Bra-vo to good design

One of the joys of working for myself is being able go for a run when the mood takes me (before I start work for the day, between projects, when the sun shines...). This morning I pulled on my running attire as the early Autumn sun warmed the air and opened iCatcher on my phone to see what delights the podcast world had for me to listen to today. One of my favourites is 99% Invisible and today's download was about running bras. How apt!

As I jogged, the podcast took me back to the 1970s when such items of clothing just didn't exist which was a huge barrier to many women keeping active and enjoying high impact sports such as running and aerobics. But 40 years ago, the first Jogbra was launched (the early prototype was actually two jock straps sewn together which led to the nickname 'Jock-bra'!) and led to an industry that can claim to have given women all over the world the confidence to take part and compete in sports to the highest level. So, I saluted these early sports bra pioneers as I panted along in my M&S over-shoulder-boulder-holder and chuckled when one scientist said that running without support is equivalent to a nipple going 0-60 faster than a sports car!

LEFT the original Jogbra RIGHT US footballer Brandi Chastain celebrates winning the Women's World Cup in 1999 by ripping off her shirt to reveal her Jogbra

LEFT the original Jogbra RIGHT US footballer Brandi Chastain celebrates winning the Women's World Cup in 1999 by ripping off her shirt to reveal her Jogbra

Good design answers a brief and, sometimes, can change the world for the better. The women behind the Jogbra certainly managed both and I'm looking forward to the next 99% Invisible podcast to open my eyes to something else I take for granted or hadn't noticed about our modern world. 

You can find 'The Athletic Brassiers' podcast here:

Putting the 'log' in logo

Creating relevant, beautiful logos can be a tricky business – they don't grow on trees. But sometimes they are inspired by them... My client's brief included: "I would like a natural tree/leaf inspired logo mixed perhaps with a rough willowy body shape/form. Its about growing out from pain and tension into release and flexibility." I love that with a couple of simple shapes you can see both a tree and a person stretching joyously.

The Secret Life of the Pencil

Last week I ventured into London to see The Secret Life of the Pencil – an exhibition of photos of famous people's pencils at the Paul Smith store on Albermarle Street. Now I know to most people this would seem rather yawn-some but, as you may have guessed, I love a good pencil. And the detailed photos really brought them to life. William Boyd's retractable pencil was probably the highlight for me – one of my favourite author's much-loved tools shot on a bright pink background. 

The press pack for the exhibition sums up my feelings exactly:

"The humble pencil is found where most of mankind’s greatest achievements begin. But will the touch-screen generation ever feel the pleasure of a freshly sharpened pencil or the frustration of a shattered lead?"

The exhibition is also raising money for the charity Children in Crisis. Their aim is to help support projects that provide reading, writing and thinking skills – along with pens, pencils and paper – to children suffering the effects of conflict & civil war in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

See for more images from the exhibition and info about the charity.

At the sharp end...

Well, as the kids return to school after a sun-filled, fun-filled few weeks, it is time for me to get back into the stride of more structured working days. Summer is usually a relatively quiet time for me design-wise and this year it was no exception with just an evening here and there spent catching up on work. However, it looks like September is going to make up for that and then some. So, I have invested in a new propelling pencil, plenty of 0.5 leads and started a fresh notebook in preparation for the busy days ahead. Whilst I admire a properly sharpened pencil as much as the next person, time is of the essence when taking notes and sketching ideas hence the propelling pencil. But when it comes to keeping your pencil sharp, this chap really is at the cutting edge:

David, I salute you!

Seven years on...

Last month marked the seventh anniversary of my taking the plunge and setting up Sharp Pencil Design. I suddenly realised that in all that time SPD hadn't actually had a proper logo! I had originally used my handwriting as the logo but soon got bored of that and found it didn't work well online or even on invoices. So I dropped that altogether and used a photo I'd taken of a curly pencil sharpening instead but again found that difficult to use. I was being a true graphic designer and being my own worst client – not sure what I wanted but pretty clear on what I didn't like! So, I gave myself a good talking to, took a step back and went through the same steps as I would normally go through with a client. The conversation went something along the lines of this:

And suddenly I was my ideal client and the logo came to me almost by osmosis! And, true to form, it started off as a sketch in my ever-present notebook. So, now the shiny new SPD logo is sitting up there at the top of my shiny new website and I am pleased as punch. Long may it last!