Works in progress

Is it about the feature film, or the title design/er ?

Last night I presented, along with Suzy Tuxen, Stuart Geddes, Warren Taylor, and Dom Bartolo at Title Sequence as part of the 2011 State of Design Festival. Great titles transport the viewer from their world new world and story, the vision, the transitions, layout, type design, visual effects all serve to make this transition a smooth and compelling ride.

Thanks again to Ghita and Keith for all their attention, cheer and care.

During my day to day I often go to the cinema to escape the world of deadlines, doing graphic design and thinking about stuff, for a dark room, a big screen and overwhelming sound. The title sequence is one way to shake me up and transform one into new zones and stories for a few hours. The following are a collection of titles which transported me from my design world and into another much more compelling and new worlds.

– – –

I like compelling
I like evocative
I like awkward noisy

Dr Who (1963) Designer Bernard Lodge.

On the night, I incorrectly credited the design to William Hartnell, thanks to the audience member who, like a some sort of father figure – tisk, tisked me. Tisk tisk yourself sir, we are not all perfect and we are all allowed to make mistakes from time to time.

Bernard Lodge (born 1933) is a British designer best known for his work on the BBC television series Doctor Who. He designed the first four series logos, and designed and engineered the first five title sequences. These include the ‘howlaround’ versions and the ‘slit-scan’ time tunnel ones. His designs were used until 1981 when Sid Sutton was appointed as the new designer by producer John Nathan-Turner.

Apologies to Mr Lodge again, and to that nasty bloke that corrected me, I have to say I strive to be constructive when providing feedback, being a grumpy finger waving pedant is not one of my methods.

– – –

I like simple
I like insane detail
I like sympathetic type

See the clip here embedding disabled by request

The Conversation (1974) Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch

– – –

Fight club opening sequence from yamz66 on Vimeo.

I like a ride
I like restrained tech
I like seamlessness
I like surprises

Fight Club (1999) P Scott Makela

– – –

Napoleon Dynamite from dazedcracker on Vimeo.

I like funny
I like odd and good yuck
I like a sense of place
I like crazy type

Napoleon Dynamite (2004) Arron Ruell, Jared Hess

– – –

I love elegant type
I love old being new again
I love cast-like type
I love scale
I love great music/image/drama/type aligning

io Sono l’Amore (2009) Calligraphy by Luca Barcellona, titles by Marco Cendron

– – –

Visit Speakeasy Cinema here

Thank you

No comments

A drawing of Karel, to celebrate his visit

Karel Martens by Aashton


APRIL 6 – 21, 2011



TEL +61 3 9903 2882
Open Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 12 – 5pm
Entry is FREE

Curated by Warren Taylor

Karel Martens graduated from the Arnhem School of Art in 1961. Since then he has worked as a freelance graphic designer, specialising in typography. Alongside this, he has always made free (non-commissioned) graphic and three dimensional work.

Visit the Narrows for posters, publications, design love here

No comments

Spot the difference, past vs present, symbols vs signs

UK Coat of Arms – Lithographic rendering date unknown, of numerous renderings

Vector computer drawing

US Great Seal – Lithograph of 1885 design

Vector computer drawing

Australian Coat of Arms – granted by King George V, 19 September 1912

1912 detail

Vector computer drawing

Hearldry is a graphic expression from the past which has contributed to contemporary branding. A somewhat quaint remnant of hearldry is the coat of arms, which now seems to brand a country, province, along with flags and seals.

This post came about from the research process we undertook in making a coat of arms for a new brand. This is not our first coat of arms, and it is always a pleasure to dig around the internet finding work from the past. One is always struck by the eye, skill, detail, quirk and awkwardness loaded in hearldry.

Our latest journey was filled with thrills and disappointment, all centred around the Australian Coat of Arms. One has always admired Australia’s elaborate 1912 rendering of the arms – The scratchy fur and feathers, the Art Nouveau flourishes, and the tangle of wreathed wattle – a complex, confident, yet simple rendering with a distinct sense of place.

We dug a little more and discovered an unremarkable vector rendering (line based drawing), on wikipedia, representing Australia’s contemporary Coat of Arms. What we found was alarming, everything of this new form was troubling (with respect to it’s creators) – it’s a rendering in our option which simply lacks the creative skill and artfulness worthy to represent a prominent country. Thinking that we were generalising, we then compared this outcome with similar official  renderings developed by other countries. After encountering numerous well rendered contemporary coat of arms, we wondered why an innovative country like Australia, with its infinite wealth of creative people, has an administration lacking the foresight to have a contemporary visual in place, which at the very least reflects the values of the 1913 rendering in a contemporary context. We feel that this situation, yet again demonstrates the space in which Australia occupies, in terms of creativity and artistic expression – their are other more important things to worry about like sport, sport, trade.

At this point it is easy to launch into a mad creative person’s rant, so we have taken the liberty to act like any good colonial citizen – we sort reference from distant shores, collected samples, and allowed our readers the opportunity to compare and judge for yourselves.

If your are reading Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Crean – Minister for the Arts, we invite you to compare too. Australia at the very least deserves to have a contemporary coat of arms created by a highly skilled Australian designer / illustrator, worthy of all the innovation, skill and know how that often litters our political soundscape – a new contemporary Coat of Arms for Australia is an opportunity to make a significant cultural gesture for the rest of the world to see.

No comments

When what you write and what is written truly matters

With the recent onslaught of natural disasters in Australia, it has come to one’s attention how important communication is – in terms of mobilizing communities facing natural disaster. As one reads the following, one can’t help to be filled with fear, even at 3,000 kms away. The questions that fills one mind is – where does one start to pitch the urgency of message?, how do one propose levels of urgency in language?, are these messages pre-written and drawn upon as the situation permits or are they developed at the time? Incredible skill sets and perceptions are at play.

Our thoughts and prayers are with far North Queenslanders tonight at around EST 10pm.

Visit BOM here

An exert from BOM document follows…

– – –
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre
– – –
At 7:00 am EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category 5 was estimated to be 555 kilometres east of Cairns and 560 kilometres northeast of Townsville moving west southwest at 30 kilometres per hour.



– – –

No comments

An inspiration discussion with Andrew

What is my inspiration?

Lucy Glade-Wright a student studying visual communication at RMIT developed this questionnaire for an assignment ‘What is my inspiration?’ We felt that it maybe worthwhile for students looking for insights from a working studio. In 2005 the design communication was a more buoyant space, we will have Andrew to update these answers soon, for a 2010 twist.

Lucy Glade-Wright / What is the first thing that you do when you get given a new brief from a new client?

Andrew Ashton / There’s a lot of talking, visiting and finding out about the client. It’s quite a lengthy process. You really need to find out if you and the client can work together. Your heart needs to be in it. I will not do any work for companies that promote cigarettes, alcohol to young people or companies that cause environmental harm or exploit children.

Then there is a lot of talking to formulate a brief. We tend to deal with small/medium clients with whom we can work to formulate a brief that benefits them. Smaller clients tend to take more risks compared to larger clients who usually know exactly what they want and have very strict briefs. We like to find out what clients really need.

L G-W / How do you think of different ideas? Do you have any particular methods?

I used to go to the library a lot. But now with the internet, not so much. I search Google and I read books. I often use a written approach. For example with a carpet manufacturer, I wrote the word ‘carpet’ in the middle of a piece of paper and brainstormed ideas from that, anything relating to carpet. I also have a journal, which I take everywhere. I draw maps and a lot of written responses. I think that the better the designer, the more aware they are of everything around them.

L G-W / If you’re completely stumped for an idea, what do you do? Where do you find inspiration?

I usually don’t find myself stumped for an idea because I don’t get too hung up with things. The best ideas come with time. Some of my projects I leave until the last minute, I give the ideas as much time as possible to find a logical end. Whereas for other projects I give myself restrictions, for example for the AGDA ads I give myself three hours. There is a commercial force transforming designers into design making machines, because they have constant time constraints. The worst thing a client could do is come into the studio and want something done tomorrow, I have seen thousands of dollars wasted on breakneck projects that end up sitting in boxes somewhere unwanted. The funds are being undervalued, which means the work process is undermined, as is the potential impact of the finished products. There are exceptions of course, but what it ultimately means there is work out there not reaching its full potential. We tend to encourage our clients to slow down if possible.

L G-W / What other designers inspire you? And why?

AA / There are no particular designers that inspire me it is more so people like: David Bowie, Steven Hawking, Dylan Thomas, Brian Eno, Steven Riech, Robert Frank, Donald Friend. I appreciate things like the Roman alphabet, a kite, a bicycle; things that have the ability to change and transcend.

L G-W / I am also looking at the different processes that exist between artists and designers? Do you have any favourite artists that inspire you?

AA / Dennis Hopper, Edward Hopper, Joseph Beuys, Brendan Behan, Wolfgang Tillmans, Brian Eno, Yoko Ono, Marcel Duchamp, Jeff Koons. I find that designers tend to see themselves as bigger than they actually are.

We (designers) simply interpret. Designers curate, raid, steal, borrow from artists, normal people, celebrities, eccentrics, thinkers and craftspeople like type designers, illustrators and photographers. Type designers such as Adrian Frutiger, Firmin Didot, Matthew Carter, Claude Garamond and Paul Renner worked tirelessly and created something real; we, the designer without much thought pick their efforts for a project, we shape it in a contemporary context and send the client a bill. I mean look at Boost Juice. The genius is the original idea, the graphic design is just part of it.

When you are younger, everyone encourages you to be creative, to draw, to paint, to write stories. Then when you reach ‘big’ school (primary school), you are introduced to a world of commerce, politics, community and competition. As fewer paintings and drawings are being brought home from school, the sporting trophies and good school reports increase and the creative spirit is quietly put aside for ‘more important or worthwhile pursuits.’ Creativity from this point of personal development seems to be commonly associated with leisure, pleasure, excess and indulgence. However creativity remains active in all of us, even if untrained. It is a method people use to solve problems and make processes work better.

L G-W / When you approach a concept, how do you go about finding form?

AA / The writing process and the written word usually evoke form for me. I tend to approach it from an art sense. I like to challenge people’s perceptions that might go on to shape the form. For example: A job we are doing for Saxton was about beauty. There are several types of beauty. You have your ‘vogue’ beauty, which tends to be about trends and styles. Then you have the beauty that transcends these trends and styles, an essential beauty, a perception of an object. We posed this question of ‘what is beauty?’ in the piece and the great thing about it, is that it is open-ended and people need to fill in the gaps. They can interpret it whatever way they like. We like to get people to imagine it, not to tell them the idea. People don’t like graphic design, they like the idea. Design is just a verb. The richness is in the process.

L G-W / You’ve said before that Pip and Co. designers enjoy ‘stumbling across found things and recasting them into their work.’ Is it refreshing for you to almost accidentally stumble across something? Do you often photograph/collect random images/things?

AA / Nothing is accidental. Without sounding too hippy ‘If you stumble across it, you were meant to find it.’

L G-W / What do you enjoy the most about the creative process?

AA / The play. Working on something different everyday. One day you could be learning about furniture and the next you could be doing a brand for a coffee shop. It’s a great occupation.

L G-W / What do you enjoy the least about the creative process?

AA / Boredom.

L G-W / What is the biggest block to your creativity?

AA / Me, having preconceptions, my ego, being like a designer.

L G-W / Do you ever see the finished product in your head as soon as you are given the brief? If so, what do you do? Do you run with it? Or try and think of something else?

AA / If I have an idea I usually see where I could take it. I tend to feel that ‘genius is in limitations.’ The best design is often when someone can work within restrictions and not automatically need to change something, genius is those who work with what they have got and come up with a simple answer. Like saying, ‘We don’t need to change the logo, it may need to be moved over there or the colour scheme refined.’

L G-W / Do you get better at resolving briefs/solving problems with experience?

AA / Yes, definitely. You go from being really talented at school, into uni, where you find out there are a lot of other talented people, there you have to learn and demonstrate the process and become familiar with all the tools. Then when you get a job you have to adapt again and continue to learn, but you mature more with each job and it soon becomes more about expression and maybe wanting to develop personal ideas and themes.

L G-W / Do you think that graphic design is always about problem solving? If there is no problem to be solved, does it make the design less worthy?

AA / Design can’t exist without the problem. Otherwise it’s art, or decoration. In the end, the design outcome has to perform as it was designed too. If people don’t understand the message then it is highly likely that it will fail to meet its goals. I feel that the main difference between successful Graphic Art and Communication Design is that one is designed to achieve an aesthetic problem and the other designed to solve a communication problem.

L G-W / Is there a difference between the work that you do for yourself and the work that you do for a client? What is the relationship?

AA / I love photography and writing. I don’t know if people are as interested in graphic design as graphic designers are, as the intention for the design is mostly commercial. People appear to be more receptive to ideas that seem not to have any obvious commercial and marketing intentions. The personal projects on my website projects have no other motive, than the pleasure I receive from discovering the project and somehow making sense of it. The original Pip and Co. website wasn’t about Graphic Design specifically and yet thousands of people logged on and shuffled through the pages, even though the content hadn’t been updated for two or so years.

L G-W / Should design be personal? Do you think that designers should always express their personalities in their work?

AA / There is an enormous amount of graphic design in our lives, and I believe that standout design is what it is because of the people behind it. Those standout designers and studios have a distinctive style; clients approach companies because of that style.

L G-W / Have you ever done a job that you did not agree with? Or have not been proud of?

AA / I have done a lot of work that I’m not particularly proud of, work that I wouldn’t want to show anyone or put in my folio. I have done projects for products that I don’t believe in, or sometimes one just gets to the end of the project and you don’t like what has been done.

L G-W / What is your biggest fear in design?

AA/ Not having clients. It sounds obvious but it is true, If you don’t have people out there that believe in what you do and are prepared to give you work, you’re… And if you’re a designer and you don’t have clients prepared to work with you, it probably means you need to reassess your situation.

L G-W / Do you have any particular weaknesses in graphic design, something you wish you were better at?

AA / I suppose administration is not a strength. I run a sound business, but I know that I could do it better. I am always assessing administration issues. I could also manage my time better. I also wish I cared more about finicky design detailing. Being a designer that likes to keep effects to a minimum means that things like foils, varnishes and bronze rivets seem to be left out again. It’s not that I’m lazy. The dilemma for me is ‘do you waste a ton of paper for French folds, or few thousand rivets’ when the project communicates effectively without it. This process was hammered into me as a kid on the farm, farm people think about waste and excess with anything.

L G-W / How would you describe the work that you/ Studio Pip and Co. create?

AA / ‘Graphic designers to the stars, the down trodden, the well healed and far flung.’ It’s for everyone. We want to attract people that really want to communicate with people.

L G-W / Is there a formula to success for creating ‘good’ design?

AA / Listen. Read. Work

L G-W / What is your work philosophy?

AA / Listen to all ideas and options. Reading anything and everything, as much as you can, is paramount. Be prepared to work on anything and everything till you are over it and that was a month ago. As a young boy my grandfather left a dump truck, an endless supply of gloves, my brothers and I in a paddock on his farm covered in surface rocks. We were left for a week to fill up the truck with rocks time and time again. It was agony at all levels, and yet priceless.

L G-W / What would be your ultimate dream project?

AA / If I had a good voice or had vision … I’d love to do something like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Brian Eno pulled off. I admire their ability to tap into broader expressions outside making music; like characterisation, theatre, film making, art and writing. I would love to work on something at that level.

L G-W / If you were not a designer, what would you be doing?

AA / I am fixated on the idea that design is something more than graphic design. I would like to be working on projects that have the ability to help and impact upon people in positive ways. Graphic Design employs people, however its impact in everyday life is more ambient. To me a great logo doesn’t seem to be as fulfilling as building a bridge, or entertaining people or making an everyday process more efficient. In some small way I would like to help everyday people tap into creative problem solving techniques, as one of the approaches used in tackling everyday problems.

© 2005 Andrew Ashton, Studio Pip and Co. and Lucy Glade-Wright.

No comments