I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
- Albert Einstein
Back in 2001 Steve Price had been made redundant twice in six months. First by the awesome Oven Digital and then by State Design. The dot com crash took its toll. Agencies big and small came crashing down like a pack of cards.
Despite this Steve saw this as a challenge. Steve sat down at his dining-room table and on a sheet of A4 paper, drew a line. Column A was labelled 'People I'd like to work with'. Column B, was 'Other options'. Column A filled quickly. Column B had just one option: 'work for myself'. Plan-B Studio was born.
Steve set about working on all kinds of projects from book design to covers, from record sleeves to illustrations, music videos and title sequences to animations, global music competition campaigns to coding in Flash. From identities to self-published newspapers to publishing deals, from writing to public speaking, teaching and mentoring about design and technology. Let's just say Steve likes to keep himself busy.
In more recent years Steve has turned his interests to follow his passion for technology; it's uses, possibilities and potential. Developing ideas and approaches that harness technology for good, not evil.
Over the last thirteen years Steve has worked with great brands and companies, big and small, in the UK, Japan, America, Norway, and Europe. He works with incredible people and continues to expand a global network of like-minded, gifted, intelligent talent. Believing the mantra that if he is the smartest person in the room, then he's in the wrong room. Steve talks about design and technology, writes about it, designs it, builds it, produces it and works with his clients to bring to life the products and services they need.
Steve also decided to stop writing in the third person. That's better. If you'd would like to talk to me about a project get in touch.
Six months ago Steve and his partner-in-Can't Understand New Technology-crime, Camilla Grey invited Gordon Young, editor and co-founder of The Drum to lunch to ask him/The Drum to sponsor our third issue of our Can't Understand New Technology publication.
So we're sat having lunch in Kings Cross. I'm building up to asking Gordon for the money and before get to it he says the following, 'How about we print the next four issues as a thirty-two page insert in our magazine?'.
Today, six months later that conversation is now a reality. Behold the new and improved Can't Understand New Technology thanks to our publishing partners at The Drum we have thirty-two beautiful, uncoated pages of our typically controversial, punchy, sweary insight in to the Creative and technology industry. Written for and by those who make it and break it, quite literally.
Also, big love to Marc Lewis, Dean of the SCA for the idea to approach The Drum and whose current student Adam Newby won the competition to create a campaign for our publication.
Fourteen months ago Dolphus Ramseur and I were sat in the kitchen of his beautiful house just outside Concord, North Carolina (USA) talking for hours about music, bands, artists, genres, periods of music, vinyl, records, speakers, best gigs, worst gigs, backstage stories. It was here that the idea for Ramseur Records new A new (desktop and mobile) web site came to life.
All along Dolphus recounting tales from his childhood, about his passion for music, his love of art... 'That's it!' I said. 'What if your new site is a chronological biography of your love and passion for music? What if the site charts that history of you, your employees, your solo artists and bands? What if these are represented in timelines like tracks on a record desk, automatically pulling data from your solo artist and bands web sites and social media feeds?
Behold a first: a self-generating, automatically fed, content managed web site designed with inspiration from the Rock-a-Billy era of music posters and typography.
I shortened Ramseur Records to Ramseur - to future proof it from just records to other possibilities. I wanted to represent this 'merger' visually using a particular style that I felt suited their indie, rock, folk music; letterpress. I created a stamp for the Ramseur Records made by sliding the two R's together to form a double 'R'. Which has already been fondly nicknamed (by Dana, Dolphus's wife) the 'Elephant' (I won't tell you why Dolphus thinks that's funny).
The identity comes in three modes of dirty, clean, cleaner; depending on the audience Dolphus is talking to (folk, rock, indie).
It has been designed in black and white like the 12" vinyl on-body labels of demos or white labels. It's not about gold foils, or three coloured labels. It's simple and basic because Ramseur doesn't need to be upfront, shouting. Their logo on the desktop site is even in the bottom right-hand corner, not blazoned up top as normal.
It comes with various cropped and rotated connotations across the stationery and web site, and printed using a black foil to give it that on-body sheen and slight embossing. It's beautiful and we all love it.
An annual report is often a very dry document. Full of facts and figures and bad photographs of unphotogenic people. One thing UD isn't short of is colourful stories, characters and facts so instead of a perfect-bound 48pp of boredom we used The Newspaper Club and printed a tabloid format Annual Report for the charity arm of urban Development.
I was invited back to the Academy of Art and Design in Bergen where I'm an accredited Associate Professor.
I spent six fantastic weeks with twenty-two brilliant, motivated, engaging Visual Communication students. Their task was to create a new identity for a 'destination'.
Along side the project, we had guest speakers and workshops to help provide further insight and diverse opinions.
These are four of the six groups work. I would include them all but I'm still waiting for two groups to send me their work!
I was invited to give a talk at this years Silicon Beach 2012 in Bournemouth. Turns out I was the closing speaker following some immense talent. I've included my talk here plus my notes so that it maybe makes some sense.
No pressure then given my laptop recognise the projector, the presentation I did show (off another laptop) didn't have the right font and I was starting with sixty seconds of silence. No pressure at all.
The brief was simple - develop a new identity and brand for a new business called Entity Partnerships; a regeneration development company and strong beliefs in sustainable regeneration through partnerships in the industry.
The result was an identity that has no need to shout, instead it was designed to be more friendly, personable and reflect the values of the business - it's network and connectivity.
The second issue of our publication by and for the London creative industry since we all joined Twitter.
Created by myself and brand strategist Camilla Grey. It's the first new publication by and for the London creative industry since we all joined Twitter.
A potent mix of opinion, gossip, agony advice, serious discussion and ranting.
No email, Twitter, Instagram or Vine feed because we can understand new technology and it's ironic.
Urban Development commission Plan-B Studio to design a new identity and brand development across all their communications platforms for both Urban Development and their other subsidiaries such as UD Music Foundation.
The logo is one of my proudest pieces. A blocky, cut-out ‘URBAN’ comprising of a Scalene triangle instead of an A. Why? Because like so many of their artists and un-nurtured talent they do not necessarily conform, fit-in or follow a ‘norm’ - with no equal sides or angles neither does a
On the new web site the logo is ever evolving. The Scalene Triangle is constantly animating, at random, to create a ceaselessly changing three-sided shape with no one side or angle the same. Like their audience, their logo is forever changing.
I was invited again to give a talk at this years Silicon Beach 2013 in Bournemouth.
This year the theme was 'Make things people want verses making people want things'. Taking this in to account and my technology issues last year I did intend to do my entire talk from a flipchart. Instead I accompanied my talk with a mixed media; laptop, project, sound, flipchart. What could go wrong?
You can see more of the talk here: Silicon Beach presentation 2013
The Olympics is happening in London, you might have heard about it? Ravensbourne's new building is situated right next to the O2 (formerly 'The Dome') and at the heart of Olympic activity.
To promote the opportunity to rent their building Ravensbourne commissioned Plan-B Studio to design a special promotional pack highlighting the key features of the building. This came in the form of eight postcards printed on recycled board (designed to let interested parties send them back) in a self-folding envelope to save on postage and unnecessary packaging.
Myself and co-creator (the brains) Camilla Grey decided that V-day was the perfect day to launch our new publication, because who doesn't love a Cant Understand New Technology on their doormat on Valentines Day morning?
There is no Twitter feed, no Tumblr, no Facebook group. You can follow the conversations by using the hashtag #cantunderstandnewtechnology across Twitter, Instagram and even Vine.
What is Can't Understand New Technology?
It's the first new publication by and for the London creative industry since we all joined Twitter.
Why will Can't Understand New Technology be launched as a hard copy?
Because we can understand new technology and it's ironic.
Who is behind Can't Understand New Technology?
A brand strategist (Camilla Grey) and myself, Steve Price.
Who are the contributors?
Senior creative and strategic leads from across London's best-known creative agencies.
What's in it?
A potent mix of opinion, gossip, agony advice, serious discussion and ranting. Plus illustrations.
How do you present a three week discovery phase for a new web site project to a record label/artist management client in the US whose passion in life is music and making great art?
You write. You sketch. You think. You write some more. You source a company (on ebay, in the US) who sell blank white 7″ sleeves.
You layout each sections content as an insert like the lyrics of the track. You give each section titles like album tracks, and timecodes based on how long it takes you to read it. You add little sleeve notes ‘Lyrics by…’ (just for fun).
You get four A2 posters of your inspiration and vision printed and folded. You personally make each of the ten sleeves like your own demo vinyl using Letraset.
You package it all up in a plastic cover and Fed-Ex it to them and hope they love it half as much as you did making it.
The Shop at Bluebird is every fashionistas mecca. Based on Londons Kings Road it's location is only overshadowed by the plethora and quality of curated stock that is sourced and passionately sold from informed employees throughout the store.
Plan-B Studio has been working with the store for four years now. Commissioned originally to develop their web site, CRM marketing strategy and print/event comms. We are currently developing the next edition of their web site
unit9 the award winning creative production company hired Steve Price as Interactive and Project Director on this Flash built. interactive, e-commerce web site which included a web-based mobile app site and a fullt integrated, e-commerce app.
Loro Piana is an Italian luxry lifestyle brand based in Milan, with stores all over the world and a range of high quality clothing products and interiors. This project included a huge team of supremely talented people across three continents for eighteen months with an executive producer, creative director (Steve Price), animation director, three project managers, design director, Flash developers in London and Italy, iOS5 app developers, illustrators in Italy, photographers, animators in Brazil as well as motion and 3D designers.
My role was to work with the senior management team at unit9 to source, commission, direct, manage and co-ordinate the entire team, budget and overall project.
Web site/Mobile site
The patent and trademark sector is probably one of the oldest and most traditional in law. What better challenge to undertake than be approached by a new, fresh-faced partnership looking to break the mould?
Plan-B Studio designed and developed the logo, stationery, corporate literature, as well as a rather brilliant (even though we say this ourselves) CMS built web site.
CMS powered website
Mobile visible site
The Outside Organisation is a PR, communications agency who work with music, talent, corporate, television, sports and lifestyle brands, making sure they are heard and seen in all the right places.
Plan-B Studio designed and developed a radical overhaul of their logo, corporate literature, marketing materials as well as a new, simplified, CMS built web site.
CMS powered website
To celebrate Plan-B Studio's tenth anniversary I decided not just to have a big party, but to donate time to doing something good, every month.
Project10 was originally an initiative to donate time to create ten projects in ten months, but has since become a good reason to donate time every day, week, month and year to other projects outside the commercial realm. In 2012 it was the start of an epic journey which lead to some inspiring collaborations with some incredible people, such as Generation Press, GFSmith Papers, Max Fraser, Matt Booth, Matthew Knight, Lucy Brown, Badger, Nicky Gibson and Garrick Webster, not to mention the contributors to our quarterly newspaper we produced to help keep abreast of all the great work.
Quarterly Project10 newspaper
A poster for jack
Mor Mor identity
Annual report for LRCN Charity
Sundt window displays
Joy of Living web site with Max Fraser
The ACE Club
Friends of the Earth wanted to take their message and appeal to a younger, more youthful audience, and invited me to develop a new magazine.
I came up with the name 'friend,' with a comma as a punctuation mark to separate the name from the content but also to make the title feel like it was addressing you personally. Over the course of four years we produced sixteen issues. Some adopting the original format of A5, others came as 8 cards bound with a wrap, another an A2 folded poster. It made a huge difference and their circulation grew exponentially over the four years and encouraged a more diverse age group to become interested and participate with many of their other campaigns, including The Big Ask.
Design art direction for a quarterly, 16page magazine
Friend of the Earth is a charity aimed at creating a more beautiful world, a good life and a more positive relationship with the environment in general. It does this through various campaigns and events, some of which we were fortunate to work on with them.
Including The Big Ask; a campaign informing and encouraging the general public to lobby their MP's. Still their most successful campaign ever and we designed everything from the logo, to the manifesto, the banners, the t-shirts - you name it!
Also 'Friend,' a quarterly magazine aimed at a more youth orientated market. We designed and art directed sixteen issues, each one different.
Campaign strategy, branding and marketing
Brand development and evolution strategy
Congregation partners is a company providing consultancy to the digital industry all over the world.
Plan-B Studio was approached to help develop their logo and web site along with templates for all of their internal and marketing communications.
Brand identity kit
Marketing and internal comms literature
CMS powered website
As part of Project10 I designed a poster highlighting a common indication of Autism. My aim; to print and sell the posters and donate the proceeds to charity.
I spoke to my good friend Paul at Generation Press, who kindly offered to donate their time and experience to producing 100 beautifully silkscreened prints on paper donated by GF Smith.
All the proceeds went towards helping a six year old boy with autism called Jack Armstrong, a neighbour of fellow designer Lucy Brown. It has also featured in the 100project.co.uk
500 x 700mm, white silkscreen on 175gsm GFSmith Colorplan (Bright Red). Thanks to GFSmith for donating the paper.
Joy of Living
London Design Guide writer, all-round design guru and bloody good guy Max Fraser approached me to work with him on this wonderful initiative and event for Maggies trust.
Max sent out a sheet of blue squared paper to over 100 designers. Their task, to do what they liked with it but so that it could be sold to raise money for the Maggies trust. I brought on board the supremely talented Matt Booth to utilise his skills and engine to make a very simple site that allowed Max to update the gallery on his site directly from his Flickr account.
The night raised in excess of Â£30,000
I was enlisted to re-design the web site for Arising Artist. Their old site was a mish-mash of heavy colours, too much text an tired repetative layout and design.
I stepped in a stripped the whole site back. I minimised the use of colour, but made the colours much flatter and brighter.
I encourage more space and less text. Simple and easy navigation. Concise and clear copy that was easier on the eye.
Creating a clear, but strict grid enables a much easier level of consistency and usability, along ith restricted colour palette and easier to read copy.
DUMs 2007 direction was a beautiful abstract using a series of bold, brash colours, set against a dirty, black background decorated with a host of hybrid-animals.
The fanzine is a particular favourite of mine as it resembled much more of a real two colour print fanzine. As the festival grew in popularity and press so too did the subsequent pieces of promotional literature, the TV titles and award show animations.
Web site graphics/design
TV title sequence
Award show TV interstitials
Stage set graphics/design
Oh, and a T-shirt (or 2000)
Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
This week we launched a new web site, mobile site and branding for Ramseur Records, now renamed Ramseur. Here’s the directors cut of how it came about and how it feels to finally give birth to our latest baby.
Residing in Concord, North Carolina is Ramseur; an independent record label and artist management company run by Dolphus Ramseur (founder); a man who has spent his life growing up in and around Charlotte, North Carolina (USA). From what started as a hobby Dolphus now runs a highly successful indie record label and artist management company with satellite offices in Nashville, Los Angeles and New York. ‘I want the most awesome web site in the world.’ was the opening brief from Dolphus during our first conversation (over Skype) eighteen months ago; Dolphus sat in his kitchen in Concord (NC) and me (at the time) in an airport departure lounge in Norway.
The quiet, beautiful, would-make-an-awesome-setting-for-a-haunted-thriller-movie, Ramseur house in Concord (NC)
What followed was one of my most memorable and favourite first client ‘meetings’, and all 4,500 miles apart via a Skype connection. I went on to do what I normally do; ask questions, lots of questions, the first being ‘define what you mean by ‘awesome’. I listened. Dolphus explained he’d seen my work, blah blah blah, but went on to talk about his passion for great art, and not in the ‘canvas-on-a-gallery-wall’ type (although he does admire that kind of art too). He described how his job was all about ‘creating enough time and money to enable
my artists to focus on making their art’. His strategy for winning more fans? ‘One at a time Steve, one fan at a time.’ No big PR machine, no plans of grandeur, just ‘focus on the art’. Beautiful. Music (pardon the pun) to my ears.
Close-up of a speaker from Dolphus’s house
Since then, we embarked on a great artist voyage. Nothing like a typical project with the usual calamities, pressures, miscommunications and deadline issues, more like how I imagine the recording a great second album must feel. This is not a new web site and new identity, this is our Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, our Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album, our Joy Divisions ‘Closer’. Yes, that’s correct, I have aligned us and our collaborative results to Radiohead, Nirvana and Joy Division; deal with it. Two companies with a common goal and mutual respect working in harmony, in true collaboration. So much so I think I’ve actually consciously delayed finishing things sometimes because quite honestly, like a first love, I don’t want it to end.
Maya Angelou once wrote ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ This project could have been produced in a quarter of the time (and often is), one could argue that it has over-run. If I listen to my accountant I could be lead to believe (via science and fact) that I’ve likely made a financial loss, but all this pales in to insignificance when I think about how I feel about the work, the project, the people I’ve worked with and the ease with which spending more time, with less pressure has enabled us all to produce great art.
Like finding your first true love it’s rare, very rare to find the professional equivalent. I can honestly say, hand-on-heart, I have loved this project because I have loved working with the man who commissioned it and the people he has working with him and the people I commissioned to work with us to help make and build it.
This project is a representation of how every project should and will be. Alas, like first loves I know that it will be tough to beat. Sounds mushy? You’re right, and anyone who knows me knows I don’t do mushy. But as I sit here post-launch I find myself reluctant to admit it, it’s finished.
So ‘Marketeers’ – Facebook doesn’t like your ‘organic reach’. Guess what? They never did. Not really. Why? Facebook wasn’t built for you.
In a recent blog post Eat24 made a mild mannered, witty, but pointless effort to complain about the ‘organic reach’ their content was now not getting on the Facebook activity. Claiming that Facebook’s ‘algorithm is saying most of our friends don’t care about sushi porn, that they aren’t interested in hearing our deepest thoughts about pizza toppings. Are you listening to yourself? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? You know that all those people clicked ‘Like’ on our page because it’s full of provocatively posed burritos and cheese puns, right?’.
Still unsure? Here’s some evidence. An Ogilvy study released this month says that organic reach hit a low of 6% in February, and closer to 2% for pages with more than 500,000 fans–meaning that each piece of content is seen by almost none of the people who “like” a brand, unless the brand pays Facebook. Shocked? No, I’m not.
Wait! So Facebook, a billion dollar business with as many users as zeros on their balance sheet are reducing what was a free tool and charging for it? Are you shitting me? Brandon McCormick, a Facebook PR rep replied to the charge:
‘Hey Eat24, this is Brandon over at Facebook. I was bummed to read your letter. The world is so much more complicated than when we first met – it has changed. And we used to love your jokes about tacquitos and 420 but now they don’t seem so funny. There is some serious stuff happening in the world and one of my best friends just had a baby and another one just took the best photo of his homemade cupcakes and what we have come to realize is people care about those things more than sushi porn (but if we are in the mood for it, we know where to find it Eat24!). So we are sorry that we have to part this way because we think we could still be friends – really we do. But we totally respect you if you need some space.’
Sure Facebook wanted you in, you dumbass. They even encouraged you didn’t they? Didn’t they? They made you feel you had the ability to grow and maintain large communities, for free, right? Right up until they didn’t. Why? Because they WANT YOU TO PAY FOR IT. That’s right folks: new technology uses the same old tired ad model – get ‘em in, keep ‘em in, then charge them for what was a free privilege.
If you’re surprised by this, you are in the wrong job and if you are a marketeer and this is news to you – time to sort out that resume and new career.
I’ve been using the fantastic people at the Newspaper Club since they started. A brilliant idea, a great service and awesome team who run it.
Over the past four years I’ve made thirteen newspapers; including #Project10, #CantUnderstandNewTechnology, Urban Development and most recently a special 24pp catalogue for Vestlandsutstillingen, which Newspaper Club printed with five different couvers for each of the five venues; service time and time again!
The other day I had an idea. I know, amazing, right?
Today I was reminded of it when Mr Roope posted a message on Facebook:’I need an application that blocks photos / mentions of beaches / summer fun in the southern hemisphere when I’m freezing here in London’
I responded with my idea. Namely an online platform/service that you sign-up to. Everyone signs-up to it. You simply sync all your various feeds on to it. Then when you are on holiday you enter your dates and the platform then hides you from everyone else’s feeds for those dates. Thus prevents you losing friends and making envious enemies with your fourth weekend trip-skiing-summer beach fun-winter sun holiday.
Works the same way an email auto-responder works. Call it ‘Vanishd’ or ‘Foff’ (‘eff-off’, i.e Fuck-off; I know, easy to get on the App Store). I even designed a logo. Course I did.
After writing about my frustrations with cars and their lack of technology last year (link: Dork’n'Download), finally (not as a result of my writing, obvs)the car industry has woken-up.
Like it’s twin sibling–the music industry– it has realised that, wait for it, technology is a big deal and, wait for it, a big part of many peoples lives. So it is good to hear that Google has partnered with Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia to take Android into cars. Why it has taken this long is really quite astonishing: officialandroid.blogspot.co.uk
Does this mean that Apple will be gearing up for a partnership with more high-end car manufacturers? The Ford XR5Ci? The Porsche GT3.87998771OSXPanthro? Perhaps the Mercedes E63.5s AMG? Whatever you do, don’t get too excited just yet, this is the web site for the Open Automotive Alliance web site celebrating this apparent partnership: openautoalliance.net – way to go guys, real awesome!
What ever you end up creating Android (et al), try to avoid creating a real-life version of the Wacky Races though, ok? K.