Graphic designer Ken Briggs sadly passed last December. One of Britain’s great often unvisited graphic designer’s of the 60′s and 70′s. Famed for his work alongside Sue Chennell for Britain’s National Theatre during the 60′s, Brigg’s take on modernism stood out from the norm within poster and signage design.
Renowned digital music channel Resident Advisor have just launched their redesign for 2014, the first since it’s birth back in 2001.
Aside from becoming fully responsive with a dedicated, and much needed mobile site – navigating around RA is now much clearer and cleaner. Artist pages feel easier to discover and profiles for promoters and their line ups feel like a real hub of information, great for discovering new music or wading through current favourites. Editorial plays a big part in Resident’s stronghold and the new site really let’s it’s content breath, yet it feels like there’s room for improvement in this area, not just from a layout perspective but with additional, more engaging additional content too.
Ahead of the release of their stunning new game Monument Valley, we speak to ustwo‘s Ken Wong about how a project like this comes to fruition. Click through to the post to read the interview in full and get an exclusive chance to sign up for the Monument Valley beta.
Hi Ken, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to our readers?
Howdy! My name is Ken Wong, and I’m a video game artist and designer at ustwo. Last year I made an iPhone game called Hackycat, in Australia. The year before that I art directed a game where Alice battles Wonderland, in Shanghai. This year I’m in London and I’m designing a game about geometry, architecture and forgiveness.
What can you tell us about your latest project Monument Valley?
Monument Valley originated from wanting to make a game where architecture was the main character. It’s a surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry where the player guides Ida through mysterious monuments, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding optical illusions and outsmarting the enigmatic Crow People.
Monument Valley is a beautiful, exploratory experience, somewhere between exploring a toyshop and reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
In preparation of the OFFF digital media festival in May 2014 we are launching a series of interviews with selected speakers from the event. To kick things off we spoke to OFFF founder Héctor Ayuso about some of the challenges he faced organising the festival.
Hello Héctor, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to our readers.
Introducing yourself must be the trickiest thing you could do, but well I’m Héctor Ayuso, I’m a curator and OFFF Festival’s founder and director, also known for a huge Sigur Ros fanatic that owns thousands of blu-rays back at home. Hope that sums it up!
I read somewhere that you came up with the idea for the OFFF and launched it that same day. What was the biggest challenge organising that first event?
That is true, and I can never count the times someone has asked me this question and I really hope every time my answer will influence most of the people out there with a strong passion to do something. Basically the biggest challenge I have ever faced is the fact that I had no previous experiences in such things and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a passion to do create something new, a place where people could gather, meet and get inspired by the awesome talents we have out there. I would say that I probably lost a lot of money in my first event, but that only taught me something new every year. And once you have a strong will to do something, you fall, you pick yourself up and you basically learn how to do it better each time.
We’re all glad you persisted! What would your one piece of advice be to someone who is thinking of organising a talk or event.
If you want to do something, just do it, go all the way till the end until you achieve that goal. And that’s the main reason OFFF has been going on for its 14th edition now. Another important piece of advice: don’t think about the event’s profits, don’t organise something focusing on the money that you will make or any such thing. Focus on your audience and give them something that will change their life and this will give you the opportunity of success.
To celebrate the launch of 15/115 – the second book from Graphic Designer Mark Bloom, better know as Mash Creative, we are giving away a signed copy and an exclusive print!
The book features 115 projects spanning Mark’s 15 year career to date and is divided into three chapters: Posters, Logos & Case studies. It’s beautifully printed on a tactile mix of GFSmith papers. With a white foiled cover, thread sewn spine for lay-flat spreads and fluorescent orange ink to help break up the sections, showing a great care for detail. No decent designers bookshelf should be missing a copy!
And as a special treat we also throwing in a signed Grid Effiency poster Mark designed for Dixon Baxi’s Join The Dot series. There are only 10 of these fluorescent green A2 poster in existence and they have never been made available to buy.
To enter the competition…
Simply tell us what you think is the most significant branding design project of the past 15 years. Tweet your answer and tag it #FFFifteen, leave a comment on our Facebook page or comment below before 9th August 2013.
– Available to buy at This is our shop for £22.50.
This week we launched out latest interactive masthead collaboration with Jeffrey Bowman. We had a chance to chat to the illustrator and designer, who left the UK for a log cabin in the Norwegian country side, to ask him about his new surroundings and how he had to adapt his working process.
Hi Jeffrey, can you tell us a little about where you are these days and what lead you to Norway.
At the moment I’m based in a place called Hemsedal, which is a mountain village about 4 hours north of Oslo. It’s a pretty incredible place, based around an active outdoor lifestyle. In winter it’s Norway’s snowboard capital and in summer it turns into a hive of outdoor activities from climbing, hiking, fishing, camping, downhill mountain biking and so much more. It’s a super chilled place with a really easy pace of life, which is one of the reasons I ended up here. One of my students from my time at Shillington College lives here, so I came out to visit last summer. I love the mountains and being outdoors, hiking, climbing and snowboarding and the lifestyle that goes with it, so when I came to visit for 3 weeks I fell in love with the place. I was really sad to leave after my trip, it was like I’d found my second home, so I decided that it was a lifestyle I wanted, so packed up and moved here in January. Everything is possible here, in summer the 19 hours of sunlight means you can do so much with each day, we call them ‘double days’. I go to the studio do 5-6 hours of work and then head out to explore. Winter is different the daylight is around 5-6 hours and its down to -25 for a lot of the time so you spend your time between boarding and working. And if I’m honest I really got wore down by the city and the 8-6 everyday, I never felt like I had a life, it got tipped way out of balance, juggling a full-time teaching job and freelance. Plus dealing with the daily encounters of Manchester. I loved my time there and the people I met, but city life can be tough and ugly, so I opted out. I still have dreams or ‘nightmares’ of being back in a city and not being able to get back to Norway haha. At the moment I do feel like I’ll be sticking here for a few years, it’s the right lifestyle for me. I’ve swapped sirens for the sweet bird sounds and the chavs for mountains.
What’s your new work space like?
I work in a log cabin called ‘Igloo’. It’s in the village centre, set up as a shared studio space by Anki Grothe (photographer) and Mari Soderholm (graphic design and former student of mine). It’s a really cool space, it’s as authentic as you can get! I love working down here, I think anyone freelancing needs a space to work, and for me it’s the dream I’ve always had, a cabin tucked away in the mountains. The creative community here is really strong so people come by to work from here a lot, and we have regular exhibitions from local creatives. There is a good sense of community and it’s building stronger as we go.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the cover of issue 15 of The Albion BMX magazine (it should have been issue 13 but it got put back and added too quite a lot), it’s been quite a ride doing that and I’m super stoked to see it finished. It’s 15 famous BMX spots from around the world made into one crazy ‘dream’ spot! I’m also working on more promo material and branding for Sheffield Uni. Also a range of longboard and decks for a Brazilian skate company and off the back of that I think I’ll be re-branding them too. And I’m also working on a ton of other small branding projects including Sim Warren who is a videographer, working on graphics and branding for his video ’64 Days’ which documents his trip through the national parks of America filming the wildlife and mountains. And as always I have personal projects I’m working on, one of which i’m currently in talks with to produce a book all being well.
At the beginning of May we attended London’s latest design conference POINT. Boasting some big names from the design world including, Erik Spiekermann, Morag Myerscough, Jonathan Barnbrook and video interviews from Alan Fletcher and Milton Glaser the bar was already being set pretty high. POINT took place over two days at Royal Institute of British Architects in London’s west end, the choice of venue (with it’s wooden panelled theatre walls, grand entrance stair cases and architectural-orientated bookshops) and list of speakers set an intellectual and academic tone to the conference.
With just one theatre for all the speakers there was a lot of speakers to get through in both days. For the most part this meant short 30 minute talks in order to stick to a tight formal schedule which kept talks concise and focused. Unfortunately this didn’t leave much time for questions both from the live audience or via Twitter. As both days progressed speakers towards the end of the day were given hour long slots which, for the like of Morag Myerscough and Matt Webb gave the audience a much deeper insight into their work.
Some of you may remember last month’s Steer feature, where we introduced the London-based team of developers and designers, who aimed to teach people to code. From scratch. In one week.
It was Steer’s one week commitment that most intrigued us, so we sent FFF’er Jack Daly – a complete coding novice – to check out the course and report back.
Find out how he got on…
After a 3.30AM rise to make the Glasgow to London sleepless train I had been a little worried that a lack of Z’s might leave me a off the pace for the day ahead – those fears were only compounded when the train ground to a standstill for an hour, meaning I wouldn’t make the 10am class start.
I needn’t have worried.
Even turning up a full hour after the class began, the Steer team made sure I didn’t miss out. Rik went through the various lessons at a pace everyone could keep up with, and even though i’d missed the start Tim was straight on hand with one-on-one tuition to cover everything i’d previously missed. By lunch I was fully up to speed.
On the first day – and throughout the week – everyone was well fed and watered, with a variety of fresh fruit, pastries and nibbles available, before a lunch of salad’s, wraps and sandwiches. There was also a steady flow of tea and coffee.
The first morning was spent going through the basics of HTML or “the bones of the internet”. We learnt how to structure basic content, into head and body, while bringing hierarchy to our typography with headers, paragraphs and a variety of listing code, before introducing links, images and video content. Finally dealing with meta tags to ensure our sites links would be best represented in Google, Facebook and Twitter. Read more
We hopped over to Dublin last weekend for Offset 2013; three days of talks and debates from a line-up of inspiring creatives. Even at first glance Offset feels a bit different from other design festivals. Its bold identity smacks you in the face challenging you to get stuck in, enthusiastically flouting the usually restrained style used for design events.
Based on this design aesthetic one could be forgiven for expecting a slightly chaotic event, but Offset is one of the best-organised events of its kind we’ve been to. On top of the seamless organisation and euphoric lack of queuing, it was fun, laid back and friendly. But above all, it felt tangibly creative. It’s easy to indulge in a bit of middle class navel gazing at these events, but this one didn’t allow any of that. It had a young, interesting buzz. It felt exciting. And the venue of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, sitting on the Grand Canal Dock, is an architectural feast that looks different from every angle. Gorgeous inside and out, the venue itself added to the inspirational atmosphere.
There were two things about Offset that really stood out for me and enhanced my enjoyment of the overall event. The first was that the second room — rather than being used for the less well known speakers, was a discussion room. This created a great breathing space from the main stage, and added pace to the day.
The second thing was the variety of styles, disciplines and personalities of the speakers butting up against each other, creating great juxtapositions. As the content and style of each presentation was quite different, it brought fresh perspectives on familiar themes.
There weren’t as many big names on the bill as in previous years, but there were some serious heavyweights, including Bob Gill, Ben Boss, Vaughan Oliver, Oliviero Toscani and Louise Fili. Our highlights from this year are as follows:
Ireland’s Laureate for children’s literature Niamh Sharkey talked passionately about the fight to get to a place worth going, gave fascinating insight into character development from a simple hand drawn line through to a 3D TV character and inspired the importance of respecting, and working for, your audience. Read more
Could you sum up in a few words what you do?
We are a graphic design agency that makes beautifully simple work.
Can you tell us a little about the team behind StudioMakgill?
We are currently four permanent staff with a rolling roster of freelancers and interns to help with the workload.
What spurred you on to start your own studio, and how did you make the leap?
This is actually the second agency I have run. I founded Red Design with a friend back in 1996. So the process of setting up StudioMakgill wasn’t scary to me. In between Red Design and StudioMakgill I spent four years working with some great agencies in London and this had really helped shape the kind of agency I wanted to run.
You’re based in Brighton, what influence do you think location has on a studio’s output?
The decision to be in Brighton is because I live down here and I want to have a decent quality of life with my family. StudioMakgill was very nearly based in London, but the thought of being a lifelong commuter was too depressing.
It presents some challenges, but I feel that you really don’t need to be London based to be recognised as a serious agency. I hope that we are proving that to be true.
How do you approach creating ‘beautifully simple work’?
I think firstly it isn’t a completely conscious process. It comes from a desire for and appreciation of simplicity. But there is a process which in itself is actually quite simple. We constantly ask ourselves what is important in a design. What can we get rid of before we compromise the meaning or integrity of that piece.
Do clients ever come to you with something specific in mind?
We don’t take on every project that comes to us. But a client with something in mind can either be a great thing or it can be potentially toxic.
It really depends on so many factors. It requires learning a lot about people and becoming a good judge of character. Experience has really helped here, though taking on the wrong client is a mistake that can still happen. Read more
Update from Amsterdam based Another Something & Company.
Strong art direction and typography.
Historically there’s been a clear divide between designers and developers, with the handover of static photoshop pages sometimes their only interaction. However, times are changing. With ever increasing platforms to design for and more possibilities for interacting with digital technology, there’s never been a better time for true collaboration.
That’s where Steer come in.
Having launched in Clerkenwell, London, Steer aim to “teach the world to code”. With an expert, multi-disciplined teaching team, Steer will be running a series of intensive, one week courses in front end and back end web development, from early April. The front end development course in particular is of interest, as it aims to teach complete novices to code in one week.
We spoke to Steer co-founder Rik Lomas to find out more about the project.
Q. There are a number of courses teaching people to code, but we haven’t seen any others which claim to teach novices in one week. This almost sounds too good to be true, what gives you such confidence?
A. Our courses are intensive, we pack a lot into 5 days to make sure participants get their money’s worth. All you need is a smart mind and a willingness to try. Coding is one of the most creative skills you can learn, you can make anything – from silly animations using cat GIFs to companies the size of Facebook. Children aged 9 are learning to code with initiatives like Code Club (http://www.codeclub.org.uk), so if they can do it, anyone can. Once you break the first few walls down, it’s amazing how quickly people pick it up, especially people who’ve already got en eye for design. It’s a natural progression.
Q. The Front End Developer course is likely to be popular with traditional graphic designers who have a background in print, what are the main benefits you’d expect them to take away from this?
A. By the end of the course, designers would be able to create the sites that they design. Learning to code will help them better understand the medium and context that they’re working in, and can only make them more valuable. It’s a bit of a no-brainer.
There was a great article called Designing With Code by Jeremy Bell from Teehan+Lax who said that “if great design is not only aesthetics but also how it works, then it’s time to make development part of the creative process”. This is something that we totally agree with. The best designers are the ones that truly understand the medium.
Q. There are online coding courses with good reputations, what are the benefits of learning at Steer HQ?
Learning online has one fundamental problem – what happens when you get stuck? Most people I’ve spoken to who have tried to learn online have hit a wall and stopped. Learning with a teacher fixes this, and, crucially, a big part of what we do at Steer is teaching them how to get over getting stuck.
A. When learning online, you have to plough in a fixed direction, but we want our students to ask as many questions as possible. Often they’ll have a specific goal in mind – a business or a specific process they want to fully understand – and we can help them get there. Online courses will never be able to do that.
Q. You’re currently based in Clerkenwell, are there any plans to branch out to other UK cities?
Not yet, London is currently our home but the whole team is from around the UK. I’m from Manchester and I know there’s a great design community up there. Calum’s from Glasgow and there’s some awesome designers there too. It’s something that we’re planning to do but in the meantime, we’re looking for affordable deals to let people stay over in London for the courses.
We’ve partnered with Steer to offer FFF readers 10% off their courses – to take advantage of the offer use this link.
If you’re looking to get your work infront of agencies, journalists and other designers, having your work featured on a design blog can really boost your profile.
The big question is what’s the best way of making that happen?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can shed some light on what we look out for at FormFiftyFive. There are a variety of ways that we find content for FFF. Here’s how you can stand out…
We get around 30-50 daily submissions from all over the globe. Going through these isn’t an easy task, we all have a day job and can’t read and especially answer every single email. So make your submission count!
Keep it short, send a concise email with basic information on you or the project, a link to the work and 2-3 jpegs.
Supply your images ready to publish and take time to find the preferred image dimensions of the blog you are writing to. Provide a download link with further material and a press release with soundbites, quotable comments and ‘behind the scenes’ or production info.
Do your research! Read the blog you are writing to and find out who they are, what they write about and if your work will fit. Never start your email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’ (it really happens). Within the first 2 seconds of reading an email I can tell if you actually read FFF or not!
Try seeking out the contributor who’s posts you most enjoy or who’s work is most like your own as there’s probably a good chance they’ll feature you.
Consider spreading news about your project or portfolio through Twitter’s design community. Bloggers might stumble over a link to your work or you could ask a blog directly to check out your work.
The advantage of Twitter is that it requires you to be concise and this helps you focus your message, meaning that you can catch the attention of busy bloggers.
Never tweet multiple blogs at the same time to check out your work though, its just rude and impersonal.
Our contributors keep an eye on a variety of other design blogs for work that instantly stands out for it’s idea or execution. So, if you get featured by one blog you’ll usually notice your work spreading quite quickly. The more effort you put into finding the right blog to suit your material, the more likely it is your work with gain momentum.
The main thing is to carefully consider what and how often you share. Writing to blogs about single projects every couple of weeks isn’t going to get you far, unless the project is mind-blowing of course! A portfolio update with multiple new projects on the other hand is more likely to get you featured.
So to recap
Do your research, keep it short & direct, make it easy to publish and don’t over-do it! Send us your very best work to firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration by Parko Polo
New York-based designer and illustrator Tim Lahan is our feature artist of the week and has also created our masthead illustration. Since 2008, Tim has worked with folks like The New Yorker, Jack Spade, McSweeney’s, GOOD, AOL, Nike, The New York Times, and others. The goal has always been to communicate visually in a simple and direct aesthetic. Tim was recently awarded as a Young Gun by the Art Director’s Club,was recently signed by the ever-growing Agent Pekka and wins the price for best favicon of 2013!
If you’re a fan of Tim’s work you have to follow his Tumblr packed with hilarious sketches and thoughts!