Colin the Umbrella

So, now that this blog is no longer confined to the strict rules of a university brief, I can use it for shameless self promotion! Hurrah! Thinking about it though, shameless self promotion could end up deterring the (very) tiny number of loyal followers this blog has accumulated thus far. So don't worry, I won't be bigging up my own work too regularly here, after all, I have my own website for that. Although that's in dire need of a redesign, so at the moment I'm actually more proud of the blog than I am of the portfolio site (oh dear!) but hopefully that will change if I ever find the time to make it happen.

A piece of work I did want to put up here though, was my response to our One Week Project. For anybody reading this who doesn't attend the University of Leeds Graphic & Communication Design course, or isn't a friend of family member (unlikely that's anybody then), the brief was as follows:

You are required to propose a creative solution for one of the following:

Celebrate the invention of … either, the drawing pin, the zip, barbed wire, cats eyes, the coat hanger, concrete, the credit card, elastic, the lawn mower, nylon, Phillips head screw, scissors, sliced bread, spark plugs, the umbrella, Velcro.

You can utilise any media or approach, you could treat it like an advertising campaign, or produce a magazine article or book, make a video or a series of photographs or illustrations which investigate a particular functional or aesthetic quality of this everyday object. It could be purely typographic or a piece of copywriting. Maybe it’s a Radio ad or utilises ambient media. You decide the best way to celebrate those things that we all take for granted. Create an element of surprise, shock us, make us laugh, allow us to contemplate beauty, inform us, intrigue us do whatever you can to make something that gets our attention and holds it. This is your opportunity, by utilising all your creative energies and abilities, to make the ordinary, extraordinary.

I chose the umbrella as my item, as a sort of gut instinct. I did loads of research into umbrellas (they're more interesting than you might think actually!) and then set to work trying to come up with good ways to celebrate such an ordinary object. I considered making a nice hand bound book, and I considered some sort of umbrella sculpture, even some sort of umbrella based twitter application crossed my mind, but in the end I decided to make an animation, as animation is something I really enjoy doing, and, as Alan Oliver once told me, animation/film has the potential to convey so much more than just one image on it's own.

Although we had seven days to do the whole project, as well as the finished 'celebration', we also had to produce a Creative Log, which took up a good half of my time, and I'd shot myself in the foot a bit by choosing to make an animation, which was by far the most time consuming of all the ideas I could have chosen. In the end the whole animation had to be created from start to finish in just three days. During those 72 hours, I got just 10 hours sleep, and I think the only things that kept me awake/alive were an indispensable girlfriend who helped wherever she could, and a small supply of 'Pro-Plus', although I hate taking those tablets, they really are a last resort. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make, is that I think I probably worked harder on this than I have on any other piece of work in my life.

Did it pay off? Well, I bloody hope so. If I don't get a good mark for this project I'll be devastated. However, when I showed my animation at the crit, it got a great response. I was really worried about it being shown on the big screen, and even more worried about the voiceover being heard at a loud volume ("nobody likes the sound of their own voice"). But thankfully everybody laughed (more heartily than I had expected!) in all the right places, and they even gave a round of applause at the end, which definitely made the sleep deprivation seem worthwhile.

Anyway, shameless self promotion over. The last few posts have been somewhat different to normal, what with the rationale/self-assessment and now this, but I'll get back to blogging as usual about good/bad design again from now on.

Also, last thing I promise. I feel obliged to give credits for the film, as not all footage was mine. Just incase you hadn't noticed, it was all my own work, except for:
- Footage from 'Singing in the Rain' (1964)
- Footage from 'Umbrella' by Rihanna (2007)
- Music from Collateral Damage by Muse (2009) (If you're wondering "where is that?" it's the music at the end when Colin dies)

Rationale / Self Assessment

When asked to create a blog for this brief I was really pleased. I’d been meaning to start a blog ever since coming to university in 2007, as I knew it would be a good way to express myself and engage with and discuss matters of design, and perhaps even a useful tool to show potential employers. However, as with a lot of good intentions, my blog never really came to fruition. Once the university projects began I never seemed to have any time to actively write a blog as well, and it got pushed to the back of my mind. Which is why, when I received this brief, I was pleased to finally be forced to write one; without such motivation, my blog may never have began.

When writing my blog I found it hard to get started. Not just to start blogging in general, but to start each and every post; the first paragraph was always written and re-written several times over. Looking back over my posts now, I’m finding lots of elements that I’d like to re-write; certain phrases that seemed fine at the time but now seem somewhat cringeworthy, or arguments that could have been made stronger if I’d worded them a little differently. I never struggled to find topics to blog about, quite the opposite, I could never find enough time to blog about all the things I wanted to. The main problem I had was finding the right tone of voice. I wanted to write in a way that was interesting and entertaining, with some of my personality injected into my writing, but I also wanted it to sound professional. I took inspiration from newspapers such as The Times and The Guardian, in particular their weekday supplements, ‘Times 2’ and ‘G2’, which offer a more casual and entertaining style of journalism. I also took much inspiration from other blogs; since starting university I began reading numerous design blogs, and there are now around 30 which I actively follow. This is noticeable in many of my entries, where I have quoted from or referenced another blog or design website. In some cases, my posts have been a direct result of a post on someone else’s blog, where I have read something that I have found interesting, and wanted to investigate it for myself and add my own opinion on the subject. For example, my post ‘M√ľnchen 2018 and Other Olympic Logos’ was inspired by an article I read over at the ‘idsgn’ blog [], which I used as a basis for further discussion on Olympic logos.

As my blog is all about design, I felt it was important to make sure that my blog itself was nicely designed. I did not want to simply stick with one of the predetermined Blogger layouts that users can choose from, they’re overused and not at all interesting to look at. Surely it would be hypocritical to have a poorly designed design blog? Design is subjective of course, so what I consider a good piece of design, someone else may consider to be a bad design. I cannot therefore say for certain that my blog is well designed, but I’m pleased with it myself, and I hope that the design, as well as the writing, reflects some of my personality. I created the header for my blog using pen and paper for example, to reflect the fact that I like using traditional, craft based elements in my design work; I could easily have created the header on a computer, but I preferred to create it by hand and then photograph it.

The subjects that I have blogged about vary; if you look at the list of labels on the right hand side of my blog, you’ll notice there are 16 different categories. The categories with the most entries are graphic design which has 14, illustration which has eight, books with seven, advertising with five, and animation and film with four each. Most of these come as no surprise to me, as they reflect my interests and my passions within design, but the one that I didn’t expect to have written so much about was advertising. I think perhaps the reason for this is because advertising is all around us, and we see so much of it in our daily lives, that there’s always plenty of different campaigns, successful or otherwise, to blog about. The blog posts I enjoyed writing the most were the ones where I did a lot of research and really got stuck in to what I was investigating. The two which really stand out for me are ‘I Like Classical Music, Therefore I Hate Good Design’, and ‘Ikea Causes an Uproar’, and I think the reason they stick out is because I was discussing designs I considered to be bad rather than good. I found it somehow more satisfying and more worthwhile to discuss an element of design which is not working, and investigate how and why, rather than to simply point out a design that I do like. These posts follow a similar formula; I would investigate the topic thoroughly, synthesise my research, offer my own opinion, and then contrast this with the opinions of other designers. However, I found that I was so concerned with what I was writing that it often took me a whole day just to write one post, and it began taking up too much of my time. As a result, I had to intersperse my longer posts with some shorter ones, the formula for these being a little simpler; I would highlight a design, and then briefly discuss it’s good or bad points. However, these were less satisfying to write, and did not receive as much contribution and discussion from fellow students as my more investigative posts did.

Writing for my blog has thrown up many challenges, and made me stop and think about design in a way I would not have done before. Above all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing every post, and I hope that my blog successfully informs, entertains and discusses different elements of design. In total, I have written 15,364 words on my blog, which makes for an average of 475 words per article. However, I still have countless things that I wish to blog about, so I will definitely be continuing my blog in the future for the sake of my own personal development and not just as part of a brief.

Architecture Worth Protecting?

These are Park Hill flats in Sheffield.

It's a grade 2 listed building, which means it is protected, and cannot be demolished or even altered too much in any way. Does a building such as this deserve 'listed' status?

Spot the Title Sequence

Some more motion graphics goodness today, following on from last weeks feast of animated wonders. Just like the video for 'DVNO' by Justice pays homage to vintage eighties logos, the video for Dan Black's 'Symphonies', acts as a tribute to classic title sequences from films.

The video sees Dan Black jumping, driving and falling through every classic style of title design since the 1930s, with clear references to iconic opening sequences from films such as Se7en and Goldfinger, and of course the legendary title designer Saul Bass, amongst many others.

The video was created by Parisian design duo Chic & Artistic, and I found an interesting interview with them over on The Art of the Title Sequence blog. It's clear that a lot of effort went in to recreating the look and feel of each era of design, and the attention to detail is superb.

"We viewed a large number of title sequences by genre and time period. We needed to reproduce the image and original graphic design through lighting, film grain, color grading, costume design, accessories, as well as typographical choices."

The typography in particular I feel is spot on, and adds a lot of credibility to these well executed parodies. The result is a captivating music video combined with a nice slice of nostalgia, which should make interesting viewing for film fans as well as music fans. It's good to see that some music videos still try to achieve something interesting and unique, rather than simply giving us three and a half minutes worth of scantily clad dancers.

Collectible Hardbacks

What are these? Why, they're beautiful clothbound editions of some of Penguin's finest works of fiction, naturally. I think they're just absolutely beautiful. As Alan Trotter puts it on his excellent design blog: "Either you want them, or else, I guess you hate things that are nice?"

All designed by the wonderful Coralie Bickford-Smith

These books are actually the second installment of hardback editions of Penguin's Classics. If you've got a big enough bank balance, you can also purchase the first set, which are designed in the same style, and are just as beautiful.

Peter Callesen

I've been an admirer of Peter Callesen's work for some time now. He creates each of these beautiful creations out of just one sheet of ordinary A4 paper, combined with a brilliant mind and bucket loads of patience.


The Hello Project is an online social collaboration giving people the chance to say hi, hello, or hola on one of today’s most common yet neglected canvases: the Post-it®.

How it works is simple. Take a regular 3×3 Post-it® and write/sketch/doodle your version of hello. Scan it, email it to hi [at], and they’ll post it for everyone to see.

THP is a relatively new site run by friends of The Donut and doodle extraordinaires Kristen Caston & Joseph Delhommer. Go check out the creative solutions so far and contribute – it only takes a second. It’s a great creative exercise to break the monotony of your everyday design stuff. I have a few submissions on there myself :)

Clarendon Revitalised

Remember Clarendon, the old slab-serif that (almost) everybody loves? Well, the unstoppable type designing duo that are Hoefler & Frere-Jones, have updated Clarendon a bit for the 21st Century, giving it more weight and styles, and making it look better than ever before.

The River Thames: A Diary

Following the uproar surrounding the disappearance of the river Thames from the tube map, I found this article by Diamond Geezer particularly entertaining:

A week in the life of the River Thames

Friday 11th September
» The Thames flows though London, as normal. Everybody knows where it is.

Saturday 12th September
» As tube services close down for the night, TfL station staff start to replace the previous tube map with the new decluttered tube map. The Thames suddenly vanishes.
» Mayor Boris Johnson prepares to fly to New York on a drum-beating trip to promote London. He is not currently incandescent.
» Hundreds of thousands of Londoners flock to the banks of the Thames to enjoy the Mayor's Thames Festival. All of them know exactly where the Thames is.

Sunday 13th September
» The poster-sized tube map continues to be pasted up at stations, although it's still not commonplace (and card versions remain rare).
» A few geeky tube types have correctly spotted that the river is missing from the new map, and are also busy discussing the implications of zonelessness.
» Hundreds of thousands more Londoners flock to the banks of the Thames to enjoy the second day of the Mayor's Thames Festival. All of them know still exactly where the Thames is.

Monday 14th September
» A few bloggers are running with the "Thames-free tube map" story, but the mainstream media are as yet oblivious.
» The new tube map is not yet available on the TfL website.
» The working week commences. The Thames has vanished, but most Londoners haven't noticed. They still think it's that wet thing between the Victoria Embankment and the South Bank.

Tuesday 15th September
» The Daily Telegraph is the first newspaper to realise that draining the Thames is a newsworthy story. Also noted are the possible negative implications of removing zones from the map.
» TfL reassures Londoners that there are many other ways in which zones can be checked, for example using the maps on trains and on ticket machines. They keep quiet about the Thames, but promise to listen to feedback.
» Old man river, he just keeps rolling.

Wednesday 16th September
» All hell breaks loose as the national and regional press leap on the story.
» The river removal scandal makes it to the Daily Mail, to the front cover of an evening freesheet and to several minutes on the BBC London evening news (amongst many others).
» The sudden loss of this fluvial icon is an abhorrent disaster and a national disgrace. Public groundswell demands reinstatement.
» "Why fix something that's not broken? The tube map was excellent the way it was, and the Thames was an essential part of the design."
» "i often use the position of the rivers as a basis for which station i need to get off at, this is a really daft idea, going to have to start catching busses so I can see where i am going."
» "they'll have employed a firm of consultants to make this decision, then another one to assess the outcry, then another one to reverse the decision...all paid for by you the stupid all those people who voted Blair into power all those years ago, I hope you feel an ounce of responsibility and remorse at the joke Britain has become..."
» "Further erosion of English History by the Lunatic Left!!".
» The new tube map is still not yet available on the TfL website (because it's safest not to let the public actually see it).
» Evil TfL operatives continue to roll out the tainted Thames-free tube map across all stations on the network, the bastards.

Thursday 17th September
» Boris Johnson returns from New York to discover that London has a PR disaster on its hands. He moves fast, via Twitter, to reassure everyone that all will be well again. "Can’t believe that the Thames disappeared off the tube map whilst I was out the country! It will be reinstated... (1:30PM Sep 17th)"
» This is the same Boris who was IN the country when the maps were first installed. [Just landed in New York. Grey skies but special. (7:23PM Sep 12th)]
» This is the same Boris who, back in August, knew enough about the new tube map to offer his Twitter followers a sneak peek at its new cover. [Sneak peek at the new cover of the pocket Tube map by Turner Prize winner Richard Long for #TfL (9:52AM Aug 25th)]
» This is the same Boris who's the Chairman of TfL, and therefore jolly well ought to know what his organisation is doing, especially when they're printing hundreds of thousands of maps to a radical new design which must surely have been discussed at a Board meeting at least once.
» This is the same Boris who's now successfully passed the buck and come up smelling of roses as the People's Champion. "I hope Londoners will imagine the Thames in place until it reappears on the maps, and will not forget their beautiful river."
» So, yes, the upshot of this mega-furore is that the Thames is definitely going back on the tube map in December. The map'll need redoing anyway because the Circle line's being tweaked. No unexpected additional costs will be incurred.
» TfL are also "looking again at the provision of zonal information to ensure that it is widely available to customers". Which could mean that the zones go back on the map, or might just mean that they go back in the index.
» And then TfL said this: "We will also see what more can be done to respond to the feedback that we have been receiving on the map becoming too cluttered to be useful." And this is actually the best news of the day, whatever the rest of the media thinks.

Friday 18th September
» The Thames flows though London, as normal. Everybody knows where it is.

Something Again

Part of an interview with Leah Hayes, and illustrator whom i rather like.

What I enjoy about your ballpoint illustrations is the incredibly distinct feeling and tone they have. What prompted you to use a ballpoint, and can you talk about the advantages and limitations?

I started to use a Bic pen because it is so much like a pencil—the line quality varies greatly, and you can get a super soft fine line, good for cross-hatching. I suspect too that I enjoyed drawing with a tool that is un-erasable. I did it again later with scratchboard. I think I like the recklessness—and stupidity, maybe—of doing something once and not being able to change it.

Broadcasting Tower, Leeds


''There is no better location for a Leeds student.'' Than Broadcasting Tower, the (atrociously designed) website touts.

It was designed by Sterling Prize-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley. By all accounts a talented bunch. However, whilst perusing articles online the nicest words used to describe their creation were ''distinctive, with comfortable and contemporary interiors and stylish decor."

From what I saw of the inside it's your standard student accommodation, much like any other, except pricier.

Ever since I first stepped in to Leeds, two years ago they've been building this disappointing excuse for architecture, and quite frankly it's an eyesore, even if it is ''smack bang outside Leeds Metropolitan University and a stone's throw from the University of Leeds and other academic institutions.''

Badly done, Feilden Clegg Bradley, badly done.

Vomit inducing trips to the supermarche

Does anyone else walk in to a supermarket and want to vomit at the sight of some of the packaging on offer? I know I do. Why can't we have something more like Jamie Oliver's range of foodstuffs readily available?

I'm talking of course of the the Pearlfisher designed food products that, according to the website "develop a new lifestyle concept that elevates the Jamie Oliver experience from the kitchen to the home."

They were released in June '09.

They're rather awesome, non?

I like the glass jars they come in - they're reusable and add a touch of class.

Some tea, how lovely.

As opposed to the other Jamie Oliver pasta sauces and pestos I keep seeing round loads of supermarkets (below), these are certainly something I'd buy.

Apparently the above are designed by a Manchester-based shopping design specialist called 'The Market.'

The Market came up with a 'revitalised look for five pasta sauces, seven pesto sauces and three types of pasta.'
Pshaw. Whatever.

They released them Dec '08.

I can't quite work out whether The Market designed the old stuff, or if Jamie just has two different design companies working for him. All I know is whose packaging designs I prefer.

By all reports, the range is doing well, states; 'Jme launched online in December 2008 and since then it has received an average of 22,000 unique visitors a week. There was only minimal PR and no advertising spend on launch so traffic has come via the Jamie Oliver website and word of mouth. When Jme launched in a dedicated London retail space alongside Jamie Oliver's cookery class concept, Recipease, it outperformed predicted sales by 100%, being responsible for 40% of the shop's revenue in its first two weeks.'

Despite this, I have not seen one place that sells it in Sheffield, and that includes Waitrose and M&S. Now I can understand it not being in Somerfield or Tesco, You get what you pay for there, and that's quantity not quality. I can even understand it not being in M&S Simply Food, because more often than not, they only sell their own brand stuff. But Sainsburys, who are always using Mr Oliver in thier adverts, and Waitrose who always sell the kind of nicely packaged stuff I want to buy, have nothing but his crappy pestos and pasta sauces available which to be honest aren't that great design-wise. Despicable.


God I am bored out of my mind. Much like this:

But without all that lovely overflowing creative juice that some have.


We are all guilty of it. I am especially. So far, during the time I dedicated to sitting down in a quiet room and getting on with writing my blog, all I have done is check my emails and re-organise my 'iCal'.

This general lack of productivity reminded me of one of my favourite ever pieces of animation work, the brilliant 'Procrastination' video by the ridiculously talented Johnny Kelly. I first saw the video featured in the September 2007 issue of Creative Review, and have come back to it countless times since, and each and every time i watch it, i get that 'I wish I'd thought of that first' feeling.

If you like this, you should also check out his latest animation, 'Seed', which was commissioned by none other than Adobe to promote their CS4 suite.