Curiosity? Lethal to felines, allegedly. But we’ve always seen it as creativity’s constant, inseparable companion. Anyway, this is where we’ll be letting ours off the leash…

Redesigning [Graphic] Design Education (4/5/2012)

We recently held a Redesigning [Graphic] Design Education day at Derby University. We brought together practitioners, theorists, students and educators for a 7-hour design project: to reshape graphic design education for the 21st century.

Heres what Jottas Design Director, Jane Trustram thought of R[G]DE:

Subjective review is a large part of the assessment of work, in both education and industry, and it’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that one person’s beauty is another person’s beast, and vice versa. Speaker Adrian Shaughnessy’s  provocation that ‘in design, taste is more important than science’ ignited the flame for discussion around the procedures by which work is assessed and what can change to make assessment more productive.

Universities are obsessed with assessment. Why do we spend so much time measuring? Assessment, as it is, with its predefined tick-box structure, creates boundaries and hinders excellence. Students should be set free, encouraged and enable to build dialogue around their projects and allowed to fail.

In the ‘real world’, i.e. industry, there’s no pass or fail. Well there is fail, and that can have serious repercussions, but there’s no pat on the back end of project ‘pass’. It’s expected. Does that have the potential for a new model in education? Fail or nothing. Fail or learn from your experiences in the last project and apply them to the next. Fail or carry on doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway. Fail or continue doing what you love. Because that’s why we all do this, right?

Rebecca Wright, course director of graphic design at Kingston University, asserted that ‘graphic design never exists on its own, it’s always about something’.

Rather than teaching graphic design as a field, should we be teaching ‘intent.’ Self-confessed optimist Wright suggests we reconsider our intentions in design. What are we designing for? Democracy? Emergencies? Regeneration? Fun? What are we designing against? Apathy? Crime? Boredom?

All design has a purpose: students should be encouraged to seek out their orientation in relation to the rest of the world. In discussion, the subject of collaborative communities came up, not just within graphic design education and with the creative industries but students proposed the idea of placements in non-creative businesses, in service industries. How can students identify possibilities for design thinking in the wider world, with the added potential of commercial opportunities?

Frustration was vented at the chameleon-like nature of the term ‘graphic design’ and the frivolous adopting of other disciplines’ critical thinking, rehashing it into a graphic design context.

Colin Davies, head of the School Art and Design at the University of Bedfordshire, lamented the lack of acknowledgement of graphic design history, both from education and from industry and questioned ‘how can we have an identity if we have no history?’ and so, ‘how can we educate people if we have no identity? What are we teaching people?’

Defining the field is a conversation to be had, and an advancement of our position, looking to both the past and the future. It is an opportunity for students and tutors to exchange knowledge and contribute equally to the discussion. Hierarchical barriers should be dissolved and a shared learning experience should emerge.

Finally, design educator and writer John Thackara looked at ‘why things don’t change.’

The world is awash with messages but it is starved of meaning. Graphic design is a process and it is an outcome but the way we can ensure that the product of these two elements is through action.

Advertising does it well, but as a discipline should we encourage more aggravators? Should we be actively teaching how to use modern communication platforms effectively? The Kony video came up as an example of a message inciting action, whether it’s to ‘like’ it on Facebook, donate some money or meet in the dead of night and plaster your city with stickers. Or is that message bigger? Is it to fight for what you believe in? Whichever, it demands action.

The Redesigning [Graphic] Design Education conference came about because the belief in the power of a message to incite an action. The message: graphic design education is at risk of becoming stagnant and irrelevant. Let’s start interrogating it before it gets too late. The action? Fifty course leaders, tutors, students and industry professionals probing, turning established educational models on their heads and suggesting alternatives to collaboratively and effectively lead the way in how positive change can define our industry and drive it forwards by seeding it with well informed, well educated new graphic design recruits.

Jane Trustram — 
Design Director, Jotta

Thanks to conference co-funders Higher Education Academy.Thanks also to Team Leaders: Jane Trustram, Dr. Paul Wilson, Matt Edgar and Jamie Steane.
Finally, thanks to Ross Fletcher, Matt King and Karen for their help and support.
Studio School (4/5/2012)

With our LITFI hats on, we’re part of a team from Stockport College bidding to launch a new Creative & Media Studio School.

Studio Schools are a game changing new model of teaching and learning for 14 to 19 year-olds. They are small schools — typically with around 300 pupils — delivering mainstream qualifications through project based learning.

Students work with local employers and a personal coach, and follow a curriculum designed to give them the employability skills and qualifications they need in work, or to take up further education.

At the heart of the vision is the insight that a bold new approach to learning can play a central role in tackling youth disengagement and equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed in life and work… we’re all for that.

As part of the bid we got to meet some of the creative industries finest to hear their thoughts on education and industry working closer together.

We’ll know in September if the bid was successful.

Fingers and toes crossed.

**Update — 20.04.12**
We’re thrilled to announce the Creative & Media Studio School bid has made it onto the interview stage of the selection process. Thanks to everyone who has supported the bid.

**Update — 15.05.12**
We’ve just finished a 90 minute interview with a panel at the Department of Education… They were firm but fair… We should have a decision of the Studio School bid by the end of July… Fingers and toes crossed.


Chris Cunningham (6/2/2011)

Last night we went to see the amazing Chris Cunningham Live at the Roundhouse – it was awesome. If you get a chance to see him, take it.

What Design Can Do! (5/31/2011)

We spent a few days last week in Amsterdam at the What Design Can Do! conference which brought together creatives thinking about design as a mindset for addressing social issues.

What Design Can Do! was an ambitious and well organised event, with lots of provocative speakers. One speaker that made a big impact on the conference was iconic photographer, Oliviero Toscani.

Toscani has been behind some of the most controversial campaigns to hit the public eye such as the Benetton campaign and Lolita clothing.

Listening to Toscani speak was like listening to someone who in many ways has lost faith in the designers that now take the industry by storm. Fearless in his commitment that design is about taking risks and having the courage to do those things that normally wouldn’t be done, he said that those who talk about their creativity have failed to be creative.

‘I’m afraid of people with ideas,’ he said and added that he can have thousands of ideas at any moment, but that doesn’t mean he’s creative. For Toscani, creativity isn’t about coming up with the idea; it’s about constantly creating because what’s the point of having ideas if you never do anything with them?

One of the shortfalls of designers these days is that a programme on some computer can do everything. He explains it by saying that technology justifies designers’ creative inertia. That technology creates lazy designers. Quite a remark when considering some of the speakers before him had said how technology, particularly those programmes, had created more opportunities for designers in taking what they do to greater heights.

But Toscani was having none of it and even went as far as critiscising the ‘people who tell you what to design’. ‘I’m a art director,’ he said incredulously as if not even sure what that means. To Toscani, art is the highest form of communication so how can he or anyone else possibly tell people how to create art? There is no doubt that this design great got a few people talking and some maybe even a little rattled, but you have to give credit to a man that is able to tell designers they are mediocre and still get a rousing applause at the end.

News from the forest (3/13/2011)


Our new design school, Lost in the Forest Institute (LITFI), has got off to a great start. In just a few short weeks we’ve been shortlisted in the PSFK-UNICEF Future of Mobile Tagging competition, worked with Jonathan Barnbrook and Dan Streat from BARNBROOK on the LITFI identity; arranged, promoted and organised first D&AD North Lecture with Greg Quinton from THE PARTNERS and started designing Creative Review’s 2011 Graduate Guide.

But before we go any further there’s a few people we need to thank for helping us to get LITFI off the ground.

Thoughtful thanks to Principal Lynn Merilion, Mel Spooner, Gary Spicer and James Corazzo from Stockport College, for their continued support and appetite for innovation and rule breaking.

DAVID HIEATT for taking time out of his busy schedule to write LITFI’s values.

Adrian Shaughnessy for his advice, encouragement and for being a constant source of inspiration.

Jonathan Barnbrook and Dan Streat for their enthusiasm, flexibility and straight-talking approach.

And finally, Bruce Mau, for showing us graphic design has changed but graphic designers haven’t and for allowing us to adopt the LITFI name.

InterSections 11 (3/5/2011)

Thoughtful took a trip to Cornwall for INTERSECTIONS 2011 – a fantastic two-day conference at the Eden Project.

We were treated to over 45 experts, mavericks, entrepreneurs and thought leaders speaking about emerging trends driving business change and new opportunities for design practice.

The day started with NICK JANKEL talking about the virtues and vices of private, public and third sectors, in a very, very good analysis of what was good and bad about each and how great collaboration across the sectors could, for example, marry the speed of companies with the scale of governments and the compassion and citizenship of charities.

Know your purpose said Nick and we think that advice resonated right through the event.

Tom Hulme from IDEO gave a great case study on OPEN IDEO as a global online innovation network community, reminding us that we must all avoid vanity metrics. He also told us that if you ask a person a bad question, you get a bad answer.

From journalist and self taught data visualiser DAVID McCANDLESS, we learnt that the figure 100million is not actually a big number, it’s the figure that governments, banks and big corporations pluck out when they want to fudge something. We think his visualisations were quite revelatory. He showed diagrammatically who is suing who in the telecoms industry and the graphic pattern when you took all the information away revealed that the biggest players who are currently losing revenue, they’re the ones who are the most litigious – it’s all in the graphics, stunning stuff.

David Rowan of WIRED MAGAZINE took us into a world of online sharing networks, couch surfing, car sharing and crowd sourcing and so on, and democratic user driven product design using 3D printing and other technologies.

The big take out for us here was if the crowd is modifying the product design, who owns the IP? And concepts of ownership in design are shifting all the time. So are concepts of sustainability, to judge by the afternoon panel, the debate led by Anne Chick of Kingston University. What struck us here was the idea that we are currently asset stripping our natural and human capital to feed the machines we like, to stoke up manufacturing and financial capital. When we really should be doing the opposite, directing financial capital to enhance and grow our natural capital. It’s all the wrong way round.

But there is hope in what JOHN THACKARA described as new enterprises and emerging experiments which provide forms of restorative, not disruptive economy. Many of those experiments have been catalysed by Dott in Gateshead and in Cornwall and these were explored in a panel debate at the end of the day. And indeed you could say the Eden project is very much part of that sense of optimism. 

We were also treated to DAVID KESTER’s Nudge theory of design, a great project on a better beer glass and reducing ‘glassing’ admissions on NHS hospital wards.

One of InterSections big stand out moments was a set of full and stunning case studies of social and ethical enterprise, making a difference in Cornwall: FRUGI, Fresk, FIFTEEN and SHELTERBOX.

ShelterBox was particularly impressive as was ShelterBox’s Founder and CEO, Tom Henderson OBE.

ShelterBox is a disaster relief organisation which has helped over 1 million people in 57 different countries, over a 10 year period. And for a conference which debated lots of complex themes and technologies the most inspiring message of the two days was simple and human. When asked about what made ShelterBox so successful and effective at saving lives, Tom Henderson’s answer was: Keep it simple. Do it now.

We suppose that could be a motto for all of us.

Massive Change Network (2/25/2011)

Thoughtful attended the launch of Bruce Mau’s MASSIVE CHANGE NETWORK (MCN) in Liverpool.

MCN is a global design learning network. Co-founded by Bruce Mau and Bisi Williams, and is committed to inspiring, connecting and empowering a new generation of designers to develop a more equitable, abundant, sustainable world through learning programs and collaboration.

According to MCN co-founder Bisi Williams, the Massive Change Network provides a purpose driven experience and interaction. “We’re working together to empower each other to solve and affect real problems and challenges. Our primary purpose is to facilitate and accelerate positive change in the world,” says Williams.

As part of the launch we watched the inspiring Swedish documentary – THE PLAN – a film about global sustainability, featuring change-makers from across the world. As well as taking part in a global debate with other 10 cities, spanning five continents via a live link up.

It was a hugely inspiring evening which ended with Bruce Mau asking 3 questions of everyone…

Bruce Mau asked:-

  1. How can we get the power of design into the hands of the 99% who have not had access to higher education?

  2. How do we break through the noise, and make the best of human culture the most visible?

  3. What can we do to accelerate the best (and stop the rest)?

Stodgepodge (2/25/2011)


Test Article (2/23/2011)

Test Article

Mobile World Congress 11 (2/19/2011)
Just got back from an awesome few days at the MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS in Barcelona, where (ironically) I lost my phone. Thanks to COCOATE for the shots.
Can’t see the wood for the trees (2/3/2011)

Our new design school has now been open for a few weeks.
You’re very welcome to drop by LITFI.AC

Forest 4-2

Thanks to HOWIES and photographer PAUL BLISS for the shot.

Provenance (1/23/2011)
1431762-10361944-thumbnail 1431762-10361937-thumbnail 1431762-10362016-thumbnail.jpg

Chris and Vicky from the LOST IN THE FOREST INSTITUTE.

London College of Communication (1/21/2011)

We were asked by LCC graduate, LUCY BROWN, to give a talk today.

Each term, LCC’s Faculty of Design invites practitioners and theorists who have exemplary practices and /or processes to share their perspectives on the challenges, capacities and contexts of graphic design. The Autumn 2010 lecture programme contemplated the question ‘What is Graphic Design?’ to discover a diverse and open range of definitions. In Spring 2011, the conversations continue; this time, asking ‘Where is Graphic Design?’ through a series of dialogues with alumni and other practitioners about the constanty shape-shifting whereabouts of graphic design within contemporary culture.

We were joined on stage by the LOST IN THE FOREST INSTITUTE, well done guys.


Poster design by RANDY YEO.

Augmented Reality (1/19/2011)

We’ve just come back from Switzerland where we went to a meet up about
AR IN PRINT AND PUBLISHING. It was good to talk with like minded people to discuss some of our future projects with them. As it’s always good to learn, it’s important to meet new people too and for both those reasons it was a great trip.

While in Zürich we came across this magnificent church built by THOMAS KIRCHE. The attention to detail was second to none and the products used were of the best quality. If you find yourself in Zürich it’s well worth a visit.

Swiss flag Thomas Kirch 1 Thomas Kirch 2
Thoughtful’s Christmas Speech 2010 (12/25/2010)

Hello and Merry Christmas.

It’s exactly four years to the day since Thoughtful was born.

This Christmas Speech more than any other has been a test of one Thoughtful’s core beliefs: HONESTY CUTS THROUGH.

For the past 3 years our Christmas Speech has been an open and honest account of our time in business. But I knew that moment when we had to reveal something close and personal about Thoughtful had yet to happen.

That single event which felt too painful to talk about in a blog and a public admission of failure. Because we’re all only supposed to talk about ‘big business wins’, aren’t we?

Well, this year ‘that’ event happened.

It was an event so big it overshadowed everything else that happened during 2010.

Sadly, in January of this year Chris stepped down as a serving Director of Thoughtful.

This was a crushing blow both personally and professionally — Chris wasn’t just a third of the workforce, he is a friend and for over the past 10 years has been central to me achieving some of my goals as a designer. He’s also graciously let me in on some of his brilliant ideas on more occasions that a I dare to remember — to coin a movie quote, (as a designer) ‘he completed me’.

There were no arguments, no solicitors, no tribunals, no acrimony and his decision to step down was taken and completed within two weeks which highlights just what a professional Chris is.

I’ve always viewed Thoughtful as period in time when the paths of 3 people were running in parallel. And I knew at some point these paths would separate when each of us wanted something different from life. But I had hoped that divergence would have happened much further down the path and we’d all be driving Porsche 911 Turbos into the sunset.

Chris’ departure has had a deep effect — and will do for a long time to come — the personal sense of failure and shame had sent me into a depression which I hope I can find a way out of soon because after 4 years I’m emotionally, physically (and possibly creatively?) at the lowest point in my life.

Thoughtful is broken and it will take time to fix.

The saddest part is it could have been avoided.

Had we been more open (and dare I say ‘honest’) about what we expected from each other on a more regular basis we could have worked through our issues. But we didn’t. And it’s for this reason we all share the blame.

I’m guessing you are reading this thinking WTF? Well, despite this feeling like a selfishly cathartic moment I hope any new start-up who reads this post will take note and look to find a way of continually discussing not just the good stuff but the bits you’d rather not talk about for fear of rocking the boat.

This may appear like a very poor tribute to a friend who’s has played an important role in getting Thoughtful to where it is today, and you’d be right, it is — but we’re all still working together on various projects, so we’ll save the gushing eulogy for another day if that’s okay?

So to coin another movie quote ‘that’s all I have to say about that’.

Thanks for taking the time to read this year’s Christmas Speech — we wish you the very best of luck for 2011.


Bizzy bees (4/23/2010)

We’re really bizzy at the moment, so we won’t be making any posts for a short while. We do hope you can drop by again in a couple of weeks when we’ll have something to show you.


Tees (3/20/2010)

The students at Staffs Uni have launched a fund-raising site for their final degree show. Everything is hand-screened to order, and the prices aren’t too shabby.


Here’s one of the tees we bought from WWW.GREYMATTERSTORE.COM

Howies sample sale (3/15/2010)

Howies are coming to town again.

The Manchester sample sale will be held at:
Triangle Shopping Centre,
Exchange Square,
First Floor,
M4 3TR

If you were there last year it’s directly above the unit we used.

Thursday 18th – Sunday 21st May

Trading times:
Thursday 4pm – 8pm
Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 11am – 4pm

Remember, bring your own bag and we’ll see you there.

AR t (3/13/2010)

Here’s a peak at a project we’re thinking about.

AR t_1

We’ve called it ‘AR t’.

We’re also thinking we could extend the idea to ‘Street AR t’, too.

AR t_2
Lucy Brown: Doer (3/9/2010)

A few months ago LCC graduate, LUCY BROWN, visited Thoughtful.

Lucy had a great portfolio, full of solid thinking.

We sensed Lucy was a doer the moment we met her and not someone who is prepared to sit around and wait for the phone to ring.

We were right. Lucy has just built her own studio.

sh4 shd1 sh2 sh5 sh3 sh6

Well done, Lucy. This is a great lesson for all graduates.

We’re off to see Lucy’s new studio for ourselves on Friday.

View Older Blog Posts

© Thoughtful Studios 2016