Category Archives: Thoughts on design

Erik Spiekermann interview

I love listening to other designers talking about design, I find it so inspiring, and this one is no exception.  This is a video of an interview with typographer and design legend Erik Spiekermann. It is actually a couple of years old now, but I’ve only just come across it. If you haven’t already seen this, please do take the time to watch it.

We were pretty much ordered by our typography lecturer to buy a copy of ‘Stop Stealing Sheep’ when I was at university, so I’ve known about him for years, but even I was unaware of just how much classic design he is responsible for.

Also, who knew that George W. Bush only managed to beat Al Gore to power because the ballot forms in Florida were so badly designed. I couldn’t agree more with his view on that.

Erik Spiekermann – Putting Back the Face into Typeface from Gestalten on Vimeo.

I think 10% of a Spiekermann powered brain, is worth about 90% of mine!


Move away from the computer! (after you’ve read this)

If only more of our British pubs employed typography artists for their chalkboards. If only they could afford to and weren’t closing by the dozen every day, but that’s another story.

This is the work of New York designer Dana Tanamachi. Have a look at more of her work here. She makes me want to paint one wall of my office with chalkboard paint and practice my hand lettering skills. It’s a thought! I have often bored my other half while sitting in pubs and criticising the chalkboards, so maybe I should step up to the mark.

Dana used to work for Louise Fili Ltd., who’s blog I have been following. Her studio produces some wonderful designs (see the link in my blog roll) anyone trained under her (see also Jessica Hische) is inspiring to me. And her book on Scripts – Elegant Lettering from Designs Golden Age, was a welcome Christmas present, and a wonderful source of inspiration.

As is this recent purchase:

Typographic Sketchbooks by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico. It’s a collection of private sketchbook pages from leading typographers from around the world. I love sketchbooks and these really take me back to my college days when we were encouraged to keep sketchbooks and scrapbooks like this. Particularly just for type. I had boxes of them by the time I graduated from uni, but I’ve not really kept sketchbooks since. This has inspired me to start one again.

I’ve developed a real passion just lately for hand-rendered type. It has a unique quality and personality to it. It’s amazing how many of the designers in this book claim to be ‘moving away from the computer’. Or at least only using a computer in the final stages, which is how I always used to work, and sometimes still do. Sketching your ideas out by hand is important I think, as you’re more relaxed and loose and able to work ideas through. But I actually think there’s a lot to be said for no computer involvement at all, as Dana’s work shows.


As you can see I’ve had a re-brand. My previous logo and branding was done about 4 years ago (up until now, each re-brand has coincided with a change of address and a necessity for new business cards and stationary), and I felt it was looking dated, or perhaps I was just tired of looking at it. It was also suggested by someone close to me, that it looked a bit swastika like! Why this hadn’t been mentioned before I don’t know.

So, I have been on a little journey around those old houses and back again with ideas, options, colours, typography etc. The trouble is I’m used to working from a brief, and there’s nobody to give me a brief for my own design. You’d think it would make it easier, having the freedom do whatever I like, but it doesn’t. I feel lost in a sea of options, with no clear direction. It’s like being dropped into the middle of nowhere and told you can go wherever you like. A bit scary and discombobulating. So there is something to be said for the restraints of a tight brief after all!

My initial brainstorming involves doodling. I really can’t call it any more than that. Random ideas, somewhat unconscious, spilling out onto paper while I listen to the radio. My hand somehow connected to the depths of my brain (not that it’s deep) and pulling out strange shapes. It’s odd what happens when you doodle.

I won’t go through the full process and range of ideas I spent way too much time over. But sometimes in life you have to go through that process, to push something through and come to a point, to finally have something visually perfected in front of you, before you decide it looks too much like something else, you hate it and you have to scrap it and start again!

A bit of a re-think, a bit of inspiration, and a bit of trawling through e-bay, and a new idea is born. Sometimes modern is good, moving forward, looking to the future etc, all fine, but sometimes, once in a while, old-school is better!


Embrace the failure!

Students from the Berghs School of Communication (in Stockholm, Sweden) are holding an exhibition entitled ‘The Fear of Failure’. They invited leading figures in the creative world to discuss this subject using a webcam.

You can watch the results from them all on the Creative Review blog but by far the only one really worth watching (in my opinion) is this one from Milton Glaser (graphic designer, best known for designing the ‘I love New York’ logo). Bear in mind this is over 7 minutes long, but so worth it.

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 on Vimeo.

Wise words indeed! I do agree that you learn far more from failures than you do from successes in life, so you just have to take it on the chin, learn from it and move forward. Having said that, I always have an underlying fear that no matter how many ‘successful’ designs I do, it only takes one complete failure for a client to say ‘that’s it, never using her again, she’s crap’. But that’s what pushes you to always produce the best you can, and that’s all you can ever do. Also (now I’m on my soapbox), design is such a subjective thing, that you’ll never get it right first time, every time, but your reliability and integrity is something you can get right each time, and so that’s what really matters.

Oh, and by the way – I know how to draw Cocker Spaniels! Thanks for the handy link there Milton.