Thursday, 27 April 2017

Eight years of design at Shetland Arts

Today marks the end of an era. 
My last day working for Shetland Arts.

I started working as Graphic Designer with Shetland Arts in 2009. The graduate placement transformed into a full time post. In 2013 I switched to part time when I moved to Bristol to pursue a MA in Printmaking.

Shetland Arts went through many changes during the time I worked there. Building Mareel. Expanding the marketing department and use of design within the agency. More recently restructuring the whole team.

I'm very lucky to have been part of that and it has allowed me to boost my professional practice. And to that, I'm thankful to all the people I've worked with at and through Shetland Arts.

I thought I'd celebrate by putting together a best of creative projects from over the years. 

It's been hard to pick one per year as there are so many projects ranging from corporate branding (Mareel!) to the weird and wonderful (which are my favourite, and usually something to do with John Haswell!)

Within a few days of starting I got to play around with movie posters for Film Wednesdays  at the Garrison Theatre.

Notes: The team worried not using official movie imagery would not pull in a crowd.


This was an epic project to document hundreds of rings that were part of the Portage: Finger Symbols exhibition at Bonhoga Gallery curated by the amazing Mary Smith.

Notes: We shot most of the film at Burrastow House. We had freedom of the B&B for the day and freestyled as we went through all the rings. There was no real plan and it was wonderful! Jane Matthews came up with the idea of body paint on the arms and it set the film off on the weird tangent.

The process of branding Fiddle Frenzy, from the initial sketch to final which is still in use. It seems fitting to show it as Fiddle Frenzy 2017 happens to be the very final project I'm working on today!

Notes: We user tested the designs with musicians and music teachers who suggested flipping the direction of the fiddle to better represent the instrument.

Above all the rest this was the most memorable in ambition and process. Director John Haswell pitched the idea and we went with it! Morag Haswell was a hero and posed for this photo in the freezing cold.

Notes: The photo was taken in the old Sandwick school, where Richard Wemyss lived at the time. Pig head provided by Martin Sandison who was working at the Globe butcher. The chalk was written by hand. John kept the head in his freezer, it provided a good few meals.

Change was a climate change conference held in Mareel in 2010 which we were helped out with marketing and branding.

Notes: There are often so many iterations in the design process. And these are two concepts which were never used. The first cycles through different typefaces showing the changing nature of our world. The second used a piece of creative coding software, visualising data collected over a year in Shetland in form of a logo.

I would have thought every designers dream job would be to work on a beer bottle label? Part of the Mareel cafe bar's celebrations around ScreenPlay, an annual project I will miss working alongside Kathy Hubbard.

Note: I didn't get to try the beer or get a picture!


It has to be said that some projects were tough with quick turnaround times. Sometimes you have no idea what's required, but it allows things like this to happen.

Note: That is a pepperoni pizza on his head. Nobody noticed.


As well as a new logo design for Shetland Youth Theatre, there was this fun poster project for the Gargantua show.

Note: The concept was to parody the (Shetland hacked) Konga movie poster which is on display in Shetland Museum.

A 3D visitor map for Up Helly Aa activities inspired by theme park maps and model towns.

Note: I wrote a bit more about this here.

Cheers to an excellent 8 years!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Up Helly Aa in Three Dimensions!

Last week I picked up an unusual brief as part of my work at Shetland Arts: Design a map of Lerwick for visitors of Up Helly Aa.

Up Helly Aa is a fire festival which lands on the last Tuesday of January every year. This map is to give a bit of guidance for visitors to Shetland, and part of Shetland Arts print marketing for their annual Fiery Sessions concert at the Garrison Theatre on Up Helly Aa day, and also the Hop night concert at Mareel on Wednesday.

Up Helly Aa season is a funny time of year in Shetland and it's something which I have mixed emotions about especially since living in Bristol. It plays an important part of Shetland life, while lighting up the dark miserable winter months.
Short turnaround time

I honestly love when a fun project has a deadline. It enabled me to go away and quickly spend some time trying out a few ideas before making a decision on the final concept and getting stuck in.

Above: a few different early screen shots. progressing through render style and lighting. And a glimpse at a working example of how to add pin pointers for place names.

3D Lerwick
Over the last year in my own practice I've been using 3D software to make artwork for print. I'm interested in how digital 3D objects exist in different ways as printed physical artworks. Read more about previous experiments.

As a child (and even still now) I was fascinated by models and 3D maps and representations of towns. They're like little alternative worlds and toys, and I was keen to get this aesthetic across in this map. As a child I also loved the official Up Helly Aa route map diagram in the programme - which has been the same for many many years!

The original brief was to make a theme park style map, so my starting point to refine the style was to look for some source imagery (above).

Visiting the halls
I had a checklist of places to include in the map, much like the squads on Up Helly Aa day go around guising, I had to go around drawing each venue one by one using reference imagery from the internet - since I can't just look out my window!

Approaching projects as an artist/designer is a little tricky sometimes. The map needs to be functional as a navigational tool, but the style lends itself to be fun and abstract. To work like this I always saw the roads and land as the 'untouchable' elements whereas, the buildings and objects are where we can have fun. I meant them to be fun representations of the place, rather than trying to achieve unobtainable accuracy.

Being on a tight deadline I had to work really fast - I felt simplicity was important. I'm by no means pro at using Blender which is my adopted Open Source software of choice. I took the opportunity to learn new processes. Investing some time in learning more efficient ways of drawing.

Some elements can be copied and redefined for purpose to save time. I also learned valuable new shortcuts thanks to this guide.

Light the torch
Colours and textures were mapped to the objects - some chosen to represent the material and some chosen artistically to root us in the unreal toy like world.

Blender has some built in physics to represent cloth and fire/smoke that I hadn't come across before. When they're a bit tricky to get right they give some great results.

Hope you like it and if you happen to be in Shetland, you can pickup a printed copy from Mareel!

Leave a comment or get in touch via Twitter @jonosandilands

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Never! in the Parallel World

Never! at The Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016

On Friday 25 November, I installed my 'Never!' custom pinball machine and Playable Prints projects into the Japan Galleries at the V&A as part of their Friday Late.

November's Friday Late was titled Parallel Worlds:
"What does it mean to augment your reality? From VR to the rise of AR, 2016 has seen our virtual and physical worlds collide like never before with game design leading the way. Let us distort your reality across a host of arcades, workshops and playful interventions that welcome you into new worlds."

It was an amazing event, feel lucky to have been a little *flippin* part of it! Thanks to the amazing team at the V&A.

Photos by V&A

Friday, 25 November 2016

Parallel Worlds - Friday Late at the V&A

"What does it mean to augment your reality? From VR to the rise of AR, 2016 has seen our virtual and physical worlds collide like never before with game design leading the way. Let us distort your reality across a host of arcades, workshops and playful interventions that welcome you into new worlds."
More info about Friday Late

Delighted my pinball machine "Never!" and recent Playable Prints projects will be exhibiting at the V&A for November's Friday Late!

Friday Late is FREE and drop in
All events are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Never! New power supply + driver issue

Since the last update, there's been some progress and uncovering some more issues to solve...

If you're just landing on this post, all of my work on the pinball machine (part of my recent MA) is documented in past blog posts.

The new power supply (link to model) arrived yesterday and it was fitted right away. It's clear how much better quality it is, and I now realise the old one wasn't really suitable for the project. The advice is to always buy new (the previous was second hand) and to not go down the cheap and cheerful route.

Continuing my little self set assignment of experimenting with videoing progress and speaking to camera. Not perfect, but trying to find the balance between quick and quality.

Fixing this power issue made some other issues apparent - the solenoid (or coil) for the out hole kicker was burnt out. Luckily I have a big box of old parts and had a few spare. Once that was fitted, something still wasn't right...

The transistor on the driver board which relates to the out hole had also blown. I should have checked it closer before, but now is the time to fix these problems!

Will be replacing the transistor today, and hope to make another update tomorrow....

*EDIT* 18/11/16
After attempting to make the replacement myself, I damaged the driver board further. Lifting up the pads on the pcb board where you solder to make connections. I've been a bit flustered about making the fix, and also my solder iron is one of those cheap ones from Maplin. I should have thought through a bit more before diving in, I guess I was feeling a bit up against time, considering I will be on my way to the exhibition this time next week.

MyPinballs (who makes the boards) is stepping in to fix for me and should be turned around in a few days. I can take a breath, get on with a few of the other preparations.

Updates next week!

As always I welcome feedback, please comment or tweet @jonosandilands

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Never give up!

After a busy summer since finishing the MA, I have finally found time to reflect on the process, including building Never! the pinball machine. 

If you're just landing on this post, all of my work on the MA is documented in past blog posts.

So where did we leave off?
It's been some time since I've given a video update about my progress on the pinball machine, so I just wanted to clear the air, documenting the progress to get back up and running again.

Last week I picked up after some time away from the project. I revisited some of the mistakes & parts that broke down during degree show. Still some work to do, which I am documenting in this progress post this week.

Lately I've often found myself sat in front of a camera for interviews about my work. It's not something I've ever been comfortable doing, so I am using my own process blog as practice to make that go smoother and less scary!

Recording progress is really hard to do when so busy. Before it was motivated by being a journal for the MA. I'm trying to get into the way of making it ongoing, and video may be an easier way to do that.

Exhibition news
Very happy to be getting the pinball machine out in public again. It's going to be at none other than the V&A on 25 November as part of their monthly Friday Late programme, which is titled "Parallel Worlds" this month. The machine will be placed alongside my recent Playable Prints project, which has been the focus of my summer residency at the Watershed in Bristol.

As always I welcome feedback, please comment or tweet @jonosandilands

Stay tuned for more updates during the week.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Never stop evaluating

It's been a few months now since the end of my three years of MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking. Strange feeling making conclusions and processing everything. It's been a real epic journey. I've met some of the most talented and inspiring fellow students and staff at UWE, while developing my technical and research skills. 

The outcomes are almost irrelevant, but for me these really sum up the ambition and direction of my work.

All of my work on the MA is documented in past blog posts, and now with some hindsight, things start to piece together:

Why Pinball?
A pinball machine is a great example of printmaking, from the screenprinted playfield wood to the backlit glass and the potential for 3D printed and digitally cut parts.

As a theme it really underpins the idea of Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking and links up different strands of my practice as a Designer, Printmaker and Visual Artist.

Read more:

How pinball inspired me
I’ve thrown myself into the world of pinball over the past two - three years, during this time I’ve played over 100 pinball machines all with different themes and competed in local pinball leagues, at the time of writing I am ranked 5180th in the World and 121st in UK. (I've not played in a while!) 

As well as playing I have had the opportunity to develop my professional practice alongside Heighway Pinball - the UK’s only commercial manufacturer of pinball machines; MyPinballs - a one man company hacking and modifying pinball machines and; State of Play - the BAFTA winning iOS games developer who have just released the beautiful pinball game, INKS. 

An older post about what I learned from play:

I’m hoping to tap into nostalgia and memories of pinball. I believe there is a growing market for digital artworks in homes, creating *almost* a product that could potential be a topic of conversation and of course income as I work together different strands of my professional practice.

Read more:

My goals in the project

  • An incredibly ambitious project to build a pinball machine.
  • For viewers in a gallery to play on a pinball machine.
  • To elevate my work to a higher standard for exhibiting and funding of future projects.
Read more:

The natural progressions within the time
The Mini Print and Student Exchange projects were incredibly important to me and worked alongside my main project of building a pinball machine, these allowed outlets for experimentation (and escapism) which ultimately led to the pinball digital prints, with embedded digital screen.

More on Mini Print:
More on Student Exchange Exhibition:

Seeking out reference to how artists are using screen based technology in art
We're starting to see a growing number of artists using interactivity and more specifically games as part of their work. Embedding digital technology into objects can never really be made to look seamless, yet we're starting to see advances and ideas paving the way for the future:
"Soon to see digital screens that can be made into any physical shape"
- Elephant, p189, Issue 23

"The seamless integration between the real and physical is still an unaccomplished goal: we can usually still distinguish artificial elements from real ones with ease. But when digital projections are involved the border between real and fiction becomes less predictable" 
- Neural, p30, Issue 51

Please do touch...
As an artist, I’m interested in making physical artworks layered with digital technology designed for gallery viewers to interact with. The interaction can lead to new experiences and audiences for art. To do this I sought out national exhibitions that were exploring the topic of new media art to observe methods and display techniques for these types of artworks.

On a jaunt to London to catch some exhibitions I observed how artists and galleries are choosing to display digital artworks;

On the style...
The journey to find the direction in style was tough mentally. I put somewhat pressure on the idea of the outcome, which in evaluating suppressed creativity, and held up being able to move forward at a faster speed.

Eventually I realised to evoke memories and pull people in, I had to create references to traditional pinball styles but links to my own creativity, like what I had done in past printmaking projects

Tutorials with professional visiting artists inspired and helped me make realisations about direction.

On the concept/style:
Art Direction:

The Outcome
I have been in some apprehension about the outcome of the main project since conceivement of the idea. With so many parts coming together at the last minute it could have gone either way really. My planning of having everything ready to go together really paid off.

The fact is, the outcome of all pieces of work have absolutely exceeded my original expectations, the concept has driven new ideas of storytelling in my work, with the medium of pinball enabling and opening doors to many different opportunities.

With so many parts to the project I planned a staged execution. Working on this over the course of the year has meant I could span out larger budgets and production times for certain parts.

This way of working has meant that certain decisions had to be made at pivotal moments before the generation of artwork or before certain parts were bought, meaning a more retro fit approach to final assembly. (this would be a problem for mass production, but not so much for a one-off)

Read more:

What went wrong
Usually something goes wrong with projects of this nature while working on a small budget. I just don’t see them as wrong doings anymore, I use this as part of the project. I really believe that a smaller budget can make a project better as it challenges you in creative ways (of course I wouldn’t be writing that in a funding application, don’t worry).

I underestimated time and labor required of myself to produce a project like this.

The main failure was having enough time to fully programme the game. It’s the part that's lacking and when it won’t be hugely noticeable, it will lead to some bad gameplay experiences.

Not having a scoring system present, when is not to much of a worry in terms of a sculptural gallery work, it does mean that the natural competitive streak in people can’t really be brought out, which is part of gaming!

Read more:

Is there anything new you have been taught from this?
In terms of skills, many of the techniques were new developments of previously learned processes. Building on these skills and becoming more professional and independent.

It has left me desiring collaboration. Much of my work is done in solitude and through various aspects such as music collaboration or working with MyPinballs on the game code, I see benefits of asking for help more.

Read more:

Would you do anything differently next time? 
This is usually in the top 10 questions to ask. Although not wanting to sound like I have regrets of what I have done, I think it goes without saying that it would be a very different if I did it again.

The challenges and effort faced sourcing pinball parts from multiple sources and some parts not being available or having to repurpose something for the job. If a next time. I would find a full and intact working machine as a starting point, instead of piecing together and finding that like a charity shop jigsaw the most important pieces are missing.

I see what I’ve done as a record of a certain time, the outcome is a certain way due to the many factors and decisions taken, sometimes overthought or made in haste. It’s amazing that it exists in some ways, but ... no I'll leave it at that for now...