Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nature's best designed island: my typo fun.

I've always loved the shape of the Isle of Wight; it's a real design job in progress. An island that has this distinctive layout, obeying more or less, the cardinal points of the compass. Not a discarded sock or dead guinea pig like the Isle of Man, this is a professional job. The place has identity. It's a diamond.

My mate Laurence has a gallery in Yarmouth, and he was asking me to think of stuff he could sell beside the people prints. Could I think of something more local; could I come up with a tasteful souvenir? I started mucking about with Adobe Illustrator and the letters that make up the name, and I quickly hit upon a shape that would obey the boundaries of the actual topography, but what excited me more than anything (pathetic, I know) was that the THE became a sort of typo symbol for The Needles (you can't thread), its best-known landmark. I also liked the letters in reflection (some designers do jigsaw pieces, I stick to reflections, but so far nobody's said anything...) which do give the basic letterforms a seaside context.

It could exist in many contexts this shape. So far it will be sold as an open edition print as a simple evocation of, well, sea, sun and yachts. Maybe in more than one colourway... I just love it because it really seems to work. I then thought, that someone must have designed something for the Isle of Wight Tourist Board, and I hadn't even checked to see if there was anything that might be clashing with mine. Er, no there wasn't.

Usually, like universities, resorts have got hip to 'identities'; modern-speak for those dreary scribbles that appear mostly to have been knocked out by a bored designer or a golf-buddy's equally vacant teenager. Anyway, as far as the authorities who adopt these wonky little talismans are concerned, they're getting something cool. A sexy little button that will make up the web-surfing holiday planner's mind really quickly. No matter what TripAdvisor says of the over-priced clapped-out little dump that passes as a guest house. (..."the landlord just stood behind my husband during breakfast and read the paper over his shoulder..." sort of thing). No, get a yourself an overpriced, clapped-out little logo.

I'm not saying, of course, that the logo the Isle of Wight Tourist Board uses is any of these things. It doesn't look overpriced for a start. It doesn't really matter that it might have been previously rejected by a ten-pin bowling club, or a bird sanctuary near Benidorm.  It's a logo. It's an identity. It says... er, Enjoy! 

Get over yourself. 



  1. You're right, of course. These hateful little symbols are all over those leaflets that festoon the reception desks of seaside hotels, restaurants and libraries. Actually, an awful lot of public sector stuff is similarly littered with assorted and ill-matched marks; instead of clarifying the message, they just make things look untidy. Sigh.

  2. I must make a collection of the ones based around Salisbury. They always use the cathedral, well mostly they do, in some sort of spikey skyward component. Then there's the S shape... Thing is, they're all supposed to look happy and spontaneous. Hence the pretend brush strokes and the like, straining to communicate two things that poor old Salisbury never really bothers with much. Nobody's ever thought of putting a Traffic Warden in an abandoned shopping trolley. A job for Pentagram, maybe...

  3. It's quite good fun to collect lazy logos. I myself have a collection of hearts and another extensive one of spirals. It never ceases to amaze me how many grown-up companies buy clip-art shite instead of having a proper identity designed for them, q.v. the recent GAP furore. I can only assume that the guys who sell this rubbish in to otherwise bright clients must be absolute geniuses at wool pulling.

  4. I really like this. Love the colours too.

  5. I knew a girlfriend of a much older chap in the mid-70s. He was a graphic designer, and quite proud of the horrible identities his company knocked out for the gullible clients. I remember he used to call these floating squiggly amoebic sort of lens apertures 'flying arseholes'. I saw one the other day; made me go all mushy. Lots of people now are consultants, straight out of uni, and er, consulting... Right now one of them's playing paintball with some hapless dickweed in some marketing role, 50 grand into the ludicrous identi-spend, and nothing done. Then out of thin air after lots of consulting, yes, another shitty logo. Gawd bless 'em.