Category Archives: Design

I [heart] America


There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…

MUSIC

From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?

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Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?

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As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

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Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

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Vivian Maier

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Ansel Adams

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Cindy Sherman

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Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.

ADVERTISING

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Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)

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Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.

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Jean Michel Basquiat

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Edward Hopper

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Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.

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I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.

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I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?

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What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.

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You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?

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Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)

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There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.

 

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Mark Coffey – Fine Art Photographer


I first met fine art photographer Mark Coffey at Arc, where we both volunteer.

If you don’t know already, Arc is an amazing place. It’s a gallery and centre for creativity, learning, fun and wellbeing. You should pop along if you’re in the Stockport area. (They do a fabulous job for the community and a mean cafetiere of fresh coffee.)

He teaches photography, photoshop and design. Whilst I just potter about making a nuisance of myself.

Anyways, he’s been helping me with a little exhibition I’m putting together at the Oasis cafe at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport. We were chatting away, as you do, when he mentioned his website, so I went over and took a look. There’s some great work on it, so I thought I’d share it with the class.

Some shots are fun and frivolous, whilst others are mean and moody. And some, don’t involve alliteration at all. (But, are striking images, nonetheless.)

Depending on which images you’re looking at, they are reminiscent of Saul Leiter, Martin Parr and Fan ho.

Have a mosey on over to Mark’s website for a more detailed look at his work.
After, you can nip down to Arc for a nice cup of tea and a Tunnock’s teacake.

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Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Hey! How did that get on here? To be fair, Mark did take it. (When I wasn’t looking!)

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100 Years in Vogue


There’s an exhibition on at Manchester Art Gallery showcasing some of the greatest photography in the world, called 100 Years in Vogue.

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If you like photography – you’ll love it.

If you like fashion – you’ll love it.

If you’re an art director – you’ll love it.

If you’re a graphic designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a fashion designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a textile designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a magazine/layout designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re an illustrator – you’ll love it.

If you like art – you’ll love it.

 

I’m not really into fashion, (no shit, Sherlock), so I guess it appealed to the art director in me.

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“The exhibition brings together vintage prints from the early twentieth century, ground-breaking photographs from renowned fashion shoots, unpublished work and original magazines. Images by leading twentieth-century photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Irving Penn and Snowdon will feature alongside more recent work by David Bailey, Corinne Day, Patrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Herb Ritts and Mario Testino.”

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But you’d best get your skates on, it finishes on the 30th October!

(Oh, and it’s free in.)

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The artists, (and thinkers, and mathematicians, and scientists), of tomorrow.


Inspired by Canadian Native Art

Inspired by Canadian Native Art

I wrote a post a couple of days ago whinging about how little art there is in the school curriculum. As I mentioned, my gripe was not with my girls’ school, but with the government’s inability to see value in the arts.

I love going to art galleries, and I love to look at art. Whether it’s by a household name or a toddler expressing themselves.

This week, my kids’ school seized the initiative and held an art exhibition, showcasing a smorgasbord of stunning work from all age groups. Everywhere you looked, on the walls, on the floor, on the stage, dangling from the ceiling, there was a veritable feast of colour, pattern, shape and texture.

The school hall was packed with jubilant kids and proud parents. (Though, I’ve cropped most of them out as I don’t have their permission to show them.)

So, a massive well done to all the staff at Didsbury Road Primary School for putting on such an inspirational and spectacular event. And for having the foresight to see the value in art even if the government doesn’t.

Now then, treat your peepers to a few stunning examples…

Potato printing

Potato printing

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Lydia being a bit camera shy in front of her 'Paisley' piece.

Lydia being a bit camera shy in front of her ‘Paisley’ piece.

'Paisley' by Lydia Milligan-Daly

‘Paisley’ by Lydia Milligan-Daly

Scarlett's 'Graffiti' piece. (She refused to have her photo taken.)

Scarlett’s ‘Graffiti’ piece. (She refused to have her photo taken.)

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Lydia presenting her pop-up book

Lydia presenting her pop-up book

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I bet you’d need to know your maths to construct this beautiful sculpture

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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.


When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)

Manchester.

Leeds.

The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.

Schools.

Public transport.

Sri Lanka.

Australia.

Bali.

Hinduism.

Buddhism.

Taoism.

New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.

Evolution.

Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.

Garlic.

Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.

Typography.

Architecture.

Sci-fi.

The dictionary.

Drawing.

Farmers.

Butchers.

Fishermen.

America.

Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.

Snow.

Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?

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Things for which I’m grateful #356 – Advertising.


Yes, advertising. Nike,1990s,UK It’s hard to think of an industry more vilified by the general public than advertising. With the possible exceptions of bankers and estate agents. Oh, and insurance companies. We’re all wankers in the public’s eyes. It’s true that I’ve met quite a few charlatans in my time but I’ve also met lots of lovely people whom I admire, respect and have maintained long-lasting friendships. Advertising has given me many happy years coming up with ideas for stuff. Then having them bludgeoned to death by account handlers and clients. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some fantastically talented directors, photographers, illustrators, writers and art directors. I’ve also had the good fortune to have gone on the odd exotic TV shoot. come-along-gentelman In my 30 years in the ad industry I reckon I’ve only had three decent jobs out of about – actually, I genuinely can’t remember how many jobs I’ve had. The three best agencies I’ve worked for were BRAHM in Leeds, Owens DDB and Chemistry, (both in Dublin). They probably account for about 10 out of my 30 years in advertising. That’s a long time spent working in crap agencies. Of course, young hipsters will think someone like me is past it. I’ve heard a few digital johnnies bleating on about how traditional advertising doesn’t engage in a dialogue with consumers like online media can. Bollocks. As soon as you get a customer thinking about your ad you are engaging in dialogue. Whether that’s via the medium of television, press or on a billboard. Think_Different_poster_billbernbach Just because you have the capacity for a customer to literally respond to your message on social media doesn’t mean you’ve entered into a dialogue with them. In fact, judging by the mass majority of offer/promotion-based ads on social media, I would argue that this is monologue, not dialogue. The key to a successful engagement with a customer is to have an idea that resonates with what’s going on in their life. Without an idea, you have nothing. And, what digital johnnies lack is the ability and experience to come up with big advertising ideas. Of course, there have been one or two great online campaigns. (Old Spice springs to mind.) But not enough. And ad agencies today need to go back to the old ways of doing things but with today’s media and technology. Is it just me, or is there a dearth of good advertising around? interbrew-sheep-small-51151 Advertising is very simple: A great idea should contain two things: An insight into your target audience and a brand/product truth that will match the consumer insight. For example: If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen.

  1. A) ‘If only everything in life…’ = Life is full of ups and downs (consumer insight).
  2. B) ‘…was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. = If all else fails, you can rely on your Volkswagen. (Product benefit).

A + B =     Ta-dah! (Told you it was simple.) It’s often overcomplicated by people using big words to make themselves look more intelligent who try to portray it as a science. Great ideas come from great propositions. Here are a few straplines from yesteryear, when advertising was great. See how many you can match to their brand. (And they’d all translate brilliantly to online media.)

  1. Probably the best lager in the world.
  2. The world’s favourite airline.
  3. Think different.
  4. I bet he drinks…
  5. Good food costs less at…
  6. It is. Are you?
  7. …refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.
  8. Australians would give a … for anything else.
  9. Beanz meanz …
  10. The Ultimate Driving Machine.
  11. Just do it.
  12. Vorsprung durch technic
  13. Reassuringly expensive
  14. It’s a new toy every day.
  15. We try harder.
  16. Happiness is a cigar called…
  17. The cream of Manchester.
  18. Hello Tosh, got a…
  19. You know, when you’ve been…
  20. I smoke ‘em, cos my name’s on ‘em.

That doesn’t mean that every ad campaign needs a strapline. (The Economist being a good case in point.) What a great strapline does is encapsulate the client’s strategy, which each individual concept/execution has to fit into for consistency of message. cream-of-manchester   So my advice to any young whippersnappers out there thinking of a career as an art director or writer is, whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. Tip the fucking thing over. There are too many safe-sailor-suits and bland-brand-bosuns as it is. N.B. None of the examples of great work I’ve shown here are mine.

Addendum:

Of the places of work I have really enjoyed working, I would have included TBWA Manchester – a really great team of people and a cracking account to work on. But, as I was only there a wet weekend, it seemed a bit of a stretch to include it. For the all too brief period of time I was there, I enjoyed every minute of it.

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