Archives for October 2015

October 30, 2015 - 2 comments

Small is the new big

Small is the new big
Am I right ladies?  OK...hear me out.
The world of marketing / advertising / branding is heading is one direction; think smaller.

Small Interactions
> A personal tweet from a big brand can turn a person into an advocate overnight.
Small Media
> A six second video can have the impact of a thousand 6 minute videos.
Small Experiences
> Think flash mobs, gratis Coke machines, choirs singing in airports, you’ve seen the stuff.

Small Time Mentality
There’s something incredibly exciting about being small. It means you can react quickly to change and explore avenues that bigger brands would have to jump through dozens of hoops, just to get close to. It also means that customers can connect with their retailers on a much more personal level.
I know the name of the guy in the corner shop I visit once a month, but nobody in the Morrisons I visit every week. As consumers we like to give our money to the little man, the local who’s putting his daughter through Uni, we love to see an underdog succeed.
And when companies like Starbucks are dodging taxes like Neo dodges bullets, it’s not hard to wonder why. I read in Design Week last week that they were trialling their first non-Starbucks branded store. They’re calling it ’The Reserve’. They use terms like ‘undesigning’ the interior by using raw metals and electrical conduit on show. Sound familiar? Yep, we see it in independents across the country. They’ve seen the rise of the quirky little cafes & they want a piece of the pie.

Small Coffee Shops
Let’s stick with coffee shops for a minute as an example. Why does our Fera walk an extra 10 minutes, past 5 national coffee shops, to get to Tamper in Sheffield centre?
Why does she meet with her friends at The Depot in Kelham Island and not Caffe Nero?
Is the coffee any better? Probably not.
Is it any cheaper? Nope.
Fera craves a smaller experience that the big boys just can’t give her. She wants to feel part of an intimate club. The cool coffee shop club.

But just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you can’t profit from a little small-time mentality. 

> BrewDog rather than Carling
Look at these chaps, the owners I guess. They look scruffy & ‘hands-on’. They look like people I might know, not crazy-rich business owners. I like that.


> Urban Outfitters, not Next
Here’s a global company, who position themselves like independents. A little rough around the edges. They make their audience feel like they’re discovering a great piece in a little vintage shop, but they aren’t, they turned over $3.1 billion last year. Clever.


These are big brands that are proactively playing on company small traits. Not trying to appeal to everyone. Pushing their founders to the forefront. Reacting quickly to how consumers change. Making you want to be part of the gang. Look at Google, in the worlds top 3 brands, they’ve still got an incredible ‘start-up’ mentality, which is why they’re still creating amazing products, and have grown to be almost competitor-less.

My advice?
If you’re an established business, don’t forget the excitement of when you started, the unknown, the exploration, the hard times, they all keep you fresh. If you’re a young business, don’t slip into thinking you’ve got to look ‘big time’ to get the big work. Times are changing. Look at us, we’ve just done work for Sainsbury’s latest campaign. Crazy.



Having shown Fera this blog, she argued that actually, she wasn’t a ‘cool coffee snob’, but the experience of being in a more individual place, with people who appreciate your custom and ask you how your day’s been, is a much more rewarding brand experience.

She also argued that the coffee DOES taste better from Tamper compared to Costa. Which got me thinking. Is the coffee better when it’s taken out of context, in a blind taste test? Or, does the brand that Tamper has built actually outweigh the taste of the coffee?

So we put it to the test. 2 Lattes – 1 from Costa, 1 from Tamper. Would Fera’s palette still think the same without all the ‘branding'?


I went out to buy these two coffees, and was overwhelmed by the difference in experience I had. First I went to Tamper, I was greeted by a smiling tattooed chap, who talked to me whilst I was waiting for my coffee. Really nice chap. I wandered around and took in the atmosphere, read some of the quirky little bits on the walls, paid my £2.50 & off I popped. Now bar the similar price point, the Costa experience could not have been more different. I was shocked, it was like they wanted to prove my point. The server was rude, her responses were cold and sharp and 3 kids ran about my feet like I was in a Wacky Warehouse. I left the overly maroon building slightly disappointed – I wanted this to be a fairer fight. I wanted Costa to challenge all the points that I’d made in the blog above. But they didn’t, they just rolled over and served me an angry coffee.

If you ever get chance to do a like-for-like brand test I’d recommend it, It certainly opened my eyes.

Public apology:
We decanted the drinks into plain mugs & Fera set to work sniffing and sipping the coffees. Annoyingly she nailed it straight away. The Tamper coffee was significantly better than the warm milk sold by Costa. Damn, she was right.

October 21, 2015 - No Comments!

Illustrate a new song

The second in our mini series of illustrated vinyl covers is all about new music. If you missed the first, check it out here.

Dave: Loyle-Carne — Ain't Nothing Changed


I heard this track a couple of nights ago on Radio 1 from South London mc Loyle-Carner. His laid back style appealed to me.

I heard once that a snake eating itself represents an infinite cycle, the song’s about how we’re constantly chasing money, so I drew a snake in the form of a £ symbol, on black card, with a gold marker.

Keep an eye out for him, his recent EP is quality.



Luke: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes — Juggernaut


My song is a new release by former Gallows singer Frank Carter. Generally I’m a pretty soft guy, but I just have a real penchant for loud aggressive music such as this 'The Bronx and Propagandhi'. I think it’s just the passion that comes across in the music that I love. Anyway, for my illustration this week I wanted to do something that built on last week's. I firstly drew my ideas out including the type and then traced over it in Illustrator. I used to use LiveTrace but it felt like a cheats way out, so with this one I spent the time going around my drawing. This allowed me to reposition all of the elements and create a more ‘graphic’ layout.

I went with a motif for a bike gang we have been talking about, but rather than promoting fighting and aggression I decided to promote a bit of peace and love but still retain that gang feel. Maybe I just watched The Warriors too much as a kid.



Oliver: Jamie Jones — Siberian Express

16thfloor siberian_express

I'm a big fan of Jamie Jones, so I chose his latest EP Siberian Express.

I started out doing an illustration for the track Siberian Express - a pencil drawing of a Siberian Husky, but then moved away from that idea and onto another track called The 16th Floor. As with a lot of tech music, it's heavily influenced by space, so I had this image in my head of a lift opening to another galaxy. The space scene is created with grated chalk and water on black paper. I then went back to the husky drawing - it was lacking an edge, so I edited to create the above glitch-style to visualise the feel of the music.

October 14, 2015 - No Comments!

Present! Exhibition

Present! was the culmination of nearly a year's worth of work with my fiancé El. We started the whole idea of wanting to help street kids in India after a trip there in 2014. We came up with the idea of doing a week long exhibition, bringing together designers from across the world, with all of the proceeds going to an orphanage.  We had a great time doing it with the help of a few old pals from the year below us at Leeds College of Art who did the branding. It was fun, stressful and well worth doing.

The whole opening weekend felt really positive and this phrase 'design for good' kept getting thrown around, which left a really positive note. Doing this exhibition really made me think about design as a whole and it's a really self-serving industry all about doing that kick ass brief, being awesome and being the best. Not often enough does design get done just for good, just to help other people.

Anyway, now it's all over we have all the prints up for sale in our shop including the Side by Side print 'Don't Lose Touch' featuring our WIP typeface 'No Dice'. There's also my own personal print, featuring my hero Gandhi and one of his most meaningful quotes that really sums up why El and I did the exhibition. All of the prints are available as postcards as well; they're printed on Fedrigoni paper by Pressision in Leeds - amazing, top people who really helped us.

Below are a selection of images from the launch night. Thanks to everyone who could make it.


The window graphics on the outside of the gallery.


This was the first thing people saw as they walked in, explaining what the exhibition was all about.


Some visual evidence that people actually came and stood and chatted and drank.


Our Dave can't switch off the creativity, we asked him to stop drawing on the walls, but he just loves a Posca.


My friend Joe checking out my print. I promise this wasn't staged he just was looking.


My beautiful fiancé El on the left with Nicole, a great photographer.


A great little wooden sign advertising the talks on Sunday made with love by Abbas, Sam and Seb of the newly formed Leeds studio Alphabet, who helped us do all the ace graphics for the show.


We made a video that was on loop at the show of old Bollywood films.


There she is, the Side by Side print in all of its glory.


A shot of Malika Favre who contributed a print, as well as to the kickstarter and took part in a Q&A on the Sunday which was great.


I will end on a slide from Craig Oldham's talk that really hit home with me.

October 7, 2015 - No Comments!

Illustrate a lyric that means something to you

We started with Side vs Side, then came Friday Beers (drink responsibly, kids) and most recently, 100 glyphs.

Why? We’re not shy of a challenge or two. It’s a way to push ourselves and get better.

A few weeks ago we started thinking about our next project and we came up with 12 inches of pleasure (saucy). We love music, it’s always on in the studio and we figured it would be good to get our teeth stuck into an illustrative project.

Over the next six weeks we’ll be showing you a visual response to a piece of music we’ve each chosen.

First up: lyrics that mean something to us...


Oliver - "Take a sad song and make it better"


I've gone for The Beatles — Hey Jude. It's an odd one for me as I'm not a massive fan of The Beatles, but the song, and in particular the second line gives me goosebumps. I'm a massive Sheffield Wednesday fan, and so I've heard this song at it's best, like here. Hey Jude was also one of my Nan's favourite songs, and it was played at her funeral, so I've also heard it at a very different time. Wednesday played at Hillsborough not long after my Nan died, and the lyrics "take a sad song and make it better" suddenly rang very true. For me, the epitome of an emotional rollercoaster.

This piece started off as a black and white ink drawing, which was then scanned, vectorised and coloured in Illustrator.



Dave - "And in the end, the love you take,
Is equal to the love you make"


From the The Beatles — The End, and in my eyes, this is the greatest lyric ever written (great lyric, pretty rubbish song). If we all followed suit the world would be a much nicer place.

My Illustration is quite a literal representation of the lyric. The skeletal hands show eternal love, the heart spilt in two shows the equal love take/make balance. The circles surrounding the hands show the orbiting of our nine planets. Solar love yeah.

Hand drawn illustration, vectorised, printed, redrawn onto lino, cut & printed with block printing inks. Limited edition of 2 prints.



Luke - "Look at me struggling to do everything right"


I chose this lyric from Bruce Spingsteen’s song ‘Brilliant Disguise’ because often in my life I have good intentions but along the line I always get in my own way and things never seem to turn out how I initially wanted them to. That’s what it means to me. And yes that's me there in the hotdog suit.

For this project I really wanted to try out drawing, which I am weak at anyway and more specifically drawing characters/people/faces. I did a couple of drafts and couldn’t get my technique down, after numerous attempts I got something that I was happy with. I took my pencil sketch and traced over it again tweaking bits I didn’t like and then painted over my sketch with some black gouache on some tracing paper. I then layered up the red colour behind it again in black gouache. I took everything into photoshop via the trusty scanner and just dropped a colour layer over the black to make it red. Other than that I wanted to leave in all the mistakes and things I wasn’t happy with to keep it honest.