variety. The company, British Insulated Callanders Construction Company Limited has a long and varied history, and although no longer a going concern, one of its subsidiaries – Balfour Beatty – is still going strong.

The design is very mid century modern and was probably produced for the Festival of Britain in 1951…

The last pack is an Esso promotional pack with the name of the dealer neatly letterpressed on the front.

The real delight is the illustration that adorns the back of the cards, the legendary D-Type Jaguar driven by Mike Hawthorne, probably to celebrate his win at Le Mans in 1955. Lovely.

Raise your glasses

I’ve been releasing teaser images of this project in progress on Twitter and Instagram as well as here and have received a fair bit of interest so far, so I am delighted to reveal the complete project.

One of the main design elements of the design is the typography, loosely based on English uncial scripts of found on manuscripts and religious documents. I got a little carried away and developed a whole range of ligatures that I didn’t really need, but I was enjoying myself!

There are four brews, porter, pale ale, ruby ale and wheat beer, each named after an order of monks established in the town during the 12th and 13th centuries. Although the monasteries are long gone, the remains of a number of their buildings can be found in those districts of the town that have continue to use their names.

The solemn monk (who I have named Brother Gregory) will be printed in a gloss spot varnish on a matt surface, as will the South Gates logo on the neck label to suggest a ghostly apparition…

There are colour matched bottle caps for each brew, each with a different graphic element – the South Gates typography, the building, Brother Gregory and a symbol derived from a Dominican star symbol. And for those of you who are interested in the details, click on the image below to look a little closer.

I can’t wait to taste them now! Bottoms up!

Here come the snakes…

I have recently come into the possession of a well-used part of that old favourite board game Snakes and Ladders and thought I would share its wonderful illustrations and moral intention with you fine people. As far as I can ascertain, it dates from anywhere between 1890 – 1914 and has been clearly enjoyed by several generations!

As one might expect with any child oriented product of the late victorian period, each snake or ladder clearly demonstrates the cause and effect of their respective vices and virtues, charmingly illustrated by a variety of characters acting out their roles. I’ve included all the picture squares paired up just to bring the images together. Enjoy.

Many thanks to my friend Hilary for this and other goodies!

The world is all gates*

I’ve been working on another craft beer project recently, and am able to share a few images of work in progress with you…

The South Gates in King’s Lynn stands over the main route into the town (to the delight and frustration of visitors and motorists!) and dates way back to the 14th century. The building is actually one of the oldest brick built structures in the country – the stone facade was added a century later. King’s Lynn has many historic buildings, most of which feature upon local publicity, but the South Gates is much less used than the others, so what better symbol to represent the home town of a new enterprise – the South Gates Brewery.

Each of their beers is named after the orders of monks that were based here and still lend their names to different areas of the town, even though the friaries are long dissolved…

The full labels are almost complete so I will be able to share them next week! Cheers…

*The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Money for old rope…

I’ve just finished an illustration for an new craft beer and thought I’d share it with you. I can’t tell you anything about the brand just yet, but hope to share it with you eventually.

The design called for a illustration of a nautical style knot – specifically, a reef (or square) knot with the ends tied off in a wall knot, like this:

I needed to explore the shape of the knot and scale of the the rope to match the composite on the brief, and add depth in the form of hard shadows:

This image then required distressing to give the impression that this was a vintage diagram, with a much looser feel than the digital drawing. This was first put through another digital process that allowed me some carefully controlled manipulation before transferring the drawing to a block of lino:

I did about half a dozen prints of varying quality which were then scanned.

Finally, the scans were converted to vectors and some further manipulations were made to clean up the frayed ends of the rope, resulting in:

I’ll share the full design just as soon as I can!

The Jack Newton Radio

After some fine tuning, the cover for ‘The Jack Newton Radio’ is complete, all the chapter headings have been inserted and I think it looks great! It has the right feeling of nostalgia and location, and with its limited colour palette. has a distinctive visual impact.

The full cover wraparound artworks looks like this:

The Jack Newton Radio can be purchased here. Go buy it now…

Back to the book cover…

After the last meeting with Jon I was able to develop some of the details further and apply the design to the back and spine. But before that Jon was interested in seeing other scripts in place of the one used in the title. As I had already explored this before presenting this to him, I gathered several alternatives that I had tried and rejected. They were all selected for their natural flow and vintage qualities that suited the whole ‘radiogram’ theme, and after seeing these Jon was in agreement of my original choice:

As for my design process, in the early stages after a few pencil sketches have been made I put together a fairly clean digital version to discuss the idea, without really concerning myself with proportions and measurements; everything is composed by eye.

Now that Jon had chosen a design it was time to firm everything up and establish some relative measurements. What this means is that I now look back into my layouts and discern a more formal composition based on units of measurement or proportions or both. The design Jon chose was the one with the black panel with some minor variations.

The design is generally composed over a division of sixths, but a little more control of the separate elements was required in order to create a more harmonious composition overall, especially when the design was applied to the back and spine.

The main elements for development were the dial – the tuning markers were to be labelled with relevant themes from the book and losing the faint script in the background. Also, the flat creamy colour of the background needed some texture to give it some surface for the graphics to relate to. This was achieved in Photoshop with a concrete texture from my library (I regularly take photos of textures for precisely this purpose) and some subtle layering to get just the right balance:


So let me share the overall composition at this point and expand upon the basic grid shown before. As you can see, the grid has been subdivided further and all the elements have been adjusted to relate to the lines of the grid in some way, tying everything together relative to the page:

I know that many designers don’t do this and simply trust their judgement, which is just as valid, especially if the designer is experienced enough, but I prefer to allow my judgement to dictate the design and then use grids to fine tune sizes and positions. This works for me, and showing the structural framework of the design to clients helps to show some of the process that forms the end result.