Wednesday 19 Jul, 2017

Part history book and part visitor guide, a work for the Porto City Council launched this month. Can be in the portfolio here.

Tuesday 29 Nov, 2016

Part of the commission related to the Casa da Memória, Guimarães, in addition to the design of the permanent exhibition, included the creation of a graphic identity. I invited good friends Non Verbal Club (João Martino, Miguel Almeida, Joana Sobral, Susana Almeida) to join me in this task. The work can be seen in the Portfolio under Identity & Promotion.


Sunday 17 Jan, 2016

In a freezing but still beautiful Paris the third edition of the Fête du Graphisme was inaugurated on Thursday (January 14th), an International graphic design festival celebrating work from around the world. The brainchild of friend and colleague Michel Bouvet, French poster designer extraordinaire (a Personal Views lecture series speaker at ESAD in 2013), whose energy and passion has managed to create a notable graphic design event in the French capital.

Michel kindly invited me to participate once again – last year in the 'We Love Books' exhibition and to run a 4-day workshop – this time as one of 39 international designers asked to design a poster for the streets of Paris under the title 'Celebrate the City'. The brief was short – a design to celebrate, not specifically Paris, but any city. Simple is good but not necessarily the same as easy. The city is many things. Above all perhaps, it is from its shared collective nature that it derives its power, a home and place of work for so many where the diversity of its inhabitants, individual and unique, combine to create a collective dynamic – individual trajectories that form a tapestry, sometimes chaotic, sometimes uniform but always with a marked identity. There are as many ways to define the city as there are stories to tell about it, and each invited designer recreated their own reading. For me it was a story about the sum and its parts, moving independently but with a collective dynamic.

The arrow is a simple graphic sign and I used it in an attempt to symbolize movement and direction in every sense of the term, not simply physical. It is of course also associated with urban signage. The arrows are combined together so as to create a collective presence, and like the city itself, can be viewed from close and from far, as a pattern or as unique components. Within the design, in addition to the title, I included a text, suitably situationist in reference – "Nous ne sommes pas simplement observateurs du spectacle, nous en faisons nous-même partie" (We are not simply observers of the spectacle, we are ourselves part of it). The electricity of the city – its human energy – led me to limit the colour palette, as I imagined the contrast of the black and yellow with the poster backlit at night.

Some posters have a sort of independence, unhindered by physical context, but in this particular work it had seemed to me beforehand that its location would define its existence. Consequently, it was only complete for me as a work on seeing it in the locations for which it was designed, and particularly in my mind, at night.

The 39 posters were placed in locations all over Paris – approximately 10 different sites for each one. Later this month they will all come together in one display on the Champs-Élysées. They will be available to see on the Fête du Graphisme site in the near future. Many thanks to Michel, co-organiser Blanche Alméras and the Fête du Graphisme team for their hard work.


Tuesday 18 Aug, 2015

Images of the recently opened exhibition about the remarkable life and works of Emílio Biel can now be viewed in the portfolio section under 'exhibitions' 

Monday 09 Feb, 2015

Four days, thirty one students, and a design school in the centre of Paris. This was the basis of the workshop I was invited to run at ESAG Penninghen in Saint Germain as part of the Fête du Graphisme 2015. It was one of ten workshops being run simultaneously in ten different schools in Paris by ten invited international designers. It was my second visit to ESAG Penninghen – I was there in 2011 as a jury member for the student diploma assessments, and it was nice to return.

While four days is longer than normal to run a workshop so thirty one students is also more than normal. The theme I chose for the workshop was inspired by my good friend George Hardie and one of the workshops he ran on the MA at ESAD. It's a method/theme that uses collected objects as a basis for the generation of ideas. I fashioned this to the location and to my own interests and chose to make the twenty 'arrondissements' of Paris the basis for the collection of the objects.

In the centre of my own practice, as a designer and an educator, I've always been drawn to the humanistic possibilities of design, of the potential to be able to tell stories, of tapping into the imagination – in short, a design practice that ultimately, at its best, is able to reveal something about our shared human condition. I also believe that one need not go to the extremes of our condition to do this as so much about our relationship to the world around us is revealed in the everyday. In fact the reason I find the everyday so fascinating is because it is so close to us that its often the last place we look for clues about our hopes and fears. But there are other reasons I am drawn to this methodology. Observation, interrogation and discovery seem to me to be central to the design process and in addressing a question that students of design need to ask and educators need to find ways of answering – which is where do visual ideas come from?

Observation is not a passive act and is not the same as simply looking. It is a reflective process that demands constant questions – what I call interrogation. It begins by looking at what seems obvious and everyday and by questioning what we think we know. In turn this leads to the third element – discovery – where things are revealed or inadvertently uncovered as a result of close scrutiny. Discovery is a central component of graphic design – our ability to discover is generally greater than our ability to invent. In short, it is easier to find a world than to make one. This proposition was central to the workshop.

The theme
Working with the title ‘The Paris Museum of Extraordinary Everyday Objects’, the students were asked to work towards creating an exhibition of collected objects and an accompanying catalogue. An ambitious objective for a four-day workshop but a challenge that the students addressed with dedication and enthusiasm.

Divided into groups, the students were asked to collect objects from the 20 arrondissements of Paris – ordinary objects in many ways, ones they found in the street or came across in shops, new or used or even broken, objects they found visually interesting or intriguing. They could be parts of bigger objects. If possible they needed to have a degree of ambiguity with regard to their purpose, function or origin.

Let’s play – but let’s play seriously!
The next step was to interrogate the collected objects, trying to establishment what we could conclude about them simply by observing. A shoe for example. What could we say we knew. That is was a shoe – an item worn on the feet. That it was the shoe of a child – because of its size. That it was a girls shoe – because of its colour and style. That it was not very old – by the nature of the materials. And why was there only one? At this point knowledge is replaced by conjecture. And that's fine because conjecture is a doorway to imagination, not from an abstract idea but from what is in front of us. What we see must inform us so that we can then inform what we have seen.

The students were then asked to create narratives about their chosen objects – two for every arrondissement. And even though these narratives were imagined, they needed to be believable because even fantasy needs to be taken seriously. So the students needed to base or reinforce their narratives through historical research and link their stories to Paris.

With all the objects selected and the narratives at the point of completion the students began to work on the publication. Divided into 10 groups, each one focusing on two different arrondissements, they were asked to design printed items that could vary in size and format as long as they folded down to an agreed common size. The exhibition catalogue is therefore a compilation of all the different printed designs held together by a cover.

The students needed to include the small texts they had written in their printed items – the same texts that would be used as captions for the exhibition. The challenge was to tell visually what they had told in words.

The outcome
As a final work the exhibition is as important as the catalogue – they are equal parts of the narratives they created. To produce what they did in the time available is quite an achievement bearing in mind that workshops are always short intensive bursts of concentrated focus, serving as gateways to further study, new possibilities and ideas. In the end there's never quite enough time to take outcomes to where they might ultimately go. The aim was to demonstrate that the key to finding visual forms and languages comes from understanding what you have in front of you, that the content will always tell you something and give you visual clues if you are able to observe carefully.

Below – A selection of the student work

Below – the catalogue

A big thank you to all the students, the school directors, to Ludovic Dumielle for his help and hospitality, and a special thank you to final year student Alice Ottenwaelter (below) for all her extra work and dedication in organizing the catalogue and final exhibition after my departure.

Participating students: Julie Anet, Yves Barreira Diegues, Andrea Berthet, Mathilde Bubbe, Alexis Cathala, Audrey Coffignot, Éloïse De Luca, Marine Dion, Amandine Dormoy, Kévin Drygala, Coralie Frat, Pauline Gallois, Flavie Garciau, Olivier Jeanmaire, Luna Kindler, Océane Lasselin, Qingling Li, Maxime Martin, Marie Milon, Léa Murawiec, Alice Ottenwaelter, Lucie Plançon, Fiona Poupeau, Mathilde Rinjard, Cécile Santais, Jeanne Schelle, Baptiste Siguier, Thétis Tsahakis, Baowen Zhang.