#UncommonSense

Have you noticed how everything seems to be or want to be a brand these days?

Good, bad, intrusive, corporate, individual, global, local. From the coffee shop to the Police to celebrities to biscuits. Brand agencies or brands themselves still argue amongst themselves what sort of brand they are or aren’t, what’s on or off brand and who is the brand owner. I find it brand boring and missing the point. The sort of mild disappointing disdain that was reserved for Estate agents has crept in, fast spreading to the self named “Marketeers” that ebb and flow through media circles and powerpoint peaks. The experts. Bringing with them the camouflage of coercive facts about footfall and #trending currency.

The current landscape or brandscape (if you like words like ideation) is rammed with adverts, semiotics, messages and communication – mostly trying to be funny or quirky. Quirkiness for me is a copout that flirts with originality by being irreverent. However if the end game is irrelevance for the sake of memorability – well, that’s not a success. How about the “old school” idea of buying the item in question. 

Branding, advertising whatever you want to call it. Media people that do stuff. These people are like any profession – there are good ones and bad ones. Not to take it too seriously, it’s not the end of the world if they’re bad. I mean, you hope you’ll never meet a bad policeman or have a bad airline pilot flying you somewhere. I’m pretty sure no-one died of bad branding. Maybe they came close, but then I haven’t seen the spider chart. 

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Perhaps one of the reasons that I get annoyed is quirky stuff feels like creatives making ads for ad people. Rushing into their blue period or abstraction before they’ve mastered still life naturalism. Or if you prefer less footfall and maybe a football analogy (which I’m not that good at) I imagine it’s like a 3rd division trainee trying to invent the Keegan flick or overhead back before he’s planted a proper first goal. The other big reason things irritate me is because I think the world revolves around me. I demand everything be done to my taste whether I would use it or not. Fair enough. I think good stuff starts with a bit of healthy narcissism. If you don’t like something then why would anyone else? After all, all we’re really asking people with an advert is “Is this you?”. For the pedantic among you, maybe when this transmogrifies into egocentrism that you could have a problem. The only dangerous buttons I press are “Print” or “send” so no great shakes there. 

 

Unlearning what we know as conventions is a good thing. But it takes time. And with the obsessive rush to own and defend brand territory it often gets overlooked. You have to know the rules, to break the rules, before you rewrite the rules. That get broken by someone else, and so it goes on. The ants will take over the world.

 

Imagination and creativity are things you can’t learn at University or by copying the techniques of others. However, as timeless as pen and paper. If we go back to basics, maybe we can find our own inner voice. What turns us on, what gives us goosebumps.

Only you know what that is. Consider it a personal avatar hidden in the cosmos. 

Although we are as professionals, not self indulgent artists: It would be nice to see less brand cards in workshops of other people’s logos or materialistic life style cues. More Matisse’s primary palette than Paul Smith stripes. Even better sunsets, nature. a visceral nautilus, not necessarily the golden section mathematical science.

 

We need, I would argue to get back to what I call Uncommon Sense. I didn’t say I made up that word, after all it’s two words and even if I TM it I’m sure it’s been said. But that’s not important. What is, is if you’d like to come and indulge me and Andy Milligan talk about what Uncommon Sense might start with. If you’d like to come, it’s a week today, next Thursday 28th November at the Hide Gallery SE1. Tickets are available at the following link: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/uncommon-sense-a-straight-talking-guide-to-branding-tickets-8853568261?aff=es2&rank=1&sid=fdca6a6152ad11e39c5b12313d091a6a

 

#UncommonSense

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Beware of the can’ts

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November 1, 2013 · 6:19 pm

DO NOT READ THIS

I said don’t read this! Look, it’s going to be a massive rant, too many big words like “promiscuous”, you’ll think I’m trying to be funny again or mildly amusing, then when I dumb it down you’ll feel patronized. If that doesn’t get you, you’ll think I’m swearing too much. So, all in all best fuck off now really. No? OK then. Shit – you’re not thinking for yourself are you? You mean to tell me your parents brought you up to realize the difference between “NO!*” (*don’t run in front of that car) and “No.*” (*you may not go to that illegal rave and stay out all night doing heaven knows what). Now, read on.
Mr. Brand

Blimey, that Russell Brand has poked the hornet’s nest hasn’t he? There’s been mixed views on his apparent ‘rant’ on Newsnight and in the New Statesman. He’s quickly had responses from journalists discounting him and Robert Webb countering him, but again mainly undermining him. I’ve seen open letters to him about it blah blah blah. What appears to be the most controversial thing about his views is his comment about “Don’t vote”. It seems to have struck a chord, and for me, his recent behaviour was very interesting. I like Russell Brand. I like Paxman and Webb, too. However I find I can empathize more with Mr. Brand. Stupid hair cut, cocky bastard, hit or miss in terms of making people laugh, controversial, former prolific drug user and heroin addict, promiscuous and highly sexed, a bit bonkers, we could go on. Let’s just say he’s had his demons (btw Mum, if you’re reading this I never took heroin). But what he’s done the last few days really resonated with me. Something I’ve long suspected about the media and many other things, that have been bubbling along for a while – were just brilliantly agitated by his interviews and editorials. He’s done his bit for now, because all the guy is trying to do is make you think. And think about it I have, and the more people responding to him, attacking him, are frankly exposing themselves as condescending, patronizing wankers, scared that people might take him seriously. Journalists are quick to ridicule him for being verbose – but if he dumbs it down or swears – they attack that. The guy can’t win. For me, it was less of a hornet’s nest and more a cup of tea he stirred. I’m not going to deconstruct or critique him or his detractors, however as I understood it: All he said was there is a ‘revolution’ happening, he wanted to draw attention to humanitarian issues such as the planet, he wasn’t convinced by any particular political party (therefore he doesn’t vote and maybe that shouldn’t be a stigma) and above all else – ‘he just wants to have a laugh’. What’s wrong with that? What’s right with it is it got my attention, and I’ve re-engaged my brain with trying to understand how to solve political issues without politicians. What I think scared people is that he isn’t being so moronically obvious as aligning himself to a party. He isn’t really trying to sway anyone, anywhere, I think he’s just telling us how it is. And it makes fucking sense. Oh my god, but he’s a druggy nut nut comedian Elephant riding fruitloop isn’t he? Well, yes but that was him live, running rings around Paxman on Newsnight. How many ‘kids’ busy twattering themselves over Miley Cyrus are going to be watching that? Isn’t that more important? “Read Orwell” says Webb. Sure. As long as you don’t get upset if we use ‘big words’ like allegorical, quasi-political and propaganda. Why stop at Orwell? Didn’t they have Plato and Socrates in the library at Cambridge? Aesop? Just what are they so offended by? maybe it’s the chaos that will ensue. Maybe he’s actually a plant of Mi6, maybe he’s deluded and mentally ill, or maybe we shouldn’t get so hypertensive about someone’s opinion. Why can’t we all just get along? Brand proves that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. He’s only saying to me what I want to say to the media bashing conspiracy theorists: “WAKE THE FUCK UP AND THINK FOR YOURSELF”. What seems to being aroused, especially in the UK, especially on the streets of London, especially in the social media fraternity is consciousness. And, joking aside, it’s whatever works for you, as long as it helps you, and makes you more intelligent (in whatever way that means to you). My blog is my personal outlet and although I started to write mainly about design, and still do, these bigger issues are what inspires people the most. I wrote a piece on “Happiness” the other week, and I wrote it for myself but for one particular person who was actually clinically depressed. They loved it, but I was surprised and inspired by so many people who contacted me about it, mostly privately, some emotionally and very publicly. It was touching. And the same goes for this piece. If just one person, mate or stranger reads this and is inspired to think for themselves, even if they disagree. Then the revolution is on baby. It’s that simple. No need to burn down the Reichstag, not just yet anyway.

They say one man can make a difference. I think in politics it’s the fastest way to become assassinated. Luckily Brand is suffering only mild character assassination. I still haven’t heard a solid counter argument to him, but then he’s not actually arguing, he’s just pointing out stuff. There seems to be so much information overload in the media, it’s all about control, and how many twitter followers you have, but really one man can’t do it all on his own, but he can be the change that makes the big difference. I’m trying hard not to get all Deepak Chopra or Buddhist about this – as this is really about political issues, and why some people get their knickers in a twist when things are simply “debated”.

So, what all this “DON’T VOTE” malarky got me thinking was quite a lot of things, but mainly the way it works with the media. We used to call it reverse psychology. The Americans (I think) developed Neurolinguistic programming. One could also consider it Socratic thinking, that is to say after Socrates who unlearned the truth by eliminating all other possibilities or something. (I’m paraphrasing, and not using Wikipedia so this is also a mini experiment in thinking for myself and not relying on the media, just my memory.)
By saying “don’t vote” and uttering the words “revolution” makes him dangerous then does it? So the Sun or Daily Mail coercing you to vote that’s better and more honest is it?
Or maybe he’s just encouraging people in or out of politics to discuss stuff. I don’t buy that people are that ignorant they would be swayed either way. What sort of morons are the ‘public’ after all? But this is delicious thread that Brand has pulled. It opens up all sorts of questions. Who is ‘allowed’ to have a view. He’s a comedian, right? but also NOT a politician. So if he aligns himself to a particular party existing or not he forfeits his objectivity doesn’t he? Errr…. So who decides what the right thing to do is then, in an expansive way? Government? (Cue the read Orwell quote again) But what sort of government? We live in a democracy, right? So is the house of commons really proportionate to the total percentage of votes made by the country? Well, no, it’s made up of constituencies, so your local authority who you voted (or not) is what makes up the battle for a majority in a general election. Phew. Anyway let’s not go there, but all that kind of waffle about that is really reserved for TalkRadio in the back of a black cab for me. It’d give an asprin a fakkin headache mate. Where as the not so really verbose but articulate and oh so dandy and eloquent Brrrrand clicks on my frequency. And that’s an important lesson again, getting someone’s attention. Part of that, in the media with “experts” is assuming a role, again. Now, in a business, it is important to have roles and responsibilities, otherwise you get politics and blame. You need accountability, authority, but in most normal businesses you need happy* workers (*valued, motivated, etc etc) to be the most productive. But society is not a business. Anyone that’s worked in management will have come across the politics of the work place, them and us, and misinformation that gets fed to the floor. You can’t ignore it, but it’s not always as simple as doing the right thing. A government ought to therefore be accountable to the shareholders, and investors. You’d THINK that would mean the taxpayers, ie the public. But in reality we know that’s bollocks, and resources are what create revenue, where do those resources come from? That’ll be the middle east etc. War is good for business. Where do you think all the technology comes from you use? Easy one – the military. The thing that makes you play games on your iphone in a gyroscopic manner – it’s called an accelerometer, which is used to help guide cruise missiles. Think about it, it’s only one component in an iPhone, made in China for sod all before being shipped and packaged and sold to you, actually for free* now if you upgrade. So how many do you think these guys made or how old is that technology for it to be so cheap? Get it?. I’m not going to edit this post on purpose, because this is why I don’t normally start thinking about “politics”. But I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, just to think for yourself. All it takes is a cup of tea. Like in Boston, back in 17-something (sorry Mr. Lively never was that inspired in your history lessons). I do remember that the premise for that particular revolution was “NO taxation without representation” Sound like we have that in this country, right here, right now?
Do you feel represented? In government, locally, nationally, Europe, have you ever met your local MP, do you even know their name? Do you follow them on twitter?
So, Webb, I’ve read Orwell, now go get your fucking shine box.

Government. Authority. Power. Control. Force. Agreement. Revolution.
They are only words, not especially big ones, but really important in that
they can be extremely positive or extremely negative.
Good or Bad. Good or Evil. Chelsea V Man U.
One thought good, a million followers – bad.

Wishing for world peace then is impossible. By our very nature, sub atomic particle molecular make up we are essentially made of the same cosmic dust that fights itself in reactionary opposition. But as Adidas says “Impossible is nothing” which comes back to mindset. The mindset of a person, a human, your own consciousness. And the empathy of others that may have a different, even diametrically opposing view to yours.
And maybe, if we slowed down a bit, and stopped and thought, we’d think differently™.
We might listen and learn and do it your way, even have it your way.
I’d like to believe in humanity, I’d love to believe that everyone is
doing the right thing.

This whole Brand debate, debacle, diatribe, discussion, load of old bollocks, whatever it is, is a stark reminder that those in the media and those in ‘authority‘ or even those who assume to be an authority on something are stuttering for a sexy response. It tells you that most people (not getting into demographics today) don’t like it if you ‘over step the mark’. But what does that mean? Surely the outcry about voting ergo affiliating oneself to politics is everybody’s business, right and legal whatnot (yeah my grandparents fought in the war too, I think most people’s did, around the world, at that time, that’s why it’s called a world war). So why can’t a comedian talk about it? Ricky Gervais did a show about Politics. He twatted on about atheism for so long on twitter that, I un-followed him (Orwell? get it get it). I really hope Brand doesn’t hobby horse this, but does something else. The point is when we are not assuming roles of this or that, but just accept we are all people.
Not subjects, not voters, but people, first. Surely that’s the first step.

I was going to launch into the media conspiracy theorist shit about advertisers, but as I reach far too many words for one post, thanks for not reading, and don’t forget to think™.

I’d like to leave you with a song by the not so illustrious Dan le sac & Scroobius Pip, who sum it up much better than me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWrMGXwhFLk

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Underground overdone.

A current underground 'ad' for disrupted service

A current underground ‘ad’ for disrupted service

This is the type of thing I find just stupid on the underground.
Why is it that some people think everything is a branding or advertising opportunity.
You can understand why old Banksy gets his templates in a twist when you see things like this. As I talked about before in different posts, information has become diluted by the mass shout for attention. However, when you are effectively in charge of the microcosm or system – in this case – the underground total environment, there needs to be a simple tiered messaging system.

I tell you why I think this fails as an information piece:

1 – If I’m not going on a date this weekend is this no longer relevant?
2 – If I’m not going on a date this weekend, thanks for fucking rubbing it in TfL
3 – If I was going on a date, I don’t think a few laps of the circle line would be “memorable” for the right reasons, and what would swing it in terms of down to earth originality
4 – If I was going on a date I imagine “FREE BEER” wouldn’t really grab my radar
5 – It thinks its an ad and doesn’t realize its information

I just don’t see what my love life has to do with whether the tube is disrupted or not.
Neither do I need a condescending poster about pasta demographically spearing my senses and emotionally charging my attention the website in too small lettering.
Don’t you think, especially for the thousands of tourists that don’t speak English, we are adult enough to just read information relevant to the issue at hand. I know it’s not sexy, I know it’s probably mind numbingly boring designing stuff like that – but I think if it was done properly – then that would be a great challenge. I hardly think the stuff that’s being put out in house currently is going to make Maurice or Charles screech to a halt and say “Why aren’t our guys doing metaphorical association like that!?”

For me, the TfL stuff fails in much more objective ways. Don’t get me wrong, the execution is quite nice, and the typography “breaks” the line, suggesting the disruption in services. But the reality is, this poster is placed on an electronic billboard for less than 3 seconds, amongst a load of other media planned ads. Surely this is information, not an advert. It wouldn’t take a media planner to tell you that noone will see it, but then the only planning London underground seems to have is planned engineering works. I refuse to believe that creating a system on the tube is really that hard. I wonder what happens to the saturation of communication in an emergency? It would be pretty cool if the billboards suddenly changed to direct you out to the nearest safest exit, sponsored by McDonalds. I guess it points to a wider problem of London and its lack of proper design council. This needs people that have the experience and know their craft, Trevor Beattie, Hegarty, Michael Wolff for starters. I don’t think our public environment needs the hot new creative team. There’s enough shite on the telly for them to caress and redo. Am I the only person in London that thinks we need design, for a nice, pleasant, safe environment? Not a continually branded experience. Commercial stuff can be let off as “art”, self-indulgence, subjective – that’s actually how you get great work. However I’m talking about a public service and services. Be safe on the underground, not art on the underground.

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So, with that in mind, here’s my generous and free suggestion to TfL. Why not create a level of infographics. Like the concept on the left. Get to the point, set it in a swiss clear typeface. No need for flourishes. And if that doesn’t float your boat, well trains – then may I present my hilarious pun route. After all, all you need is a pun and it’s an advert, right? I think it’s relevant and screams of the vernacular.

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Banksy: taking the piece

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I used to to quite like the odd bit of Banksy. For the many years I lived in central London I did indulge in the odd wry grin in his quasi-political work that was often subtle and hard to find or brazen and epic in Soho. There were many other cool bits of street art, the French dude who does his mosaics of space invaders. Even the odd Barbara Hepworth if you look up, on the corner of John Lewis, for example. When I was a kid, graffiti was crude, scrawled and opportunistic. The sort of thing chronicled by Nigel Rees, mostly banal but sometimes witty. “Buy me and stop one” on condom vending machines or “If you can reach this high you should be in the fire brigade” at the highest point of the wall of the men’s urinals. Toilet humour, you could say. Then with the influx of American influences, that came with the magazines, and families of the forces – graffiti became ‘art’. If we weren’t being cool on our BMXs, breakdancing to hip hop and early electro – me and a select bunch or ‘crew’ of friends imposed our art on the few subways or multi-storey car parks that we could find. As a 13 year old, the mean streets of west Berkshire were never a political hotbed. So, we mainly sprayed our crew’s name everywhere. There were no satirical messages, we mainly concentrated on not letting the paint drip. My love affair with ‘street art’ or just ‘graffing’ as it was called was like all the best love affairs – intense for a while, but brief. I’m no graffiti artist, any more than I consider myself a DJ (even though I can beat match and get you dancing). Friends I met at Art College, now, these guys can spray. And still do. Bearing in mind we’re now all in our 40s, some of them have managed to commercialize and effectively monetize their skill. Others are holding strong to their passion and you’ll find them doing bizarre things on the internet and at galleries around the world. Whatever path they’ve taken, they’ve managed to grow up without selling out.

Which is why I don’t get where Banksy is coming from anymore. I don’t see the relevance. I’ve spent many a boardroom meeting or workshop where his name crops up in a cliche of cool. But, that feels like 10 years ago, and then it was ten years too late. When I read the captions to his work in the book he published (someone that thought it was hip bought it me) he lost a lot of the magic. I don’t get it, him, Banksy™, I just find it irritating, now. 

Even I can remember back to when I was an early teenager and copying or “biting” as it was called was a very uncool thing. We only used templates when we needed to spray a branded logo on something for whatever reason. Templates were a cop out, and whether Banksy copied Blek le Rat’s style ‘back in the day’ or not – he’s still a trite template monkey. That, in essence, my homies, is whack. I went to see his rat ‘infested’ Crude Oils, I was happier that Ian Brown was there, looking ‘bemused’. What I don’t get about Banksy’s latest exploits in NewYork is – why is he surprised his pieces didn’t sell? I mean, this is fucking NewYork – they invented that shit. A template, sprayed on a canvas, is effectively a print, not even the skill of a lithograph. If he wanted to make a statement about the value of art, why not look back to Duchamp, or even more accessible, what about the KLF? The KLF are underestimated geniuses in my opinion. Around about the time, just before they burnt a million quid and tried to sell the ashes (The subsequent publicity launched their single to number one) – before that, they nailed a thousand pounds to a canvas and sold it for £900. Now, you don’t need a rib-digging “Get it, get it, get it!!?” Banksy in your ear to understand that if you dismantle the art to make £100 you do not appreciate the art for its philosophical worth, and potential future greater worth. The KLF were making the point to the art world, but I’m not clear on who Banksy is testing or mocking, or are we supposed to believe he is some modern day street art Robin Hood? He’s resurfaced on the internet thanks to some student making a quote of his into a Coke bottle. A quip against the ‘advertisers’. Although somewhat deluded and conspiracy theorist, it is really only a comment on hype and intrusion. Which is maybe something he himself has mastered. If he’s that bent on educating us all and making a statement, why doesn’t he paint, sorry, stencil Lady Thatcher on the side of Charles Saatchi’s house. Maybe she’s pregnant, and sports a Hitler moustache along with the Duchamp legend “L.H.O.O.Q.” emblazoned underneath. Fuck it, maybe I’ll do it and release my picture book entitled “Am I not clever?”

The anti-establishment Banksy has spent so much time hyping himself to heard that he’s become part of an establishment. The trouble is for me, he’s been taking the piss so long, I think he’s forgotten his point. 

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Health & Safety

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Ranting about certain adverts and design is cathartic for me, but aside from my inner geek surfacing, my intention is really about standards. Unlike the Banksy conspiracy theory that advertisers are constantly taking the piss, you’d be a bit stoopid to think that people give a shit. However, it’s really not that delicious, there are no calcium induced NLP subversive mind control programs run by anyone, not even the Americans. It’s OK. Now, normally, unlike airline pilots, surgeons, presidents, popes etc – nothing scary will happen if a creative person gets it wrong. Which is a relief, because even if they’re a strategy savvy, overqualified, PhD in Astrophysics, know what kerning means, award winning, intergalactic creative god – they will get it wrong sometimes. Good or bad work is still in essence, subjective. I see things I wouldn’t have let go out of the studio on the TV, on apps, or all around. But that’s me. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same thing, to state the obvious. In my creative prime, where I’ve learnt the rules, broken the rules, made my own and ended up coming back to ‘common sense’ I am still frustrated by what I think is bad design. Let’s just use design here as an expansive concept. The power of design seems to have been diluted or misunderstood in the now era. I’m talking about misappropriation of relevance, significance and communication. Now I can let it go that a logo could be better or I find an advert is cringe-worthy. It’s out in the real world where design facing it’s biggest challenge. The communications industry has become so sold on itself about the ‘experience’ and the brand experience that its creatives and strategists are in danger of believing their own bullshit. Not everything needs to be a brand, not everything needs to have value sets or emotional triggers. Where once there were simple concepts like craft, idea, originality, understanding the brief. There must now be 90 page powerpoint presentations, research, workshops, audits, blah blah random words with brand attached to it, brand biscuits, and so on. In the creative world, I’m pretty sure noone ever got sold on process, and in the real world you either get it or you don’t. The power of a bit of thought in things is amazing. You can’t change a political issue with design some will cry – Really? Saatchi & Saatchi ring any bells? Creative thinking is not just about selling the olympics, baked beans, beer or for making tasteful tampon ads. Creative thinking is what got us to NewYork in 3 hours and will put us into space. It means you don’t need a manual anymore, connects you with friends and allows you to stalk your favourite celebrities. There are so many different fields to what design means. Creative or strategic, design-lead thinking is a bit of a superlative for me. What’s wrong with just a bit of thought. You don’t need to think laterally, linearly, use hyperbole, magically – just think, full stop. Thoughtful stuff™. Where has all the common sense gone? I guess that just don’t cut it with the added value crew do it now mister?

I’ve written previously about international design standards where it would make sense. Things like a universal emergency service look, livery and siren. Maybe solving the world’s problems are a tad grandiose. So, as self appointed Creative Czar of London, I’d start with the public transport system.
I believe this is a victim of the brand experience monkeys. There must be a better way to design things and comms that make it a more pleasant and safe experience. London underground needs to invest much more thought into the design of practical things like escalators and safety features. Instead, they have jumped on the brandwagon and some bright spark thinks that it would be a good idea to sell sofas, makeup and a whole host of things that anyone in their right mind would not associate with the underground. Especially the Northern or Bakerloo line. You can hear it now “brand extensions will bring in revenue and add value”. Brand bollocks!. Just make the experience world class, first, then truly amazing. Then if you must, make a mascot and merchandise on that, yah. The communication on the underground is bad. You’ve a captive audience, and total control of where and what you do. Why hide information pieces amongst adverts? Why make an advert from an information piece? We don’t need emotional coercion – we just need to be careful on the stairs. But, no, impertinent puns and bored designers dish out the drivel and create portfolio pieces that noone even clocks. Now, I’m not suggesting that we turn the tube into the Hacienda (as much as that would be pretty cool) but surely there’s a smart way to create a graphics system that differentiates between security announcements, safety announcements, low level announcements etc. A bit like warning triangles, Circular directives, colour palette that turns up and down the tone of warning to advice – like the highway system. It needs a system, not brand guidelines. Not someone worried about top left or bottom right logos. Information and safety design. Hard core. If you’re young, consider this an operating system. London is meant to be the design capital of the world, so the communication should be not just world class, but setting the benchmark. Why don’t we get some dude from Tokyo to get them running on time, advice from the Dutch about security communications, someone from Switzerland to help with the typography. We could orchestrate it. In the public domain, surely it’s about the details.
Coherent used to be my buzzword in branding, not consistent. However, this isn’t really about branding – so a clever, consistent system is what is required. The “new” Kings Cross station looks fantastic, at the front. But like a bad haircut, they’ve left the back still looking shit. In the clean up of Kings Cross – why the hell can’t someone just design a decent bin, for starters?. Still, at least the new tube trains are a vast improvement. Also, Heatherwick has made up for his manky bandage wrap of Guy’s hospital by designing probably the coolest London bus, ever. I guess there’s always good stuff coming. Maybe there’s hope. Until my vision of a London design gestalt happens, I’ll just keep minding the gap.

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#Happiness

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Amongst the cat videos, instagram burgers, and arm chair politics of social media, I’ve increasingly seen a plethora of motivational quotes. Some from not so obvious sources. It strikes me that more and more people are searching for one basic thing – Happiness.

Personally I love a bit of Steve Jobs and my old man used to just say to me “Mark Twain” – Not so helpful when the internet wasn’t even invented, but I’m making up for it now. Anyway, what with great speeches, films etc, It seems that there’s not so much a bandwagon, but a hunger for this being fueled. You could say Happiness™ is trending. I am by far a candidate for life coaching, although recently some things I have long suspected have been right, almost – and I have also been inspired by things, events, even social media, to rethink that age old question. I used to think happiness would be Georgia Salpa and a Ferrari, and for a while that rock n rolla lifestyle was certainly enlightening, there was definitely no Rumi in my supercars back then. But then my world came epically crashing apart with a meltdown a few years ago. I used to be the guy that was so emotionally intelligent I was almost impenetrable, if I got upset my mates would just laugh and not take it seriously. There’s no violins out here, however my private but hardly secret battle with bipolar was exacerbated over the last twelve months. I have personally endured quite tragic turns. It made me realize that only in the face of adversity to we really know those close to us and indeed ourselves. Luckily I had help, good doctors and an excellent therapist, family, but most of all my friends. Old friends and amazingly relatively new friends. Whilst I have been on the path to proper rehabilitation, (and this is still a work in progress, but going well) I managed to remove my head from my arse and have been blown away by some of the wisdom of my friends. Some of these people have been through major adversity. My mum has battled Parkinson’s disease, yet she never complains – she even makes beautiful tiny teddy bears with her crippled hands. I’ve had friends with horrific cancer that bounced back, more than once. I’ve watched from afar as one friend nursed their girlfriend back from a brain injury, positively stating her updates as “Breathe and Trust” – her girlfriend’s tattoos. Then there’s mates that have battled drug problems or depression and still manage to give me sage advice. So, I guess the point is, my journey had made me self obsessed and myopic, I guess I felt the world owed me a living. But all I ever wanted to be was happy. I don’t know it all, and I am still learning, but I wanted to salute my friends and family, that actually have inspired me to be happy, again.

 

This is a basic list of thoughts of how I think you can help your own self, to be happy.

Hopefully you won’t need it – and it’s not something that will cure clinical depression.

But if just one of you is feeling just a bit down and this helps, then that would make me happy.

 

OK, Here we go, 12 rules for the everyday well-being seeker. These are not iron clad rules, they’re not about personal relationships (you’d be pretty fucked if you took my advice on that) neither is it about being “successful” (see my last point). It’s just some thoughts to make you smile.

 

 

1. It’s all about you. 

Remember when you’re parents told you the world didn’t revolve around you? Well, now it does. You create your own universe that you inhabit, and view uniquely through your own eyes. Remember you are you, and everyone is equal in the grand scheme of things. Never let anyone make you feel unhappy. If this is something that goes on for a prolonged period of time – Remove yourself. You therefore define what makes you happy or not. Sometimes, being selfish is positive, if you’re applying it to your mental well-being. We are all a work in progress, but you need to understand yourself and be responsible for yourself, your thoughts and your actions. Know yourself first and be happy with yourself before you look too much into other people. Fit your own oxygen mask first, before attending to others.

 

 2. Enjoy your self.

Learn to enjoy your own company, trust in yourself and believe in yourself. Listen to your head or your heart or whatever visceral clues work for you. Smile, it’s easier than frowning. Do things that make you laugh, watch youtube clips or old comedies. Laughing will release endorphins in your brain and make you actually feel happy. Laughing also increases the oxygen flow to vital organs – and it’s good for you!

 

3. Live in the now.

It’s good to have a plan, but in terms of happiness, worrying about past events or future events can be stressful and as pointless as each other. Yes, we can learn from our mistakes, but sometimes you have to move on. Concentrating the mind on the moment, and feeling clear will give you serenity.

Reach deep into yourself, be confident, and try not to let bad past experiences overshadow new nice ones.  Appreciating the now, and taking life one day at a time, as far as your mind goes, will make you happier. If you keep re-reading the last chapters of a book, how will you ever get to the new chapter – write the next chapter for your self. One of my philosophical friends says “Just be, and the rest will follow”. 

 

4. Ask yourself “What do I want to achieve?”

In the everyday world, sometimes we can go to extremes, where we set ourselves up to fail. Rather than set a mandate that is materialistically or reward driven, think about how you want to feel and why. Understand what happiness means to you, and it will become tangible and achievable, not elusive or changeable. Maybe you’ve got it already, you just didn’t realize.

 

5. Like the Murphy’s – don’t be bitter

This can be a hard one, particularly as not many of us are Buddhists. But I believe this is one of the most rewarding and liberating feelings or states – that will produce happiness.

Seeing the world for what it is, and not blaming others or the world or even yourself for things not working the way you wanted them to. Remember what was said in Rule 1, everyone has their own universe, reasons, fears, rational and irrational motives for doing what they do. My friend James, a personal trainer, talks about atoms and their interaction with each other. He describes positive interactions as “bouncing”. You’ll be a lot happier in life if you bounce off others rather than stick to them or get stuck by them. So, to be happy, keep bouncing. Or as I’d eloquently say shit happens, move on.

As with all these thoughts, I’m talking about the everyday. There may be extreme reasons for you to dislike someone, you may have suffered abuse, violence, you may have been betrayed, disappointed or whatever your cardinal sin is. However, everyone has their reasons, and there’s two sides to every story. In the everyday, find it within you to understand, don’t hate anyone – it will only eat you up. Step forward, give others a chance and make it their problem if they can’t do the right thing. 

 

6. Shut up, listen and learn

A massive note to self. Everyone else knows something you don’t. That’s the insight into their world. Nobody ever learned anything whilst talking – so listen to others with a view to understanding, not necessarily just thinking about making the next point. Try to keep things as a discussion, not an argument. Interpersonal relationships may be more complicated, but talking, listening and understanding is key. Talk in a way people will love to listen, and listen in a way people will love to talk. You’ll find most people inspire you, the same goes for music and films etc – if you really listen, you then hear the meaning. Watch a film more than once, and you might well get something different out of it. We don’t often get the chance to have the same conversations, however crucial – so listen!

 

7. Keep it simple

Happiness is often about enlightenment, which comes with the realization it’s the simple things in life that make the difference. As my little friend says “It’s all about the massively small things” If we appreciate the simple things, I think it’s easier to be an optimist. Those views are aligned somehow. Bob Marley said “You can get wet or feel the rain on your face”. An optimist will see value in simple things, first. I find comfort in treating my home like a hotel – clean, crisp sheets, towels and a great shower makes me happy. De-cluttering our home is easy. Imagine applying the same logic to your thoughts. Have a cup of tea and slow down. You’ll feel happier.

 

8. Be inspired

Dale Carnegie probably said “if you want to be interesting, be interested.” I believe the same goes for being inspirational. It starts with looking at the world in wonder. As a creative person, it’s easier to see the world as metaphor or allegory. But it really is all around us, you just have to stop and look. If you’re unhappy music that evokes memories can be sad, so don’t listen to it. Listen to something new or uplifting instead. Read a book, go for a walk (Anyone in London is always within an hour of a great park or space). There’s loads of stuff that’s free, so there’s no excuse. Look after someone’s kid, teach them to ride a bike, swim or to think for themselves. Anything that makes you look at the world through someone-else’s eyes will inspire both of you. 

 

 

 

9. Everything in moderation

People with mental illnesses whether they realize or not, will often self medicate. medication can become addiction. Addictions can come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not healthy to rely on anything, whether it’s coffee or cocaine or needing to feel loved.

Get yourself into a positive routine. If you smoke and drink, then at least balance it with exercise. I’ve seen mates that have been shall we say very Rock n’ Roll, turn their life around with extreme exercise. Find what flicks your switch in a positive way, you’ll find the endorphins released will be amazing – and maybe make up for what you cut out or moderate. 

 

10. Stop over-thinking

A seemingly 21st century affliction is the over thinking of things. I’ve been guilty of this, and it’s something that just creates stress in the long term. Stress, for me is worrying about something you have no control over – stupid. If you find yourself stressing, then consider home therapy or meditation. If you can do the lotus position, you probably won’t be reading this bit anyway – but you don’t have to do yoga or sit on a chez-lounge to have therapy. Find something that relaxes you that’s repetitive or requires very little concentration, like cooking or cleaning – that will allow you to meditate. Write a letter, poem, draw something, try water colours or paint the bathroom – that’s therapy. 

 

 

 

11. Be generous

This isn’t about being first to the bar or buying everyone, everything. Yes, you may get a warm glow from giving a homeless person a coffee or for helping others, but never expect a reward. For some, it will never be enough, they won’t complain about it, but they might not appreciate it. Don’t worry. Always do things because you want to, and see what happens. True generosity is doing something good for someone that they may never know. Be generous with your time, thoughts, friends, ideas and love. You will be happier.

 

 

 

12. Honor your family and choose your friends wisely

So, by now you’re thinking in the now, exercising and meditating with pasta. Once you’ve worked on yourself, you can get more out of your relationships with others. Unless your Dad is Fred West then you should always honor your parents and love your siblings. Us English are pretty shit when it comes to family, we’re not as passionate as the Italians for example. But family is family, and as the Godfather said…well you know the rest. 

True friends, will always be there. The number of friends you have depends on you, and there’s no cliches or formulas. Whatever works for you. I’ve got mates that are incapable of taking life seriously, which are excellent fun. Others are philosophical, emotionally intelligent, talented, hilariously funny, acerbic, attractive, intellectual and just bloody amazing.

They’re all reliable, and lots of them constantly inspire me. Friends should get you, support you, be there for you, forgive you, actually like you – but you need to give it back ten fold, when you need to. That way everyone moves forward, everyone’s happy.

Surround yourself with positive, brilliant people and pretty soon you will become one too.

 

 

So there you have it. I found this post cathartic and therapeutic, maybe making your own list will too. Remember, if you, or someone you know is actually depressed, anxious, or clinically ill as opposed to just a bit down – then make sure they go and see their GP, doctor. There is no shame in being depressed, and most of the time a doctor can help out quickly and easily. If this is the case, leave google alone and go straight to your doctor.

 

As someone on the internet sort of said “The key to happiness is not an issue, the door is always open”! 

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