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


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.

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…

On reading books

For the first few years of blogging I posted up a monthly list of the books I had read and a playlist of music that had formed the soundtrack to each month, but eventually stopped. To some, that would indicate that I have given up reading and adopted a more monkish silent order, but nothing could be further from the truth. I continue to read (and reread) a wide variety of real, physical books – no ebooks for me – I spend enough time staring at a screen as it is!  So books are a welcome, tactile object that are comforting and easier on my eye (alas, my reading glasses are much stronger than they used to be!)

I have noticed that I am talking about reading more often these days. Not just the act of reading – emails, twitter and facebook feeds etc, or even online articles which are usually kept deliberately short, or even mainstream magazines which all seem to be lists, pull-quotes and advertising these days, like we are incapable of engaging with anything that would require us to stop and concentrate for a while, or challenge us, surprise us or amaze us.

Some of the books I read have not been ‘easy readers’ and have had me frequently reaching for the iPad to google something or use the dictionary (which my children find very amusing because of it’s quaintness). For many, this is too much like hard work and is, I suspect, the primary reason for the popularity of Dan Brown and others of his ilk. Still, it’s better to read any book than not read at all. But me, I like a challenge.

I enjoy expanding my general knowledge and learning new stuff. I like to be taken away by a story and engage with their characters, their emotions and experiences, to walk their streets and fight their fights. I have been transported around the world (and sometimes far from it) and travelled through time, from the stone age to several millenniums beyond now. Some books were so good I didn’t want to leave and have since re read many times to return to what have now become familiar places and am able to notice new things within the story, a bit like someone who takes their holidays in the same place every year and who enjoys the familiarity, but instantly notices what has changed since the last visit.

A good story should leave us with something. Even if it is the frustration of having finished it and can’t start reading a new one because you are still mentally or emotionally connected to it. I’m sure the germans have a good word for that.

The books themselves and the stories they contain are only the physical part of the experience. It is how we as individuals engage with them that increases their value. It is a little like alchemy; the books themselves are the raw materials, the letters printed on each page their DNA, and we are the cauldron in which these base elements are combined. It is our imaginations that have the capacity to transmute them from the language of the author and create the ‘gold’ that is the experience of a good book.

Warning: this next sections sounds like I’m a whining old fart.

So why is it that ever fewer people read books these days? Especially young people – there, I’ve said it! This is not a tirade on the young, just a lament on the decline of reading for pleasure. Its not surprising though, as there are so many other distractions competing for attention, especially the smartphone and all its technical wizardry.

The problem I see with this is that whilst the smartphone offers a myriad of opportunities to occupy your time, much of what is found there is reduced to bullet points, lists and memes, liberally interspersed with pictures of cute kittens of course, as well as everyones own opinion, whether you like it or not. We have almost unlimited access to the worlds knowledge at our fingertips. Learning, literature, music, film, bullshit – all available.

And herein lies the problem; with all this information easily available almost anywhere, for many people there is little use for retaining any of it, and this worries me quite a lot. With reading – not just skim reading, but reading books – any books, factual or fiction – requires the reader to engage with the information they read and allows opportunities for broader perspectives, comparative responses and intellectual stimulus. It can develop our own emotional and intellectual viewpoints, question our convictions or confuse us on previously held understandings.

This allows us to actually own the stuff we read. The more we read, the more connections we make, whether we recognise it or not. I have had the pleasure of experiencing that wonderful moment when reading, that something else read previously made more sense, or even joined up several unrelated threads gained over many years that suddenly throws the switch on a eureka moment on a particular subject. Thats a great feeling. I’m sure the germans have a good word for that too.

So what may become of us after several generations where list-reading, meme liking, gossip flinging and first page googling are the norm? I’m not certain, but I’m sure it has already begun and the zombie apocalypse is already upon us. But instead of ravaged corpses shuffling around with arms outstretch murmuring “brains, delicious brains”, I’m already seeing once ordinary people shuffling around staring at their palms murmuring “memes, more memes” and ‘just one more kitten Gif and I’ll stop”.

And on that note, I will switch off and go finish my book.

PS. If anyone is interested, I’m re-reading José Saramago’s ‘Blindness’ – a brilliant story by one of the worlds very best writers. He’s not an easy read, but well worth the effort…

PPS. I’m also listening to Black Slipper on a daily basis…

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!