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CR December: The Photography Annual

Posted: November 21st, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

December's CR is a double issue and features our Photography Annual; 80-pages of the best in editorial, advertising, fashion, stock and personal work...

This year's Photography Annual (in association with Precision Printing) includes some fantastic imagery from a wide range of experienced practitioners and relative newcomers. We launched the special issue last night at the Design Museum and were able to celebrate the achievements of those whose work is featured in its pages and the seven projects which were judged Best in Book. Congratulations to all.

Flip the issue over, and up front in the regular CR half we look at how Precision Printing worked to produce this year's Photography Annual cover; take a look at the best of this year's Christmas ads; and look at the Barry Island climbing wall which doubles as an art installation. We also have Bagpuss as we 'almost' new him.

In the columns, Daniel Benneworth-Gray struggles to cope with two new demanding clients in his life – a poorly wife and child; while in Logo Log, Michael Evamy explores the power of punctuation in branding – on the back of the NSPCC's recent logo redesign.

Kicking off our main features, Patrick Burgoyne talks to designer Vince Frost about his new self-helf book, Design Your Life. In it Frost explains how the same design principles which work for clients can be applied to making our personal lives better.


Patrick also investigates the social and political challenges that our ageing populations pose to Western economies – and looks at the opportunities that might arise, too.

Eliza Williams examines a year in which native advertising established itself as a controversial presence in our media landscape...

...and in using materials that change colour in the wind – or even react to brain activity – Rachael Steven talks to The Unseen, an 'exploration house' effortlessly combining art and chemistry.

French graphic designer and illustrator Jean Jullien is much in-demand at the moment and Mark Sinclair talks to him about his work to date as he leaves his adopted home of London for New York.


Five years ago, Sophie Ebrand swapped life as an advertising account manager for that of a professional photographer – and she's never looked back. Eliza Williams meets her.

In Crit, Jean Grogan attends a Paris conference on the work of type designer, artist and ad man Roger Excoffon, whose work is enjoying something of a revival at the moment...

... and Craig Oldham is also conference bound – to Manchester's People's History Museum for an event dedicated to the history of the political poster in Britain.

Finally, Paul Belford celebrates a type-only poster designed by the late Alan Fletcher which proves that working counter-intuitively can pay off in a big way.

Our pick of the best new children’s picture books

Posted: November 19th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Illustration | Comments Off

While children's favourites Alfie, Mog and Paddingon each have Christmas books out this month, we thought we'd put together a special round-up of some of the most interesting illustrated titles we've seen in recent weeks. There's something for everyone this season: a dog on stilts, a bear who wants to read, new-look Richard Scarry and two books about snow...


Sam & Dave Dig A Hole – Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker Books, £11.99)

First up, in a second collaboration with writer Mac Barnett, illustrator Jon Klassen helps tell the story of two optimistic diggers who venture deeper underground in a search for something spectacular. As with Klassen's previous books – I Want My Hat Back and the more recent This Is Not My Hat – the visual humour is spot-on (keep an eye on that dog!) For me, he's one of the best illustrators currently working in children's publishing and, when paired with Barnett, the two of them clearly have a lot of fun. Here, the drawings are all earthy tones and soil colours – and Sam and Dave get progressively muddier as the book goes on. A lovely thing.



Bears Don't Read! – Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins, £12.99)

In the latest from Emma Chichester Clark, a bear finds a book in the forest and decides he wants to read it – so he tries to find someone who can help him. Unfortunately, to most of the people in the town he just looks like a massive bear holding a book so, with a sad inevitability, the police become involved and it looks like it might not happen. However, a young girl has sympathy with him and, well ... you'll have to read it to find out what happens. Chichester Clark's story is very funny and the imagery has a wry humour as well.



Snow – Sam Usher (Templar, £6.99)

The first of two snow-related books on our list, Sam Usher's story is all about having to wait to go outside and play, while everyone else is already tramping around in the white stuff. But when Grandad is finally ready to take his grandson outside, they find that it's not just boys and girls who have got to the park before them. Usher's engaging style is very much in the tradition of Quentin Blake (his characters have similar upturned noses!), and there's a similiar sensibility to the story as well, which is no bad thing.



No Such Thing – Ella Bailey (Flying Eye Books/NoBrow, £11.99)

Published in time for Hallowe'en, Ella Bailey's lovely book features Georgia, a young girl determined to find out just who is responsible for scribbling on her bedroom walls, pinching her socks and knocking all manner of things over. Bailey's illustrations are full of wide-eyed character and expression with plenty of detail in each scene to keep keener eyes occupied. Georgia also happens to live in a charmingly messy house, so there's a touch of realism (and sympathy with parents) about it all as well. Incidentally, Flying Eye Books is NoBrow's childrens imprint.



Paul Smith for Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go – Richard Scarry (HarperCollins, £25)

Now this is an interesting one. At £25 this isn't going to be unwrapped by that many five year-olds this Christmas; instead, the likely audience is those who are keen on a smart new edition of a children's classic, in this case readers who have fond memories of Richard Scarry's book, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, the first time around (e.g. the late 70s). Sir Paul Smith, himself a big fan of Scarry's line, has designed the slipcase, covers and endpapers and introduces the book. It's a lovely edition – but clearly for fans who want to celebrate the book's 40th anniverary rather than become aquainted with it for the first time. A limited edition is of course also available and, unsurprisingly, looks great (a pop-up scene, three press-out-and-make vehicles, five art prints contained within) but at £200 is for Scarry collector's only. (Press-out-and-make vehicles though...).



The Lavender Blue Dress – Aidan Moffat, illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen (Cargo Publishing, £13.99)

By far the sweetest story in this collection, the debut children's book from singer and musician Aidan Moffat also has a fantastic moral at its heart. As Mabel prepares for the school's Christmas ball, she's aware that many of her friends will be wearing new dresses and that her parents don't have the money to buy her one. Yet, unbeknown to her, her family are working together to give her the perfect dress for the party. Emmeline Pidgen's soft pencil illustrations accentuate the warmth of the story, which delivers a great Christmas message, too. There's even an accompanying CD which, for fans of Moffat's work which perhaps isn't so suitable for little ones (this dad included) is also a treat to listen to. A teaser for the book is here.



Plip, The Umbrella Man – David Sire, illustrated by Thomas Baas (Little Gestalten*, €14.90) *English edition not yet in the publisher's store but keep an eye on Little Gestalten

We've seen a few of the German editions from Little Gestalten, the Berlin-based publisher's new childrens imprint, but this is one of the first titles to appear in English (it was originally published in French in 2013). Plip has an otherwise regularly-shaped head but, when it starts to rain incessantly, he decides to become an 'umbrella man'. As it turns out, he has some issues of his own to work through before he can truly enjoy himself, let alone the weather. This is a strange, ever-so-slightly bleak tale which looks great on the page – lots of space, just three colours throughout from Thomas Bass – and in its own way deals with some fairly complex issues. Interesting also to see a visual arts publisher venturing into the children's market.



Snow – Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Carolina Rabei (Faber & Faber, £12.99/£6.99).

Set to de la Mare's short poem, which featured in his 1924 collection, Peacock Pie, this is a beautiful rendering of a classically-imagined Christmas. All the scenes and characters are depicted in browns, greys, reds and blacks while the dominant colour is of course a blanket of white that covers everything. Caroline Rabei's illustrations are very warming and full of detail – perfect to pore over on a cold, wintry day.



Dog on Stilts – James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon aka the Superhairies (Digital Leaf, £10.99)

And finally, from the duo behind the madcapped caper that is The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race comes Dog on Stilts. Medium Dog is, well, unhappy with being just 'medium' – and so longs to be noticable. So after a night in the shed he bangs together some stilts so he can be as tall as a towering tree. As with their debut, Mackinnon's artwork is full of invention (he's clearly a fan of odd angles and perspectives) and, combined with the character designs, this new book makes for a busy feast for the eyes. Again, as with many memorable children's picturebooks, there's a traditional message at the heart of a crazy adventure.

A Quality of Light: Vintage Classics’ Virginia Woolf series

Posted: November 18th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Over the last two years, Vintage Classics has republished 14 of Virginia Woolf's works in an ongoing series which includes her novels, essays and diaries. For the series' cover designer James Jones it's been an opportunity to use images from a range of photographers and create a set unified by the strength of its imagery...

Take a look at any recent round-up of great book cover design and it seems that illustration and type-only designs are more popular than ever – photography, it now seems, perhaps less so.

But Vintage's ongoing publication of the complete works of Virginia Woolf (based on her original Hogarth Press texts) has developed into a series linked by its great choice of photographic image.

The covers often use tight crops of pictures (there are four examples below), with some subtle tonal manipulation, all of which is overseen by Jones.


For the Vintage designer, the job of covering the full set – of which Street Hauntings (above) was the most recently published – began with an immersion in Woolf's world. "Redesigning Woolf's novels was a challenge, not just because of the endless options out there, but for the fact I hadn't read any of her work beforehand," Jones explains.

"I was surprised by how obscure and highly experimental it was; her work is distinctive, her style her own, and her words bold and new. And it was the words I was struck by the most, so I began visualising the first few paragraphs of her novels purely through typography."

A detail from Jones' first typographic idea is shown below (this was later exhibited in the Killed Covers exhibition at the Hay on Wye festival).


Jones says that, while keen on the type-based approach, the route didn't convey "how contemporary her novels felt, and it would prove a challenge to stretch the typographic route across her many books. What I really wanted to bring across, and what I felt was missing from my earlier ideas," he says, "was the sense of colour and light that I pictured when reading her work."

Senior editor at Vintage, Frances MacMillan, concurs. "We wanted new jackets which would make potential readers rethink their ideas of this famous author; covers which presented Woolf as modern, relevant and surprising," she says. "Woolf's own beautiful, sensuous descriptions of light and water in The Waves were one of the starting points for inspiration."


The Waves, one of Woolf's most experimental books, was the first to be published in the new Vintage edition in April 2012. To the Lighthouse followed and set the tone for the resulting series.

Jones says that he and MacMillan picked out various passages from each book that could be investigated further – key moments, themes and setting descriptions all played their part when looking for the right images. The designer then researched photographs that helped to represent certain lines within the work, however abstract they were.

"We decided to go photographic, and give a wide brief – the main thing we were looking for in the photos was a certain quality of light: early evening summer light; hazy, sunny light; or cold London daylight," says MacMillan. "Suffused colour, and over-exposed, bleached or tinted images seemed to suit the intensity of Woolf's voice."

"Cropping of these images was important, as it kept the covers modern and fresh," says Jones. "A good example would be for The Waves. A wrinkled bed sheet. A window. A dark line across the horizon. All feature in the first few paragraphs, and I loved how with the right crop the bedsheets themselves resembled the title of the book." The original photograph is shown below, beneath an image of the finished cover.

Giacomo Furlanetto, Millennium Images


"We wanted the photos to mirror her famous stream-of-consciousness style and represent captured moments, giving the sense of lives going on before and after the photo taken," adds MacMillan. "Unusual details, or an odd crop, would suggest a unique, innovative point of view."

Most of the images used in the set are crops of larger photographs but what's perhaps more surprising is how tight the details extracted are.

For Jones, this was about focusing in on certain details in the images which would then help to bring the overall series together – as in the cover designed for Woolf's famous lecture, A Room of One's Own, which uses a small element from the right-hand side of second shelf of books in Matthew Somorjay's picture, shown below. (Jones would then work with the tones, highlights and saturations of each of the images to bring them all into line.)

Matthew Somorjay, Millennium Images


"I wanted to zoom in quite heavily to focus on the shadows and the light falling against the books," he says. "You can also see how the colours have been altered to fit in with the rest of the series. Each cover uses a different photographer and most of them were represented by Millennium images as they seemed to have the style of photograph I was after.

"Making each unique image work as part of a series proved trickier, but was solved through the colour changes and again the crops of the images."

Matthew Strong, Getty Images

Tim White, Millennium Images


"When it came to the type – a version of Caslon – I wanted to keep it quite elegant and simple so as not to distract from the images," says Jones. "

Each cover was great to work on and hopefully as a series they tie together well and represent the authors style of writing, which is still an active influence on many writers working today."

The Vintage Woolf series is published by Vintage Classics. More details here. Jones is also one of the founders of the CMYK blog which charts the design of various Vintage books. For more of his work, see jamespauljones.tumblr.com or follow him via @jamespauljones

Gothic: the stuff of nightmares

Posted: November 17th, 2014 | Author: Rick Poynor | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration, Music Video / Film, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, Universal/The Kobal Collection

The Gothic still retains a powerful influence on visual culture, as an eerie show at the British Library reveals. Rick Poynor ventures inside

I have always had a slightly guilty taste for the Gothic. I say guilty because there is something undeniably adolescent about the Gothic imagination. At its most excessive it is certainly not subtle: ruined castles, dark forests, evil monks, supernatural occurrences, lashings of black and rivers of blood. My dalliance with the Gothic began as a teenager, watching Hammer horror films on late-night TV and reading the classic novels.

What still attracts me is the pleasure of the fantastic, the genre's willingness to embrace the irrational, the proximity of terror and the sublime, and the way that Gothic works usher us down into crypts of inner experience that more decorous forms of storytelling cannot reach. I draw the line at dressing up like a Goth, but I can see the appeal for those who do.

Model of Gothic revival country house Fonthill Abbey, on loan from Beckford's Tower and Museum, Bath. Photo: Tony Antoniou


Terror and Wonder, the British Library's unusually crepuscular exhibition - low lighting, black walls, typography (by Kellenberger-White) like inscriptions on a tombstone - brought it all back. This is another of those compendious surveys, like the library's Out of this World science fiction show in 2011, which begins with the historical origins of a phenomenon and traces it through to the present. For make no mistake, the Gothic's overwrought contemporary progeny are still intrinsic to our cultural life, from Mark Z Danielewski's typographically experimental cult novel House of Leaves (2000) to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999-2006), a knowingly morbid set of children's books, which became a hit movie. Jane Austen may have made fun of Gothic literature in her 1817 novel Northanger Abbey. Today, she herself gets mashed up and parodied in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009).

The exhibition begins, as it must, in Strawberry Hill, where Horace Walpole spent three decades building a tribute to the medieval Gothic style with towers, battlements and ornate chambers. In 1764, Walpole published The Castle of Otranto, commonly regarded as the first Gothic novel - "a tale of mistaken identity, illicit sexuality, supernatural happenings and tense pursuits", as the curators put it - set in a medieval Italian castle. Lurid Gothic romances rapidly became a craze and many early examples are on show: William Beckford's Vathek - a later German edition with a hair-raising illustration by Gottfried Helnwein; Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho; and Matthew Lewis's The Monk, an astonishing book, which I recently read again. Written when its precocious author was 19, it significantly boosted the Gothic novel's sex and violence quotient. A James Gilray cartoon from 1802 shows a lady at a table reading The Monk out loud to three startled but utterly enthralled female companions.

The Nightmare, after Henry Fuseli, print made by Thomas Burke, London, 1783 (on loan from the Trustees of the British Museum)


The mood of these novels receives visual expression in some well-chosen paintings of the period, such as Philip James de Loutherbourg's Travellers Attacked by Banditti (1781) and Henri Fuseli's Percival Delivering Belisane from the Enchantment of Urma (1783). But the early parts of the exhibition are inevitably bookish, with many title pages to be studied, and the exhibition's accompanying volume, written by literary scholars, emphasises the literary history.

For non-specialists, the most rewarding aspect of Terror and Wonder is its detailed exposition of the many channels through which the virus of Gothic themes and imagery took cultural hold. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) continues to haunt the popular imagination, as does Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, which in 1990 made it into an episode of The Simpsons. The exhibition also includes a clip from a 1953 animated version of Poe's story The Tell-Tale Heart, narrated by the actor James Mason, which received a precautionary X certificate from the British Board of Film Censors.


Cover of Bram Stoker's Dracula, featuring the first ever illustration of the Count, Leeds, 1901


Gothic imagery can be found in the Brontës' Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which was restyled in a 2009 reissue to look like a volume from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight vampire saga, as well as in Dickens' Bleak House (the exhibition has a clip of the BBC dramatisation), Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, not forgetting Bram Stoker's seemingly immortal creation Dracula (1897). The Victorian penny dreadfuls, where Spring-heeled Jack, a persistent urban legend, made regular appearances, were also significant. The exhibition finds a place, too, for a front-page story from 1888 in The Illustrated Police News, detailing Jack the Ripper's latest slaying in the Gothic gloom of London's Whitechapel.

The Plague of the Zombies poster (BFI National Archive)


As the narrative moves into the 20th-century, the displays become more garishly graphic. There are film posters for Dead of Night and The Innocents, Jack Nicholson's scrapbook from Kubrick's The Shining, and clips from The Bride of Frankenstein, Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies and The Wicker Man. At times one wonders whether the curators - led by Tim Pye - have become too over-enthusiastically all-encompassing in their interpretation of the theme. The Wicker Man has an enduring power to chill, and it gets some useful contextual support from an alarming but dubious illustration from 1771 showing Druids burning sacrificial victims in a wicker man, but is the film in any real sense Gothic?

Early illustration of a 'wicker man' from Nathaniel Spencer's The Complete English Traveller, 1771, British Library Board

The Wicker Man, 1973, Studio Canal Films/The Kobal Collection


Since the 1960s, horror has become so extreme as a genre that traditional tropes - castles, dungeons and deranged clergymen - now seem rather fangless. The Gothic today is more an arena for stylistic play and irony (see the Chapman Brothers) than a place of fearfulness or true transgression. In the late 1970s, Gothic style jumped the species barrier into pop. Listen to Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus on YouTube, if you have never heard it - the sleeve graphics are in the show. Performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Robert Smith of The Cure became icons of Gothic moodiness. Costuming yourself as a Goth was now a lifestyle choice, an act of subcultural allegiance and a declaration of difference.

Jim Kay, preliminary sketch for A Monster Calls


Every year, the face-painted tribe converges on the port where Bram Stoker's Dracula came ashore, for the Whitby Goth Weekend, and the British Library sent Martin Parr along to document the event. His photos, on display in the last room, are washed out by the weather and don't have the glamour some photographers might have contrived. What Parr records, 250 years after the first Gothic novel appeared, are gentle and surprisingly touching visual gestures of everyday defiance.

This article was first published in CR's November issue. For more like this, subscribe here

Rick Poynor blogs at designobserver.com/profile/rickpoynor/81. Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination is at the British Library until January 20, 2015. See bl.uk

The Creative Review Annual 2015 is open for entries

Posted: November 17th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film | Comments Off

The Creative Review Annual 2015 is now open for entries. Enter by Friday 12th December to have your work featured in our showcase of the year's finest work.

As our major awards scheme, The Annual celebrates the best in visual communications from the past year, and showcases great work to both peers and potential clients from the wider creative community.

Each year, our panel of industry experts chooses the work that they feel represents the best of the year across advertising, design, digital and music videos, for publication in our special double issue of Creative Review in May.

For more details and to submit your entry, click here


New illustration: Lynnie Zulu, Outline Artists, the Art of Ping Pong & more

Posted: November 14th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Books, Illustration | Comments Off

Our latest pick of new illustration work includes an exhibition of female portraits by Lynnie Zulu, a charity auction of illustrated ping pong bats in aid of Children in Need and a new book of character portraits from Pictoplasma.

Lynnie Zulu - Wild Things

Bold, bright and always full of energy, Lynnie Zulu's illustrations are inspired by exoticism and surreal African paintings (you can read an interview with her from our February issue here).

For her latest exhibition at Brighton's No Walls Gallery, Zulu has created a series of portraits exploring "the mysteries of the female in all her guises": prints reflect various personality types, from "optimistic dreamers" and "strident extroverts" to femme fatales, and feature lively patterned backgrounds inspired by each character's mood.

The show is open until November 23 and prints are also on sale on the gallery's website - for details, see nowallsgallery.com



The Art of Ping Pong

Last year, table tennis enthusiasts at design studio Fivefootsix launched The Art of Ping Pong: a charity auction of ten ping pong bats illustrated by leading creatives in aid of Children in Need, which raised over £1000.

This year, the studio has recruited 21 artists, from design duo Crispin Finn to Camberwell graduate Gaurab Thakali and will again be selling bats online via an auction, which closes on November 17. Bats are also on display at Beach Gallery in London until November 16 and include some witty, colourful and inventive designs - you can see the full set or place your bid at theartofpingpong.co.uk.

Alec Doherty & Rebecca Sutherland

Edward Carvalho-Monaghan & Rob Flowers

Gaurab Thakali & Malarky

Harry Tennant & Crispin Finn


Outline Artists

Virginie Morgand

Outline Artists, the sister illustration agency to Outline Editions, is hosting an exhibition at Exposure Gallery in Soho this month featuring new work and commissions from its roster of artists.

Lucy Vigrass, left and Edward Carvalho-Monaghan

The show includes prints and illustrations by Edward Carvalho-Monaghan, Hvass & Hannibal, Rob Bailey and Kristjana S Williams as well as new signings Lucy Vigrass and Virginie Morgand. More info and opening times here.


A little film about Jean Jullien...

From Tube posters and book covers to hand woven rugs, Jean Jullien's work has appeared in many forms and places this year (see below for another project which just launched this week). Our soon-to-be published December issue features an interview with Jullien about his work, career and recent move to New York but for now, here's a lovely short film from illustration agency Handsome Frank, in which he describes his approach and aesthetic.

Eurostar - Better Closer

To promote the 20th anniversary of Eurostar, creative agency The Clearing commissioned four illustrators -  Jean Jullien, Toni Halonen, Eili-Kaija Kuusniemi and Adrian Johnson - to illustrate a variety of travellers'  responses to the question, 'What's better about being closer to London, Paris & Brussels?'

Illustrations have been applied to tote bags, postcards and taxis as well as large-scale outdoor and in-station print ads and a cover wrap of the Metro newspaper. My particular favourite is Jullien's YOLO illustration:

Jean Jullien

Adrian Johnson

Eili-Kaija Kuusniemi

Toni Halonen


Pictoplasma - Character Portraits

The publishing arm of Berlin character culture and design conference Pictoplasma has released a new book on character design. Character Portraits contains over 600 characters by 200 illustrators, from Raymond Lemstra and Brosmind to Hattie Stewart, and is described as a "visual antitode to the current craze for saccharine pet pictures and selfies ad nauseam." You can order a copy, priced at 49 Euros, here.

Mark Gmehling & Melissa Godoy

Roman Klonek


Raymond Lemstra & Nina Braun


Toys Exhibition, Bristol

Bristol-based illustrators Ed Cheverton, David McMillan and Jayde Perkin have launched a charming exhibition in Bristol to raise money for Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal Charity, which supports Bristol Children's Hospital.

Sponsored by Anorak, Wrap, the Bristol Children's Scrapstore Charity and publisher Jazz Dad Books, the show features interactive work from over 30 artists, including 3D toys, games, puzzles, mobiles and a toy town (it even promises "fandangles", whirligigs and "zim zams").

The show is open until November 22, when featured works will be sold, with all proceeds going to the Appeal. Cheverton, Perkins and McMillan are also hosting a day of children's workshops with sponsors this weekend. For more information, see toys-exhibition.co.uk.

Lauren Humphreys

Elliot Kruszynski

Liam Barrett

Pelican Books: an unrivalled online reading experience

Posted: November 14th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The relaunch of Pelican books in May was a two-fold operation. Alongside the new-look editions, the publishers were working in tandem on a bespoke in-browser reading experience that would, they hoped, truly echo the books in print. Is this finally the digital version of the book we've been waiting for?

One of the most interesting aspects to the Pelican relaunch, which we covered in detail in the CR June Monograph, was that on-screen development had influenced the design of the printed editions, and vice-versa.

While the rich heritage of the imprint could have weighed down on the shoulders of the design team – Penguin's non-fiction brand originally ran from 1937 to 1984 and spawned a multitude of great cover design – it was in fact the digital era that influenced its new direction in 2014.

Perhaps even more unusual was that the idea for how the online versions of the books might work came out of Penguin's art department and its work on the new Pelican range, rather than from any editorial or marketing directive.

Indeed, the new digital direction via pelicanbooks.com (Pelican editions are resolutely not an ebook or an app), was led by one of Penguin's book designers, Matt Young; the team working with Bristol-based Fiasco Design to build the final website.

One of the first Pelican releases, as displayed on an iPhone

In March 2013, art director Jim Stoddart first briefed his design team on the relaunch of the Pelican series. "The brief was to make these books accessible and distinctive," says Young, "and I suggested that we could make them available to read online – not just buy online, but to actually read online. That was a big part of this project right from the start."

Young was already frustrated with the reading experience offered by most ebooks (see two examples below) and thought Penguin could do better.

One week later he had built a prototype responsive webpage (showed below), which offered a clean, comfortable and enjoyable reading experience at any screen size, and pitched the idea to his colleagues in the art department. Later that day he was making the same pitch to Penguin's managing director.

Ebook problems: bad spacing and text flow

Young's first prototype for the Pelican Books website


The text was the starting point for the Pelican redesign. "We chose typefaces that render well both in print and online," Young says. "Freight Text for body copy and [a custom version of] Brandon for headlines. Although the layout of the online books is flexible and responds to the screen size, the proportions and the spacing are consistent across both formats."

How the new books' covers would look was also an early consideration, with Young attempting to find an approach that would be flexible enough to work onscreen at any size or shape. This saw him "exploring pattern and abstract geometric shapes that work regardless of how they're cropped, combined with big, welcoming, distinctive type for the title and author."

Early cover experiments by Young. Pelican logo by Richard Green

Cover of Orlando Figes' book from the relaunch series


"When reading a book in print, we interact with the cover every time we open and close the book – we see it all the time, it reinforces our perception of the book in our minds," Young explains.

"Whereas when reading an ebook, the cover often has a much smaller role to play – reduced to a thumbnail, and sometimes never seen again once the book has been purchased. With Pelican, the cover is echoed throughout the entire book: each chapter begins with a full-page/full-screen chapter opener, acting as an important visual signpost and echoing the cover, reinforcing the brand and the series style."

The books' chapters share the same design idea, in print and online

For Young, a big limitation of ebooks is how they handle non-text information – everything from detailed diagrams and maps, to charts and tables. Essential information for many non-fiction titles.

"At best you have to click/pinch/zoom/pan your way around, and at worst they're just completely illegible," he says. "And ebooks are usually converted directly from the print files – so even if you're reading on a tablet with a high-definition screen capable of accurately rendering millions of colours, you still get the same black and white map that was optimised for print and used in the paperback edition."

All maps and diagrams which appear in the Pelican launch series have been re-drawn for the screen and optimised to work at any size.

"If an author references a video we can actually embed the video right there in the text, rather than just showing a screenshot or a film still," Young adds. "If a diagram communicates more effectively with the aid of movement or animation, we can do that too through video or animated gifs."

Map as shown on an iPhone (animation)

Tables are also displayed clearly on a laptop screen


Animated diagram


Another difference from the traditional ebook format is how the Pelican editions deal with footnotes. "[In ebooks] instead of being positioned at the foot of the page, they're housed in a separate chapter tacked onto the end of the book, more like endnotes than footnotes," Young explains.

Normally, he says, clicking on an asterisk or number in the main text takes the reader to a new chapter where they then have to find the relevant note amongst many others; then click a link to take them back to where they originally were in the text.

Footnotes from a Pelican book as displayed on an iPhone


"It's disruptive to the reading experience, you're jumping back and forth, interrupting the flow of the book," Young says. "For our online books we asked: how should footnotes be handled on the web? Our solution was for footnotes to be positioned – as you might expect – at the foot of the page. [See animation, above]

"If you want to read the author's note you click the asterisk or number – it has a wide target area, so is easy to hit even with stumpy fingers on small screens – and the note slides in seamlessly from the foot of the page. You can still read and refer back to the main text at the same time as it's still on screen; and you can dismiss the note when you're done with a simple swipe or click."

The design of the onscreen Pelican experience allows readers to easily highlight and share text


Having already got a few 'pages' into Human Evolution by Robin Dunbar, it's clear that the reading experience is just about as good as you can get online. The bespoke nature of the design works extremely well; the books feel individually crafted yet part of an identifiable Pelican collection, while the mechanics of reading – accessing the contents, scrolling, even highlighting text – is a joy.

"Essentially we're just trying to provide the best possible reading experience for these books," says Young. "Our design approach has been extremely unified and holistic, allowing us to play to the strengths of each format whilst making the books very distinctively, recognisably 'Pelican' inside and out."

Pelican Books can be bought (and read) online via pelicanbooks.com. Matt Young's site is mymymy.co.uk; Fiasco Design are at fiascodesign.co.uk

CR Club: Letterpress at the RCA

Posted: November 12th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration, Type / Typography | Comments Off

We had a great turn out for our first CR Club event at the Royal College of Art last night, which featured a talk by letterpress legend Alan Kitching and a tour of the GraphicsRCA show from curator Adrian Shaughnessy. Thank you to everyone who made it along...

In the RCA's Senior Common Room, Kitching spoke about his time at the college and his establishment of the typography and letterpress workshop. He arrived in 1988 at the suggestion of Derek Birdsall, his colleague at the Omnific design studio and the then head of graphic design at the RCA, and taught his final classes in 2006.


During that time Kitching not only introduced the letterpress process to generations of students (it remains a very popular course), but was also integral in saving the very print studios in which he and his colleagues worked.

Securing the equipment for the college also had an effect beyond the walls of the RCA: other UK colleges realised that there was much to be gained from keeping this old machinery going. "It must be used, or we'll lose it," was the feeling in the early 1990s, he said.

Opening his talk with video footage of the RCA's print studios in 1995, Kitching also divulged that the famous moustache has been with him a long time (see top of post). And he didn't disappoint with the work he showed: over fifty images of projects ranging from personal experiments, editions, maps, book covers and posters, to commissions for The Guardian, The National Theatre and Dazed & Confused magazine.

Whether he is working in bright bold colours or a more minimal black and white palette, within each project the 'word' is key to way he works, he said. In taking on a job and interpreting a phrase or piece of text, Kitching remarked that he feels he becomes a bit like an actor.


Following Kitching's talk, we were lucky enough to have the GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years exhibition open to explore. Adrian Shaughnessy, one of the show's curators, gave a tour of some of the highlights from the collection, which covers student work from 1963 to the present day and includes notable pieces from some well known designers such as Jonathan Barnbrook and John Pasche, whose work shares one wall, shown above.

It was also satisfying to see the influence of both Kitching's printing and his teaching on the work on show in the gallery.

We've had some great feedback on the evening, so thanks again to all the CR subscribers who attended. Our thanks go to Alan and Adrian and also to Professor Teal Triggs and Stephanie Rice at the RCA.

If you'd like to know more about our new CR Club subcribers-only events, offers and discounts, visit our page at creativereview.co.uk/cr-club and keep an eye out for updates on the CR blog. Alan Kitching's portfolio at Debut Art is here; details on his Typography Workshop are at thetypographyworkshop.com. GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years is at the Royal College of ARt in London until December 22. See graphics50.rca.ac.uk.

Collector’s Edition: the cover bomb series

Posted: November 11th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration | Comments Off

Artists, designers and musicians including Stanley Donwood, Wayne Coyne, Nick Cave and Robert ‘3D’ del Naja have ‘cover bombed’ copies of limited edition packaging book Collector’s Edition. The one-off designs will be auctioned online by author Stuart Tolley to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Collector's Edition was published by Thames & Hudson in August this year and features over 180 examples of limited edition packaging, product and graphic design. Items featured include Björk's Biophilia box set, the Flaming Lips' gummy song skull and books designed by Jessica Hische, Irma Boom and Stefan Sagmeister.

The original cover

Tolley has now asked ten artists whose work appears in Collector's Edition to decorate a copy of the book to be sold via an online auction which opens tomorrow and closes on December 12.

"I always hoped to create a collector’s edition of the Collector’s Edition book," says Tolley, founder and director at creative agency Transmission. "The idea of an ‘artist cover bomb’ series came late in the project and only after my Nan died a few months before the book was published. She suffered with dementia for 15 years and I really wanted to create a project in her memory, that would help the Alzheimer’s Society," he adds. "The contributing artists were all incredibly generous with their time and have helped create a unique, one off handmade series that will help raise funds for a very good cause."

Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), also pictured top

The book itself is a fascinating read, featuring interviews with designers and specially commissioned photography by Ivan Jones. Tolley says he had the idea for it around five or six years ago, but didn't think there was enough contemporary material to fill "300 pages" – until the renaissance of vinyl led to a wave of luxurious box sets.

"I was really interested in the Radiohead ‘In Rainbows’ boxset and consider it a pivotal moment in the new wave of multi format packaging. The limited edition box set was the most expensive, but it sold out very fast and in many cases people bought [it] alongside a digital version. They were essentially buying Stanley Donwood's artwork," explains Tolley.

"Collector’s Edition is a showcase for specialist music, magazine and book packaging, as these are the subjects I am most passionate about and the areas most affected by the digital environment. But as we move into the streaming era, it is the mid range mass produced formats such as CDs and DVDs that are suffering the most – limited deluxe editions are the opposite end of the scale to downloads and provide the space and opportunity for creativity and innovation. As a designer, I think this is worth celebrating," he adds.

Below is a selection of designs produced for the cover bomb series - for details or to bid for a copy, see the-collectors-edition.com

The Designer's Republic

Stanley Donwood

Jessica Hische

Oliver Jeffers

Nick Cave

Alec Soth

Peter Gabriel

Paul McCartney

Collector's Edition is published by Thames & Hudson - click here to order a copy, or visit the-collectors-edition.com to take part in the auction.

CR November iPad edition

Posted: November 4th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The November issue of CR - our craft special - is also available for iPad, where you'll find all the print mag articles plus exclusive additional content in Hi Res, our showcase gallery section, and CRTV, with video profiles of creative people, animations and other moving image work from around the world....

In Features we feature several contemporary makers from bicycle builders Rusby Cycles, bespoke shoemakers Carreducker and The Brilliant Sign Company, right through to the latest virtual reality with Oculus Rift, Unit9 and Marshmallow Laser Feast. Plus Carter Wong, Erik Spiekermann, reviews of GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and the British Library's gothic art show, and more. And not forgetting regular columns from Michael Evamy, Daniel Benneworth-Gray and Paul Belford.

In Hi Res you'll find posters from Abram Games; photographer Jonathan Knowles' Eyes series; toy design and graphics from Fredun Shapur; Lydia Goldblatt's Still Here photo series; David Bailey's East End; and Attack of the Giant Fingers found photo series from KesselsKramer.

CRTV includes virtual reality videos from Unit9 and Marshmallow Laser Feast; profiles of wooden textile designer Elisa Strozyk and graphic designer Max Kisman; animation with Chrisoph Steger's Mother and Nathan Campbell's Aqua Profonda, and a vision of Parisian chocolate craftsmanship by Simon Pinchochet.


To submit work for consideration for CRTV or Hi Res, please email antonia.wilson@centaur.co.uk

For further info on the CR iPad app or to subscribe, click here.