August 23, 2011

You are the map maker

What's the formula for blog posts that will get the greatest number of retweets? Which new product or service will make you the most money? Do you know?

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July 13, 2011

Arwey notebooks

Any of the notebooks from Arwey would make a great designer gift. The mailman delivered these two.

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May 30, 2011

Symbol, by Angus Hyland & Steven Bateman

Symbol is a new book by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman, published by Laurence King.

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April 7, 2011

Designing Brand Identity

Designing Brand Identity

Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity: an essential guide for the whole branding team is currently in its third fourth edition. I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up sooner, given how closely the topic resembles Logo Design Love. I’ve been dipping in and out and thought I’d share a quick look inside (the third edition).

"The tools have changed. The fundamentals have not. The questions are the same whether you're on Facebook or in Shanghai: Who are you? Who needs to know? How will they find out?"

The book’s split into three parts:

  1. Basics
    "The difference between brand and brand identity, and what it takes to be the best."
  2. Process
    "This section answers the question "Why does it take so long?" and addresses collaboration and decision making."
  3. Best practices
    "These highly successful projects created by branding firms and design consultancies inspire and exemplify original, flexible, lasting solutions."

Designing Brand Identity

The content is set out in a way that lets you read specific sections depending upon what’s most needed at the time. I didn’t go from front to back like reading a novel, but flipped to sections relevant to the tasks I was working on. There’s a definite text book feel (lists, diagrams, charts, quotes) — perhaps why Alina has been so successful getting the book included on design course reading lists.

Designing Brand Identity

You know that little "Customers who bought this item also bought..." section on Amazon? Ever since my book was published, Alina's has been a mainstay alongside. In fact, a potential client approached me a couple of days ago after reading my book. He bought it at the same time as this. I didn't think to ask if he'd also got in touch Alina. Should've.

Designing Brand Identity

There's so much relevant info, with most of it in post-sized chunks that I'm surprised Alina hasn't included more on her site, or launched a blog. A lot of the info goes into parts of the process that I hadn’t thought to include (in some cases didn’t need to) when working with clients — maybe because it’s targeted at teams more than independent designers. But it’s useful for both, even if I found that the layout made it difficult to stay focused on a specific area — perhaps down to my reading preference more than anything.

My publisher labelled my book as beginner/intermediate. I’d put Alina's a step up.

Designing Brand Identity

Get a copy on /

More good books.

January 10, 2011

Be brilliant at the basics

Business tips from the mini-book Brilliant At The Basics of Business 100, by designer and teacher Nicholas Bate of Oxford-based Strategic Edge.

three shipping containers in a dockImage via Thinkstock.

Don't try to accommodate every customer. The more you do, the more you can potentially dilute your initial strength that people loved you for. Sure, it's a balance; just keep it tipped the correct way.

Building a better business is certainly about giving the customer what we want e.g. the plumber who tidies up after his/her work. But it's also about giving the customer what he/she didn't realise they needed e.g. a text telling of the exact arrival time at your home to start work.

Don't use email for anything that needs the expression of emotion unless you have the skills of a Mills & Boon novelist. No: see them face-to-face or pick up the phone.

Your corporate culture is not something that can be 'rolled out'; it is the sum of what individuals do on a day-to-day basis. And understanding why they do what they do.

Notice how the small stuff can really wind you up when you're in a line for a coffee or dealing with your bank. Does your business do that to its customers?

More important than great offices, a cool logo and a function spreadsheet is a sustainable, differentiated, profitable idea on which to build your business.

Yes it does matter. Many people really do mind that 'customer parking' has no spaces, that reception has last month's business magazines, and that the account manager had an indifferent attitude.

Never talk negatively about a team member who is not present. Talk to him or her.

Everybody sells. Everybody talks value, everybody dissolves resistance to purchase, and everybody spots sales opportunities. Sure, there are some in the business (salespeople) for whom it is their final and number one accountability. But everybody sells.

Why do you want to be big? Quite. You really want to be profitable. Which may or may not correlate with size.

Make price the smallest issue. The one which is just a simple question — and how much is this/and what are your fees? — not a big debate nor negotiation. How? Through talking and illustrating and referencing the tremendous measurable value and benefit they will get when they become one of your customers.

Brilliant At The Basics of Business

These business tips were excerpted from the mini-book Brilliant At The Basics of Business 100, by author, designer, and teacher Nicholas Bate of Oxford-based Strategic Edge.

Read the full 100 business tips in this free PDF (70kb).

September 13, 2010

When small is good

Just because you're smaller than the businesses you look up to, doesn't mean you can't still delight your clients.

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January 18, 2010

Studio Culture

A brief look inside Studio Culture: The secret life of the graphic design studio, edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy.

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November 20, 2008

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.

Paul Howard Arden, advertising creative and successful writer, was born on April 7th, 1940, and died on April 2nd, 2008. Here’s a quick excerpt from his seminal book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.

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June 12, 2008

Decoding Design, by Maggie Macnab

Decoding Design: understanding and using symbols in visual communication aims to discover the hidden meanings inside common corporate logos and designs.

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July 25, 2007

Graphic Design as a Second Language

Bob Gill design book

I can't choose a single design book as my "favourite," but this one's up there: Graphic Design as a Second Language, by Bob Gill.

Bob Gill design book

"The only way to tell which jobs Gill designed yesterday and which ones were designed years ago, is to look at the date. Styles come and go, but his ideas and teaching philosophy are timeless. That's why Bob Gill is one of the heroes that got me and so many others into graphic design in the first place."
— Michael Bierut

If you're interested in graphic design, the book's definitely worth a read. A little off-topic, turns out that Gill went on to direct a porn movie called The Double Exposure of Holly. David the designer shared that, but does go on to say he hasn't seen it, obviously. David's just a fountain of knowledge.

Available from,

A few more good books.

David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
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Northern Ireland
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