"I was like an excitable Charlie Bucket, inheriting a whole chocolate factory full of opportunity and freedom. But that freedom became very daunting very quickly. You don't realise it until you're left to your own devices, but metaphorical chocolate factories are vast, lonely deathtraps full of sticky mistakes and malevolent homunculi. As much as I'd prepared for it, the culture shock of moving from in-house to out-house was unavoidable and paralysing."
As well as my regular column, in May 2011, I was invited to take over Creative Review's tweets for a day. This involved serving their hundreds of thousands of followers to the finest cuts of the creative web. And recommending mail-order scotch eggs. Read the entire day's adventure here.
"Time. Effort. Tangibility. There is a massive infrastructure in place just waiting for the right designers to come along and develop innovative new products and services that embrace these qualities that are so often overlooked. The snail is your friend. Start small and remind yourself of the joy that can be had. Go and find a postcard and write something – anything – to somebody. Embrace the ominous joys of the post office and send something into the future. Trust me, it's fun."
"Mad Men has left our screens for another year – for the rest of 2012 you’ll have to get your tailoring, interior design and receding hairline porn elsewhere. As for the actual advertising, fear not: as a nice change from squinting to make out what artwork Peggy has pinned to her wall, you can just open up Taschen’s rather wonderful new book."
"I was regurgitating fascinating bits of camouflage-related trivia at anyone who would listen, like some kind of third-rate Stephen Fry. Did you know that in 1918, Walt Disney drove an ambulance for the Red Cross, covered not with a standard camouflage design but with early Disney cartoons? Or that snipers in WWII would hide inside fake horse carcasses? How about the fact that there is a specific technique for painting sweet potatoes to render them virtually invisible?"
"The old FR Stubbs hardware store (1915–2001) peeks out from behind a modern apartment complex, saved from erasure but obscured from the public eye. Like an architectural Memento, the entire building is tattooed with such signs, marking its different uses through the years."
"For years, an enormous Gladiator banner has dominated the foyer. Perhaps this looming effigy of esteemed poet and squinter Russell Crowe remains there as celebration of York's rich Roman heritage, or in memory of that one time he came to York and ate a pasty (it made the news and everything), but it's more likely that nobody has actually figured out how to get it down."
In 2011 I wrote a weekly email newsletter for BBC Comedy, sharing all the latest programme news and comedy links. This involved, among other things: developing a bit of a professional man-crush on Nigel Havers; pushing hashtag punnery to the very limit of acceptability; proving that the most stylish man of the 20th century was Ronnie Corbett, circa 1979; and inventing the word Toksvigian.
"Watching video online in 2001 was hard work, but not today. It can be played and found and shared through a multitude of channels and devices, and the technology around it increasingly undermines the traditional advertising structure. Putting a billboard next to content is no good, it gets skipped, overlooked, muted. The best solution for brands: be the content."
"Manhattan is a neat, self-contained grid, covered in towers of varying heights. It’s basically a giant three-dimensional bar graph. Living amongst this spatial and geometric logic has influenced the way you see the world. Does that sound about right? Or were you just bitten by a radioactive statistician when you were a boy?"
"Tellingly, his most accomplished performance is probably as Gigolo Joe in A.I., a robot created to be nothing more than suave and beautiful. His movements are balletic yet mechanical, his mannerisms mere functions of his programming, his good looks little more than a paint-job."
"Pens. So many pens. More than you will ever use. Biros, fountain pens, felt tips pens, highlighters. And, of course, rollerballs – the only item of stationery to be made into a film starring James Caan on roller skates. FACT."