Pantone Markers

Wow. These look way cooler than they used to.

I’m really tempted to buy a full set so I can visualise ad concepts and design ideas just for the sheer hell of it. I don’t have the design requirement these days now I’m a pencil pushing admin nugget.

Not many visualisers still use the fabled markers these days, but some still do, and have a whale of a time inhaling the solvent fumes and getting ink all over their hands. Happy days.

 

 

This week

I thought I’d look back on what’s been a pretty good week. It’s not had the literal and metaphorical fireworks of other weeks I’ve had, but it’s been interesting, ordinary, extraordinary, tiring and dull in fits and starts. I guess much like most people, I take the rough with the smooth and this week’s been moderately smooth.

London

You’ll notice that in my job I do a lot of travelling to London and other glamorous destinations like Coventry and Northampton. It’s not New York I know.

Sure, travelling is tiring but in general I’m well catered for and unless the train’s cancelled of the M1 is closed for the day, it’s usually pretty easy. I can think of harder things to do and travelling is just getting yourself on a mode of transport in my mind. My theory is that because I don’t travel hundreds of miles every day, I’ve never really lost the thrill of it. In truth if I spent too much time at my desk, my feet get a little itchy. Like everything, variety is the spice of life.

Wine tasting

As far too regular customers of Majestic Wine, we were invited to their winter wine tasting this week.

We went earlier this year and it was quite pleasant so we accurately surmised this would be a good way to spend a couple of hours. As usual in these things, the wines were hit and miss in terms of what we liked, but generally it was interesting and stimulating to try wines we wouldn’t normally give house room.

What really tickled our tastebuds was the French aperitif Lillet, the small batch vodka Bison and the deeply flavoured rum, Kraken. As a lover of mythology, I didn’t need the Kraken legend explaining (giant sea monster/octopus) and after a couple of snifters, we decided it was Christmas in a glass.

Friday Picnic

I’d been asked by the rather lovely folk at Culture Vultures to attend the inaugural Friday Picnic event at Munro House in Leeds. Billed as ‘A Packed Lunch’ it was essentially a very cool combination of networking, lunching, consulting, sharing and chilling.

I attend a lot of typical business events and this definitely wasn’t one of them – and that’s good. As I’d come to expect from CV, it was impeccably put together (apart from me having to nail clipboards to the wall upon arrival 😉 –  with great attention to detail.

There’s some very good ideas emanating from Duke Studios (where the event was hosted) – especially #motherfrickinlaser – the coolest laser cutting machine in town. I predict a great future for this event: I can see it growing and growing. It’s a valuable addition to the business and cultural scene in the city.

Fulneck School Children in Need Challenge

After a busy week, our usual routine is to draw the curtains, open a bottle of something cheeky and lounge around in front of the telly. This week being Children in Need saw us supporting Fulneck School (with the lovely wife and I being member of staff, parents and governor all rolled into one package).

The girl was part of the Fulneck ‘Apprentice’ challenge team comporting against other schools in Pudsey to see how much Christmas mercy they can flog in one evening to the unsuspecting folk of Pudsey. It was really impressive to see all the teams selling like mad with techniques ranging from the subtle soft sell to shouting down a bull town to get noticed. It was all for charidee of course and although Fulneck were the well-deserved victors, it was a top effort. We tramped home thankfully for a warming glass to end a tiring but satisfying week.

Just the way I’m feeling

Helpful Packaging

Unusually witty and playful medicine packaging by Smith and Milton for Walgreen in the US. It made me smile and is a perfect example that the everyday need not be mundane.

Plectrum by Ben Sherman

I was recently invited to the opening of a smart new store in Leeds.

And it’s a brand that I wouldn’t have associated with cachet if I’m completely honest. Ben Sherman for me is forever associated with mod culture and mainstream uncoolness (and I do accept my age has something to do with this).

But fashion is fickle and as quickly fads take hold, then labels of the moment fade and I guess it goes with the territory. So the brands that seize the moment are the most successful and enduring brands are fleet of foot, continually reinventing.

I’d say that Ben Sherman is in the latter category. Aligning itself with the niche, boutique Hip Store in Leeds to launch it’s concept ‘Plectrum’ – the name taken from their logo device –  it’s small but beautifully formed store has two collections on two floors for men. The ground floor has the high end but well priced Plectrum collection and the first floor has their  Paul Smith Jeans equivalent (I’m sure they’ll hate me for that). This brand is being sold elsewhere in high-end department store, but this is the first stand-alone store outside London.

This new collection is very cool and of the moment – tweeds, knitwear, coloured twill, earthy colours, suede boots and skinny ties. Well priced too and I think it will do well in the highly competitive Leeds fashion market.

The event itself was very well put together with beers and cocktails in the arcade and old fashioned shaves in the store (no, I have no idea why, either). There were plenty of male beards on show too, illustrating clearly how prevalent the hirsute fashion has become. I cursed my reluctant stubble and admired the extravagant whiskers on show.

I think Plectrum by Ben Sherman is a lovely little shop, well curated with a considered collection. But it faces stiff competition across the board from the high end brands to the (very good) high street stores. What it does have on it side is that Leeds does like independent stores and they certainly add to the retail story of the city. I do hope that the brand is here for the long haul, because I think we need brands like this. What we also know in this city that stores like these do take time to bed in and get the offering right, but the early signs are good, patience is the watchword.

In the meantime, here’s another beard.

 

 

Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns

You may have seen the TV version of this show – Paul Merton fronts an hour or so of classic silent comedy with witty, insightful comments explaining how relevant silent movies are to today’s comedy. This was the live version as part of the Leeds International Film Festival, held in the rather grand and faintly surreal surroundings of Leeds Town Hall where a large screen had been erected for the festival duration.

The evening consisted of two halves – the first was a handful of short films, which acted as a kind of warm up for the second-half that was a feature length silent movie.

The movies were accompanied by live music ranging from the piano to a full band. This live music absolutely made the movies come alive and as we were increasingly engrossed in the stories, the music became secondary – which is how it should be. The piano playing by the inimitable Neil Brand was sublime.

It struck me how the short and punchy nature of the early silent comedies fits with our modern sensibilities – our attention spans (or at least mine) is so short these days that anything longer than an hour is a trial.

Merton took us through a series of shorts by silver screen legends Snub Pollard, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. The Chaplin short was elegantly hilarious and at almost one hundred years old, it was simply astonishing – it was fresh and engaging. The highlight for me had to be one of the best Laurel and Hardy films ever made – ‘Big Business’ – where the hapless duo try selling Christmas Trees in sunny LA. They meet their match when a truculent homeowner played by the rather fabulous James Finlayson starts a feud that results in his house getting trashed and their car blown up by dynamite (seriously).

After the interval we were treated to the Harold Lloyd classic ‘Safety Last’. It’s the famous one where he climbs the building and ends up hanging off the clock. As this was a longer movie, we were treated to a full live band that enhanced the experience hugely. The pace of this film was slower and but it built to its climax effortlessly. The gags were not just slapstick but visual and cultural – it was far subtler than I’d expected for 1923. Lloyd famously did all his own stunts (depending on what you read) and the mix of thrills and comedy is beautifully delivered at the climax of his climb. There was lots of nervous laughter in the audience – testament to how Lloyd was a real comic master.

A pretty much full Town Hall (a sight in itself for an evening of silent movies almost a century old) showed its appreciation with rapturous applause. I was entranced and you could see how in depression-era USA, these movies were sheer escapism from the harsh realities of the world, something we could do with more of right now.

As we left we felt privileged to have seen these wonderful classics on a big screen, with live musical accompaniment, in a room full of appreciative people. I’ll be digging out my Laurel and Hardy box set this weekend – what’s it to be…Way Out West, The Music Box or A Chump at Oxford?

London 2012 Olympics Posters

There’s been a bit of kerfuffle around the new London 2012 Olympics posters in design circles.

They are one of those designer ‘things’ that gets everyone who has an opinion to voice it. Loudly. I suspect they are, in the real world, altogether less controversial than we design types make out.

London 20102 has commissioned a whole bunch of visual artists to convey Olympic themes with varying degrees of success in my humble opinion (and what do I know). They do look quite cool and with the smattering of a few well known artists like Tracey Emin I think they’re interesting enough. I do wonder sometimes whether in our industry we get a bit agitated and talk about missed opportunities when really things like these are more about the cumulative effect and attitude around an event.

These ‘touchpoints’ often tell a little story in themselves and are quite easy to pick off, but if the wider vision ties the activity together, I think it usually comes off.

Here’s a few that caught my eye, let me know what you think.