Spillers Calendar

Spillers Records Calendar

For sale: Spillers Records calendar. Cat not included.


Scream no more, children, for Spillers Records (the world’s oldest record store, TM) produces a calendar – one for every year, indeed. And this year the lovely Ash and Grace kindly asked me to design it for them. So I did. The front cover features a gorgeous retro design found on an old carrier bag, and the innards boast a veritable wealth of customers’ own photos taken from around the world. Get ’em while they’re hot, innit – pop down to Spillers in the Morgan Arcade and demand your copies now! They’re £5 in store, or if you buy online there are bundle deals with packing and postage here.

(photo features Henry Cat who staunchly refused to get out of camera shot)

It’s A Wonderful Life poster

It's a Wonderful Life poster

If you live in Cardiff and you’re a Chapter regular you may well have seen this poster gracing their walls. Darkened Rooms presents classic films in unusual locations and, this Christmas, they’re showing Frank Capra’s classic at the Angel Hotel in the city centre.

Claire Vaughan at Chapter asked me to design the poster and I wondered at the best way to do it. I was very busy at the time, so I wasn’t able to create an illustration by hand. I’d have to start with a photo from the movie itself. I asked Claire if there were any legal restrictions on using a movie image in this way, and after she replied in the negative, I google image searched for the most iconic images from the film. There were two directions in which I could have taken it – the happy family ending, or the suicidal Jimmy Stewart about to throw himself off the bridge in the snow. Claire had emphasised that they were going for a family audience, so I thought maybe the whole drenched-having-topped-himself-by-drowning-in-a-river Stewart might not send quite the right message. So the happily-ever-after image it was.

I sketched out some rough layouts while on the Megabus back from London. I couldn’t spend too long on them because sketching on the bus makes me travel sick. Which is nice. I wanted to get in the bells, the angel, the family image and some lovely retro type. Here are my scribblings:

There’s a limit to the size of the images you can find of It’s a Wonderful Life on Google. And movie posters are pretty big. If I wanted said happy-family image to be prominent on the poster without being all blurry and horrible I’d have to crank up Photoshop filters and effects. I enlarged the original black and white image to the size I wanted it for the poster, turned it into monochrome halftone pattern (hence all the dots, see?) and then chose an unusual pallet using the wonderful colorschemedesigner.com. 

In Illustrator I created the Angel shape, and then made the snowflake pattern in the background from lots of little angels. I drew the bells and imported Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and co as the halftone pattern I’d created in Photoshop. In a layer under them I added stylised colour to show their clothes, hair, skin etc.

I downloaded free retro typefaces World’s Finest and Ballpark Weiner and used them to add all of the text. Done!

Logo for Traverse; design of Trans Mental Health Study 2012 report

I’ve been freelancing full time as a graphic designer and illustrator for nine and a half years now and in that time I’ve figured out a few simple rules – one of which is that I only work with clients whom I personally like, and another of which is that I do not work for any client whose ethics do not sit well with my own*. It seems that the more I follow these rules the more they do for me – right now I’m working for some people whom I bloody well adore, and for organisations and causes I never dreamed I could be a part of. I am very lucky.

This was absolutely the case when my good friend Jay McNeil asked me to create a logo for his new organisation Traverse Research. Jay is a campaigner for trans* people’s rights and Traverse has been set up to support trans* needs through equalities research. He’d scribbled something logo-ish on a bit of paper involving a mountain range and the name and asked me if I could do something with said scribble. As someone who identifies as gender-queer and who frequently experiences frustration with heteronormative assumptions and the gender binary, I said yes I was more than happy to. Here is the result:

Travese Research logo


Of the logo, Jay said, “Seriously, that’s fucking great!” Which is nice.

Jay then asked if I’d like to get involved with designing the Trans Mental Health Study 2012 – the largest of its kind in the WORLD. It’s harrowing but compulsive reading and I really think everyone should take a look. It’s very well-written and not at all in the dry academic style we’ve come to expect from these sorts of reports. You can download it in full here. It was a bit of a last minute job; it had to be designed and proof-read and edited in I think about 48 hours and that included all of the diagrams and graphs and what-not! By the time I had got around to designing the cover I’d been staring at the screen so long I had no idea if it was even any good at all! Luckily I think it turned out okay 😉

You can watch a short (7 minute) moving and heart-felt speech by Jay discussing the report at the Sheffield event for the Transgender Day of Remembrance here. TDoR is on 20th November every year and commemorates the lives of those people worldwide who have been murdered because they were transgendered.

I am very proud to have been involved, in my small part, with this vital project. Thank you so much to Jay for asking me and all the best and brightest wishes for the future of Traverse Research x


*In the past I’ve turned down work for an angling supplies company (I’m vegan) and the opportunity to pitch for Vodafone (I’m pretty much into companies paying tax), among other things. (You may choose to read into this that I’m some kind of bleeding-heart tree-hugging hippy liberal type – I couldn’t possibly comment)