I just spent a very happy week or so digging deep in my local music emporiums researching a client commissioned piece on the combination of art and sound that is Blue Note records. As this topic is close to my heart the project was its own reward but in the weeks since I handed it in I have been wondering if it might also have some value as a challenge to certain preconceptions and judgments about branded content and content marketing in general.

You may have experienced it yourself, you are discussing your latest written work with a journalist or writer and happen to mention that you have done something recently for a media channel of a company that has nothing to do with the particular topic and they aren’t a newspaper or news-stand magazine either. It might be almost imperceptible but there it is, a flash of disdain, a certain looking down ones nose, a reaction at odds to the pleasant ‘Oh, really?’s that betrays the judgment that the work is somehow ‘not real’ or even ‘inauthentic’, the assumption presumably being that a writer cannot maintain the critical distance or conversely, necessary absorption, in a topic when the organ paying for it is ultimately about shifting product units that are unrelated to the subject under discussion.

Now of course I may be lucky with the clients that hire me, but in my experience when I am working for commercial clients I find that I am always given freedom to curate and opine as I wish, free from the red pen of editors fearing for their job or advertisers piling on the pressure for certain things to be said. The pieces read by the audience are totally the pieces that I submitted.

Schooled as I am in the work of the Left Bank and Frankfurt school and fed a diet of Adbusters, IndyMedia and Living Marxism magazine at an impressionable age, the thought that creative freedom might be found in producing content destined for an entity whose intentions are purely commercial (I make the distinction that a newspaper needing to sell copies to sell advertising space is a different kind of business, as ultimately their product is, or at least should be, the intention of the journalist to share a story) is completely at odds to my personal sensibilities.

Of course I am a purveyor of Arts-led texts, I am not the next Woodward and/or Bernstein (although I often court the fancy) so it probably is one step removed from my own work but nevertheless the thought crossed my mind that, like that other relic of the early 1970s, intergalactic space travel, the future of truly free writing might be corporate business. Could it be that when the particular media channel is broadcasting only as a side-project – in other words not reliant on sales for its own existence – it has bestowed on itself a certain freedom to operate how it wants?

Have a think about that. And you can also check out my tasting notes on the graphic design of a jazz label here.

Circling The Square: Top 20 Album Covers from Blue Note

Fresh Alternative Movie Poster

Been a while in the making but just finished a new ‘AMP’ for one of my favourite films, or more accurately, scripts.

Quatermass and the Pit was written by Nigel Kneale and filmed by the BBC in 1958/59 as a TV serial but then reworked by Kneale himself for the Hammer studio in 1967. Like many I prefer the original BBC version but the Hammer one isn’t too bad.

The poster could stand for either but technically it relates to the Hammer version as I used the main typography of the title and the cast listing. The rest is my own visual musing.

LED FOR MUNICH RE

Full body graphic wraps for a Tesla and Ollibus, the 3d printed electric bus.

Created as part of a wider internal brand for Munich RE, one of the worlds largest insurance companies, who were holding a staff conference in Monte Carlo. The key art selected was based on LED fibre optics imagery as a metaphor for corporate innovation.

 

Key art for Sky Sports

Sky Sports Advertising Billboard

If you were in Germany over Christmas you will probably have seen the advertising for Sky Sports around somewhere. They are quite well known. Anyways, I was recently working within their in-house studio in Munich working on key art for their winter campaign.

The artworks produced covered all the sports they feature (Football, Golf, Tennis, Formula 1, Ice Hockey) and had to fit within the new visual identity that was implemented in Spring 2016. In other words, cut-out central. Luckily most of the stars didn’t have hairstyles that were too wild…

LOGO FOR HELMUT SPANNER, IN THE WORKS

A logo for leading children’s book illustrator. Mr Helmut Spanner sells millions of children’s books worldwide but to date the illustrator has not had his own logo.

He is now branching out into consumer goods and so needed a simple but recognisable logo to be applied to a wealth of different product ranges. The end result uses his personal favourite character within a boundary circle to keep things looking clean across a wide range of product categories.

 

REVIEWING ‘LONG LIVE SOUTHBANK’ FOR EYE #92

As an avid supporter of the London based social awareness campaign Long Live Southbank, (set up to preserve one of the world‘s most iconic skateboarding areas), I was all to eager to help the cause by reviewing the organisations own coffee table book on it‘s release.

I contacted HENI and obtained a review copy. As expected the publication was excellent. I decided that the book deserved the widest possible exposure within the design community meaning that Eye, the international review of the best in graphic design, was the only choice. Luckily the editor agreed and the final piece was on the shelves around the world in issue no. 92 vol. 23, 2016.

For those interested, here is the review in full:

 

Riding The Concrete

Arriving like a solid slab of Brutalism, Long Live Southbank is a celebration of 40 years of skateboarding in the undercroft of London’s Southbank. The book was created by the organisation of that name (LLSB), which in 2013 started a successful community action to save the recreation area beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall from unsympathetic commercial redevelopment plans by its owners, the Southbank Centre.

The book looks splendid. Beyond the distinctive cover, the layout is clean and succinct to give suitable space to an extensive photographic study. The contents are diverse, ranging from energetic action shots to contemplative studies of people and places, as well as candid snapshots and official survey material from the City of London archive.

The visual element is supported by personal insights and remembrances from users and onlookers, some famous, some unknown, but all with a vested interest in the debate. Adding context and rationale are a number of essays exploring the history of the site, and how the combination of two similarly maligned elements – skateboarding and Brutalist architecture – unexpectedly fused to create something remarkable.

The book dips in and out of editorial focus. Many readers may feel short-changed by the small number of examples shown in the chapter on Southbank-inspired graphic artwork and illustration. Some passages fall into the trap of being self-referential to the point of alienating, but for the patient reader there are laugh-out-loud anecdotes and tales of athletic prowess that build a picture of a unique place where anything can happen.

The book concludes with a potted history of LLSB itself – a grass-roots social movement that became an effective PR operation using social media, slick branding and pasting-table petitions to rally support globally from both the skateboarding community and the general public. In its portrayal of a niche of society largely undocumented outside of its own media, it is a valuable ethnographical source – exactly the kind of book that should be stocked in the Southbank bookshops.

Cover Eye Magazine #92

 

NEW BROCHURE FOR SKATE AID

Skate Aid Brochure

I had the pleasure of redesigning the handout brochure for Skate Aid.

It’s out now and available at any good skateboarding goods purveyor.