Art on your sleeve

I’ve always felt a big connection with, and between art, design and music. My day job may well be pushing pixels around a screen, but while I do it there is inevitably music playing. One thing feeds the other.

As a teenager, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a pop star or a graphic designer but opted for the latter, I never could sing and my keyboard skills are fairly limited. The connection between music and design was forged very early for me, when I developed a fascination with the design of record labels. My Mother still recounts tales of me as a four year old with my head under the lid of the record player, hypnotised by the colours of the spinning disc label as much as the music coming from the speakers.

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Pop songs and postcards

This was a nice job. Late last year I was asked to come up with a concept for a calendar that would engage with, and inform NHS staff of important health messages. Rather than the usual information based approach, I proposed we use song titles that would hopefully get into people’s heads and possibly even generate discussion. One for each month. These were of course backed up with short pieces of information. I mooted the idea of a competition where staff would be encouraged to name who sang each of the twelve songs to win iTunes vouchers. Just getting people to read this stuff is an achievement, so a competition is always a good way of gauging interest.

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End of an era

Before I set up Soft Octopus Design Studio I worked for an NHS Trust in Liverpool managing a very creative design studio where we developed a lot of groundbreaking public health materials. I could see the writing on the wall as toxic overbearing politics seeped into the system, eventually engulfing the whole of the NHS with the new coalition government. I was lucky to escape when I did.

On the 31 March 2013, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) will no longer exist, and it makes me feel quite sad.  I was really happy working at Liverpool PCT with a lot of very committed and professional people.

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Logo a-go-go!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, I feel bad. It’s been a busy few months personally and professionally with Christmas, year end deadlines and the hideous tax return which is always the last nail in the coffin for any festive overspill of joy.

My idea with this blog was that it should fill in the gaps, allowing me to shine a light on smaller pieces of work or areas of interest that didn’t quite fit into my main website and online portfolio. The reality, however is that I usually end up getting so bogged down with the day to day delivery of design and creative commitments that I rarely get around to actually doing what I should.

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  • Blog
  • February 5, 2013

World AIDS Day 2012

So, World AIDS Day (1st December) is upon us once again. This year, I think there is a record level of media apathy, despite some scary statistics being published this very week about rates of infection.

When I started working for the NHS in the late 1980s as a graphic designer, I spent a lot of time devising localised public awareness material around this issue. Some of it was picked up nationally and ended up on TV – often seen in the national press competing with multi-million pound campaigns run by the government. We all remember “Don’t die of ignorance” don’t we?

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Happy? OK? Sad?

I’m all three at the moment. Happy that I’ve finally got around to updating this blog, OK about being back in the UK and sad that it’s so cold. So, let’s deal with the first two in one go – I’ve not updated this blog for a while because I was out of action for nearly a month on an amazing trip around the world and the build up to the trip was a bit frantic, trying to fulfil commitments and keep my clients happy. I’m OK about being back, home is where the heart is after all, apparently. When I left the UK, it was kind of Autumn and Christmas wasn’t really in evidence anywhere. I arrive back and land in a winter wonderland. Sad really as I’m not really ready.

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Judging a book by its covers

I’ve always admired the work of James Marsh, another artist/designer whose work came to prominence through its use in music related ephemera, most notably for material commissioned by the band Talk Talk. The incredible detail in his work was sadly diminished by the reduction from the 12″ square record format to CD and is now all but gone in the digital era. I’ve whined on about this in a previous blog post, so won’t repeat myself.

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Blood & Glitter

Most of the work I design is for public sector or health related causes so it’s nice to do something a bit different. Above is a poster/flyer for a film night at a gallery in London celebrating the work of Philip Ridley. I like the surreal image I was asked to use and the paucity of words. The ‘less is more’ dictum is almost always applicable to graphic design and as a principle is employed by the most celebrated of designers. Often, I feel my design work risks being seen as cluttered with written content because space is erroneously considered something that must be filled.

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It’s nice to be nice

There’s a lot of horrible design out there. Walk down any high street, look in any magazine or visit your doctor and look on the wall in the waiting room. There are a lot of things that have made it to print that are a crime to aesthetics and good taste. Sometimes this is down to people not caring. Sometimes it’s down to people thinking they can just ‘cobble it together’ themselves. And sometimes because, whilst people know it needs to look good, they can’t afford to have it designed professionally. There are times when I get requests from people in this situation.

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