Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back page

This is what I wanted to do for today's back page. 

It was never going to sail. Had to pitch it though.

Edward Snowden exclusive

This has nothing to do with illustration or graphics but it was great to be at a paper when it broke a world exclusive story, or more to the point Lana Lam did.

Now the office is wondering who's going to play her in the upcoming Edward Snowden movie.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Threadless t-shirts

Have been entering some t-shirt designs to

Some are general design but some are for specific competitions. Like this latest one. It's for a competition for the band The Flaming Lips and their new tune 'The Terror'. 

I was playing around with different ideas and thinking along the lines of terror but didn't want it to be hard-core .. twin towers, executions on the internet, things like that. Somehow I got onto Godzilla, then realised with that laser beam or fire breathing thing he does he would in fact have flaming lips! Actually one thing I definitely didn't want to do was go down the road of lips on fire, lips with fire texture etc etc. Godzilla seemed far enough away from that but with a nod to it, so i went ahead with it.

Two other designs ...

*Need to read the fine print on this one.

And then the disqualified ones. These two Star Wars ones were panned because they thought they might run into copyright issues. Hmmr.

I've half a mind to make the Arrgh2d2 one up myself cos I'd like to wear it. 

This one was for an Iron Man competition. It got brushed because the rules said not to include characters from outside the Marvel universe. I figured Mike Tyson was a real person and not a character. Turns out I was wrong - and fair enough too. Tyson's both a real person and a character.

Friday, June 7, 2013

more SOPA

Good to see Adolfo's melon in the paper today. He's at the SOPA awards to represent the art department and I'm sure he did a fine job. He texted me saying "I'm looks Peter Sellers in 'The Party.'" Class.

Of course the article got it wrong saying Simon Scarr only won an Award of Excellence for his Wiring the City graphic. He also won Honorable Mention for his Arteries of the City.

Harry Harrison won Honorable Mention for Editorial Cartoon - (mind blowing!) and we didn't win anything for illustration because they don't have an illustration section!

If you're a journalist you have 11 opportunities to win a gong at SOPA, photography: 2, graphics: 1, multi-media: 1, design you also have one chance - but only if you work on a magazine - and illustration you don't get any opportunity at all because although it's quite definitely the most difficult of the disciplines, we're also quite definitely at the bottom of the food chain. Overlooked, forgotten, left in a dark corner, occasionally spat on until after design and photography have struggled with a page and unable to find a solution, it lands on our desk and, with minimum turnaround time, we crank out a page holding illustration. Don't tell anyone but some of us even get paid!

The article also says that the China desk was the big winner but if you look at it another way, and get the information right, the big winner was Simon since he won 100% of the graphic awards. Well done Simon ... I had no doubt!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

SOPA Awards

Congratulations to Simon Scarr for cleaning up at this years SOPA Awards! 

First place for his Wiring the City graphic, a look at the amount of electricity used in Hong Kong, where it's used and who's using it.

Also see Simon's explainer on is blog:

Also second prize for Arteries of the City which shows the traffic usage of certain roads in HK plus the percentage change from the previous year

Again, Simon's blog:

Well done mate!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dead Branches

'Dead branches' is a term for young single men with no prospects of marriage largely due to a disproportionate number of women to men in that society ... 'dead branches' because the family tree won't continue. 

The article bounced off the horrible rape and murder in India recently and the rising number of similar incidents that are occurring. It says an uneven ratio of men to women often leads to violent crime especially towards women and can also lead to violent uprisings against the system ie. revolution.

Bewilderingly it was suggested to take out the weapons. Wtf?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Adolfo's Kowloon Walled City

This is a graphic Adolfo did for last week Saturday's edition of the South China Morning Post.

I hadn't heard about the walled city till I came to Hong Kong but was immediately fascinated with it - like most people I think - so I was really pleased when we saw there was an opportunity to do a major graphic on it .. and Adolfo was the man for the job!

It's had a HUGE response in the office, around Hong Kong and online. Apparently the Editor of the Washington Post said something like it was the best info-graphic he'd seen in years.

The amount of detail is incredible, the sort of graphic you can get lost in for hours .. and I'm guessing people did. 

He started by drawing the entire city then did a pull out section of it which allowed him to detail all the intricacies and aspects of the city.

Daily life and extra information

Of course being about the walled City it had to include some of the sketchier sides of the place ...

As well as some of the positives

This part is also really great. It shows the density of the city over time (and yes he drew all the extra cities). A great easter egg as they say.

But the best easter egg of the graphic is this ..

The figure on the roof is one of the girls in our department, Kaliz. 

During winter she wore a beanie that looked like Where's Wally's (apart form not being red and white) and we started calling her Wally's sister for a while. So when this came up, it had to be done. Class!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The dust has settled. I've got an hour or so to kill before my train, then hell flight back to HK.

What a week it's been, culminating in what I think is the best awards results our paper has ever had.

I'm very pleased for Simon and Adolfo for their great results and well earned awards. Simon winning gold is something I expected at SND, so his gold win here vindicates that inexplicably not happening earlier. We've celebrated well, very pleased with things. Yet still I'm going to have a bitch.

Something I've learned this week is that a lot of people were disappointed by the SND results this year. Apparently the judges argument for being so tight was that the standard was so high this year they decided to raise the bar. 


Ok, on a level i understand that. Something that wins an award 20 years ago is surely out of the running this year. Not because it's not worthy, but because of basic evolution. Something that's cutting edge and stand out 20 years ago is built on over the years and new standards are set. The bar is raised. But raise it such a notch in one go? I don't agree.

The thing is, you're messing with people's reputations. To suddenly raise the bar to such an extent that people's work, if entered last year, would've yielded a result but come away this year with nothing is simply not right. 

It makes the work of this year appear weaker than the previous year. As mentioned before, this is all management understands. They're not going to understand that the judges - amongst themselves - decided to raise the bar. They just wonder why we didn't do as well as last year. 

What I think should've happened was if the standards are better then more awards are given out. I know the guys don't expect anything. They might be pleased or disappointed but they certainly don't COUNT on anything. From where I sit though I can get a distance and I know we did more and better work than we did last year yet win - apart from Adolfo's silver - flimsy page design awards. This year we should've cleaned up. My calculation: 20 awards easily.

And the same for Melofeij. I overheard judges saying some graphics were great but did they deserve the space allocated to them. I can't help but think this applies to us.

We've worked hard, spotted a place where we can do stand alone graphics, gone for it, established it and managed to make it our own. To the point where they're in demand and difficult to keep up with. I would've thought this is something to be rewarded rather than something that goes against us.

My predecessor, god bless him, wanted to do this but it's a very difficult thing to establish. It's difficult for editors to understand the value of it. We were lucky, saw an opportunity and went for it and because it was successful were able to continue it. Something a lot of papers are unable to do, including ours previously.

That establishing this somehow (possibly) goes against you I simply don't understand. The weird thing for me is with both SND and Melofeij, when a paper gives big space to graphics it seems to be rewarded. Some papers have different restrictions. We've established our spot. There's no way we're going to get several broadsheet pages dedicated to James Bond. But we have the back page and we've milked it as best we can. 

I see this as something to be rewarded - and therefore encouraged rather than 'did the graphic warrant the space'.

Ironically, a guy in Russia forms a magazine dedicated to graphics, full page graphics - great idea - and is rewarded by being a judge and speaker - even though it's only been around for 7 months. We've established a spot within a difficult system and done it for two years yet this potentially goes against us?

I overheard some of the judges after the awards were announced. Let me say I think overall they did a great job. Was very impressed with the work that got up there. Humbling and inspiring - some of it out of reach because of resources - but very inspiring.

What I want to say is there's a danger of being in a bubble as a judging panel and getting too intellectual. We live in the real world and every situation has it's limitations. Of course it's impossible to know those but I'm not sure that work should be judged from a perfect whorl scenario. At some papers it may exists .. but at most it certainly doesn't.

Anyway, fantastic week in Pamplona. Great results, very happy, great time. These things are difficult and very subjective. Appreciate everyone's efforts and simply amazed by some of the talents out there. 

Thanks to everyone at Melofeij for their huge effort and great to meet so many lovely people.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Melofeij Awards

Good news for the South China Morning Post art department from Melofeij in Pamplona. Simon Scarr has walked away with a GOLD award for his Picasso graphic where he plots every painting in Picasso's career. (Obviously that's an over simplification but will do for now. Simon will write more detail on his blog, soon as will I)

Then he picked up a SILVER for his wiring of the city graphic ...

As well as an Award of Excellence for his portfolio which included the above plus ...

Then everbody's favourite majo won 2 Awards of Excellence for his wine tasting graphic plus the train on the roof of the world graphics ...

More later, but for now it's dinner and celebrations!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Melofeij Awards

Just landed in Pamplona with Simon Scarr and Adolfo Arranz for the Melofeij conference and awards this week.

We're all pretty wrecked after more than 24 hours in transit but looking forward to an awesome week. Hoping to meet a lot of talented graphic designers - other than the two I'm traveling with.

We're also wondering if we'll be the group that's travelled the longest distance to be here. I guess we'll find out later in the week.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brian Wang

Also last year Brian Wang won an SND award for the following illustration. I was going to include it in the last post then figured rather than tack it on the end I'd make a separate post for it. It certainly deserves it. Class job.

Friday, March 8, 2013

SND results

Here's how the South China Morning Post art department went this year in the SND awards. The biggest prize was for Adolfo's wine tasting graphic where he bagged a silver.

Then these three for page design (what?). The first two from Adolfo 

The this one from Simon again for page design. Not graphics. Right.

Here's how we did in 2011 ... Simon cleaning up with 5 awards, three for graphics ...

One for portfolio which included the ones above plus the following three ..

Plus the Iraq's Bloody Toll won for page design.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Ha. Well. My girlfriend just told me she'd read my blog and liked my comments about SND.

I was like, "WHAT? ... that was published? I only meant to save it and look at it later before publishing," because I'd written it late at night after a few beers with a mate and like a lot of people, I learned a long time ago never to send dunk, late night emails.

Anyway, it's had a lot of hits, altho no comments. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. 

It also explains something on Friday. One of the girls in our department, Jane, said she'd seen my comments on SND and then saw my blog. I said, "You shlda seen the entry I didn't publish." She gave me a funny look - now I know why.

She must've been thinking "If that's what he published, what on Earth did he leave out?"

ANyway, I guess that's what a blog's for yeh? To paraphrase the Dude from The Big Lebowski, "It's just, like, my opinion, man."

And I'd say we will be back next year although after my spray I don't expect we'll do too well!!

Also I am realistic about them. A few years ago we were coming into award season and I asked the then editor what was the better film, No Country for Old Men or There will be Blood? He started prattling on about There will be Blood then stopped and asked, "Hang on ... Why?"

I told him, "Because there's no correct answer, you'll say No Country for Old Men, I'll say There will be Blood and there's no telling what the people at SND are going to say."

On that note, enjoy the Academy Awards tonite!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

SND awards

Yesterday the SND awards were announced (I'm about to have a whinge). Massively disappointing. And for mine not making any sense what-so-ever. 

Last year we won 6 awards. I know in my bones we did work at least to the level we did that year, last year, and i think better ... and much more of it. I can't understand why we were rewarded less.

To add insult to injury, three of the four awards we got were for page design. Fortunately the graphics we won for were full page graphics and the guys that did them also designed the page. So at least the award went to the right person. It cld've easily gone to the wrong person.

Imagine if the graphic was an element of the page and some layout person put the page together. It cld've easily have gone to them.

Never mind that the artist came up with the concept, did the research, executed the job, refined it, bounced it, got it right, did all the heavy lifting .. the award goes to the presentation. Having done both, I know that's the easy part. Not to take away from design - because it is an art but seriously, why is design so comparatively easy to win a gong for design compared to graphics, illustration and photography? As my predecessor wld've said, they hand out design awards like smarties.

It's seriously not right, but at the end of the day they're design awards. Society of Newspaper DESIGN. I've already had a spray on their website abt how biased it is - esp for illustration. xxxxx. 

Next year I just don't think we're going to enter. The design department can, but i don't see the point for graphics and illustration doing it. Maybe it's worth our while to enter full page graphics in the design category. Other than that, graphics can be entered into Malofeij. Illustration? I don't even know how you can judge illustration. It's so subjective but one thing I know is, I don't want to be judged by a panel of designers that can't do what what we can do.

And that's my main point. There is good design. I respect design. But I don't respect this idea of letting people judge us on things that they can't do.

In my honest, albeit biased view, illustrators shld be top of the food chain, followed by graphic designers, photography then design. But what we have is all arse-backward. 

If you really concentrate you can be a designer in 6 months.

For graphics - Simon help me here. A lot of tools to use, understanding data, talent. 3-5 years?

photography? get a camera, point, snap, crop. Be in the right place a the right time. Yves's gonna blow up at me but i've been a commercial photographer's assistant, there's tech to learn and ability to take the right shot. But the same amount of time to become an illustrator? No way.

Illustration. 10 years. you need to be able to draw... that takes time, dedication, ability, practice. PLUS  come up with ideas? more time, ability. there are illustrators that can do the drawing but can't come up with the ideas?  To get both is a rarity. It's an effort. To move text around a page is comparatively easy.

I think SND needs to work out where the real effort comes from and award accordingly. 

It's a huge expense and effort and unless yr a designer, simply not worth it.

We did well last year. This year we should've done better. Somehow that didn't happen. Your mistake. And I'm not interested in letting this collective effect how we're perceived. Of course they have, but never again.

So goodbye SND. You might make changes, introduce sub-categories to illustration .. but it's not good enough. We need real change and real evaluation. artists judging art. graphic ppl judging graphics, and design not getting such an easy run. 

As they say where i come from, harden the f••• up.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Simon Scarr

Of course Adolfo isn't the only one in our department to win a silver award. Simon won our first ever silver at Milofei last year with his 'Iraq's bloody toll' graphic. (amongst many other awards)

The graphic coincided with the US removing all troops from Iraq after almost 9 years. The dark red indicates coalition casualties while the lighter red indicates civilian deaths, it tells a story, yeh? 

In this copy from a pdf it looks streaky but in the real version the reds are huge, dominating blocks of colour. 

The red chart at the bottom of the page that looks like pools of blood indicates cause of deaths.

While the grey charts down the side show the number of US troops in Iraq, breakdown of coaltion deaths by country and comparison to Iraqi security forces and finally, a breakdown of coalition fatalities by areas in Iraq. 

The grey was a deliberate choice so as not to fight with the stark red statement.

This graphic appeared as a stand alone back page for the South China Morning Post. For more work by Simon, follow the link at the top right hand side of this page to his blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More Adolfo

Adolfo is very handy with vector graphics but where he really comes into his own is with his illustrated graphics. His preferred program is Coral Drawer. It gives a very hand-drawn feel  to his work. 

As you can see he's never shy about including a little detail ...

The renovation of a Chinese medical centre, the different levels plus some treatments explained.

Layout of  Chinese opera house plus props and how to apply make up

Illustrated look at events in the original Olympic games. Done as a lead up to the London games.

All published as full page graphics in the South China Morning Post