Author Archive for Michael Dancer

How to start a creative agency


Yr1 ComDes London Study Trip 07-10 December 2015

Term 1 | Session 2015/16

1st Year Department of Communication Design

London Study Trip


Image / Steven Gribben, Yr1 ComDes

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A long time ago (only week 12 of Term 1) there was once a poor group of Year 1 Communication Design students from The Glasgow School of Art. They lived in a little village known as Glasgow. They often heard stories about a far away place called London where everybody was rich and the streets were paved with gold. Then came a great storm but the students were determined to go there and dig up some cool practitioners to share thoughts and inspiration. When they reached the big city, they found their own accommodation, navigated hundreds of people on the underground, arrived at all visits on time and asked relevant and insightful questions.


Here is the list of noble practitioners who entertained us /

Tuesday 08 December

VISIT 10.00am


35 Tileyard Studios, Tileyard Road, London N7 9AH

U Caledonian Road

Contact / Giulia Vaccari

t 020 7278 7976



Big thanks to the Scriberia team who have a unique offering of visual communication, illustration and animation. Kamilla wrote the following piece /

Blood, Sweat and Tea(rs)- offers the neon sign above Scriberia’s kitchen area cheerfully-
There is a certain welcoming and inspiring, yet very busy atmosphere at Scriberia, permeating the whole illustration studio as we step in from outside, placing our jackets (all soaked up with rain) on the sofa. Scribellings and sketches on the walls, freshly served tea on the table, bookshelves packed up with all kinds of illustrated publications – all these – enthralling for our “young delegation” of ComDes students.

After the first attempts to get back to Earth from this ecstatic visual state, we are then invited to a round-table discussion about the company and the role of being an illustrator nowadays.
Chris shows us some of their recent projects, tells us the company’s creative approach, and gives us some advice on future illustration work while we listen to him mesmerised.

The discussion is cheerful, the studio is well-equipped and with this joyful first impression of a “bit of creative London” we are then heading off in high spirits, bearing the secret thought in mind that it would be indeed very nice to work in an inspiring environment like this.

Kamilla Hu-Yang, Yr1 ComDes

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Wednesday 09 December

VISIT 10.30am

Fran Gordon

The Royal College of Art

Dyson Building

1 Hester Road


SW11 4AN

U South Kensington and a lovely walk


Fran gave the students a tour of the impressive printmaking facilities in the Dyson Building (very shiny and new). She has started the first of two years at the RCA and is loving the freedom to make images. The course is full on and she is loving the new challenges that come with being completely self motivated. Fran was kind enough to show the students some of her sketch books which were considered and quietly powerful. Very interested to see how her work develops when she travels to Canada in 2016. Thanks Fran.

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VISIT 2.30pm

FUEL Design & Publishing

33 Fournier Street, London E1 6QE

U Aldgate East

Contact / Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell

t 020 7377 2697


Fantastic studio in the historic quarter of Spitalfields (just off Brick Lane). Stephen and Damon were chatting away with the students when I arrived (took a wrong turning). Gilbert and George opposite and Tracey Emin just along the road. FUEL were founded in 1991 and are famous for their work in print (see Russian Criminal Tattoo series). They have also produced and directed short films, identities, film titles and TV commercials (see Levis twisted to fit). Great insight into a working process that relies on discussion (very few scribbles) – it has to sound right before they commit to visuals. Working with Tracey Emin presented its own challenges in that she does not like the design to detract from her work – design elements have to complement in a clean and understated way. Engaging, humble at times, generous and warm.

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Thursday 10 December

VISIT 10.30am

HEART Illustration Agency

Top Floor, 100 De Beauvoir Road, London N1 4EN

U Dalston Kingsland

Contact / Darrel Rees

t 020 7254 5558


An illustrious list of names on the door buzzer raised the anticipation for this visit. Up a flight of stairs to an open plan loft studio including Eye Magazine and a number of notable creatives. Darrel met us at the top of the stairs and chatted to us at a large table in the middle of the studio. A lovely space with just the right amount of activity going on in the background to create a murmur, not a distraction. Valuable knowledge from the professional world of illustration – where commissions come from, how to put together a portfolio that resonates, how to keep busy when the phone doesn’t ring, managing workflow and the advantages of having an agent. I like the way Heart operates like an extended family with social events organised to bring all the illustrators on their books together to chat and share. Darrel has the overview, ensuring cohesion between illustrator and client. The printed samples provided were a mixture of promotional pieces and publications – The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge being a beautifully printed example (look out for other examples of Beat produced by Heart Illustration Agency). Darrel sent me an email a few days after the visit — “Hi  Michael, Just wanted to say it was a pleasure to meet you (again) and your very nice bunch of students. I really hope the visit was of some interest/help to them, even if it’s just seeing inspiring work.”


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VISIT 4.00pm


Studio 1, Albion Buildings, 1 Back Hill, London EC1R 5HT

met at Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BL

U Farringdon

Contacts / Paul Finn and Alistair Hall

t 020 7833 4110

An outstanding hour of chat (starting off in the Betsey Trottwood) with Paul Finn (of Fitzroy & Finn) and Alistair Hall (of We Made This Ltd) then moving across the road to their bijou studio. They share the space with David Pearson the absurdly talented book designer who was out on business unfortunately (David designed the audacious Penguin cover for Nineteen Eighty-Four, you know the one? — the title is cleverly redacted). As I glanced around the studio I could see D&AD annuals (hot off the press), other classic Penguin Books, design guidelines for the BBC website, A Practice For Everyday Life‘s “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy”, a book about Brazilian concrete poets — all lovely stuff. It turned into a quality double act with Paul and Alistair trading stories about their work and philosophy. The best bit was a 5min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min countdown of their greatest hits described in a brilliant non-stop duologue. Heartening to see that with a bit of passion and skill, small can still be beautiful.


See the Yr1 typographic safari HERE

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Common Senses

Common Senses_3

I made an enjoyable discovery when dusting off some old work files last week. Common Senses, Number One, March 84 was published when I was in my First year at The School of Art. I recognise Jimmy Cosgrove (the master puppeteer on the back cover), Danny Ferguson (formidable looking but insightful and encouraging), John Cunningham (who used to tie his tweed jacket together at the front with a bit of twine), Conrad McKenna and Peter Sumsion (who had a snazzy line in corduroy suits). The zine was put together by students for students and is packed with nostalgic goodies – current stuff, interviews (including Steven Campbell and Ken Currie), poetry, recipes (including cheese nut burgers), book, exhibition and film reviews.

My favourite articles included /
Juke box survey in Pubs in Central Area by Catherine Bisson

oceans eleven


“Bet you never thought of walking into this pub. It doesn’t look very hot from the outside and it’s not exactly all cushions and carpet on the inside. However from my point of view it’s got something that’ll make me go back. They’re video Jukebox. Not only can you hear your favourite songs, you can watch the video too. It’s fifty pence for two songs and you can choose from a wide variety of material. They’ve got quite a few very up to date ones; The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen; Love is a wonderful colour – The Icicle Works,; The Colourfield – The Colourfield, to name a few. They have Relax by Frankie goes to Hollywood but I’m afraid the video is very tame. They have some pretty obscure things, for example; Don’t Box Me In – Stewart Copeland and Rumble Fish; Aerobics – The California Girls and Que te Quiero by Katrina and The Waves, whoever they may be. They’ve got quite a few classics as well – Independence Day by the Comsat Angels; I only want to be with you by the Tourists and Stand by your man by Tammy Wynette. There’s also a whole load more, some I’ve never heard off, and some I don’t think worth mentioning: The video picture is good and the music is loud but not offensive.”

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* Pigeons are the only birds capable of sucking. The rest make do with sipping and swallowing

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“So you think you’re an Art Student” quiz including /

Question 4 — Do you go home to:-
a) See your family, b) get Mum to do your washing, c) get fed and pissed

Question 5 — How many times are you heard saying “frustration” or ”depressed” in one day?
a) never, b) 10 or less, c) at least 5,000

Question 7 — How many times a day do you go for a tea break?
a) 5 or less, b) 10-15, c) my whole day’s a tea break

Question 15 — When a tutor slags your work do you:-
a) Go into a four months sulk, b) Ask to look at her/his recent work, c) Tell her/him to ********** off

If you answered mostly c) you proved to the world that as an art student at The School of Art you were the coolest, hippiest thing to be seen walking along Sauchiehall Street. I needed a d) option for each question to accurately reflect my non posering experience in Yr1. The dodgy anorak without a hood, polyveldt shoes and home knitted sweaters didn’t help. The Mary Chain changed all that …



There were some lovely memories from this year’s Singapore Immersion Programme. Our 70 Singapore guests shared knowledge and cultural differences in the Haldane for three (almost sunny) weeks in June. One of the aims this year was to explore a variety of expressive processes and ask the students redefine them visually and verbally. The students adopted a sense of ‘openness’ and desire to experiment with a variety of media and techniques – they entered into workshop activities with a positive and energetic spirit. Adding to the atmosphere of knowledge transfer were the GSA student ambassadors who exchanged information in whatever way they proposed – discussion, debate, playful activity, performance, drawing and writing. Big thanks to Ryan, Trudi, Laura, Penuel, Jack, Peter, Juliette, Emőke and Rachele.

An important breakthrough moment for one Singapore student was articulated during an interim crit. The student had produced a triptych of drawings of an elderly person climbing a steep street in Glasgow. The drawings were characterful and full of energy. When asked if this was a method of drawing they were familiar with, they replied no. They were using an expressive approach picked up from earlier workshop activity that inspired a new way of looking at the world.

The following piece is from green group b — Fayth Foo, Poh Jing Yi, Tiffanie Sng and Nigel Tan. An animation which examined the remaining structures of an old mill on the Kelvin Walkway. Through their observations, they measured time through repetitive habits and behaviours that portrayed the possible ‘degrading’ of the mill’s history, forgotten both in the physical and psychologically aspect.

Flint mill_1


Yr1 ComDes London Study Trip 08-11 December 2014

Tuesday 09 December

VISIT 10.30am


93 Great Suffolk Street, London SE1 0BX

U Borough

Contact / Alex Swatridge

t 020 7620 0272

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Within easy walking distance from Borough – a mixture of large and small scale projects – Royal Mail stamps for the Olympic Games versus hoardings for big property developers – print examples on the glass board room table to peruse – exaggerated book format for Centre Point – 60s inspired textures and patterns beautifully printed – architectural images from Paul Grundy – clean sleek studio – small team of one director (Gareth Howat, co-founder) and five designers – they like to keep themselves busy and currently have 45 projects in progress – a selection of lovely print samples and awards placed around the boardroom – they have been very successful in ‘tickling’ our minds




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VISIT 12.30pm


1st Floor, 5 Back Hill, London EC1R 5EN

U Chancery Lane

Contact / Mike Radcliffe

t 020 7278 7272

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Much talked about agent with excellent portfolio advice for students – shop front leads into neat office with receptionist, gallery space and funky seating area (we all squashed in) – pared back PDF presentation with top tips — try and build up a number of internships for the experience (it will be hard as some companies do not pay students on work placements) – this will help build a rapport and a chemistry – “keep your portfolio simple” – “be proud of what you do” – be well presented, polite and on time if you have an interview – Mike noted that attitude is more important than skill level (things have moved on from five years ago) – try to develop your people skills (warmer skills) – avoid the wet kipper handshake – Mike is open and engaging – he is keen to make links with The School of Art – nice cup of tea


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VISIT 12.30pm


54-58 Tanner Street, London SE1 3PH

U London Bridge

Contact / Gareth White

t 020 7403 0417

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New Future Graphic: a vibrant meeting room and studio space, we were greeted by Gareth White and his energetic studio dog who gave us lots of advice and honest insight into their growing business. The studio grew from the early days producing all the illustration in-house to now commissioning photography and illustration for the project (currently they are the worldwide creative agency for Clarks shoes). They also collaborate with clients and suppliers to bring new products to the market (by bringing together a printer and tailor) which challenges their role as designer and client. There were also lots of practical tips for students and graduates (use mail chimp to monitor your own self promotion) and valuable lessons learned along the way (assumption is the mother of fuckumption). All delivered effortlessly while multi-tasking playing fetch with the dog. Lovely. — Emma Keogh



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VISIT 4.00pm


11 Needham Road, London W11 2RP

U Notting Hill

Contact / Rhian Edwards and Angus Hyland

t 020 7229 3477

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We were welcomed into the big meeting space to the left of reception – I wonder who has sat around this table since 1972? – Angus presented his “show and tell” PDF that he had shared with the other Pentagram partners that week – hushed cathedral atmosphere – the presentation was chatty and engaging – content included branding work for Mulberry, ambitious new publishing project ‘Monarchs’ for Penguin (this included the options rejected by the client – all lovely) – crafted typography, carefully commissioned illustration (including Marion Deuchars etc.) and crisp gold foil blocking – he also showed some of his own geometric compositions used as backgrounds for Cass Art packaging (Glasgow shop is located on Queen Street) – when asked about the difference between American and UK design (“Le Style Anglais”), Angus suggested it was more about attitude (look at the work of New York partner Paula Scher for comparison) – when speaking at The School of Art recently, Paula said “fake your way through something three times, you become an expert”


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Wednesday 10 December

VISIT 10.00am


6 Brewhouse Yard, London EC1V 4DG

U Barbican

Contact / Clare Styles

t 020 7559 7000

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Clare met us in reception and was super friendly (I detected a hint of a north of England accent) – amazing contemporary offices – selection of 2000 era songs floating across large open plan studio (was that “A Song For The Lovers” Richard Ashcroft?) – lively, young, vibrant – lots of ‘break out’ booths with meetings going on – floor space is divided into five teams with Clare heading up one of them – confident and relaxed presentation in mezzanine meeting area – she took us through their Euro 2020 pitch which had been unsuccessful – daunting to think that her team worked solidly for around two weeks in addition to the fee paying work to produce three slick solutions – the cutting room floor often gives you the best insight into the level of creativity – despite losing the pitch, Clare was satisfied with the quality of the thinking and the attitude behind the work – a great studio for a first work placement – big thanks to our friend Lynne Devine for setting up the visit – wow!



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VISIT 12.45pm


107 Great Western Studios, 65 Alfred Road, London W2 5EU

U Royal Oak

Contacts / Fernando Gutiérrez  and Michael Gibb

t 020 3214 3277

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An exciting ‘hub’ juxtaposed under a motorway flyover (in a good way) – GSA graduate Michael Gibb met us at the front door and led us through a collection of busy studios – lots of activity and a happy buzz about the atrium – this looks like a good place to work – Fernando greeted us and guided us through a selection of images – some were philosophical, some were metaphors and then backed them up with highlights from his portfolio – it was a masterful presentation giving us insight into his passion for research and simple ideas that communicate – his work for the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid combines clever picture research with touches of classical and contemporary typography – Michael is a natural at Studio Gutiérrez, overseeing budgets and coordinating work with a range of international clients – great stuff!

Fernando GutiérrezV25_COVER295x400

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VISIT 4.00pm


Studio 1.8, 1–5 Vyner Street, London E2 9DG

U Bethnal Green

Contact / Peter Hellicar

t 020 8983 3829

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Compact studio in the increasingly fashionable Bethnal Green (not far from A Practice for Everyday Life) – Joel and Pete greeted us and then took us on a journey of the things they have done, the things they would like to do and the things that inspire – what a double act – they dance around each other offering insight with attitude – two unconventional paths synthesised – Joel has a Mathematics and Computer Science degree from Imperial and then went to the RCA – Pete was riding skateboards for 25 years – GSA alumni Kieran Startup was doing his thing in the background – was that an elegant piece of interactive type on his Mac? – Pete showed us ‘stuff’ that he had made in the past and highlighted the value of drawing as a tangible way to express ideas – he showed us a book on rock music photography from the 60s and 70s emphasising the quality and creativity of pre digital images – hey, these guys love the play between analogue and digital – best thing to ask a client, “what did I do wrong?” – there is no lack of enthusiasm here, big thanks.

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GSA illustrators in The Guardian

Great to see some GSA illustrators featured in The Guardian this weekend.







J & M. Craig, Ltd., Kilmarnock

Makers of White and Coloured Glazed Bricks, Sinks, &c.


This exquisite enamelled brick is to be found at Rothesay’s Victorian public conveniences. My thin research on J. & M. Craig, Ltd. suggests that Messrs. James and Matthew Craig purchased the Hillhead Fire Clay Works in Kilmarnock 1861. Enamelled bricks were produced in a variety of tints with the brilliant white ones adapted for lining back walls and “wells” often seen in the centre of Glasgow where the reflection of light is valuable (see the exterior of Rennie Mackintosh’s Daily Record Building, Renfield Lane 1901). The letterforms have a gentle cross hatching technique giving them a warmth and solidity – it reminds me of doodling with a blue Bic biro. I love the idea that a process by which raw, worthless-looking clay, can be transformed into a beautifully enamelled building material.




Old shop fascias visible again

Allison Street

Allison Street

special A_2

Pollokshaws Road

Pollokshaws Road

I noticed a couple of old shop names revealing themselves recently in Pollokshields. I am drawn towards them because they are so fleeting – once the refurbishment is complete, they are hidden again for years. I am particularly fond of the Art Deco A from THE CLASSIC CAFÉ shop entrance (“HOT FOOD CONSENT” suggests permission to return to its former glory may have been granted?). By rendering the A, I could enjoy the hand painted sign writing skills.


Singapore is a unique blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian culture. This permeates to the local language commonly known as Singlish. Although often viewed negatively as an incorrect use of English, it is one of the most authentic and genuine facts of Singapore. Singlish is built upon the subtle nuances of the Singaporean personality and reflects the daily life in the country.

One of my favourites /

talk cock [ cock]
1 To talk rubbish, spout nonsense, make an unfounded statement.
2 To engage in casual banter, chit-chat or small talk.
“Roger Federer lost in the first round at Wimbledon? Don’t talk cock lah.”
“Sorry I’m late. I met Jack at the coffee shop and was talking cock with him for a while.”

As we wave off 66 ComDes GSA Singaporeans, I would like to thank them for their charming good humour and humility over the past three weeks. They have brought a smile to all of our faces here at GSA after what has been a turbulent time for everyone. I would also like to thank the student ambassadors for their patience and unrelenting support – take a bow Penuel Smith Yr1, Jessica Taylor Yr3, Calum Douglas Yr3, Trudi Hannah Yr2, Dawn McCance Yr3, Roisin McAuley Yr2, Fiona Hunter Yr2, Ross Galloway Yr1, Juliette Duffy Yr1 and Sam Walker Yr3. A final group hug for Kim, Emma, Stuart, Jo, Moira, Cherylann, Stephen, Irene (for being so accommodating in The Haldane), Tiernan, Lynne, Craig, Megan, Michael and Ross.

A final mention for the YELLOW group who asked to donate all the one pence pieces from their installation towards the Glasgow School of Art fire appeal. A touching gesture from KJ, Leonard, Melissa, Wilson, Christine, Jiaxin, Georgina and Joshua.

See the GSA Singapore group blogs HERE.

6 17 32 34 35 5 12 42 2014-06-18 10.11.322 38 49 36 51


With the huge countdown clock appearing above the departure board at Central Station, excitement for the Commonwealth Games has stepped up. The nine digit clock had initially shown 128 days to the opening ceremony before somebody switched it off and on again to get the correct number of 135 days. This minor glitch of 7 days brought back fond memories of being part of a group of Glasgow School of Art students contributing to the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in 1986. The 1986 Games were affected by a large political boycott and financial mismanagement. A rotund newspaper tycoon with black dyed hair called Robert Maxwell had stepped in promising to invest £2m. Unfortunately the contribution of this demagogue was just £250,000 encouraging Private Eye magazine to lampoon him as the “bouncing Czech” (he was Czechoslovakian born).




With The Pastels on my Sony Walkman, I walked over to Garscube Road from Wilton Street to join my fellow GSA students at the Display company. We assembled in a big warehouse and were briefed by a monosyllabic boss man in a nylon shirt on the master plan for the Opening Ceremony. Demographic schemes including Africa and Oceania were proposed for carnival style floats. These would be driven around the running track in Edinburgh with happy people waving their hands in fancy dress. I was put in charge of ‘blowing up’ thumbnail drawings of the Houses of Parliament and applying them to the side elevations of the float. I was given a small projector with a 25 meter flex and a wobbly podium on wheels to complete the enlargement. This took me two weeks to execute and when it was laid out on the warehouse floor, it was twice the size required. I was happy to be dismissed of my duties because it meant I could join my fellow students who had nearly completed their 3D rendering of the great barrier reef. After a few more days we were all asked to meet with the monosyllabic boss man who proceeded to hand us some money in small brown envelopes. Our work was done, it was time to leave and the BBC stepped in.

The graphic design that complements major sporting events from the mid 1960s onwards is a patchy affair. Otl Aicher and the 1972 Munich Olympics was breaking new ground. However, when researching the graphic design for the 1986 Commonwealth Games, I found very little evidence. The logo designed by Joe Hall stands up very well (the cross of St Andrews combined with roman numerals), but I was struggling to find anything else. I shifted my in-depth research to the iPad and YouTube. To my delight I found the VHS footage I was looking for of the Opening Ceremony in 1986. Move over Danny Boyle, Yer Magesty and 007 – this is “Smile With Us”. The floats appear at the beginning up to about 3:25 when the female daredevil with the tan coloured shower cap and swimming goggles defies an icy wind off the sea and lands on the grass. The smooth journey of the floats around this jamboree of a running track is assured by blue tractors. The highlight of the pageant (at 5:00) is a massive shortbread tin on wheels stopping briefly in front of the Royal Box and then being escorted out of the stadium by paramilitaries in white boiler suits – blink, and you will miss it.

Will the Red Road flats being blown up and beamed live into the ceremony at Celtic Park on a 100 meter ‘Window on the Commonwealth’ LED screen, be able to match this?

Splash One






By the mid eighties, Glasgow had an ‘anorak music scene’. Groups like The Pastels (original member, Annabel Wright), The Shop Assistants, Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Boy Hairdressers, The Vaselines (loved by Kurt Cobain), BMX Bandits and The Soup Dragons (original drummer was GSA’s Ross Sinclair). Bobby Gillespie (who was often seen on the door taking tickets wearing a striped t-shirt and dark glasses) and others started a club called Splash One which played host to most of these bands plus many ‘seminal’ bands, including an early appearance from Sonic Youth, a reunion gig from Wire, 23 Skidoo and the best ever riotous 15 minute gig from The Jesus and Mary Chain. Splash One was held occasionally in a nightclub called Daddy Warbucks (West George Street) so you had to look out for the fly posters around the centre of Glasgow. I found three of them recently and enjoyed the playful fanzine aesthetic (inspired by Sniffin’ Glue). I also discovered some fanzines from around 1986 which illustrate the sense of a ‘scene’ that superceded Postcard Records. I was somewhere in the background of this original video recording by Jim Lambie.

Yr1 ComDes London Study Trip 18-21 November 2013

London Study Trip
18-21 November 2013
1st Year Department of Communication Design
Yr1 Design Domain

Tuesday 19th November
VISIT 10.00am
Spin, Studio 2, 33 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AA
T 020 7793 9555
U Kennington
Contacts / Tony Brook, Sam Stevenson or Dan Flynn

bright sunny day – quiet area – no people – tidy brick houses with tiny manicured gardens – Sam introduced us to Dan who introduced us to Spin (large open plan office with publishing company attached) – lilting Dublin accent – introduced us to the team (one guy from Dundee – great sketchbook of ideas) – he showed us the working visuals for the new Spin website – described in detail how he got the job at Spin – it started with a placement – they enjoyed his work and attitude – he got offered the job – he has settled into living in London – tries to keep working life and home life separate – wants to travel next year

IMG_7117 IMG_7190
VISIT 12.30pm
Johnson Banks Design Ltd, Crescent Works, Crescent Lane, Clapham,
London SW4 9RW
T 020 7587 6400
U Clapham Common
Contact / Michael Johnson

pleasant stroll along the Common to quiet lane – all students there to meet us – Michael J opens the door and invites us in – taken upstairs to large open plan studio – double bass and guitar sitting on stands in corner – impressive metal display panels on wheels with presentation visuals pinned up – highly articulate presentation of favourite branding projects – Disasters Emergency Committee work pertinent – described the value of idea generation and how JBs hone them – “consider the obvious, then stop” – “constraints suggest where you go with a project” – “start with pictures, follow by words”


VISIT 4.00pm
Field, The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL
T 07540 455 458
U Dalston Junction
Contacts / Vera-Maria Glahn and Marcus Wendt

beautiful old factory building – theatre, bar, cafés attached – lots of cool people and activity – Vera met us and gave us a tour of their new studio – minimal, tidy and impressive kit – great urban landscape out the window – Vera described current projects and the creative journey (how you structure what you show to a client) – Nike Hyperfeel project outstanding – open discussion with students – demystifying the technology – sharing knowledge and ideas – inspiring – comedy fall while on tour of rooftop garden – lets have a beer…

Wednesday 20th November
VISIT 10.30am
Made Thought, 9 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1HW
T 020 7636 1287
U Tottenham Court Road
Contacts / Paul Austin, Ben Parker or Grace Davies

too early, excuse for “a flat white” – students super chatty about visit – rain like Glasgow – Ben meets us at the top of stairs – small but perfectly formed studio – enthusiastic intro from Ben – surrounded by beautiful print work – faint smell of coffee – imperious typographic work – projects for Adidas and Stella McCartney described in detail (no, they have not met her) – typography for & Other Stories is about using default fonts “stripping out design” – testing lab aesthetic created by default metaphor – a sense of anti graphic design – massive thunder storm – off to the underground – pleased with my new telescopic brolly


VISIT 1.00pm
Europa, Unit 25, Sara Lane Studios, 60 Stanway Street, London N1 6RE
T 020 7033 0145
U Hoxton
Contacts / Mia Frostner and Robert Sollis

Ross and Henry super reliable with directions – unassuming walk through housing estate to get to studio – met at the end of long dimly-lit corridor by Robert – really friendly and welcoming – four macs, kitchen, meeting table, four chairs and a library – Europa’s working relationships have often come as a result of an agreed exchange of labour – they have taught and lectured at Camberwell College of Art – print samples laid out on meeting table for students to browse – Parallel Cards project described – elegant work with GSA students on recent visit to Glasgow (how are they going to compile them?) – playfulness and obsessive attention to detail with typography




VISIT 4.30pm
NB Studio, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU
T 020 7633 9046
U London Bridge
Contacts / Alan Dye, Nick Finney or Katie Hook

OMG look at The Shard – tourist guide tells French visitors, had this been built in France it would have been called “The Shardonnay” – Alan meets us at the entrance – huge loft style studio – phone calls, tapping, clicking, talking – D&AD gold pencil prominent – working visuals on the wall – Alan is super enthusiastic – his Pentagram pedigree apparent – idea generation often driven by words and copy lines – references good friend Michael Wolff (Wolff Olins) – familiar award winning projects described along with ones that ended up on the cutting room floor (D&AD suicide campaign was dark and funny) – NB continue to collaborate with illustrators, photographers and copywriters – they left the students with the teaser #NBStandsFor N_______? B_______? (Tweet us an image with your design – Winner gets a poster from our archive)

nae bother

Grey & Done

Gray Dunn & Co_1



If you have ever chicaned the Kinning Park slip road from the M8, you will have noticed the crumbling Gray, Dunn & Co. biscuit factory to your left. This reminded me of a childhood favourite sadly missing from our convenience stores – the Gray Dunn Caramel uncovered wafer block. To exorcise my loss and seek closure, I have rendered it in macromedia Freehand (a redundant programme I was using when the factory closed in 2001). It is a homage to what was a uniform slab of wafer layers, caramel and a yellow cream (lighter than a custard cream). Tunnock’s may take all the neo Pop Art plaudits (note use of Rockwell Extra Bold hybrid on their caramel wafer), but the Gray Dunn was always the superior biscuit on taste and texture i.e. you could get the gnashers through it – not too chewy or crunchy – more ooze than the woodier Tunnock’s.

Bradfords Bakers R.I.P.

In my unofficial capacity as prophet of doom for Scotland’s confectionery industry, I was choked to hear of the demise of Bradfords Bakers. No more fly cemetery, packet soup bulked out with Heinz, Aberdeen Angus scotch pies (perfectamundo), battenburg cake (rectangular cuboids of yellow and pink sponge arranged in a check pattern, encased in a challenging layer of marzipan), empire biscuits (with a massive jelly bit on the top), doughnuts (with a delicate jam and fresh cream filling, mmmmm), garish novelty cakes at Halloween and the signature pineapple soufflé.

I blame Greggs – The home of fresh baking®.

Glasgow seen through Singaporean eyes

The following selection of Glasgow observations featured in the research journals produced by Singapore students. They were asked to document and reflect on the ideas they had been working with during the Overseas Immersion Programme.

Singapore Overseas Immersion Programme Exhibition (2012/13)

The Glasgow School of Art Singapore
Overseas Immersion Programme Exhibition
Session 2012/13
BA (Hons) Communication Design
BA (Hons) Interior Design

Friday 21st June
Exhibition opens 5.00pm

Location: Yr1 Studio, 4th Floor, Skypark 5, 45 Finnieston Street G3 8JU


Check out what the Singapore students have been up to in Glasgow over the past three weeks HERE.

information as illustration

I went along to the Vaughan Oliver (4AD, 23V) talk organised by LongLunch last week in Edinburgh and reacquainted myself with his back catalogue. I have followed and collected his work since 1984 when I was lucky enough to meet him while studying at GSA. I remember him saying that “typography is just another form of mark making”. That statement was all I needed to open up a new world of experimentation and personal expression. The process of researching forgotten fonts, photocopying them, cutting them out with a scalpel knife, positioning with spray mount and tidying up with typex, became addictive. Now I use the ubiquitous Adobe Illustrator for most of my typographic work, but in my mind I am still crafting the letterforms as before. When asked about his use of technology, Vaughan gave a frank reply lamenting the loss of the community that was interwoven into his process – the model makers, the photographers, the repro houses and that guy at the printers who would run an additional spot colour and a double hit of black (at 6.00am). Although it was a thrill to hear his laconic repartee, something inside of me wanted him to say that he was now a master of layers in Photoshop, could handle a digital DSLR or just give us an After Effects tip for the day. I wanted to know that my hero was having to keep up with the advances in CS6 like me – alas, no. Is he worried? Not a bit. He is a graphic designer (not an artist) who wants to communicate a feeling or an atmosphere by using his own visual language. It is a language where information works as illustration.

4AD/23 Envelope 1984 documentary HERE

Yr1 ComDes London Study Trip 28-31 January 2013


VISIT / 10.00am
NOBROW / Sam Arthur
– An informal insight into London’s leading independent book publisher for contemporary illustration. They started in 2008 and work with illustrators across Europe that inspire. Their publications use a striking palette of colours and are printed on carefully chosen paper stocks. We were all envious of their screen printing area tucked away in the basement underneath the shop. Sam was really enthusiastic and gave the students great advice on self promotion.

VISIT / 12noon
PURPOSE / Amie Herriott
– Award winning design agency with slick presentation giving us an insight into the nature of branding. They organised a large selection of printed work on their board room table for us to browse. Interesting thoughts on how branding has to work across many platforms, their work hinted at “simplifying the complex”.

VISIT / 4.30pm
– Andy spent 90 minutes with us giving us a tour of his favourite projects. He studied in Leeds before going to the Royal College. It was there that he embraced collaboration across the design disciplines. The anti-aesthetic of GTF’s work still resonates. The importance of building relationships with clients opens up the idea generation, often delivering the process that drives the work. Andy remains a guru.


VISIT / 10.00am
SEA DESIGN / Danny McNeil
– Compact studio on street level with elegant meeting area upstairs. Masterful design work presented with style and a quiet confidence. We were all reassured when Danny said that they start working on projects “without an idea”. He then showed us where they look for inspiration. Danny emailed us after the visit “It was a pleasure. A very nice group of students to present to. Let me know next time you are in town and I will do the same when I’m in Glasgow.”

VISIT / 12noon
ITN WORKS / Alex Bec
– Alex inspired us with an introduction to his team (lots of beards) and a journey through his favourite work. ITN Works have a idiosyncratic business model based on a simple premise – great ideas and making them happen. Six years out of college, and they are working for Nike. They are facilitators who use a network of talented thinkers and doers.

VISIT / 4.30pm
KK OUTLET / Dave Bell
– Dave took us through the dynamics of a communications agency, gallery and bookshop. They host exhibitions and collaborations on a monthly basis. KK Outlet was set up by the Amsterdam based communications agency KesselsKramer. Well known work includes the famous low budget Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. Dave is originally from Edinburgh and followed a circuitous route to becoming a Managing Director. It is his writing skills and an ability to identify talent to collaborate with, that continues to motivated him.

Hall’s of Broxburn R.I.P.

My vintage collection

I found this drawing recently, which got me thinking about the uniform I wear every day (and have done for 25 years). It consists of a tee shirt, a pair of jeans and trainers. My friend secretly recorded every tee shirt I wore for a month while working in a design agency. When he revealed the drawing, I had no idea that I wore a different tee every day – wearing two on Fridays as we played table tennis and I sweat profusely when stress busting. I realise that it is just another of my collections and the fact that I wear them on rotation adds a layer of obsessive–compulsive disorder. As I grow older, the need for a counter-culture statement has diminished – the tees are more monochromatic and generously tailored, the jeans are not so worn and the trainers are not falling apart. All the tees illustrated now form part of ‘my vintage collection’.

Another collection HERE