Wednesday, 29 April 2009


I bought the Buzzcocks first album,  'Another Music In A Different Kitchen', on vinyl many years ago from a second hand record shop in Mansfield. For the £2.50 I paid for it I was extremely pleased that the plastic bag promo that accompanied the original release was still inserted in the sleeve. Mine is in slightly better condition than the one in the image below (borrowed from a CR blog post about Malcolm Garrett and the Buzzcocks) and is safely stored away in my loft with the album and the rest of my vinyl collection.

I loved the forced irony of the word PRODUCT proudly emblazoned on the bag which seemed fitting in contrast to the teenage homosexual and existential angst of Pete Shelley's lyrics. Anyway, moving forward about 25 years; in anticipation of seeing a reformed Magazine at Latitude festival later this year, I bought a Magazine T-Shirt, also designed by Garrett. (The link outside of Malcolm Garrett, for those not familiar with these important bands: Howard Devoto was the lead vocalist on Buzzcocks' first EP, 'Spiral Scratch', before leaving to form Magazine.) A few days after ordering my T-Shirt, it arrived in the post packaged in a rather nifty Magazine plastic carrier bag.

However, I won't be reusing this fashionable item as it's made of BioPoly and will photo biodegrade. Because of this I dare not take it out into sunlight for fear of it disappearing around whatever it may be containing. This is a great shame because I think I prefer the bag to the T-Shirt and although I'm all for biodegradable plastic, I would probably have reused this bag so many times that in sustainable terms I may have justified the energy spent in it's production more than it only having a once or twice use lifespan. 

Guess I'll have to get up in the loft and store this bag in my copy of 'Correct Use Of Soap'.

Recommended listening:
Spiral Scratch
Another Music In A Different Kitchen
Love Bites
Real Life
Correct Use of Soap

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Talking films standing on a chair

The brilliant Jeffrey Lewis performing one of his 'films' in Cambridge last night. The 'films' are narrated from atop a chair by Lewis with large comic book visuals. Great gig with him performing a stunning rendition of Crass' 'Big A Little A' from his album 12 Crass Songs and a 'History of Punk Rock On The Lower East Side Of New York From 1950 to 1975'. Fantastic stuff. If he's playing near you on this tour, go and see him - you will not be disappointed and if you haven't heard of Jeffrey Lewis, search him out on YouTube and you'll get the idea.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Go 2

I have been showing this record sleeve in a lecture on postmodern graphic design for the last two years.

The main reason for showing this piece, other than the fact it gets a good laugh, is to highlight the use of irony as a design tool. However, I have never seen the rest of the sleeve. Today, a student approached me and produced the actual vinyl album from his bag. He had bought it from eBay for £3.

The design team that created this new wave piece of classic design was Hipgnosis, who are probably most famous for designing Pink Floyd's sleeves, and in particular 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. The detail here though is playful and forces the listener to interact with the entire sleeve both mentally and physically. For example, the text on the sleeve explains, tongue in cheek, the purpose of a traditional record cover design concept as being a trick to get the consumer to purchase the record and thus make money for the record company; this in itself engages the consumer on a cognitive level not evidenced on many record sleeves. Further to this Hipgnosis go on to make the track listing on the reverse unreadable unless you remove the 4pp insert and line up the missing text.

Remember, the insert wouldn't have been available to the casual record shop browser. But then that's the beauty of this sleeve. Hipgnosis knew that this approach would suit the quirky arty nature of XTC and their intended audience. XTCs music at this stage was pretty disjointed and angular. They have always tried to be a 'clever' band and luckily they lightened up and appropriated pop for later work but they were dangerously close to being pretentious in these early days. So this wasn't an album made to storm the charts with mass sales to those who love safe derivative music. The songs were inventive in comparison to their peers and XTCs fans were not, I hazard a guess, your average Elton John lovers. While I wouldn't describe the album as challenging, it certainly isn't easy listening when compared to what else was released in 1978 and was much more innovative than many of the second generation punk bands who were just poor pastiches of the Pistols, The Clash and Buzzcocks.

Hipgnosis even took the concept right through to the record label making for a fully rounded piece of design.

And where is this attention to detail in music design outside of a handfull of examples such as Farrow's work for Spiritualized? It is sorely lacking this level of attention to detail and pride of production.

So thank you Scott for bringing this in for me to see and be able to share here. If you ever want to sell it, please can I have first refusal.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Stoofer the dog

Stoofer and me a couple of years ago.

Many people have asked where the name Dubdog came from and now seems like an appropriate time to post this however much of a difficult post it is to type. This is prompted by the fact that Claire and I lost our beloved dog Stoofer yesterday. Claire has conveyed our feelings of loss much better than I could on her blog for those that knew Stoofer personally, so I won't write an obituary here. However, I felt I needed, in what is maybe no more than an act of catharsis for which I make no apologies, to mention the derivation of my moniker. When deparately trying to think of a name for an email address we were setting up when we first had the lad nine years ago, we decided to marry my love of dub reggae and the word 'dog', purely because I had Stoofer sitting on my lap while we were brainstorming. Initially, the dot was dropped to become Dubdog to freelance my design work under. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Harvey Nichols postcards. See others in range at the CR Blog. Design by Mr H


Ever wondered the difference between a font and a typeface, probably not. However, now I've raised your attention to such a pressing matter, you may like to take a look at a survey of typographers, designers and general font users on the geeky type blog Phinney on Fonts about such very semantics.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Apparently it's Pinhole Day on 26th April 2009. Details here. To make your own pinhole camera, find details here or here. For examples of pinhole camera photos, there's a dedicated Flickr page here.

Webby Awards

Vote for your favourite websites here in the annual Webby Awards. One of my favourite sites, The Design Observer, is included in several nominations again this year and currently leading in those categories. Not that I would want to influence your voting decision making.

Friday, 10 April 2009

19th June 2009

As I was ripping new CDs to iTunes today I worked out that if I started playing my library now, on 10th April 2009, excepting a power cut, it would finish on 19th June 2009.

Can you kick it?

T-shirts by Australian graphic design firm Inkahoots. Making cash from chaos anyone? Surely a free download stencil of the design so you could make your own T-shirts would have been less of a paradox.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The revolution will be middle managed!

Thanks to a good friend for this report of last week's demonstrations against the G20 summit.

We arrived at London Bridge station to follow the Silver Horse march to the Bank of England, but were initially concerned that most of the assembled crowd seemed to be press photographers and camera crews. At 11:00am, however, there was an influx of people not involved in the communications industry and we set off across London Bridge. Despite the major backup that we’d seen when we’d reckied the immediate local area, the police at this point took a light approach to crowd control. They tried to keep us to a single lane, whilst we negotiated the oncoming cars and buses, but eventually gave up and began to at last concentrate on diverting the traffic. In fact, the policing even seemed a little lax. On past marches I’ve seen at least a couple of cops standing outside possibly en route opportunistic targets, such as McDonalds and Boots. Even the Starbucks we passed, however, was left unguarded. It was strangely like they wanted someone to smash a window...

Once we reached the Bank of England the police moved quickly to cordon off the area, although unfortunately they made it just wide enough to include the RBS offices. As has now been splashed across the papers and Youtube, this is where the main demonstrator aggro took place. We were standing a little down from the RBS office, and although we could see that there was some police / demonstrator interaction going on, it all seemed pretty minor. Elsewhere small soundsystems played and Billy Bragg did an impromptu singalong (no one knew the words to The Internationale). We were a little surprised, therefore, when a line of police horses drew up behind the line of riot cops outside the RBS.

At the time, it seemed as if the police were geared up for action, but were at the same time allowing the cordon to leak. We bumped into a friend and ended up helping Chris Knight (Prof Knight, media star of the Guardian and Evening Standard) to parade out towards London Bridge, carrying his various horse heads, banners and banker effigies. I now realise that it may have been only particular groups that were allowed out, such as press photographers, pop singers, media stars and their entourages. Certainly a large number appear to have remained contained at the Bank of England, where the police did eventually move in, with tragic results.

It was now about 4pm and so we headed over to the Climate Camp, which was busy with about 2000+ (I’m no good at judging numbers) people gathered along one street. People were partying or holding workshops; a stall provided hot food; a tented toilet area was set up; and men pissed in the street: your average festival scene. The police were just watching and made no effort to stop anyone entering or leaving. After a while, however, we noticed that the cops were steadily building up their presence and readiness for action. This seemed very odd, given the entirely peaceful nature and still large numbers at the event. Suddenly, at 6:45pm, they cordoned off the area and where we were at the south end of the road, riot cops began to aggressively push back the crowd. They were really geared up for a fight, but instead of responding the crowd simply stood their ground, with their hands up to show they were not being confrontational. They then sat down, meaning the cops had nothing to push against. I'm not usually a fan of such passive action, but in this situation with such numbers, cameras and media still present, it worked brilliantly and the police attack was halted.

But we were now kettled. And it remained like this for the next few hours.

At the south end of the road, it continued to remain peaceful, if a little edgy, whilst police vans, armoured jeeps and more troops arrived. The response was an interesting example of ‘fluffy’ protest at its best: The Climate Camp organisers made regular announcements relaying police statements and legal advice, and held a consensus meeting in front of the line of riot cops, to feedback any thoughts and to discuss 'what we should do now’. The revolution will be middle managed! The voiced desire of the demonstrators was to maintain the declared Climate Camp objective of holding the space for 24 hours, by continuing to sit on the ground and, if necessary, linking arms. There seemed a total lack of understanding that the police were waiting for the right moment to wallop them, and that as we had been told that Press and MPs (who?) were not being allowed in the area, that time may be coming sooner rather than later.

At the north end of the road, however, the police were less aggressive and the demonstrators continued to party, talk, eat and piss as before. As the night wore on, the people who wanted to leave also congregated in this area. So whilst one end of the road prepared to hold off the riot cops, the other end of the road chanted "let us go, let us go": An example of ‘fluffy’ at its worst - lacking any plan or tactic to deal with the police power and aggression beyond pleading with them to be nicer.

As time went on, however, it became apparent that visible through the single line of cops at the north end was a large crowd who wanted to get into the Camp, but were being held back by the cops. As we watched, this policing got nastier until the cops brought in dogs to accompany them in their baton charge against the protesters. "Oooh Shame!" shouted the north end crowd. It was very weird watching people being dragged off into police vans, whilst standing in a crowd that seemed able to only muster indignation at the police action against them and their fellow protesters.

By about 11:30pm the police had cleared away the protesters and so began to allow us out of the cordon, one by one, under the surveillance of a FIT team. As we left, the cops were gearing up for their next move and from the reports on Indymedia it would seem that the south end demonstrators discovered the limits of their tactics shortly after we left.

In the end it was a day that has left me feeling dissatisfied and questioning the nature of the protest. It seemed to lack focus, or rather tried to take in too much. Was its main concern to show anger at the banking / capitalist system in general, or the salaries and pensions of the fatcat bankers, or at the lack of vision shown by the politicians now looking for ways to sort out the mess they created? Various groups took up each of these issues, and more, leaving any direct protest against the G20 Summit rather forgotten. Meanwhile, the police displayed their continuing militarisation, against a movement that, it many ways understandably, lacks a way to effectively move beyond mere demands and symbolic displays of resistance – be it a smashed window or a reclaimed street. We need to think of new answers, new ways of doing things, and, as they say in middle management, we need to think outside the cordon.