Liverpool Prints

My great great granddad had arrived in Liverpool in the late 1800s from the East End of London; a docker, living with his family in the terraces that used to stand off Scotland Rd. We’ve been in and around the city ever since. I worked around the city for 4yrs, doing much of my own illustration on the side before I was eventually offered a position as a designer in London. That was nearly 10yrs ago now.

For some time, I’d wanted to take on Liverpool as a subject although the opportunity presented itself rather by accident in the end when a friend was looking for someone to help with the artwork for his wedding. Maybe that was the impetus I needed!



I thought we could use the invites to tell a bit of a story, and the initial illustrations were designed specifically with the wedding in mind: Guests arriving at Lime St Station, a ceremony at St George’s Hall, the reception in one of the renovated warehouses, and a city going to rest in the moonlight (well some of it resting anyway).
However I also wanted to expand out of the city centre and look to places that had shaped so much of my memories – Sefton Park, the pine woods in Formby, my home town Southport… to be honest there’s so much more I would still like to do.


I did much more work than I actually printed in the end. This is often the case, as sometimes things just don’t work regardless of how long I spend on them trying to get them right! I have so much work that’s never seen the light of day!


The printing was absolutely key: It makes such a difference to the finished product. There are a few industry standard papers for Giclée printing, but either the grain or the white wasn’t quite right for these prints. I went through so many tests, yet the paper I’m using now makes such a difference compared to the other papers, and I managed to find a great guy on the Wirral with tons of experience who has helped in getting these absolutely right.


Prints are available in a limited run here in my shop


I wanted to write something about how I use colour with a limited palette. I’ve used limited colour schemes for screen printing just to keep costs down, but some of the lessons/mistakes I learnt from this have helped influence the way I use colour when it comes to branding as well.

Pure black and white may offer the most contrast (and contrast I suppose is usually the key thing) but it’s a bit abrasive on the eyes. Instead I actually try and dumb down the contrast ever so slightly. I’ve done this with the text you’re reading here: A dark grey (#373737) rather than a standard black (#000000). Subtle, but hopefully it makes reading pages that bit easier. In fact just looking at pages such as BBC and Google I can see I’m not the only one avoiding pure black.

I apply the same rules to graphics. Below is a logo I designed for Brooks, with the example on the right again making that subtle but important tweak.


But monotone schemes don’t have to be on a greyscale of course. Below, rather than using a typical grey I may use a hint of colour to try and bring the text in line with other elements:


When two colours come into play (i.e. I can choose my background colour) it allows me to contrast warmth as well as light. Pure white doesn’t express any degree of warmth, so again I try to pull it back slightly and introduce some colour.

Take a look at the two images below:

I’ve desaturated the image on the left so you can see the contrast with the right, and how warmth influences what is inside and what is outside of the shadow. The first thing you probably notice is the blue within the shadow, which is complimented by a presence of yellow outside, but again it’s subtle.

There are however also issues of contrast severity, similar to what I have described with black and white. All of us, not just people who are colour blind, can find colours visually jarring when put together. For example green and red are classic colours confused by colour blindness but placed together they cause a bit of a brain melt for everyone:


How do your eyes feel looking at that? Whether you’re colour blind or not, our use of colour can sometimes be an irritant. This might be what I’m after if I’m designing something punchy, but subtle changes can help reduce this contrast if I think it’s too much.

warmcoolWith 3/4 colours, the ideal is have them distinguishable from each other.

I will usually also split the palette into 2 warm and 2 cool colours, with suitable degree of contrast. I will then put them side by side to see how they work together


Even in a situation where I have carte blanche to use whatever colour I want, I’ll still try to rein it in for two reasons. The first is branding, because I believe in the semiotics of brand identity to register in the public’s mind.
The other reason is I find keeping a strict colour palette helps harmonise the overall work. The principles I have mentioned in the previous section still exist: Do I have the right balance of warm and cool colours? Do I have the right contrast? How will the colours work in their various combinations?

Here’s an example of a series of characters created for Marie’s Baby Circle in South Korea. We loved the illustrations but I felt that there was too much going on with the colours and that they should be narrowed down:


Although hopefully quite subtle, the slight modification below of reducing it down to just 15 colours helps harmonise the overall look and make it feel more consistent:characters_tweaked

LV: @Heart design

LV_tabletHeaderIn a previous post about Carphone Warehouse I had discussed the idea of signposting; For example, we expect to see a search bar in the top right of a page. If we don’t, then we will spend a bit of time trying to find it, and too much time trying to work out a website might cause tiny little annoyances to our audience.

With this content hub for LV ease of use was key, as our audience includes a significant number of those maybe less familiar with technology. In essence it is an online magazine, offering articles for general light-reading, but that also act as a means to increase SEO optimisation.

LV’s brand colours are used to split the page into two sections, the main content coloured blue and the subsidiary sections coloured green. It’s employed subtly just through the headlines and buttons butverall this allows us to maintain branding whilst also separating content visually.



Real estate provides distinction between the left and right hand side on desktop but we’re not afforded the same luxury on smartphones. So we add other methods to distinguish the sections, even something as subtle as padding, just so the user will have a visual cue that the section has changed.

Image test





Carphone Warehouse: The Lowdown

Recently I discovered that a site for Carphone Warehouse that I worked on last year had undergone a redesign:


Here was our version:


I’m only too aware of how subjective the world of design is. The new site has some new features, but the issue for me is signposting. It’s something that’s really important to me and manifests itself in everything from the design I do, to the way I order my folders and even the subject headers of my emails. I’m a bit anal, but I like to know my way about – and I think the user should too.

Google and Apple are kings of this of course. It could be seen as minimalism; a trend. However the design they implement tends to have a great deal of clarity to it. Form follows function etc. So here’s a breakdown of why I designed The Lowdown the way I did.

Now the header and footer were no-go areas as they were consistent with the main site. For me that is good. Sure I might design them differently, but from a hollistic point of view I don’t believe that we should change Carphone Warehouse constants just because they will look nicer. Again, form follows function – not the other way round.

The grid I divided into 3 columns and rows of equal width and height. Although not essential within responsive design, I do find that a simplified grid structure will allow for more consistency between different platforms, so the user still intuitively knows where they’re going if they switch from their desktop in work to their mobile as they travel home afterwards.
This also dictated a clean system for allowing varying real estate for different articles. Each article would occupy 1, 2 or 4 box panels and screen resizes wouldn’t do anything too dramatic in terms of user experience.
Image test

So on to the content. That divided in to 2 sections: Latest and Regulars. I designed the layout so articles could be given varying real estate. This meant that whoever was authoring the content could promote something if they desired. In my mind this also allowed for rich imagery to aid the glossy feel.


Each piece of content would have a headline and sub-stringed piece of text at the bottom to explain what it the article was about.

In the top right we would have a category box so the user would know what the article referred too. These would be colour coded – subtle signposting.


For the Regulars panel I changed the design slightly so it would be distinct enough from the Latest panel without taking away from the consistency in the page. Articles also fit into categories, so I kept the colouring scheme but integrated it into the headlines as we had less real estate:


Obviously we as designers work from UX documents, so there will be different issues surrounding that, but for me the new site is using above-the-fold principles and in the process cramming in too much to a confined space. Category signposting has been forced out of smaller posts as a result. And four different ways of styling the same type of post is suggesting areas are different when they’re not: Design for design’s sake.

Anyway, just saying… 😛


2nd Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment


It’s the anniversary of WWI and thought I would write a bit today about James Grice who had been with the 2nd Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment from 1903 when war broke out on the 4th August 1914, 100 years ago today.

Both the 1st and 2nd battalion had been stationed in what is now Pakistan. When war was declared, it was decided that the 2nd regiment would be sent to Europe, the 1st would stay in Pakistan (they later would be sent to Ireland in response to the Easter Rising).

James Grice arrived in France on the 28th August, 3weeks into the war. The Germans were already on the ‘retreat’ as it were; ‘Pursuing retreating enemy. No combat’ is the general message in the diary which maybe harks back to the premature ‘Over by Christmas’ idea that they talk about. James would be dead within a month. Not long after, trench warfare began.

James Grice was married to my great grandmother with one child and another on the way in West Derby when he left in 1914. He was killed on the 21st September 1914 and is buried in Vailly, France. The war diary, albeit short, gives an insight into one of the first major battles in WW1: The Battle of The Aisnes. You can download the diary here

New Screenprints (with one-week only Mates Rates)

Two more prints on sale, and for one week only are on Mates Rates half-price.
They continue with a theme I started the other year around my local habitation of Islington.

This one’s called “No.5

And this one’s called “Inside 17B

It’s a smaller edition to the last: Just 20 prints of each.
They’re two colour prints, on 300gsm brown card.
They all come signed and numbered, obvs!!!

Some more illustration

Last week, I was over at Clinic which is a lovely agency hidden away in the alleys of Farringdon. Rarely do I get to do straight illustration, but that’s what this was. Although I’m not showing any of the final stuff yet (at time of writing it’s yet to be printed anyway) I thought I’d just put up some of the developmental work I put in.

The concept was illustrating a journey in a luxurious modernised-but-retro stylee, harking back to the golden age of travel. My initial thoughts leaned towards a sort of James Bond idea and I liked the idea of bringing some of Richard Hamilton’s style in.

Unfortunately the client was a bit more Las Vegas than Les Alps, and invariably the old lens flare made it’s reappearance!

There were 20 illustrations in the end: debated, created and deliberated over just under 3 days. A tough brief, but a fun one and I’ll try and get the finished product on here as and when it’s done!

Beatles 50

I’ve just finished reading Mark Lewisohn’s ridiculously enjoyable The Beatles – All These Years: Volume One: Tune In: The first of a 3 part epic, beginning in 1846, ending before they’ve even recorded an album, and is pretty much as long as the Bible. Seems there is more to write about a band who’ve already had their story told a zillion times!

Turns out the first day they performed together was at The Kingsway in Southport, the very place I would subsequently spend my youth. My time came after The Beatles, however I was fortunate enough as a 17yr old to see Sash mime Encore Une Fois there in 1997. Hmmm.

Today (February 9 2014) marks 50 years since The Beatles first touched down in the US. The rest is history. Not sure whether it’s the kind of thing that will merit a Google Doodle, but thought I’d mark the occasion myself. You can see it in situ here.

Here’s hoping I don’t get sued…