Friday, 28 January 2011

Timelapse experiment and an insight into my 9-5...

I've been a bit quiet this week, apologies.
Basically I've been busy learning all KINDS of InDesign magic... Every night as I fall asleep my brain fretfully tries to remember various different combinations of cmd+alt+shift+ctrl+fn... I believe this is called LEARNING, and I feel like I'm doing a darn sight more of it than I ever did at uni! (No offence, uni)

Anyway, today at work plans were being hatched for a future project, involving some timelapse photography, and various tests needed to be done. Here's one of them!

Timelapse Test from Emma Charleston on Vimeo.

Hey! Over there on the right! That's me! I look very tiny somehow, but it's just the lense.

Hopefully soon I'll have some more personal projects to show you.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

And repeat...

I've had a fascination with repeat patterns for as long as I can remember. I know that sounds like a really pretentious, designery thing to say, but it's true.

As a child I used to spend hours 'helping' my Nan with her quilting, and it gave me an early appreciation for tessellation, as well as the gorgeous repeat pattern designs seen in the fabrics she was using, often remnants from old skirts and dresses.

Later in life I discovered Hannah Werning's gorgeous repeat pattern fabric/wallpaper designs, and fell in love with the concept all over again.

I toyed with the idea during a couple of uni projects, most notably during my attempt at rebranding the Royal Mail, and my entry for London Transport's competition to design new fabric for tube train seats. (Oh yeah, just in case you were wondering about that... I didn't win)

But truth be told... I never really knew how to do it. Repeating patterns are actually remarkably difficult to get right, especially if you have no idea about the correct technique. So it was with great delight that I stumbled across this tutorial yesterday, by the wonderful Julia Rothman. (I got there via this excellent interview with her, featured on Grain Edit)

I'm actually quite reluctant to share it, because it's so incredibly simple, and I know that there are far more talented souls than I who read this blog and will take that idea and run with it - run far further than I ever could!

But nonetheless, I settled down this evening with some fresh white paper and my favourite black marker pen and proceeded to aimlessly doodle. I'm not even sure I like it that much, but once I'd got the desired image, I scanned it in and set to work on it.

So here is my original drawing...

And here it is repeating. Ok, so it's not perfect, but this was my first go, alright!

Here's a simple colour scheme...

And a variation on that.

And you know what? I actually think it's better on a 45 degree angle, but I'm not sure if that renders it no longer a repeating pattern. (Click the image to make it big... it looks better that way!)

Anyway, after all that, I'm not actually even sure I like the pattern very much, but for a first attempt it's not bad. I'm not expecting Habitat to come beating down my door asking me to design a range of Charleston cushion covers though.*

*Habitat... if you would like me to design a range of Charleston cushion covers, I'd be totally up for it.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


When I was in second year of uni I did a project which involved keeping a 'visual diary' every day for a few months. Basically this involved producing some kind of visual representation of each day, every day. Some days it's an amazing opportunity to be creative, and other days it's just a massive hassle and you're totally not in the mood.
Come the end of the project, the 'massive hassle' side won out, and I stopped doing it.

But a couple of months back I decided it was time to start it up again... It takes a lot of motivation, but some days it can be a really good thing to just set aside half an hour to produce something creative which is totally unrelated to any other projects you've got on the go. And if it's rubbish... Well, no one else has to see, and hopefully tomorrow something better will happen.

I figured I'd scan in a few days to show you. I suppose it's meant to be a private thing, but originally when we were producing them at uni we had to show them to the other members of our class, so it's never really been that way for me. (Although I did pixelate out a couple of bits. You can speculate as you like there - maybe they're bits about my sordid love life, maybe they're bits about my digestive health. You'll NEVER KNOW! Haha!)

Face fail

I really need to stop being smug about my new job. But it's difficult not to be when I'm being paid to do such interesting stuff on a day to day basis.
Today I travelled up to London with one of my new co-workers, Wayne. Amongst other things, he's a photographer. A proper good one.

One of the delightful things about working where I work is that we use pretty much no stock imagery. This means that my days of wading through Getty images looking for exactly the right shot of 'happy young people lying on grass with laptops' are over. Now, if I want that picture, I nicely ask Wayne, and he'll go and take it. And it'll be a darn sight nicer and less tacky than standard stock imagery. It's such an outrageously sensible way of operating that I can't imagine why anyone would do it any other way.

Anyway, our mission for the day was to travel to one of the company's colleges, and take lovely photographs of all the staff for the website. Well, I say 'our' mission... Actually, Wayne's mission. My mission was to WATCH AND LEARN. Yeah!

Anyway, in the course of our travels we got to ride on a tram. Any regular readers of this blog might remember that I get pretty excited by trams. IT'S LIKE A BUS AND A TRAIN AND IT TRAVELS ON ROADS AND TRACKS. Madness!

My only previous tram experience was in Budapest... While that was very exciting, I was distracted by a myriad other things, like the sights of a new city, amazing company, and SNOW.

However today, I got a ride on a tram through South London, and Wayne decided he would humour me by capturing my childlike delight on his very expensive camera. Unfortunately it was something of a bad hair day for me, plus I have a chronic case of bad-camera-face... So it's not amazing, but seriously... check out that depth of field. Hot stuff.

Anyway, we then proceeded to the college, where I got to meet lots of lovely new people and desperately tried to make a mental note of all their names. The only one I really remember was Emma, because she was lovely. And also because she has the same name as me, which always helps.

A couple of shots were taken to test the light with me as the subject. The focus on these is so gorgeous I wanted to share at least one, but... I am REALLY not good at pulling nice faces for pictures. Dear dear.

I'll post something creative real soon. Promise.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Some small things...

I do bits and pieces for The 405 here and there, and here are a couple of recent headers I've done for them.
Firstly these, for their "Saturday morning video blowout" feature, and you can read/watch the first edition of that here...

And secondly, headers for their weekly gig guide... You can read the first edition of that here
(The photograph used in these headers was taken by me at a Robots in Disguise gig in Brighton, all the way back in 2008, at the now closed Barfly)

Since this blog seems a bit limited on content if I just post these headers, I'm going reappropriate them for a gig guide of my own, of sorts... namely to talk about the last gig I went to in each of these cities. (I'm not particularly well travelled, so some of these were some time ago!)

Well, Brighton being my home town, it's not actually that long since I've seen live music here... Most recent I think was Ratatat. They were excellent, however being in Coalition, the venue with the most pillars in the world, standing in a place where I could actually see them proved something of a challenge. Having been ousted from my hard-fought for 'good spot' half way into the first song (by two drunk obnoxious idiot-men), I spent the rest of the gig lurking at the back of the crowd, enjoying the music, but sulking because of all the tall people and pillars in the way.

As part of Bristol Jam fest I saw Reggie Watts, followed by Jessica Hynes (from Spaced) DJing at the Cube Cinema. Both were lots of fun, and the Cube Cinema is a gorgeous venue that I'd really have liked to have spent more time at. Bristol seems to have lots of exciting things going on at the moment, and I'm pleased to have seen a bit of that while I was there. I'd love to go back sometime.

Despite living within an hour of London I've not actually been to a proper gig there in three years! Brighton generally provides me with everything I need, musically. The last music I saw in London was the Mars Volta at the Brixton Academy, and I was SO excited. Of course they were mind-blowing, incredible, epic, everything I'd hoped for, but they played for THREE HOURS, and I'll be honest, by the end I was just about ready to collapse from a combination of thirst, aches and guitar feedback tinnitus. Fun times...

 Growing up in North Wales, the nearest place where bands usually played was Manchester, about two hours away, and it was here that I saw my first gigs, always in the MEN... A huge, echoing vault of an arena, which never really gave me a true appreciation of what a great thing live music can be.
It was only when I was about 18 that me and some friends travelled over there to see CSS in the Manchester Apollo that I truly appreciated the magic of the smaller venue. Robots in Disguise were supporting, which was delightful, and CSS were every bit as awesomely danceable as you'd hope for. Also, notably, this was the first ever time someone tried to chat me up, and the last ever gig I went to where everyone was still allowed to smoke indoors.

The other headers are Cardiff and Norwich... both places I've been to, but never seen gigs at, and there's also Glasgow, which I'm afraid I've never set foot in. One day!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

One Static Slice

You know what? I've had a GOOD DAY!
You know why? Because I've been offered a job. And not just any job, an actual design job. People are going to pay me to do design. I am actually going to be living the dream.

I can't even express how much this means to me. Of course I won't be completely happy until I've actually been doing the job for a couple of months, and confirmed in my mind that the whole thing hasn't just been one horrible mistake, but... today is a very happy day. I'm not even very coherantly able to express how good this is.

But anyway. Smug though I am, this blog isn't just about the job. I had the pleasure once again of illustrating for the Unstruck blog, and there's a little explanation of that in my previous post here

Todays subject matter was something quite different to last time, and not entirely easy to visualise, but I tried my best. You can view the post in it's entirety HERE
And my illustration...

I was particularly struck by the lines:
"It is probably more reasonable to assume that everything is so complex that we cannot understand on any level the effect of any action we take. We live in a complex iterative system, each moment built on the moment before. There is an effectively infinite amount of information in each instant of the universe’s existence. The whole universe, in one static slice."

So this is 'One Static Slice', if you like.
The image is constructed from photographs I've taken during the past few months, which to anyone else mean nothing, but to me all bring back strong memories of a particular time or place - even from the tiny abstract fragments used here. I thought this suited the subject matter - our actions, and how they can lead to different outcomes.

I enjoyed this. I think my good mood helped. Nothing can get me down! (Although my toilet cistern is broken, and refilling it with a bucket every time is starting to get just slightly annoying.)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


I'm doing a little job at the university at the moment, helping them design a leaflet for the UCAS higher education fair. If you've been to university in the last ten years or so, then at some point you'll probably have been to one of these days. Universities from all over the country show up, sit behind a table for the day, and hand out prospectuses (and sometimes free pens and suchlike) to excitable 16/17 year olds who are trying to decide on their future university.

In the event, this design isn't going to be used, so I figured I'd share it with you here, as I quite like it. I was thinking about when I went to one of these fairs, and also later when I went on various different open days (And I went on quite a few...) how intimidated but excited I was by all the big university buildings, and I guess the idea behind this design was to simply represent this choice that the visitors to the fair are faced with.

The leaflet itself will have a map of the campus where the event is being held, a map of the conference hall, and a list of the institutions attending.
This is an initial drawing I did...

And here it is with some type for the cover. (It also had logos for UCAS, Uni of Brighton and HELOA, but for the purposes of this blog I took them off, because I thought they kind of ruined it. :D)

Of course, it's interesting to note that this year the fair may well have quite a different atmosphere to the one I visited about 5 years ago. The young people attending may have much less of the excitement about their future that I had, and many more questions about whether university is even within their means.

This year almost all universities have seen record numbers of applications for places. (I was in the admissions office at Brighton uni today and I saw the huge stacks of forms!) As this is the last year before the potential fee increases, both A-level students finishing this year, and those who finished last year and failed to get a place are desperately scrambling to get onto courses, because next year they may not be able to afford it.

This fair which happens in April will be attended by young people who are facing the prospect of paying as much as £9000 a year for their university courses, and for some universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, perhaps substantially more.

This is not a political blog, so I'm not going to write down a long rant about my feelings on this, but suffice to say I'm feeling very fortunate I have done the university experience already, and I have great sympathy for families and students now faced with difficult decisions about the future.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Just some stuff and suchlike

Here are some things which I can't talk about, but I figure I might as well show you, as they make absolutely no sense out of context. They're probably not even appropriate for the brief, but I like them, so here we go. (Also I hadn't posted a blog since LAST YEAR, which is most remiss of me)


Now generally I try and keep this blog to my own work... I've considered starting a Tumblr, because there is so so much awesome stuff on the internet, but in all honesty, sometimes I think the internet is a bit like a big snow globe. It's all just the same flakes (i.e. web content/ideas) in there, they're just being shaken about a bit (i.e. reposted repeatedly by different people in different places).

Is that a good metaphor? Possibly not. But anyway, here's a couple of things that have really inspired me in the last couple of days that I wanted to share with you.

I picked up Tyondai Braxton's album yesterday with no knowledge of him other than that he used to be part of Battles. I listened to it walking along by the sea a few hours ago, and it's safe to say this is epic stuff. Cinematic, magnificent, like Battles but with a full orchestra... the kind of music that makes you feel like you're achieving something worthwhile just by walking briskly along to it. I listen to a lot of new music, and I won't claim that this is the best album I've ever heard, or even the best album of the last few months, but it's something a bit different, and like I say, it made me feel purposeful and worthwhile, which I guess means I've got my money's worth by anyone's standards.

Secondly, there's this.
I know, I know, 47 minutes is a long time in this age of fleetingly short attention spans, but... I think it's worth it. One of the few aspects of our cultural and critical studies lectures which I found interesting was the concept of the flaneur in a foreign city, and aimless wandering is something which I actively seek out - you never know what you might find. This seems to document that process of walking, memories and experiences beautifully, I think. I'd love to see it in real life. It's on in New York at the moment, so if I happen to have any readers in New York... you should really go along.

DUTCH A/V from Tommy Smith on Vimeo.

Thirdly and finally, I got the book talked about in this article for Christmas, and it's just great. Jason Munn's poster designs are just incredible, and I'd highly recommend giving the whole article a read for some fascinating insights into design process. I've been feeling a bit creatively blank since Christmas, and just looking through that book reminded me how much I care about good design, and how important it is that I keep striving to do better! I'll probably never get to the standard I aspire to, but keeping trying is the most important thing.

'Keeping trying'. That doesn't sound grammatically correct. On that note... I shall call a close to this new blog, FIRST OF 2011!