The gift of inscriptions

Guest Post by Tony Shelley

I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.

Helene Hanff

My love for old books goes back to the late 1950s, when I used to scour the bookshelves of my grandmother on my father’s side, every time we went there for Sunday tea.

I was an enthusiastic reader from about the age of four, but it wasn’t just the content that fascinated the mind of this small child, a book with inscriptions set my mind ablaze, as to who wrote it and why?

In later life, when I began to collect old books, mostly from charity shops, and ‘bargain boxes’, I deliberately sought out those with an inscription, message, school or college sticker, or even a ‘stamp’, detailing where the book lived or came to rest.

Inscriptions for me are a micro history, a fragment of somebody’s emotional outlet to another human being—reaching out with a few freehand lines, maybe a kiss or a coded message of affection?

The images here are from my own collection, which I’ve amassed over three decades, all housed in a ninety-year-old cabinet, recently restored by my wife, Cathy, during Lockdown. I’m certain that there are more hand written lines and scribbles awaiting discovery in my ever growing collection.

This coming Winter, I will be delving more deeper than ever before. There is, as an old English teacher once told me, ‘a delight in discovery’.

I chose these particular inscriptions, because I read them every Christmas Eve, imagining they are presents to be opened the next day. What was the festive season like in say, 1947, did the giver save up especially to purchase this book? Was it opened on a cold, Christmas morning, and read throughout the day? More often than not, I go through my book collection every Christmas Day, and spend a few minutes, as I feel they are now, precious gifts for me to enjoy.

‘Abstract: The Art of Design’ on Netflix

Watch all eight episodes of Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design series for FREE

We all love something for nothing, especially if it’s great design content. Netflix has made all eight episodes of its documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design available to watch for free during the coronavirus lockdown.

So what are you waiting for? Get watching here!

Creative takes on the coronavirus crisis

10 magazine covers that offer creative takes on the coronavirus crisis

As the coronavirus pandemic continues its spread across the globe, art directors and artists are using magazine covers as a visual commentary on the crisis.

Covers range from sombre imagery, such as the biweekly cultural publication New York Magazine’s lonely double bass player, to defiant statements like men’s fashion and style magazine GQ Portugal’s “F*ck off Covid-19”-smiley…

Continue reading here

Reimagined public street signs

Dylan Coonrad reimagines public street signs to reflect a world facing coronavirus

A crosswalk sign with the people standing apart and warnings not to shake hands are among the series of conceptual signs designer Dylan Coonrad reinterpreted to fit with the coronavirus’ social distancing guidelines.

Continue reading here

Creativity brings a smile with artist inspired face masks

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, David Baddiel and Elizabeth Hurley have modelled face masks designed by Ron Arad that will be sold to raise money for the UK’s National Health Service.

The cotton masks are printed with portraits of famous artists including Picasso, Matisse and Dalí.
Launched last Friday, the Smile for our NHS campaign aims to help healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients.

At Newenglish we love it when creativity is used to both serve a purpose and bring a smile to your mind.

Inspiration in the ordinary

Us designers sweat over ideas, based on a client brief and deep understanding of their business challenges, carefully styled and crafted to reflect the brand personality and tone of voice. On the other hand is the vernacular, the incidental designs in our every-day environment which people have crafted to communicate what they need.

From the delightful to the cringingly bad, this art of the people, or mingei (as it’s referred to in Japan) is often the wallpaper of our urban lives. Being influenced by the rude and crude (rudimentary and unpolished) of ‘street style’ is nothing new. In fashion for instance, the UK was an outstanding influence on Jean Paul Gaultier in the 1980s and graffiti in many forms has found its way into mainstream design.

It’s when we are experiencing the unfamiliar surroundings of a foreign country that the ordinary really comes to life. Well, at least that is what I found when we were recently visiting northern India. Here are a few examples of what we captured, some are designed brands, the rest is created from necessity or the love of making something special.

As designers, our way of seeing the world around us means that we are influenced consciously and unconsciously by our experiences, often recording in our memories or photo, those things which build our visual resources. We believe what we do is more than mark-making. With an excellent idea, design becomes memorable, impactful, and able to change perceptions. This also happens in great vernacular design.

I hope you enjoy this small selection from our way of seeing in northern India.

Ghandi’s signature has become his brand, along with his spectacles.

Le Corbusier: Branding an Indian City

Sharing inspiration from the world around us

We’ve been visiting Chandigarh in North India last week to see Le Corbusier’s civic buildings throughout the city (a World Heritage site), along with his clever symbol for the city. 

Designed after WW11, an outstretched hand, forming a bird of peace, his rationale, ‘an open hand cannot hold a gun’, straight to the crux of it. An excellent example of brand design based on a strong idea, beautifully executed, which lasts the test of time.

In the true unkempt Indian style, it remains pride of place on government department signs around the city, and public information signage as well as the original sculptural form. Standing at 26m high, rotating with the wind direction, above of a sunken public speaking/meeting place for the local people. Sunken to keep it cool and contain the noise of city gatherings.

Test Pattern N°12 by Ryoji Ikeda

This week Newenglish visited Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘Test pattern N°12‘ at Store Studios. Ikeda’s test pattern project consists of converting data from photographs, video, sound and music into binary visuals of black and white flashes. Previous installations of this have seenIkeda take over the screens of Times Square (New York) to Elevation 1049, a festival in the Swiss Alpes.

At Store Studios, test pattern N°12 finds itself in an intimate high ceilinged room, in which the binary bars fill the floor – whilst the viewer is also bombarded by audio that sounds like a digitised morse code. Upon entering the exhibition, we were immediately taken aback by the shear energy and intensity of the installation; yet soon joined other viewers in sitting on the ground (where the test pattern is projected) and taking everything in.

We were taken in by Ryoji Ikeda’s breaking down of the boundaries between art, sound, experience and the digital world. The intensity of the Japanese artist’s binary projections push this idea in an inspiringly whole bodied and uncompromising way.

Whilst walking around the space we found ourselves imagining future worlds where data itself becomes art, through non-consumable media such as binary, and other code, that make it feel some how mysterious and omniscient—just as ancient art must have seemed at a time when people only saw a handful of images in their lifetime.

Looking forward, could we as graphic designers improve our practice by adopting Ryoji Ikeda’s experience led approach? Would grasping at all the human senses (opposed to solely sight) help us to fore-fill our role as communicators?

In many ways we are already beginning to see this shift in the realm of graphic communication as clients seek out more engaging concepts, achieved through moving image and experience design—for example for our recent Honda Marine stand at SIBS we incorporated the sound of Honda engines under the water in order to make our communication more immersive.

Could creative approaches like this be the way to capture the consumer’s attention in a world in which they are forever bombarded by video, images and mobile alerts?