Friday, 26 September 2008

Type Coasters - buy custom personalized products from Ponoko

Coasters for the typophiliac. These coasters come in 4 mm Eurolite plywood treated with mineral oil. Each coaster is approximately 3.5 inches in diameter, and is done in Baskerville SemiBold. Just ...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Publish your own book with "Blurb"

I have just uploaded a book on my holiday in Ireland. It is primarily a gift for my friends Dermot and Anne, who I stayed with. It is just a little thankyou for putting me up, and is a series of photographs of their kids – Grace, Seamus and Kate.

My former colleague and friend at Ravensbourne, Finola Gaynor, put me onto the software from Blurb. Free to download, it is so easy to use you just drag and drop your photos. Select your layouts and bang in the text. Upload it to the server and then order as many copies as you like. The book is available in softback and hardback. Cool!
Check out the website.

By by Andy Ellison

Monday, 15 September 2008

Unisign bag

It's not quite a Freitag messenger bag but pretty damn close and at least half the price. I saw this little beauty on Amazon of all places and decided it had to be mine. It smells a bit, as it is made from recycled truck tarpaulin, but it is a typographic statement I am proud to wear. It also only cost me £29.04. Bargain

This shot is taken in my lovely studio!

Emma Williams' Font

I got an email today from one of my former Ravensbourne students, Emma Williams. She recieved a First Class degree in 2007 and has just completed her Masters' Degree in Typographic Design at Reading University. Her typeface "Milvus" has been used to advertise the Course and it's subsequent website on the "ilovetypography" site and blog. They have selected the italic version of the font, which is lovely and quirky. A real coup! Visit ilovetypography for a look at her font and those of others on the MA. You can also download the type specimens in PDF format.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

D&AD Xchange Conference

I recently went to the D&AD Xchange Conference held in London on Sept 1st and 2nd. I have to say that the speaker were a mixed bunch, some very good, some rather naff.

There was an emerging theme about digital advertising that came through many of the presentations. It seems to be the 'new buzz word' although it has been around for quite some time now.

It was great to see that the debate around craft was kept alive by the like of Alan Kitching and his letterpress work. Seeing these pieces in the flesh gave me great inspiration, rather than seeing them as thumbnails in books. The vibrancy of the colour made them hypnotic and I found myself wanting to go home immediately and 'do some work.'

Blog ImageThe sense of playfulness of the work left me wanting more. It is obvious there is a love of what he is doing and the contacts he and his wife Celia gave to the audience regarding letterpress workshops will no doubt be useful.

In stark contrast to this came the work of 'onedotzero' was decidedly high-tech. It may not be completely described as graphic design, although it has links with it. Shane Walter used a few case studies but it was the work of United Visual Artist or UVA that impressed me. They have done many pieces of visual work for bands, including back drop screens for the likes of Massive Attack. The project in particular Shane showed was a light installation for a show in Paris. The installation reacted to movement and music, so the audience had participation with these huge monolithic structures. See images below.

Blog ImageBlog ImageBlog Image

The other speaker that was extremley good was Joel Veitch, with his website. He spoke about how some of the short 'films' he had done for fun and put on his website had attracted a lot of attention from ad agencies and eventually reworked to use for campaigns. The thread of his talk was that just by putting a project on youtube, even something fairly rough could have a massive effect, to the extent you never know how far it could go. The examples were some sketchy collage work to a low-fi song that became a cult hit called 'we like the moon', this became a commercial for Quiznos. Entertaining and very fun, worth checking out.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

3D type

Came across this today and thought it was really cool. For those of you with nerdish tendencies like myself, why send a card when you could send a word instead. It is relatively cheap and much more creative.

You can see my chosen word below. I can see a few friends getting particular messages from me in the near future.

Check out the website:

Picture 1.png

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS) exists and here is the proof!

Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS) Exists
I found this on Nancy Sharon Collins blog. The following is a direct quote from the blog, to which I thought, that is me all over!

For more details check it out at:

Herewith please find attached evidence of Type Nerd Syndrome. Last Friday Jen McNight, visiting artist, assistant professor at University of Missouri-Saint Louis, Daniela Marx, tenured professor of graphic design at Loyola University New Orleans and I gamboled and frolicked in this field of type like three kittens playing with a ball of string.

We each found ourselfs nearly prostrate photographing the architectural type being installed in the Loyola library; we photographed each other photographing the type, videoed and laughed, we are hoping to make a presentation with the captures for TypeCon 2009. (I began to wonder if this was some symptom of a serious illness of which we should be aware.)

Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS) is a condition which usually starts with a sharp blow to the head - physical or chemical - during adolescence.

The symptoms are usually mistaken for OCD in non-creative people. In professionals it often earns the afflicted nicknames like ‘Font Police’, ‘Font Cop’, ‘Font Nazi’ or even…. shudder…. ‘Type Director’.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Save me from Comic Sans

I have had enough now. After years of trying to convince my own students not to use Comic Sans in their design work, I want to spread the word. I know it is nothing knew and the 'Ban comic sans website has been up and running for a for years now, please can we just stop now! Since moving to Nottingham, I have seen far too many poor uses of the offending font. It's not that I hate the font, just how over used it is in the wrong context. I have seen it as shop signage, on posters, memo's and many other items. The proliferation of it's use does make me think of Erik Speikermann's quote about poor typography. I am paraphrasing, but just because you give someone the tools to design doesn't make them a designer! It reminds me of the theory that if you give a monkey a typewriter and enough time he will come up with Shakespeare. (Don't quite know where I heard this one, so don't quote me) The problem is the time aspect. Design is usually turned around quickly and those who are not designers will not be able to understand the subtleties of font choice. It may look rounded and friendly, but that doesn't make it suitable!

Check out the Bancomicsans website.


In my time at Ravensbourne I was involved with delivering (albeit on a small scale) talking to students about Wayfinding. The term still raises a frown as many people don't know what the term means. While discussing this with colleagues, Finola Gaynor and Nima Falatoori, along with attending lectures by Cartlidge Levene about their work on the Barbican Centre system I have begun to take a much bigger interest in it.

It is not as many people think only about signage, but all kinds of environmental systems that can influence navigation around a public space. Students often find it difficult to think of other ways by which we traverse spaces, but once it becomes clear seem to enjoy the challenge. Browsing eye magazine on line recently I came across an article by John D. Barry who talked a little about this. In my experience at teaching at an institution like Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, I realized the value of cross-disciplinary collaboration. When students work on group projects with those from other courses they come up with solutions, which far outstrip the individual endeavours. It is about time as Barry suggests that Graphic Designers begin working with Architects and other types of designers to resolve problems such as wayfinding.
As he says ". . . As a practical matter, architects and graphic designers should be teaming up to create new environments; after all, we have to live with the results on on a day-to-day basis, so we might as well use our best intelligence and skills in designing them. We need both a historical understanding of lettering in architecture and a forward-looking technical understanding of how we interact with words in the modern world. The increasing use of electronic lettering on and in buildings, as embedded yet constantly changing visual information, adds a new dimension to the question; so do new forms of portable information, both visual and aural. Yet the fundamental problems remain the same, along with the fundamental nature of the human beings who use whatever architects build. Only the solutions change."

For those of you interested have a good look at the Cartlidge Levene website and their projects for Selfridges and The Barbican Arts Centre and also the project Pentagram did for the Bloomberg Centre



Friday, 25 April 2008

Information Design

I was accosted this morning on the way to work by a lady from Nottingham transport canvassing opinions over the proposed redesign of local bus timetables.

It got me thinking on the bus into work, about just how much information design is overlooked by the general population and indeed by some designers and educators. In this day and age information is all around us and being able to navigate that information in a clear and cohesive way is paramount. Since we all lead such busy lives, being able to decipher information, such as when is the next bus or train, how much fat or sugar is in my food and how to use my in car sat nav, becomes ever more important. Being in the business of education, many students don't see the importance of this function. They take it all for granted and only seem to want to make things look 'cool'. It's a gross over-generalization, but branding has overtaken many of the fundamental disciplines within graphic design. We are preoccupied with how our brands say something about us, rather than proposing methods to wade through the torrent of data thrown at us everyday.

I was reminded of a conversation with Michael Beirut of Pentagram about the New York Subway system map, when I took a group of students to visit the Studio on a field trip recently. One of the students asked a question about why he thought the NY subway map wasn't as successful as the Henry Beck London Underground map.

He talked about the fact that in 1979 Massimo Vignelli redesigned the map, with some of Henry Beck's principles in mind. The result was a very clear and simple map that dispensed with realism in favour of usability. The outcome, although beautiful and easy to navigate was discarded as many thought that the distortion of certain elements on the map, such as Central Park being shortened was tantamount to sacrilege. So why can a method work for one audience and not for another? I have no answers to this, but it did get me thinking about how an audience may need some time to live with a design in order to adapt to the change.

Another of the many thoughts that ran through my head were about the fact that lots of the published books about information design, were essentially about presenting data and not necessarily usability. In fact there are not a great deal of books out there about information design at all. I find there are more websites about presenting information than books. It may be that the interactive nature of the web, lends itself better to making us of filtering systems accessing databases and also looking at how animation can enhance the message. It is worth checking out Here there are many examples of how designers have attempted to map out information and decode it in the form of graphic design. These are not always that commercial, but proves a good testing ground for the kind of tihinking that is going on out there.

A question then. Is it about time we looked at Information Design in more depth in our educational curricula and saw the uses of developing solid information designers? If the answer is yes then we need more books, websites and resources from which students and practicing designers can learn, experiment and canvas opinion on. Why not have a go. After writing this I may just do so.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Helvetica T-Shirts

Helvetica again. It's becoming a bit of an obssession. I spotted these rather cool T-Shirts on an Australian website. They take a little time to arrive, but were well worth the wait.

Helvetica Mug

Since I am a nut about all things typographic, a student of mine sent me this rather lovely helvetica mug. Available only in the USA sadly from Veer.

Design Police

An ex-student of mine from 2 years ago contacted me to say he has got around to putting one of his final year projects up on the web. His intention is that people start using it, to be more educated about design and how much detail it requires along with having some fun. It was funny that Finola Gaynor found it at the same time and sent it to all the students. His name is Stephen Woowat and he now works at Elmwood in Leeds. I hope you start using it in interesting ways! To download the complete PDF kit visit:
Checkout his graduation portfolio too at

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


I spotted this on Jack Crossing's website and it really made me laugh, even though it is a pun. They are also available to buy, for those typographic nerds out there.
Available at:

Duck and Cover

I stumbled across this by accident on 'you tube' and thought it may help for those students struggling with the screen part of their typography unit. It may also give you some ideas for Information Design too!

">Duck and cover video

The first of many

OK the blog is up and running and it is now time to start posting.

I have been up in Nottingham now for about a month. The University is very well organised and I am happy to be here. I found a house out in the 'burbs and the cost of living here is so much cheaper than I expected. Hopefully with a little more money and some extra time, now that I can legitimately take research days from work, will mean I can work on all those little projects I always wanted to, but never quite got around to.