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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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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Critical Thinking

January 16th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

A recent article by Michael Bierut is currently causing a bit of a stir over on Design Observer. The piece ponders various aspects of graphic design criticism and raises a number of questions about the merits and pitfalls of online commentators appointing themselves as a critics. Bierut warns this continual increase risks becoming simply a ‘spectator sport’ rather than a constructive and productive means for comment and debate.

The lengthy piece is as well written as one would expect from Bierut and the points it raises have attracted a number of comments. Design industry heavyweights such as Rick Poynor, Marian Bantjes, Armin Vit and Paula Scher have got involved to share their opinions on the matter.

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Yours Truly, Angry Mob

December 18th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Recently, the University Of California unveiled a new logo. The general reaction in the studio was relatively muted. Clearly they’ve attempted to update their previous mark – pictured below – with a more contemporary look. The result, whilst certainly not horrendous, is also not amazing. It’s pretty inoffensive and basically ok. It would seem that others had stronger, more negative opinions about the rebrand, and weren’t afraid to let their feelings be known.

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The Colour Purple

October 9th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

As you may already know, Cadbury has won the exclusive rights to their own shade of purple. The win is the result of a four year legal battle with rivals Nestlé. Cadbury now ‘own’ Pantone 2685C purple for use across all of their chocolate bar and drinks packaging. More importantly, they can bring legal action against other brands using the colour who they see to be infringing upon their copyright.

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Adrian Shaughnessy already said it better than us…

October 4th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

We’ve spoken in the past about the importance of the message. The purpose of graphic design, in our minds, should be to communicate a distinct message to the right audience in the most appropriate way possible. We recently came across the following quote by Adrian Shaughnessy who, in his usual succinct and intelligent way, uses a simple and easy to understand analogy to completely hit the nail on the head. The substance taking precedent over the style is something we feel is hugely important and easily forgotten in today’s fast moving and trend-driven design world.

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Repeat Performance

September 24th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Picture the scenario: You get given a great logo design brief from Client A. You take on the project and submit some ideas. One gets chosen, developed and finally delivered. The client is delighted with their new logo and your work makes a positive buzz in the design press. Everyone is happy and the project was a success.
High fives all round.

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Keep it Real?

July 4th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

For a number of reasons, we look at a lot of online design portfolios. The ‘work’ sections of designers and agencies websites are daily fixtures in our browsers and conversations. We sometimes look for a bit of inspiration, we sometimes look to check out what our peers in the industry are up to, but the majority of the time we simply look because we’re really big fans of good graphic design. And there’s plenty to look at.

Most decent portfolios feature multiple images in an effort to show a broad overview of the work. More often that not, a website project will show more than one screenshot, an editorial project will show more than one spread, branding projects will show various applications of the brand in-situ. Showing these is a big part of getting across the thought process behind the work and, if nothing else, makes the portfolio that much more interesting to look at.

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U-Turn Ahead

May 30th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

With the London 2012 Olympics drawing ever closer, the much publicised visual identity is now rolling out and we’re seeing an increasing number of applications using the branding in different ways. The recent unveiling of the Olympic tickets designed by Futurebrand revealed an interesting turnaround. The prevailing consensus – most notably on the Creative Review comments board – is that the previously hated branding was now actually working quite well and a number of people, having lived with it for the last five years, have changed their minds. Anyone with a passing interest in design will surely be aware of the venom directed towards the Wolff Olins designed logo when it first emerged in 2007. This negativity came not only from designers but from the general public and, unsurprisingly, tabloids newspapers. Now, with designers leading the way, is it possible that the tide is turning and the logo, it turns out, isn’t actually that bad?

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30 minutes with Paul Rand

May 7th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Paul Rand was an American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs, including the logos for IBM, UPS, Enron, as well as his NeXT work for Steve Jobs. He was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design and we’ve long read about his working methods and approach. He almost single-handedly convinced businesses that design was an effective tool, so when Paul Rand spoke, people listened.

We just came across this three part interview with the man, and thought we’d show you them in one place so that every one can watch the genius. Put your feet up and enjoy.

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Standing out from the Crowd

February 15th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

The ‘£25 logo‘ article we recently wrote for Creative Review seemed to cause a nice bit of debate in the comments section of their blog. Which is what we had hoped for. We did however notice their was a bit of confusion over certain wording. Although we never mentioned ‘crowd sourcing’ or ‘spec-work’ in the piece, people leaving comments were using these terms in reference to the cheap logo service we used. We thought it was worth clearing things up a bit.

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Five Things 016

January 13th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Hello 2012! We’ve hit the ground running this new year and are very excited by the projects we’ve got coming up. We’ve got plenty of exciting things in the pipeline and, as always, lots of lovely things to share with you. Which brings me nicely onto the latest post in our Five Things series. A mixed bag as always, we’ve got some great student work, some brilliant filmmaking, a lovely bit of branding, something music-related and some foodie stuff. Hopefully something to keep everyone happy.

Without further ado, click below to check out what’s been catching our beady little eyes recently.

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Ten Questions 021 – John Dowling

September 20th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

In 1991, after being told by his tutors at Chelsea College of Art and Design that he ‘wasn’t good enough’ to become an artist, John Dowling realised he needed a change of direction. When someone encouraged him to pursue Graphic Design, he went for it although does admit to not knowing exactly what it was at the time. In the years since then he’s learnt in no uncertain terms what it means to be a graphic designer and has honed his skills at some of the most prestigious agencies around.

Starting his employment at the now defunct Area (a studio established by two former designers from Peter Saville Associates) John went on to stints at the almighty Pentagram, SEA and Frost before setting up Dowling Duncan alongside his former Pentagram colleague Rob Duncan. They’ve used their wealth of experience to produce a great body of work for clients such as AIGA, Apple, The British Museum, Google, John Lewis, Microsoft, The Serpentine GalleryThis list goes on.

John kindly agreed to get involved with our regular Ten Questions series. Here’s what he had to say…

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Ten Questions – 017 Michael Johnson

June 9th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Seeing the logo you designed emblazoned down the side of a 747? The commemorative stamps you designed becoming collectors items? Garnering every award going whilst picking up a host of new clients along the way? These are the kind of things most designers would eat their own MacBook to have acheived. Johnson Banks are an agency that has ticked the above, and much more, off their to-do list. Virgin Atlantic, The Royal Mail, The BFI, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Yell.com, More Th>n and countless other companies, government organisations, universities and charities have been queueing up for re-brands and design work from them. At the helm of the operation is Michael Johnson. Amazing designer, guitar obsessive, brilliant writer, regular contributor to Creative Review & Design Week and very down to earth, nice guy.

His excellent Thought For The Week Blog is also a must read for anyone with a passing interest in what happens behind the scenes in one of the UKs most respected agencies. Michael kindly agreed to take time out answer our Ten Questions.

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Five Things 012

April 15th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Once again we’re back with Five Things. Our regular selection of interesting bits and pieces we’ve come across over the course of the last week. We have another mixed bag of creative stuff for your perusal (as well as a shameless bit of self promotion…). Enjoy.

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Ten Questions 014 – Simon Manchipp

March 29th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Shoreditch based design and branding agency SomeOne are passionate about what they do. A quick nose around their brand new (pardon the pun) website is proof that they actually care deeply about their work. ‘Launching, re-launching and protecting brands’ is at the heart of their work and they’ve been doing plenty of it. Along with sterling work for Sky Sports, O2, Betfair and New Look, SomeOne have re-created the iconic crest for The Royal Opera House, designed the sports pictograms for the London 2012 Olympics and most recently, created new branding for Eurostar. A huge project which covered practilcally everything including the advertising, print work, pictograms, moving image, a new typeface, signage – even a series of 3D sculptures!

Suffice to say, they know what they’re doing. Simon Manchipp is the creative director and co-founder of SomeOne – he was generous enough to take the time out to get involved in our Ten Questions series.

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Sharing is Caring

February 8th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Being the kind, sharing types we are, we thought it was only right to shine the spotlight on a few other design blogs out there. We regularly stumble across new blogs and thought it would be an idea to share some of the best ones with you. We’ve catagorised them by discipline but most of them tend to cover a wide range of topics so you’re bound to find something of interest. By no means a defintive list, the sites we’ve listed below should at the very least be a good starting point. Get bookmarking!

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The Presidents Speech

January 28th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Last night saw the momentous occassion of the first Mat Dolphin studio outing of the year. The destination was the headquarters of London advertising agency JWT to hear a talk entitled ‘To Go on a Journey, You Need Strong Legs…’ by Simon Sankarayya, the art director better known in design circles as Sanky.

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Ten Questions 011 – Blair Thomson

January 25th, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

Believe in™ is an Exeter based design and art direction studio. Since the studio was established in 1996, they’ve created some beautiful identities, branding, print, digital work, illustration packaging and art direction. The creative brain behind the operation is Blair Thomson – self proclaimed ‘Design obsessive. Rock bloke. Food freak. Creative Director…’

As well as the above, Blair is very nice bloke and agreed to take time out to take the hot seat and
answer our Ten Questions.

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An Open Letter To…

October 7th, 2010 by Mat Dolphin


Today Gap have announced on their Facebook Page that they’re considering the idea of ‘crowd sourcing’ logo ideas as a result of the backlash their new logo design has received this week.

In a response to their move which could be pure genius or naive, we decided to write an open letter to Gap which we posted on the page as a response.

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