Tag Archives: Design

#231/365 Graphic Design


Milton Glaser

To me, there are two schools of thought when it comes to graphic design: the Conceptual and the Aesthetic.

I’m a firm believer in the former. I studied graphic design at Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds in the early to mid 80s. Before computers were even invented! Well, maybe not invented. But certainly not in use in the industry at the time. We had to create everything by hand.

It is only with a concept, an idea, that we can engage the viewer’s neural pathways – which helps them remember the message you are trying to convey. Whereas, the purely aesthetic, is superficial.


Herb Lubalin

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that conceptual design shouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing – it should have both. It’s just aesthetics alone are not enough. We need to create windows, not wallpaper.

Here are a few examples that contain the Smile in the Mind. Smile in the Mind is when the concept requires the viewer to complete the circle. To interact with the idea for it to have meaning for them.


Graeme Cooper Photography

Graeme Cooper Photography



Cycling poster
















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The University of Manchester – World Firsts

This is a series of World Firsts that The University of Manchester can lay claim to.

I was going to go for a ‘cleverer’ headline. Something along the lines of: Coming first is second nature. However, on reflection, because the achievements are so incredibly brilliant and interesting, I don’t think the headline needs to work that hard. What do you think?

Feel free to click on the images and download the jpgs to see their true colours and read the text. For some reason, the logo looks blue on here, but comes out fine when you save it to your desktop.

Marie Stopes, The University of Manchester, World Firsts,

Marie Stopes

Ernest Rutherford, The University of Manchester,

Ernest Rutherford

Christabel Pankhurst, The University of Manchester,

Christabel Pankhurst


W. Arthur Lewis

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I have a dream too, you know.

True, it may not be as ambitious and world-changing as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. But it’s a dream nonetheless.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to post about it until I felt I was in more of a position to realise this dream. But short of winning the Euro Millions Lottery, it aint going to happen without some serious philanthropic backer.

So, what is my dream?

Well, it’s to build a School of Arts for under-privileged kids.

Kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds in large inner-city estates. Kids who might not ordinarily get the opportunity to explore the more creative aspects of their nature.

What good would that do society? We’re in a depression, don’t you know!

Problems in every field of human endeavour are virtually always solved by creative thinking. Even the great Albert Einstein said so himself. Creativity allows us to look at problems from different angles and apply new thinking to solve problems.

Moreover, I don’t see it as a school that produces an unprecedented amount of artists. But an unprecedented amount of creative thinkers – whichever vocation they choose to pursue later in life. Whether it be mathematics, science, business, computers, product design, or economics.

And yes, a few more more artists too. And what’s wrong with that? Art is seen as a dirty word in this country. If I tell people I write poetry, they shift uneasily in their seats. If I said I write poetry in Ireland the response would be a polite smile and a nod toward the back of the queue.

Do you think the first rocket flight to the moon was dreamed up by a scientist?

Sure, scientists and engineers made it a reality. But it is creative people who come up with the ideas and the original solutions of how they can be achieved.

What will the kids do?

The school will develop and encourage creative thinking and self-expression.

It will foster, nurture and encourage exploration of the arts in all its many and varied forms including: painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, poetry, literature, screenplays, theatre, drama, dance, music, design, digital arts, film, photography, humanities, languages, and the classics.

Where is this school?

I quite fancy the idea of transforming a derelict Victorian mill. There’s something quite ironic about that. Though it certainly wouldn’t be a prerequisite. (Salts Mill in Bradford is a good example.)

Initially, an inner-city campus close to urban populations that have a high level of low socioeconomic families. Basically, anywhere across the Manchester – Huddersfield – Halifax – Leeds belt. It’s also sufficiently ‘central’ enough to accommodate children from further afield.

It would also be good to have a rural retreat – somewhere like the Lake District, Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where children can attend week-long courses/classes which double up as a holiday.

I would also like to open an international sister school in India or Sri Lanka where people from distinctly different cultures can share ideas. These schools could also participate in exchange programmes. (Then subsequently, even further afield: China, South America, South Asia.)

What about science subjects?

This school wouldn’t be a replacement for existing schools and their curricula – more of an extension to them.

Would it exclude people from non low socioeconomic backgrounds?

Not at all. But opportunities for middle-class families in other schools are much more accessible, regardless of ability.

Intake for low income kids would be based as much on desire and enthusiasm to participate rather than ability. There would be a limited number of places for more affluent children. Sort of like Eton – in reverse.

What kind of courses will it run?

Day-long workshops for visiting schools.

After-school classes.

Week-long courses. (Which would include accommodation for traveling students.)

Weekend classes.

Full-time sixth form courses. (A-levels.)

Masters and PhD courses.

What ages are we talking about?

Key Stage 2, up to, and including, sixth form.

Undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses.

What else does the school have?

Apart from studios and classrooms?

There’d be accommodation for students who are visiting from further afield.

Cafe / restaurant.

Gallery to promote and sell students’ work.

Gallery featuring independent contemporary and traditional art.

Masterclasses from guest lecturers.

State of the art library. (Both on and off-line.)

Book shop.

Art-house cinema.

Who will pay for it?

Well, that’s the biggest question of all.

A like-minded philanthropist would be nice.

Arts Council grant.

Lottery funding.

A percentage of Masters and PhD students’ tuition fees could go towards funding.

Sales from restaurant and galleries.

Fundraising / donations.

An Ideal World School of Arts.

Salts Mill, Bradford.

David Hockney at Salts Mill.

Salts Mill interior.

Studio space?

Any constructive criticism and advice about how to get something like this funded and off the ground would be greatly appreciated.


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Public Library Architecture

I’m no architect, but…

Surely some metropolis somewhere has got one of these?

Library design © David Milligan-Croft

I’ve done a bit of Googling to see if anything exists but, thus far, haven’t come up with anything, bar this…

Which is nice. (Though, I’m not sure it actually exists. It may just be a CGI.)

Then there’s this…

Which is pretty cool.

I’ve seen a few ‘book’ fascias like this one…

And then there’s this interesting building wrap round a library’s public car park…

But so far, I haven’t found any libraries designed to look like a stack of books on a shelf.

This is the original, with the books laying horizontally…

Library design © David Milligan-Croft

But I prefer the vertical version with the angled bookends. Seems more of an architectural feat.

The space could also be used for exhibitions and conferences. Obviously, it would have an über trendy café and a work/play space for kids.

Anyone know any Dubai zillionaires who fancy investing?

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Cross of Iron

I’ve decided I’m going to introduce the Cross of Iron awards. Who submits? Nobody. Who judges? Me. I also get to choose who, if anyone, gets courtmartialed for creative desertion.

My inaugural award goes to ‘Music’ for their website and their work contained within it. If you’re a client, you should get hold of one of their books of ‘things they like’ – it’s brilliant. But only available to prospects.

I love anyone / anything that tries not to be ordinary. That tries to be extraordinary. Personally, I think Music fits into the extraordinary category. Take a look at their website and decide for yourself. Manchester / The Provinces needs more agencies like Music who challenge the norm.

Music website

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Brands for Breakfast


6.30. a.m. Philips radio/alarm clock; BBC Radio 4; John Lewis slippers; John Lewis again (okay, so I wear a dressing gown); iPhone.


Armitage Shanks toilet, bath and shower; Andrex; Halo and Horns shampoo; Halo and Horns soap (the kids’, not mine); L’Occitane bubble bath; Herbal Essences shampoo; Dove soap; Sensodyne toothpaste; Oral B toothbrush; Listerine; Johnson and Johnson cotton buds; Crew hair wax; Lynx deoderant.; Gilette shaving foam; Wilkinson Sword razor; Issey Miyake after shave; D&G aftershave; Vera Wang aftershave; Armani Code perfume; Chanel No5 perfume; D&G perfume; L’Oreal hairspray; DKNY watch. (The perfume’s the wife’s.)

Back to bedroom.

M&S undies; Jasper Conran socks; Hilfiger jeans; Paul Smith shirt; M&S waistcoat; Patrick Cox shoes.


Russell Hobbs toaster; Warburtons bread; Lurpak butter; Flora; Bon Maman raspberry jam; Philips kettle; Lavazza coffee; Silverspoon sugar; Tesco semi-skimmed milk; Nestle Shreddies; Kellogs Cornflakes; Tesco whole milk; Sony CD /Radio; BBC Radio 2; Guardian newspaper; Hoover washing machine; Whirpool Fridge; Dyson vacuum cleaner; Sanyo microwave; New World cooker; Fairy washing up liquid.

Living Room.

Samsung TV; BBC breakfast show for 30 seconds before… Cbeebies and Peppa Pig; Sky+ box; Sony DVD; Blaupunkt stereo.


M&S jacket; Apple MacBook Pro; FCUK glasses; Jaguar key fob; Yale door lock.

I’ve been exposed to at least 69 brand communications before I’ve even left the front door. (And that doesn’t include the contents of the fridge when I got the milk out. Nor the DVDs and CDs in the living room.)

They say the average number of brand messages we are exposed to each day is 1,500 but I suspect this figure is rising all the time with the developments in online media. Out of all those brands clambering for our attention, we remember only two.

Okay, so the half-eaten tin of John West mackerel fillets at the back of the fridge won’t be one of them, but what do we have to do to be one of those lucky two?

1. Have impact.

2. Have relevance.

3. Make the consumer’s life better.

4. Have memorability.

5. Engage the consumer’s neural pathways. (This will allow the communication to get a foothold in their short-term memory banks.)

Get as much info about the client’s brand/product/service as you can. Get as much info about the target audience as you can. Get as much info about the competition/market place as you can. See how you can cross-reference the three to create some insight/relevance for the consumer. Sprinkle some magic creative dust on it. Put it in the New World oven for 20 minutes on British Gas mark 5. And, hey presto! you have one of those elusive ‘2’ memorable brand communications.

Of course, you need people with a modicum of talent to help you negotiate these pointers. But negotiate them we must.

Too many clients and agency people are in such a rush to get the message out there in front of the consumer that they don’t see the relevance of having in-depth research.

Probably the most oft asked question I get about creativity is: How do you manage to come up with ideas?

Simple, I reply. Everything I do is based on information. Information about the brand, the client, the market, the consumer, the competition…

I put them in a mental cocktail shaker and jizz them up into new combinations. Some come out good. Some come out terrible. And, occasionally, they come out great.

But what about deadlines and budgets? I hear you cry.

Sometimes clients don’t have the time or budget to do exhaustive research before they need to get some comms out. Well, that’s pretty standard in our industry. All you can do is work with what you’ve got and advise your client about how you think it should be done to produce effective results.

More often than not these kind of solutions miss the mark with the target audience for a myriad of reasons. The most obvious of which is relevance.

Clients and agencies too often start from the point of view of what they have to sell, rather than what will make the consumers like better.

Until we start from the POV of the consumer’s needs we will continue to produce billions of pounds of marketing wallpaper.

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Book Cover Designs

Book cover designs for my own work. I am fascinated with fractals, how they are echoed in nature. Their intricacy, their colours, their self-replication [similarity]. And whilst they might not be pertinent to the content of the books, they are pertinent to me. And they do set a ‘house’ style, in the same way Penguin have always done.

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Smile in the mind design


Pairing back the information until it’s almost abstract. A good example of ‘Smile in the mind’ design by Albert Exergian. You can see a lot more examples of TV prog posters on his website. I particularly like the Macgyver one…

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Interesting independent illustration website called TOY. The sample here is by Nicolas Tual.

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Making literature accessible

This is a poster I’ve created for The Reader Organisation. Get into Reading groups are designed to make literature more accessible. The poster is designed to dispel myths that literature is for elitists by empathising with the potential reader’s fears.

If you’d like to set up a Get into Reading group get in touch with The Reader Organisation. They have groups in the North of England and London.

War and Peace


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