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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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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Waiting for Lightning

May 17th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Earlier this year, we wrote a blog post regarding some of our thoughts on inspiration. Sprungseven left a considered and well written response in the comments section, using a quote from the brilliant Bob Gill:

“Don’t look for inspiration in design books. Don’t sit at your computer, waiting for lightning to strike. If the job is for a dry cleaner, go to a dry cleaner. And stay there until you have something that you honestly think is interesting to say about dry cleaning.”

The sentiment is spot on and one we wholeheartedly agree with. If inspiration for designers comes from the same sources (a finite handful of popular websites and design books), its only a matter of time before things begin to look similar. Without wanting to cover old ground, we concur.

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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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We’ve Only Just Begun

May 2nd, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

We’ve been designing for a while now. Nowhere near as long as some, but a while. Without wanting to sound too nostalgic about it, things have changed a lot since we first set foot in the big, scary world of paid employment. Trends have come and gone (and come back again), technology has made huge steps forward, something called the internet has started up, and we have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to make a few waves…

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Graphic Design Will Eat Itself

April 11th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Like any industry, design is a bit incestuous. We know you, you know us. Together we know so-and-so. If we haven’t met face to face (which is oddly the rarity these days) we’ve no doubt ‘met’ on the net or conversed via Twitter — the goto hub for conversation. Our friendship circles are tight and everyone knows and talks to the same people. Views sometimes but rarely differ and before you realise it you’re in an echo chamber of thought and opinion with lots of nodding heads (one of the reasons we now rarely attend industry ‘get-togethers’ — controversial, but true).

This circle of people who think the same thing is not necessarily a good thing and something that got us thinking about the knock on effect to design and everyone’s work.

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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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It’s Nice To Be Nice

November 3rd, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

We don’t do games. We don’t mind the odd game of Kerplunk or bout of Twister, but when it comes to consoles and losing 5hrs pretending to be a sniper we just switch off and would rather talk to another human being or open up a good book. Same too for apps on our wonderful handheld smartphone device thingies. Angry Birds passed us by and that was that. No biggy. We’ve got better things to do on the tube.

But then our friends over at ustwo caught our eye. They’ve been busy working away for ages developing a neat little app called WhaleTrail. Now, we’re all for promoting and supporting our friends, but the game is actually very good. Coming from self-confessed non-gamers that’s quite a thing. So no hard sell, it’s just a really good game and we recommend you checking it out. It’s 69p so you can’t go wrong. Buy it here.

It’s nice to be nice. Keep reading…

Guest Post – Bernadette Jiwa » Why Are Designers Hiding?

November 1st, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

When we meet clients for the first time they’re often quite surprised to find out how long we’ve been established and how many people actually work here. It happens all the time, and even comes from other agencies within the industry too. “Really???” is a common reaction. People’s perception of Mat Dolphin is based on a number of factors. Our creative work, the brands we’ve been fortunate to work with, the exposure we’ve had, our twitter presence, this very blog etc. all go together to paint a picture, and one that is apparently bigger and louder than we are. So why don’t we just be more open about it all? The vast majority of design agencies these days share what they want to be heard or seen. Like well oiled PR companies, they carefully control what the world finds out about them. But that’s kind of missing the point. What makes agencies unique is the people that work there. Designers constantly encourage brands to be open and honest, yet hide behind the typical designer ‘cool wall’.

We’ve been talking about this topic for a while, but the original train of thought came from Bernadette Jiwa ‘brand and business catalyst and verbal designer’ who we regularly chat with on Twitter. She questioned why we at MDHQ portray ourselves in the way we do and it got us thinking. We were going to write a blog post about it but thought who better to write a post than Bernadette herself.

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The Long & Winding Code

September 1st, 2011 by Mat Dolphin

There has been some internet chatter of late debating whether it’s necessary for designers to learn back-end coding, much of it around Frank Chimero’s Designers vs Coding post which is currently doing the rounds. Being the all-knowing opinion formers that we are, we couldn’t help but let our thoughts be known on the matter.

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