What’s the process?

October 24th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

* This article also features on Creative Review’s Blog *

Processes. They’re a huge part of what we do and we use them in an effort to add structure and order to our working day. Working on creative projects throws up a unique set of challenges – To say that every project is different is a bit of a cliché, but it’s ridiculously true. The challenge presented by each project differing from the last is that regardless of the fact they’re all completely unique, we have to ensure that each and every one is successful. Both for ourselves and our clients. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly difficult to achieve.

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Ten Questions 038 – Thomas Blankschøn

October 1st, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Thomas Blankschøn is a designer whose work manages to cover a wide variety of styles and approaches, whilst still remaining consistently his. Abstracted, disjointed illustrations sit alongside playful type treatments and fluid, textured sketches to create a characteristic and individual style. Thomas works for himself in his Berlin studio, before which he attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and The School of Design in Copenhagen.

He took some time out to answer our Ten Questions.

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The 3 L’s

September 10th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

A question that repeatedly comes up when we first start talking to potential clients is: “Where are you based?”. It’s a completely reasonable thing to ask and it’s understandable that someone we’re working with would want to know where we are whilst doing the work.

Although often the question isn’t exactly about where we’re based, it’s actually about how close we are, geographically. For clients it would all see to be about the 3 L’s: Location, location, location.

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99 problems but amends ain’t one…

August 14th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

We have opinions on budget logo design which we’ve aired in the past. We’ve questioned the ‘pound shop’ mentality of flogging logo designs for as cheaply as possible and whilst we feel that there may be a place for such services, we’re yet to be convinced about the quality they’re able to offer. After plenty of thought and discussion the summary is basically; you get what you pay for. If you’re not bothered about the quality of your logo (which is a pretty subjective thing at the best of times) or the service you receive from the designer, you might as well try and pay as little as possible.

Then along comes Swiftly. The basic premise of which is slightly different from that of 99designs, the company that recently launched Swiftly to the world. Both companies are competing purely on price point and using their low costs as a selling point. But instead of knocking out logos for next to nothing, Swiftly is essentially an amends factory. Need to simply change the name on a business card? Or switch the colour of the font on your website? Change some copy in Powerpoint? Swiftly claim to be able to take care of these small tweaks and changes for as little as $15.

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Leo Burnett already said it better than us…

August 7th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

It’s all too easy to get carried away with design. We’ve all been guilty at some point of adding a slightly unnecessary effect or one too many ‘finishing touches’. Knowing when a piece of design work is complete isn’t as easy as it seems, and there is a definite art in knowing when to stop. We recently came across a quote giving four simple instructions which act as a set of convenient guidelines. The fact that they are painfully obvious doesn’t by any means make them easy to put into practice. Focusing on the reasons a piece of design will work, they are clear and concise reminders of the importance of putting yourself in the position of the audience.

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Creativity Decoded

July 18th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

We all have differing opinions, and with good reason. Life would be pretty dull if we all goose stepped along to the same thoughts and views. But surely there’s some things we have to agree on, so that we can determine right from wrong, black from white? This is the conundrum Aaron Yeboah has been contemplating recently, as he tries to define ‘what is creativity?’

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Ten Questions 037 – Laura Barnard

July 2nd, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Laura Barnard is a Peterborough-based illustrator, who’s complex patterns, highly detailed cityscapes, quirky typography and characters caught our eye quite a long time ago. We love her work and, evidently, we’re not alone. Clients such as Sainsbury’s, The British Council, Ted Baker and The RIBA Journal have commissioned her brilliantly styled and witty illustrations.

We asked Laura to take part in our Ten Questions series and she was kind enough to get involved. Here’s what she had to say.

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Making A Mess

June 26th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

In maths lessons at school we always had to ‘show our workings’. Clearly demonstrating how we solved the problem to let the teacher know that we had worked it out for ourselves, rather than simply copying Jemima or using one of those calculator things.

Applying this thinking to design – a discipline being largely concerned with ‘problem solving’ – is interesting, because it’s rare to see anything other than the final and polished result. Many case studies on design portfolios (ours included), show snapshots of preparatory sketches and scamps. They’re often interesting to see and sometimes give an insight into the thought process of the designer. But, they’re always examples of ideas that did develop into the final design. They’re few and far between anyway, but when seen they still only tell a tiny part of a much bigger story.

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One Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Days

June 18th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Four years ago today, Mat Dolphin was officially launched as a company. Happy Birthday to us!

In that time we’ve learned a lot, produced some work we’re hugely proud of and been lucky enough to work with some absolutely amazing people.

If you’ve had any involvement with Mat Dolphin over the last four years, you’ve been a part of it and we want to sincerely thank you.

Here’s to the next four!

Thanks for reading

Phil and Tom


Ten Questions 036 – Jordan Metcalf

June 6th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

We came across the work of Jordan Metcalf quite recently. His beautiful lettering for a recent Adobe campaign caught our attention and after checking out more of his work, we immediately got in touch to say hello and ask him if he’d be willing to answer our Ten Questions. Thankfully, he was.

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, his illustration and typography work is truly brilliant. He has worked for clients such as Nike, Smirnoff, The X-Games, 5280 Magazine and, having recently signed up to the illustration agency Handsome Frank, we expect to see plenty more big name clients utilising Jordan’s remarkable talent.

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Behind the Design

May 29th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, we’re quite interested in design. We like looking at it, we like talking about it and questioning it. We like learning and discovering new things about it. It’s a constantly expanding and changing subject that will never cease to throw up new and challenging concepts.

Aside from observing design from a purely visual perspective, finding out about the approach and thinking behind certain projects can be as fascinating (in some cases more so) than the work itself. For us, the age-old ‘ideas vs style’ debate is a no-brainer – it has to be a combination of both. A competent piece of design needs to look the part – this goes without saying – but the overall concept and thinking that went into the work is something that, as designers, we’re really interested in. Simply looking great isn’t enough.

It’s not always particularly easy putting creative work into words, but explaining why we’ve done what we’ve done is just another part of the the job and, like many other designers, we’ve done our fair share of explaining and justifying.

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Ten Questions 035 – Si Scott

May 22nd, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Si Scott is an illustrator best known for his amazingly detailed and elaborate typography and decorative hand-drawn renderings of animals. His work has a unique style of it’s own and his reputation has earned him an impressive client list including Nike, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Channel 4, Converse, GAP, Hugo Boss, Vogue, Wallpaper Magazine… The list goes on. He’s also a visiting lecturer at Leeds College of Art & Design and has exhibited his work at various institutions around the world including Tokyo, New York, Brazil and Sydney.

We’ve been big fans of his work for some time now and are very pleased to have him on board as part of our Ten Questions series.

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Saul Bass already said it better than us…

May 8th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

“Sometimes it simply doesn’t matter how good the brief is, how good your idea is or how well the project seems to be going. Design is a creative pursuit and definitively ‘right’ answers simply don’t exist. To design – or do anything creative – is a practice in asking questions, trying things out and exploring uncharted territory. Attempting new approaches and new ways of thinking are a part of being a creative person. This experimentation can lead to brilliant, maybe even groundbreaking results. But not always. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to concede that what you’re trying to do, simply doesn’t work. By no means an easy thing to accept, the fact is that attempting new things won’t always result in success. Saul Bass knew this… Keep reading…


Ten Questions 034 – David Foldvari

May 1st, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

David Foldvari is a London-based illustrator. His dark, distinctive (and often very funny) style will be recognisable to many from featuring weekly in the Guardian and Observer. His illustrations have been
regularly featured alongside articles by columnists such as Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Stewart Lee.
Alongside his editorial work, David spent a large portion of last year working on the ‘Dickens Dark London’ series for the Museum of London and is now in the midst of illustrated book about the life of Picasso, a project for Laurence King.

He was kind enough to take some time out of his day to contribute his answers to our Ten Questions.

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Storm Thorgerson already said it better than us…

April 19th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Computers these days are amazing. With the right software and a little bit of know-how it’s never been easier to whip up any ridiculous image you have in your head, and make it a reality for all the world to see. If it doesn’t look quite as good as you’d hoped, maybe add a load of drop shadows, lighting effects and any other number of gimmicky Photoshop filters until it does? Although, after a while you begin to realise that perhaps the reason it ain’t that great, is because of the idea in the first place. If the foundations aren’t strong enough, the house will fall down. A truly great idea can stand on it’s own without the need to be supported by effects and decoration.

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Good Housekeeping

April 17th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Every designer has one client who gets a bit neglected. One who all other clients are treated as a priority over. The projects for these less important souls invariably get pushed to the bottom of the pile in favour of work for the ‘special’ people. So who are these mistreated folks, and why are they letting us get away with treating them so badly? Well, they’re ourselves. You and I. Try as we might, the vast majority of designers have a tendency to postpone creating or updating their own design work in favour of spending time on ‘proper’ clients.

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The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everybody

April 8th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody”
Bill Cosby

To state the obvious; any designer worth their salt wants to do great design work. Work that can stand the test of time. Work that gets noticed. Work that they can be proud of and get recognition for.

The only real way of knowing that the work we’re producing is good, is when others tell us so. Design is a strange, subjective thing and most designers at one time or another have had to deal with a concept they thought was brilliant being rejected on the grounds that it simply wasn’t all that good. For a piece of design work to be really good, other people have to agree with you we’re afraid.

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Ten Questions 033 – Steven Bonner

March 19th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Steven Bonner is a designer and illustrator based in sunny sunny Scotland. His work is largely focused on beautiful illustrative typography and we’ve been big fans of what he does for some time now. He has worked for a range of clients including Audi, The British Heart Foundation, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Diesel, Nike, The Scottish Government, William Hill and many others. Refusing to stick to a single style, each brief is approached from a completely different angle, the only common factor being that everything he does looks bloody amazing.

He kindly agreed to give us an insight into his world by answering our Ten Questions.

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Paul Arden already said it better than us…

March 13th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Creative briefs are, by their very nature, problematic. They are a challenge set out to designers – ‘Here is a problem, solve it’. Sometimes the solution is blindingly obvious, sometimes it’s a little more elusive. Every now and then, the answer simply seems to be impossible to pin down. At these times, the best approach is often to forget what you know, ignore the supposed parameters and do something that doesn’t obey convention. Something you haven’t been asked to do and perhaps even something which strays into forbidden territory. Taking these creative risks is easy to talk about, incredibly difficult to actually do and the majority of the time will create the most interesting results.

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All Work and No Play…

March 6th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

At Mat Dolphin, we mess about. We work hard on client work, day-to-day admin, finances, quoting, invoicing and endlessly hunting for new business, but an important part of the way we work involves playing, experimenting and trying out things we find interesting for the sake of trying them. The process is often as important as the final result and the fact that these experiments have no real ‘point’ (in terms of financial gain), is the thing that makes them worth doing.

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