Tag Archives: Ideas

The gift of the notebook

If you’ve read my previous post you’ll be aware that I’m going through a period of ‘writer’s block’, so I’ve been dabbling with a paintbrush instead.

Another thing I’ve been doing is going through some old notebooks. I have scores (if not hundreds) strewn around the house in various boxes, on bookshelves, in bags and suitcases, cupboards and wardrobes.

I always have a notebook on the go to jot down ideas or do a little sketch in. The problem is, I hardly ever look back on them. I guess the thinking is, that if the idea didn’t present itself at the time, then it was probably a rubbish idea. For the most part, this is true. But, occasionally, a little gem pokes its head to the surface. (And, wasn’t that the point of the notebook in the first place?)

I came across a poem I wrote in 2000. I can see why I didn’t take it any further at the time, but with a bit of jiggery-pokery I think I’ve got something quite nice. (See below the photo.)

So, the moral of the story is:

  1. Always carry a notebook.
  2. Don’t leave it 16 years to revisit them.
  3. Good ideas will present themselves in the end.



By David Milligan-Croft


I inhale your words as you exhale them.

And I place them into separate categories:

Those that I wish to retain,

And those which I do not.


Words such as ‘terminate’ and ‘over’,

I place into the carbon dioxide pile,

To be expelled into the universe

As quickly as possible.


But the words of love and affection

I send directly into my bloodstream,

To feed my heart and my brain,

Keeping my soul sane, for a few moments longer.


Filed under Art, Books, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Short stories, Writing

Get your FREE copy of Peripheral Vision.



Only kidding, you cheapskates. It’s £1.99.

April Fools’.

Now then, look down the back of the sofa for a bit of loose change and get yourself over to Amazon, as it’ll be £10.99 tomorrow.


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Building a nation of automatons

Nothing to see here, move along – Dad rant about education.
I read this letter to our Prime Minister, David Cameron, from a worried mum and it struck a chord with me.
 My gripe is not with my daughters’ school, nor their teachers, but with the with the government curriculum.
 I have the utmost respect for my daughters’ school, their teachers and the way they try to teach them.
I went to my kids’ bookshare this week. My eldest had four maths exercise books packed full. And half of one art book. Half. For almost a whole academic year.
I am not advocating that they spend all their time painting pretty pictures rather than doing maths. I am advocating that they learn creative thinking. How to solve problems laterally and creatively. To come up with solutions that they might not hitherto have dared to express, rather than regurgitate the obvious answers to facts such as 2+2=
There’s creativity in maths. Just look at fractals or architecture. Perspective/angles, shapes, fractions (composition).
Instead of asking kids what the speed of light is, (after the fact has been taught them), ask them how do they think they could travel as fast as the speed of light. I bet you’d get some fantastic answers. (Incorrect though, obviously.)
I want my children to question. And to offer up ideas as to the solution. This is how we will create the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
But perhaps we won’t. Because they probably won’t pass their sats.
Both of my children are creative. Both take singing lessons. One takes clarinet lessons and writes stories and makes her own books at home. They love reading and don’t have to be asked to do so. They both have a passion for animals and conservation. They both love to express themselves through art and sculpture. They love nature and history. And they both just got a distinction in their Musical Theatre grade 2 exam.
And they both love exploring what our wonderful world has to offer.
What they hate is: maths and English (yes, even though they love writing).
You know what I tell my daughter when she’s writing a story at home? Forget spelling, grammar and punctuation. Just get your thoughts and ideas down. We’ll get some gubbins [me] to put the apostrophes in later.
The first thing the government axes when times are tough are the arts. They are narrow-minded idiots. In my view, the arts are more important than maths. For those who haven’t seen it before, this is my mantra:
Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.
Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.
Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?
The government pontificates about building a nation of leaders through education. But, in reality, all they are creating are automatons who only know how to regurgitate answers to known facts. What they aren’t doing is educating children not just to answer questions, but to ask them.
This is the original letter from Beth Beynon courtesy of Andy White.
Dear Prime Minister,
Today my daughter got her Year 6 SATS results. Level 4 across the board which, my years of teaching experience tell me, is absolutely spot on for Year 6.
So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?
There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.
I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.
My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.
She’s average.
The government has told her so.
And that’s not good enough.
The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream. These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.
She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.
Another one bites the dust.
Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.
“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.
From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.
And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.
And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.
Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.
But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.


Filed under Art, Children, community, Creativity, Education, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Philosophy, Politics, Writing

#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
















Filed under Advertising, Art, Brand, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Design, Education, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration

Things I am grateful for #5, 6, 7.

Notebooks. Pens. Pencils.

In an age where everything has an electronic hardware alternative – laptop, smartphone, tablet – notebooks seem to be a thing of the past. I always make sure I have one or two notebooks on the go, depending on what I’m working on. A small one for my pocket and a larger one for the home/office.

I don’t know about you, but if I have an idea, and I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it. Which can be intensely frustrating.

I have scores, if not hundreds, about the place. Mostly filled with drivel. But, occasionally, I come across something that merits developing. A few lines of a poem, an idea for a script, a conversation overheard in a café.

I know for a fact that most ideas that have manifest, have generated themselves into something, from notebooks. If I hadn’t had one to hand, the idea would be lost. And so would I.

Sometimes, my notebooks are simple Moleskins. Sometimes, from Laura Ashley. Sometimes, they are from exotic countries I have visited.

Once, I had this ornately crafted, leather-embossed notebook I bought in Amalfi, Italy. I was too afraid to write anything in it. It was too beautiful for my incoherent ramblings. After a while, I realised that if I waited for ‘exceptional’ things to spring to mind, I would be waiting a long time before I put pen to pad.

So I dived in.

The notebook isn’t the beauty. It is what is contained within. Sometimes, it might not be ’til near the end. But at least it will be in there.

But what good is a notebook without something to write with?

Now, I’m quite particular about my writing implements. I absolutely abhor Biros and ballpoint pens. They are the work of the devil. I have to have a fibre tip pen. Probably has something to do with my 30 years in design/advertising. And, if there aren’t any pens available, there’s nothing wrong with the good old fashioned pencil.

So simple. So invaluable. (To me, anyway.)



And no, these sketchbooks aren’t mine.

You might have gathered by now that I’m going to write a Things I am grateful for post for every day of 2014. Some will be incredibly simple things that we take for granted, such as water. Whilst others might be a bit more eclectic, like my obsession with art and tomato-based foods.

And why should you care about this? Perhaps you shouldn’t. It’s just my way of acknowledging that, despite all the trials and tribulations that modern-life brings, just how lucky most of us actually are. Whether that’s because we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, or simply because we are loved.

Anyways, I might not write one every day. Some might come in an advance bundle, like this one. Others I may write in retrospect. But by the end of 2014, there’ll be at least 365 things that I am grateful for.

They’re not in any order of preference – apart from the first one. For them, I shall be eternally grateful. (And tired.)


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Reset the Debt – Global Economist agrees with Batley lad.

A few months ago now, I came up with a rather radical idea to get us out of this financial pickle we’ve found ourselves in.

That idea was catchily called: Reset the Debt.

(I know, I know, I should get paid for this sort of stuff.)

Anyways, it wasn’t just a catchy slogan, the idea was to reset everybody’s debts to zero so we can start spending again. Yippee!

A bit like winding back the milometer on your car. Not that I’ve ever done that, you understand.

I posted it on TED and got pilloried for it as being economically naive. I might not be a global economist, but I am in the business of coming up with ideas to solve business problems.

And most radical ideas can be a bit frightening.

Well now, (he says, blowing onto his fingernails and polishing them on his lapel), Steve Keen is a global economist, and he’s advocating exactly the same thing.

Basically, the reason people aren’t spending is because they’re paying off their debts.

The government is giving money to the banks who aren’t passing it on to their customers. Presumably because they don’t want oiks like us getting into even more debt. They’d rather give it to their employees in the form of big fat tax free bonuses.

Mr Keen’s point is: Get the government to invest the money by paying off its citizens’ debts to kick-start the economy. [Obviously measures would have to be put in place to prevent people from getting back into debt and living within their means.]

The economy won’t grow if people don’t buy anything.

Otherwise, Mr Keen argues, the way the government is handling the Great Depression at the moment, it could take us 20 years to get out of it.

Who’d a thunk it? A Batley lad solving the world’s economic crisis.

Reset the Debt. I can see the placards now!

Hang on a sec. Just let me stick one of them © thingys on it.

Reset the Debt!©

Economist Steve Keen, Hardtalk

Economist Steve Keen on Hardtalk.

I’ve decided to set up an e-petition to garner some support for this idea. I need 100k signatures to get the Govt to discuss it in the House of Commons. If you think it’s an idea worthy of discussion, please add your name and share to as many people as possible.



Filed under community, Ideas, Inspiration, Inventions, Politics, Strategy

Me, the thief.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get asked this all the time in my job.

I usually reply that the ideas come from the information I am supplied with to do the job.

All you have to do is jizz it up a bit in your creative cocktail shaker and see what comes out.

Sometimes it tastes like piss.

Other times it tastes like a Mojito mixed by Mr Hemingway himself.

But there are a few other ingredients that go into the creative cocktail shaker that aren’t in the brief.

These are taken from all the stuff you soak up in your daily life: art; literature; music; ads; news; gossip; film; blogs; tabloids; soaps; comedy, et cetera, et cetera.

What turns your cocktail from being piss into ambrosia is what bits of your own inspiration you put in there.

I came across this quote on the Gutenberg Press II:

I read something similar by Picasso a few years back. But in the spirit of the quote – he probably pinched it from someone else in the first place.

Here are a few bits of graffiti that you may have seen before, but what I like about these are how they integrate their art with the environment, rather than the environment being purely a canvas.

Whilst out for a saunter with my two girls, the eldest, who’s 5, said: Daddy! That looks like a cup!

This is what she was looking at…

Kids get it.

It’s adults who unlearn it.

Inspiration lurks everywhere, if you want to be inspired.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Books, Brand, Children, Comedy, community, Design, Digital, Film, Games, Haiku, Ideas, Illustration, Inspiration, Literature, Music, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Radio, Science, Screenplays, Sculpture, Short stories, Strategy, Writing

Durex Ad

Okay, so I’m juvenile. But you’ve got to admit, it is funny.

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9/11 remembered

Simply beautiful.

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Stop! I have important news.

There are 3 basic types of visual communications:

A. Those we have to consume.

B. Those we choose to consume.

C. Those we are coerced into consuming.

A. Those that we have to consume include: traffic signals, warnings, emergency services etc. We are legally obliged to follow their instruction. They tend to be symbolic in nature. Quick and to the point. No faffing about.

Usually the consumer of the message doesn’t have time for fancy wordplay and imagery. Nor is it needed. You don’t have to coerce someone if the alternatively is a hefty fine or a few weeks in the pokey.

B. The second type of communications are those that we choose to consume such as books, films, tv, music, internet, etc.

You may say movies advertise (coerce) using posters and TVCs, but they don’t usually go beyond the actual content of what you will be viewing. So, in essence, it’s still a personal choice as the content in each case will be unique.

In a sub-category to this are newspapers and magazines.
What people choose – The Sun or The Guardian usually depends on personal taste, moral and ethical viewpoint and social class. There is a large element of coercion with these types of media as they are usually competing against similar products. As you will see with publications like Hello, OK, Grazia etc. Or The Sun, The Star and The Mirror.

C. The third type of communications are those that the consumer is coerced into consuming, such as advertising. We interrupt what people choose to consume with our sales messages. People think they are making a choice but if we used only the methods described in Type A, that would be monologue. (You see this method used more in retail advertising.)

If we only use Type B then you have purely content – no differentiation. (Most brands aren’t in the privileged position of being unique.)

So we have to opt for a different method which may incorporate elements of Types A and B. But alone they aren’t enough. A lot of brands products and services can’t differentiate from their competitors.

This is where creative strategic planning comes into play. Finding that unique insight that blends brand truth with consumer necessity.

Learn from what people choose to consume. Learn from what people have to consume. Learn about your brand. Learn about the market. But most importantly, learn how to make your client’s brand as important to them as their favourite book, movie or friend.

Then make it fit tighter than a sado-masochist’s jim-jams.

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