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Writing Local independent bookshop Fox Books in Leicester, United Kingdom, and the future of physical bookshops…

We have researched and written the article Local independent bookshop Fox Books in Leicester, United Kingdom, and the future of physical bookshops… that highlights the current environment in 2023 and changing times in the retail sector after Covid-19, and what they might need to do to butter the bread. We hope you find it useful. March 2023.

Photograph of the front of the Fox Books bookshop, shows a blue front, with door and windows either side. Red and orange bricks on either side, then a grey roof above. Pavement in front, with a wooden foldable sign Blue square background, with a large circle in the middle, then a cartoon fox reading a book, holding it in 1 hand

Work showcase Contribution and donation to the book Posters Can Help

Diagonal perspective photograph of the front cover. Shows a rainbow colour design, and in large black capital letters ‘POSTERS CAN HELP’

Global problems can lead us to question our own credibility and the significance of our own lives. We often ask ourselves what our work is really good for. This book is an effort to bring the global creative community together to take a small but valuable step, towards solving the big problems of our time (the war in Ukraine). 1 of our freehand cartoon illustrations done in 2006, has been published in the publicly funded Posters Can Help book by Slanted on page 180. The project has raised a total of €6,687.41.

February 2023.

Diagonal perspective photograph of an inside spread, shows 2 columns of text in black, and black and white illustrations of a gun and a bomb Slanted logo, shows a black horizontal rectangle, with the bottom left and top right corners cut off, then the word ‘Slanted’ in large bold capital white letters on top

Writing New article Useful Accessibility and Usability Examples To Help Improve Your Designs

Illustration of webpage showing many boxes and options to close and set, showing a very demanding 1st user visit

We were asked by the Smashing Magazine team to write another article and we produced Useful Accessibility and Usability Examples To Help Improve Your Designs to help designers make their designs more accessible and usable, and to envisage and come-up with new ideas in the areas of accessibility and usability. The easily over-looked area of access structures is discussed, that seems to have been most notably mentioned wayback in 1979 by the information designer Rob Waller, although they rarely get mentioned in current times. The article is for designers on their lunch break and we worked on the tone of the writing more than usual to make it upbeat, lively and increase readers motivation. We have previously explored and discussed tone in writing, in our interview An Interview With Anne-Marie Chisnall From Write on Plain English and Information Design, and as people say ‘tone is a funny thing’. Thanks again to Iris Lješnjanin and Yana Kirilenko. December 2022.

Smashing Magazine logo, a red rectangle box, on the left in a small white diaginal box is a white letter 's', then to the right on the 1st line is 'Smashing Magazine' and below that 'Magazine' both in white capital letters

Local industry Out Of Joint vinyl record store

We are not always at our desks 24 hours a day and 365 days a year for our clients… and this week we visited the vinyl record store called Out Of Joint just a few miles away in Leicester, that we noticed about a month ago. We said to man behind the counter ‘how long have you been here for?, we noticed you about a month ago and have been meaning to stop by’ he replied ‘4 years…’. There is a 2 minute interview with them on YouTube.

Photo of the front of the shop, showing glass window and records inside, with the counter at the back

Not totally intentionally we bought:

  • Atmospherica Vol. 2 LP by Deepchord. (New release. Genre: dub techno.)
  • Untitled LP by Konrad Wehrmeister. (New release. Genre: leftfield techno.)
  • Picnic Attack LP by I:Cube. (2nd-hand. Genre: house, future jazz.)

They use a custom labelling system on all vinyls, put on the top left of a vinyl that we have not seen used anywhere else, it is a nice feature and gives users a 2nd option for being able to scan through the information on vinlys, as apposed to having to locate information on the front or back of a vinyl’s artwork. It is a really nice touch.

Photo from the back of the store showing the crates with the vinyls in, then the front window in the background

We find it amazing how vinyls are still being cherished and are actually flourishing. It is still the most ideal music format in certain genres of music, and is not a fashion statement but used for maximum functionality. The sound from vinyl is super rich and warm, giving unbeaten sound quality not found digitally. There are some amazing things being done with vinyls, for instance, coloured marbled vinyl or even transparent vinyl, not to mention the highly niche and expert area around mastering digital music (usually a WAV) onto vinyl. There used to be a few other vinyl shops in Leicester around the year 2000, but with the increase of MP3 releases and the mainstream start of the internet, it affected vinyl production a lot.

A vinyl DJ deck, shows the metal arms, then a red vinyl on the deck spinning round

Another great aspect of vinyl that needs to be continually supported, is the amount of effort that goes into making and producing them, and also who, where and what countries they are being made. Vinyl pressing plants are increasingly not surviving, and when they go, a lot is lost, much more than the value of their machinery and loss in profit. The positives and negatives of different mediums! Is the new really better than the past?

Read more about the store in a review from Inverted Audio. Photographs © Inverted Audio. October 2022.

The words ‘Out Of Joint’ in a half circle above, then thin black outline circle repeated and getting smaller like grooves on a vinyl, with a triangle going into the centre from the bottom

Local industry Fred Perry polo t-shirts made in Leicester, U.K.

In these summery Covid-19 aftermath times, it is time for some new polo t-shirts and investing just a bit of time and research, we found a solution just outside Leicester city centre, just a few miles away. We have bought an M3 Black/Champagne polo t-shirt. Here are the very impressive unique features:

  • Proudly made and hand-finished by people in Leicester.
  • Uses recycled tipping and sewing threads.
  • Uses buttons made from recycled materials.
  • Responsibly-sourced laurel wreath embroidery.
  • Responsibly-grown cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative.
  • Much smaller carbon footprint than imported polo t-shirts.

M3 Black/Champagne polo t-shirt and then inside the Piqué factory Leicester.

Front photo of the black polo t-shirt, shows the Fred Perry logo on the right chest area
Photograph of the inside of the factory, shows large green textile machines, with white and blue thread rolls in poles, and also other textile machinery. Shows a skylight in the roof

The Piqué factory Leicester (the dark graphite rectangle building with the 3 yellow square outline windows, in the middle), the pieces then go next door to garment makers ESP (the triangular-roofed building to the right), where traditional British machinery combines with state-of-the-art cutting technology.

Aerial photograph out the factory and surrounding area, shows the top of many terraced house and other buildings, then the skyline at the far top

Read more about the Fred Perry Made in England range and their community initiatives. It is going to be interesting to see how it wears and possibly fades (durability) over the years. Our aim is to support the local community in these chaotic and faulty times. Photographs © Fred Perry. August 2022.

Fred Perry logo showing a black leaf crest in the shape of a capital ‘U’ letter

Showcase Shutter Hub Exhibition: Yearbook 2022 Competition

Shutter Hub is a photography organisation providing opportunities and support for creative photographers worldwide. Our photograph Tavistock Drive, Leicester (Leicester City Centre, United Kingdom From Far Away) has been published in their online Exhibition: Yearbook 2022 from 1600 entries across the world, and was in the 300 selected photographs. 100 images will then be selected and published in a printed publication.

The photograph can be bought from Alamy here and see also our main Alamy portfolio. July 2022.

Shutter Hub logo, has a black rectangle background, then 2 cut-in-half white circles on the left, then the word ‘SHUTTER’ on 1 line, and ‘HUB’ below

Writing Measuring the Performance of Typefaces for Users paper

The difficult and complex area of testing typefaces in our paper Measuring the Performance of Typefaces for Users (Part 1) and Measuring the Performance of Typefaces for Users (Part 2) but ‘I think we are there’.

The paper was wrote in about 3 days (quick to write) although Alma Hoffmann (Smashing Magazine editor) pushed us much more, and the paper went through 3 rewrites and 3 reedits (slow to publish) but certainly benefited. Thanks again to Alma Hoffmann and Natalia Lassance.

‘Well, whatever your thoughts are, in 2022, with a mass of typefaces available and 100s of years of designing and manufacturing typefaces, it is time to consider this topic. I think the time has come, and we are there’.

We hope you find the paper useful. Some editorial style errors remain, but we tried our best with them. June 2022.

Illustration showing a row of large lowercase letter a’s in the many different versions of the Garamond typeface, then the name of each version in a diagonal red line below Smashing Magazine logo, a red rectangle box, on the left in a small white diaginal box is a white letter 's', then to the right on the 1st line is 'Smashing Magazine' and below that 'Magazine' both in white capital letters

Local industry Shoes designed in Leicester U.K. and made in Northamptonshire U.K. and Italy

Due to the recent worldwide events between 2020–2021 (Covid-19), it has given us time in the office to consider what we have been doing, well doing with ease and not really thinking about… We have bought 2 pairs of shoes, but these are not any-old-shoes like you find in local highstreet mass-market shops though.

The 1st pair are Leicester Tigers Icon (Espresso) smart leather shoes, designed in Leicester U.K., then crafted and manufactured by hand and people in Northamptonshire U.K. The yellow leather lining inside the shoe is really soft and feels like a luxurious leather glove. The rubber soles are made from recycled material, the carbon footprint is much smaller than shoes imported from outside the U.K., and we are supporting a local business in a very competitive industry.

The Espresso shoes, photographed side-on diagonally. Shows brown leather shoes with yellow in-lining and grey/dark green soles

The 2nd pair are Pace Bi-Colour (Off White/Black) and are not even on sale to the public yet, that are more of a trainer, and less of a formal shoe. Once again designed in Leicester U.K. and then handcrafted by people and manufactured in Italy, using Italian materials with rubber soles that use recycled material.

The Pace shoes, photographed side-on diagonally. Shows trainer-like shoes, black leather and then white soles

Leicester used to be well-known for its shoe manufacturing and shoe factories, a notable example was British United Shoe Machinery (BUSM) Ltd in the 1960s, it was Leicester’s biggest employer, employing more than 4500 people locally and 9500 people worldwide. All that changed because U.K. companies outsourced work and manufacturing to Asia, to take advantage of cost cutting and cheaper labour to maximise profits. ‘The raw shoe materials and machines (engineering) that made the shoes, were also cheaper in low‑wage economies’ as BU History Group was telling us. Why can we not make a much higher percentage of goods here in the U.K. supporting local people, why is that so impossible? This strategy affected, and pretty much destroyed not just the shoe industry but many other U.K. industries like book and journal typesetting, printing, textiles, electronics and footwear (and many more), over the years and decades, and is still very much utilised today… What do we have left and where are we now in 2022?

British United Shoe Machinery Company (BUSM) Ltd on Belgrave Road, Leicester, U.K. Photograph dated 1984 from Nigel Tout (CC BY-SA 4.0, changes made).

Old greyscale photograph showing the British United Shoe Machinery Company 5 storey building side-on diagonally, on Belgrave Road, Leicester. Shows the large factory building in the background, then the road in front with vans and a car driving bye

The Covid-19 lockdowns have made us think that maybe we need to try to look closer to home for the things we need, even if it requires a bit more effort and money, in order to support the local community and local businesses, because if things are not working well around you, they could get a lot worse or finish altogether… then what? Are you aware of what goes on behind the seams of the products you buy? This is the extra we are doing, to support our local community and industries in these challenging times.

For more information visit the Marcus De website, shoes are available until stocks run-out. June 2022.

The text ‘MARCUS’ on the top line, then ‘DE’ on the bottom line in large yellow capital letters, with ‘England’ below in a script font
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