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Monday Load of Links

It’s Monday, so that means another load of links to start your working day off right and get your designer mind working on all cylinders with a road-up of some of the weeks best design post (and the usual dose of cat video goodness as seen above). Get at it!

It’s Nice That is the creative blog that Facing Sideways hopes to be one day when it grows up a little. In the meantime, check out their top 25 graphic design features for 2017.

Hamish Smyth is an expat Australian designer behind publisher Standards Manual and design studio Order. Design Week recently asked him ‘What will graphic design look like in 2018?’ and answered with some thoughtful ideas. 

Apparently companies are finally listening to designers (and it’s only taken 70+ years, give or take)! This is what you need to know before you take that seat at the boardroom table.

If I see the name ‘Beatles’ mentioned in conjunction with the word ‘designer’ my eyes are immediately going to light up. Gordon House was an artist/designer who contributed to the visual palette of said super group as well as a mess of other significant touchstones of the swinging-sixties, yet remains relatively unknown today.

The humble pencil is usually the first instrument we turn to when sketching out an idea, and who doesn’t find some meditative release in the simple act of sharpening the point, reader to transfer though to paper? Do we ever give much thought to where said instrument originates or how it’s made? Read then this interesting report on one of America’s last pencil factories.

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy of designer/illustrator Noma Bar’s new monograph Bittersweet, do so at your nearest convenience. In the meantime, read this great piece on him over at Creative Boom.

As social media becomes more and more prevalent in society, its ethical implications also become more pronounced. The answer may lie in better design.

Finding it hard to get motivated on that personal project that’s been percolating for a while? Maybe you need to finally set a deadline, or maybe you don’t.

Heath Killen has set up shop and is working under the monicker of Honeymoon. Heath is a real ‘designer’s designer’ and one of the top talents operating out of anywhere with a very inspiring attitude towards life and the profession of design. Check out some of his beautifully imagined past and present projects ay his new site.

Judging Albums By Their Covers

Radio Retaliation: Thievery Corporation

I confess that when it comes to buying music that sometimes I spend more time looking at the package than I do listening to the actual album. Mark me guilty as charged when it comes to the Thievery Corporation. The Washington DC duo have been serving up their particular style of ‘polite grooves’ for a number of years – inoffensive, perfectly produced sounds with all the rough edges sanded off, to burble away in the background. So what makes me keep returning to pick up their albums again and again? Nothing less than the fantastic album packaging they keep delivering with their releases from the brilliant talents of Neal Ashby. Radio Retaliation is no exception, and surprisingly, these time around, the Thievery Corporation also deliver something musically with a bit more bite.

I’m always on the look out for some handsome and different looking ways of presenting album covers. Not so much in those ‘special edition’ packaging sets for die-hard fans, but just your general consumer release. Radio Retaliation really stood out to me when I first saw it on the shelves at Borders – and it taps into what I think may be the future of physical album packaging. The CD is packaged in a jewel case or digipak. It comes bound in a cardboard folder – real industrial stength cardboard box cardboard. Folded within this is a giant sized poster designed with a really nice ‘cut and paste aesthetic on recycled stock, that contains all the lyrics and details. The CD is nestled within this, no foam nub to hold it or anything – outside of the actual CD it’s all paper, no plastic whatsoever. Plus, it has a ninja on the cover and everybody loves ninjas.

The package aesthetic all relates perfectly to the (subtle) political messages that The Thievery Corporation are delivering on the album, a swirling world music mixture that leaves you mostly unaware of the social contexts upon a first casual listen. A plethora of world music greats guest on the album including daughter of sitar master Ravi Shankar, and sitar virtuoso in her own right Anoushka Shankar, as well as Nigerian afro-beat star Femi Kuti, respected Brazilian vocalist Seu Jorge, Slovakian singer and violinist Jana Andevska, and DC-based “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown. There’s a reason for the prominence of these artists, mostly of ‘Third World’ heritage. The mission statement seems to be to deliver humanitarian and politcal messages through these global voices, emphasised beautifully by the packaging as a direct response to the often vapid irepetitive pop music so often delivered over the airwaves, Radio Retaliation indeed

AGDA Awards Show in New York

I’ve just gotten back from a trip to New York and apart from my usual drop-in to see designers of note, the city was also hosting an exhibition of the 2008 Australian Graphic Design Awards at the AIGA headquarters. I’ve made a flickr set of the exhibition that you can view here. They were taken after a long hike down Broadway to reach the building on a particular snowy morning. Please forgive also the less than sterling photography, the interior was less than perfect for photography and I was trying to get as many shots off as I could before getting in trouble over the AIGAs ‘no photography’ policy! 🙂 Obviously, all work is © of the respective creators. It’s a pity that the AIGA chose to hold the exhibition at the same time as their own annual design show, (pictures of which I’ll post shortly). The AIGA show was in the main area downstairs while the AGDA show was relegated to the upstairs mezzanine area – I saw quite a few people come in and peruse the AIGA show but few (if any) venture upstairs to look at the AGDA show, even though the work therein outweighed a lot of the AIGA pieces in creativity and quality (in this humble authors opinion!) Some good signage directing people to what was upstairs would have been a start!

Adelaide Fringe 2006 Poster













The Adelaide Fringe began in 1960 as an alternative to the Adelaide Festival of Arts, an ‘open access event’ that allows anyone with ideas, enthusiasm (and admittedly, the registration fees!) to be part of the program. It has grown over the years to become perhaps the second biggest arts festival of it’s kind, only eclipsed by the Edinburgh Fringe.

In the spirit of an ‘open access event’ the promotional poster is chosen each year by a contest that is open to the public, a method that you can probably imagine has produced mixed results over the years. It’s probably the most ‘well entered’ contest of it’s kind in Adelaide, a favourite among students and professional designers alike that have dominated the submissions in recent years (it seems every third or fourth Fringe that they try to regain their open access policy by awarding the winning entry to someone who isn’t studying or employed as a designer).

The past few years, the Fringe has also been big on giving the event a specific ‘theme’ to help direct the would-be designers in their interpretation (I guess this theme encompasses the Fringe as a whole as well).The theme for 2006 is ‘Re-generation’ and the idea of re-inventing itself. Winner of this years poster contest was Roger Tiley, a designer at uber-great local design firm Do-Da. He chose to interpret the theme of re-generation by recycling previous years posters into origami cranes.

As far as conveying said theme – it’s not bad as concepts go – it of course depends largely on the viewer being familiar with past posters to get it’s point across, easy if you have a mind for remembering past designs, but as designers we often forget that a poster such as this is an immediate thing and probably forgotten by the general public a week after the event finishes. Anyway, ok as a concept, but if you’re really going to dip into the history of an event approaching it’s 50th anniversary – re-inventing itself – it would suggest to me that you might want to dip a bit further into that history and use some posters that cover a greater timeline than the last 8 years. Does the Fringe really need to re-invent itself from the last 8 years? To be fair, I would hazard a guess that it has more to do with the availability of past posters to fold, than deliberately snubbing earlier posters.

The Adelaide Fringe Website goes into great lengths in justifying the use of the paper crane on the poster. They seem to be drawing a pretty long bow in my opinion, tying it into Hiroshima victims, Japanese legends and the perfect symbol of peace – pretty heady stuff! My first reaction when I saw the poster was, ‘Well if you’re going to use origami, a crane is the obvious piece of folding to use so people know that it is origami. The explanation smacks a little bit of the ‘bullshit’ that we designers use to justify our amazing design creations to a client. You know how it goes – you design it, you love it, you need to find a way to re-assure the client that their trust and money spent is warranted. My apologies to Roger if the design did stem from his deep thoughts into the matter, it sounds pretty heavy going for an event that has previously been represented by a pink reindeer and a close up of someone’s tonsils.

As nicely folded as the paper crane is, it’s not the most dynamic visual you can imagine, it’s a little sedate, which is ok, but to me the Fringe is all about life and movement – it’s a two week blast of comedy, music & theatre, a chance to try new things and to laugh and take in the vibe surrounding you. The poster needs to draw you into the event – a paper crane just isn’t doing that for me.

The finished poster was done in conjunction with designers for this years Fringe ‘Nicknack’. An organic, handrawn headline works well against the precisely folded crane to the extent that it’s actually a lot more exciting than it. With some more work I feel that the type treatment could have been the basis for the whole poster and still have fitted in with the Fringe’s much touted re-generation theme. I like the teal background as well – you can never have enough teal – I think I might paint my bedroom in it!

All that said, the poster is out there, tickets are selling, the Fringe people are happy with it, Roger Tiley is going to Malaysia (or where ever his prize was to!) and I’m not – maybe I should enter next time and put my money where my mouth is!

A quick note to the Fringe regarding the poster’s size. Normally the poster is printed up A1-A0 sizes, the largest I’ve seen is A2 and mostly I’ve seen it at a puny A4. It looks like a flyer for a Primary School fete at this size. I know they had the extra costs of printing four different posters (in full colour no-less) but the Fringe poster needs to be seen around town AS BIG AS POSSIBLE! Especially with the delicate nature of this years imagery.

Local Design Firm’s Updates

Some Adelaide Design firms have made some interesting updates since I last checked them (which is more than can be said for this site in the last month or so!) Voice Design have the latest Adelaide Symphony Orchestra season brochure up, once again they take it in interesting directions with splashes of colour and woodblock type in heavy use, also check out their publication design for local artist/photographer Mark Kimber. Nicknack have their rather splendid LMC identity work up (complete with handsome custom typeface) and some more excellent hand drawn Nike material. Jorgensen Design has become Thiink with a new website and lots of great work on display. Fusion’s ‘Adelaide Lantern’ was finally unveiled to great acclaim and excitement, it really is quite a beautiful and exciting edition to the inner city. Both Sector7g and Detour both appear to have some updated work as well, some excellent work coming out of this little town.

AGDA Website

AGDA are about to launch a much needed website refresh, you can see the ‘just about ready to relauch’ site here. In other AGDA news, looks like the AGDA Awards are set to be hosted in little old Adelaide this year, might even be worth me considering joing up again.

Design Studio Debaser

Frequent visitors to my blog will know of my unabiding love for album cover design. One of the best design studios in Australia specialising in that, is Debaser who have just updated their website with some snazzy new work and a new look. Looking through their portfolio you’ll notice the covers for some of Australian musics best known albums of recent years, as well as some really fine work for artists that you might not be so familiar with. Congratulations to the guys as well for picking up the ARIA for best cover design for Powderfingers ‘Dream Days at the Hotel Existence’, they also won the previous year’s award for Powderfinger lead singer Bernard Fanning’s ‘Tea & Sympathy’ abum artwork.

Illustrator Fontaine Anderson

Adelaide Designer/Illustrator Fontaine Anderson has a new website to display her stunning work. I really like the ink and soft pastel/limited colour palette she incorporates into her work, there’s a sort of 1960s – 70s aesthetic gotting on there as well, just not as kitsch as that sounds. As you look through the gallery of her work, she’s quite versatile as well, demonstrating some nice full colour paintings and even logo designs, be sure to check out her sketchbook section as well. I believe she is currently working at Adelaide design firm Designcentric, a good place to check out more of her work.

Recent Work

I’ve just had a poster I designed accepted for the 3rd Annual Australian Poster Exhibition. The theme this year was the line ‘When It Rains It Pours’ which I chose to interpret through my graphic commenting on global warming. The poster will appear in the Australian Poster Annual along the banks of the Yarra during the Melbourne Design Festival from 5-15 July, so if you’re in Melbourne around that time, be sure to go and have a peruse of all the finalists entries.