Thursday 19 April 2012


After much deliberation, I have decided to up sticks and move Dubdog on over to WordPress. This site will remain as an archive for as long as Blogger allow it to stay here. I'd like to thank Blogger for the service they have provided over the past six years.

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Wednesday 11 April 2012

Split identity

Split identity by Dubdog@Flickr
Split identity, a photo by Dubdog@Flickr on Flickr.

Claire and I visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art today, and as well as being impressed by many of the exhibits—the Edvard Munch and accompanying Graphic Art exhibitions are well worth a look if you are any where near Edinburgh—I was duly taken with its identity system.

Designed by Glasgow based O Street, they have aligned all the 'O's, (their website reveals an slight obsession with 'O's, as their name may suggest), something I didn't notice at first. This allows a neat, right aligned edge, with which to split the logotype in two, emphasising the fact that there are two galleries to the Modern which are split into different buildings separated by a road.

Before realising this, on seeing the half written gallery name on a sign as we approached the building the Munch exhibition was housed in, I thought it interesting, but a little gimmicky. A bold move, I thought, as I wondered how they ever managed to sell the idea of only displaying half the clients' name to the client. However, it all made sense very quickly when walking around the two sites, especially when seeing the two halves so closely situated, as in the above photograph, and I am now an ardent fan. I can imagine the fun they must have had in dreaming up different situations where they could exploit this visual game, and thus reinforce the concept to visitors to the gallery.

Check out more examples on my Flickr and the O Street website.

Friday 6 April 2012

The Small Letter

The Small Letter is a type primer produced by Desmond and Libertad Jeffery in 1956. It was donated to the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course at UCS for its book archive recently, along with various other books, and it has become an object of fascination to me. With an introduction that states: "We do not expect this booklet to be of any use to anybody, except possibly as a Dreadful Warning to the thoughtful against undue distortion & ornamentation of basic letterforms," how could it not?

So intrigued by this, and other such books that have either been donated or I've personally acquired, that I have started a research/archive project on Tumblr. At this stage, I'm intending it to consist of pre-digital print, type, and graphic design related books, although this may change depending on what I uncover. The blog is titled after Jeffery's booklet.

Sunday 18 March 2012


Terence Conran exhibition end quote

I highly recommend the Designs Of The Year 2012 and Terence Conran: The Way We Live Now exhibitions at the Design Museum after spending a few hours there yesterday. They make a great double act, in fact. Catch them both while they are on together.

See below just one example of the nominations for the Design Of The Year Award that perfectly illustrates Conran's quote above. While I would love Gordon Young and Why Not Associates' excellent Comedy Carpet to win, this one is going to be hard to beat, in my opinion.

The Awards will be announced on 24 April. Even if Comedy Carpet doesn't win overall, it'll have stiff competition in the Graphic Design category, running against what I consider to be the book of last year, Beauty Is In The Streets: A Visual Record Of The May '68 Paris Uprising.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Saturday 3 March 2012

Childhood Remixed launch

Professor Mike Saks, UCS Provost, gives the opening speech at the Childhood Remixed launch

This week I was involved in the launch of Childhood Remixed, a project I've been working on for nearly a year now. My initial brief was to create a visual presence in the form of a logo for what would become the first academic journal to be published at University Campus Suffolk (UCS). Working alongside Allison Boggis and Darryn Thompson at UCS, the project initiators, the remit of my involvement morphed as we discussed what Childhood Remixed was actually going to be.

From the outset it was only ever going to be something that was for UCS staff, final year undergraduate and postgraduate students, and alumni, with the intention of giving them a first step on the publishing ladder within the confines of a 'safe' environment. With a focus on childhood, the interdisciplinary nature of the journal would also mean that image based work would be welcomed for submission alongside academic papers. It was also always intended to be an online venture, but it needed to be able to be read offline as well. Therefore, it was quickly decided that a downloadable PDF was the best format.

The 'in-house' nature didn't mean that it could be something that had any less design consideration applied to it and it was interesting what I had to take onboard in designing this document. Very early on I decided to let functionality dictate my decisions. For example, as this was intended to be read on screen, I quickly realised that it had to be one column throughout to avoid excess horizontal and vertical scrolling, something that could easily lose the reader's place. On what could be up to 3000 word papers, it is important to maintain focus.

Other user considerations to be taken into account were in regard to the differing devices that this document may be read on. The iPad, for example, wouldn't have forward or backward keys to hit to progress to the next page in the same way a desktop keyboard does, and excess scrolling could again mean an over zealous finger action shoots the user to the wrong page. I therefore included interactive backward and forward buttons at the start and end of each block of text.

The length of articles also made me realise that it was unlikely people would want to sit and read the whole journal in one go and therefore needed to be able to return to the contents page at any time, from any page, so I included this function.

Accessibility issues, in terms of visual impairments, were important to take account of, as were whether people would actually read it on screen. Therefore, being able to print it off, not waste ink and still be readable meant tinted backgrounds and elaborate colour schemes were out of the window.

The success of Childhood Remixed, and where it goes next, will become clear over the next few months as readers hopefully respond to our requests for feedback. But considering there were six papers submitted (all of which passed the peer review process), with one being an image based work from my colleague Russell Walker and another being an audio submission, proves that there is a will within UCS to support such a venture.

Jessica Clark presents her paper to the launch audience

Russell Walker discusses the relationship between his childhood drawings and his adult creativity

Finally, it has been a pleasure to work alongside Allison and Darryn on this project, and it is exciting to think where this may go next.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Journalism [sic]

A week is a long time in blogging, and certainly too long to react to a newspaper article from last Sunday, especially when so much has been said elsewhere. And although when I read John Naughton's piece in the Observer, titled: 'Graphic designers are ruining the web', my reaction was immediate and I wanted to post about it, a busy week has got the better of me. But it is still in me, and I need to get it out. So as I snatch a few moments here, (still busy—more on that in a later post), find below a direct rebuff to Mr Naughton, in bullet points:
  • Good design recognises the need for accessibility in web pages and will allow for users to customise a page or switch to a text version should there be a need. Blame Flash and designers who design for themselves above the end user, not graphic design per se.
  • On the "print counterparts" comment: The Guardian website's print counterpart is one of the best designed newspapers ever. Unfortunately, I don't have time to go into why, I'll save that for another post, but needless to say, The Guardian understands the value of design, both in print and online. Just speak to the head of the design department next time you are in King's Place and he'll tell you why.
  • Technology has allowed for better web design, and more image rich sites, granted, but good design still considers download times and bandwidths. Again, blame inconsiderate designers if a page doesn't load, not the trade they ply.
  • You don't consider visual language to be information? Hmmm. Then you probably have never even considered that there is a language system to be decoded in graphic signposting systems. This also implies you clearly don't understand semiotics. You therefore do not have the knowledge to be able to judge such things.
  • The bit about Flickr and Futurists—your point here is what, exactly?
  • "I'm a minimalist: I value content more highly than aesthetics." This is an oxymoron. Minimalism is an aesthetic design decision, not a by product of a lack of a thought process.
  • The website you champion is a navigational disaster and clearly doesn't present a friendly interface or clear understanding of information hierarchy. Pity the dyslexics who would like to access its content.
  • It is not the designers who dictate the content of websites, so why even mention 'LOLcats' and Internet shopping?
As I've said here before, and it is one of the central themes through the essay I wrote to accompany my McJunk book, graphic design is a much maligned discipline, and there are good reasons for this. But if graphic design is going to get a kicking, then at least let it be critically informed and not a piece of nonsense such as this article is. And so, to one last bullet point:
  • Poor research and inadequate understanding are ruining journalism.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The power of print

What started out as a bit of a shitty day, literally—I trod in dog shit on the way to Ipswich Station and got crapped on by a bird on the same walk—ended up being a great, but busy day. Firstly, I took 20 second year UCS Graphic Design students around a print works. Alphaprint in Colchester, once again, pulled out the stops and gave a fantastic tour of their fascilities. This is the second year on the trot that they've given this tour, and the students were fascinated and learnt a lot from seeing printing and finishing processes in action.

Students smell the ink on a 5 colour Mitsubishi.

Then I hot footed it across town to meet with my colleague, Russell Walker, who had arranged a talk by Abram Games' daughter, Naomi Games, of her father's work to final year graphics students. She told many a tale about his incredible life and strong willed nature, as well as discussing airbrushing (with an impromptu [dry] demo from Russell), and other techniques.

Naomi Games talking about her father.

The show is currently at The Minories Gallery in Colchester and well worth a visit, but be quick, it comes down on Monday 20 February.

More photos to follow on Flickr soon.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Le sac magic

For some reason, and one that she can not entirely understand herself, my wife felt compelled to buy some coffee sacks from eBay last week. She has absolutely no idea what she is going to do with them.

However, they are rather wonderful things.

See the rest of the range over on Flickr

Sunday 5 February 2012

And the title of the next programme is…

I've recently noticed a major lack of quality control in title sequences for some of the BBC's output. This is despite the continued excellence of some of the programmes. Take, for example, this atrocious piece of typography for Go West, a Friday night BBC4 programme that is currently running, about British bands 'making it' in America.

It appears as if the producer has allowed a GCSE work placement student to knock this together in iMovie, as the type slowly pans down the screen while images of adoring audiences at rock gigs in USA stadiums fills the background.

Unfortunately, the overall effect of the sequence just gives the impression of being 'cheap'. It is as if these type of BBC4 'talking heads' programmes have had the majority of their budget spent on paying guest speakers, while stitching together archive footage from the Beeb vaults. Hmmm, I'm probably not far wrong in this assumption.

The first title sequence that made me choke on my tea for its complete lack of aesthetic consideration was Timothy Spall's Somewhere At Sea. Be thankful I wasn't able to find an example online to post here. Like Go West, I'm sure it wasn't a big budget affair, but it did showcase a BBC veteran of high regard. Much like the programme that really did make me wonder what was going on in the minds of the graphics department at the BBC; Stephen Fry's Planet Word.

Comic Sans, please! This programme was dedicated to language—one episode even looked at the visual side of sign language—and yet the designers seem to have completely dismissed the importance of visual language in its title sequence. This is even more baffling when given that some effort had gone into the trailer, which at least attempts to smpathetically visualise and authenticate the subject matter being discussed.

Now I understand that the same level of design savvy can't go into everything, and that not all budgets will cover getting Why Not Associates to do the titles, (see Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes), but the issue is that you don't need to spend lots of time and money on making a considered and understated piece of typographic communication as this is more about rudamentory design choices—things that second year undergraduate graphic design students are adept at. And they are decisions that I am paying my licence fee for. You can seriously undermine the entire credibility of a TV programme with this sort of basic insult to your audience's intelligence.

Finally, don't get me started on the end titles; I'll leave that particular rant to David Mitchell, who is much more adept at such things than me.

Tuesday 31 January 2012

It's not made by great men

"Doing art should not be a full time job for the validated few. Doing art should be something we all do as part of everyday life… None of us should be getting our highs and lows vicariously through what other people do, we should all do the fighting, kicking, loving, fucking, painting, throwing, jumping, killing, singing, shouting ourselves, and not have actors, sportsmen, musician or artists doing it for us.”

Bill Drummond on his new book, 100, on Quietus.

Sunday 29 January 2012


Ever since it started appearing everywhere about two-three years ago, I have had a problem with the poster 'Keep Calm and Carry On'! The basic premise of the piece is that you should accept your lot, never object to anything, and continue with the status quo as if nothing had changed. Adorned in shop windows and dressed up as an admirable trait of the British psyche, the concept that adversity is something to shrug off by being quietly subservient, actually makes me angry. The idea that ignoring our problems and not questioning the root causes will somehow 'fix' everything, in my mind, is tantamount to telling children not to do anything if they get bullied in the school playground. Should we also accept a bit of racism now and again as well? It is bad enough that this poster, (supposedly), became an ironic statement on how people felt about an economic system collapsing around them, but when the current edition of Creative Review puts the phrase at number 12 in a 'top 20 slogans of all time poll', I am incredulous. (And that is not just because my vote for Cresta's, “It's Frothy Man”, didn't get a look in.) The insidiousness of this poster is made even more apparent in the accompanying article. Apparently, commissioned by the Government's Ministry of Information in 1939, it was never released, despite the Government stockpiling 2.5 million copies, and was only intended to be pasted up around the country should Britain be invaded during the burgeoning war with Germany. Therefore, its intention was to tell people to accept their fate and to not challenge their new Nazi leaders—as if I didn't like it enough before I knew that, I now hate the poster even more. I'll be tempted to smash any mugs I see with it printed on as well from now on.

It is not just me who sees the insipid side of this graphic blinkering. Justin McGuirk argued in The Guardian, "Take that odd phenomenon, the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster that has been ubiquitous since the credit crunch. In its appeal to the plucky stoicism of the blitz years, it seems designed to dampen down any unrest aimed at the political-financial establishment." These thoughts led me to think about other graphic conditioning statements, albeit in fiction. The KC&CO shares a resemblance, in intention at least, with George Orwell's 1984 doublethink sloganeering; War is Peace; Slavery is Freedom; Ignorance is Strength. Likewise, in the 1968 TV programme The Prisoner, hung throughout official buildings were the slogans; Questions are a Burden to others; Answers a prison for oneself.

Jon Gray's cover for George Orwell's 1984 (Penguin Books)

So why rant about this now, other than because Creative Review sparked a renewed hatred for the poster. Well, the article coincided with a piece on the Creative Review blog about the launch of Occupy Design, whose first conference was held this weekend. Jonathan Barnbrook, one of the conference organisers told CR: "There are … some ridiculous things going on at the moment which show that much of design and advertising is simply pretending it's business as usual. For instance: D&AD setting a brief for students to rebrand the City of London, to make it look cool when these people are responsible for the mess we are in and the huge cuts in education." Likewise, Jody Boehnert states on the Occupy Design website: "Communication design is used to sell products – but even when it is not explicitly engaged in manufacturing consumer desire, design can function to conceal the impacts of conspicuous consumption and the socio-political-economic system through a process known as symbolic violence. While communication design can be used to reveal consequences, illustrate systemic dynamics and facilitate public processes—capitalism needs designers to promote consumption not to critique consumption!" Both these views pretty much sum up my feelings on seeing a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster staring at me from behind the counter of a shop.

Occupy Design logo

Beware any tea drinkers with KC&CO mugs.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Style counsel

Apart from The Guardian not knowing their en dashes from their em dashes, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in the written English language.

"Guardian Style will help you distinguish between the so-called rules of grammar that are an aid to good writing and those that you can cheerfully ignore. It is also a mine of information about everything from spelling to punctuation, from commonly misused words to foreign terms and expressions. If you're not sure what the difference is between principle and principal, if you have ever been puzzled by the rules governing the use of that and which, or if you are unsure as to whether brackets and parentheses are the same thing, then this superbly straightforward and straight-talking reference guide is for you."

It is not as pedantic and dry as it may sound. That said, don't expect the grammar on this blog to be perfect as a result. Available here.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Sweet F AAA

The Saturday edition of The Guardian has been sitting on our kitchen table since I finished leafing through it yesterday morning. This image has been staring up at me every time I've gone into the kitchen in the last 32 hours, and only just a few minutes ago did I get the visual gag.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Street graphics

Most mornings, as I walk to work, I pass these road markings that look decidedly like monster's teeth.

I have often wondered just what they indicate. It seems odd that Ipswich Borough Council decided to paint them on one side of the road, clearly assuming that this residential road accommodates traffic going in either direction at the same time, which it doesn't. Whoever took this decision didn't consider that local people parked their cars outside their houses, which effectively turns this road into a single lane—most days the triangles on the pavement side are completely hidden from view.

I Googled 'road markings' and I couldn't find the meaning of these anywhere. I found examples of two triangles painted on traffic calming speed humps, pointing in the direction of the traffic flow, (rotated 90 degrees to these), but they are something different.

There are more of these 'teeth' on the same road just before, (or after, depending on which way you look at it), a one way bridge.

If anyone knows what these abstract graphic marks are meant to communicate, please let me know.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Design for all

Occasionally, site specific architecture—designed purely for public enjoyment and recreation—crops up online and makes me want to pack my bags immediately and go and experience them for myself. Recent examples include Why Not Associates and Gorden Young's typographic Comedy Carpet in Blackpool, and further afield, New York's The High Line. One that grabbed my attention today is this vertiginous forest walkway in Estonia.

Other than imagining the wonder of the spectacle in the flesh, what I love about such installations is the fact that they are there to be experienced with no entrance fee, no intellectual symbolism and no spiritual veneer. They exist just for the enjoyment of being in the here and now, and engaging with good design that heightens a sense of a specific environment.

Thanks to City Of Sound for bringing this example to my attention.

Monday 2 January 2012

Ipswich Arts Centre launch (tbc)

Ipswich has long been the poor relation to its neighbouring towns of Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge in terms of gig venues. The former two have thriving Arts Centres. Both attract touring bands as well as using these stages to showcase emerging local talent. The Cambridge Junction is another great venue with large and small stages. In the last 2 months I've been to see Magazine and The Fall at The Junction, and I have the choice of seeing King Creosote and Jon Hopkins in either The Junction, or in Norwich's Arts Centre this coming February. These venues are great for someone like me, who can afford to go to such events and is prepared to share the driving with friends, but it would be so much better if these sort of venues were available in my home town.

Ipswich has two large venues that rarely go below the £21 mark for a gig, and lots of small pubs with stages that (mostly) local bands use to play to each other. A new mid-sized venue has opened in the town, but seems to cater mostly for covers bands. There are a couple of rooms above pubs, (with no disabled access), that some promotors use to showcase some of the exciting things happening in the Ipswich music scene, but you have to hunt for them. There is no focal point, and anything that is happening is only doing so because of people doing it off of their own backs and who are prepared to do so in inadequate circumstances. With a cultural scene firmly establishing itself in Ipswich in the visual arts, dance, theatre, and film, it seems short sighted that there is no cohesive policy from the powers that be in the town to promote, encourage, and make accessible divergent music. Especially with a growing university.

Then recently a new Arts Centre for Ipswich was announced in the local papers as being on the cards. Planned to take the space of the former Ipswich Arts School and with a 3 year plan to get the venture up and running, there was much excitement. The excitement soon turned into bitter disappointment when it was discovered that this would not contain a space to be used as a music venue. How short sighted.

So disappointment has turned into action, of a sort, with a new website aimed at encouraging discussion to help promote the need for an Ipswich Arts Centre, and lots of local musicians are getting vocal. It appears it might be kick starting some useful debates, providing a focal point to rally around and looks set to prompt a few tentative meetings to look at what may be the next move to this project.

Check out the website here to read the full story, sign the petition, and to get involved if you have any interest in the Ipswich music scene.