Hibrow – images

 

At last I have been able to design a website without the miserable prospect of wrestling with Dreamweaver. Since it’s absorbtion into Adobe Creative Suite I had hoped it would work as smoothly as Photoshop. But it doesn’t.

Sorry but the simplest code makes my forehead bleed. And the Hibrow site is very ambitious. Joy of joys, the team had engaged the boffins at Code Circus to deliver the build, integrated with the systems of Don Boyd. I was given free space to create in. Which, in turn, meant Tim & Tom, at Code Circus went through several meetings where they had clearly concluded I was certifiably bonkers. But hey, their site is ‘under construction’!

 

 

Quite soon the muse and the crews began to dance in step. More the Mashed-Potato than a Waltz at the start but it worked . . . In fact it worked very well.

Setting about the website design for Hibrow it quickly became apparent that the wealth of content would need good organisation to help the users’ experience. One of the principal aspects to address were the six categories of the arts covered; Art, Music, Literature, Theatre, Dance & Cinema.

 

We wanted quick, easy to use navigation and, naturally, as few clicks as possible to get to the content desired. Colour coding helped in this. But pace is important. It is a given in Book, Magazine and Publication design but often overlooked in Web design. A dense, repetitive site can tire or bore a user. This is less of a problem for Hibrow, as the content is primarily HD Video, but the issue remains, especially over time, as the volume of content grows. With Hibrow it will accomodate around 10 hours of new material every month. So pace is a matter of much importance in forward design planning.

We developed category ‘Title’ pages, gathering some great talent to showcase each section and set the mood for the audience. We are really pleased with these launch contributions. I could easily over-gush with the adjectives for these talented people. Do check out their websites to see more of their terrific creative work . . .

 

 

The celebrated Dan Fern allowed us to use a detail of ‘Cantus 4’ which uses painted threads on a linen-backed map. ‘Cantus’ is the title of a piece of music by Arvo Pärt. A favourite of the artist (and mine). Watch out for Dan’s new Roots work. It is beautiful.

 

 

I had seen this image at the Degree shows at Plymouth University last year. It is by Graphic Design graduate Pippa Jupe and is one part of a series which plays with the printed book form. I love it when I can use or commission work for people early in their careers.

 

 

A section of a painting from the work of Ian Walton ‘X-11’. His large, wonderful canvases and installations have always fascinated me. I have bought several over the years.

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A striking exhibition at the Bowie Gallery in Totnes prompted the choice of these crab claws by artist Ione Rucquoi. Thought-provoking images. Intrigued to see where they lead . . .

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Thanks to digital communications to Bangkok, Thailand for making delivery of this sumptuous shot from the wonderful photographer, Simon Larbalestier. Cineaste, Don Boyd cooed over this one!

 

 

The Music category hit last minute snags! Well one out of six . . . But, not to be defeated I took my Höfner Violin Bass out into the garden and gently placed it in the sunshine, on an old gate. And shot it myself.

They make rather nice digital postcards too. But don’t forget the link to www.hibrow.tv

Do you have a favourite?

Hibrow – the Arts online

 

Last summer Joanne Jacobs, introduced me to a new project called Hibrow that was yet to find the right designer. It immediately made me sit up and listen as, 1. Joanne is a highly focussed individual and, 2. The project was creatively led and the brainchild of Don Boyd, Film Director & Producer. At a great meeting I found a man fizzing with infectious enthusiasm and very determined to realise his dream of bringing HD video of the Arts online. His insistence on quality and  high production values was inspiring. I probably talked too much and doubtless made some inappropriate quips but common cause was quickly established.

I’ll post about the wider project soon but, for now, I just wanted to say a word or two about the logo. After a huge effort from many talented people Hibrow just launched at The Crypt, St Martins-in-the-Fields, London and I determined to tap on the straining keyboard before the week was out. The party contained much grooviness and was richly sprinkled by luminaries including John Hurt, Gary Kemp, Floella Benjamin and, nah, I’ll stop there. After all this isn’t Hello! magazine.

 

 

Sorry, back to the logo, dear design groupies. Well, I had a free brief, the passionate zeal of The Don, the force of nature that is Jo Jacobs, the shrewd young eye of Dominic Dowbekin – and the planet-wide lovers of Art, Music, Theatre, Dance, Literature and Cinema as the target audience. What pressure?

An initial introductory meeting helped me take the temperature of the venture. Soon I had the pulse of the beast. A classy wide-ranging labour of love and endevour. Click the ‘Like’ button. But I gave a lot of thought to the name itself to tease out the nuances. On the positive side it implies educated, up-market, sophisticated, informed and cultured – which Hibrow certainly is. But I saw a danger of jibes from naysayers at an implication of pretention or being a teenie-tiny bit up itself – which it certainly isn’t! So my design takes a classical stance but with just a little humour. A dig in its own ribs, as it were. Ribs I look forward to mildly tickling as Hibrow grows. Such as the video lead-in which Chris Ennis skillfully helped me make move as intended! Please ‘click’ the link below – one day I will learn how to post a video clip in WordPress.

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More on the website soon. For now please have a good old explore on the site . . . http://www.hibrow.tv

For now, just the logo.

Do you like it?

 

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What image made the most impact on you in 2011?

 

Add your comment with a link to the image. Maybe say why it made such an impact. It can be personal, of global consequence or, well, you choose . . .

UPDATE: A review of contributions appears as a Guest Blog at IMPERICA: http://www.imperica.com/viewsreviews/gary-day-ellison-images-of-2011

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Ralph Steadman

You don’t so much commission Ralph Steadman as unleash him. The art direction is implicit in the decision to ask him for artwork. He is a force of nature. His acceptance of a commission is de facto an endorsement of a project – that adds value beyond even the illustration itself.
 

And I send my best wishes to the lame art director who tells him what, and how to draw. Actually no I don’t send best wishes. They would be foolish. But I may send flowers as commiseration.

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An example is at the top of the page. My adjectives would be, what is the word I am looking for? Pointless, that’s the one.

His work has often been a rage against the system. A wildly exuberant hand and an acute, almost feral, venal eye. His symbiotic, yet combative, relationship with Gonzo writer, Hunter S. Thompson for Rolling Stone magazine is legendary. One of the great hoots being the way each blamed the other for the excesses of their exploits. And his biography is all over the web.

My simple prompt for this blog is just an urge to celebrate this man who has been a part of my life for such a long time. I could relate the time he burst into Stanley Studios demanding “Where’s my fucking artwork?” Not because he thought we had any – but he did feel publishers were not returning his originals as they should – but mainly because he was living in Parsons Green. And we were the nearest. Lunch at 11 Park Walk calmed all. Fuelled by his mockery of his own wrath and significant amounts of Barolo.

I could tell you of his soliloquy on how The History of Civilization all began with the Welsh. “The first man was a Welshman, Homo Boyo. And his wife, Homo Womo. Like a side of beef with arms she was . . .” But Ralph would probably defend his copyright but arriving with a Howitzer and obliterating my cats.

I am tempted to show you a photograph of his spare room. When working on I, Leonado he took to painting The Last Supper on the wall to get under the skin of the painter, hands on. When completed he changed all the bed-linen to white and pushed the bed against the painting so the pillows became the tablecloth of Jesus and his disciples. “That’ll stop visitors getting up to any hanky-panky!” OK, here it is. It is called The Last Cuppa.

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You can look for yourself for Ralph’s antics destroying an iphone with an icepick live on stage. Technology infuriates him. Only mention any kind of Social Media if you wish to see your giblets up close and personal. So may tales and yet I have to tell you he has a big heart, can be the very best company and the world is a better, more vital place, with Ralph in it. he work is full of passion. The man cares. He should be knighted. Go on, Queen and Government, I dare you . . .

I have only spilled a few beans here. And, for your patience Dear Reader, I end with a glimpse of personal friendship. I think of it as belligerent affection, and love it for that. A letter received when we moved into a house in London.

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http://www.ralphsteadmanartcollection.com/ or follow on Twitter (A family member I suspect!) @SteadmanArt

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A Piece of China

Against the advice of those who thought I should post every week I took a break from Blogging. I thought you had earned a rest from this place (sorry, PosterousSpace). But I just realised it has been a bit too long. Weeks in fact. Great Googly Moogly! as Frank Zappa would say, if he were still with us.

I could say that I write today about design and technology but that seems rather grand and pompous. The connection is China. Full of surprises they recently closed down several entire fake Apple Stores (yep, the whole sleek Geek temple). In fact not just one – but dozens. Extraordinary enterprise. Gasp here.

 

 

The design part is a cover of a book by William Hinton. It is an account of every day life in rural China. It is called Shenfan and it has a sister tome called Fanshen. The design is simple. Not much to say about it. A well-chosen photograph of a villager painting the name of the town on the end of a house. Long Bow. This is married to a fine choice of typeface by Joy Fox. Check out Joy’s recycled jewellery.

The technology? Cow Gum for that cover to be honest. But I found a great use of current technology to amuse myself on the Devon/London train last week. I sat in the last seat before the area for luggage and seats for the disabled. Four young Chinese sat cross-legged on the floor playing cards. The two girls facing me. The two boys with their backs to me. The girls were losing every game.

Needing distraction from fretting over an important imminent presentaion at One Alfred Place I turned to technology. Taking my, now ancient, iphone surreptitiously from my pocket I channelled Spooks and started taking pictures of the boys cards. Then showed them to the girls. They stifled giggles and started winning regularly. A little creative mischief.

Eventually my cover was blown and they disembarked at Reading, amongst much laughter as a fair section of the carriage was by now in on the game on the boys blind-side. One of the boys came over trying to look menacing but grinning from ear to ear. “You owe me wun pownd!” he declared.

So there it is, China, Design and Technology. This Friday I shall use my phone to attend a feast probably at Wong Kei where fierce waiters will force march me to a table and interrogate menacingly me over a menu.

And I shall think of the kids on the train. And grin.

 

 

Trey Pennington

How can I write a blog post about Trey? We only physically met on three occasions. A whole bunch of Skype time. Lots of twitter/facebook banter – when he would tease me for my delight in the lexicon. I doubt there is much I can add to the exceptionall tributes already paid by Scott Gould, Olivier Blanchard and others who knew him so much longer.

But how could I not acknowledge the passing of such a special individual? We called each other friend. So to not look for some words is unthinkable.

Like Minds Exeter Conference introduced me to Trey. Unusually I was taken by the straight guy in a preppy suit. He told stories with a beguilingly soft Southern drawl. Not for him the marketeers’ jargon and sometimes specious generalisations. He spoke his truth with tales of real people who breathed the same air. He struck me as a kind of Garrison Keillor of Social Media. A vital part of the oral tradition. I liked him. He took time to talk to me without glancing over his shoulder to see who else was around.

We bounced things around quite a bit on twitter etc. and again he gave his time, with those special tweets that seem to make eye-contact. We hooked up again at Media 140 Bristol. Instantly comfortable in his company. And we talked then, and later, about the conventional way his website showed him. I saw him more conversationally, as a narrator. Not a businessman. A storyteller. Almost a Norman Rockwell character of our times. Maybe fanciful but I’ll remember him that way.

A kind, personable, warm, honest, generous, open guy. A suicide? What pain must he have been suffering? I learnt he had big troubles and tried to get him to talk about it. Not hard enough I guess but it seemed wrong to press him when he wanted to be private. Even in Social Media not everything has to be ‘out there’. I hope the God he believed in so surley is there for him now.

And I was so looking forward to seeing him this Friday in Lincoln. But not now. Farewell my friend of two years, I would have liked more time with you.

Who will tell the stories now?

Geoff van Beek, gentleman dentist

Geoff van Beek is at the top of his profession in dental surgery, specialising in implantology. In fact he was named Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau (Dutch equivalent of the OBE), for his lifetime contribution to dental science. His clients come to him from all over the world for his skills and he does the same to source his specialist professional needs.

Although we attended the same Grammar school our paths had not crossed for decades. When they did it was a physical convergence on Devon. There are some very specialised motor-sport engineering skills that exist in England. A very rich vein of hidden talents. One very special outfit is on Dartmoor. Check out Bob Petersen. Engagingly eccentric Mr van Beek drives one of those Bentleys. And no one else may work on this particular beast . . .

What I didn’t know was that, via a school blog, my design website had been visited and checked out. Mr van Beek’s Rotterdam practice needed a fresh graphic look. So when the Bentley next needed mechanical TLC from Bob Petersen we met to discuss the graphics project.

It is noticeable that Dental Practices are largely unadventurous in their visual identity. Strange, in some ways, as we all need our regular dental health visits – and many dread the experience and crave reassurance. But it usually stops at a mobile or something amusing on the ceiling above the chair. I set to thinking it through.

In my work I tend not to create a logo and set about its tidy deployment. Instead I seek to take the pulse of my client and build a graphic identity that reflects what makes them unique, special. The choice of vehicle gives the clue that Geoff van Beek is highly individual. Conversation confirms this characteristic. The surgery reinforces the impression of eclectic interests too. On one hand a beautiful collection of  antique dental equipment, on the other a state of the art 180º x-ray machinery. There is a highly advanced sensibility to engineering and process but it is always tinged with an inclination to humour, often self-deprecating.

And that is what led me to a sleek typographic look – but with a bite out of it.

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As an aside, Mr van Beek persuaded me to abandon my Braun electric toothbrush in favour of a Philips Sonicare. It works at much higher speeds with noticeably better results. And I have a challenging set of gnashers. Product placement, moi? Well, I am not on a sales commission but it is brilliant and I thought you might like to know about it. It even starts to replenish the battery as you approach the charger. Spooky.

I leave you with this question. Should Dentists fear going to the Graphic Designers?

 

 

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A Positive+?

 

 

At the moment here is much hoopla about Google+. The new rival to Facebook. It may well be the best thing since the last thing and those who know about such things are happily looking under the hood. There will be reviews aplenty, which will be useful and interesting, but that is not why I write today. I have a question for you . . . Those who have worked with me will already know that I think avoiding plagiarism matters. I also care about giving accurate credit to illustrators, photographers, designers and other contributors. Not claiming perfection but I came into this game via pro bono art direction of The Association of Illustrators magazine and think it is an important principle. In the melée that followed my departure from Pan, a lifetime ago, I was peeved that the crew failed to credit Helen Chadwick on one of my last commissions for Picador, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. In March 2011 I reformed my website with the splash page Design Works. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that it also changed the nomenclature to Day-Ellison+ to do three things: Firstly to acknowledge that creative direction involves other contributors. Secondly, reassure client misgivings about hiring a one-man band. And crucially to set up for a forthcoming addition of skills to my store (more in a future post). I also like the way that it typographically developed my hyphenated name to an electrical & +. What is on my mind is this. Should I drop my new name now that Google+ has come along? My ‘+’ was unveiled 5 months ago and planned around Christmas. I certainly don’t want it thought that I am mimicking Google. Because I am not. And they are a behemoth whilst I am a minnow. Is it fair enough to keep my +? Is it a good idea to? In short, is my Day-Ellison+ a positive now?

The Fellowship of the Ring, Rotterdam

 There is a fair amount to say about design, its inception, creation, execution, reactions and reception. (Let’s skip occasional perdition.) Strictly speaking this blog is intended to highlight the back-stories to some of my design projects. This one ends back stage.

But the fact is that the more involved you become with your work the more the work/life thingy blurs. One good part of life celebrates another. That is how it seems to go with me and The Lord of the Rings. Every time I get involved there seems to be a coming together of events. I have put iQuill to App before about Doug Adams‘ splendid book and you can read more about it via this link. And those of you who are as yet unaware the enormity of this book/film/music project may well have just missed the point, possibly got sniffy about Middle-earth and gone off to watch celebrity wrestling. Bear with me.

For my curmudgeonly disposition slips into pleasure at the thought of this past week in Holland. Eurostar to Brussels was superb. And through ticketed to Rotterdam for less than a train from Exeter to London – shame on you First Great Western. Towards the end of that leg of the journey we chatted with a charming Dutch cellist who had just completed her music finals in London. Onwards, switching to regular trains as we hurtled onward through the Belgian countryside I became aware of the chap next to me. As did fellow passengers. A young man with tousled curly hair was peering at an unopened Tupperware lunch box. Through a crack in the lid he stared intently and the salad within. Frequently putting it back in his bag before nervously re-examining it at frequent intervals.
 


When the going gets weird the weird get going“as someone once said (who was it? Hunter S. Thompson?). For just as I was praising the efficiency of mainland European railways the announcement came over the Tannoy that there was a problem ahead and we were to disembark at the next station and begin a convoluted re-routing involving several trains and a coach. Our cellist companion, the chap with the cracked salad box obsession and ourselves formed a small fellowship of travellers collectively trying to fathom out the increasingly complex travel itinerary in mixed languages.

And that, patient reader, is how I came to find myself in Antwerp as minder to a cello and a box of stick-insects. The owner of the aforementioned Phasmatodea (a unique gift for a friend) was in fact David Buckingham, an accomplished classical guitarist and composer currently appearing in Zorro the musical. You couldn’t make it up.

 
 Together we chuckled and chatted our way through to Rotterdam where we were greeted by our hosts, Geoff & Doris van Beek. Once work was taken care of (signing-off the graphic identity for ace dentist Geoff van Beek – more on that in a future post) we looked forward to celebrating his birthday. And the fates had conspired to have the band in town that very weekend and, as their guests, we shared with the van Beeks the amazing experience of  a river taxi to Hotel New York for a superb fish lunch followed by a Live to Projection The Lord of the Rings Concert. Converging these dates had depended on the warmth of reception to both the design and the availability of  concert seats. Both went well. Phew!


 
The concert? Think of the early days of film. Can you picture silent black & white films with musical accompaniment from some berserk crone at the piano? OK. Now forget it. Completely. This is the movie projected in a concert hall with enough musicians performing live, for the whole 3 hours, to constitute a vast sonic army of orchestra and choirs.

 
 

The venue, the impressive Rotterdam venue called de Doelen, in the heart of the city, flanking Schouwburgplein. A concert auditorium and a great conference venue (Like Minds?) There was the familiar, handsome LOTR banner outside. But no people. Well, usual busy city weekend people, but not the usual Tolkein throng. These events draw very large crowds. Seemed odd. Eerie, even. Once inside I realised why. Our host is very well connected and had thoughtfully arranged to introduce us to the de Doelen Director, Mr Gabriël Oostvogel and his team. Such delightful people. Design is a largely back-room activity but they made such a generous fuss of us. Their hospitality was peerless and shared, during the intermission, with the beautiful people of the city. And me such a scruffy English creative!

The concert itself, The Fellowship of the Ring, was sublime. Powerful. Expert. Moving. I dare to say the acoustics may even surpass the more venerable Royal Albert Hall. The industry and power of the event was so impressive. The sheer talent and quality from all concerned was impeccable. And I love the diversity of audiences these concerts attract. Dinner jackets on one side. Shorts and Gandalf T-shirts on the other. But overwhelmingly the power of the emotional resonance of the music of Howard Shore triumphed again. After The Return of the King in London I was not expecting to be quite so moved again by The Fellowship of the Ring in Rotterdam. But we were, of course!  And the van Beeks loved it. The whole audience was ecstatic. Do check this link for YouTube footage, music, review and photographs.

 
And back stage? Permit me a little pride as we were invited back after the performance by the extraordinary conductor Mr. Ludvig Wicki (who is just beaming, joyful and indefatigable off-stage as he is in performance) and his charming wife Beatrice. How he manages to be so bubbly and excited after such an exhaustin and brilliant performance I will never know. So good to have made his acquaintance and I hope we meet again. And the night produced yet another treat as we met the singer, Soloist Kaitlyn Lusk. Wow! What a voice.



An amazing day. I shall remain forever grateful to Doug Adams inviting me into the world of The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films in 2009. Next Year? Tickets are booked for the de Doelen and The Two Towers concert. See you there?

 

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Salman Rushdie

But there was trouble again for the author.

It turned out that Director Deepa Mehta chose the island location over India or Pakistan, where the story is set, to avoid religious protests. Iran had objected to Sri Lanka’s Premier and filming came to an abrupt halt. You will recall Iran’s former leader Ayatollah Kohmeini was the source of the misguided (potty) Fatwa on Rushie for The Satanic Verses. I have never believed the author sought controversy or intended offence. He is an exceptional writer who sets his work in complex societies he knows well. He was a soft target for zealotry.

I leave this well-worn topic and return to more innocent times, at Stanley Studios, London SW10, as I set about designing the original paperback cover for Midnight’s Children. Not for the first time Pan’s commitment to the significance of the book was to be reflected in the point-size of the typeface. The trouble with a brief of ‘Big Author + Big Title’ is that it can be a typographical blunt instrument. But Sonny Mehta‘s unerring literary judgement had picked another great. In fact he saw it as a possible Booker Prize winner. So the task was to work with it and bring some character to bear. Devouring the tome hungrily in my West London flat I found there was a feast on offer. I was particularly struck by the doctor who when visiting a young woman is confronted by female family members protecting her modesty with a sheet. The sheet has a carefully placed hole through which only local examination of the immediate medical problem is possible. Over time the various local areas build an overall picture for the doctor who has gradually fallen in love with her. The film-maker’s must have had a such an amazing time with such rich narrative.

Potential bestsellers on the mass-market list at Pan Books (parent to the Picador imprint) endured relentless pressure, in cover briefs, to parade 70s film-poster style collages of heroes and helicopters exploding or some such chaos. It was clearly dated even then and I fought the good fight for better graphics where I could. On Picador we worked to develop ways to set the mood and entice interest with the visuals in subtler, but no less effective ways. Midnight’s Children was seen to have huge sales potential yet its target audience is inclined to more nuanced sensibilities. (Read between the lines people, work with me here) As some scribbled notes on the inside of the hardback edition reveal (just unearthed from a box emptied to fill yet another new bookshelf) the ‘just before midnight’ clock hands were my first idea but survived scrutiny. The execution would provide the character. I would handle the type differently now but remain happy with my apparently perverse choice of Ian Pollock to create for me the pealing paint/ faded opulence wall. He was widely celebrated for his brilliantly bizarre, idiosyncratic characters at that time. And we incorporated one big peel in case it won the Booker Prize. In that space I could announce its triumph and avoid a Daz-style corner flash. And if it didn’t, well it’s a peeling bit. The illustrator gave me the original painting (shown) and that recently emerged from another box.

I keep reading that blog posts should be kept short. Shame. Because coincidentaly that was the title of his next novel. I took the painted wall route again with the cover. This time with ‘Shame‘ as graffiti, in Urdu I recall and Salman popped in to Stanley Studios to write it for me. Hard to imagine within a few years he would be in hiding.

Sonny Mehta left London for New York. I left Pan (well it was important for me!). Salman Rushdie went to Penguin with The Satanic Verses. Midnight’s Childen went on to win the ‘Booker of Bookers’ in 1993. Time sure keeps moving after midnight . . .

Can’t wait to see the film of Midnight’s Children. Or whatever else turns up in boxes come to think of it.