Workshops are beautiful

Information Design

This week the London Transport Museum hosted a half day workshop – Workshops are Beautiful – by the popular information-designer and data anorak David McCandless. Touted as “a mix of lecture & hands-on exercises with plenty of discussion”, this 4-hour workshop stayed true to its premise.

I wondered how much I could really learn in half a day, especially as I’m a complete novice in this area and a sufferer of mathematical anxiety. Despite years of steady hype about this area of design, I’ve not really been tempted to learn how to do it until now.

McCandless took us through some of his most iconic projects and why he made them, like Left vs Right, a topical visualisation on the ideological differences between a left- and right-wing U.S. government. But the best part of the day was collaborating with the other delegates – first on concepts and the goal we have for the piece – then on the beginnings of the visualisation style itself.

“Something I wanted to mention: visualisation is hard. I’ve written books, created software, directed films in my career, but visualisation is by far the most challenging discipline I’ve ever engaged with. It’s something about the precision needed at every level, I think. Concept, data, story, design, style – all are precision arts. In visualisation, they’re stacked one on top of the other. If one sags or slips, the entire edifice can collapse.” David McCandless

We had an opportunity to put our concepts up on the big screen for critique, which although quite daunting, was a great experience. McCandless was very encouraging, and I got the sense he just loves seeing and hearing new and whacky ideas come to life.

Overall, it was a good workshop and has inspired me to do more in this area of design, starting with an infographic about my cat Izzy (below). Do sign up if you get the opportunity.


This is a Voice

‘This is a Voice’ is a practical book of step-by-step vocal exercises to help speakers and singers of all abilities transform the quality of their voice. Using only a three-colour palette, we used overprinting techniques to add movement and depth. The punchy retro colours punctuate the instructions for this lively instructional manual for beginners and experienced speakers alike.

Beautiful textured paper, spot colour print and thoughtful binding accents made this a joy to work on.

Creative direction and collages by Marianne Dear. Illustrations and layout design by Bret Syfert.



Foreign Bodies / Common Ground

What happens when you set up six artist residencies in different medical research centres throughout the world? This intimate exhibition at Wellcome Collection showcased a diverse body of work from the artists who worked in research centres in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and the UK.

The design concept took inspiration from the physical form of maps. Indelibly marked by their folds and creases and the shifts in light upon them. The exhibition sought to make connections across countries and projects and was the culmination of six artist’s journeys.

I was the sole designer working on the exhibition graphics, the accompanying exhibition book and the marketing campaign.













Death: A self portrait


From a group of ancient Incan skulls, to a spectacular chandelier made of 3000 plaster-cast bones by British artist Jodie Carey, the exhibition Death: A self portrait at Wellcome Collection, was by turns disturbing, macabre and moving, and opened a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death.

I was the sole designer, working on the exhibition graphics, the publication and the marketing campaign from concept to completion.









Stories from the day hospice


A colleague of mine, Chrissie Giles, spent some time at the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher to set up a creative writing group. This group of people were part of the day hospice. She met them for an hour once a week, with a couple of unscheduled breaks, over the summer of 2012. Later on that year I worked with her to illustrate these marvellous stories and to publish these moving and uplifting stories in booklet form. This is one of the stories she wrote:

Life, death and an egg salad sandwich

It was a gorgeous day outside. In the corridor of the ward I stood, back resting on the pale walls. I was waiting for the nurse to come out of Jack’s room so I could go in and start writing with him.

Across from me, the door of another room was open. In the background, through the patio doors, I could see people working in the hospice gardens, strolling in the sun or sitting on benches, sandwiches unwrapped on their laps.

On the bed was a man. An electric shock of adrenaline shot through me in response to how grey, ill and near to death he looked. Breathing with loud, laboured inhalations, he was otherwise still, eyes closed.

With her back to me, a woman was sitting at his side, head turned towards someone at the end of the bed that I couldn’t see. She had a puzzle book open across her lap. Above the distant drone of a lawnmower I heard them discussing anagrams for the word ‘sulphur’. Further up the corridor, towards reception, a young man with the same face as the man on the bed was pacing up
and down.

Three weeks later I was in a similar room in a different part of the country. Sat on a turquoise chair with a spongy seat I was having a low-volume argument with my husband about whether I was going to eat half of the egg salad sandwich I’d just bought from the hospital shop. Between us, his dad lay: eyes closed, breathing quietly, the day before he died.

Chrissie Giles


You can read the whole series here Stories from the day hospice

Forensics: The anatomy of crime

C0112192 Forensics exhibition campaign print mater

‘Forensics: The anatomy of crime’ was an exhibition at Wellcome Collection that explored the history, science and art of forensic medicine. Travelling from crime scene to courtroom, across centuries and continents, it explored the specialisms of those involved in the delicate processes of collecting, analysing and presenting medical evidence. 

The typographic concept draws from the work of Alphonse Bertillon, whose ‘God’s eye view’ brought methodological rigour to the new possibilities offered by photography. Each plane of letterforms allude to the enlightened moment when evidence becomes clear and concrete. 

A signifier of human decay, the green bottle fly provides a beautiful and ugly centrepiece to the advertising campaign.








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