The 7th Annual 
Fairhead Meet 2016
I got a mail in January from Paul Swail asking me if I'd be interested in putting together a poster for this years Fairhead Meet. Of course I would, I was so excited! The email went on... Paul was pretty sure the speaker would most like be Alex Honnold... but if I could keep that to myself!! I basically had to forget that last part altogether. Most of the people I know are climbers, and I was training A LOT at that point, so I just had to erase any knowledge that the world's most famous climber was going to be hanging out in Fairhead, with all of us... ALL OF US!!!
Alex is most famous for the soloing he's done in Yosemite Valley. He climbs mile high faces in record time, without ropes. The poster shows Alex sitting on a ledge, known as 'Thank God Ledge' on Half Dome (2694m high). I think this is his most famous photo and I really loved the idea of him sitting there thinking of his trip to Ireland!, so I sat him across from Fairhead and then threw the type down between the two faces, creating a sense of space and perhaps time between the two climbing venues. The poster needed to let everyone know: 
Alex is in Yosemite, but he can't wait to get to Fairhead!
When I was making the Poster, I thought about the fact that the ledge Alex was sitting on was drenched in sunshine, and I had also chosen to use an image of Fairhead with blue skies and so I was perhaps being slightly optimistic - but the weather was perfect, Fairhead looked even better than the photo and so I felt quite proud of my optimism!!
Alex remarked that it was extremely special to have the entire Irish climbing community come together and be present in one place (ok, so not everyone was there, but there was a sense that you could easily count those who weren't!) He gave a fantastic talk, and got a standing ovation from a very excited crowd!
It was everyone there that made the weekend - the atmosphere and the excitement were fantastic and at the end of it all, I absolutely couldn't help myself - I had to say hi and thank you to Alex and ask for a photo... because, as a boulderer from Ireland, when am I ever going to meet that man again?!
Thanks so much to Paul Swail for organising such a special weekend -
and for asking me to put together the poster for it.

Unashamed Branding
I came back from a trip to Italy last weekend. We cycled all around Tuscany and Umbria. It was so beautiful and we saw so many wonderful things. The trip kicked off in Florence. We know the city fairly well, and we've done all the museums and churches, the gardens and the views. When we visit Florence now, we're happy to save our cash and simply take in the beautiful streets and atmosphere. It's a nice situation to be in - I don't have to run around and see this, that and the other, before lunch and then try and squeeze in yet more between lunch and dinner.
So we were happy to sit on steps and read, and walk around discovering streets we hadn't seen before. At some point though, we were bound to get hungry and after lunch, we definitely needed a coffee. The Italians order cappuccinos in the morning. I enjoy them after lunch. 
My favourite piazza in Florence is the Piazza della Signoria (I suppose I'm still just a tourist, like any other after all!). It's a great place to sit and watch everyone - the only thing is - all the cafes and restaurants around have loud, irritating music and the staff are constantly at you to order, order ORDER... 
Except one. 
I'm fairly embarrassed to admit that I think the nicest place to sit on the Piazza della Signoria is the Gucci Museo outdoor cafe. It's quiet, the seats are really comfortable, the coffee is great, there's no music on and the staff leave you alone. It's only marginally more expensive than the rest - it's 80c extra that I'm willing to part with!
Sitting there sipping my cappuccino, I began to notice just how in-your-face the branding is. It's elegantly done, but the logo is absolutely everywhere. Every last thing we were handed had either the logo, or an extension of the branding. Yes... even the sugar cubes, were the Gucci logo. The photo I took illustrates a what I was handed when I ordered a coffee, the things on my table, at a quick glance around - there were 10m banners on the building, moulded rusted iron signage, window decals and so on...
This is how branding should be done. This is how graphic designers dream of their branding being rolled out. The attention to detail, the investment, the restraint and yet... the repetition. If, like most people, one attends the Gucci Museo cafe because of a love of fashion, this constant reminder of the branding is what sells the place. People who love Gucci, or any brand for that matter, want to buy into it - they want reminders of where they are, what they've purchased. A great mark, and a great identity offers a standard to those who buy in. 
People believe in these standards. The repetition, investment and attention to detail of great brands are what lifts them apart from the jumble of messages that flood everyday life. Unashamed branding; means that the logo and wider identity can be constantly and meticulously reinforced so that people feel elevated. The brand's audience should feel lifted and separated to a place that reinforces their point-of-view and love for the product or service on offer. The Gucci Museo cafe does all this quite unashamedly... and it looks slick.
 To be clear though, I was just there for the quiet.

Leonardo Da Vinci
at the National Gallery
Next week I'll be in Tuscany and Umbria cycling around seeing beautiful places. It seemed fitting to go and check out the new Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery prior to my trip. Da Vinci spent most of his life in Florence and Milan. I won't be going as far north as Milan, but my trip on my bike does begin in Florence, where I'll spend a few days. I love that city. I've been there a couple of times and anything I can do or see that gives me a richer insight into the it's history is becoming more of a must!
The exhibition of Da Vinci's work in the National Gallery is free - however, tickets must be booked prior to arrival. There are ten works on display. They are notebook sketches and studies. I really enjoyed the accompanying information beside each piece on display. As I went around, I made sure to read the text before I looked at the piece in question. With that in mind, I was able to appreciate Da Vinci's technical mastery and also experience some humour as I linked the text with the image.
My favourite piece was that of Da Vinci's cat studies, with a dragon thrown in for good measure. These sketches are said to be studies of the flexibility of a cat's spine - I found them charming and loved that Da Vinci chose to include a coiled dragon to illustrate a spine that can be as flexible as the human imagination allows.
Another sketch that I found intriguing was that of Da Vinci's studies of infant limbs. The text to the side of the piece tells of how depictions of the infant Christ, through the Renaissance were often grotesquely plump. Perhaps coming out of a time where children and babies were illustrated simply as smaller adults, in a kind of flat style - the urge to capture the contours and volume of the Renaissance Artist's subjects was just too tempting! 
It's not a big overwhelming exhibition, and the works on display are special. I enjoyed going to see it and now I'm even more excited about my trip around Italy next week!

Rio Olympics

Image Credit:

The Rio Olympics... It's just a few months away, and I can't wait! I love the idea of the Olympics - the whole world comes together to celebrate sports people and the 'now or never' culmination of their life's work. It's so exciting to watch and when the athletes pull all their training together and produce their best work, it's a joy to experience that moment with them - for me, having never been to see an Olympics, I find myself glued to the Live Streams on the web. I'm totally hooked on it!
I'm also very into the look of each of the games. It's such an immense undertaking to design the logo, the way finding systems, the icons, the posters, the stadiums, the uniforms, the colour, the attitude - and that's before the athletes turn up from each nation - wearing their own nations 'branding' and it's all just this visual feast of a thing.
I very much like the Rio 2016 logo and was delighted to find this video of the designers talking about it's meaning and so on. The best logos are based on a great story - layers of ideas that give the logo depth and leave people with a sense of wonder and intrigue.
Here's a link to the video and a short little article about the designers:
I'm obsessed with gymnastics and this week, ahead of the Rio test event (shout out to the athletes aiming to qualify next week in the various sports - good luck!) pictures emerged of the Gymnastics arena being prepared for the Games in August. The reaction from most people was that it looked awful and that the green was tired and old fashioned. I think it's going to look amazing. I can't wait to see how the colours pop on that green base. Even at this stage - the contrast of the lime green which can be seen at the base of the pommel horse and vault gives the impression that it will be the detail that sets off the branding of this gymnastics arena.
Cannot wait to see it finished!

Spieth Gymmnastics

Image Credit: Georgette Vidor - International Gymnast

Offset 2016
Whilst I was only able to attend Friday's Offset this year, I had an absolute blast! I kicked things off with a quick screen print, and then went over to the ICAD desk and said hello to Elaine who gave me my beautiful copy of the ICAD Awards book 2015... In short, my worries that the first 2 hours from 9am-11am would be an awful lot of standing around and feeling awkward in the company of a zillion creative people, very few of whom I knew, were eased! 
I went exploring and soon found the G.F. Smith Exhibition upstairs. Some helpful man pointed out that Strathmore Papers had a nice little story throughout each of the stands. One could start looking at samples labelled from as early as 1910 and clearly see the evolution of the thistle from one year to the next.  I think that, without the 'thistle' to follow around the stands, I would have glanced over them, without really looking. I found the journey of the Strathmore thistle to be really intriguing.
Having taken some dodgy photos, I came home wanting to find out who illustrated all of these thistles and were there any more! A brief bit of research has revealed that the helpful man I mentioned above was incorrect about one piece of information he relaid to me: He told me that the most recent version of the thistle was illustrated by Paula Scher. While it was Pentagram that commissioned the illustration, it was the illustrator: Marian Bantjes, who was hired by Michael Bierut to illustrate the thistle for the 21st Century.
So 11am rolled around and I was so excited to see and hear the speakers! Hugely impressed with the message that was reinforced over and over throughout the day: Do what you love to do and don't give up... EVER!. It seemed as though every speaker was orbiting around that same basic point, but each of them doing so in very different ways. I came away from the day totally happy, totally inspired, and totally knackered!

The Earliest Strathmore thistle at the G.F. Smith Exhibition at Offset 2016

All the thistles I spotted (dodgy photos!!)

The latest Strathmore thistle as illustrated by Marian Bantjes for Pentagram,

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