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January 2013

Mr Small Print


I sometimes miss writing Mr Blog, a character who lived a brief but intense life in late 2010, documenting all the ‘Mr’ shops on Britain’s high streets.

So it’s nice to see him immortalised in a small way in the credits of this year’s D&AD Annual, a copy of which has just arrived at my door.

Mr Blog was approached  by Venture Three to help with the writing on the rebranding of Little Chef – at the time, they didn’t know who was behind the blog and whether I did any commissioned writing. Mr Blog had to adapt his voice to fit with Little Chef’s more populist positioning, but hopefully a few traces remain.

Well done Mr Blog.*

* And well done Mr Tweets too.

Arguably Dylan or Crisp

Picture 4

Walkers Crisps have reportedly relaunched their core crisp flavours with new packaging featuring noticeably wordy product descriptions. Each begins with an adverb, followed by the flavour descriptor, then s0me extra detail giving a sense of 'provenance'.

The device is no doubt intended to add a little verbal garnish, in the style of self-consciously aspirational restaurant menus. However, for me, it's immediately redolent of mid-sixties Bob Dylan song titles.

Hence, in a follow-up to our not-that-popular Dodge or Fall game, we are pleased to introduce... Arguably Dylan or Crisp.

See if you can tell the difference.

Arguably Dylan or Crisp

1. Classically Ready Salted with Salt from Cheshire
2. Distinctively Salt & Vinegar with Real British Vinegar
3. Positively 4th Street
4. Unmistakably Cheese and Onion with Cheddar from Somerset
5. Absolutely Sweet Marie
6. Simply Roast Chicken with Free Range Chicken from Devon
7. Queen Jane Approximately
8. Tantalisingly Tomato Ketchup with Vale of Evesham Tomatoes
9. Obviously Five Believers
10. Only a Prawn in Their Cocktail

To view the answers, either stand on your head or turn your screen upside-down.


Every day is like Blue Monday



Today is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, but in reality a PR ruse with minimal scientific basis started by Sky Travel to flog holidays. Strangely, once you know that, it does turn it into the most depressing day of the year.

Nevertheless, it felt appropriate to post something today, as a brief nod of solidarity to all the people who have bought a Disappointments Diary and are making their way stoically through the year. Thanks to David Janes for mustering up the energy to send us the pictures above.

If you've bought a diary and would like to be added to the Twitter list of Disappointments Diarists, please let us know. No pleasantries necessary – just tweet us your Twitter name.

If you'd like to 'like' us on Facebook, you can't as we're not on Facebook.

If you haven't bought a diary, the bargain bin January fire sale is now on, so it's more in your price range now.

Finally, we're pondering what to do with the diary next year – so far all plans involve selling out in some way, or not doing anything. If you have any feedback or are currently sleeping with the global commissioning editor at Penguin, please let us know.




I worked on an enjoyable project with design company Build just before Christmas. They were commissioned by German/English magazine Form to create a poster for their ongoing series. The theme of the issue was 'Collaboration' so Build decided to get their Twitter followers involved – the call went out for people to tweet their favourite German or English word. Once 140 words had been collected, Build sent them to me to convert into a poem. A 14-line sonnet tied in with the numerical theme, so I picked out my favourite words, hunted down a few rhyming pairs and created a nonsense poem with vague glimmers of something disturbing going on underneath.

The title translates as a 'total work of art' or 'synthesis of the arts', so it felt right for this synthesis of design, writing and tweeted contributions, as well as the collaboration theme.

The result reads like this:


Bikini bingo: squeezes bosom.
Candid hardcore schlittschuhlaufen.
Super bazinga cosmic rummage.
Scuttling cretin. Prefer knowledge.
Astronaut daydream: rotund baboon.
Infinite aesthetic. Sublime spoon.
Currywurst, saucepan, rundumdum.
Butternut bungalow: dongle numb.
Love bruise. Crumbs. Catastrophe.
Invisible haberdashery.
Gesundheit! Ostrich silhouette.
Spiffing palimpsest cassette!
Coda: Muscovite (loquacious).
Bubble. Bumble. Boggled. Bodacious.

Michael C. Place at Build took the poem as the cue for the illustration and it's lovely to see the words brought to life and interpreted that way (albeit disturbing – the image is arguably even weirder than the poem). 

For images that do justice to the project, see the Build project page. Posters can be ordered online at Form.

Problem: how to win a book


A post to point you towards the Johnson Banks Review of the Year 2012, which has become something of an industry institution. I sent in some contributions that made their way into the mix and won me a copy of the new edition of Problem Solved in return. A good way to start the year.

If you haven’t already moved on from 2012 retrospectives, the full list of contributions I emailed went like this:

Best blog
Mike Dempsey’s six-part story of CDT. Lovely balance of personal and professional insight. 

Over-hyped thing you’d like to see the back of (and that Creative Review should probably stop covering)
Pantone colour of the year. A tired but frustratingly effective PR ruse.

Best ad of the year
Channel 4 ‘Meet the Superhumans’ Paralympics promo. Still electrifying to watch.

Worst ad of the year
Colgate ‘focus group’ – possibly the most excruciating thing ever committed to film.

Second worst ad of the year
Facebook is a bit like a chair, sort of, if you think about it.

Writing project of the year
Ma’amite. Single word, but pretty good.

Best creative project of year
Olympic opening ceremony, obviously.

Worst creative project of the year
Olympic closing ceremony. Conceived by "a hugely powerful establishment creative director who is not actually creative." 

Best creative of year
Danny Boyle

Design of the year
The Heatherwick cauldron is the obvious and deserving choice, but the gold postboxes were a lovely touch. 

Influential design project of the year
gov.uk by Government Digital Service. Still an epic work in progress but on course to be a major design and writing achievement.

Design story of year
The Comedy Carpet not getting in-book at D&AD. An indictment of the design judging culture that ought to be a tipping point, but probably won’t be.

Unfortunate book of the year
The Snowman’s Journey – the book of the John Lewis ad.

Brand refresh of the year
Ecce Homo restoration.

Worst brand use of Twitter
This ‘topical’ tweet from @YahooNews:
Last week a Moscow judge sentenced a band to two years in prison. What musical act would you send to lockup and why? 

Website of year

Quote of the year
“Hard work and grafting.” Mo Farah after winning second gold.

Worst brand campaign
Mini Cooper sponsoring what turned out to be a deadly weather front.

Those we have lost
The Waterstones apostrophe, which inevitably got its own Twitter account.

Much more comprehensive Johnson Banks review here.