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


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?

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?

Maxine Hong Kingston

The first strand is the recent publication of I Love a Broad Margin to My Life which is a memoir, in verse, by Maxine Hong Kingston. She is Senior Lecturer for Creative Writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Her memoirs and fiction have won numerous awards, including the National Book Award and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Literature Award. I recommend a quick search for her podcast lectures available from BBC and itunes/Berkley/Yale.

The second strand is the arrival on the mat of an invitation to the Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing at the London Book fair in a few days. It has been awarded to Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Regular readers her will know that I worked with Sonny for a decade and I count him as a mentor. One day I will summon up the courage to write about the influence of this fabulous man had on me. But that is for another time.

And the third strand is the first ‘Guest Blog’ on here which is coming soon. It will be from an art director in New York who worked with us at Stanley Studios in the 80s as an intern. The eccentric Stanley Studios was our Art Department sanctuary from the steel and glass Pan head office in London. More on that later too.

These are the elements that prompt me to show two of the very first of my cover designs for Picador Books with Sonny at the helm. China Men and The Woman Warrior. She has a special voice and you know I am not going to give you a cheat-sheet on here. They are both a great read. Seek them out and see life through the eyes of a Chinese-American.

There is no perfect recipe for all book covers but some choice ingredients can be found here: Genuine original writing, crackling, inspiring publisher, a slightly bonkers studio space and an art director who reads, having the time of his life. And thrilling at the wealth of illustration talent to be discovered and enjoyed. llustrator Cathie Felstead took her maiden voyage with us. And what a debut she made!

In China Men we are taken into the world of workers migrating to America (the Gold Mountain) for work to enable them to send money home to their families. How they are seen as one amorphous group but who, by turn, see the caucasians as all looking alike. For their white-skin they call them ghosts. The Postman Ghost, the Carpenter Ghost . . .

Cathie’s beautiful artwork was the first commission where I bought the original for my home too. There are few objects, except books and music, I treasure but this sure is one. The colour is built up with layers of collage tissue. The rough edges kept for character. Background off-white as in Chinese culture white associates with death. The fish, which appeared elsewhere in Cathie’s glorious portfolio were added as a migration motif and to draw the eye to an early “First British Publication” slogan without destroying the cover with graphic devices more commonly linked to Daz.

Today there are so many references to Branding. Here the distinctive artwork is the success. It worked in a tough, competitive market-place. It’s all about character, identity and paying due attention to the very special. Human appeal counts.

Hear Maxine Hong Kingston reading from her new book here: http://bit.ly/eCH8W4 . . . and follow @RandomPR on Twitter.

Design Works Site


As designers it is our stock in trade to bring an experienced eye to our clients’ identities. We seek to present a clear message for them. We deploy our Visual Communication skills to show them in a confident, poised stance. Their goods, whether books, music or widgets made sparkly and their services reflecting their best qualities.

Look at me! The graphics cries. I’m shiny, appealing, loaded with character. Desirable, charming company you can enjoy doing business with. My shelves are bursting with must-have goodies. A veritable wizard’s quiver of skills and talents. Resplendent in cool, sharp livery and clearly the dog’s dangley bits in their field.

We have listened closely to ourclients’ problems and aspirations. We have compared the competition and teased out what makes them special in our minds and performed our voodoo on the Mac.

We designers bring focus and objectivity. And hopefully some fun too!

But what about our shop windows? I reflect on this as I have just re-vamped my website www.day-ellison.com. Frankly it is torture! Andrew Butler at DesignCredo calls it The Cobbler’s Shoes. Personally, I can’t see the shoes for wanting to strip out the cobblers. All your inner conflicts rush to the fore like anarchists at the barricades. Is this piece relevant? Am I being vain? Are SMEs as well represented as the celebrities? Should I make something more prominent? O, the human condition! One minute a carefree Creative Director setting out a succession of successful projects, the next taunted by the Demon Doubt, asking if you know how to re-organize the deck-chairs on the Titanic. Physician, heal thyself!

If you have dallied on my Blog before you will know that I love the English language. Marvelling at its power for clarity and delighting in its potential for whimsy and unruly playtime. But not on my website! I don’t want boastful adjectives and purple promises traipsing through with their out-sized muddy boots. I mean, I must think the better part of my work is good or I could not, in all conscience, release it to any the fab folk whose tags adorn this blog. But I certainly don’t want to lather the pages with sales-pitch. It’s just not me. But do I hamstring my own sales efforts in so doing? Arrrgghh! The Demon Doubt again. Fact is you are not there to apply the same cool-headed objectivity that is your normal daily stock in trade. You are trying to deftly negotiate that minefield of hopes and fears. Alone. With Arvo Pårt doing his level best to be a calming voice through the speakers.

So you try to be as objective as you can and ask other people’s opinions. And listen. Then act on what seems the best advice to you. I am grateful for advice from Joanne Jacobs in particular.

I have worked with a lot of great people and the site shows a good selection. And I have kept it simple. It is tailored to the iPad – that seems the way to go. I am working on a WordPress bridge between the website and this blog. That will have a database where you can search by client/author/title etc.

Could I have your help too? I would love it if you would leave comments/feedback below.

Have a look here: www.day-ellison.com

What do you think?

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films (II)

Some times you deliver a job and never hear another word. This can be disconcerting. One minute you are intensely focussed on a mission. The next you are alone watching your child cycle off, without the trainer-wheels, suddenly redundant.

Other times it is very different.