And here’s the album cover that started the whole jokey self-conscious craze off (see ‘heard that one before?’, a few posts down). This was originally released in 1969, so Howlin’ Wolf almost certainly gets the gong. Looking enviously at Jimi Hendrix’s success, ‘The Howlin’ Wolf Album’ was a doomed attempt by Chess Records to give Mr Wolf a psychedelic makeover. The craggy bluesman wasn’t impressed, rather colourfully describing the effort as “horse shit”. With all the negative vibe surrounding it, the record peaked at a paltry #69 in the Billboard Black Albums Chart. Thanks to Fraser Southey for alerting us to this slice of phonographic history.

Zap! Voosh! Kerpow! You wait for ages, and then two come along at once. It’s quite uncanny... on the very same day, I get an email from Selfridges touting MAC's new range of ‘Wonder Woman’ cosmetics, and the White Stuff catalogue featuring a super hero dog on the front cover. Both have that familiar retro comic book styling, with the flat blocks of primary colour, exaggerated perspective, visible halftone dots, yellow headlines, and angled caps in speech bubbles. Selfridges, of course, is the real McCoy, with an official DC Comics trademark acknowledgement in the bottom right-hand corner. White Stuff is more of a jokey homage (although Superman did have a canine sidekick called Krypto).

There’s nothing new about it, of course. It’s been appropriated and recycled since 1960s pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (bottom) built his career around it, and has enjoyed countless resurrections, revivals, plunderings and parodies ever since. So the more interesting question is why have two such different brands chosen this moment in time to follow a similar route?

I don’t particularly have an answer. It’s just curious how often this happens. There’s usually something in the creative air which leads designers in the same direction at the same time, even if they’re working in completely different parts of the country. Last year the big thing was bold mono printing on grainy recycled stock, this year designers have gone more delicate and decorative. Until Super Dog came along.

Prepare to be Marvelled.

Our work with Chadwick Nott, the UK’s largest legal recruitment consultancy, has been featured in the news pages of Design Week. totalcontent were brought in by branding consultancy Deep to develop an intelligent-yet-accessible tone of voice to complement their rebrand work, and help set the ambitious agency apart from the competition. 

The guiding principle for all the work was to see things from candidates’ and clients’ perspectives, rather than trot out empty about claims about past achievements. And the tone needed to be sharp, well-informed and occasionally entertaining — appealing to an audience of lawyers. 

We created language guidelines, example headlines and copy, and and are currently editing Chadwick Nott’s rather extensive website.

new work – Lettuce.

Fashion label Lettuce relaunches at the Pure fashion trade show at Olympia this weekend, with a head-to-toe rebrand masterminded by Form Design & Art Direction. A young, happening Australian brand, Lettuce specialises in funky women’s scarves, which they position as year-round accessories rather than winter neck-warmers. 

totalcontent helped in establishing a suitably fresh and appealing tone of voice, coming up with the strapline ‘Your Scarf. Your Scene’, as well as mood copy describing the brand’s various collections, which provided the basis for the 2011 catalogue (shown left). You can read some of our longer copy on the Lettuce interim website here. 

It’s our first very collaboration with the highly talented Paul and Paula at Form, an outfit we’ve admired for some time.

Ever since my younger sister warbled ‘This is Tomorrow Colin’ back in the 1970s, I’ve had a huge soft spot for Roxy Music. Glamorous, unpredictable, suave, tacky, arty, tongue in cheek... they have it all. I sported the Ferry fringe for as long as my follicles could carry it off, and for many years held the great man up as a role model and style icon.

And last night I finally got my chance to see them take to the boards at the Nottingham Arena — part of their 40th anniversary tour, their first outing in six years. They didn’t disappoint. This was a real show show, with all-action backing dancers and singers, and a nine-strong band of impeccable musicians who took it in turn to blow the audience away with impossible solos. Roxy powered through a mix classics old and new... though they went surprising easy on the laid-back middle period (Avalon/Flesh and Blood) which saw them at their most successful, though perhaps least inventive.

Savile Row-suited Bryan Ferry cut a slightly reticent figure, cooly detached from the audience, often retreating behind keyboards — perhaps some sort of attempt at being a member of the band than a front man. His voice wasn’t what it used to be, but still, a pleasing enough part of the multi-layered production, and buoyed by highly accomplished backing singers, particularly the astonishing tonsils of Sewuese Abwa. The real stars were stalwarts Andy McKay and Phil Manzanera — live, you can immediately see how McKay’s alto sax informs the distinctive Roxy sound, while Manzanera’s guitar sings out like a sizzling siren.

Plaudits too to the VJ, his kaleidoscopic backdrops interweaving graphics, animation and film clips with live close-ups of the ensemble. The mesmeric montage perfectly captured Roxy’s art-school roots, touching their key visual reference points — from Hollywood glamour, to sleek typography, neon signage, show girls, and of course, outtakes from the iconic LP covers.

Past their prime? Maybe. But I’m happy to be able to say I’ve seen the band who came 98th in Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’. And I beg to differ... Roxy Music — who started breaking the rules way before punk — are still doing the Strand in my top 10.