From Russia, with Love

From time to time I check Google Analytics, to see where our website visitors are coming from. Recently, I was surprised to see a certain number coming off of the Russian-language Wikipedia site. Sure enough, in the references at the bottom of an article entitled Numeratsiya domov was a link to The History of House Names on cloversigns.com. How flattering!

Russian Wikipedia Page

Russian Wikipedia Page with a Reference to our Article on House Names. It’s been there since February.

I’d just like to say a big “spasibo” (Thank you) to whoever added that link. But, as David Airey pointed out when Wikipedia linked to his site,

It would’ve been an even better surprise if Wikipedia were to remove rel=”nofollow” from their links. Then I might get a little boost in web ranking. It’s for that reason, that whenever I link through to a Wikipedia page I’m sure to add rel=”nofollow” in the link code, so I don’t give out needless external links.

I believe I’ll follow David’s example.

And now, you’re probably itching to know what the Russian article was about. The English version (without a link to us) is entitled House Numbering. It’s actually a very interesting piece and it even includes the iconic “9” from West 57th Street, Manhattan, designed by Ivan Chermayeff:

A distinctive red number "9," a two-ton sculpture designed by Ivan Chermayeff

A distinctive red number “9,” a two-ton sculpture designed by Ivan Chermayeff

A Few Minutes with David Airey

Graphic Designer David Airey at Work

David Airey needs no introduction in graphic design circles. But, in case you haven’t yet come across David’s work, he describes himself as “a graphic designer and occasional author [of the books Logo Design Love and Work for Money, Design for Love] who specialises in designing brand identities.” He lives in Northern Ireland, but his clients are scattered across the far reaches of the planet. David was kind enough to answer a few questions for today’s blog post.

You’re a well-known graphic designer & blogger [Logo Design Love, David Airey.com & Identity Designed], how is it that you’re able to take time to answer questions from somebody you’ve never met?

If someone takes the time to contact me, I do all I can to help with whatever he or she asks. It’s not always possible, unfortunately — I receive a ton of email as a result of my websites — but much of my time is spent replying to messages.

How did you get into logo design?

After my GCSEs I went to a local college to study art and design. From there, it was obvious I enjoyed design more than art, and my focus shifted to graphic design. Creating logos was a favourite part of my course, then after further studies and some time in general design employment, I made the switch to self-employment where I could focus solely on brand identity work.

Should every business have a logo?

From a designer’s viewpoint I’d say it depends on your definition of logo. For me (my definitions have changed during my learning, and perhaps will again), a logo is the combination of a wordmark and a symbol. A business doesn’t need both. Often, a wordmark is enough, particularly when the brand name is distinctive, such as Google or Sony or Honda.

Who and what inspires your design work?

Nature, architecture, engineering, my parents, my peers… I think you can find inspiration in almost anything if you’re curious enough.

Many of your logos are very clean and contemporary. What do you think of the trend towards ornate and embellished logos in recent years?

I often see various styles classified as recent trends, but if you look to the past, the styles have been done already. It’s just that people don’t immediately remember, so they think it’s new. The more simplistic the appearance, the easier it is to remember at a quick glance, and the more enduring the design becomes, hence my favoured style.

Do you always start design projects with a pencil sketch?

I start by asking questions. Lots of them. But a pencil is always used when it comes to recording preliminary ideas.

What was your favorite project?

I really don’t know. I’ve had a lot of fun working with most of my clients. I couldn’t pick one over the rest.

You grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland, do you think there’s anything “Irish” about your designs? For that matter, is there any “regional flavour” in contemporary design at all?

I hope there’s nothing more Irish about my work than the fact that it’s the designer’s nationality. Most of my clients are overseas, and none have an Irish product. But the “regional flavour” you mention could be important depending on the project. If a product or service was (and always would be) distinct to a geographic location, then it lends itself well to a design style that locals are familiar with. The Peru identity comes to mind.

To quote sign-painter Ira Coyne:  “If the guy who’s been working at some job that he hates moves on and opens that coffee shop or store he has always wanted to own, that will change the landscape of America.”  What advice would you have for someone starting a small business (Clearly yours has been a success)?

In the words of Nicholas Bate, “Be brilliant at the basics”. Here’s a short excerpt from his free PDF:

What’s the best logo ever?

Tough one. A few of my favourites are listed on this Creative Review piece, but there are many more I could reel off.

Thanks a lot for your time, David.

Now, for some of David’s work:

Feru Wordmark Logo

Tudor Bourn Logo

Giacom Logo

Henri Ehrhart Logo

Campus IT Logo Canvases

Work for Money Design for Love

David’s newest book, Work for Money, Design for Love, published last year.

Signs of a Real Irish Pub

Johnny Blair

Johnny Blair

Most countries have embassies abroad. Ireland has pubs.

This adage rings especially true here in the land down under. We have no lack of cozy, wood-paneled Irish pubs, from the business districts of our cities to the dusty wide streets of corrugated iron country towns. After all, many of the convict settlers of this land hailed from the Emerald Isle.

Two such establishments – in Sydney’s Drummoyne and Parramatta districts – go by the name P. J. Gallagher’s, with the slogan “A Real Irish Pub”. But what is it, exactly, that makes a pub “Irish”? Is it the wood paneling, the live fiddler in the back corner? friendly and talkative staff? It’s a thousand things, of course, but not least is the signage.

Unlike the early convicts, world-traveling Irishman Johnny Blair arrived in Australia of his own free will. For a time, he filled pints of Guinness at P. J. Gallaghers. Here are a few of his thoughts about watering-holes and their signage:

Don, I’m totally with you on the handcrafted signage. Much better, much more authentic, much more professional and it also takes hard work. Irish people like to work hard as a tradition of our lifestyle. Making a proper sign is much better than getting a marker and writing “Irish Pub” on a piece of metal. Appearance means a lot. Go with the handcrafted signs and I encourage any Irish pub owners or landlords to get a proper sign made. Danthonia is a great company for signs in Australia. I might be tempted to pop in for a Guinness then!

Ireland (mainly the south) had some financial problems in recent times, so any companies providing jobs, work or money was a bonus which can certainly excuse the rise of commercialism in pubs. However, you ask an average Irishman what type of pub he prefers and I’m sure they’ll say an old poky style pub where you can sit with a beer, talk to your mates, listen to music, drink a bit too much whiskey and pretend there’s nothing bad happening in the world. They’ve been around for generations and they will continue to be around for generations.

Ireland is renowned for its hospitality, music, stories, and humour, and I am a walking stereotype. I’ve worked in hospitality, I love talking to people, I tell stories, I listen to music in pubs and I try to be sarcastic. The layout and design of Irish pubs in Australia are pretty similar to those back home (if just a bit more modernised). There are some distinct differences however. We don’t really have widescreen TVs and sit typing on our mobile phones back in Ireland. We go to the pub to get away from computers etc. and I’d rather watch the footy on a small TV in the corner of an old pub with my mates without a phone in sight.

To find a proper Irish pub in Ireland these days, you really need to go rural, out into the countryside where there is less commercial influence. You’ll still find Guinness, Bushmills, Murphy’s and Kilkenny but you won’t find too many adverts from non-Irish companies. I’d cringe if I saw a country pub being bought over by a big chain of pubs. I’m a traditionalist. A down to earth proper Irish pub is my scene, and yes Australia has a lot of them and they’re great craic! But some of the Irish Pubs in Australia just don’t really represent Ireland that well.  Each to their own, it’s a free commercial world we live in!

In Ireland, a few craftsmen like Tomás Tuipear carry on the traditional pub sign craft. In terms of authenticity, our work could never touch that of Tomás, but here’s a few of our signs at Gallagher’s:

P. J. Gallagher's Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Monument Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Menu Boards

P. J. Gallagher's Under-Awning Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Indoor Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Blade Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Wall Sign

P. J. Gallagher's Wayfinding Sign

Johnny also took a few photos of the signs we made for P. J. Gallaghers and posted them on his popular travel blog Don’t Stop Living. While he clearly enjoyed the authentic look of the signs, he may not have known the story behind them. Here it is.

Australians who visit Ireland are often surprised to find that the island has no poisonous snakes at all. Legend holds that they were driven into the sea by Saint Patrick, some time between 387 – 460 A.D. The P. J. Gallagher’s logo symbolises this story with an image of snakes fleeing before a lion (representing Ireland’s patron saint).

P. J. Gallagher's Logo

P. J. Gallagher’s Logo

So, if you enjoy a pint of Guinness or Kilkenny now and then, support the sign-crafting community and drink it in a real Irish pub with a real Irish pub sign!