Talking writing


It’s not often I get away from my desk, but I’ve had the privilege of being invited to a Society of Design conference in Philadephia this October, thanks to organiser Craig Welsh at Go Welsh.

If this blog has any readers in or near Philadelphia, please come along – in fact, email me and I may be able to arrange a discount. You can find more information on the speakers (an interesting and eclectic line-up) and venue here:

I’ll be talking about the writing I like, the way writing works with design, giving some insight into a book I’ve been working on, and talking about anything else I can think of between now and October. Afterwards, I will have a beer with anyone who will drink with me.

26 thoughts on Alphabet


NB: I’ve written this as a list as I don’t have time to write a continuous, well-considered blog post.

1. Interesting to see a brand founded on numbers (Googol) now planting its flag in words.

2. Which, as the accompanying announcement explains, are the real currency in which Google operates (“the core of how we index with Google search”).

3. Nice to see an announcement that conveys a genuine, geeky interest in what the name and brand should be. You get the impression Larry Page and Sergey Brin were personally invested in the naming process.

4. And it’s nice that one of the Google and Alphabet founders is called Page.

5. People will always like a pun. Alphabet is a pun on ‘betting on alpha’, investor-speak for a return above benchmark.

6. But good puns are there for a reason, to encode a rationale that makes sense of the name and gives it an extra backstory.

7. Pun aside, the larger rationale is that Alphabet means “a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!”

8. Exclamation marks used to make me wince, but I’ve grown to like them – in the right context, they can convey a nice, winning sincerity.

9. It’s a great name with a strong rationale.

10. But it’s easier than a lot of naming projects, as most start-ups would have to say ‘yes, but we can’t own Alphabet – there are too many companies out there already’.

11. That’s not a problem if you’re Google. Some brands have the weight and presence to go for the big, primal metaphors and own them.

12. Which is fair enough – Google has earned that weight and presence by doing great things.

13. I still remember that first encounter with the clean, white search page and the internet suddenly making sense.


14. It’s only on digging out that image that I realise Google has always liked exclamation marks.

15. I wonder if they dropped it because of Yahoo!

16. The exclamation mark in that last sentence is part of the brand name – it’s not meant to suggest me wondering in a particularly lively or emphatic way.

17. A lot of start-ups would also dismiss ‘Alphabet’ because it would be hard to get a decent url.

18. But the url is one of the nice parts of the Alphabet identity:

19. I wonder if there will be a rush for .xyz domain names.

20. Going back to the alphabet metaphor, it’s a good one for Google, but...

21. You could argue Amazon already owns it, with its a-z identity:



22. But obviously nobody owns a metaphor, really.

23. None of this matters hugely as Alphabet will not be a big, public-facing identity.

24. But writers may take heart from the whole thing, as it’s an example of verbal thinking (with an appropriately understated logotype) solving a high-stakes branding challenge.

25. All explained in a nicely written announcement that comes straight from the top.

26. I have nothing else to say but need a 26th point.

A road, a paper size, a notebook


Today we launch a new project called A6 Notebook – an A6-sized notebook about the A6 road in England. It’s the first in a series of notebooks inspired by the coincidental overlap between standard paper sizes and British road numbering.

The hardback 156-pp notebook is an invitation to explore your own creative meanderings while notionally following the route of the A6, which runs for 300 miles across England from Luton in the south to Carlisle in the north.

A6 Notebook is available for £11 plus p&p from our shop.

We’re delighted that Joe Moran agreed to write a Foreword. He’s the author of On Roads: A Hidden History, a brilliant examination of the social and cultural history of Britain’s roads. A historian with a focus on the recent past, Joe combines meticulous research with a poet’s ear for language – it’s worth following his blog and seeking out his other writing (including the recent Armchair Nation: an intimate history of Britain in front of the TV). 

The Foreword is followed by an introductory essay on the A6, with further information sections at the back. The main body of the notebook is blank for your own notes and doodles, with footnotes marking destinations and points of interest along the way.



A6 Notebook is the first in a series – we plan to tackle the A5 next. We first had the idea about eight years ago and have been photographing the various A-roads while on trips away (we’ve blogged about it a few times). At first, the project was going to be an A0-sized poster, but we realised notebooks would be the natural medium for the idea, not least because of the rich symbolic connections between travel and the creative process. As Joe Moran writes, “Roads have long been a source of creative inspiration and narrative drive, from the Canterbury Tales onwards. But they are also a metaphor for the creative process itself. They are drawn like lines on the landscape, and they transport you from one place to another while often making the journey as interesting as the destination.”


The project is intended as a celebration of British A-roads, which were long ago relegated in importance by the arrival of motorways, and have never enjoyed the same mythological status as American highways, but nevertheless play a significant role in the psychogeography of the British Isles. Joe Moran writes that “A-roads serve as the road system’s unconscious, often stretching for miles without being signposted or acknowledged, disappearing into street names and getting caught up in one-way systems but still always there, connecting up different areas of our lives serendipitously.”

The A6 has played a serendipitous role in our lives too – I grew up near the Wellington Road stretch in Davenport, and Sue studied design at Stockport College, about halfway along its route. A6 is also a good size for a notebook, so it feels like the right place to start. But this is just the beginning of a journey for us – we have several more notebooks to produce over the next few years before the set is complete. 

We’re hoping there’s at least a small market for notebooks about A-roads. You can order yours for £11 plus p&p from