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Blog posts tagged as 'comics'

Friday links: Comics, Space & Rizzle Kicks

Another Friday, another round-up of the various things that have been flying around the office mailing list this week.

Core 77 are running a feature on visualisations of The Metropolis in comics. Part 1 is all about the night:

Simon sent this around – a video from the camera mounted on each of space shuttle Endeavour’s rocket boosters:

Timo sent around the trailer for producer Amon Tobin’s live tour:

Matt Jones sent around Olafur Eliasson‘s latest exhibition ‘Your rainbow panorama‘ – a 360 degree viewing platform ‘suspended between the city and the sky’, which looks incredible.

Denise pointed us to this (via @antimega), a wonderful video of dust devils lifting plastic sheets from strawberry fields:

Finally, as the sun’s out here in London and music features fairly high on our agenda at 6pm on a beautiful Friday evening, Matt Webb sent around this video from Brighton based duo Rizzle Kicks – a superbly produced video, and quite a nice track as well. Enjoy!

Matt Jones speaking at Sci-Fi London Festival, 30th April – on SVK, and the work of Warren Ellis

I’m pleased to have been invited to speak at Sci-Fi London’s Comics day, on Saturday April 30th about the work of Warren Ellis – our Chairman-Emeritus and collaborator on SVK.

I’ll be alongside friend-of-BERG Matt Sheret and Ian Edginton (co-creator of such wonders as Stickleback, Leviathan and Scarlet Traces with frequent collaborator D’Israeli, co-creator of SVK).

I hope to show some sneak peaks of SVK as well as discussing the influence our dialog with Warren and comics in general have had on our studio.

Here’s the panel description from the Sci-Fi London site:

3.30pm – The work of Warren Ellis
Writer Ian Edginton (who collaborated with Ellis on X-Force), Matt Jones (principal, BERG design who commission Ellis’ new comic SVK) and Matthew Sheret (writer, whose love of comics started with Warren’s work) discuss the work of comic book / multimedia writer Warren Ellis who has penned some of the most influencial SF comics of the last twenty years.

Followed by 20 min preview screening of new documentary – “WARREN ELLIS: CAPTURED GHOSTS”

The Chairman’s Birthday

It’s Warren Ellis‘s birthday.


Warren and BERG are intertwingled. We’re working with him on SVK, and he’s a massive influence on our thinking. One of our patron-saints in the realm of sufficiently-advanced literature – alongside Gibson, Sterling, LeGuin, Ballard, Morrison, Moorcock and many others. He’s also been a great friend and supporter of our work.

You might not know however, as he points out in this interview at Den Of Geek, just what a pivotal role he played in the formation of BERG…

One of the organisations that I’ve discovered through your blog is BERG, the design consultancy firm. And you’re collaborating with them on a comic called SVK. I was wondering if there was anything else you could tell us about that.

I really can’t. You see, I didn’t know this whole thing was going to happen, because, if I did, I would have tried to move it, because I’m under NDA or instructions not to talk about pretty much everything I’m working on right now.

It is the worst possible time to be doing two or three hours of phoners. What’s there to say about SVK – Yeah, it’s a thriller comic I’m doing with my old mate, Matt Brooker (D’Israeli), who I did Lazarus Churchyard with back in the day. And BERG will be publishing it. And there is a weird visual aspect to it that I can’t talk about yet, but if it works it’s going to be really kind of unique.

Some of BERG’s projects have been quite fascinating, so it will be interesting to see what they do with the medium of comics.

Yeah, I’ve known them for years. I knew them when they were still Schulze and Webb. In fact, it was me who named the company BERG. That was my fault! [laughs]

Happy Birthday Chief, from all of us in the studio.

Announcing SVK: an experimental publication by Warren Ellis, D’Israeli & BERG

We love comics.

Comics break the rules of storytelling, invent new ones, and break them again – more often than almost any other media.

We are also fortunate to know – and occasionally enjoy the twisted guidance of – one of the best writers in comics and speculative fiction: Mr Warren Ellis.

Warren is actually to blame for coming up with the name BERG for us back in the summer of 2009, based on our shared love of Nigel Kneale.

So, we were thrilled when he said yes earlier this year to Jack’s proposal of working together on a storytelling project.

The result, coming in early 2011, is SVK.

What is SVK?
It’s going to be a very beautifully-printed object – a graphic novella, drawn by one of our very favourite artists – Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker – who Warren collaborated with on “Lazarus Churchyard” back in 1991. I think I’m right in saying it’s their first major collaboration since then…

We can’t tell you too much more just yet, as they are both currently hard at work on it, but Warren describes SVK as “Franz Kafka’s Bourne Identity”.


It’s also a story about looking, and it’s an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation that inherits some of the curiosities behind previous work of the studio such as our Here & There maps of Manhattan.

For us – it’s also an investigation into new ways to get things out in the world, and as a result we’re talking about SVK now because we’re looking for people, brands and companies who would like to be in the SVK project…

Looking for advertisers
There are going to be a small number of opportunities to feature advertising – which will be as inventive as the story itself. We’re talking to people now, so that we can go to print with them in February 2011.

If you’re in advertising or marketing, and you’d like to talk more about it, email with “SVK” in the subject.

The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future

A Walking City

Our colleague Matt Jones has a guest post up at the sci-fi blog io9 (strapline: ‘we come from the future’). He riffs on architecture, stories and comics, sensors, and the urban future. A representative para…

The infrastructures we assemble and carry with us through the city – mobile phones, wireless nodes, computing power, sensor platforms are changing how we interact with it and how it interacts with other places on the planet. After all it was Archigram who said “people are walking architecture.”


Go read his post, The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future.

Interesting 2007

I gave a talk at Interesting 2007 about three weeks ago now. The day was great and though I wasn’t able to stay for all of it, I really enjoyed myself, and the few talks I did catch were very absorbing. So well done to Russell for sorting all that out.

Me Speaking at Reboot

I gave a talk on comics and while there are some images of me talking about them on Flickr, some people have asked for a list of the comics I discussed. Below is the list and brief descriptions. I’ve also transcribed my talk and put the slides online: Comics and Pictures.

Though I read lots of different comics, I only really follow four authors: Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Garth Ennis. Really, you can’t go that wrong reading stuff by these guys, they are awesome, although many people find Ennis a bit heavy. Here is the list in the order that I discussed them:

  • The Kingdom by Mark Waid and drawn by Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck. Wikipedia has a good description of Hypertime, so no need to hunt down this comic if you are just curious.
  • Sea of Red by Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer and Salgood Sam. This is the one about vampire pirates.
  • New Universal by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca. This is the comic I discussed where all the characters are derived from film stars.
  • Planetary by Warren Ellis. This is really good, everyone should read it. There are four main books, all are good. I specifically discussed Planetary Crossing Worlds which includes the Batman story.
  • The Filth by Grant Morrison. This is the best comic that there is, everybody should read this. It is the one with the guy who speaks with thought bubbles.
  • Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III. I’ve mentioned this before. It is a great read, and drawn with deft elegance, really nice work.
  • I spoke about Madman. Very weird but good.
  • I also mentioned a cover from The Flash who can run really fast, and that’s about it.

I’m enjoying a couple of American authors at the moment: Ed Brubaker‘s Criminal, and Joss Whedon‘s Astonishing X-men is good too.

That is the list of comics I mentioned. They stock them at my favourite comic shops: Orbital and Gosh, both nicely located in central London.


Having slipped from Pulse Laser to Lazy Pulsar, occasionally twitching in the cosmos but not really shining very hard, I am going to write a post.

I had a really good time at Reboot 9.0 this year, never been before, but it was top drawer. My favourite discoveries were the brilliant David Smith and Tina Aspiala. Also good to catch up with old friends at the shiny and new Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. So in the spirit of the people, I sat in the talks, looking through the faces oscillating between laptop and speaker, and drew them. Some drawings went into Webb’s talk, my favourites are below, and the rest are in a Flickr set.

Reboot Sketch 01

I liked this guy’s glasses a lot.

Reboot Sketch 06

Reboot Sketch 04

Smart suit.

Reboot Sketch 10

This guy kept fidgeting and glancing between laptop and presenter.

RFID Interim update

Last term during an interim crit, I saw the work my students had produced on the RFID icons brief I set some weeks ago. It was a good afternoon and we were lucky enough to have Timo Arnall from the Touch project and Younghee Jung from Nokia Japan join us and contribute to the discussion. All the students attending showed good work of a high standard, overall it was very rewarding.

I’ll write a more detailed discussion on the results of the work when the brief ends, but I suspect there may be more than I can fit into a single post, so I wanted to point at some of the work that has emerged so far.

All the work here is from Alex Jarvis and Mark Williams.

Alex began by looking at the physical act of swiping your phone or card over a reader. The symbol he developed was based on his observations of people slapping their Oyster wallets down as they pass through the gates on to the underground. Not a delicate, patient hover over the yellow disc, but a casual thud, expectant wait for the barrier to open, then a lurching acceleration through to the other side before the gates violently spasm shut.

RFID physical act 01

More developed sketches here…

RFID physical act 02

I suspect that this inverted tick will abstract really well, I like the thin line on the more developed version snapping the path of the card into 3D. It succeeds since it doesn’t worry too much about working as an instruction and concentrates more on a powerful cross-system icon to be consistently recognisable.


The original brief required students to develop icons for the verbs: purchase, identify, enter (but one way), download, phone and destroy.

Purchase and destroy are the two of these verbs with the most far-reaching and less immediate consequences. The aspiration for this work is to make the interaction feel like a purchase, not a touch that triggers a purchase. This gives the interaction room to grow into the more complex ones that will be needed in the future.

This first sketch, on purchase, from Alex shows your stack of coins depleting, something nice about the dark black arrow which repeats as a feature throughout Alex’s developments.

RFID Purchase 01

Mark has also been tackling purchase, his sketches tap into the currency symbols, again with a view to represent depletion. Such a blunt representation is attractive, it shouts “this will erode your currency!”

RFID Purchase 03

Mark explores some more on purchase here:

RFID Purchase 02

Purchase is really important. I can’t think of a system other than Oyster that takes your money so ambiguously. Most purchasing systems require you to enter pin numbers, sign things, swipe cards etc, all really clear unambiguous acts. All you have to do is wave at an Oyster reader and it costs you £2… maybe: The same act will open the barrier for free if you have a travel card on there. Granted, passengers have already made a purchase to put the money on the card, but if Transport for London do want to extend their system for use as a digital wallet they will need to tackle this ambiguity.

Both Mark and Alex produced material looking at the symbols to represent destroy, for instances where swiping the reader would obliterate data on it, or render it useless. This might also serve as a warning for areas where RFID tags were prone to damage.

RFID Destroy 01

I like the pencil drawing to the top right that he didn’t take forward. I’ve adjusted the contrast over it to draw out some more detail. Important that he distinguished between representing the destruction of the object and the data or contents.

Williams Destroy sketches

Mark’s sketches for destroy include the excellent mushroom cloud, but he also looks at an abstraction of data disassembly, almost looks like the individual bits of data are floating off into oblivion. Not completely successful since it also reminds me of broadcasting Wonka bars in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and teleporting in Star Trek, but nice none the less.


This is difficult to show online, but Alex works with a real pen, at scale. He is seeing the material he’s developing at the same size it will be read at. Each mark he makes he is seeing and responding to as he makes it.

Jarvis Pen

He has produced some material with Illustrator, but it lacked any of the impact his drawings brought to the icons. Drawing with a pen really helps avoid the Adobe poisoning that comes from Illustrator defaults and the complexities of working out of scale with the zoom tool (you can almost smell the 1pt line widths and the 4.2333 mm radius on the corners of the rounded rectangle tool). It forces him to choose every line and width and understand the success and failures that come with those choices. Illustrator does so much for you it barely leaves you with any unique agency at all.

It is interesting to compare the students’ two approaches. Alex works bluntly with bold weighty lines and stubby arrows portraying actual things moving or downloading. Mark tends towards more sophisticated representations and abstractions, and mini comic strips in a single icon. Lightness of touch and branching paths of exploration are his preference.

More to come from both students and I’ll also post some of my own efforts in this area.

Burtin vs. Ellis/Williams

I presented this comparison at Design Engaged last year. I like it because it talks in a really visceral way about how we read visual material. It deals with looking as an act as opposed to something that just happens to your eye. Comics are often disregarded amongst Graphic Design communities. This irritates me since comics deal with such rich and sophisticated material.

Below are two pieces of work, the first is a spread from Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis and J.H. Willliams III. Without revealing too much of my Ellis/Williams fanboydom, the series is excellent but this page is especially deft. Ellis discusses it in his weblog here.

Look at the way the red line connects the sequence.

The line morphs between road markings, Indiana Jones style aerial map views and back to the light trails from the vehicle. Williams guides your eye through the page, setting the page’s pace and rhythm. Optically it is very clever, it deals with how your eye scans at speed and also stitches the cue into the content of the panels.

Desolation Jones

The second image is by Will Burtin (thanks to James King). It is optically similar to the comic.

Although research material on Burtin is fairly thin, I understand that this image was produced during his time designing for the U.S. Army. This image is taken from a manual, illustrating how to disassemble your rifle.

Burtin has drawn two sets of dotted lines over his work. The lines indicate his expectation of how a readers eye will move over the page. The dotted line represents a quick scan of the page, dealing mostly with just the images and the dashed line represents a detailed read.

Will Burtin

Burtin knows how the page is being read, he acknowledges that the reader will read it at different paces, and presumably this has affected his slightly strange layout. Interesting that he expects people to read along gun barrels.

Burtin and Williams both use letters and images, in a sequence, on the page, and expect them to be read in two different ways: First in overview and then in detail. They deal with arrangement, pace and rhythm with the same sensitivity and same language.

Comics are in everything.

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