February 27, 2019

Why Design Tokyo

Adobe’s principal designer Khoi Vinh was asked to share some words on stage at Why Design Tokyo, a new event for user experience design.

The aim of Khoi’s talk was to encourage designers in Japan to “get out of their daily routines and take a new step” in their practice. He shared his slides and they give a good, quick lesson in the value of design. Here’s a nonconsecutive glimpse.

Why Design Tokyo

Why Design Tokyo

Why Design Tokyo

Khoi mentions Uber and Lyft as examples of firms where design has been instrumental, but where change is led by technology. He then talks about the difference between change that’s led by technology and change led by design.

Why Design Tokyo

Why Design Tokyo

So how can design lead change?

Why Design Tokyo

Why Design Tokyo

Why Design Tokyo

All slides are below. I’m sure they did the trick.

Via Khoi’s post The First Time I Went to Japan.

February 26, 2018

Canada Modern

Canada Modern is a physical and digital archive of modernist Canadian graphic design, focusing on the period 1960—1985. It’s the culmination of Blair Thomson’s long-held ambition to curate a comprehensive national cache, whilst addressing the absence of any such resource on a singular thread.

“Canada Modern exists to preserve, document, educate and inspire, to build a new and richer understanding of what can clearly be seen as a seminal point in Canada’s development as a nation — one of optimism, growth and modernity. At the heart of this work lies identity design, typography and graphic communication. The archive’s purpose is to build a definitive and accessible record of this significant epoch, and a valuable reference for designers, students, teachers, historians and citizens alike.

“Well-known names such as Allan Fleming, Rolf Harder, Ernst Roch, Burton Kramer, Stuart Ash, Fritz Gottschalk, Georges Huel, Hans Kleefeld are often seen as the most celebrated, but there were many more who made a significant contribution, and through this project we aim to celebrate their work and credit the roles they played. Perhaps through a greater understanding of Canada’s first golden era of design we can begin the process of heralding a new one.”

George Huel

George Huel, pictured centre.

In this 1975 article that appeared in Design Magazine, Pamela Ferguson wrote how designer George Huel was the first to admit that Montreal ‘76 Olympics logo was so simple, so obvious, and the M for Montréal such a natural extension of the five Olympic rings, that he was tickled nobody thought of the design in time for Mexico ‘68 or Munich ‘72. Scans of the article are over on Alistair Hall’s old Typepad blog.

Earth Sciences Stamps 1972

Earth Sciences Stamps, designed by Fritz Gottschalk, 1972.

Fritz Gottschalk designed this set of stamps, released in 1972 to celebrate Canada hosting four events relating to exploration and development of the earth and man’s activities on the planet.

The OECA symbol was created in two versions, one with five rotating ‘O’s, and one, shown here, for larger usage with nine. The rotation moves from vertical ‘O’ through 360º in steps back to vertical ‘O’.

A Conspectus of Canada, 1967

A Conspectus of Canada, designed by Rolf Harder, 1967.

Cover design by Rolf Harder, using Stewart Ash’s Centennial identity as a starting point. The design shows the leaf form increasing in size from a consistent point, with growth represented as exponential rather than incremental, doubling in size at each step.

The website currently has around 100 posts, including archive items, trademarks, designer profiles, and articles. Blair has hundreds of other pieces ready to catalogue, dozens of profiles under way, and thousands of logos at his disposal. His intention is for Canada Modern to be the definitive resource on the subject. Off to a brilliant start (best viewed on a desktop or tablet).

November 3, 2017

Desk space

A quick look at some of the kit I use and recommend.

I’ve worked from home since 2005. The home’s changed six or seven times — one reason why a minimal approach is helpful — but there’s some standard gear that sticks around, and I definitely find it easier to focus when the desk isn’t cluttered.

BenQ PD3200u

For years I used a 27" iMac as my main screen, but the glare off the glass wasn’t great, and I’d always be increasing/decreasing the screen brightness depending on how sunny it was. The matt display of BenQ’s 32" 4K monitor gets rid of that problem. It’s a lot easier on the eyes (not quite looks-wise, but absolutely with eye strain), and gives more screen space to work with, too. The only let-down is the internal speakers. I don’t use them because sound quality’s bad in comparison to both my old iMac and the new MacBook Pro. I still prefer working on it, though.

Buy from Amazon.

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker

Rather than listen through the MacBook speakers that sit to one side of the BenQ, I set a Bluetooth speaker on the monitor base. The sound’s amazing for the size (although the SoundLink Mini is being replaced by the SoundLink Revolve which is much taller).

Buy from Amazon (if available).

Hitachi external hard drive

I’ve never had a hard drive fail, or needed computer repairs, but I’ll regularly backup files as these things obviously happen. There’ll be better backup gear available, and this Hitachi SimpleDRIVE isn’t actually on sale anymore, so I might pick up a Time Capsule for wireless auto-backups. I see Apple sell refurbished ones at nearly half price.

MacBook Pro

My old iMac got slower and a bit noisier, and I wasn’t sure whether to buy the newest version, or switch to a MacBook and external monitor. A couple of things swayed me — a dislike of the iMac’s glass screen, and the option to take my work elsewhere on the laptop. The MacBook is impressively fast and very quiet. I keep my iMac as a backup.

Buy from Amazon.

USB-C to DisplayPort cable

This connects the MacBook to the BenQ without the need for an adapter. I mainly use three of the four available USB ports — for power, for my desk mic, for the monitor connection.

Buy from Amazon.

USB-C to USB-A adapters

As soon as I get a mini-USB to micro-USB cable I’ll do away with the adapters. I use them for my external hard drive, mic, and transferring photos from my Nikon.

Buy from Amazon.

Griffin Elevator stand

It puts the laptop at nicer height whenever its open (if I want more screen space). It probably keeps the laptop a bit cooler, too. I know others who prefer a vertical docking station to save desk space, but I like the option of using the screen.

Buy from Amazon.

Blue Yeti microphone

A lot of my client calls are through Skype (sometimes Hangouts or FaceTime), and while the mic on the MacBook is decent, it’s not as good as this. There’s still a bit of echo to my voice because of the flat surfaces around the room, but I’ve ordered an isolation shield that gets good reviews and hopefully helps.

Buy from Amazon.

Bose TP-1A headphones

Using headphones on Skype calls means people don’t hear themselves through my speaker. I tend to use these around-the-ear ones for comfort and sound quality, but if I’m on a video call I usually plug in some in-ear headphones as it looks a bit better. My pair are nearly 10 years old, and the ear pads cracked and flaked, but these replacement pads made them like new.

Buy from Amazon (recent equivalent).

Magic Trackpad 2

I’ll use my left hand to pinch and swipe the Trackpad a few times through the day, to open apps or when skipping through web pages. I tried it for about a week as a mouse substitute, thinking it might help with work, but a week was enough as I found it a bit restrictive. Maybe I’m just that used to the mouse.

Buy from Amazon.

Magic Keyboard

I used a wired keyboard with my old iMac because the previous wireless version needed three AA batteries and too much charging. The battery life on this one is much better — always on, mine lasts at least a couple of months — and can be charged during use with a Lightning cable. The keys are noisier than the old keyboard which is a shame, but it’s still good, with a reliable Bluetooth connection, and I’d always go with the numeric keypad.

Buy from Amazon.

Magic Mouse 1

Mine’s from 2010 and needs two AA batteries. The Magic Mouse 2 charges with a Lightning cable, but inconveniently has it’s charging port on the underside rather than the front, making it unusable when plugged in. Hardly ideal. I have a few rechargeable AA batteries so I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Buy from Amazon (Magic Mouse 2).

Fellowes wrist supports and mouse mat

All about the comfort, and these gel wrist supports do the trick. The Magic Mouse doesn’t work on glass, so the mouse mat was necessary without the comfort factor. I’ve read reviews about the gel leaking after a few weeks, but no problems here after a couple of years.

Buy from Amazon (wrist support, keyboard wrist rest, mouse mat).

Steelcase Gesture task chair

Definitely not the cheapest, but it’s worth spending more on something that gets so much use. Easily the most comfortable work chair I’ve had — good back support, nice fabric, and with adjustable arms, height, recline, and seat depth. The frame of the first Gesture I was sent was scuffed, with dirt on the fabric, making me wonder if it was second hand, but I got it replaced within a couple of weeks.

Buy from Amazon.

Pilot V5 pens, 0.5mm tip

The 12-pack I picked up a couple of years ago is still going strong. They’re pretty much the only pens I use, for sketching or writing. Constant line width. No blobs.

Buy from Amazon.


Last but not least, there’s always a sketchbook on the desk. I’ve not stuck to the same type like Michael Bierut, but I like that idea. My current one’s a Tim Tu creation, his SketchyNotebook. It got backing of more than $60k on Kickstarter, but doesn’t yet seem on general sale. A large Moleskine is the same size so I’ll probably go with it next.

Buy from Amazon (Moleskine).

I hope that’s been of some help.

July 10, 2017

Where do ideas come from?

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close

A good, short film by Toronto-based Andrew Norton. More details on transom.org.

February 9, 2017

The Met makes 375,000 images free

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a new policy known as Open Access, making 375,000 images of artworks freely available for unrestricted use (including commercial) in accordance with the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation.

The museum’s director and CEO, Thomas Campbell, said in a statement:

“We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years. Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care.”

Any image in The Met collection that has a “public domain” tag directly beneath can be downloaded and used as you see fit.

I particularly like these from Swiss-German artist Paul Klee (1879-1940).

Paul Klee Three HousesPaul Klee, Three Houses, 1922.

Paul Klee Movement of Vaulted ChambersPaul Klee, Movement of Vaulted Chambers, 1915.

Paul Klee The Firmament Above the TemplePaul Klee, The Firmament Above the Temple, 1922.

Paul Klee Colorful ArchitecturePaul Klee, Colorful Architecture, 1917.

Open Access follows a similar policy last year by the New York Public Library where 180,000 images were made free to download and reuse.

One of those things that’s pretty great about the Internet.

Via Quipsologies.

October 11, 2016

27inch iMac vs 32inch BenQ BL3201PT

Taiwanese electronics firm BenQ kindly sent me this a couple of weeks ago — a 32inch ultra high definition monitor (their BL3201PT).

Read more

October 5, 2016

Advice for design students

There are almost 1,000 pages tucked away on this site — various blog posts published over the years. Here are a few aimed at helping graphic design students.

On working with clients

On getting hired

On learning

On design self-employment

There’s also a resources page on the Work for Money, Design for Love website. It’s mostly for designers thinking of self-employment.

May 25, 2016

Talent is overrated

One of the most valuable things you can do when you are young is to learn from people who are creating the work you want to be making one day.

Read more

April 20, 2016

All For a Few Good Waves

All For a Few Good Waves is an interesting short documentary that gives a raw glimpse into the life and work of graphic designer David Carson.

Read more

March 7, 2016

180,000 public domain images, free to download and reuse

The New York Public Library has made it possible to download out-of-copyright photos, posters, book covers, and a lot more in the highest resolution available.

Read more

May 28, 2015

Fontstand launches

Fontstand is a Mac OS X app that allows you to try fonts for free or rent them by the month for desktop use.

Read more

May 17, 2015

Printing Flaunt

Armin and Bryony of UnderConsideration have just released the second edition of Flaunt: Designing effective, compelling and memorable portfolios of creative work. It's available in print and as a single licence PDF, and Armin took time to answer a few questions about the book's printing and packaging.

Read more

March 20, 2015


Samsara is a stunning visual journey around the world, filmed without commentary, and with a brilliantly original soundtrack composed after the film had been "silently edited."

Read more

August 21, 2014

Keep experimenting

Job applicant advice from design business owner Drew de Soto.

Read more

June 24, 2014

Context is key

A valuable lesson on dealing with design clients, from Chermayeff & Geismar’s 2011 book Identify.

Read more

Independent since 2005
Website hosted by Fused
FAQs about hiring

64 Beechfield Avenue
Northern Ireland
BT19 7ZZ

+44 7739 530 457