Time for a new tube map?

Harry Beck's original 1933 electric circuit based tube map was a navigational masterpiece that set the benchmark for future transport maps. Over the years though, the much loved tube map has steadily evolved with the addition of new stations & lines. In particular the new Overground extension has had a dramatic effect on the look of the tube map and to some extent the usability.

©TfL/London's Transport Museum

Overall beck's design has stood the test of time quite well, but with the impending Crossrail line possibly being added to the map, things could get a bit messy. So is it time for a new map?


Tube expert Max Roberts thinks so, and has suggested this more european, concentric circle based approach. He says that it was just a bit of fun, but I think there is more to it than that. There's a few usability issues that need ironed out; distances look a bit off, there's some congestion in areas and zoning is missing but with a bit of work this design could be the answer. Getting rid of Beck's design sounds like sacrilege but perhaps design nostalgia should make way for a clean, user friendly navigation system. And the underground roundel in the middle is a nice touch.

©Max Roberts

Read more about it over here.

Your Grammar Sucks

If you believe in the awesome power of the word and stuff, you may find this video funny.
It's a simple and funny idea, however, the presenter is more frustrating than having to spit out a piece of chewing gum, because you've just walked downwind into a stranger's fart. His style is annoyingly over-the-top (similar to the description I just gave). But hey, that's my preference. Check it out, and judge for yourself.

Just When You Think That The Final Nail Has Been Hammered Into The Advertising Industry's Coffin When It Comes To Credibility, Someone Comes Along With A Brand-New, Six-Foot, Gold-Plated Nail, And A Massive, Fuck-Off, Hundred-Pound Lump Hammer, And Gets Busy...

From Campaign Brief:
As Jeff wrote to us earlier, what on earth would Ed McCabe think?

Sometimes, Simple Is King

I caught this video again the other day.  I hadn't seen it for a while and it made me smile as much as the first time I watched it last year.  And as soon as it finished I watched the whole thing through again.  Twice.  That's no mean feat for me given my wandering magpie mind and poor attention span.

It got me thinking about the beautiful simplicity of the craft behind it and the confidence of the Black Keys in running with something that is so stripped back [apparently, the record company weren't keen when they first clocked it].

I reckon that agencies could learn a lot from this approach.

These days there seems to be a tendency for creatives to want to showboat their cleverness on everything they do.  To chase the latest technique.  To covet the "original" and the "different for the sake of it" over an idea where the quality of the execution does the talking.

Sometimes, it's the role of a creative to actually get out of the way of the idea and keep things simple.  The great leap can often be taken at the pre-production stage. The lion's share of the energy and focus can then be put into bringing the idea to life in the best possible manner.

I imagine that on a piece of paper, the idea behind this video could seem pedestrian and derivative.

At face value, the concept of getting an interesting character who isn't in the band to lip sync their way through a song isn't new.  And the technique of doing it all in one take has been done plenty of times before.  Retro, low-fi look and feel? Well, that's familiar too.

But none of this matters a jot.

The brilliance of the casting and performance is everything here.

And sometimes that's all you need for a great idea to really fly.

Pukka Print

At the weekend, I thought I'd treat myself to some Fish and Chips - so I trundled on down to the local chippy. I was greeted at the counter by a smily Chinese lady, the smell of malt vinegar and these classic bits of work.

Aspirational imagery, meaty puns and a playful blonde cupping a pie ... what more does a growing lad / ad need?

Palindromic Friday

Some say that the rock'n'roll has gone out of advertising. Well, nothing could be further from the truth at Sell! Towers, where every Friday we like to kick back with a root beer and some palindromes. I know! So, enjoy a palindromic opening to the weekend in the form of Weird Al Yankovic's very well put together palindromic version of Subterranean Homesick Blues - every line is a palindrome. Rock'n'fuckin'roll!

When Hunter met Keith

Hunter S. Thompson interviews Keith Richards circa 1993.


Whilst trying not to slip on ice or get licked by a stranger on my walk to work this morning, I noticed an advert for the taxi app 'Hailo' (which happens to be a fantastic app). I don't know whether its because I've recently been talking about Anne Frank's Diary or because I'm a bit of a cynic, but is anybody else getting some strange Nazi undertones?

(For legal reasons: This is a joke)

CDP Celebration YouTube

Without a shadow of doubt, CDP was the finest advertising agency the UK has ever seen.

Over 100 of their finest commercials can be viewed here.

It's worth taking a trip down memory lane to marvel at the top drawer craft that all their TV work possessed.  Great casting, great writing, great performances, great directing.  And not just on the famous award-winning campaigns that they are historically associated with.

I've pulled out a few lesser known gems here that serve to illustrate that this was an agency who applied  the highest creative standards to anything that went out of the building.

These days a lot of agencies have a couple of high profile creative show ponies that tend to mask the mediocrity or poverty of the rest of its output.

The brief blurb that accompanies the site summarises their heyday perfectly.

A selection of great CDP TV and Cinema commercials from a time when advertisements were better than the programmes they interrupted. 

How times change.  Anyway, enjoy at your leisure.

The 3D Printing Revolution

Until recently for me, 3D printing has lived in the same realm as Lenticulars and Augmented Reality... a technology with masses of potential, but on the whole, really rather underwhelming.

It would seem that 3D printing has come forward leaps and bounds. Not only is it being used for industrial prototyping, but is now being opened up to the masses with companies like Shapeways marketing a print-your-own product service online.

Science fiction has an uncanny habit of becoming science fact. Remember replicators in Star Trek? Or in The Fifth Element where Leeloo's body is 'rebuilt' from a tiny fragment? Perhaps its not too far away... but for now, we will have to make do with a 3D printed shoe or bicycle.

Farewell Bob, And Thanks

The great Bob Levenson died this week at the age of 83. Bob was one of advertising’s great copywriters and key part of the creative revolution in the 60s, and his work has been a long-time inspiration for us. From his famous ad Do This Or Die...

“We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people. Or so we think. But we're wrong. We can't fool any of the people any of the time. There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one. We are a nation of smart people. And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people. Instead we talk to each other. We debate endlessly about the medium and the message. Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message. A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same. And above all, the messages we put on those pages and on those television screens must be the truth. For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.”
Thanks Bob.

Alain, Rik & Ade.

Take pictures of Rik & Ade, overlay them with aphorisms from Alain De Botton, stick them on tumblr & voila. Alain De Bottom! Genius.

PS. Bottom was fucking awesome.


The Fast and the Furious: Abridged!

Whether you're a fan of 'The Fast and the Furious' films or not, check out Scott Coello's abridged version of the first film. Personally, I would rather stamp out a forest fire using only my face than watch another one of these 'epics'.

New Nike McIIroy Woods Ad

Apparently young Rory is getting paid between $100 million and $125 million to be a Nike brand ambassador over the next five years. He could buy a fair few alarm clocks with that bounty. Maybe it's me, but this slapstick and knockabout new ad featuring him and Tiger goofing around on the golf course feels so tonally off the mark for both brand and the level of investment in what Cindy Davis, President of Nike Golf calls the "epitome of a Nike athlete".

 Caddyshack, it ain't. Talking of which...

Wilson 'Snowflake' Bentley

"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."

Wilson 'Snowflake' Bentley. 
- the first person to photograph a single snowflake.

Rejection can be a funny thing

Not a day seems to pass without us receiving a speculative application or three from someone looking for a job which we do not have or internship which we do not run.

Believe it or not, a shockingly large percentage of these are untailored blanket emails addressed "Dear Sir or Madam" banging on at length about why it would be great for them to work at Sell! Sell! rather than succinctly explaining why it would be great for us for them to work here.

We tend to ignore any fruitcakes but we do try to courteously honour all reasonable approaches with a polite one or two line reply  However, nothing we've ever written comes close to these masterpieces of rejection.  I think we need to up our game.

Bonkers and encouraging
Rejection of rejection
Hunter S Thompson classic [more of an objection than rejection]

Stock response with a twist
Pulling no punches

Poetic and cutting

The miniature worlds of Gerry Anderson

At Sell! towers we were all very sad to hear of Gerry Anderson's death over the festive season. A wonderfully talented creative and meticulous craftsman. Whilst reading some of the many tributes I came across Fred's amazing flickr set containing photos of the incredible miniature worlds and environments Anderson created for his shows and films. The sets look like they were all built to 1:24 scale to match the model cars and the attention to detail is phenomenal. Check out all the distressing, aging and tyre marks, particularly in that moody back alley shot. Wonderful stuff.

Who needs CGI, eh?

All the lettering, like the DALGO sign above, was created with letraset rub downs apparently. 

Ad Of The Year So Far...

Watch out Sports Direct, there's a new kid [well, fat bloke] on the block. Brian Butterfield's Sport Warehouse will be giving Mike Ashley sleepless nights with this tour de force advertisement.

Advertising: The Means Not The End

I stumbled upon an ad book called Mad Ave, edited by Jackie Merri Meyer. There are some great classic US ads in there, but also interesting written pieces by the likes of George Lois, Ed McCabe and Jerry Della Femina.

Anyway, this one particular quote from the great Ed McCabe caught my eye...
“Advertising has evolved into a business driven by megalomaniacs who know a lot about making money but little or nothing about making advertising. In some respects it's also being driven by “creatives,” who have it wrong to the opposite extreme. They believe the ad or commercial is everything and that winning awards is something. They've lost sight of the fact that advertising, in and of itself, isn't anything. Advertising's sole purpose is to be the cause of something else. To cause a sales increase. To cause a shift in perception. To cause the creation of an edifice of imagery that allows a product or service to be something. But advertising itself is nothing. Nothing but a means to an end. Only fools believe the the means is as important or significant as the end.”
Sounds like he has it spot-on to me.

Tricycle Calligraphy

Bored? Watch this.

Just Because: Tricycle Calligraphy 水书法器 from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

My 3 favourite things about working at Sell! Sell!

As we start the new year I have found myself reflecting on the previous year. Who I have wronged, how I will continue to wrong them and what brand of chocolate spread was my favourite (Nutella).

I then got thinking about the job I was fortunate to have got here. I compiled a short list of my three favourite things and thought I would share my experiences with you, dear reader.

'In at 3:' The Strong Coffee

The coffee at Sell! Sell! is made groin-grabbingly strong. The smell alone is enough to wake a corpse and cause it break out into the 'Thriller' dance routine. Perfect for those monday mornings.

'In at 2:' My Claw

After 4 months of continuous pen and tablet use it has left my right hand somewhat misshapen. Some of you may see this as a negative thing, that my hand may one day be subject to arthritis and will cause me a lot of pain. Well to you I say 'Jog on'. Whenever I pick things up with my new mangled claw, I feel like an eagle swooping down to catch its prey. Anything that feels that cool can't be bad for me, surely.

Numero Uno: The toilet seat

Yeah, that's right, my favourite thing about working at Sell! Sell! is not the opportunity to do great work, the friendly people or the endless cups of tea/coffee. My favourite thing about working at the sausage-fest that is Sell!Sell! is the fact that every time I go to the toilet I am greeted by an upright toilet seat.

Look at it. Doesn't it warm your heart? Never again do I have to fight gravity lifting it up or hear the words "blah, blah, blah, you left the toilet seat up, waffle, blah, blah". I can just walk into the toilet, gun in hand, and unleash terror.

A Post About Art Direction, With No Pictures.

We were chatting a bit about art direction in Sell! Towers the other day. We're specifically talking about art direction for print advertising here. Poor old print advertising eh? Much maligned in recent years. But it is often so badly done that it isn't done any favours.

What makes for great art direction?

I have to say over the last few years, I've seen a real trend towards over art direction. I suspect that's maybe because people have so little confidence in print advertising these days, and certainly very little confidence in people actually reading print ads. So they just throw everything at it. Everything is over-done; overwrought typography, over-styled photography, over done illustration, over-elaborate layout or – even worse – starbursts, everything big, CAPITAL letters. The works.

Great print art direction starts with copy. What are you trying to communicate? Everything should start from that.

Here, we tend to take the approach of as little art direction as is necessary to make it work as well as possible, but no more than that.

Almost all advertising needs words to communicate what it needs to communicate.

The role of art direction should be to get people to read and understand what is being communicated.

Great art direction makes the message appear in someone's head like a thought.

Show-offy art direction makes the ad or the type a pretty thing.

Think about the way people read or consume print media, that is, magazines or newspapers. People scan the pages quickly looking for something that interests them, it could be a key word or phrase, or less often, a picture, or a hint of a subject matter. They don't read every story, they don't read every headline. They're just scanning. People use visual magazines, like fashion mags, visually - that is, they are in the frame of mind that something visually pleasing will catch their eye.

(People in the ad business often scoff at fashion advertising,  because there is often no idea.The truth is, the people who produce fashion advertising probably know their market and their audience far better than the ad people know theirs.)

The trouble is, art directors tend to be very visual people, they consume print media differently to the average Joe. And this is compounded through years of study and work in their specialism. Their eyes are caught by great layout and clever craft touches, by beautiful typography or new or experimental techniques.

Most art directors don't even realise that they consume print in a different way to normal people. So they go through life designing things for themselves rather than for their audience.

Some highly regarded art directors are just really good at show-offy art direction, They don't really understand their craft, and where it fits into communication, and into peoples' lives. They only know how to make things look good. How to produce the kind of things that they, and their art director peers, admire.

That's potentially quite unfortunate for the people who pay them to create their advertising, don't you think?

Weekend vs Office

If you're ever in doubt as to whether an item of clothing is ok to wear into the office or should be reserved for weekend wear, ask yourself :

"Will this make me look like a giraffe with polio?" 

If the answer is yes, play it safe.

Happy New Year!

Hello there kind reader. Hope you had a cracking break. We wish you a 2013 filled with laughter and success, along with plenty of whatever vice is your thing. In the meantime, here's a picture of an old man with a cat in his beard...