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Give me a minute …

Categories: Silly, Useful/interesting

One Minute Briefs logo

For the past few weeks I've been taking part in a daily Twitter-based thing called One Minute Briefs (OMB).

The idea is simple: every weekday morning @OneMinuteBriefs tweets a 'thing' to advertise, and folks're invited to spend 60 seconds (give or take) coming up with a way of promoting that 'thing'. (We're not talking slick and polished designs here; it's all about the idea.) At the end of the day, all entries are compiled and the winner or winners are decided using a mix of votes and the organisers' favourite/s.

One day you could be tasked with advertising restraining orders, the next it'll be the World Cup, and another day cold sore treatment; it's a mixed bag and no mistake.

Explained more succinctly using their tagline, One Rule. One Minute. Create An Ad – One Minute Briefs is the brainchild of Nick Entwistle and James Clancy, a creative team working at McCann Manchester. I have tonnes of respect for these guys running a daily competition alongside their day job; thinking of a new topic, retweeting all the entries, compiling them into a blog post and then picking a winner every single day must be pretty time-consuming. Hats-off to them.

The concept reminds me of the one-day briefs we used to be given at university. They were always the most fun, frustrating and productive projects – when every second counts, it's an excellent way to get your brain thinking quickly and laterally.

It's pretty interesting to see how other people tackle the same problem too; and there's a really nice sense of community about the whole thing. People are always ready with a compliment for the best solutions; the OMBLEs* are a good bunch.

I tend to use OMB as a little bit of 'punctuation' between projects at work. It acts as a nice, neat break to separate tasks but keeps my brain working in the right way for solving design problems. Plus it's really good fun! Perfect. Mostly a win is purely for the glory but every now and then there are prizes too. (I've won a ticket to a fancy awards shindig, and my design printed on a t-shirt; get me!)

If you're a designer, advertiser, copywriter, or just like coming up with quick-fire ideas, OMB is a fine way to spend a minute (or so) of your day.

*Anyone and everyone who takes part in a One Minute Brief is an OMBLE.

Some of my OMB entries so far …

A selection of my entries for One Minute Briefs

Red all about it

Categories: Our work, Useful/interesting

If you've been anywhere near Birmingham city centre recently, you can't fail to have noticed the abundance of – very red – promotional bits and pieces we've designed for International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014.

It really does appear that IDFB's painted the town red – handy really, as one part of the festival is a participatory strand cunningly named Paint The Town Red.

We also did the promo for the previous IDFB in 2012, but this year is a whole new kettle of fish (red snapper?), what with IDFB being the 'signature festival' of the city council's new Festivals Birmingham initiative. There're posters, flags, banners, planter boards, scrolls, bus 'supersides', digital screens, airport toblerones, phone boxes …

I've been out and about taking photos of various ads, as well as being sent pics by other folks – here are a few of 'em:

Photos of various bits of IDFB outdoor promotion – flag, poster, banner, bus, train, phonebox

Keep an eye out for all the other stuff – and have a browse of the festival website to find out what's on: idfb.co.uk/whats-on

(IDFB 2014 runs from today until 25 May.)

10 years, 1 logo

Categories: Tenth anniversary, Useful/interesting

We like to ensure our designs are long-lasting – a philosophy perfectly demonstrated by our very own logo, designed by Kris a little over a decade ago.

Although the Supercool brand identity has evolved over the past 10 years, from crazy-busy multi-font-waterfall graphics, to stylish, sophisticated duplexing and foil-blocking; our logo has remained a consistent element.

As the logo is such an important part of our company and brand, we really should acknowledge and thank designers Paul Renner, Edwin W. Shaar and Tommy Thompson.

Renner was the German typeface designer who designed the typeface, Futura; first released in 1927, it was originally cast in Light, Medium, Bold and Bold Oblique weights. In 1955, Shaar and Thompson were responsible for the Extra Bold Oblique cut used for our logo.

We're in … assorted company. Other brands with Futura logos include Absolut Vodka, Domino's Pizza, Red Bull and Louis Vuitton. It's also starred in a fair few film posters and title sequences, being employed for movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. (Kubrick and Anderson clearly fans of our beloved geometric sans serif.)

Another claim to fame – Futura is one of surely very few examples of type on the moon; it was selected as font of choice for the plaque left by astronauts of Apollo 11 in 1969. Impressive – but personally I'm not completely convinced by that kerning on the word 'WE' . Or indeed 'A. D.' …

Futura has served us well and we've no plans to change our logo in the near future.

In fact, Futura Extra Bold Oblique is currently being used to advertise some super-trendy headphones, so is showing no signs of ageing. Much like our good selves.

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This is the fourth in a series of blog posts commemorating Supercool's decade of design.

HQ heritage

Categories: Jewellery Quarter, Learning things, Tenth anniversary, Useful/interesting

Since the beginning (aka 2004), Supercool has been based in the same building in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter.

When we moved from the rear office to the front a few years back, it prompted us to do a bit of digging into the history of this listed building. Our tenth anniversary seems as good a time as any to share what we found out.

From some internet-based detective work and a visit to the Pen Museum down the road we discovered that, along with neighbouring buildings, our office seems to've formed part of St Paul's Pen Works; home to one of Birmingham's foremost pen nib manufacturers, George W. Hughes. (The factory moved to Legge Lane from nearby St Paul's Square, hence the name.)

A bit more interweb trawling uncovered a box of 'Geo. W. Hughes' pen nibs for sale. Despite its bruised and battered state, we had to buy it.

Why is it called the 'Million Pen'? Perhaps it commemorates the millionth nib produced in the factory? Was it manufactured after the factory had turned over its first £1million, maybe? We can't find the answer to that, so it remains a mystery.

Possibly an even greater mystery is the nothing-short-of-bizarre packaging design.

Along with the nib's name, the design features what appear to be a duck and a dog on the front, as well as some exotic-looking script; with the side of the box sporting another line drawing of the dog, now holding the duck in its mouth.

On first look this seems to make no sense, and have zero relevance – but one of the more believable suggestions I've come across for this peculiar animal pairing is that these creatures are in fact a goose and a fox. The clever, quick-witted fox – standing-in for Geo. W. Hughes' pen nibs – is doing-away with the goose, which represents the out-dated, out-foxed quill pen. Ah-ha!

The 'hieroglyphs', however, remain unexplained …

On the underside of the box is a big wodge of copy signed by George himself, warning people off inferior copies of his stellar product. It's incredibly old-fashioned and quite, quite ace.

Incase you can't quite make it out in the photo, it says:

"St. Paul's Pen Works, Birmingham. GEORGE W. HUGHES having, after many years of unceasing effort, succeeded in bringing the manufacture of STEEL PENS to the highest point of perfection, regrets to be under the necessity of cautioning the Public against base imitations of the Genuine Article, which disreputable parties have endeavoured to foist upon the Public. None are genuine but those with this Signature, thus– Geo W. Hughes"

Final fun fact: these very same nibs are important enough to form part of a National Trust collection.

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This the second in a series of blog posts commemorating Supercool's decade of design.