Get them while they're hot


We’ve put four new Pentone mugs in the shop today.

Pentone is our not-entirely-serious system for dividing written language into different ‘tones of voice’ in the same way that Pantone does for colour.

The new mugs include:


Pentone Yorkshire
A rewritten version of our previous Pentone Yorkshire mug. Perfect with Yorkshire Tea. Or just a good way to patronise a northern friend.


Pentone Scouse
One half of Asbury & Asbury is from Liverpool, so we are allowed to do this.


Pentone Dad
Don’t look at me in that tone of voice


Pentone Mum
You’ll buy it and you’ll like it.

All mugs are English fine bone china, hand-decorated in the UK, dishwasher and microwave proof, white on the inside (important for making tea) and a good, satisfying size.

There aren’t that many of them, so please factor rarity into your purchasing state of mind.


Pentone Boxset
There is also this bumper boxset of 30 tones. But don’t pour tea into it.

Pentone Boxset


To coincide with the opening of the After Hours exhibition (see yesterday’s post), we’ve produced a Pentone Boxset, featuring the same 30 swatches that are now on display at the Jerwood Space. The boxset is available to order from today.


The postcards are presented in a very smart (if we say so ourselves) box, handmade by a company in Manchester. It contains 30 A6 postcards, ranging from the tear-jerking Pentone Sad to the laugh-a-minute Pentone Funny, via some disturbing detours to Pentone Drunk and Pentone Horseshit.



We hope it’s not just an enjoyable read, but also a useful aid to creative thinking and writing. But you’ll be the judge of that.

The boxset is on sale in our new Tictail store. We’ve been using Tictail to sell diaries since Disappointments Diary launched last year, but we’ve now expanded it to include Pentone Boxsets, copies of Corpoetics (still flogging that one) and the few Pentone mugs we have left.

For his generous advice on the production of the boxsets, we want to thank Jack Jackson of Polite, an independent art publisher from the same hometown as us. Among many other things, Polite produces postcard sets on behalf of artists and photographers including Peter Blake, David Shrigley, Kevin Cummins, Harry Hill and Factory Records. We’ve used the same format for the Pentone Boxset, and we’re pleased with the way it’s turned out. (There’s a subtle nod of respect to Polite in the layout of the text on the boxset cover, but this is a more upfront thank-you.)

Buy the Pentone Boxset
More on After Hours
More from Polite 

After Hours at the Jerwood


Things have been busy lately in the run-up to an unusual exhibition hosted by Jerwood Visual Arts at Jerwood Space in London. After Hours is a collection of personal projects by graphic designers. It opens this week and runs from 15 May to 23 June.

The exhibition is curated by Nick Eagleton of The Partners, who has gathered together a great list of contributors, including Robert Ball, Anthony Burrill, Phil Carter, Michael Johnson, Joe Phillips, Alan Kitching, Magpie Studio, Craig Oldham, Jack Renwick, Steve Royle, Jim Sutherland, Alex Swatridge and a selection of projects from the Young Creatives Network.

My contribution is a collection of 30 framed Pentone swatches, pictured above on our kitchen floor, but hopefully on a gallery wall by now.

Pentone is a project that began in 2006 when we produced a mailer of nine swatches, each containing a sample of a written tone of voice – a verbal play on the Pantone colour-matching system. It later evolved into postcards, greetings cards and mugs. But I’ve always felt it should turn into some kind of ‘definitive’ collection at some point, and this exhibition has been the catalyst to make it happen. The 30 swatches are mainly new ones, with a handful of old ones mixed in – Pentone Boring remains as dull as ever.

To coincide with the exhibition, we've produced a Pentone Boxset including all 30 swatches, more of which to follow.

There will also be a reading table at the gallery featuring publications from the contributors, with Disappointments Diary and Corpoetics both included.

As well as contributing to the exhibition, I’ve been working with curator Nick Eagleton on the writing that goes around it. The principle has been to keep it simple – it’s more about celebrating the contents of the exhibition rather than theorising about them. To that end, the opening panel in the exhibition contains a rhyming list of the many and varied items on display, an evocative taster to set the tone. For the detailed analysis, there will be a couple of talks at the Jerwood Space over the course of the exhibition, going into the thinking behind the work and the wider questions it raises.

I’ll write more about the exhibition over the coming weeks. For now, here are a few related articles:

Design Week feature
My contribution to a related Design Week voxpop
More from johnson banks
Details and visitor information

Pentone Hard Sell


Do you want to buy a mug for Christmas? And do you want to place an order before midday on Monday 12 December? If so, read on!

Two and a half years ago, we produced some Pentone mugs – an extension of our Pentone system for dividing written language into different tones of voice (a not-entirely-serious system).

Since then, the mugs have been selling at a slow but pleasingly steady rate, to the point where we’ve now SOLD OUT of Pentone Yorkshires. If you’re the owner of one, consider thysen lucky.

But there are still three varieties to choose from:


Pentone Mug: A true mug’s mug. If it’s not right for you, then it’s definitely right for one of your friends. You know the one.


Pentone Sympathetic: A mug that offers both tea and sympathy. And we all need a bit of both now and again.


Pentone Stirring: A mug that stirs you. Recommended for important business meetings and major sporting occasions.

All mugs are finest bone china, made in Britain, dishwasher and microwave proof. The best thing about them is their size – we find they’re ideal for a good brew, and the white interior allows you to judge the colour of your tea more accurately.

Order very quick if you want one before Christmas – for deliveries within the UK, we need the order by midday Monday 12 December. (If you’re outside the UK, it may already be too late – maybe next year.)

All deliveries come with a free set of Pentone swatches.

Buy now, pay now.

And a reminder that Pentone Yorkshire has SOLD OUT.

A word of thanks

We've just taken delivery of this Lego set from Andrew Arnold, fellow 26 member and Communications Manager at Lego.

It's part of a swap deal involving a set of Pentone mugs, which are now making their way over to Andrew in Denmark. We suspect we got the better side of the deal.

The swap came about through the Creative Review Tweetup last week, at which Lego was the main sponsor. The event gets a good write-up over here.

Let's mingle

Tomorrow night is the Creative Review tweetup at the Design Museum, where everyone is invited to bring along a piece of work to form a mini-exhibition.

I'm planning to attend and thought I'd write this new Pentone for the occasion. (Pentone being our system for dividing language into tone of voice samples, as Pantone does with colour.)

It should be a fairly accurate reflection of how tomorrow night will go.

The gift of Music


Before moving on with the serious business of 2010, a polite thank-you for gifts and cards received over the festive period. The stand-out item was this Woodcraft Construction Kit from design company Music. Slightly random gift, you might think. But it turns out it's one of many items featured in their forthcoming book Stuff We Really Like. It came gift-wrapped in flatplans from the book itself, with a personalised bookmark. That's a proper Christmas mailer.

Makes our Pentone card seem stingy by comparison.


Mug Plug


We’ve mentioned them before (here and here) and now they’re finally ready. (Hear, hear.)

Yes, you can now enjoy your tea in whatever tone of voice you like. Sympathetic. Stirring. Yorkshire. Or plain old Mug.

They’re all available in the ambitiously-named ‘Shop’ section of the website. Possibly the only retail outlet in the world that specialises in mugs and poetry.

Have a good browse around – and remember, you pay if you break anything.

Mug shot


Just got the latest samples in of our Pentone mugs. Shouldn't be long now...

Something's brewing


Working on an extension of the Pentone system at the moment. (We had to do mugs eventually.) Got the first proof back from the printer – a friendly place in Stoke-on-Trent where they call you 'me duck' and mugs are 'beakers' and they don't do Pantone Cool Grey 7, they do 'charcoal'.

There'll be a set of four mugs available to buy online, hopefully a few weeks before Christmas. So stick the kettle on and watch this space.