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19 January 2018
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Thursday, 10th March 2011
Designers who draw.
How important is it, with so much technology at our disposal that designers should be able to draw?
When I started out on my journey in art and design, you had to be able to draw. All designers could draw. There were no Apple Macs or Adobe software programs to help out. And being part of a small studio, there was no Art Department. Designers were expected to come up with great ideas, visualise them, art direct photographers, mark up type, etc., etc., etc.

But drawing wasn't just a mechanical process. It was a process where ideas were explored, designs developed. Having to hand draw and trace type gave me an extensive knowledge of letterforms and typefaces. Crafting the way something was going to look was a great discipline. 

Technology is a great tool but I believe a lot of the skills that are so important in creating great work are rapidly disappearing. Online Photo Libraries provide ready-made images – photographs and illustrations. Many young designers have become technicians, assembling components from various online resources and making an idea or concept 'fit' whatever they can find or afford.

'Strategy' has become the be all and end all. If the strategy ticks all the boxes, who cares what it looks like.

I recently posted a comment on a Linkedin Group – Creative Design Pros

Call me old-fashioned but I think it's a shame so many designers can't draw anymore. Ideas and problem solving are massively important but the best designers are those that have all the skills.

The response I got back was very enlightening. Those who don't or can't draw were very vociferous and defensive. On the other side of the fence were those that used to draw a lot but had become a bit lazy, perhaps because technology had made things too easy.

I used to draw all the time. I was a good drawer, my first degree was in illustration, but I too have become lazy. My drawings now are very rough scribbles and not things of beauty! Even writing by hand is difficult. I'm thinking so fast my hand can't keep up, and whatever I write is illegible.

After my post on Linkedin I received many responses from designers who were keen to start drawing again, to dig out their Caran d'Ache crayons and get back to basics. 

In response I've now started a Group – Designers Who Draw.  It may be the start of a drawing revolution.

One of my inspirations as a young designer was Milton Glaser – a great designer and illustrator, and in August this year I'm going to study with him on his summer workshop at the School of Communication Arts in New York. I'd better take plenty of pads and pencils. Designers who have been on the course say it's a life-changing experience. 

I can't wait.

Wednesday, 09th March 2011
I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way
Alan Fletcher was a hero and sadly a mentor I never had
I first met Alan Fletcher at the offices of Pentagram, when I was a student at the Royal College of Art. 

Their studio was all white walls and red brick, with tasteful design by the partners adorning the walls. I say I met Alan Fletcher but I was one of a group, and at the time I knew of Pentagram as a design business but not much about Alan Fletcher as an individual. 

Over the years I learned more, and grew to really admire his work. He had great ideas and wit but he was also a real craftsman. I remember at a D&AD lecture where Fletcher, Forbes & Gill (the inspiration for Pentagram) were interviewed. Illustrating the different qualities of the partners, Bob Gill said "The difference between us was this – Alan would spend 3 days marking up a piece of type and half an hour pasting it up. I'd spend half an hour marking it up and then have to spend 3 days making it fit!" 

I've few regrets in my life, but one is that I wish I'd worked for a designer, the calibre of Alan Fletcher. I set up my own studio within five years of leaving the RCA and I've been very much self-taught. 

I often thought about approaching Alan to ask him to be my mentor. But I never dared, he was so God-like to me. One lunchtime in the cafe at the Design Museum I was having a coffee with my wife. At the next table was Alan Fletcher and a younger woman. I remember he was wearing a grey collarless shirt with pockets. I think he probably designed it himself. I wanted to go and say hello, and tell him how much I admired his work, and how he'd influenced me, but I didn't. After he'd left I told my wife who it was – who had been sitting next to us. She immediately gave me an earful for not speaking to him. 

Shortly after Alan died of cancer. 

He died wearing a hand-lettered shirt with a phrase from one of the many posters he produced: ‘I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.’

I own a copy of that poster and it hangs proudly next to my books on design. I often look at it and think, "One day I'll know"

I think I'm getting there.

Yesterday I'd heard I'd been accepted on a week-long course in New York with Milton Glaser, another of my design heroes. 

I'm on my way.

Friday, 04th March 2011
greener image
A simple identity that says it without words
Flowerphotos was started by Carol Sharp, a successful, high profile photographer, whose images have appeared on Royal Mail stamps, Chelsea Flower Show posters, ranges of toiletries, countless magazine covers and greeting cards. 

Carol approached me about an idea she had, for creating Greener Image, a charity that would take a percentage of the fee for every image that was used from Flowerphotos, to help save the Brazilian rainforest. She needed a logostyle.

Carol and I are long-time friends but we couldn't agree on this. I loved the simplicity of my idea but she thought it was too corporate and it was never used. Maybe I'll recycle it one day.

PS. We're still friends!

Friday, 04th March 2011
Flamenco Pro Bono
An annual event that raises thousands of Euros for charity.
Every year the Montenegral Association for the Treatment of Addictions in southern Spain hold a Charity Gala Ball. Every year my friend Kim Soudavar gently twists my arm to create a poster, flyers, invitations etc.

The most successful was the Flamenco themed ball, that's now held every year. The initials of Lucía Álvarez, the very gifted and acclaimed Flamenco dancer features in the title as well as starring at the event.