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How can creativity improve life for the old?

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: Patrick Burgoyne | Filed under: Advertising, Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

Posters presenting views on ageing at the Age of No Retirement conference

Here's the bad news. The UK's population is getting older and we have no coherent strategy to cope with what this means. But what we do know is that we will all be working longer. This will be the age of no retirement.

Now for the good news. Although we as a country (along with most other developed Western economies) are getting older, we are also, on the whole, healthier and fitter. We will all be working longer but work has great benefits that extend beyond the financial. It helps keep us happy and healthy, providing it is the right kind of work and the right amount. This will be the age of no retirement, and that might just be a good thing.

So how can we rethink and redesign our future so that getting old is no longer something to be feared? So that older people are seen as an asset and not a burden? So that our products and services are designed by and for and marketed to the sector of the population with the highest disposable income? So that older people can live as fulfilling, happy and valued lives as the young?

All these themes and more are currently being discussed at a two-day conference in London, The Age of No Retirement. A combination of policy makers, educators, designers, entrepeneurs, carers and all manner of interested others have been wrestling with some of the most crucial issues we face as a society.

As this is Creative Review, let's address just one, crucial question: how can creativity help us to exploit the social and economic opportunities of a society in which the average person now lives longer?

One of the first sessions at The Age of No Retirement explored questions around technology - digital technology in particular - and older people. A great panel including Google head of design (and Britain's oldest ‘Googler') Patrick Collister, Dave Coplin of Microsoft, Gilly Crosby of the Centre for Policy on Ageing and Dave Shepherd, director of Barclays' digital inclusion initiatives wrestled with a variety of topics the first of which was how to get older people online and interacting with digital services in the first place.

Speaking as someone with parents in their 80s I have direct experience of the way in which the ‘digitisation' of so many of our services is already leaving a generation behind. If you're not online, carrying out simple tasks such as renewing a driving licence or booking travel tickets is becoming harder and harder.

Already, there are a large number of groups helping older people to get online - some run by corporates such as Barclays and BT, whose Connected Society head John Perkins was also on the panel. But it remains an enormous challenge, particularly when faced with users who may be scared of either breaking or accidentally downloading the entire internet to their computer, as someone on Perkins' BT course was. How can we design our digital platforms and services to be friendlier and more easy to use for everyone? How can we improve customer service to help people?

There was a realisation that the digital world is still in its infancy. Things don't work as well as they should but, as Patrick Collister pointed out, perhaps we are too demanding. Let's not forget how far we have come. The hope is that eventually this digital technology is a given, that it just works and we get on with using it. But how?

Google and Microsoft, it was pointed out, have overwhelmingly young workforces. How would their products and services change if those creating them were a little older? Why do we fetishise youth so much, particularly in the tech world? How would products such as Facebook change if they were embraced en masse by the over-50s?



Perhaps these issues will sort themselves out as today's ‘digital natives' get older but we could help right now by discovering some digital ‘heroes' for the over-50s. Collister pointed out that since Geriatric1927 (AKA Peter Oakley) sadly passed away earler this year, the oldest YouTuber is 44. There has to be a great opportunity for older people to use the medium to offer advice and help just as their grandchildren are doing with everything from beauty tips to playing games.

And what about the older consumer who, we are told, has much more disposable income than the youngsters that it seems all our advertising is aimed at. Why are the products aimed at them and their needs so uninspiring? A second session, led by Tom Evans of BleepBleeps, suggested some answers.



BleepBleeps is a range of connected devices for parents - will we have similar products for the over-50s?


Anna James of Spring Chicken was hopeful that what has happened for babies and parents may one day be replicated for their seniors. We now have a huge array of products aimed at parents. Department stores have sections for babies and toddlers where we can buy vastly over-engineered buggies and designer babygrows. Will, say, John Lewis one day have a similar department for seniors, stocked with cool carbon fibre walking sticks and hearing aids that look like jewellery? Or will Ikea have rooms set up for older people featuring furniture designed just for them? Or will the stigma of ageing be too offputting? Perhaps we need a change of nomenclature. As Evans said, if he went to a VC investor and pitched a product aimed at the elderly he'd probably get nowhere. But if he pitched a well-being focussed digital wearable, they'd be all ears.

Events such as the Paralympics and Invictus games have showcased innovative designs to cope with physical impairment; perhaps we could apply the same qualities that imbue a runner's blades with tech-cool to a mobility scooter or stairlift?



Flexifoot walking stick, availabe via Spring Chicken


I think we are some way off. As the panel said, rather like parenthood, it is difficult to care about this stuff until you experience it. But the demographics are with us. Once today's digital natives, with their overwhelming sense of entitlement, their impatience with bad service and bad products and their drive to build something better enter the over-50 age group, it's hard not to imagine that they will demand change.

Patrick Burgoyne, age 48 and a half

The Age of no Retirement continues at The Bargehouse, London SE1. Post-event, a report on the major themes to come of the conference will be produced by the organisers, Commonland and Trading Times

Fontsmith launches new website and licensing models

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Graphic Design, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Fontsmith has become the latest type foundry to reinvent its online business model, with a new website and licensing models for users. We spoke to director Jason Smith about the changes, and what they mean for Fontsmith and its clients.

Fontsmith has been working on a new website for over a year, and Smith says the new site and licensing models are fairer, simpler and more transparent. Unlike Monotype, which recently unveiled a new subscription-based Membership model and Dalton Maag, which introduced fixed rate web and app font licenses, Fontsmith's site offers users a choice of four licenses,  based on different organisation and usage types.

The most basic package is a studio license, which offers unlimited use of desktop fonts for up to 50 users (prices start at £200 per family). There’s also an SME license for small and medium-sized businesses, which provides web and desktop font use for up to 50 or 250 employees and 500,000 page views, and a premium ‘Brandfont’ service for larger organisations.

The digital license is divided into three sub-types: users can pay an annual fee based on page views to use a font family in a site hosted by a third party server, a one-off price to use a font family on a self-hosted site, or an upfront sum to use a Fontsmith font in a mobile app.

In a statement announcing the launch, Smith says the changes aim to simplify the licensing process and create a clear pricing structure akin to those used by broadband and TV providers. “I kept seeing adverts for different pricing levels for broadband from Sky, BT etc and as a customer, I could quickly and clearly see which was the right service for me. Font licences though, were very complicated, with different foundries using different approaches. Prices were based on the number of users and I kept being asked what a user was – an employee? A freelancer? A computer? A supplier? It was all getting too confusing, so I took a big step back," he explains.

Speaking to CR, he added that traditional models based on the number of computers a font is installed on have become irrelevant and often lead to complex licenses and unfair pricing. “We had a big client come to us, a high street name, who bought five licenses (one for each of its designers) and paid around £200, yet this font was being used in stores up and down the country. The client hadn’t done anything wrong, but given the work that goes into designing a typeface, we just weren’t getting paid correctly,” he adds.

The new system works on the basis that big brands pay more, and have more control over how they use fonts, while smaller organisations can pay one-off fees based on the number of employees and the type of usage. The Brandfont package covers bespoke design services, from customising existing fonts to creating new ones, and gives brands exclusive global rights to modified fonts and unlimited use online for an up front fee, which varies according to the scale of the project and begins at £10,000.

When determining the new pricing, Smith says Fontsmith was keen to avoid subscription-based models, adding: “My view was that most brands tend to redo things every five to ten years, and don’t see the point in a licensing model. Every designer and project manager just wants an easy life, as does the client. There’s far more benefit for our customers in paying one prices which covers everything, rather than having to read through various licenses and figure out which ones apply to them."

To coincide with the launch of its new business model, Fontsmith has also introduced new web fonts and a new website designed by London studio Taylor / Thomas. Key additions to the site include an image-heavy blog section for visual inspiration, an instant type-tester allowing users to paste text and trial fonts on screen, and more information on the character and key features of selected fonts. In addition, a new support section aims to answer more user queries online.

“The website has been completely updated, but it still has the same styling – we didn’t feel our brand needed re-inventing, so it was more about sharing more information and knowledge with designers online, and making their lives a lot easier,” explains Smith.

“Designers using the site also wanted to know a little more about the story, essence and features of our fonts to help sell them to clients, so we’ve put more of that information online, so they can use it in pitches and presentations. The thing I’m most pleased with, though, is the font library itself – it’s really clearly categorised, and easily filtered so you can find exactly what you need,” Smith adds.

Unlike Dalton Maag's new site, which offers free trials for registered users and Monotype's Membership service, which offers unlimited testing for a monthly fee, the only option to trial on Fontsmith's site is via the test drive tool - but this can be used to try out multiple weights and sizes. The new site is intuitive and nicely designed, offering a more engaging user experience while retaining Fontsmith's existing branding.

As we reported on our blog last week, there's been a real push in the type industry to meet the changing needs of clients and designers working on multi-platform campaigns, and who are looking for simpler and more flexible licensing models. Fontsmith's new approach appears fairer on both user and foundry than its previous model, and grouping by organisation size should eliminate the possibility of big brands paying small change for fonts. It's a considerably different approach to Dalton Maag and Monotype's new structures, and it will be interesting to see which proves most popular - and commercially viable - over the next few years.

Umbrella Revolution: Occupy HK protests inspire internet memes

Posted: September 30th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Illustration | Comments Off

Tania Willis

Artists and illustrators in Hong Kong and beyond are using internet memes to voice their support for the Occupy Central demonstrators

Thousands of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets this week to protest against the Chinese government's plans to vet electoral candidates in the 2017 elections.

Images are being posted on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #umbrellarevolution and Kacey Wong, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has also set up an Umbrella Revolution logo design competition on Facebook and is posting submissions on his Facebook page.

Andrew Wong


The term 'umbrella revolution' refers to demonstrators' use of umbrellas to shield themselves from teargas and pepper spray, which was fired by police on Monday. Police have been attempting to seize umbrellas but according to the AP, supporters have donated hundreds of replacements.

The umbrella has now become the symbol of the Occupy movement in HK, and has been spray painted on streets and applied to posters and flyers which are being distributed around the area. Protestors are also using their umbrellas as protest signs:


Image via @kimrjensen on Twitter

Image via @MariekeNOS on Twitter


Many memes and posters use yellow, referencing the yellow ribbons worn by protestors and displayed on supporters' social media pages as a symbol of democracy and universal suffrage.

The flurry of images is reminiscent of those posted online in support of Occupy movements in Turkey and the Middle East last year . In Istanbul, Twitter was used to great effect to distribute imagery promoting the Occupy Gezi movement, including the widely adopted symbol of the Twitter bird wearing a gas mask (also worn by protestors to shield themselves from tear gas). See our post here

Tania Willis, an illustrator based in Hong Kong (whose meme is pictured top), says she felt compelled to create an image voicing her support after watching events unfold online and on TV.

"We already knew about the memes - linguistically -  from closely following the #occupyhk twitter. Watching the students firstly being kettled into Civic Square in the dreadful heat, they were protecting themselves from the boiling sun with umbrellas, then a few hours later came the very controversial decision by the police to use tear-gas and pepper-spray on the student protestors. We saw the images of them on TV and all over facebook, protecting themselves with the same umbrellas, hence it became #umbrellarevolution," she explains.

"Hong Kong has been my home for 20 years, so I feel very strongly about this issue ... I really felt that aside from taking supplies, I wanted to respond as designer to this but wasn't sure how. Right now, Hong Kong seems to be fully-immersed in Occupy, and it's hard to think of anything else. We are all very struck by the bravery and composure of the protestors," she adds.

Willis' image is a modified version of an illustration she did for a children's book "hence the slightly childish quality," she adds. "Not very activist in style, but given the sensitive subject matter, perhaps [that's] not an altogether bad idea."

You can follow the memes using #umbrellarevolution, #HKartists and #occupyhk

F-F-F-F-Fashion: CR October issue

Posted: September 24th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The October issue of CR is a fashion special with features on the future of the shop, fashion and film, the influence of Instagram, one of our readers' favourite labels, Folk, and how the humble carrier bag has become a collectors' item

We talk to Folk founder Cathal McAteer and to the brand's regular graphic design collaborators IYA Studio about the brand that has found a place in many a CR reader's wardrobe


Plus, we feature Tripl Stitched, a new British-made shirt brand that is collaborating with up and coming illustrators such as Jack Cunningham (whose work appears on our cover this month). And, CR subscribers can get 25% off Tripl Stitched shirts, go here for details of how to claim it


Now that we do so much browsing and buying online, what is the future for fashion retailers on the high street? Rachael Steven looks at how the likes of Dover Street Market, Prada and The Apartment by The Line in New York ("the place to discover and purchase some of our favorite things in the intimate context of a home") are providing shoppers with unique experiences


The shift from photography to film as the medium of choice for many fashion brands has been underway for some time: Eliza Williams looks at how the genre has matured and even started to learn to laugh at itself a little


Antonia Wilson charts the rise of the Instagram fashion bloggers and thier growing influence with the brands they feature


For fashion stores, the carrier bag is a valuable piece of advertising real estate and an important brand communications platform: for collectors, they are artefacts of cultural history. Antonia Wilson reports


In Crit this month, Nick Asbury reviews new book Read Me: Ten Lessons for Writing Great Copy


While Paul Belford bemoans the standard of current VW advertising in comparison to the brilliant work featured in the updated edition of Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?


And our regular columnist Daniel Benneworth-Gray muses on the many choices designers have to make while Michael Evamy explores the enduring appeal of using animals in logos


Plus, for subscribers, we have a special Monograph this month featuring our pick of the ilustrations we have commissioned for the magazine over the past five years. Every issue of CR features work commissioned from young and extablished illustrators, here our art director, Paul Pensom, chooses some of his favourites


If you are not yet a subscriber to CR in print, we have a special offer this month: a free Rotring 500 mechanical drafting pencil for every new subscriber. To subscribe, please go here

Inside the Design Museum’s new website

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

The Design Museum in London launched a new website last week, designed by Netherlands‐based agency Fabrique and build partner Q42. We spoke to Josephine Chanter, head of communications at the museum, and Fabrique strategist Martijn van der Heijden about the thinking behind the redesign...

The Design Museum's previous website was launched in 2006 and as Josephine Chanter, head of communications explains, it needed updating. “Eight years is a long time in digital ‐ our old CMS and website were barely supported, and we wanted to start afresh,“ she says.

The new site offers a more streamlined design, with a greater focus on photography and video. A scrolling homepage offers a glance at current and future shows and events, as well as listing essential information such as contact details and opening hours, while the 'Designs and Designers' section explores objects in the museum's collection and profiles leading names from Zaha Hadid to Barber Osgerby.

Chanter says the museum began work on the redesign around nine months ago. After developing a 'digital vision', staff identified a longlist of over 20 studios whose work they had been impressed by and contacted each to inform them of the project. Eight studios were given the brief, six put themselves forward and four were invited to pitch for the project.

“We selected Fabrique as they had done a lot of work for museums in the Netherlands [the agency has designed websites for the Van Gogh museum, Museum de Lakenhal, Central Museum in Utrecht and the Rijksmuseum],“ says Chanter. “They understood the particular mix of ticketing, membership, collections and exhibitions that is unique to museum websites, and their work was very strong in terms of design,“ she adds.

As Martijn van der Heijden, a strategist at Fabrique, explains, the brief was to create something “seamless, engaging and inspiring“.

“To realise that, we wanted to create a website with a strong character that functions as a platform for exhibitions and activities, showcases and practical information he says. We wanted to create physical room to present this great content  and link everything together: exhibitions to products in the webshop, biographies to Twitter assignments. We also wanted to give the Design Museum a toolbox for future development of the site,“ he says.

Before working on the design, Fabrique held 'customer journey' workshops with the museum to identity different types of users and their needs. The new layout is based around the idea that 80 per cent of people visit museum websites for information on ticketing, while 20 per cent visit for inspiration, explains van der Heijden.

“This percentage is actually the same in fashion e-commerce: only 20 per cent is interested in new collections and look-books. We also knew [this 20 per cent] also spends 20 per cent more in the online shop, so it is important to serve both types of visitors. We do that with the inspiring Design & Designers section next to the more practical Visit and Do and Exhibitions section, and by making those practical pages visually inspiring,“ he adds.

As well as a simplified layout, the new site features bold yellow backgrounds and colour washes with large headlines in industrial typeface DIN, a look van der Heijden describes as stronger and more outspoken.

“Besides the fact that it has a strong character and is very readable, we like the fact that DIN was specially used for industrial products, which of course are an essential part of the museum's collection. The headlines have their own characteristic style but body text must be easy to read. That’s why we divided the text elements as much as possible,“ he explains.

While there's still a lot of content still to be added, the new Design Museum site already offers a richer, more engaging user experience than the old. The bold design is much more contemporary and features some lovely touches, such as icons relaying key stats about each exhibition, while drop down menus make it easy to browse and navigate. As well as allowing the museum to better showcase its collection and digital content, the new site is a helpful resource for visitors who are keen to read up on design and designers.

At the moment, the site lacks some of the functions which proved successful in Fabrique’s work for the Central Museum and Rijksmuseum the Rijksmuseum website features over 125,000 images of items from its collection, while the Central Museum site allowed visitors to view and save images from the collection, creating their own selections but van der Heijden says it will continue to grow and evolve.

“We look forward to the website providing richer experiences as it grows. The homepage allows for more use of video and interaction. The Design and Designers section offers great possibilities to make research that’s done and content that’s created for exhibitions permanently available. Also, we’ve got some great ideas on how to present a collection online that we’re anxious to include. Interaction with the museum audience will be an essential part in this,“ he adds.

London Design Festival: East London Treats

Posted: September 19th, 2014 | Author: Eliza Williams | Filed under: Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration | Comments Off

The London Design Festival continues this weekend, with a selection of great shows across the city. Here's our pick of those out east...

LDF is dominated by product design, but those searching for examples of digital and interactive design would be wise to head down to Tent, at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, which is hosting 'Tokyo Designers Week in London 2014 – Tokyo Imagine', a selection of work showcasing Japanese tech creativity.

There is a multitude of great work to see here, ranging from the fun – a merry-go-round with a movie projected onto it – to the more mind-blowing, including a virtual reality music video using Oculus Rift for Japanese pop star Kumi Koda, available for viewers to experience, and various interactive installations that will see you become part of the artwork in seconds. Well worth checking out, despite the £10 entry fee (which gives you entrance to everything in Tent): all the info is here.

Tokyo Merry-Go-Round by Asami Kiyokawa

An innocent bystander is captured in Twotone's Fragments of Now – Reflections of Immediate Past installation

Selfie Jam by Hiroki Mitsuyasu x Shiftbrain

Visitors experience Kumi Koda's music video via Oculus Rift headsets

Also in Tent is 'Designing Polska – Design in Poland', a small exhibition displaying work by Polish graphic designers. More info is here.

Images of the Designing Polska display

Over in Haggerston, Dan Tobin Smith is displaying his collection of 'kipple' – useless objects, as named by Phillip K Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – in colour-coded order in his studio. We have covered Tobin Smith's images of the kipple on the blog previously (which are also for sale) but it's a real pleasure to have a walk around the installation and inspect all the objects in the flesh. More info here.

Photos of Dan Tobin Smith's installation of kipple (plus image top)

Outside of the official design festival, there are other great design-oriented events taking place out east this weekend too. These include The Drawing Room, a project organised by Steph Hamill and Sarah Cutler. Hamill, a lecturer at Central Saint Martins, has invited a selection of recent CSM graduates to draw on the walls of her recently purchased Clapton home (before it is renovated). A live drawing event took place last night (pics below) and this evening there will be a party for people to view the work (and ideally commission the artists). More info on the project is here.

Finally, those near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this weekend shoud not miss out on 'Art Moves', an event celebrating "the extraordinary world of mobile art vehicles", and featuring what look like a frankly bonkers but brilliant selection of art cars. More info is here.

The Pineapple Car by the Bureau of Silly Ideas

The Conch by Walker and Bromwich

The Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit by Mark Dion

London Design Festival at the V&A

Posted: September 18th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Art, Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

A look at some of the highlights from the V&A's London Design Festival programme, including graphic mosaics, nightmarish 3D sculptures and a mesmerising experiment with light...

London Design Festival runs until Sunday, with installations, talks and events taking place across the capital (you can read our blog post on LCC's 160 exhibitions, covering graphics, illustration and button badges, here). This year, the headline installations at the V&A Museum are Zaha Hadid's Crest and Barber Osgerby's Double Space.

Crest is an ultra-thin sculpture made from eight millimetre-thick aluminium, installed over a pool in the museum's John Madejski courtyard. Hadid says it explores "the relationship between surface and structure, transforming the planar water surface of the pool into a curvillinear form, creating a compelling interplay with light and reflection." It will reside at the V&A throughout London Design Festival before moving to ME hotel in Dubai, which commissioned the project.

ME by Meliá 'Crest' by Zaha Hadid Architects. Image: Ed Reeve

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's Double Space installation, housed in the V&A's Raphael Gallery, is made up of two 15-metre long mirrors weighing over five tonnes each, which are rotated throughout the day, creating a constantly shifting view of the paintings on show:

Double Space for BMW - Precision & Poetry in Motion. Image: Ed Reeve

Both are impressive, but my favourite piece at the V&A this year is Candela: a mesmerising installation designed by Felix de Pass, Graphic Thought Facility’s Michael Montgomery and ceramicist Ian McIntyre.

Placed in a darkened room among medieval tapestries, the installation is made up of a large rotary machine which sits just above the gallery floor. As the face of the machine rotates, it passes hundreds of LED lights housed in a ceramic casing, emitting an eerie green glow.

The project was commissioned by Italian watch brand Officine Panerai, and is inspired by the concept of time. It was made using superluminova, a phospherescent material used in the brand's glow in the dark watch faces, which is charged by LEDs as the machine spins, producing a series of luminous patterns which gradually fade to a softer, duller glow. It's beautifully constructed and the changing patterns are hypnotic - you can see it in motion in the video below:

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Another project that caught my eye was Berlin group The T/Shirt Issue's Dream Land, named after Edgar Poe's 1844 poem. The group, which have been based at the museum as part of a residency programme for the past six months, created a series of abstract sculptures based on 3D scans of objects in the museum's collection. Scans were digitally manipulated to create 'hybrid creatures'  reproduced as physical sculptures. The group says the installation, like a dream, "removes the certainty of the objects" leaving them open to alteration and reinterpretation.

Among the furniture and product designs on display is a series of new additions to the V&A's Design Fund (which acquires contemporary design objects), including a 3D printed 'Sketch' chair by Stockholm design company Front. The chair, below, was created using motion capture data and rapid prototyping: the design is based on an initial sketch made using pen strokes in the air, transformed into a 3D file using motion capture, and 3D printed.

In the British Galleries' cinema room is Future Graphics, a project curated by Factory Fifteen, Design on Film and Penny Hilton, head of the MA graphic moving image course at Central Saint Martins. Twenty eight CG and motion graphics films will be played on a loop throughout the duration of the festival, including work made by students at CSM. Only one film was playing on my visit, but featured some great CG footage of a Rolls Royce speeding through a rural landscape, with leaves blowing in the wind and water droplets falling to the ground.

By the V&A's Tunnel entrance is a lovely installation, Carousel Wall, designed by print and design studio David David in partnership with Johnson Tiles. The artwork is based on a 2011 piece by David David founder David Saunders, inspired by Islamic geometrics, and features bold graphic shapes in bright colours.

Also on throughout London Design Festival (and until early February) is Disobedient Objects, an exhibition showcasing objects made for protest and political activism which we wrote about in our August issue. The show, which opened this summer, is free to enter and a must-see if you're visiting the museum - objects on display range from protest banners to home made drones, political badges and a Tiki Love Truck (a mosaic car dedicated to a death row inmate in Texas, made in protest against his death). It features some brilliant graphics by Barnbrook, too, including vinyl 'barricades' on the door to the entrance and a neon green stitched sign:

The V&A is also hosting a Digital Design Weekend as part of LDF - among the talks and workshops taking place are a talk from Drone Shadows creator James Bridle on his A Quiet Disposition project, which gathers reports on unmanned aerial vehicles, plus a workshop and talk from Nelly Ben Hayoun on Disaster Playground, an online project speculating on future outer space catastrophes and safety procedures. Visitors can also have their bodies 3D scanned in workshop by the T/Shirt Group and create their own disobedient objects - for details of all events, see londondesignfestival.com.

NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual reissue

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

In 2012, a rare copy of the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual was discovered in the basement of Pentagram's New York office – and, page by page, the whole thing was documented online at thestandardsmanual.com. Now, it is to be republished as a book – which you can pledge to buy via a Kickstarter page set up to raise funding for its production...

In 1967, the New York City Transit Authority originally commissioned Unimark International's Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda to design a signage and wayfinding system that would dramatically improve the experience of travelling on the city's Subway. Their Manual changed the way the Subway looked – and worked – and their Graphics Standards document went on to become a modern design classic.

Within 72 hours of making their Manual website live, Niko Skourtis, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth's site had received a quarter of a million unique views. But, say Reed and Smyth who are both Pentagram designers, despite incorporating some great full screen photography (plus a magnifying tool to read the texts), "the Manual really belongs in print".

So the pair decided to reissue the classic document as a full size book – and the project has proven so popular on Kickstarter that they have already broken through their $108,000 goal and currently have a pledge total of $618,000, with 22 days to go (full details are here).

While the early bird options on securing a copy of the book went quickly, at time of writing, US customers can still obtain a copy of the book (delivery date is March 2015) by pledging $118 or more; Canadian customers $133 or more; and interested parties in the EU – $158 or more.

All pledges at those amounts include shipping but orders must be placed within the funding period, which expires on October 10 – after this campaign, this reissue (officially licensed by the MTA) will not be available again.

By way of an introduction to the Manual, there's a great short film in which Pentagram's Michael Bierut explains the significance of the Vignelli and Noorda-design system for the New York Subway (below). The book iself will feature a written introduction by Bierut and an essay on the Manual's development by Christopher Bonanos.

Video: Harrison Boyce, harrisonboyce.com. Music: Edo Van Breemen, edovanbreemen.com


Here's what the original Manual looks like:


And here's an example of one of the scans of the original pages, on 'letter spacing', which the project's founders will be using to make each page of the new Manual:



A detail shows the quality of the scan:

"The original Standards Manual is held in a 5 ring binder," say the designers. "Each page inside the binder measures 13x13". The reissue will be Smyth (section) sewn rather than ring bound. Each page will measure 13.5"(343 mm) square, so we can include a 0.25"(6.4mm) border around each scan to ensure we can print the full 13" scan."

This mock-up gives an idea of how the page shown above will look in the finished book:


Some additional mock-ups of the book:


And scan details:


The reissue cover, introduction, and essay headings will be set in a custom version of Standard Medium by type designer Nick Sherman.

"Nick painstakingly recreated the font from the photographs we posted on thestandardsmanual.com and has allowed us to use it in the reissue," say the project's founders. "We are not altering the scans of the original Standards Manual in any way. We are only typesetting the cover, introduction, and essay in Nick's version of the font."


NYCTA Standard Medium by Nick Sherman

The typeface is based specifically on the glyph designs and spacing system presented in the Standards Manual


Full details of the Kickstarter project are at kickstarter.com.

Campaign management: Crowdsourceress Alex Daly and Vann Alexandra

Specifications of the reissue are as follows:

Printed in Italy.

364 pages with 176 four-color plates.

Plates printed from high-resolution scans of the original Standards Manual.

12 page introduction and essay (1 color).

13.5" W × 13.5" H (343 x 343 mm).

Hardcover with Cialux cloth wrap and foil stamped title on the cover and spine.

Smyth (section) sewn binding.

3 gate folds.

Printed on 100 and 140 gsm Munken Pure ivory offset paper.

White head and tail bands.

The book is huge.

It measures 13.5" (343mm) square and weighs over 7lbs (3.2kg).

More at kickstarter.com

Yes or No: the visual battleground in Scotland’s referendum

Posted: September 17th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Advertising, Digital, Graphic Design, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Handmade 'Yes' sign, via Bruce Paterson (@sheepshagger81) and @YesWindaes

In the run up to Scotland's referendum both the 'Yes' and 'No' campaigns have unleashed a groundswell of support that has seen posters, signs and graphics taking over the country in an act of political engagement not seen for some years. With voting finally taking place tomorrow, we look at the significance of the visual imagery that has represented the two campaigns...

As Thursday's vote concerns a referendum for independence rather than an election, the most prevalent images have been based around the choice that will be on offer on the ballot paper: a 'Yes' for independence or a 'No' for retaining the union with the UK. These simple words have become the shorthand for the two campaigns and 'Yes' and 'No' graphics are at the very centre of official – and unofficial – communications.

It's a decision about nationhood so flags are naturally abundant, too: the Scottish Saltire adopted by the independence camp; the UK flag by the pro-union Better Together movement. This distinction has at times been muddied, however: Better Together supporters have understandably flown both flags together in unity, for example, while Number 10's appeal for the rest of the UK to show its support for the union was conveyed by hoisting the Saltire over Downing Street (or rather, failing to do so on the first attempt).


Official 'Fluttering Saltire' graphic from Yes Scotland's image resources webpage


While the UK newspapers have overwhelmingly come out in favour of the 'No' vote (with the exception of The Sunday Herald and a handful of individual columnists such as George Monbiot in the Guardian), the story on social media is a little different.

According to the Financial Times, Facebook's recent analysis of more than 8.5m posts and comments made in August that related to the referendum found that pro-independence was the subject of 2.05m interactions, while the pro-union vote was the subject of some 1.96m – not much in it. Suggesting more of a difference between the two camps, the 'Yes' campaign currently has over 258,000 'likes' while the No has just over 192,000 (over the same period).

But it's on Twitter that the 'Yes' campaign has flourished and has managed to combine both traditional aspects of electioneering – posters, window stickers etc – with the reach that social media provides. (@YesScotland has 96k followers; @UK_Together 41k.)

The 'Yes' images shown below (and at the top of the post) are from the collection assembled at @YesWindaes. There are plenty of images on Twitter from the 'No' side show assembled groups of people holding signs, but, it seems, far less photographs of the signs displayed on their own.

The 'Yes' signs are frequently hand-made, or make use of the word within another context – “Yes. Yes! Oh God Yes!” running across three window panes, being a standout. In recent posts, 'Yes' has also appeared in fields, on the rockface beneath Edinburgh Castle, and spelled out by cameraphones.


'Yes' sign in window in East Lothian, via John Johnston @JohnPJohnston67

Och Aye, via María Isabel @Fairysoprano

Oh God Yes!, via Lisa Sangster @lisa_sangster

Joint effort in Edinburgh, via Phil Wells @phillywells

The people at @BigYesTee admit "it's no in a windae, but it's next to a windae"

'Yes' sign placed on the rockface beneath Edinburgh Castle, via Mark Newton @CutbackMark


Thousands of supporters from both sides have also added a 'Yes' or 'No Thanks' badge to their Twitter avatar (it's officially known as a 'Twibbon') – see below:


How to create a 'No' vote 'Twibbon', via bettertogether.net


Yet the difference between the graphics – effectively digital posters – distributed by both official Twitter feeds is striking. Better Together favours statistics and lengthy quotes in rather serious-looking layouts (see first three images below), while the 'Yes' campaign taps into more emotive language – and also serves up some decent illustration along with it.

"Alex Salmond’s response to NHS experts in Scotland is always the same", via @UK_Together

Author JK Rowling adds her support to Better Together, via @UK_Together

Rather misleadingly, the tweet accompanying this image featuring quotes by CEOs of various supermarkets read: "Supermarket bosses have made clear that leaving the UK would push up costs for families in Scotland". Via @UK_Together

Three recent tweets from @YesScotland – handmade aesthetic in evidence


The official websites to both campaigns (bettertogether.net and yesscotland.net) feature 'resources' pages where infographics, logos, posters and the like can be downloaded to help campaigners on the ground.

But here, too, it's all to clear that the 'Yes' camp has the edge when it comes to its branding and identity design. The 'No Thanks' logo looks fussily apologetic against the stridency of the 'Yes'.

When seen from a distance the legibility of the 'Yes' makes for a powerful graphic – and, as can be seen from the above self-initiated examples – it can be more easily adapted than its 'No Thanks' rival.



The two campaign logos


Finally, compare the films that play on the yesscotland.net website, to the infamous Better Together spot, The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind. The latter hoped to appeal to women voters who were undecided, but missed the mark so spectacularly as to spawn its own meme within hours of airing. #PatronisingBTLady – and the associated jpgs – became more fuel for the 'Yes' fire.

From this...

... to this:

Via @YesIndyref

Via @YesWithDex

Setting the huge implications of tomorrow's vote aside for a moment, in a purely semantic sense the messages consist of a positive versus a negative.

Imagine the difference if they were reversed: if 'No Thanks' was in favour of ditching the United Kingdom, and a 'Yes' was for staying in it? Suddenly the pro-union campaign sounds a lot more emotive, more inclusive.

On purely visual terms, to me 'Yes' has always looked stronger, is more suggestive of positivity and, as independence voters would no doubt suggest, progression. There's not long to wait to see what does happen – but by Friday morning, yes or no, a hugely significant decision will have been made.


'Yes' sign viewed from a plane, via @NotoriousYesVan

'Fireworks Yes' graphic from Yes Scotland's image resources webpage

Dalton Maag launches new site allowing users to trial fonts for free

Posted: September 17th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Graphic Design, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Type foundry Dalton Maag has launched a new website designed by Method, which features a range of new features and an option to try full font files for free before buying. We spoke to Bruno Maag and Method’s Tomi Lahdesmaki about the redesign...

The new site looks dramatically different to Dalton Maag's old and as well as simplified, fixed rate licensing options, it allows registered users to download full font files for pitches, non-commercial work and student projects free of charge.

While this is a risky move - there's no guarantee everyone who downloads the font will pay for it before using commercially - Dalton Maag chairman Bruno Maag says he hopes it will encourage designers to use the foundry's fonts in pitches and help justify high quality and bespoke typefaces to clients.

As Lahdesmaki explains, Maag was also aware that if a designer wanted to use a copy of one of the foundry's fonts for free, they could do so simply by asking friends or downloading from elsewhere on the web.

"The reality of the graphic design world is that fonts are distributed amongst designers for free. When a designer begins work on a specific project they often end up emailing all their buddies to track down a copy of a specific font so that they can play with it. If they like it and end up using it, then the designer will most likely suggest their client purchase the font. This is a reality that Dalton Maag embraced with the idea of releasing trial copies for all their fonts for free," he says.

"We know that the design industry is used to dealing with rights management for example with stock imagery or licensing music. We trust the user to ensure they have the correct license," adds Maag.

For users who choose to purchase a font, the new system is also much simpler: users can choose to purchase a web or app font and pay a fixed fee for that website or app per year (£48), with no limit on the number of end users. A perpetual license is priced at £480. It's a considerably cheaper alternative to complex licensing models, which are often calculated based on the number of users, page views or downloads.

"When licensing fonts for use on the web or in apps some foundries license based on the number of page views or number of app downloads," explains Maag. "This is inherently difficult for the user because they then have to monitor their website usage. It can also prove risky for a small developer who could be faced with a large bill if they happen to release the next angry birds or a website that goes viral.

"We recognised this and aimed to provide licensing that is fair no matter if you are a large corporate or an indie developer. These are time limited, we understand that websites and apps have a short lifespan so charge a flat fee per website or app per year," he adds.

Method and Dalton Maag say the new licensing options were influenced by digital music services such as iTunes and Spotify. Lahdesmaki says he hopes the trial font and new licensing options on the site "will fundamentally challenge and change the typography design industry, much in the same way that the music industry changed with the arrival of MP3s."

The reduced prices and unlimited usage options are likely to prove controversial - particularly among those who charge higher fees - but Maag says he hopes other foundries will "appreciate the changes and understand our reasoning behind them. If all foundries did the same thing it would be a very boring industry. Our new models may not be right for every foundry but they will help us achieve our goals over the coming years," he adds.

Visually, the new site is a considerable improvement on the old and features a bright, bold homepage displaying a range of the foundry’s fonts against original photography and illustration. Library and commissions pages take users to a similar layout, with font names displayed against brightly coloured backgrounds, while an about us section provides an introduction to the foundry and images of Dalton Maag staff. There’s also a blog section which will be updated with news, events and articles on works in progress.

Dalton Maag has been working with Method on the new site for around a year, with a range of new features to be added in the next few months. The agency was asked to create something that would work on any device and that users would want to visit for inspiration, not just when they were looking for a new font.

“Our old site had been static whilst the industry went through a period of change ... we wanted to respond to customer’s needs [and] thought it was important to conduct customer research and build a site that improved the experience for them,” says Maag.

Lahdesmaki says the site also aims to "tell the story" of the foundry's work, adding: “so much knowledge, talent and skill goes into the details of typography design – to properly appreciate the fonts, dedicated and immersive pages were required for fonts both library and commissioned."

Before working on the design, the agency conducted brand workshops and interviews with a range of creatives, from in-house designers to freelancers, to determine what they were looking for from a type foundry website. "Typography companies often take quite an insular approach, overly-focussed on the technique or technology of typography, all showing lots of big letters on white backgrounds, with the result that a lot of their websites look the same," he says.

"From our research it was clear that designers really see typeface design and choice as a key part of 'finding the voice' of a brand, and we embraced this as an idea that could connect everything – creating a unique visual world for each library and commissioned font to live in, and defining a new brand position for Dalton Maag as the partner that helps designers and brands to 'find your voice'," he explains.

The phrase 'Find Your Voice' is displayed at the top of the new homepage, and Maag believes this concept is what sets the website apart from its competitors. "Most foundries (including ourselves up until now) tend to show single characters from a font, big letters or phrases of text, often black text on a plain background.

"We realised this is not inspirational - type designers may appreciate the subtleties in the curve of a lowercase ‘a’, but our customers are more likely to be concerned with the voice the entire typeface carries. We think this is where some other foundries go wrong. Our new site aims to give all our fonts context, aiding decision making for the designer," he adds.