Catching Up, But Not in a Good Way

Following on from that ‘Google‘ post, the ‘Brand 2.0’ revelations which currently seem to be shaking the traditionally reactive and ‘late to the party’ D&AD to the core, (touched upon here; ‘Let’s Push Things Forward‘), remind me of the truism sung by Ella Fitzgerald/Fun Boy Three feat. Bananara* that it ‘Aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it’.

There’s something telling about the way the tirelessly self-promoting Simon Manchipp (moderator of this discussion) frames the debate, trying to pitch it as some sort of cock-fight between the various presenting creatives and suits, and also noting the bitchy twittersphere ramblings of the audience, concluding with some vague assertions and questions from an audience and panel that seem to know that something is up, but are clueless to address it; “why were designers not engaging with clients at a deeper level? Was change really only surface deep? What about behaviour. Experience. Thinking. Reputation. These are where brands became useful for products, services and organisations… How can we move the debate on to provide some consensus on what we should be worrying about?”

Also brings us back to this question.

*Depending on your age/cultural viewpoint.

** I wasn’t at this event, I’m just commenting on the write up of it.


I’ve seen this slide used by Wolff Olins a few times recently, to frame their ‘take’ on brands, (this recent get together at Wieden + Kennedy being just one example). Sounds quite similar to some things we heard round about 2005… but things move on – now we need to be really critical and questioning of the inculpable search engine.

Work in Progress

(Enter) the Contextual Void.

Note: This is a small experiment I did with rss feeds, and the deliberate decontextualising of art/design images. Inspired by, or ideas provoked by, DDDDoomed.

WikiLeaks and Identity


(thanks Lizzie)

On OffBrand

“The usual difficulty is that of losing control of the design situation once one is committed to a systematic procedure which seems to fit the problem less and less as designing proceeds” John Christopher Jones, Design Methods, 1970

One of the charges often levelled at ‘offbrand’ is that it somehow advocates an ‘anything goes’ approach, (not that I have a particular problem with this). But off-brand is far from anti-design. It emphasises and advocates thoughful and sensitive design decisions made at the point of impact, in the ‘now’. In fact it could to be said to be more pro-design than most identity schemas (however comprehensive or ‘good’ they might be considered to be when launched) in that it devolves responsibility and puts trust in individual designers being able to handle the specific context of a piece of design alongside a developing visual identity. It prefers design responsibility to be distributed and does not try to make a quick buck with an all-seeing schema today, at the expense of the ability to actually ‘design’ things tomorrow.

The recent preferences for ‘flexible identities‘ go some way towards more responsive design decision making, but many fail to deliver many real freedoms. All identities are flexible but some are more flexible than others. The practise of identity design, in the main, seems to be willfully myopic when it comes to entertaining any thoughts of multiplicity, or the possibility of parallel situations and circumstances, instead seeking comfort in a cosy and simple idea of a linear and undisrupted narrative, controlled from the centre and consistently broadcast without any interference from external factors.

Think of the alternative as a fantastic publisher creating great books, each simultaneously standing alone and as part of a set, or a collection of art, each piece its own self-contained thing, but contextualised in a shared ‘gallery’ space, or an independent record store containing an evolving archive of audio and visual design, the quality, display and format of the pieces (120mm x 120mm, 12″ x 12″) bringing together a diverse body of works. What the above have in common, particularly when operating at the highest level, is either a) individual authors afforded the autonomy, (or able to operate autonomously as a direct result of what they’re doing), by an individual who can keep a gentle but steady hand on proceedings (a benevolent editor or commissioner if you like), and no desire to limit or control from the top down, (recognising that to be counter-productive), or b) distributed networks where individual participants strive to do their ‘best‘ without that being centrally organised or arbitrated.

Project Projects and the Identity of SALT

I’m just posting this rationale of an identity design for a cultural institution up for the time being, will return to it for discussion later.

Work in Progress

The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Graphic Designer

People often ask me, “What’s it like being a Graphic Designer? Does that involve dressing up like a hipster and sitting round a large table with other hipsters looking at neatly arranged collections of obscure design books?” and I reply that 95% of my time is spent doing that, the other 5% is spent riding my fixed gear courier bike around town and trying to buy risograph machines on ebay.

Shit Happens

Johnson Banks report on what seems to be a case of mistaken identity… or is it? The London 2012 identity, widely derided and visually mocked by an army of spoofs and parodies, has travelled far and fast. If we take it as read that every organisation now has an ‘image economy’ associated with it, the lions share of which it has no control over whatsoever, then perhaps it could be a smart strategy that we see more ‘brands’ adopting, launching laudable identity schemes in the hope that they get mashed-up, parodied, and in the process, proliferate way beyond anything they could have previously expected. In the society of the search query, perhaps all identities (official or not) are equal?

dOCUMENTA 13 Visual Identity

The dOCUMENTA 13 Visual Identity deploys a range of several (many? any?) typefaces, the common thread being the lowercase d. The question I would then have, to do with context and choices, is on what basis these decisions are made about which typeface to use and where? Is it systematised? Is it random? Is it devolved to the individual designer? At first reading, there do to me seem to be some contradictions (or at least ‘issues’) wrapped up in the rationale; “Our aim is to achieve a consistent and effective non identity…”


Fun and Games is a blog post showing the pitch work of design agency d8 for Glasgows Commonwealth brand identity implementation. This is interesting because of the comment it has generated around the politics of publicising pitch work, and more importantly, the potential for multiple identities to exist at once.


Stories of ‘surfaces’, and issues of regulation and ‘non-design’ here.