Staring into Space

I was fascinated by a recent news article that opened up with the question, “Were you told off at school for gazing out of the window during lessons?”

A forward thinking group, has decided to encourage children to do just that, in controlled conditions of course, as it has been determined that, in contrast to the long held belief that it was simply ‘day dreaming’ or lack of concentration, it is the ideal medium for creative thinking.

Ask any creative professional where they were or what they were doing when they came up with some of their best ideas and they’ll tell you, “I was walking the dog, I was ironing or I was half asleep at 4 in the morning.”

We used to call the lack of an idea, ‘blank layout pad syndrome’ but technology has moved on a bit since then. It was interesting to watch some of the best creative harness different ways of ‘staring into space’.

It was amazing how getting up from the desk, wandering around the studio or even going out for a short work, helped one award winning designer to return to his desk and start to sketch out a good idea.

Another design director, used to go home ‘stumped’ but would often phone the office a couple of hours later saying that she had come up with an idea whilst ironing.

One well-known Scottish double glazing company, refused to pay the advertising agency’s invoice, because when asked, “When did you come up with this great idea?” the creative director said. “Whilst I was digging my garden on Sunday.” The business owner said, “I’m not paying you to dig your garden.”

So, this concept is not new but it’s great to hear that it is now understood. I recommend to anyone who’s struggling to solve a problem, to take a break for a while, stare into space and see what happens. Do remember that once you have the germ of an idea or solution, you still have to knuckle down to the hard work of developing it to completion. It may appear to be a great idea but it must be checked against the brief or the practical constraints.

John Slater

A Masterclass in Retail Display

A destination shop by anyone’s logic and a magnet especially for overseas visitors, the Louis Vuitton shop in Edinburgh’s Multrees Walk has handbags flying off the shelves all year round I would imagine.

Therefore it is all the more applaudable that the shop consistently stops passersby in their tracks with it’s fabulous window displays. These displays are often works of art and only pay lipservice to the actual products on offer. They can be audacious in their execution and either strikingly simple, or technically astounding, but never dull.

They are magnificently on brand because of the above, and they feel unique, special and beautifully crafted, everything a highly expensive handbag or luggage item should be.

The most recent window, during the Edinburgh Festival had many people crossing the road to gaze at the beautiful, mesmorising tilting displays of coloured sand.

A work of art in a city celebrating the arts.

A brand more than giving back, not just to customers but to the public in general.
Click on link below to see moving image.
Louis Vuitton Window Edinburgh

Charity begins at home.


As a result of helping to promote the successful Walking Festival held in Coldstream last year I ended up joining the board of the Coldstream Community Trust. This is a whole new area for me and a steep learning curve to be involved in a community committee. The pace that things happen is certainly different to what I am used to, however the attention to detail, committment, contribution and effort by all involved is no different.
We have many projects on the go and some lend themselves to utilising my area of expertise. I have greatly enjoying creating short term identities for events and a longer term identity for the Community Centre.  Of course, getting things approved by a committee is a challenge, even when you are doing the work for free!  However, that is what volunteering is about, and learning from others is always interesting, being exposed to different experiences and knowledge is stimulating, and ultimately rewarding.


How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Having recently completed a recipe book called 100 High Protein Breakfasts,  I now feel qualified to offer an extensive range of egg choices in the morning!







This is the third recipe book that we have designed for Louise Kang, the High Protein Cook, each one getting larger and more extensive.

One of the many joys of being a designer is to work with a client whose business is growing, and to feel a part of that growth, it is so very rewarding and makes the process even more enjoyable.

Louise is on an exciting journey and is very business savvy with great energy and drive, both good and necessary attributes, and of course the recipes are fab too!


At the end of 2016

As the year limps towards the end, I believe many people will be glad to see the back of it for all the global turmoil and the disappointing news at home.

We finished off our year with a couple of delightful projects, and being positive we are looking forward to 2017.

We created a shopping magazine for Archerfield Links that kicked off the Christmas spirit in November, then added some delicious food with a recipe book filled with Sweet Treats for the High Protein Cook.

Best wishes for the Festive holiday period and a peaceful and prosperous
New Year.

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Walking Festival Case Study


Early in 2016 the Scottish Borders town of Coldstream announced that it would host the 22nd Scottish Borders Walking Festival during the first week of September.

The Festival was organised by a team of experienced walkers and local community members, but there was no one on board with a marketing background.

I felt that the Festival offered Coldstream a good opportunity to market itself to an audience that would appreciate what Coldstream has to offer, with the potential of return visits. I offered my services to develop a promotional plan for the event.

Actions and Results

The first step was to draw up a marketing plan outlining the importance of communicating the event both internally and externally. I felt it was key to get the local community as engaged as possible with the event, especially the retailers and hospitality venues, spelling out the advantages of a well attended and supported event.

The plan was based on what could be achieved with absolute minimum expenditure, within the resources available.

  • Local retailers were leafleted with information and requests to ‘dress their windows’ with a walking theme. They were then reminded of this nearer the event and many of the retailers responded by creating window displays.
  • A promotional flyer was created to support the main brochure, the flyer was aimed at a more local audience. As was a local advert.
  • A social media campaign was undertaken with the existing Twitter and Facebook accounts taken over and developed extensively, the followers and engagement in both cases massively increased. A small ad campaign ran on Facebook that pushed the followers to over 500.
  • For the walkers I organised a gift bag to be handed over as they registered, supplied by a local business, Bordefields Rapeseed Oil,  along with their product samples as a form of sponsorship. The gift bag also included a specially created information flyer listing the shops and local restaurants, as well as a specially designed Coldstream postcard, a festival T-shirt and key ring.
  • During the Festival I uploaded images daily to Facebook and asked for walkers to post their pictures, there was great engagement and lots of positive comments.



The target for walk bookings was 500 and the Festival achieved over 600. The local community engaged and supported the events. The organisers were praised for running a very enjoyable event, and the visitors commented on the great atmosphere.

The money raised by hosting the event exceeded the expected amount and goes directly to benefit the Coldstream community.



Tasty Work

Hi Protein Cookbook

One of the enjoyable things about designing this recipe book, both in print and as an eBook for Louise Kang, The High Protein Cook, was trying out the recipes. I really recommend checking out the High Protein Cook’s website as there are lots of easy to follow, very tasty recipes, complete with videos. It does not matter if you are following a high protein diet or not, they taste great.

We love the Butter Chicken recipe in this house.


Not standing still

Most businesses know that to stand still is to go backwards, and in marketing especially, reinvention is an on-going necessity. Marketing messages need to remain relevant to both old and new audiences. And those audiences are constantly changing ones.

Businesses need to learn to promote their brands through new channels without alienating their existing audiences.

Charities face the difficulty of managing such change whilst remaining relevant. Large national charities have marketing expertise and professional fundraisers to work with but smaller charities seldom have that luxury. Yet move forward and adapt they must.

Recognising that this skill is not available in house is one thing, investing in developing it is another. A charity committed to fundraising, must not rely on luck to secure funds or obtain large donations from rich people. They must see the activity as a key part of their business and must treat it as an integral part of the infrastructure.

One such charity is Muirfield Riding Therapy, a charity close to my heart as I started out there as a hands on helper many years ago. I have watched this admirable charity grow and develop and never stand still. The decision was taken to rebrand many years ago, using the word ‘Therapy’ in the title, despite some spirited opposition. The vision of the rebrand was to broaden their appeal and their ability to raise funds. I assisted with the re-brand and developed brand guidelines to ensure clear communication with everyone involved.

Recently Muirfield Riding Therapy has invested in a new campaign, including a campaign logo, the objective of which is to develop the social media marketing, in addition to broadening its appeal, especially to the younger audience. Although using new channels, the traditional routes have not been forgotten. Sub-campaigns have been planned and the charity has worked with specialists to develop and target these campaigns. The website has undergone a ‘refresh’ to reflect these changes.

Muirfield Riding Therapy is a charity that many businesses could learn a thing or two from: engaging, inclusive, good communicators and compassionate. And never standing still.


Jamie Oliver and David Loftus: the joy of partnerships

We’ve written in the past about long-term working relationships between agencies and clients, but on Instagram the other day I saw a post that made me think about it further.

David Loftus, the photographer, has been working closely with Jamie Oliver for some 18 years. It seems to me, from the outside, that they have built a very successful, mutually beneficial relationship. Jamie has enjoyed huge success and his beautifully photographed and designed cookbooks have assisted in that. David Loftus has no doubt gained new clients from the huge circulation of those books.

So I am guessing here that they have forged a great partnership, working closely through what can be at times, strained situations involving food and travel, and so can forgive each other the occasional bad days and mishaps and keep focussed on the end product.

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For us too, the best end result comes from a strong partnership. Having the confidence to be open and honest, and fully committing to, and enjoying the creative process.

Long-term partnerships don’t have to become stale; often they can produce better and better results. And like any good relationship, decisions can be made faster and easier when both parties fully understand each other, and communicate properly.

Without doubt, ‘a recipe for success’.


Mind the Gap

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One thing about being a designer is that you never fully switch off from closely observing brand identities, packaging, menu designs, website, signage, and every kind of typography. And of course any display, exhibition and interior as well.

Which of course means basically everything that is communicating a message around us, all of the time. Fortunately the observation is sometimes almost subliminal and you let it go, other times you get that old ‘wish I’d done that’ feeling and then other times it just jars, badly.

One of the latter experiences was recently when we were at a hotel on holiday, and the gap between a brand identity and the actual proposition was huge. Normally when we stay at hotels I have a quick peek at the website if I wasn’t the one that booked it. This time I hadn’t had time to look at anything to do with this particular hotel in advance.

As we approached the area I was a bit dismayed, as although it was in a good location for what we needed, the town was quite unappealing and the exterior underwhelming.

The hotel brand was old fashioned, fussy and gave the impression of a typical small town, rather run down, older establishment.

Therefore I was completely surprised when we walked in to a bright, white, spacious and contemporary interior, with an open outlook embracing stunning views of the sea.

The entire hotel had been thoughtfully and carefully designed, in a minimal, yet comfortable way. Cool interiors with interesting furniture and well thought out bedrooms. The exact opposite of the overly fussy brand identity, staring up at me from the lift carpet.


Of course, better that the hotel was smarter than the brand identity, rather than the other way around, but considering the owners had paid such close attention to detail it was sad that they had got the visual identity so wrong.

I was itching to start designing, but then again I was on holiday – did that really matter?