Manuals 1

“Anyone who says that a manual is a creative straitjacket is a moron. Without a manual you will end up speaking a dialect. A good manual allows you to speak a language.”

Design legend Massimo Vignelli doesn't beat around the bush in his introduction to Manuals 1, Unit Edition's study of corporate identity design manuals from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The book – currently being republished via Kickstarter – boasts 21 examples of these printed design-bibles from the pre-digital era; each communicating a common purpose across fields as disparate as international sporting events and space exploration, telecoms and transport. Within them, the lexicons, syntax and grammar of each brand's design.

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New forms in film poster design

A few years ago, cracked.com posted 8 Actors Who Look Exactly The Same On Every Movie Poster. I'm easily distracted by a nice short list, so was drawn in by the blatant linkbaiting. But as well as providing a few chuckles, it flicked some little switch in my head and changed the way I perceive posters. It wasn't so much about actors pulling their particular actor faces, rather the repetition in the design. Tom Cruise's nose must be shown in profile if at all possible. Jackie Chan's fist is always bigger than his head. Bruce Willis will invariably be tilted to the right.

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Ricci

This was the start of it all for me. I'd bought and loved magazines before – my teenage years can pretty much be summed up by three words: White, Dwarf and Select – but I'd never loved them asmagazines. I loved what was in them, not what they actually were. Then one day, traipsing home from work, I found myself at London Victoria with too much time to kill. I did the obvious thing: loiter in WHSmith. And there it was. The Face, volume 3, number 21. October 1998. Christina Ricci glowering at me from the cover.

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Offline

I've picked up Michael Harris' new book, The End of Absence, and I can't put it down. Essentially, it's about how those of us born before 1985 will be the last to remember what life was like before the internet became everything. He laments the loss of absence, of the nothingness now occupied by constant connection, of a time before empty moments were filled with duties to social networks, inboxes and ubiquitous trivia. I've recently given my online life a bit of a spring clean, to wrestle back some control. Dust-gathering accounts were scrapped, mailing lists unsubscribed from, redundant social connections severed. Untethering from all of this digital baggage was remarkably satisfying. But I want to go one step further, just to see if I can. I will embrace the absence I used to know. I will go without internet for one week. Starting tomorrow. 

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Backs of things

Quietly, with no fuss at all, we are losing an area of design that is rarely discussed or celebrated. When it's gone, we'll miss it and reminisce it and pine for it. We are losing the backs of things.

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Ed Ruscha and the future of maps

Modern maps didn't just appear out of nowhere, nor were they simply torn straight from the pages of the London A-Z. Behind all the futuristic shimmer and zoom that we're now accustomed to lies a visual language that’s been churning in galleries and artists' studios for decades.

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Boring

Maybe I'm reminiscing an imagined calm, but didn't we once use things like Twitter and Facebook to just talk to each other? Nobody wanted to be bored, but it was okay to be boring. Now there's so much noise and flailing, as everyone tries to hold everyone else's attention. 

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How designers are represented on the big screen

It’s Tuesday evening, therefore I have decided I am going to write a film. It’s good to have side projects and entertain the occasional long-term hair-brained scheme. I’ve been meaning to become the next Billy Wilder/William Goldman/Joe Eszterhas for a good couple of decades now, but I keep getting waylaid by life’s incessant demands and interesting things on the telly. But now it’s Tuesday evening; now it’s time to get this done.

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Stock

A long time ago, when I accidentally became a designer, I had this book. It was probably about the thickness of an issue of MacUser. On every page of this book sat twenty or so very small photographic thumbnails.

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Pins

Cutting and pasting and streaming and tweeting – all distant metaphors that have taken on their own meanings. My life on screen is one of appropriated verbs, relationships between words and actions that would have made little sense not so long ago. One recent addition to this gibberish-to-my-dad lexicon, to my daily routine: pinning.

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WWDC

Work is done for the day, or at the very least it's been tucked away and minimised, hibernating until tomorrow morning's burst of inspiration and caffeine. Firstborn is fed and going through the motions of his strict running up and down regimen. Desk is cleared and carefully arranged to tidy, right-angled correctness. Four fingers of Kit Kat are aligned just so beside a fresh cup of coffee (in standard issue Pantone mug, naturally). And me, I'm nestled nicely into the lumpy comfiness of my chair, eyes staring into my iMac, fingers poised over my iPad. There is calm, there is readiness. Bring on the WWDC keynote.

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Cook

So there's this New Yorker cartoon by Pat Byrne from a few years ago. A modern couple stand in their kitchen, tablet and laptop close at hand. The woman stands bemused: "How am I supposed to cook? The Internet is down."

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The film machine

I had a horrible, horrible thought in the shower. This happens far too often. I'm not sure if it's been plumbed in incorrectly or something, but every time I go in there, I end up having some kind of terrible epiphany. It's like a little cubicle for emptying the mind, rinsing away all the mental detritus and imagination grit. All that's left is a dark pearl of an idea. I should've learnt by now that if I want to stay happy, I should just avoid the shower at all costs. To hell with cleanliness, I need my sanity.

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Blog

Here I am, surrounded by code and tick-boxes and sketches. My desktop is a patchwork of tiny screenshots and hastily flung-together type and colour swatches. For the umpteenth time, I've gone and started building myself another blog.

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