Students, Please Drink Sensibly

Memories of my freshers week back in 2007 are somewhat blurry. The reason for this is no surprise, the volume of alcohol consumed in those seven short days was more than i'd ever consumed before. What with the freedom of living away from home, the need to bond with new flat mate, (which of course needs to be done whilst under the influence) having only a little preliminary work to do ( "it doesn't matter in the first year, anyway" was everyones favorite rhetoric) and lots of (seemingly) free cash injected into my bank account all contributed to freshers being spent in a gloriously hazy state. Thankfully, I have been able to piece together some 'memories' of those nights out thanks to the colossal number of photographs that were taken, and subsequently uploaded and tagged on Facebook. We went out almost every night that week, and the one night that I opted not to go 'clubbing' (my friends were going to a school uniform themed fancy dress disco for goodness sake) I got the impression that I was being quite anti-social. I remember as freshers we were encouraged to go out and get drunk as often as we possibly could; every bar and club was vying for our attention, and everywhere you went people were pushing leaflets in your face promoting some bangin' night out, with 'freshers deals' ie cheap drinks. There was almost a sense that you were expected to get paralytic, with brownie points going to those who could tell the most amusing/disgusting story about what happened last night at so-an-so's. It got to be a competition. I even recall some students who had never touched alcohol in their lives due to religious commitments, suddenly abandoning their faith in favour of peer pressure, and getting blindingly drunk in order to fit in and act like a 'proper fresher'.

Freshers week has now been dubbed 'freshers fortnight', which makes for some delightful alliteration, but also doubles the length of time that your liver and your bank balance take a pounding before university work begins, putting the brakes on the extensive socialising a little bit.

But with such so much encouragement from bars, clubs and fellow students to get drunk, promoting the common message that alcohol is a prerequisite for a good time, what is being done to encourage responsible drinking? Well there is always the tiny voice at the back of your mind that tells you you'll regret it later, but that voice rarely wins. So what else is there out there that gives students the idea that drinking doesn't necessarily equal fun? The government always seem to be commissioning new advertising campaigns to inform us about the amount of units we should consume or the consequences of too much alcohol, but this voice always seems to get drowned out by the barrage of other contradictory messages aimed at students. The latest such campaign, launched to coincide with freshers fortnight, is plastered on phoneboxes all over the place, and looks a little bit like this:

The latest Drink Aware campaign, encouraging us to choose soft drinks instead of alcohol

The adverts, which remind us of some tempting alternatives to alcohol, take a different approach to previous campaigns, such as the 'Too much alcohol makes you feel invincible' and 'You wouldn't start a night like this...' campaigns which show the consequences of having too much to drink, instead focusing on how to prevent getting excessively drunk in the first place. However, the second advert doesn't look like an anti-drink campaign at all, if you walk past this in the street it looks like just another generic Coca-Cola advert. There are a couple more adverts in the campaign, which can be viewed over at the Drink Aware website, but I can't help feel that such messages are too subtle; they're not attention grabbing or hard hitting like previous campaigns, and certainly don't think it'll be enough to convince this years batch of freshers to go steady on the alcohol.


Semilla is a great new font by type designer Ale Paul. Check out the typeface in full over at Veer.

Adventures in Motion

When you go to a music festival, you don't usually expect to end up attending an award winning short-film festival as well. However, that's exactly what happened to me this summer when I went to The Big Chill festival, hidden away in the hills amongst the lovely Malvern countryside. It is common for music festivals to have a cinema tent of some sort, but they usually just show a selection of the latest blockbusters; the kind of films that will keep the masses entertained, just in case several hundred bands, a handful of top comedians and a fairground (not to mention gallons upon gallons of alcohol) isn't enough to keep them occupied for a whole weekend.

At The Big Chill however, I was surprised, (not to mention delighted), to see that Onedotzero's 'Adventures in Motion' film festival was on the lineup. For anyone who is not already aware of Onedotzero (pronounced '1 dot 0'), you should be. They showcase and celebrate the best contemporary moving image work and encourage innovation across all forms of film and animation. Their annual film festival now tours the world, and this summer they brought it to a couple of music festivals for the first time.

At The Big Chill they showcased about a dozen different films, most of them being innovative music videos of one sort or another. All of the films were interesting to watch, and they kept the audience captivated for a good 80 minutes, but I've picked out a few that really stood out for me:

This first film, by Chris Milk, tells the story of a broken heart, which yes, has indeed been done countless times before, but this music video offers a rather unconventional take on the scenario. The clichéd 'ripping ones heart out' visual has been taken as a starting point and turned into something completely unexpected, and darkly humorous too. I can't quite decide if I find the film brilliant or just a little bit disturbing - decide for yourselves.

This film is brilliant. It's been knocking around on numerous music and design blogs for a while now, but if you've not seen it yet, I recommend you check it out. If you like typography or logos, this video should tick all the boxes. It's an "Insane collage of (seemingly) vintage eighties logos" designed by So Me and Machine Molle. And for the hardcore typography geeks out there, over at FontFeed they have identified all the typefaces used in the video.

Next up is Bjork's animated video for Wanderlust which you can view in 3D if you've got the necessary red/blue spectacles, or just in plain old two dimensions, over at the Encyclopedia Pictura website. The music video took nine months from conception to completion, and uses a style of animation unlike anything I've ever seen before. There's an interesting 'Making of' video with director Damijan Saccio over at Vimeo if you're interested in finding out more.

Finally, one of the films I enjoyed the most was Albert's Speech, a short comedy produced in conjunction with Onedotzero and commissioned by the BBC Film Network. It tells the tale of Albert, a nervous introvert, who is desperately trying to avoid having to stand up in front of 100 people to deliver the best man's speech at his friends wedding. The acting is combined with short segments of animation which support the story and provide an insight into Albert's thoughts, and they showcase a range of different styles from talented animators such as Jan Urbanowski, Mark Hough, Trunk and Peepshow. The film is 15 minutes long, but if you've got some time to spare, you can watch Albert's Speech here.

These are just some of my favourite films shown by Onedotzero during their slot at The Big Chill festival, but there were many more. Other notable examples include Better than Prince by Jonas + Francois, and Myriad Harbour, created by Fluorescent Hill.

Onedotzero have also just launched their 2009/10 Adventures in Motion tour at the BFI Southbank in London. I haven't been able to catch any of the films yet, but one which looks particularly interesting is Logorama by French animation team h5. Apparently, "Logorama features spectacular car chases, an intense hostage crisis and wild rampaging animals: created exclusively from hundreds of infamous brand logos". Intriguing.

Restricted Article - For Humans Only

Image from Tony Worrall Foto on Flickr

Movie adverts on phone boxes rarely, if ever at all, make me want to go and see the movie they're advertising. I'll usually choose what I watch at the cinema based on the film's trailer, and the reviews in the paper or on the radio. Although, to be honest, more often than not my film choice is simply dictated by what my friends want to go and see.

I suppose that these adverts on phone boxes are simply there to raise our awareness of the film, remind us that it's out there, and make us want to find out more about it. The approach just seems so formulaic though: action shot of the film's main character, whack a logo over the top, and finish it off with a release date and an ambiguous, out of context quote from a critic. I was pleasantly surprised then, when I saw this advert for District 9 adorning a local phone box last week:

The 'human only' phone box

At first first I didn't even realise it was advertising a film, as the eye is immediately drawn to the big red circle with a line through it, and it's not until you look down towards the bottom of the phone box that you see the logo. You'll also notice that there's a phone number too, a hotline which you can apparently use to report "non-humans". It's not often that you see a message like this on a phone box, so out of curiosity I rang the number.

"Thank you for calling the Multi National United hotline. Please listen carefully to the following options. Non-humans have escaped from District 9 and are deemed to be violent and unpredictable. Press 1 to report any non-human sightings in your area..."

There are various other options, and depending what button you press you get different outcomes, one of which results in your call being interrupted by a 'non-human' who informs you that it's actually the alien's that are being mistreated and encourages you to visit the MNU Spreads Lies blog. Visiting the blog in turn leads you to various other websites promoting the film in one way or another, and before you know it you've spent half an hour looking at propaganda for the latest Peter Jackson funded blockbuster, all because of an advert on a phone box.

The advertising is part of a wider campaign by London based agency Spinnaker, and ties in brilliantly with the issues raised in the film. Apparently the advertising isn't just limited to phone boxes either. In America they've been using similar tactics on benches, staircases and highways, all to drum up hype and curiosity about the film.

As for the film itself, I really enjoyed it, but I'm not a film critic, so I won't bore you with my clumsy description of what happens. If you want a proper review check out Edward R Burge's blog, it's quite good.

D&AD Annual

The 2009 D&AD Annual was unveiled yesterday, and I have to say I think it looks rather good. The book is designed by recent graduate Luke Sanders, and art directed by the famous Peter Saville. The book is split into four categories: Advertising, Design, Crafts and Digital. Each section is separated by a fold out cover, which gives the the appearance of having four book spines within the pages of the book itself.

Images from Creative Review

But why no D&AD Student Annual? When I found out my work had received 'In-Book' status I couldn't wait to get my hands on the book, only to be hugely disappointed when I found out that for the first time ever, there is no Student Annual this year, with it being moved entirely online instead.

With D&AD putting so much emphasis on the importance of nuturing young talent (the Annual itself was designed by a recent graduate!) why do us successful students not deserve an Annual of our own? Bring it back D&AD!

For a full read-up on the new Annual, head over to the Creative Review blog.

'The Apprentice' for Designers

Who is this man? Why, it's controversial product designer, Philippe Starck, of course.

He is, so the speak, the Alan Sugar of the product design world. Although he's a little bit more French than our Alan is. Famous for his bold and controversial designs, Starck has forged a name for himself over the last 30 years, designing the interior of the French president's house, countless bizarre chairs and a certain notable lemon squeezer along the way.

And now, sixty year old Philippe Starck, claimed by some to be the most famous product designer in the world, is at the center of his own reality TV show on BBC2. I've been saying for years that someone ought to make a program like The Apprentice, but featuring designers rather than business development magnates, senior retail managers, accounts consultants and the like. And at last, it seems that somebody else has had the same idea, and has turned the TV program it into a reality. The series started on Monday at 11:20pm on BBC2, and will run for six weeks.

The show sees twelve contestants, supposedly all talented designers, battle each other through a series of design tasks to earn... a six figure salary? No - a six month work placement with Starck.

I don't know how well the program will go down with the general public, but surely for us design students, and indeed everyone in the design world, this should be essential viewing. After watching the first episode on BBC iPlayer, I can't decide if I love it or hate it. Philippe Starck's sheer French-ness is very over the top and 'in your face', and he certainly fits all the stereotypes and pre-conceived notions that one might have concerning French designers. He takes the twelve British contestants to his School of Creativity in Paris, and their first assignment is to go to a French supermarket, and equipped with €100, pick out one product which is an example of good design, and another which is an example of bad design.

It makes for very interesting viewing. The contestants have one hour to pick their products, and then it's back to the studio for a critique from Starck and his two trusted sidekicks. Just like Alan Sugar has his Nick and Margaret, Starck is aided by Jasmine, his head of communications (although she also happens to be his wife), and Eugeni, who Starck describes as "the most talented designer in the world". Here they are look, like a giant three headed über-French design beast:

The main problem I have with the program is that Philippe Starck keeps stressing the importance of function before form, and expressing his vision for a more ecologically designed future where there are fewer pointless products, and instead, only useful products. It's a lovely vision, but it seems a wee bit hypocritical coming from the man who designed products such as these:

Philippe Starck's limited edition 'Teddy Bear Band', which retailed at £142

If you're wondering what that is, it's actually a stool. It could be yours for £3,052.

These chairs offer "a soft and comfortable polyurethane seat, without foregoing the glamour of transparency and colour!" They cost £476 each.

The 'Holly All Vase' stands at 7 feet tall, and costs £2,700

The Starck 'Gun Lamp' would be a beautiful addition to any home, for just £1,400

Despite my cynicism, I still think it's a brilliant idea for a reality TV show, and I'll definitely be watching the rest of the series to see how it pans out. I'd love to know what other's opinions are on the program...

Books + Anniversaries (Part III: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

So the two big publishers, Penguin and Faber, both celebrated their recent anniversaries (70th and 80th respectively) by producing special, limited edition sets of books. And following in their footsteps are the lesser known publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson. They're celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, and wanted to release a special set of books to mark the occasion.

Penguin and Faber each commissioned covers from a whole different range of contemporary designers, but Weidenfeld & Nicolson went down a somewhat different route, and commissioned the powerhouse of advertising that is Fallon, to design their special set of books.

Famous for throwing bouncy balls down hills and teaching gorillas to play the drums, Fallon are a very big name in the advertising world, but when it comes to designing books, well, they've never done it before. Despite their lack of experience in this field, Fallon were keen to show that they can do more than just advertising.

“This project was a great opportunity to showcase the department’s passion for craft and design above and beyond traditional advertising briefs.”
Mark Elwood, creative director of Fallon Design (from Creative Review, August 2009)

Apparently Fallon had the entire design department and all their art directors working on the brief, so they ended up with about 30-40 different concepts for the design of the books. From all these ideas, they settled on one, and the finished design looks a little bit like this:

The full set (image from CR)

Each cover is made from raw uncoated board which gives them a great tactile quality, and provides some visual consistency to the set, whilst still allowing each book to look individual thanks to a die-cut window in the center of each one. Through this cut out shape in the cover you can see the vibrant artwork of the front/end papers, each of which was created by a different artist.

Two of the covers with the end papers visible through the die-cut windows

The full end paper for 'The Siege of Krishnapur' created by Mikko Rantanen

The set isn't perfect, I think there are a couple of weak covers in there, such as Lolita and The Color Purple, but the rest I think are great, and as a whole the set looks brilliant. I think Fallon have done a really impressive job, with a design concept just as impressive as the ones shown by Penguin and Faber, and they have shown that they are capable of more than just advertising.

Looking at the works of Penguin, Faber, and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, I think the equation "Books + Anniversaries = Good Design" is fairly accurate. And I've only looked at publishers of prose and fiction. If we look further afield, specialist art and design publishers Thames and Hudson also turn 60 this year, and they too have done something special to celebrate. Not to mention Taschen, who have shamelessly been slapping the number 25 all over their books recently to mark their 25th anniversary.

I can't wait for the next set of publishing milestones to roll around and see what other great pieces of design crop up as a result.


Books + Anniversaries = Good Design
Part I: Penguin
Part II: Faber & Faber
Part III: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Books + Anniversaries (Part II: Faber)

It's not just Penguin who have been celebrating a milestone anniversary recently. Faber & Faber turned 80 this year, and they too have been busy making some lovely book sets to mark the occasion. Faber Firsts is a set of brilliant debut novels from ten of their most famous authors, which includes 'Lord of the Flies' by William Goldberg, and Paul Auster's celebrated 'New York Trilogy'.

Just like Penguin did for their 70th anniversary, Faber commissioned different designers/illustrators for each of the covers (plus a few of them were done in-house). However, unlike Penguin, the brief was a bit more strict; Faber wanted each cover to represent a classic design from their past. Over the last 80 years they have had a very rich design history, incorporating many different styles and trends, and they wanted these new covers to act as a tribute to their past. Faber describe the set as "Landmark debuts with classic designs".

Four of the ten Faber Firsts covers which hark back to designs of the past

Each cover represents a different era of Faber's design heritage, inspired by some of their most famous and prolific dust-jacket designers such as Berthold Wolpe and Hookway Cowles. Faber's 'Eighty Years of Book Cover Design' is a treasure trove of past designs (also published this year to mark their anniversary), and just flicking through the pages of the book you can see where much of the inspiration came from for these ten Faber Firsts covers.

For example, the rough brush style of Berthold Wolpe's original Faber jackets was clearly the influence for this cover of 'Lord of the Flies', designed by Darren Wall:

Wolpe's original cover design
Darren Wall's cover as part of the Faber Firsts series

And the confident hand rendered typographic approach for the cover of Peter Carey's 'Bliss' was clearly inspired by the original cover for 'Sibelius', a music book published by Faber in the 60s:

The original
The 2009 version

Admitedly, not every single cover stands out as a brilliant piece of graphic design, but as a set I think they work really well together, and they do a great job of representing the different design eras of Faber's past. Here are the rest of the covers in the set, and a couple of comments from the designers:

I grew up around old Faber books. In particular Bernhard Wolpe's cover designs for the books of Lawrence Durrell or the poems of Sylvia Plath. It was therefore a great honour to be asked to pay homage to part of Faber's amazing design heritage. I was given the task of designing a cover that reflects some of the very graphic, 2 colour solutions that have been produced throughout the years, particularly from the 40s through to the early 60s. My cover is a simple graphic attempt to illustrate 3 stories with 2 colours.
I wanted to create a very classic 1950's look inspired by the illustrations of Hookway Cowles. The style is extremely flat and the drawing almost looks as if it has been screen printed. Interestingly to recreate this flat 50's quality I turned to modern digital techniques as I could layer one image evenly on top of another without adding dimension. The presence of a Carpathian style castle on top of a mountain is intended to convey an aura of mystery and drama. The full moon heightens the sense of atmosphere and also suggests that all things can be revealed even in the black of the night.
Robert Venables, Illustrator (also from WBQ)

However, Faber & Faber aren't stopping there, they're doing a lot more to celebrate their 80th anniversary. As well as Faber Firsts, they have also released a poetry collection, consisting of six books, each one featuring a selection of works by a classic poet. The works featured have all been hand picked by contemporary poets and authors, and more importantly, the covers have each been created by contemporary print makers.

The six covers of the Faber 'Poetry Classics' set

As you can see, the monochrome covers each feature some great detailed illustrations, made using traditional methods such as woodcut and linocut design. The only one I don't like is the W. H. Auden cover which lacks the detail and the charm that the others have, but in general I think this is another very nicely designed set of books. They even come sporting matching end-papers:

The matching front/end papers of the Poetry books (images from Creative Review)

And it doesn't end there. Oh no. Faber are launching yet another set of books to celebrate their 80th anniversary. This time it's the complete works of Samuel Beckett, together for the first time in one collection. They've gone for the purely typographic approach (something I usually love), typeset in a bespoke face created specially for this set of books (sounds great so far), designed by London studio a2/sw/hk (oh dear, what a ridiculous name for a design studio).

Four of Faber's covers from the Samuel Beckett collection

Unfortunately, these books simply don't excite me nearly as much as the others; I don't particularly like the bespoke typeface, nor the way that the type runs off the edges of the pages. According to a2/sw/hk:

"[Each cover] uses a bespoke cover font that comes in four weights, while the book’s title runs vertically to allow for the use of large point sizes. Parts of the titles bleed off the edges to add “tension” to the design".
From Creative Review, May 2009

Hmm, not sure about that "tension" they're on about there. There are 20 titles in total, although only five have been published so far, with the rest to follow gradually between now and Spring 2011. To see the full set of covers, head over to RobAroundBooks.

Two more the typographic Beckett covers

So that's three different sets of books specially created to celebrate Faber & Faber's 80th anniversary, two featuring some very good design, and one with some OK design. For the final part of this series I'll look at how Weidenfeld & Nicolson used a different approach to design to help commemorate their 60th birthday.


Books + Anniversaries = Good Design
Part I: Penguin
Part II: Faber & Faber
Part III: Weidenfeld & Nicolson