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Designing the ABC

Categories: Events

Our Supercool new intern, Sarah Wilbois, started yesterday. A graphic design graduate from Mainz in Germany, she's with us on a 2-month internship programme run by the Principia School of Language in Worcestershire.

We're hoping Sarah'll get lots out of her time with us … not least because she very kindly came bearing a gift; a beautiful, and beautifully clever, pop-up alphabet book called ABC3D. Thanks Sarah – nice!

Coincidentally, Sarah's gift ties in very nicely with her first project here at Supercool; the creation of an ampersand for Not My Type …

Not My Type is a collaborative project bringing together more than 30 designers, artists and illustrators, each of whom has been tasked with creating a different letter of the alphabet (or additional character, such as the ampersand) for a forthcoming show at the Created in Birmingham shop.

You can learn more about the project, see who else is taking part and find some interesting typographical links over on the Not My Type Facebook Group. The Not My Type exhibition at the CiB shop will open on (election day) Thursday 6th May.

For the love of print

Categories: Extra-curricular, Nice stuff

I first got my mitts on a Love to Print zine last summer when Karoline popped Obsession in the post to me. I swooned a bit, then wrote a blog post about it because it truly is a thing of beauty. (And yes, the print still smells lush.)

Imagine how chuffed I was then, when Karoline got in touch recently to ask if I'd like to be part of the latest Love to Print zine – Pattern. Ooooh, yes please!

My brief: design a typographically-themed spread, based on 'pattern'.

This certainly got me thinking. In fact, a while back I droned on, apparently randomly, about thinking backwards and upside-down but there was method in my madness and it was all because of this project.

Typography is about words, so I had to consider words in my design; it had to mean something as well as look good. That's where the idea to use palindromes came from as they're essentially word patterns. I researched those palindromes which (phonetically) name a letter of the alphabet; with the idea of then using that letter to create the pattern. I eventually settled on 'Did Hannah see bees? Hannah did', making a repeating pattern of uppercase Edwardian Script 'B's.

Not only was I lucky enough to design this spread for Pattern – I got to design the contents and contact pages too; along with the cover, each and every one of which has been lovingly screenprinted, by hand, by Karoline.

Anyway, Patterns contains loads of exquisite illustrations from five fantastically talented screenprint artists, who each have very different styles – Karoline Rerrie, Sarah Lynch, Ruth Green, Helen Entwisle, Daisy Whitehouse – and yeah, I did some stuff too. (Though I can't call myself an artist!) Love to Print Patterns #1 will be available at The New Art Gallery Walsall's Artists' Bookfair on 22-23rd May. If you can't make it there though, watch this space for other ways of getting your hands on Patterns.

The light fantastic

Coinciding with the start of 2010's International Dance Festival Birmingham, which brings a vast array of international dance to venues and public spaces across the West Midlands, tonight is also the opening night of photographer Richard Battye's exhibition, Still Dancing.

Named by yours truly, Still Dancing is a collection of stills capturing dancers in all manner of weird and wonderful shapes. Dancing is ultimately about motion so it's interesting to see dancers 'paused' and to be given the chance to appreciate the grace and precision of each single movement.

As a thanks for naming the exhibition, Richard dropped off a print of the 'hero' shot the other day – thanks Richard! We now need to sort a frame for her, so if you see someone dancing all the way to IKEA, that'll be me!

Still Dancing runs from 19th April until 8th May at The Custard Factory Gallery. For more details visit Richard's blog.

Designs on government

Having tweeted about the subject after watching Channel 4 news' political coverage, I decided to flesh out the idea of comparing, contrasting and looking for meaning in the graphic design of the election manifesto covers of the three main political parties. So, in the order the manifestos were launched, here are some notes about each one (and links to the complete manifestos):

LABOUR

  • Lots of red with additional bright colours. A bit gaudy (Deliberate Gordy pun? Haha.) and for my taste, just too much.
  • It is the 'warmest' of the three covers though and seems safe – yet weirdly uncomfortable too. Hmmm.
  • Retro graphical style, supposedly harking back to post-war Britain. Maybe not a great move – it makes me think of rationing and hardship. And wartime.
  • Shows lush fields – not a built-up area in sight – with a family gazing towards the sun. I do hope they're wearing protective eyewear as the sun's still pretty high. (Is this a sunrise … or a sunset?)
  • There's lots going on and perhaps it's trying to say too much? Be all things to all people?
  • They've tried though – and there's illustration (different style though) throughout the manifesto to break up sections and help make it an easier read.
  • The title and campaign slogan is "A future fair for all." Nice alliteration and a strange, hypnotic rhythm – it's the only title that's stuck in my head.

CONSERVATIVES

  • The texture, colour and style of the manifesto brings to mind a bible, sans dust jacket.
  • There's something austere about it, whilst also being 'weighty'.
  • It's utterly safe and predictably, undoubtedly Conservative.
  • Very traditional, very blue and very dry – it surprised me in that it makes no attempt to represent the party as 'of the people' but looks more like the voice of authority.
  • Inside the manifesto, helping break-up the text into manageable sections, there are some lovely screen-print-looking illustrations … but they seem incongruous within the document; an after-thought.
  • It could be seen as brave not to overdo the cover design but the title "Invitation to join the government of Britain" (all upper-case) makes the understated design seem something of a smoke-screen; the design's subtle to balance out the bold, self-assured message.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

  • Simple, I suppose 'current' and fairly cold – again this is 'safe' design but in a different way from the others.
  • Looks lots like an SME's annual report.
  • They've got their yellow but have an added blueish-green which, particularly due to the swish at the bottom, I can't help but equate with Somerfield. (Which was recently acquired by The Co-Operative Group – significant brand philosophy/brand colour similarity?)
  • It may be a surprise to some that Vince Cable's not pictured on the cover … oh, hang on, there he is on the back! (He really is.)
  • Again it's alright design but in this case it's the most bland and free of personality.
  • Having said that, albeit not as catchy as Labour's copywriting, the repeated mentions of the word 'fair' are explanatory and clearly reference the contents of the manifesto, so this one wins my 'Plain English' award. (Though pedants might remove points due to grammatically incorrect use of lower-case to start sentences.)

This desire to dissect political graphics may or may not have been influenced by Graphic Agitation – key university reading material many moons ago – but was this a purely superficial exercise or is there decipherable and/or useful meaning behind the designs?

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I should probably add that the first-ever live televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties airs tonight (Thurs. 15th) at 8:30pm on ITV1.

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You need to be registered by Tuesday 20th April in order to vote in the forthcoming General Election. If you're not on the electoral register or aren't sure if you're registered go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk