05 of 12


Liverpool – a visit

A few hours to visit galleries and attempt to take in as much as possible leaves me with too many impressions to take in at once!

The highlight of the day was the time spent at the Bluecoat Gallery, on School Lane in the city centre.

The gallery “uses its spaces to showcase talent across all creative disciplines including visual art, music, literature, dance and live art and is a hub for new talent, providing studio spaces for artists within a unique creative community”. That’s what they say on their web site anyway. http://www.thebluecoat.org.uk

There are resident artists here, as well as creative businesses and retailers – which makes it more than just a gallery.

It is housed in a historic building, which has been refurbished and re-opened in 2008, and Bluecoat celebrates it’s 300 year anniversary.

The exhibits are varied and interesting, so selecting only a few to mention isn’t easy.


The wall of poster art caught my eye, and since I like poster design I thought I’d mention it. Posters and other printed ephemera are plentiful and displayed in more places than on this wall.

Below is Adam Dant’s “The Dissolution of Call Centres”, from 2009. Ink and gold leaf on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Hales London New York.

the-dissolution-of-callcentresAt first glance this is a quite traditional scene – until you start looking at the details, that is (see insert).

Mayhem is hidden beneath the rays of gold! Pretty much my preconceived idea of what call centres are in real life!

Marcassin 1, by John Monks (2009-2010), oil on canvas, is another work that I really liked.


Gritty and vivid – makes you wonder what had happened here.

As for the other galleries I visited, I must confess to remaining unimpressed.

Perhaps I’m just a difficult customer…

04 of 12

Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv


One of the exhibits for the Ellis Island Museum that I find poignant in today’s political climate in the USA…

This is one of the design firms I follow. They have been around for a very long time – since 1958 in fact.

Their web site gives a taste of their simple and clear style.

Classic branding, print and motion graphics, exhibitions and what they refer to as “art in architecture”.

They have designed a multitude of awards for their work. Here are some of them listed.

Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, partner and designer Sagi Haviv, and principal designer Mackey Saturday, are they driving forces behind what they do – and a host of others who are employed by the agency.

Their methodology is collaborative, and the principals are still involved in every project they take on.

So, what is it I like about their work?

The identities they have designed over the years have for the most part a clarity and simplicity that I find makes them memorable – which is of course what a brand should be.

Graphics for print and web are more varied and ranges from naive and playful, to more “adult” in terms of design language. Always somehow right.

Art in architecture is on a different scale altogether. Bringing a personal touch, unique to each of the projects.

Exhibitions is another are they excel in. Mostly projects of a more stark and serious nature. Thoughtful design that never steps over the mark.

Motion graphics – again more than something that just looks great, there is some thought behind the outcomes.

Having the longevity and experience counts for a lot. And they are still producing great work.

What’s there not to like!?


03 of 12

Beyond infographics

I was saddened  by the recent passing of Hans Rosling, the Swedish “Jedi master” of statistics* passed away recently.

* not my words, The Telegraph had this as a headline for an article about him: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/08/hans-rosling-jedi-master-statistics-dies-aged-68/

Bill Gates paid tribute to him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillGates/status/829057938044039168?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

This was not because I am a fan of statistics – it has it’s place and it is important, but not something I am particularly fascinated by.

Here was someone who did not only grasp the statistics, but was emphatic with the people behind the numbers. He also understood how to enable the rest of us to comprehend those numbers in terms of “getting” the underlying causes.

Creating visuals, sometimes digitally, at other times as physical objects, he managed to engage his audiences and educate them at the same time entertain them.

How important graphic design can be when used to educate is easy to see. How can we not be inspired by this?

Here is a short example:

And here is a link to a longer talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E

02 of 12

Designing for X

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to design for a known target audience. How do you do about designing for everybody, literally?

Google and Microsoft have developed their own design languages (Material and Metro, respectively) and made great efforts to be understandable to people from any culture, anywhere in the world.

Apple has not until more recently gone through the same process – resulting in the “OS X Yosemite design language”. Interesting since Apple traditionally have been very particular about visual design. They have had design guidelines for hardware and apps etc., but not an overarching design system until recently – just to clarify.

Having clear information about the design principles required is one thing, making it easy for designers and developers to use them is quite another.

Here’s a brief look at two ways this can be done:

Material Design is a unified system that combines theory, resources, and tools for crafting digital experiences.

Google is very thorough and have dedicated an extensive website to explain the Material design language: https://material.io (where the above quote can be found by the way).

They are defining dynamic interfaces with interactive motion, provide guidelines, a component library, and an extensive set of icons (If you don’t like icons much, this is almost overwhelming…).

Though “flat design” is a popular meme right now, there is something much, much deeper going on here at Microsoft

 – Steve Clayton

Microsoft made the information about the Metro design language available in a less detailed manner, it is more of a conversational approach. Their story is at the Microsoft website as a blog post of sorts, written by Steve Clayton.

Font choices are also design decisions

Google’s mobile OS, Android use Roboto, a specially designed font, Chrome, their browser use Noto (this is also used for Android for languages not covered by Roboto).

Microsoft Windows use Segoe UI, which is part of a larger font family.

In the world of Linux, there is Ubuntu’s own font, called Ubuntu, which is used as a user interface font.

So why is any of this important?

Making an environment consistent helps the user to understand what they are doing, and in the case of OSs, enabling them to focus on being productive.

The same goes for graphic design, both for print and web publishing.

01 of 12

The Perceived Value of Design

How does the lack of understanding, or lack of knowledge, of how a particular design was created affect the apparent value of it?

Perhaps this is where the digital tools we use creates a false impression of instant and effortless creation. At least in the mind of the average observer, and those who buys design today.

I’ll explain my point using an example – one that I take to for two reasons. Both of them creative in nature.

John Mayer is an American guitarist and songwriter. Since I play guitar (I might stretch the meaning of playing here…) I often look out for something that connects music and design. Here, an English designer, David A. Smith, was hired to design the cover for one of John Mayer’s albums. Just looking at the finished work is impressive, as it is evident that a great deal of thought went into the design and execution of it.


At least for me, knowing the process really adds value to the end product. Watching the following video makes me realise working with glass and etching etc. requires great skill and a lot of patience. 

I also find it relaxing to watch this video, a lesson in the art of slowing down and take time to consider what you are doing!

There is of course more to it than knowing what it took to make something – if the end result doesn’t fit what it was designed for it does not work as intended, so the steps taken before arriving at what type of design to use are vitally important.