The Christmas Shopping advent calendar 

Some of the shop contents day to day on this calendar are animated – but not all (follow the link here). Who would want to animate a frozen snowman anyway!

As the days go by you see the calendar becoming more and more a celebration of collections of ephemera with use of photo collage rather than than stock photography.

It also brings together some elements from previous calendars. You’ll recognise some of the objects used in the windows from this collection:

Using photographs for the main illustration collage work on this project was inspired by the fascinating shops that you find in Venice. The photos taken at night below were the starting point for the whole thing.

There’s an option on the page to scroll down to a link under the windows for making donations to Alzheimer’s research…and on the technical side, it’s a Drupal 7 calendar again this year – (the scheduling module wasn’t quite ready in time to use 8)

Read about previous calendars on the Drupal and the Christmas reindeers project page

Link | Posted on by

Remembering the War Poets

The Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen Societies organised the 2017 ALS Literary Weekend, and the bookmark to support them was an interesting design challenge.

The illustration provided showed Sassoon and Owen together and slightly overlapping. It would have been far too small to use at the top of a bookmark, so I decided to present them separately in the style of wartime ID passes, one above the other. I scanned the surface of my father’s wartime ID pass, from 1944 but similar in look, to use as a textured background with an appropriate colour to it rather than artworking the background myself in Photoshop.


You can see the whole collection of the ALS AGM weekend bookmarks on my website. I felt particularly honoured to have been given the opportunity of designing and producing this one.

Posted in Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Literature

Drupal and the Christmas reindeers

Having worked on the 2014 animated Countdown to Christmas, it seemed time to give our reindeer tree decorations a chance to move about, so the 2016 calendar invited you to Deck the Tree. You could enjoy the animated decorations  every day up to December 25th and you can still see them all now if you’re feeling Christmassy – just click on the link.

Deck the Tree advent calendarWe have a lot of reindeers on our Christmas tree every year – a collection which started in 2010 when I constructed the first reindeer advent calendar in Dreamweaver. My first experiment with Adobe Flash animation appeared for Christmas Day that year with a special mp4 download for mobiles. The next two years saw more experimentation. Such a shame that Flash animations aren’t mobile and tablet friendly. There always has to be an alternative link to a different version to avoid visitors only seeing a blank white space .

Using Drupal to construct the calendars it IS possible to develop just one site for Christmas that can be viewed on all sizes of media. Also individual windows CAN be animated with different speed settings and pauses while showing at the same time on the same page.

You can see how much difference using Drupal made to the reindeers when you compare the old and new calendars.

They’re all accessible from my calendar archive page and there are also links on the other calendar posts: about Hunt Emerson’s cartoon calendar, the musical quiz calendar, Counting down to Christmas 1 and Counting down to Christmas 2


Posted in Christmas calendars, Illustration, Web Design

Splattering ink

It was fun producing a new booklet for the Johnson Society in Lichfield about Samuel Johnson’s life. You can see what the work looks like on my website here. Designing it involved a session of dribbling and splattering ink and wax on hand-made paper to scan in for backgrounds. There were suggestions of certain other things that could be spilt as well as you can imagine. Samuel Johnson was notoriously messy apparently. If you go and buy a booklet in the Birthplace museum, you’ll recognise the splatters.





Posted in Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Lichfield, Literature, Local history

Counting down to Christmas with a musical quiz


Tapping the tune out might help

dum-di-dum badge

Find out more about the dum-di-dum badge here

I realised during Summer 2015 that it had been 25 years since I got my Letraset out and invented the non-electronic musical badge for the Archers theme tune. Their fan club took it up and sold loads of the dum-di-dum badge. It could be quite difficult to identify – especially if the owner didn’t give you a clue. If I was to put together a Silent Songs calendar for Christmas, at least you would know that they were all seasonal, however difficult it was to guess the tunes.

So this badge was the inspiration for the mad musical quiz calendar. It has been very challenging. Day by day you could open a new puzzle and either find the solution the next day, or wait to see all the answers together on Christmas day… and as usual with a calendar produced using a responsive theme in Drupal, you could use your mobiles and iPads to see it as well. It is still in position and now all the other days have been opened, you can still open number 25 whenever you’re feeling Christmassy whatever the time of year.

There’s an optional Just Giving link to show appreciation, or you can just enjoy the quiz. Any debates about dum-di-dums versus diddle-dums are always welcome. If you’d like to download the complete quiz for future use – follow this link for the questions and answers on a pdf.

Click here for the workspace advent calendars’ Facebook page and you can go to the Just Giving link for donations to Cancer Research via the Stand Up to Cancer campaign here.

Just Giving Advent Calendar link for Stand Up to Cancer donation


Posted in Christmas calendars, Drupal, Web Design

Counting down to Christmas 2

Then we discovered Drupal!

Continued from the Counting down to Christmas page…

Having worked with this open source software for most of the year, I used it for the calendar in 2013. I found myself with a collection of retro Christmas decorations, mostly from the 1950s and early 60s. I knew that a Drupal calendar should work very well on all platforms, but felt that I couldn’t miss the opportunity of adding tunes from my stylophone, so worked a Flash calendar from the Photoshop master file as well. I know that the window for the 25th should be much bigger, but it’s all part of the development story, and retrospect is a wonderful thing.


Christmas 2014 became a landmark year for the calendar.

It moved from being a collection of objects to being a collection of drawings scanned in and coloured by Hunt Emerson.

Hunt Emerson's Christmas Countdown calendar

Follow this link to Hunt’s Countdown calendar

The whole process of building his animation ideas into the windows, using his high quality cartoon illustrations and making it all work as he wanted to see it was a treat. I concentrated on the one version for all platforms, and had to be ready well ahead of December for approval, so no more moving files around at midnight. On the technical side, I used the Drupal scheduler module to bring the different pages in as content-types from day to day. As a result, it has been now possible to redirect the pages into a permanent table where you can pick the right date and open each page yourself. Follow the link above.

There’s an optional link to a Just Giving page for cancer research supporting Hunt’s calendar. All his work on it was entirely done for free as well as mine – just for your enjoyment.


So now for something completely different (apart from the Drupal) … The 2015 Silent Songs for Christmas calendar

Posted in Cartoons, Christmas calendars, Drupal, Illustration, Web Design

Counting down to Christmas 1

Dreamweaver beginnings

It all started with my annual search for fun, non-chocolate advent calendars for my children, however scarce interesting cardboard calendars were some years, and however old my children were getting. In 2008 I’d missed any that may have been around, so I decided to try a digital solution just for the family. The next year I opened it up to friends of all ages and haven’t stopped since.

The challenge that I set myself was that the contents should be collections of real objects, so in 2009 I presented Christmas preparations in the dolls’ house. I set up miniature scenes to photograph, and used Dreamweaver, moving an image map through the numbers at midnight through December to link to the file for the day, where the animated gif for the window then opened.


2010 saw a big leap in the size of our collection of reindeer Christmas tree decorations, which has carried on growing every year since then. Reindeers have taken over our Christmas trees. I was relieved to find the obvious star reindeer for the top of the tree two weeks into December that year.

We’d been on a training course to use Adobe Flash software and I really wanted the reindeer noses to flash red on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t stop the window opening over and over again once it was clicked though, so there are two more files for this one that work automatically, a swf file for pcs and an mp4 export for a mobile.


The next year I got the windows under control in Flash and had a lot of fun with various interactive techniques for the  2011 Christmas cracker collection. I transferred music and sound effects from a keyboard via an iPhone. It’s a great shame that Flash will not show on mobiles and tablets. I’ve seen such a lot of creative work on wonderful websites that’s  now become out of date far too quickly because of this.

I worked out a production method to transfer artwork from the Photoshop master file to make an html version as well as the Flash one, as mobile and iPad use statistics couldn’t be ignored. The calendar looks very busy, but it was great fun to do and got the most page views yet, gathering over 90 Facebook followers.

In 2012 I tried an experiment and sat a big Happy Christmas message underneath the collection of decorations on a Christmas cake. It looked better at the beginning of the month, getting a bit cluttered by the end, but Christmas cakes always do look better before they’re cut…


Then I discovered Drupal… The story continues on the Counting down to Christmas in Drupal page.

Posted in Christmas calendars, Illustration, Web Design | 2 Comments

Johnson Society website and new logo

I was very pleased to be asked to submit a proposal to update the Johnson Society website in 2014. It needed to be in keeping with the style of the Transactions and my design was in its third year of annual publication at that point (see the post, Designing for the Johnson Society). The new site uses the WordPress Triton Lite Theme with extra customisation. Again I’ve taken the original dictionary book plate as the main influence – adapting it to be the main website header.


It is a clean and simple layout. The page divider (reworked for the Transactions from a section of the geometric pattern tooled on the back cover of the original dictionary) makes an appearance at the bottom of the pages about those publications, and I have used animated gifs of Johnsonian quotations as illustration at the bottom of the main pages. I chose the calligraphic Edwardian Script (not quite Georgian) for its flourishes and artistic appeal.


Marketing materials were then discussed, and there needed to be a logo to add to leaflets and posters. A logo as letterhead and footer for emails needed to be a simple solution. It would often need to be printed off by members of the society on inkjet printers, so small size and use of one colour were appropriate. I looked back at the design elements in the publication again, and worked through several combinations, until I arrived at this.


A new roller banner promotes Society membership, which I have designed to support the style of the new logo, whereas the design for the new membership leaflet and bookmarks uses the Transactions covers as a starting point.

Posted in Graphic Design, Illustration, Lichfield, Literature, Web Design

ALS bookmarks – introducing red and grey

The 2016 Alliance of Literary Societies Conference celebrated the Brontë Bicentenary. I was asked to produce a set of visuals of the generic side of the bookmark showing different colour backgrounds in preparation for new marketing. The only portrait of Charlotte Brontë available for the author’s side was greyscale and not very high resolution, so I worked it into a locket, and presented visuals with purple and red silk backgrounds of this side to choose between. The deep grey for the ALS background was a classic choice to match Charlotte’s red silk.


The bookmark for the 2015 ALS conference celebrated the Bicentenary of Anthony Trollope. The Trollope Society had a very lively website and twitter feed to support the Bicentenary year with an effective logo. It was important for me to design the bookmark with this strong branding in mind and the result was very different to the previous three. You can read more about the others on the ‘Making sure the orange prints’ page and you can see the collection to date, as well as the leaflet design, on my website here.

Posted in Graphic Design, Literature

Hunt Emerson cartoon illustration counting down to Christmas

Christmas 2014 saw a change to the annual advent calendar when Handsworth comics legend, Hunt Emerson, created a set of wonderful cartoon illustrations and set me the task of making his ‘adventimation’ ideas work in the windows. The calendar has a permanent position at and you can still make a donation on the special Just Giving page linked to it. Nearly 400 people visiting the calendar regularly as it unfolded up to Christmas Day last year AND over £250 was raised for Cancer Research from the Just Giving link.


Hunt’s many projects have included a spectacular Frankenstein character for the Wordsworth Trust in 2011 and a great interpretation of Coleridge’s poem, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1989. His contributions to major publications range from the Beano to the Wall Street Journal. Find out more on his website.

Posted in Cartoons, Christmas calendars, Illustration, Web Design

Making sure the orange prints

The main challenge with the bookmark in 2014 was to take the glowing orange, from Christopher Marlowe’s buttons when his portrait was viewed on screen, and to transfer it into the rest of the design so that the colour came up strongly in print. A bright orange on screen isn’t always going to appear as bright when it’s been printed and it needed a bit of the red taken out of the original colour mix. The Marlowe society had approved the use of the portrait, and further use of its background gave a lovely leathery textured look over the bookmark. Read on to find out how this bookmark collection started.

The first bookmark brief appeared in 2012. It needed to be double-sided with one side giving the Alliance of Literary Society details, and the other celebrating the author with an anniversary that year, Charles Dickens. A quotation was provided ‘From Austen to Zola’ quotation for the front, so I suggested another quotation should be displayed by Dickens on the back. The title pages from a set of Dickens’s works provided the illustration.

For a lively look to the front, I used the fans of pages in open books and developed a golden orange with glowing yellow highlights to match the brown and golden colours on the Dickens side – to update the bookmark for new readers today. I chose shades of orange to work well with the green, which was the colour used on the society’s website.Logo for the Alliance of Literary Societies I also reconstructed the society logo as a resizeable vector file from the web version supplied.

The following year, the ALS decided to continue the bookmarks, keeping the original generic design on the front and bringing a different author to be featured in the next conference onto the other. The bookmarks had been a great success at the Nottingham AGM and all the thousand had been picked up. They doubled the order and commissioned a leaflet which you can see on the main website.

Needing to use the Barbara Pym jpg supplied was a big movement away from the browns as it was a small jpg with a violet colour overlay at the top. I followed this overlay for the rest of the background, a contrast with the colours on the generic side for that year’s print, and was then looking forward to seeing what colour the bookmark might be the following year..


Posted in Graphic Design, Lichfield, Literature

Designing for the Johnson Society of Lichfield

My first involvement with the Society was in 2009 when various celebrations were taking place to mark Samuel Johnson’s Tercentenary. These began with a walk from Lichfield to London by Professor Peter Martin and Dr Nicholas Cambridge dressed as Johnson and Garrick. I had joined the party at the start of this walk, and had taken a set of photographs. A little Photoshoppery to disappear a third walker resulted in the image below. I found an appropriate quotation and used it as a centrepiece in my artwork for the event. It then became my contribution to the 2009 Transactions, appearing on the back cover.

Samuel Johnson and David Garrick walk to London

Transactions 2010

Transactions is the annual report of the Johnson Society. It includes the annual presidential address and lecture, as well as other papers, book reviews, and news. The 2010 edition was a significant one as it marked 100 years of the Society. I was asked to produce this cover using various documents to show the history involved.

The following year my brief was to redesign the publication completely. I took some photographs of one of the early copies of Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language.

I chose Calisto as the font for the headers with some extra letter spacing when used in capitals. Using capitals for the authors names was a design decision adding the feel, of the original dictionary spine and words listed within, to the upper and lower case used for the titles of the articles. I used Baskerville for the main text of the publication. John Baskerville was a contemporary of Johnson, so his classic font was entirely appropriate.
Transaction text

The Dictionary

To keep a feel of the raised bands and title label on the dictionary spine, I decided to develop the front cover book plate as the main feature for the new cover. My generic illustrations for the content pages represents these features on the first page of each article styled as if they have been printed from woodcuts.
I also took the most appropriate section of the geometric pattern tooled on the back cover of the dictionary and reworked it to be a page divider.



See my post on the Johnson Society website and logo.

Posted in Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Lichfield, Literature, Local history, Web Design

Tai Chi Olympic logo

I designed this logo to celebrate Tai Chi in the year of the Olympics to coincide with events when the torch was travelling through the Midlands. It follows the 2012 Olympic branding guidelines by giving the effect of the Olympic rings visually without actually including the complete circles. It was adopted on T shirts this year by the Lichfield branch of the Kai Ming Association. There are more details about their meetings on my Tai Chi in Lichfield poster design linked here

The static positions on the logo follow a circular sequence of movement that is part of the Cheng Man Ching short form. The graphic runs from ‘single whip’ through ‘snake creeps down’ to ‘golden cockerel stands on one leg’ and conveys the idea of energy (chi) rising by the lighting of the flame. This animation gives you a good idea of the circular movement in progress. The opportunity to animate was hard to resist and the positions were carefully worked out. I hope masters of Tai Chi who may feel that it does not do the form justice will forgive the attempt. There are many YouTube videos to be found on the web which show you the positions in more detail.

Posted in Graphic Design, Illustration, TaiChi

Display board for exhibition

This display board supported an exhibition at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum on sport in Georgian England. How did the professional sports we’re seeing today develop from the games held at country wakes in Johnson’s time?

Panel for Blood, Sweat and Gambling exhibition

Select the link above to see the exhibition panel for ‘The Story of Johnson’s Head’

Select this Birthplace link for more information about current events

Posted in Graphic Design, Lichfield, Literature, Local history

NLP practitioner manual

The brief was to establish a new design for the NLP Practitioner Training Manuals. I felt that the manual design needed to have a feel of quality and authority, while allowing flexibility for different sizes of print runs needed to produce it. The white background throughout means that individual pages can be printed off economically and slotted in as required without compromising the look of the manual as a whole. The red and black work very well together as a strong design element.

Design for the NLP manuals

As usual, I started with providing a small selection of possible cover designs, and then developed the content style sheets to sit with the chosen cover. I then presented a few sample pages as visuals before proceeding with the whole manual. The diagrams all follow a visual theme, using greys and tints of the red with some added colour from extra illustrations used.

Jigsaw graphic

One of the illustrations that I introduced was this jigsaw piece which can be interpreted in a number of ways, for example it could be being guided to, finding, looking at, escaping from, or not quite being comfortable in its space. I chose this as an appropriate graphic throughout the section of exercises.

If you would like me to design and produce any artwork for you, please contact me by following this link.

I have been working with Jayne at Workspace for a while now and her work is excellent. I can not recommend her highly enough and will definitely be working with her a great deal more.

Mark Peters – Trainer and Therapist
Balanced Approach

Posted in Graphic Design, NLP