I’ve been a long-time admirer of Howies – who tongue-in-cheekily style themselves ‘Cardigan Bay’s third-biggest clothing company’. They’re right-on without being preachy or self-righteous, trying to do the right thing as far as they can by providing organic, low-impact goods. As my bulging T-shirt drawer will attest, I’ve bought plenty of stuff from them – even when I haven’t particularly needed it – just to support what they’re doing. (I’m not quite sure whether this is acceptable or not).

Howies’ copywriting is always spot on too, particularly their emails and collectable quarterly catalogue. And they use every opportunity – from labels in jeans to blogs and booklets – to spread the word. The writing is never over-chummy, but has a simple, easy-going tone of voice, which is difficult to resist. A recent wheeze is the T-shirt of the week… a limited edition by an artist or illustrator available only for seven days, and hand printed in Howies’ customised shed in deepest West Wales. Thought-provoking, smile-inducing, and seriously good-looking, they’re a regular graphic treat.

You may have noticed there have been few posts filed under ‘totalcontent projects’ recently. totalcontent would like to assure you that we haven’t been idly throwing cards into a hat, stroking preposterously groomed poodles, or eating Belgian chocolates from pink heart-shaped boxes. Quite the contrary. We have been busting a gut on various long-term projects, and will give you the full lowdown in due course.

In the meantime, here’s a taster. Our second annual report for the Jersey-based law and fiduciary firm Bedell Group is nearing completion. We’re also steaming ahead with the 2009 Royal Mail Year Book (our fifth) and have already tackled early chapters on British Design Classics, Charles Darwin and Robbie Burns – we can tell you all about those as they are already in the public domain. We were also delighted to be offered a contract for a day’s work a week for the next six months by one of our favourite (though most secretive) clients, to develop exploratory verbal ideas and benchmark communications for the brand’s future strategic positioning. All exciting stuff.

Jim’s 70th ‘Private View’ column features in the latest issue of Design Week. That’s getting on for six years’ worth of commentary and opinion on the ways, wiles and wherefores of the design industry – delivered with a little spice and individuality. Previous efforts have included treatises on colour, naming, modernism, plagiarism, heroes, briefs, late payments, deadlines and toilets. They’ve tackled big questions and niggly little ones, they’ve praised and they’ve censured, but most of all we hope they’ve entertained. One effusive letter writer wanted to “embrace [Jim] as a brother”, another huffed about his “archaic way of thinking”… we’re just pleased to have got a reaction. Jim’s latest column is on puns, a subject particularly dear to his heart.

 For those of us who like to judge a book by its cover, here’s a wry-yet-chirpy blog comparing and contrasting book cover design from around the world, along with suitably pithy commentary.

What’s really intriguing is the way different styles are adopted for different markets and how covers are refreshed from one edition to the next. But the real eye-opener is how your reaction is so easily manipulated, even before you’ve read a word. You can’t underestimate how a cover sets the tone for a book, or influences your frame of mind as you start delving into the writing.

Shown here, a new Faber & Faber edition of Paul Auster’s ‘New York Trilogy’ designed by the fabulously talented Jonathan Gray (who also did the ‘Common Ground’ cover for 26). And Art Spiegelman’s cover for the Penguin Deluxe Classics Edition of the same book. Get under the covers at www.thebookdesignreview.com.

Sorry. Bit of a hobby horse. Really enjoyed the Design Week Awards last week – they were slick, inspiring, and it was great to catch up with friends, clients and collaborators. There was also a truly worthy Best of Show winner in the Peezy, a funky urine sample device for women (really).

As if that wasn’t enough, work by totalcontent was up among the awards again (details in the ‘recently’ section if you’re interested). Not that anyone would have known. For some reason, copywriting is barely ever credited. At awards or on the finished article. Even when it’s totally central to the success of a project. Designers, photographers, illustrators, printers, even the paper stock gets a name check. But the poor old writer? It’s a perennial frustration, and I still can’t figure out why words get so little recognition. OK, you can come out now, moan over.

It was a grand old night at the Design Week Awards yesterday, as two projects with copywriting input from totalcontent scooped top prizes in their categories. First up was the ‘Yellow Book’, by Applied Information Group. This slim volume is an overview of AIG’s Legible London pedestrian wayfinding system, featuring an extended essay by Jim describing the project, and delving into the theory and practice of urban wayfinding. The judges called it “a fantastic piece of work, sustained, informative, attractive and sensible”, and praised the “narrative which draws you in”. You can get hold of a pdf of the ‘Yellow Book’ in the downloads section of this web site. 

Next was a spin-off from the 2008 Royal Mail Year Pack – designed by the Chase and written by Jim – which won the in-store branding and point of sale category. This cleverly stuck vinyl versions of the Year Pack’s motif (large white frames with perforated edges) on Post Office counter windows as if capturing the staff behind in a stamp.

I’m not too sure about Alphabeat’s music, it’s a just a bit too unashamedly ‘pop’ for me. You might remember the inane but infectiously catchy ‘Boyfriend’ from last year. Even if you don’t, when I tell you that the Danish band’s influences are Wham! and Abba, you’ll get the picture. Having said that, the cover for their debut UK CD, ‘This is Alphabeat’, is a graphic designer’s wet dream. With echoes of Peter Blake, Victorian poster type and nursery building blocks, it’s colourful, quirky and nostalgic. Which begs two questions. Firstly, would you buy a CD on the strength of its cover art? And secondly, anyone out there know who designed this little beauty?