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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Write on

November 28th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Design is one industry in particular that has embraced social media like no other. The platforms that have emerged and developed in recent years are appealing to designers and other creatives for obvious reasons.

There aren’t many faster or easier ways to share new ideas, new work or new problems that need solving than Twitter. It’s a ready made focus group, eager to give feedback. At its best, it’s helpful, convenient, quick and fun. At worst it’s… well, maybe best to not go there. The attractions of Instagram are also obvious. It’s purely visual, incredibly instant and the technology can hardly fail to make your arty snapshot of your dinner, trainers or fixed gear look suitably cool. Similarly, what better way than Tumblr is there to act as curator and inspire people with your carefully selected imagery of other peoples work?

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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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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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It’s Nothing Personal

July 25th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

One of the things we find ourselves saying to clients time and time again is ‘we’re not artists’.

Obviously the difference is quite clear in certain ways (nobody has asked us to paint their portrait or create an installation for them… yet), but there are times when the boundaries between the two disciplines become blurred.

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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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Ideas for Sale

June 13th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

There are plenty of things you don’t get taught at school or university. Students leave their graphic design education with a huge amount of knowledge and expertise still to discover. This isn’t a massive revelation, it’s true of many professions and simply a fact that young designers have to deal with; your education can’t teach you everything you need to know about the big bad reality of working as a graphic designer.

This isn’t a dig at the education system. There’s a huge amount that a good design course can teach you. Maybe you’re a bit of a whizz kid. Your ideas are brilliant and original. Your typography is top notch. Your mac skills are second to none. You’re well on your way to becoming the next big name and international acclaim is just around the corner. However, there’s one thing they never mention; no matter how great you are creatively, if you’re not a good salesperson, you’re going to have a hard time.

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