At the risk of appearing sexist, I fear I have to say: ladies, look away now, this is a man thing.
So, men - if ever you get the chance to dabble in a bit of magazine design there are just two simple words that you need to remember: 'drop' and 'cap'. This is your way of establishing your control over the beast; an easy visual shorthand that will declare "I'm a creative fountainhead, me - I'm not just here to sell advertising space".
And remember, size is the only thing that matters. The bigger you make it, the better. It'll give you more braggadocio than Liam Gallagher when he hits a bum note.
And the easy route in is to choose a font designed by Herb Lubalin. But once you're up and motoring you'll want to design your own cap T (hey, how hard can that be?) - and pretty soon you'll be on your way to becoming the next Neville Brody.
And one further word of advice: if you really want to carry this one off, you first of all need to develop the habit of taking your clients to lunch at St John.
hospitalitybydesign.crap.uk have just emailed me to ask whether I'd like to take my most valuable staff and best clients to have Christmas dinner with Marco Pierre White and Chris Evans ('from' £225 per person).
Want to look hip and cool in 2008? Then just reach up for that old Letrasetcatalogue. The one that you've got proudly displayed on your studio shelves. Maybe you're just old enough to have inherited a copy from your Dad, or perhaps you picked it up while mooching around the last Ephemera Society Fair.
No matter. Just look for the most hideous fonts from the 1970s - things like University Roman and Antique Olive - stick them all together, and voila:
Suddenly you're at the cutting edge. And your clients will know that you've heard of Alan Fletcher.
It's an approach that will set you apart as being 'ironic': and particularly effective when you present to the client dressed in the style of a Fakenger.
Here's a new little series. And something intended to help you struggling designers out there. You know, we all get stuck for ideas from time to time, don't we? And our design training has taught us that our very existence depends upon identifying and distilling the 'big idea' behind even the most mundane of products or services. Some little graphic 'twist' that will set our client's brand apart and earn us a black pencil to boot. But what to do when the ideas won't come?
Well, here to help you along is david the designer's guide to graphic clichés: simple solutions that are guaranteed to pull the wool over the eyes of even the most discerning of clients.
#1: the goldfish
The goldfish was first pioneered by The Michael Wolff back in the 1970s and proposed, apparently, as the preferred solution over the Bovis humming bird identity. In fact, so fond was Michael of his fish, when he left Wolff Olins to set up his own design firm, Addison, he took the goldfish image with him and used it unchanged as the Addison logo (so it says in Picturing the Beast).
The goldfish immediately sets your client apart and portrays them as the undoubted leader in their field.
A word of advice, though: when presenting, don't mention the fact that only dead fish swim with the tide.
This is a snippet from yesterday's Observer Magazine and I'm showing it to you because it's not something that you see very often these days: printing that is out of register. In this case, the magenta printing is out of fit with the other three colours (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it might be worth reading up on CKYK printing before you continue). Because out-of-register printing was quite common in the days before digital imaging and computer-to-plate technology.
Just like this, it didn't used to be unusual to come across something that would make your eyes water.
And I have a little story to tell you about printing in and out of register. I used to design and manage a large series of annual accommodation guides, which involved organising and overseeing the printing. And since this was before the days of computer-to-plate, a very large part of the process was the 'pre-press' (usually called repro). This used to involve transferring artwork that had been prepared on board onto sets of clear film, which would then be assembled and transferred once again onto sets of printing plates. When it came to full-colour printing, this was a complex and time-consuming - for which read expensive - part of the whole printing process.
For instance, the guides that I worked on were A5 in size and would be printed on B1 presses. This means that 16 pages would be printed together on one 'pass' through the printing press. And since each page required four pieces of film (one each for the cyan, magenta, yellow and black printing), a total of 64 individual pieces of film were assembled together in order to make one set of printing plates. And all of that assembly was done manually.
Now, when it came to the maps, we had a clever design solution for our series of guides. We made the base maps common to all three guides in the series, and those common elements could all be assigned to the cyan, magenta and yellow plates, with all of the individual elements restricted to the black plate. It was a very clever way of cutting down on production costs, and was a solution that served us well for many years.
But I had to keep any eye on the printers: make sure that they didn't get the sets of films muddled up; make sure that each 16-page section was assembled in register; that sort of thing. And I always made sure to pass on press the first sections to be printed: to make certain that I was perfectly happy that everything was printed in register and with the correct colour balances.
One year I'd arranged with the printer that I would pass the first sheets at 9am on a particular morning, got up at the crack of dawn and made my bleary-eyed way to Colchester, and (surprisingly for me) got there before time at 8.30am. Announced my arrival to reception, who called the sales director down to meet me. "I'm sorry, we've had a union meeting called that I need attend - so, if you don't mind bearing with me for half an hour, I'll put you in the boardroom. Oh, and we had an overnight slot on the press, so we've got on and and printed the maps. They look really good and I've put a set of running sheets in the boardroom so that you can check them over."
So, up to the boardroom - take off my coat, have a cup of coffee, make myself comfortable, and then look at the running sheets. Yes, they do look good. But hold on, what's going on here? Around the coast of Norfolk? Here's the town name caption for Wells-next-the-Sea and it's not 'next the sea' but under it - 20 miles out in the North Sea. What on earth have the cartographers done here? was my first reaction. But, on closer inspection, I see that the whole of the black printing - over the entire 16 pages - is out of register by 10mm or so. And it's not immediately apparent, because the only thing that's printed in black are place names - so there's nothing 'eye watering' (like the samples above) to show that there's anything wrong.
Anyway, an hour or so goes by and eventually the sales director reappears. "They do look really good, don't they?" he says. "Well, yes, they look good, but I'm afraid there's a bit of a problem" I reply. And I explain, and point out how every place name on each page is 10mm out of position. "Impossible" he says, "there must have been something wrong with the original artwork. Let me get hold of the repro manager." So more men appear in the boardroom. "This can't possibly have happened" they all chorus. "Every single piece of film we handle is punched and pinned as soon as we get it. So the registration is guaranteed to be absolutely correct."
"Well it may be impossible" I say "but the evidence, gentlemen, that such a thing has occurred is here before your eyes". Thirty minutes of discussion ensue and eventually, yes, they have to agree that indeed it has happened. Next we all decamp to the repro department where there's a further hour or so of discussion into how exactly it could have happened - getting out the original film from the cartographers and looking at the assembled film sheets, and examining punched holes and pins. And eventually, when all arguments have been exhausted, it's conceded that the fault lies in the assembly of the film prior to platemaking.
"Let's go back to the boardroom" says the sales director, "I'll organise for some lunch to be brought in and we can discuss what we're going to do over a glass of wine."
And then it's put to me "well, the maps look really good - does it really matter?"
"Oh, so could I ask you quite what you think the maps are for?" I replied.
So, yes, the maps did get reprinted (at the printer's expense). And, no, they aren't any longer in business.