After a few days of mountain biking, which is all heads down and go for it, I've gone back to my Dutch bike today. Taking things more comfortably and at a slower pace. And that involves a stop-off at a watering hole for fuel and a rest (well why not?).
Except that today involves someone dominating the stop-off by talking just that little bit too loudly for the circumstances. Completely oblivious to anyone and everyone in the room. At first on his mobile phone, and then to someone who joins him at the bar. It seems that he's going to create a promotional video for said agency which will 'cut through the crap', demonstrate that there will be no 'bull shit', and – guess what? – will feature some 'typography' with words morphing from one cliche into another.
Remarkable (look them up on the internet, if you really must). That's what I'd call them.
Of course he was was completely oblivious to the fact that I had spent 45 minutes listening to him spouting nothing but crap and bull shit. Or even that I was in the room.
I've met those sort of people throughout my career. Thank goodness they don't know I exist. Until they need some help with a speculative pitch. To which the answer is no.
I expect you've noticed that it went a little quiet around here prior to last Friday. It's a sign of one of the small changes that happened to me in 2011: the failed discipline of making myself (or a guest blogger) post at least every working day of the week. But in a way it neatly summarises my relationship with 2011: it was a year of small changes and nothing very much happening. I went into it thinking that it was going to be a year of enormous change. Which it was for millions of people around the globe. A year of momentous changes, and very few of them for the better. And here am I contemplating that nothing very much happened. Maybe after all that's an achievement by itself.
And I stopped talking about design very much, as well. Did you notice that? But after all, what was there to talk about. It was hardly a vintage year for design, was it? Can you remember anything you saw and immediately thought "I wish I'd done that"? No, I can't either. It was more likely an inward sigh and a thought of "well, at least the money must be good". Lucky for those who can sniff it out.
But 2011 had to be about something, didn't it? And I'll tell you what it was for me: the year of being surveyed.
I couldn't move without being asked to fill out an online survey about the 'brand experience' I'd just enjoyed. Brand experience, my ass.
You know what? I caught a coach. From one city to another (and back again). Not something that I do very often. But enough to catch the attention of the National Express brand police. Could I complete a short online survey to help them to improve the 'brand experience'?. Sure, no problem. Question: 'did you use the on-board toilet?' (or words to that effect). Answer: 'No'. Next question: 'did you find the toilet to be in a clean condition?' (or words to that effect), 'yes' or 'no'. And so it went on, five more questions about the toilet, each to be answered yes or no. And I can't move on to the next page of the survey until I've answered all these toilet questions. Oh, OK, I'll just make them up then. Anything to keep you happy. But I'll make sure not to use the toilet next time I catch one of your coaches.
And what about the BBC? They're no better either when it comes to nonsensical survey questions. 'How often do you visit the BBC site for local news?'. Easy: once or twice a day (I like to keep abreast of what's going on around me). 'What do I like or dislike about the site?'. Oh, it's getting harder. Now I've got to have opinions about it. Can't I just have a look, catch up with the news and get out again (preferably as quickly as possible)? No, I thought not. 'How easy is to find sports news?'. Look, buddy, you're talking to a man who's dedicated his whole life to the avoidance of sports news. Can I get out of this survey now, please?
And so it went on. Completely disgruntled on a scale of one to ten.
And what's 2012 got lined up for us? Oh yes, I forgot. That.
I'm working on the design of a book cover at the moment (amongst other things). And, from recent experience, I'll probably produce around 25 visuals before all of us (that's the publisher, the author and myself) are agreed on the final design. I wouldn't have done that 20 years ago, essentially because it was so much harder, and/or expensive, to produce design visuals by hand (three was the norm then). So that's where computers have made things so much easier for designers - or has it? I must admit that I use the process in order to prove what doesn't work: as a designer you probably already know that in your own head, but sometimes it helps to be able to prove it to the client.
But it does make you wonder whether the ease at which cover designs can be produced has actually helped in this case. Or maybe it just reflects that old adage that the hardest client to work for is yourself.
And then more pootling around the interblog has washed me up on the same ice flow as the polar bear's tale. Who has pointed me in the direction of Ernst Haeckel:
To follow on from my little spells of silence over the past couple of weeks, there are two things that I'd decided that I would not blog about under any circumstances: the lack of planes in the sky and the forthcoming UK general election. Not because I don't have any views on those subjects, but just because.
But I spent a good part of the day in Hyde Park yesterday, which was really rather a splendid way to spend a warm and sunny spring Sunday, taking lunch at the Lido and watching the world go by. Of course, for me it's just a little bit extra special, because there aren't that many people who can say that they spent the day in their own park in the centre of London, now are there? But the icing on the cake, as it were, was the total lack of the roar of jet engines overhead.
And while I was there I popped into the Serpentine Gallery to see the current Richard Hamilton exhibition. Which reminded me of the general election: for here was a very considered reflection of what happens when you give power to politicians. Sooner or later they'll use it. Which is well worth remembering when you next hear somebody telling you that what this country needs right now, in these tough times, is decisive leadership. And if it were up to me I'd send every single one of them along to Richard Hamilton's show and ask them to reflect. All expenses paid, of course.