I was taken aback to hear that Sheffield’s finest, the Designers Republic, closed for business last week. I interviewed tDR’s voluble founder Ian Anderson several times, and wrote articles on their work for the Sunday Times Magazine, Ray Gun and Print. For a good while, they were right up there on my list of favourite design companies, so I’ve always taken a close interest in what tDR – and various super-talented alumni – got up to. Ten years ago in their pomp, their contrary attitude, irreverent wit and ‘more-is-more’ signature style set them apart and spawned a distinctive aesthetic that had soon permeated the mainstream. And that was the problem. What was once original and edgy became a diluted parody of itself. tDR, unsurprisingly, wanted to cash in, and tied their fortunes to large, ill-fitting corporate clients. Somewhere they lost sight of what made them great. Ian Anderson says they’ll be back. Let’s hope so, and that they recapture the uncompromising spirit of their early years.

I’ve just received a rather beautiful hardback diary in the post. A little late in the day, I grant you, but I’m sure it will be put to good use. The diary is a showcase for the printing prowess of Kingsbury Press in Doncaster, and they’ve really gone to town with foil blocking, perforations, cuts, embossing, graduated colour – though not in a showy, look-at-me kind of way. There’s a handy guide to print and production at the front, and a page-per-day diary that’s just perfect for daily jottings. Not bad at all for a freebie. Hats off to Leeds-based Thompson Brand Partners for the design, and of course all those hard-working printers at Kingsbury.

It’s one of those moments that makes you think, but you’d rather not dwell on it for too long. At around 8pm last night, as the winds gusted, a mighty 40-foot branch came crashing down from the 300-year-old cedar in our front garden. It made a sound like Armageddon, but miraculously missed the house and the car, and just slightly damaged the front gates. And of course, if anyone had been walking under it, as we do several times a day, they’d be stone dead. There may be more light in some of the rooms in the front of the house now, but for me it’s like Big Ben without a minute hand, or a seven-tentacled octopus. Looking out of the bedroom window first in the morning will – literally – never be the same again.

The Specials are 30. I caught a slightly surreal local news item on telly last night which showed two original members of the band sheepishly unveiling a commemorative plaque in Coventry city centre. It struck me how fresh, politicised and spiky their music was – and still is. ‘Ghost Town’ perfectly summed up the bleakness of the Thatcher years, and given how the High Street is so rapidly vanishing at the moment, the song seems spookily relevant once more. The Specials’ graphic expression was compelling too, the simple black-and-white line drawings, the trilbied skanking man, and the reversed out type, created a simple yet instantly recognisable look. They’re back together (sans Jerry Dammers) for a tour, which kicks off 22 April. Catch them if you can.

Royal Mail is celebrating 20th-century British ingenuity and innovation with a set of 10 ‘design classics’ stamps published on 13 January. Debate on what to feature must have raged long and hard, but the final shortlist included stalwarts like the Spitfire and the Mini, alongside more quirky choices like the Anglepoise lamp and Robin Day’s Polyprop chair. 

The impeccably designed stamp images were art directed by HGV, while totalcontent provided two separate commentaries for a dinky ‘prestige stamp book’ and a presentation pack. Both texts describe and contextualise the significance of the designs, and explain how they managed to book their place in history. And you can get your hands on these must-have collectables here.