Stop Motion Animation, YEAH

Before Christmas, I mentioned a brilliant, leftfield project I started working on with Andy Hunns at Clinic; part strategist, part illustrator, helping Clinic describe their process.

Well, we’re done…. click here to go and watch the brilliant stop motion animation film Andy and the guys have just finished to share the process on the website:

Artefact Cards for Clinic Process


I’m really proud of what we’ve done together.  The plan wasn’t originally to do them on Artefact Cards, but once we started using them to draw out what the process entailed, it seemed a natural way to keep playing with the process.

So as well as the video, there are sets of the process cards that the Clinic guys can sit down with people and build a process to fit a piece of work or a style of working.

Thanks to Andy and all the guys at Clinic for being such a joy to work with too.

clinic 1

clinic 2

Winter Artefact Cards: Structure, Precision & Steel

To celebrate the launch of the Winter 2013 Artefact Cards, I thought I’d share the story of their development on here, in detail that is perhaps as long as these Winter evenings…

Snow 1


i – The Structure of Winter

These are the hard yards, these cold January days.

People return from the seemingly never-ending celebrations of December to the what feels like the coldest, longest month imaginable.

Some heap additional misery upon themselves… giving up this, forgoing that, forcing themselves upon literal and metaphorical treadmills.

Yet January has its merits.  It returns us to a sense of order, beginning things again, or starting them anew.  It is an excellent planning month.
“Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do – or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.” – Stanley Crawford
January is when a lot of that to-do list falls away.  The festive break seems to wash away the ephemera; tasks which were so urgent in December, yet are forgotten afterwards.

People spend January rediscovering what it is they do.

Or discovering what it is they want to do.
“The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer.  I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood.” – John Burroughs
It is a season for creating frameworks, building the scaffolding of the coming year.

So it follows that the this season’s Artefact Cards should be all about structure; helping you capture those delicate, fragile ideas, and bringing them in from the cold.

We are proud to present the Ice Blue Graph, the seasonal special for Winter 2013.

“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius” – Pietro Aretino

It is in these Winter days that inspiration often strikes, and the structure around ideas and projects begins to form, like ice creeping across the bottom of a window pane.  It is fitting, perhaps, that the possible the finest box of Artefact Cards we’ve created arrives in the season in which the project itself began to properly take form.


ii – A Cover Song of a Cover Song

I spent a lot of last winter wandering around with this in my pocket.

It’s one of the Winter 2011 Northerly edition from Field Notes, who are the main inspiration for doing these limited edition seasons with the Artefact Cards.

When you’re starting out doing something new, you look around to see who does it brilliantly.  And Field Notes do seasons brilliantly.  They do a lot of things brilliantly.  I point you, for instance, to their story:

“Inspired by the vanishing sub genre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers, and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, the Draplin Design Co., Portland, Ore – in conjunction with Coudal Partners, Chicago, Ill. – brings you “Field Notes” in hopes of offering “An honest memo book worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION.”

On trains and planes, in coffee shops and waiting rooms, I mapped out across the pages of that Northerly notebook the first few sketches of what the Artefact boxes would look like.

How they’d be packaged, how to do a trial pack, refills and so on.  Components, material costs, seasonal ideas.

It began to bring structure to the idea of Artefact Cards – what it looked like as a product, rather than a project.

(There’s that word again, structure.)

That Northerly book became the original repository for all of the ideas that Artefact Cards would become.

I turn back through the pages every so often, and find some great ideas we haven’t done yet, and some rubbish ideas we have.  And vice versa, thankfully.

I now use Artefact Cards offers to keep projects alive within.  Bad ideas are thrown away, good ideas replace them, new shapes and strategies are found by reorganising and rearranging.

But I am still never, never found without a Field Notes book, for moments when I finds me some of that GOOD INFORMATION.


In tribute, I’m covering my favourite Field Notes song.

Or perhaps it’s this cover of this song that was a cover of that song; the cycle of inspiration that goes on, and on, and on.

But like all cover songs, you’ve got to bring enough of your own thing to make it worth listening to.

Graph paper, the drums of the song.  It screams structure at the subconscious, gently guiding you to find order, precision.  Rather than a perfectly repeating square, I prefer a weightier margin every five lines… a bass drum for ideas, keeping them in line.

I wanted the bass blue to be punchier.  The lead guitar of a black sharpie needs to sit on a bass line that balances it out.

And balance really is important.  When you’re dealing with such a specifically sized object, you want it to be even.  None of that weird Graph paper overhang you used to get at the edge of school books.  If in doubt, cut out a chorus, shorten the guitar solo.

I hope that whether this is a song you’ve heard before, or a song you’re hearing for the first time, you find it says something to you.


iii – The Artisan Who’s An Artist

Whilst we’re talking about the structure that these cold winter months offer, let’s look at something else you’ll find in the Winter 2013 box.

It seemed only right to include something that would help guide the conscious and subconscious process of working with precision when you use the cards.

There are some interesting tensions around the idea of precision in the modern age.  Whilst so many more of the things we do are measurable, a lot of the ways of working we set down for ourselves are, when you look at them, ‘by rule of thumb’…

La Pouce, by César Baldaccini
RULE OF THUMB: “A useful principle having wide application but not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable in every situation.  The phrase itself has been in circulation since the 1600s. In 1692, it appeared in print in Sir William Hope’s training manual for aspiring swordsmen, The Compleat Fencing-master: “What he doth, he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art.”


Here’s the thing; if ‘rule of thumb’ is to mean ‘not strictly accurate’, as in the fencing example, it implies that precision and accuracy lies in the domain of the artist.  Where perhaps today numbers and measurement are seen as strictly the domain of the scientist and empiricist, it’s perhaps not so cut and dried.

There has always been, and will always be room in an artist’s hand for a ruler.

So we set out to find you one.

After much searching amongst the bric-a-brac and back alleys of the internet, we found just the thing.


It’s a Rolson rigid spring tempered stainless steel 150mm (6in) ruler.

– metric and imperial scales.

– ink black figures and graduations

– subdivided down to 0.5mm and 1/64 inch

– conversion table on the reverse side (inches to mm)

– a very handy wee hanging hole


Not one of those rubbish ‘shatterproof’ school ones that’d last half a term if you were lucky.

This is a workman’s ruler, a joiner’s ruler.  But here’s the strange thing; it’s quite small, especially in the context of putting up buildings and extensions and making tables.


Which leads me to concur, simply, that this ruler is a tool for those who want to make things well.

Those who leave nothing to chance.

Those who measure twice, and cut once.

This is a ruler for the artisans who are artists.


The Winter 2013 Edition is on sale now – click here to visit the shop

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The stupidity of the IPA Excellence Diploma

Why would you want to come up with anything new? 

It just gets in the way of doing the same things that your boss did before you, and his before that. 

Nothing’s changing, not really, it’s all the same game… write a powerpoint presentation, make a telly ad, put it on telly, repeat every year ad infinitum.

Everyone gets paid, media folk go to lunches at The Ivy, advertising folk go to shoots in Argentina, digital folk go and get their microscooter pimped in Hoxton.

Why rock the boat?  We’re onto a good thing here, people…

If you go learning things, reading things, forming opinions on stuff, then go around writing and sharing these thoughts… well, how’s that going to make your agency better?

So, I guess, the IPA Excellence Diploma isn’t helping anyone at all.

I blame the tutors.  For a bunch of so-called industry greats, they really should know better.  Let’s name names; Nick Kendall, Chris Forrest, Jim Taylor, Peter Field, Gerry Moira, Mark Lund… all guilty, to a man.  Especially Kendall, he’s the ringleader.

You’d have thought they’d have just covered the ‘how to get ads made and shown as quickly as possible’ bit, and done everyone a favour.  But no.

Six modules, on just about every conceivable topic… brands, people, channels, measurement, creativity and leadership. 

They they give you a two months to read endless amounts of brilliant discourse on each area, after which you’ve then got to write a 2,000 word essay on ‘what you believe…’.

And if that weren’t bad enough, at the end of it all you’ve got to craft a 7,000 word thesis on what it all means… where the future of our industry lies.

Frankly, it’s asking for trouble.  So unsurprisingly, over the four years of the course it’s produced endless amounts of trouble makers… Faris, Sam, Graeme, Matt, Alex, Chris, Chris, Bethan… the list goes on. 

In fact, I was at the graduation last night of the class of 2010 (I mentored Ben Harrison at Rocket this year), and it turns our there are 66 of us who’ve gone through the course so far…

Which is enough, surely, yes?  How can the industry expect to stay firmly stuck in the nineties if we keep teaching our best people to think better, more revolutionary thoughts?

So, this is where you come in.

I want you to email Chloe at the IPA (, and rule yourself out now

I dunno, say something like “Chloe, if you were to send out any information about the next intake of the IPA Excellence Diploma in 2011, I would be in no way interested AT ALL.  I am happy sitting here in blissful ignorance, because life is easier that way”.

Or, if you’re the boss of a someone who’s looking like they might unfortunately turn out to be brilliant, maybe say “Dear Chloe, I would request that you refrain from sending my charge any information on this course, because they’re enough trouble as it is with all their ‘great ideas’, and I don’t’t want them having any more”.

So please, please, for the sake of the comfortable, easy, unchallenging world we all seek to protect, email Chloe right now.

Of course, you may take a different view. 

You may think the the only thing that’s stupid about the Excellence Diploma is that there isn’t a five year waiting list to be on it. 

But, you know, maybe that’s just you.  And me.  And a fair few other people.

Either way, drop Chloe an email (  Ask her about the Excellence Diploma.  And make up your own mind…




Work, work, work… but what's my motivation?

I like thinking about work.

Not in the ‘spend all weekend fretting about shit’ way, though… despite the fact that lots of great ideas pop into your head when you’re not working at all, and that’s generally at weekends.

No, the work I like thinking about is the way we as a culture work nowadays, and why it’s kinda fucked up; the office culture, the military style top-down leadership, motivations, commuting & the stress on transport systems, 9-6pm, overtime, etc etc etc. 

I believe a lot of the way we work has been left in place from out-of-date theories of work (which I touched before on here and there).

Yet I hadn’t heard of Dan Pink until I saw this (via Iain). 

He’s written a series of four books on changing the way we work, and to promote the latest, Drive, he was at the RSA explaining a really interesting thing about motivation in the work place, and how a lot of companies have got it wrong…

…part of which the RSA have turned into one of their brilliant ‘animate’ series:

Interesting, huh?  That’s another book to add to the list for the commute then…


Email Mountain, I'll get over you someday…

I was just catching up on a month’s worth of delayed rss reading… and found Neil’s excellent piece on ‘unproductivity’… go have a read.

The thing that really chimed a chord with me was this…



(which I believe comes from Len Kendall)

52 emails?  Ah, the luxury, if only…

I was speaking to Chris a couple of weeks ago, who’s taking a new novel approach to unread emails… viewing it as a game to get to as many unread emails as possible.  He was on 2,500 odd when I saw him.  He was aiming for the big 10,000.

I’ve adopted a different strategy over the last couple of years; read as many as you can, but only do things about the ones people chase you on.

If it’s really important, someone will call you, find you, set a snare trap in the kitchen etc etc.

I suppose that this issue is what Google Wave was meant to solve.  But as I mentioned before, it was launched in a weird way, so didn’t take off

Maybe they got caught in a cycle of unproductivity like the one above…


“Email Mountain, I’ll get over you someday…” is of course paraphrased with many apologies from Modesty Blaise’s superb indie-pop classic “Carol Mountain”…

…which if you don’t know you really, really should listen to here.




Dexter Fletcher Syndrome

Yes, that’s right; Dexter Fletcher Syndrome.



You know Dexter Fletcher of course… English actor, in lots of stuff, maybe most notably ‘Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels’.

He was in Press Gang when we were kids too. 

Look, there he’s there, next to that woman who was in that other thing…



Though I didn’t really watch it, to be honest.  I was more of a BBC kid.

But ‘Dexter Fletcher Syndrome’ comes from one of his earliest roles, in Bugsy Malone…



He plays Babyface.  You can see why.

He’s not in it for long, but here’s the scene…

So what’s Dexter Fletcher Syndrome?

It’s that phenomenon you see when the work that nobody wants to do is passed down through the ranks…

…”pass this to Babyface”… “pass this to Babyface”…

…until it reaches the people who have nobody left to pass it to.  

The smallest, the youngest, the least experienced, the last in the line.

They’re Dexter Fletcher.  That’s Dexter Fletcher Syndrome.

(I only mention it as we saw a prime example of it today of something that’d been ‘passed to Babyface’, and it reminded me of Dexter Fletcher Syndrome)


Is hiring social media 'voices' like renting a TV?

There’s something I’ve been struggling with over the past few weeks, just in my own head…

…is hiring in social media folks to talk to your customers (from specialist social agencies, or indeed media/PR/advertising/digital agencies) a bit like renting a television set?



In the short term, with a constrained budget, it makes a lot of sense.  You get the thing you need instantly, there’s no massive up front investment, you can see how it pans out for you in your circumstances, and after a month, you can give it back.

In the long term though, it makes no sense.  It’s a really expensive way to get television.  12 months later, and you’ve paid enough money to have bought a set outright in the first place.  With a little careful budgeting, and diversion of funds in the first place, you could have had your very own telly.

How is this like ‘social media’?

Well, rather than ‘renting’ the time of agency staff to deal with the ins and outs of their own social media interactions, should clients just bite the bullet and…

a) invest in their own specialist people to do it, or even…

b) just make it a little part of various people’s jobs in the company?

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about the strategy behind the social media, driving awareness of the social channels, the analytical analysis and tool development and so on… I think there’s a lot of valuable experience, insight & ability that agencies can bring to this process.

I’m thinking more of the people at the other end of the social tools…

I’ve got a belief in my head that I can’t quite shake about the importance of ‘who’ people talk to on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, forums or wherever. 

If they want to talk to someone from ‘company X’, it should be someone from ‘company X’ they speak to (for various reasons of transparency, cultural response, ability to action things internally and the like).  

The ability to talk directly to a person in a company is something that I think people are getting increasingly used to (and will demand more of, I think).

I talked about it a lot in The Communis Manifesto.


Everything I’ve seen of late makes me think that the need for companies to have internal people available who are adept in conversing like this will only increase.  

Getting in agency staff who do this (and no doubt do it across three, four, five different accounts) strikes me as a little… short term, maybe? 

Renting the TV, not buying your own.

Yes, agencies will still help with the ideas, amplification, analysis… but I think companies will increasingly have to have the people internally who do the talking themselves.

I’m really interested in what other folks (i.e. YOU) think… am I being overly precious? 

Does the average punter not care, as long as they get a response?  Is being part of the agency team on a brand good enough?


Planning Is Invisible

In my sleepy-almost-not-working state, I almost reacted to this post here on ‘I Am The Client’ (HT to Adlandsuit)…

…thankfully, I realised after reading a few more posts that it’s a satirical blog.  At least, I’m pretty sure it is…

The post is called ‘Planning – I’m getting the fucking hang of it‘. 

I should have twigged immediately, in hindsight. 

Here’s a sample…

Planners.  Don’t.  Exist.

Think about it! Have you ever seen a tangible something that a planner has produced? No! Me neither! I mean, sure, there are things written on paper, and powerpoint slides that look like Jackson Pollock got gang-raped by seven pie-charts and a calculator, but anything actually real? Never!

They aren’t real! It all adds up! They aren’t fucking real! They’re just people who got together and worked out a way of using their very expensive degrees for something nobody can hold them to!

When you sit back and look at it, it’s fucking genius! Imagine: your entire professional existence boils down to absolutely nothing because you’ve made yourself up!

It’s sensational! What balls! What absolutely colossal balls! Bravo, planners! Bra-fucking-vo! I’m jealous. I’m jealous because I thought I’d created a job for myself that meant I could do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it and get lots of nice lunches along the way.

Now, good satire is always close to the bone; it works because it’s so close to reality that it’s not hard to imagine it being true. 

And the whole post is certainly rooted in what you may come across in the worst kind of planning… confusing, bewildering PowerPoint documents that mean nothing at all.  Making the simple complex, rather than vice versa.

But that first point is right; it’s hard to identify what planners produce.  But not because planners don’t exist

It’s just that you shouldn’t really know that they’re there. 

Planners should be invisible



No, not literally.  But they should provide something that’s only noticeable when it isn’t there, rather than when it is.

There are various analogies that have been used over the years to help describe this…

Will pointed me to the ‘bass player’ one from Russell Davies’ blog a few years back

“I’d add something. BE LIKE THE BASS PLAYER. Like Sting on Walking On The Moon. Like McCartney on tons of tracks. Be a backbone, keep it simple but unforgettable.”

…which Will himself extended here in his Art Brut inspired ‘we formed a band’ post

Planners then. We’re quite clearly the bassists of the whole operation. Making sure the work hums along, is in rhythm with what the client and the audience want. Bands/Advertising can work without us (Sony ‘Balls’ is clearly an extended guitar solo of creativity), and we must never forget that. But with us, we can make the work groove along

But just to confirm to a planner stereotype, here’s another analogy, spurred no doubt by the snow in Brighton today.



Imagine a lovely fresh Alpine mountain, ripe for snowboarding down… 

…I mention snowboarding because as we’ve now got an eleven week old son, the chances of us going in the next few years are slight, so I’ll live vicariously through my own analogies instead



Planners aren’t the snowboarders.  They aren’t the people carving and jumping all around the piste.  That’s the creatives, or the digital guys, or the direct guys, or the client themselves… anyone who’s actually ‘making’ the visible things you can see.

Planners are invisible.  They come out at night.  They’re setting out the poles at the edge of the piste, bashing down the snow, de-icing the lifts.  They’re creating the perfect space for everyone else to board down the next day. 

They find new runs across the mountain, and improve the most popular ones… all the time creating space for people to rip down the next day.

They’re only noticed when they stop doing it.  Or do it badly.  When the pistes are too boring, bumpy, dangerous or tame.

So if great planning should be invisible like this, we get to two problems.

Firstly, personal recognition and feedback is difficult for the invisible (wo)man. 

Hence, no doubt, the number of planners who write blogs and talk at conferences… in an industry that thrives on recognition, the ‘invisible planner’ wants to be seen.  Not an insurmountable issue, and not as important as the second one…

Which is this; thinking back to the ‘I Am The Client’ post, and the satire/truth issue…

…if clients (and in this day and age we’re talking procurement folk too, remember) can’t see the ‘invisible planner’, then how do/can we expect them to pay for planning? 

Why would you pay for something that you’re told is there, but is impossible to see if done well?  From another perspective, it might all seem a little ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’…




Have some fun with Out-Of-Office

No doubt you’re going away for Christmas.  Maybe even today, if you’ve got some holiday left over.

So, of course, you’ll need to leave an out-of-office message. 

“Thanks for your email, I’m currently on annual leave and will returndee-doo-dee-dah-blahBLAHBLAH”

BORING.  People have enough boring emails in their lives. 

So please, when you write yours, make it a bit more fun.  Point people to something interesting.  A game, a Christmas tree webcam, your favourite youtube video from this year.  The new Iron Man 2 trailer.

Or write something yourself. 

Here’s mine (which if you’re really desperate for something to write you could steal)…

Season’s greetings, one and all
I do hope you are well
I’m currently on holiday
As you probably now can tell

While I spend some time at home
Nibbling on a fresh mince pie
You’re sitting somewhere at a screen
Awaiting my reply

It’ll have to wait to January
In the meantime have no fear
Just pack up soon and head on home
And enjoy some festive cheer

Go on, do something different this holiday…


Bonfire Builders: Jake McKee

I had a thought a couple of weeks ago about the Bonfires & Fireworks analogy…

If, as I believe, it’s going to be through cross-disciplinary effort that we build successful, conversational communications between people and companies, we should get all sorts of different perspectives from across the board on the principle of bonfire building.

So, to that end, I decided to start asking a few folk whose opinion and work I think highly of about the principle, and their perspective on it.

First up, I’m delighted to say we’ve got Jake McKee, of Ant’s Eye View, Community Guy and Lego fame…



Let’s start with something social… tell us about yourself…

I’m Jake McKee, co-founder and Chief Ant Wrangler at Ant’s Eye View (  I’ve spent my entire career on and around the Web trying to help businesses use new tech, people, and processes to improve the way that customers interact with the company.

At AEV, our focus is the same: helping clients improve customer experience and drive customer engagement by building strategies that tap into those new technologies, as well as age old improvements in people and process to truly improve the bottom line.
Outside of work, I’m an amateur photography, infrequent mountain biker, and a proud dad of an insane smart and funny 3 year old.

How did you get started in bonfire building?
I actually went to college for traditional 3D product design.  Even in high school I was fascinated by the idea that people got paid to think about how people used things and to design products accordingly.  I graduated about the time the Web started taking off and brought that product design thinking to Web development.

When I joined the LEGO Company in 2000, I lucked into working for a boss who encouraged me to own the relationship between LEGO and the adult LEGO enthusiasts.  That led to a full-time gig at LEGO doing community work, helping to form the community development team, speaking about community work, and blogging at



How do you persuade others of the need to build social bonfires alongside setting off advertising fireworks?
The answer to this question is a bit different if you’re talking about being an employee of a company working inside the enterprise towards change versus working as a consultant helping those folks see change through to completion.

Looking at the work that needs to be done inside the organization (since that’s where the buck stops), I’ve always talked about the strategy of “Success by 1000 paper cuts”.  Start with the smallest element you can effectively do with minimal budget, little managerial approval, and minor legal team approval.

Nothing breeds acceptance like success.  Even tiny successes excite people to see more.  Succeed, expand your efforts a little, succeed again, rinse and repeat. Before you know it, you’ll be launching huge programs but with far more support than if you tried to launch a big program straight away.

Where do you see the balance between the bonfires & fireworks at this point in time?
Well, there’s probably not much of a “balance” at this point!  I think largely we’re still seeing a vast majority of the social efforts being funnelled through the traditional marketing/advertising lens.  With a sadly rare exception, most business people are struggling to get past their own training – we’re all programmed to believe that protectionism is a huge business value.

That mindset was passed along in school, and backed up by nearly every business dealing we’ve had in our careers.  Getting past that mental training is going to some time and some serious effort, but it will happen.  With an entire generation being raised to expect a direct connect relationship with the companies they do business with, it’s seriously only a matter of time.
That said, I don’t think we’ll ever get away from seeing fireworks.  In fact, I hope we don’t.  Fireworks can be a lot of fun, and can do lots of great things… IF they are a component of a larger, social-infused strategy.

Finally, what do you foresee in the future for the bonfires and fireworks?
It’s not terribly exciting, but I think we’re going to continue to see the same progression we’ve been on for the last few years, just with an increasingly accelerated pace. 

Companies and consultants alike are certainly still struggling to get to a more social-minded place, but the pace at which things are moving is picking up speed. 

Success is leading to success, and we’ll be seeing a lot smarter, bigger, more successful campaigns over time…

…success by 1000 paper cuts.

Thanks Jake 🙂