• M8
  • M6
  • M5
  • M7
  • M1
  • M2
  • M3
  • M4
  • M9
Graphic Design

Manual

Posted by Will Hudson,

San Francisco based graphic design and branding consultancy Manual launched their website at the end of last week.

Headed up by Tom Crabtree who has previously worked at MadeThought, Spin and Apple it’s not surprising people took note and it popped up on a number of design blogs. We wanted to find out more and caught up with him to ask a few questions…

Hi Tom, an Englishman in San Francisco, how did you end up being based out there?

A Yorkshireman no less! So yes, how did I end up out here? Well I’d spent a number of years working as a designer in London and was very fortunate to have worked at such great studios as MadeThought and Spin. My wife and I had talked about a ‘life change’ and the possibility of moving to the USA (my wife is American) and while I was quite happy with my life in London and my position at MadeThought, I had this nagging urge to live and work abroad. Around that same time Apple approached me and offered to fly me out to California for an interview for an Art Director position in the packaging design group. While I’d never really considered working as part of an in-house brand team before… it was Apple. They offered me the job so I went for it.

When (and why) did you set up Manual?

After two and a half years at Apple I decided that the ‘in-house’ route wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong Apple was such a fantastic place to work and I was fortunate enough to have worked on some great projects- the iPhone packaging for one- but ultimately as a designer accustomed to working in much smaller ‘boutique’ studios with a very varied client base – I realized it wasn’t the right place for me. I guess I’m too impatient and have a short attention span – I enjoy working on lots of different projects quite quickly. My wife and I also found out we were having our first baby – and I knew if I didn’t make the leap I would settle in and never leave. So I announced to my colleagues I was having a baby and setting up my own studio in pretty much the same breath. People thought I was crazy.

I set up Manual in early 2009. Why? The truth is, there wasn’t a studio in San Francisco where I wanted to work. I felt like I’d reached a stage in my career where my next step would have been a creative director position. So rather than be a creative director for someone else, I decided to do it for myself.

How does the San Francisco design scene compare to London?

They’re very different that’s for sure. San Francisco is like a little village compared to London. London is a just this huge hub of creativity, art, and fashion. There also seem to be so many younger, smaller creative design studios which I don’t see so much of here. It might be fair to say San Francisco has much less a design ‘scene’. Of course I’m sure there are designers that mingle and know each other. Perhaps I need to get out more and mingle…

Another huge difference in design seems to be the client base here. There’s this huge entrepreneurial spirit with a large number of start-ups, particularly in technology and web media. The Bay Area has a history in supporting those kinds of businesses. There seem to be so many start-ups with big ideas about trying to be the next ‘big thing’, particularly in social networking and apps. Speaking of which, we recently landed the job to rebrand MySpace – but as the project was kicking off, the CEO was ‘let go’ and the project unfortunately got cancelled. That’s web media and technology for you.

What can we expect to see in the near future?

My wife Patricia just joined me in the business and we’re moving to a bigger studio so it’s quite an exciting time. We’ve just completed a global branding project for the Gap which will launch in Autumn 2010. It was the first time we’d pitched against bigger design firms, so it was a nice affirmation to know that us smaller boutique studios are just as relevant and capable of taking on bigger branding assignments.

We’d like to get back to doing work in the contemporary arts space since it was a large part of the work I did in London. It would be great to get a balance between branding work and projects in arts and publishing – though of course publishing is not exactly thriving. Perhaps we’ll only get to design books for the iPad! I shouldn’t joke.

Wh-300

Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    Hot Chip are one of those bands that have always had a fantastic visual sensibility. Illustrator Wallzo has been at the helm of it, bringing us glorious Michael Craig Martin-esque block colours and shapes to decapitated statues. Now, the band is moving into the world of bespoke printing, with the artwork for new album Why Make Sense by Nick Relph using an algorithm that means each copy’s design will be unique.

  2. Untitled-paris-ad-int-list

    They say that one good turn deserves another. And one good project leads to another, as Untitled Paris has shown us. Last year, the agency was commissioned to create a new identity for interior design company Laplace, creating a slick monochrome look that uses the name as the logo mark. Untitled says: “The entire identity rests on a simple type system and contemporary but sober look, as the work of Laplace is full of colour and feeling.”

  3. Dyakova-list-mcm_gagosian_back-cover_905

    Earlier this week Sonya Dyakova revealed that she “like[s] to wear a uniform that [she] can just hide in and work.” And while her clothes may want to slink into the background, the work of her agency Atelier Dyakova begs to be in the spotlight.

  4. Kurppa-hosk-korshags-int-list

    It’s not often I get to write about my two great loves in a single article, but sometimes the stars align and I’m covering smoked fish and graphic design all in the space of 300 words. Today I feel blessed! This strange combination of subjects has come together thanks to Swedish agency Kurppa Hosk undertaking a wholesale rebrand for Falkenbergs Lax, a small, family-owned smoked salmon specialist. Charged with turning the small-scale brand into an international major player in the fish industry, Kurrppa Hosk renamed it Korshags, and have came up with a sleek new visual identity to accompany the new name.

  5. George-primo-louw-1

    As a rule we profile Jorge Primo on the site once a year; first due to posters for a shoe brand, then a carpenter’s identity and last year it was just for his personal work. This time round Jorge has been hard at it making graphics for skateboarding brand Louw. He’s done designs for their decks, exuberant posters and even knocked up a hand-drawn version of their logo. Choice!

  6. Francesco-del-russo-bologna-int-list

    Graphic designer Francesco Delrosso has spent the past few years making his way through undergraduate study and out into the big wide world of Fabrica, Benetton’s communications research centre. There he’s honed his skills in research-based design, putting them to use in the creation of all manner of print publications. Since leaving Fabrica he’s settled in Urbino where he’s specialising in communication and editorial design at Isia.

  7. Eloisa-perez-book-int-list

    Early school days weren’t so bad: the odd bit of colouring in, keeping up with the adventures of Billy Blue Hat, playing that game where you have to sit in a curled up in a ball being quiet when the teacher wants a rest. But they could have been even brighter, especially in the learning to write department – and graphic designer Éloïsa Pérez’ Apprendre à écrire offers a perfect solution.

  8. Mariohugo-recentlyrejected-int-list

    There was an interesting discussion on our podcast recently about why anyone would really want to watch the creative process taking place. Off the back of our visit to see what was essentially P J Harvey in a box, we’ve spent a lot of time chatting about how the creative process is slow and messy and frustrating, littered with wrong turns and dead-ends.

  9. List-la-direction_le-sucre_1-int

    A sweet, sweet identity project for you today, in the shape of Lyon-based studio La Direction’s work for venue Le Sucre. The studio is helmed by Aurélien Arnaud and Elsa Audouin, who set it up two years ago and have since worked across print, web, and interior graphic design for clients ranging from adidas to Born Bad Records to Grolsch. The one that most neatly presents the breadth of their capabilities, though, is the aforementioned Le Sucre project. The venue is a late-night party joint in Lyon, and the graphics subtly reflect its hip vibe while remaining resolutely timeless and simple. We love the restraint of the interior graphics, letting the strange architecture speak out, and the gorgeous blue of the printed materials. Elsewhere on La Direction’s site are some excellent poster designs, so we’ve popped a couple of our favourites on here for you. What’s not to love about the blue erotic market woman?

  10. Braulio-amado-nyt-int-list

    Braulio’s been a busy boy lately since he took up his full-time post art directing over at Bloomberg Businessweek. You’d think a job at one of the world’s most respected bi-weeklies would keep his time pretty well occupied, but the restless designer still finds plenty of spare hours to horse around with personal projects, sell weird ouija boards online and hand-letter for The New York Times Magazine. We wonder how he ever gets any rest? “I should indeed sleep more,” he says.

  11. Fontanel-dutch-design-talents-int-list

    Here at It’s Nice That we love discovering young creative talent – and feel a responsibility to identify and promote new artists and designers – but the challenge can sometimes feel daunting. So anything that can help point us in the right direction is hugely appreciated, such as this new book from Dutch creative site Fontanel. It has run a feature called The Fontanel Finals for the past five years, a scheme which showcases graduation shows and identifies the most interesting practitioners it finds each summer.

  12. Two-points-aamodt-plumb-int-list

    I always imagine that rebranding an architectural consultancy must be the dream gig for a design agency. There’s so much to work with in terms of structural materials, geometric forms, textures, type and slick photography. Even so it’s not every day you see an architectural rebrand executed with the kind of flair with which Two Points has created Aamodt/Plumb’s new corporate materials.

  13. Gentlewoman-bjork-list

    Whenever a new issue of The Gentlewoman is announced two questions spring to mind: what colour is it, and who’s the cover star? For the upcoming Issue 11 those all-important answers are cream, and Bjork, and it looks absolutely tantalising. Björk’s been shot by longtime Gentlewoman collaborator Alasdair McLellan and is pictured looking windswept and enigmatic (two of her strongest vibes). It’s hard to move without bumping into Björk at the moment – with a trailer just having been released for her upcoming show at MoMA in New York – but that won’t stop us counting the days until we can delve into this interview.