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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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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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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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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Ten Questions 032 – Non-Format

February 6th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

Since long before starting Mat Dolphin we’ve been hugely inspired by Non-Format. The two man studio is run by Jon Forss and Kjell Ekhorn and the work they produce is beautiful, interesting, boundary pushing and, at times, a bit weird. The pair have created a style that is both completely unique and instantly recognisable for a pretty impressive client list. Since establishing the company in London in 2000, the pair have gone on to work with the likes of Nike, Coca-Cola, K-Swiss, Gap, Sony, Adobe, EMI, Orange, Rick Owens, Nokia and The Economist as well as a number of small independent record labels – music packaging being one of the things for which they’re best known. Now based in Minneapolis (Jon) and his native Norway (Kjell), their incredible typography, design and art direction has spawned a host of imitators but by the time most people have caught on, they’re already two steps ahead.

They were kind enough to spend some time answering our Ten Questions. Here’s what they had to say.

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Michael Bierut already said it better than us…

December 17th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Designers work with clients. Clients work with designers. It’s a symbiotic relationship which can be productive, surprising, infuriating, satisfying, testing… but always interesting. If we’re honest, life without clients would be a lot easier – there would be no need for compromise, no need to adhere to deadlines and the clichéd request to ‘make the logo bigger’ wouldn’t exist. These constraints and parameters are, however, the things that differentiate what we do from other creative disciplines and should be embraced. Michael Bierut knows this only too well and sums it up neatly with an all too easily forgotten point.

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Scathe We Wright*

December 13th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Weight Watchers recently unveiled a new identity, designed by Pentagram’s Paula Scher. There are a few things we wanted to mention about the identity, which lead on to a slightly bigger, more complex point.

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Airey Force One

November 20th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

David Airey is a designer and writer based in Ireland. When he’s not looking after clients around the globe he somehow finds the time to run the brilliant design review websites Logo Design Love and Identity Designed, (bookmark them immediately if you haven’t already) as well as amassing a huge following through his prolific Twitter activity. 2009 saw the publication of his first book. Based on his original website, Logo Design Love was a runaway success and belongs on the bookshelf of any decent design studio.

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The Magic Number

November 13th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

There are millions of design agencies out there. Some have been around forever, some are eager young start ups. Some are brilliant, some are awful. Some are huge, corporate machines who employ thousands of people, some are simply one person, working from the kitchen table in their flat.

Mat Dolphin, at it’s core, is two people.

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It’s All In The Mind

October 23rd, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Most graphic designers love the FedEx logo. Designed by Landor Associates, it’s simple, it’s clean, it’s been around since 1994 but still doesn’t look dated. The thing most designers really love about it, however, is the ‘hidden’ arrow. The little nod to progress and movement that sits in the negative space between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’. Practically everyone (designer or otherwise) knows it’s there, but being in on the worst kept secret in design does give a feeling of being in the know.

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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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Lost In Translation

August 7th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

“I’m not sure, I just think it needs a bit more, you know… wow”

The majority of designers reading this will have have been there, in a conversation with a client who is simply unable to articulate exactly what it is about the design that’s not quite right. And yes, it can be frustrating. Adding a bit more ‘edge’ or injecting some ‘life’ into a piece of design are fairly vague words that can be interpreted in a number of different ways, and extracting exactly what a client is trying to communicate can often result in more confusion than clarity.

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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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As Little Design As Possible

May 21st, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Dieter Rams is a legendary German industrial designer whose work has had an immeasurable impact on the design industry, and his relentless approach to pairing products down to their bare essentials has inspired designers from all fields and sectors. His work during the 60s and 70s on electronic products at Braun and his furniture designs for Vitsoe defined the purist look, with the aesthetics taking their cues solely from the functionality of the object. The list of designers and companies who have have wholeheartedly taken his philosophy on board are to numerous to mention (although it’s worth pointing out that Apple products would certainly not look the way they do we’re it not for the influence of Mr. Rams).

To mark the occasion of his recent 80th birthday, he invited his employer to publish the full transcript of his speech on ‘The Fundamentals of Design’. We love his work and the speech is as relevant now as it was when it was originally delivered in New York in December 1976, we present it here in full.

Happy birthday to one of the founding fathers of modern design, Dieter Rams.

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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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2011 Round-up

December 22nd, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

2011. It’s been busy, it’s been stupidly quick and most importantly, it’s been good. Along with the constant stresses and pressures that go along with doing what we do, this year has been a decidedly positive one here at Dolphin Heights. We thought a good way to round off the year was to take a quick look back at what we’ve been up to in the last 12 months. What’s been keeping us busy in and out of work, where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing and who we’ve been doing it with.

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