Fiona Banner: Font

As part of our studio, we went to Fiona Banner’s Font exhibition showing at Frith Street Galley near Piccadilly Circus. Gallery display is a form of publishing also, so this fits into our focus on ‘publishing’ in all it’s forms. The body of the work was in one large room.


The problem with an exhibition like this is that they are showing ‘art’. It is very easy to make judgements based on what you see without the knowledge of the artists’ intention or the context of their work before. You could argue both ways about the validity of opinions formulated in a vacuum, but this was my initial situation when walking into the room.


The first major object in the room from the entrance is the titular ‘font’ ‘a found 19th century baptismal font… engraved with the word ‘font’ it creates a playful slippage between naming, language and object/image; a recurrent theme in Banner’s work’ according to the information provided at the gallery. It is a font with font inscribed into it with the typeface font that Banner created. This I get, so I move on.


Next up is Nose Art two graphite representations of harrier jump-jet nose cones provocatively placed side by side. The information supplied makes references to aircraft noses being ‘the most heroic part of an aircraft’ and a ‘military form of folk art where aircraft are graffitied with popular cultural icons’. And I just thought it was something to do with breasts. Does the ‘art’ fail if I don’t get it.Does the artist fail? Is it a failure on my part to comprehend the vast complexities and subtleties of the piece? Does it even matter? This is my problem with ‘art’. Like a good book, you must have an understanding of the vernacular the creator uses to fully appreciate the creation, but unlike a book, the vernacular in question isn’t something the everyman is taught in primary school,


so when I see a ‘chair’ leaning against a wall because it lacks the ability to stand by itself, that I cannot even test whilst against the wall, because you may not touch it, because it is ‘art’, I cannot help but be dismissive of the whole enterprise.

My current working definition of ‘art’ right now is ‘something of no inherent use which has had value attributed to it.’ The issues which ‘art’ can address and tackle, in its own way, are as long as a piece of string. This is too broad for my liking, so when I see Banner’s exhibition, I am not just judging it, I am using it to judge all ‘art’.

While I may not wish to emulate the works of Banner on display here, the eternal question of ‘what is art’ and ‘what makes good art’ continues to rage on inside me.

Food for thought at the very least.


Studio Cuture Week – Print Club London

After Ditto Press in the morning, we went to Print Club London. We were shown around by Fred, one of the founders. Print Club London offers screen printing classes and facilities for a modest price. They also offer office/desk space for the independent creative.

Fred commented on the value of being in the right place at the right time: ‘It’s amazing how much work you can get if you’re in the same room. Someone will be doing their work and then need someone with a different skill set and will just shout out “can anyone do that?”‘It is a microcosmic example of working as a designer; the more visible you are, the more work you will be likely to get.

Print Club London also sells artists’ prints online, taking roughly 40% commission on sales. Fred showed us the shelves where all the work is stored. It is quite the juxtaposition between the online presentation and the real world equivalent.

Fred also gave useful advice on print runs. ‘Always make print runs out of 50 or 100. If you make less, you can make more later’. He also suggested using 300 gsm or more paper that is ‘archival’, so it doesn’t yellow.

Visiting Print Club London provided another example of the real world approach to this thing called ‘art and design’. No two paths are the same and not all lead to financial security, but the more examples we see of ‘success’ in the ‘industry’ the more options we will all realise we have open to us.

Check out Print Club London’s online presence here.

Studio Culture Week – Ditto Press

Ben showing us around
Ben showing us around

Following on from Blog Week was Studio Culture Week, where all students in the second and third year of their illustration or graphic design courses visited a couple of professional design studios. Students were split into small groups and went to varying places with varying philosophies.

As the student studio I will be working in has a focus on publishing work, we went to Ditto Press. While they do create original work from start to finish themselves, they do make most of their money from printing the work of others using their risograph printers.

Ditto Press print room
Ditto Press print room

Ben, one of the founders of Ditto Press was very straightforward as he walked us through the ins and outs of what he does. They have a store front to display work, a printing room hidden from view in the back and an area to discuss work with clients.

Double page spread of a book on display
Double page spread of a book on display

Ben imparted some excellent food for thought with comments such as ‘I can teach you to be good at typesetting, but I can’t teach you to be interesting’ when talking about people he would work with, academic grades versus strength of portfolio, and so on.

He said something about some art students doing really well in the education environment but not being able to turn that into actual success upon leaving. This is a poignant reminder that having a degree is not the same as having a job, and we all need to make opportunities for ourselves now, not wait until we’ve graduated.

Ditto Press offer a variety of printing options for the independent creative, offer workshops in printing techniques, work with education and more. Check them out at their website here.

Ping Pong Paddle Selection Process

scale paddle front
Boris front
scale paddle back
Boris back









All students were asked to submit at least one 100% scale representation of their final idea, with consideration given to production processes for the Art of Ping Pong auction in association with Fivefootsix. I went with my Boris Johnson design because I like the ‘whiff whaff’ angle. As this is for charity, there’s a reasonable likelihood he’d allow his likeness to be used. It’s also topical and very ‘London’, him being the mayor and all.

Production process is something I struggle with. I think in terms of 2D pdf of jpeg, and this was no different. The obvious options are to draw the imagery straight onto the paddle, or produce some form of printout to stick on. As I write this, I have not resolved this.

The major concern is the type. Any mistake in printing it will mean it will need to be printed again on another paddle.

All students are required to submit a 3D object for a second auction of student made paddles that will be held at the Cass. More information will become available once the show has been organised. It turns out the students will be doing that as well. Wonderful.

For the low down on Fivefootsix’s Art of Ping Pong, which is the parent auction to our child, visit the website here.


The Art of Ping Pong

Original rough designs
Original rough designs
Chinese variants
Chinese variants

Branding and design agency Fivefootsix are holding a charity auction to raise money for BBC Children in Need. They work with established artists as well as up-and-coming talent. This year, one student from our university will have their work auctioned off with all the others.It goes without saying that this is a huge opportunity for whichever student gets selected. There will be huge amounts of press coverage as well as the opportunity to meet some if not all of the big names present at the auction. This is the kind of thing that starts careers.

However, it won’t be mine. As of writing this blog, I already know who’s been shortlisted for selection from the students, but never mind that, let’s talk about what I did.

When we were told we were going to design artwork for ping pong paddles, I instantly thought ‘the word “ping pong” in Chinese, white print on faded red background.’, so that’s what I did.

Then I found out ping pong was probably of British origin and, among other names, had been called ‘whiff whaff’. I instantly thought of Boris Johnson, and to my delight found he had been ‘whiff whaffing’ on the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

The feather fan design was a reference to famous Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang. He was usually depicted holding a crane feather fan and I liked the idea he could play ping pong with it in the way Bruce Lee was depicted playing ping pong with nunchaku a few years ago in a TV advert.

For the whole story on Fivefootsix and their auction, check them out here.

Smint Competition Entry

smint couple
My poster design

How does one artfully convey the full extent of Smint UK’s passion and dedication to providing the best premium mint experience in the world? Good question. My problem is that I like to call a spade a spade, or a mint a mint, in this case. Mints are for freshening breath, so that was my focus in addressing the brief. ‘Get close, get closer, GET SMINT.’  Ugh, just ignore that last bit will you?

I did actually bother to use a grid while aligning the text and the process of altering the base image taught me some stuff about using filters, adjusting canvas size after the fact, importing brand elements and dealing with unruly file sizes.

I don’t know if Smint will be happy with the outcome, but I’ve certainly benefitted from contributing.

Check out the other entries here

Fresh to Impress

Adrian Beasley explaining the brief
Adrian Beasley explaining the brief

Blog Week also saw us get a live brief to help us generate content for our blogs. Smint are running a competition on Facebook offering prizes to those who create really cool posters fitting their brand values and using the tagline ‘Fresh to Impress’. Having looked at the designs already present on the Facebook page, Adrrian is quite confident some of us are going to be walking away with cash prizes…

The Importance of Visual Research

Head of Graphic Gesign Sara Carneholm Mytkowski explaining to us the importance of visual research
Head of Graphic Design Sara Carneholm Mytkowski explaining to us the importance of visual research

As blog week began, Sara Carneholm Mytkowski, head of Graphic Design at London Met, offered us advise on how to approach our blogs. She stressed the importance of visual research: keeping a record of all the interesting things we find and do. Also, to consider how we represent those thing within the blog. And to keep our eyes open for more great thing to include.