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!

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