Change The Language

August 21st, 2012

Wow, already it’s the anniversary of my last post, not a week, or a month, but a whole year has gone by, so it seemed only decent to create something of an update and share some thoughts.

My year working on my own has been an exciting one. It started quietly as I’d expect. And fortunately that’s when we chose to get a dog. Polly is now well over a year old and pretty easy to have around while working, she comes to a lot of meetings too.

Things started to build up from early 2012, firstly writing the copy for a website for online prescription drugs company Pharma. Next came Human Systems and what I hope will be an ongoing relationship. Human Systems is a specialist consultancy of academics and practitioners working in the growing project management arena, helping businesses to manage projects better through knowledge sharing and benchmarking.

And from then work has been coming in at a steady rate from businesses who have loved my approach to writing clear copy that works well. Food retail, legal, financial services, printing, dating…

Phaus: Bringing the brand to the fore in modern retail design is at the heart of the Phaus consultancy. Paul and Heather are the key directors and have a great eye that has won them work with Size?, Foot Asylum, Naylor’s Equestrian and many others. We’re working together on their latest project in what could develop into a full brand consultancy role. I’ll talk about it further when we’ve started to role out.

Riff Marketing: Propositions hero Carl Sharples is the main man behind Riff – we’ll be turning out some wonderfully expressed propositions together.

The Old Silk Farm: And here’s the latest stage of the journey for The Cornish Way. The Old Silk Farm is an amazing property in the Ardeche, South of France. It doesn’t quite fit the proposition of a boutique holiday company looking after select properties in the far west of Cornwall, but it does have a legitimising element – it’s only a few miles from St Just, albeit a thousand miles from St Just in Penwith.

The house has been renovated to a high standard offering an elegant self catering destination for 17+ guests. The views are stunning, the pool sublime, we’ll organise chefs or other staff if desired.

I could happily spend a week here going no further than the bakers down the road for my daily bread and shot of coffee, but if you’re up for venturing out then the Ardeche is an outdoor holiday dream with a vast gorge, superb wines, great foods and eating stops.

The mainstay of the last twelve months has been Bronco. We’ve worked together on many projects including copy writing sites, content and Dave Naylor‘s blog.

It can be a shock to the system at times moving from content writing where volume is key, to an editing task for PR man Sanjay Mistry where the aim is to reduce the length of a piece by 60%, while sharpening its impact.

Business name: I’ve come up against the need for a business name several times and I’m thinking of exploring Change The Language, hence the title of this post. If I do I’ll need to get more challenging with my use of language – I’d like that. The name idea came from a conversation with Mat Bend of Northern Quarter agency Modern Designers, he used the phrase to describe some of the excellent work he has done with social housing communications. I’m hoping Mat and I will work together soon.

Change The Language.

 

@banksimple

November 8th, 2011

Wow! I’m delighted to see a new bank on the cusp of emergence with the balls to call themselves @banksimple, and then go further and shorten it to what they wanted to be all the way along – just Simple.

Their vision? “We started simple because retail banks have forgotten who their customers are”

And their description of themselves “Something new in finance, a well designed everyday experience”

From my reading Simple intends to make banking as straightforward as the best designed app, as opposed to anything new we’ve seen in this country which does little more than put a sheen on the same old same old. What have we seen since First Direct that does a lot more than deliver the same systems, the same teams, but with a shiny new logo? Metro Bank perhaps – but is it really any different?

Simple is open by invitation only – but you can hold your hand up and ask to be invited. Unfortunately Simple is stateside. I wonder how they’ll deal with all the frustrated Brits crying out for something new.

And just in case you were tempted to say “So what? It’s a fad” – check out their twitter. No UK bank creates such interest, unless they screw up, and these guys haven’t even started yet!

Simple has been co-founded by one of the first Twitter employees, a fellow called Alex Payne, to create an alternative to banking.

The largest financial institutions no longer have a monopoly on the way funds travel through the system. The premise of BankSimple is this: Each consumer should only need one card and one account — and there should be no annoying transaction fees for ATM machines or penalties for bank overdrafts. BankSimple refers to its service as “banking online” not as “online banking” — the company is not a bank as much as it is a personal banking alternative (not sure this link will inspire everyone, they look like guys you’d invite around for a jamming session rather than those who’d look after your money). To top it all off, BankSimple has made customer service the very bedrock of its approach (how often are we told that?): When people call for information about their accounts, they shouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes for someone to talk to them (WSJ).

That last point struck a cord with me having waited almost that long this evening to speak to my favourite “ethical” bank – and then being cut off.

@Banksimple – I wish you well. Have guts. Go for glory. And by God I hope you have someone with deep pockets somewhere behind you.

Recycle or downcycle?

November 7th, 2011

I’ve long been a fan of the wonderful Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart. It exposes the illusion that many of us live under, thinking that our little efforts to recycle a few bottles might be enough from spinning headlong into some crazy catastrophe a few decades from now. What’s great about it is the gentle way that it tells us that pretty much everywhere we turn we are getting it awfully wrong, but also that a change in attitudes towards design is fundamental to creating a shift (I had to stop myself writing paradigm shift there!).

The Sharp Agency’s latest blog tackles the recycling issue with a great example of true recycling, where a product is effectively un-made to recreate its two key raw materials in as good and useful a state as they originated. This is the story of Simon Greer of Nu-Life Glass – go read it.

Simon has worked out how to break something down again.

Better still, let’s design stuff from scratch to be re-made at the end of its particular life.

A conundrum that puzzled me when I was in marketing communications was the life of paper. We knew that paper could be recycled six or seven times before its fibres became so shortened that its dust was too much to handle. Nice example of downcycling there. But how do you know how often a particular bundle of paper has been recycled?

Working through the debate can throw up such complications that you might just give up and say “Hey, I’ll do my bit, but for heaven’s sake, make it easier not harder!” and I’d tend to agree, it’s certainly the easy way.

But if we define design as “Change for Good” and apply the principles above, then doing our bit is just the start.

Contagion

October 22nd, 2011

The trailer for Contagion left me with no desire to see the film, but Minty C loves such stuff, combine that with the encouragement of a 2 4 1 offer at the Manchester AMC and you have a winner. We trotted along last night.

The excitement began a long time before the film.

The car park entrance to the Great Northern has to be one of the most hairy in the country. You spiral up several floors at a 25% gradient on the road equivalent to a water flume that hangs out over an ever deepening drop. It gets ever better as the ticket machine is actually on that gradient, and many flounder there, flailing around for the hand brake as their car descends backwards towards the scared driver behind.

Knowing where I was going to park I loaded the car with a Ramnstein CD. Some great thumping base from the German Industrial rock outfit seeming a fitting backdrop for fast tyre screeching car park adventures.

And then there were the ads.

I love cinema ads and feel I’ve only had half the value if I miss them. Last night we were treated to a series of 5 second interstitials for the new Audi A1, showing good creative use of media buying, but the real bomb for me was the longest version of Heineken’s The Entrance that I’ve seen. This link takes you to a 1:30 version but last night’s must have been 2:30 long. And still could have gone on. It would have taken them days to make this, it was probably hell, but my God I bet they partied afterwards!

And Contagion? Not a pleasant film, but it was very good with my favourite performance being that of the doctor who created the anti-dote, she managed a portrayal of modesty that is rare in American productions. And faced with a global disaster it was interesting that for once, although they did roll out the troops, the Americans didn’t just try to shoot down the enemy. I’d recommend it and offer up four starts out of a potential five.

More louder Ramnstein on the way home. Brilliant!

 

Wonderful new Booths store at Media City

October 19th, 2011

We were delighted to be invited to the store preview of the new Booths at Manchester’s Media City last night.

The store is truly beautiful and the only big thing to hold a candle to Waitrose, that fact that it remains a family business is a wonderful story in itself, there were many proud Mr Booths there last night, I think six of them.

The new venue has reverted to the striking black background created for them by #HoldenandSons many years back, and since adopted by #thecooperative and #marksandspencer to varying degrees of success. Black is certainly beautiful, but only works when pristine.

The canapes deserve a mention too – especially the salt marsh lamb chops with mint jelly – ooh! can I go around again?

We wish Booths every success and would love to be working with them soon.

Building Sennen’s best self catering cottage business

October 4th, 2011

The summer is drawing to a close with some spectacular weather that has rewarded those lucky folk who chose to take a cheaper seaside break in September.

At New Forge Cottage we’ve been delighted by the reaction of our guests, many of whom have booked again for next year straight away.  I have taken several repeat bookings at 2011 rates, although a few friends received rather good deals that I can’t repeat in the peak season.

I was particularly impressed that several people took the time to leave cards – one even a water colour of Bartinney Beacon.

We set out to make New Forge the best place to come and stay in the area, and I’ll be adding a few details to help achieve that, mostly suggested by our guests.

Then from April 2012 we’ll have Myn Tea available too, we’ll be decorating then furnishing it completely when the lovely Miki and Justin leave – but I want to avoid using too much new stuff. It has to have a strong character to give it that feeling of home that people so love at New Forge.

Dark Matters at The Whitworth

October 2nd, 2011

I love the Whitworth. I want to live there. But I rarely love the exhibitions.

Dark Matters is different though.

It’s cool, doesn’t make you think too hard, and you don’t need to understand to enjoy it.

Ten pieces that are as simple as light and shadow, through to some quite technical blends of computer animation, photography and silk sheets, this is worth a couple of hours, ideally finished off with a snack in the gallery cafe which is one of the Gabriel’s Kitchen ventures that feed us so well in Manchester’s cultural hubs.

The Cornish Way

August 25th, 2011

For the past couple of years the lovely Miki and Justin of The Lime Tree have lived in Myn Tea, the first house we renovated at Tregiffian. They have been great guests and we’ll be sad to see them leave early next year, but every cloud….

The silver lining for us is exciting though:

For the first time in several years Myn Tea will be available as a holiday let. We’ll advertise it from Easter 2012.

To coincide with this we’ll launch our lettings company that will manage the two cottages and then seek to take on the management of a small number of top class self catering properties in the Sennen area.

New Forge has been built, furnished and decorated to a very high standard, Myn Tea will match that, and so other properties we look at will need to be quite special to help us build a brand built on excellence, delivering a ‘better than home’ experience.

I’ll keep the blog updated as we progress to launch.

 

Gwenver beach – some wonderful photos

August 4th, 2011

Our good friend, the Brummie photographer J Marment stayed at New Forge Cottage recently. J’s holiday snaps raise the genre to a whole new level! Check out this link Marments at New Forge:

As a taster – this is one of my favourites and shows the beauty of a misty day on the beach.

Oh the joy of Apple!

July 6th, 2011

Cash isn’t flowing quite as well as I’d like just now, and when my Mac gave up last week I was close to tears of frustration, and also fear – how much content will I have lost? How on earth will I afford to replace it?

Our lovely friends at Bronco helped get a machine delivered to me next day. Huge thanks to Becky there!

And then it was joy all the way. Opening the big brown box to find a wonderfully crafted white card brief case inside.

Plug in, turn on, and the new MacBook Pro is away. It asks do you want to take files from a back-up device. Press yes, plug in, wait a while, and suddenly the new machine even looks like the old one, even down to being paired to my Bluetooth devices. I just lost a few files from the last back-up, but I’d emailed most of those so Gmail came to the rescue there.

The simplicity is one thing – the sheer delight of the finish, the packaging, the whole experience smacked of a brand that I’ll always find it very hard to leave, even at the rather huge price premium charged.

An utterly different experience to the last few weeks of wrestling with utilities and insurance providers,  most of whom have shocked me with just how poor they are.

Let’s not get down – this is about Apple. And Apple is good!