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Creativity is closed / Goodbye Fabric

The news that Fabric nightclub has had its license revoked is a devastating blow for youth culture, music, the arts and creativity in general. This decision follows hot in the heels of the closure of Glasgow’s own club icon, The Arches. Two music, arts and cultural legends now lay dormant – in fact, there is already talk of Fabric being converted into flats in due course as big business rolls over urban culture once again.

Parking the controversial reasoning behind the decision (which has been debated at length), what cannot be ignored is a common pattern emerging, that of councils and governments closing culturally significant and iconic venues which are relevant to young people. This kind of mentality, which emanates from what is fast becoming a quasi nanny state, is screwing with our culture and our creativity. It is essential and a fundamental duty of the powers that be to provide outlets for young people to gather, mingle, look, listen, collaborate and express themselves. Highly creative and urban strands of music (drum & bass and grime) have found a natural home at Fabric – movements which were born in urban neighbourhoods and exploded onto UK dance floors. It’s not an exaggeration to state that when clubbing, thousands of people have met, danced, partied, became friends and subsequently collaborated musically, artistically or creatively. The power of this kind of cultural and artistic movement cannot be underestimated, it is the lifeblood of the arts in this and other cities, Berlin and Barcelona being prime examples.

Any kind of urban undercurrent, typically harnessed by young people to amplify their voice in society, is now being quashed by successive governments and councils who pander to big business and attempt to control the masses. Through this kind of mentality, creativity becomes a state-controlled blandfest and youth culture becomes suppressed. For society to thrive, it is imperative that young people have platforms to express themselves. Like the Arches, Fabric was another avenue which encouraged freedom of expression – it’s now closed forever.


When the ordinary becomes extraordinary

With today’s world a fractious and tempestuous environment, the BBC’s Imagine: One Night in 2012 documentary was a fabulous insight into the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and a timely reassurance of how extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people can be.

Following the dazzling spectacle of Beijing’s opening ceremony in 2008 (particularly the astounding drummer’s performance) London 2012 had an intimidating act to follow. The appointment of Danny Boyle as creative director proved to be an inspired choice.

Boyle’s ceremony beautifully captured the essence of our multicultural nation – the ceremony was rich with British humour and provided a vivid cultural snapshot of everything that’s positive about the UK. Key to the ceremony’s success were the volunteers – thousands of ‘ordinary’ people from all walks of life coming together to create something extraordinary.

Fast forward four years and a post Brexit UK seems a very different environment to Summer 2012. However, the Imagine documentary clearly illustrates what a powerful and positive force creativity can be, particularly when an emotional connection is established. The design industry in all its various guises must continue to inspire and extrapolate what’s best in our culture. It can be done, as 7,500 volunteers and one Danny Boyle will testify to.

Roll on Rio 2016 and the Greatest Show On Earth.

Together we can create something beautiful

Great Idea. Our two favourite words.

At the core of every great campaign is a great idea. The beauty of an idea is that it can come from anyone, at any time, in any place. From personal experience most of the best ideas formulate around 3am, hence the trusty notebook at my bedside.

This is what makes creative people an invaluable commodity. They are the ideas people. They contribute positively to our environment, making our spaces better places to live. In 20 years time, we may be at a stage where a smart application can create advertising campaigns which follow a set formula. But it will be exactly that, formulaic. Human beings will always be needed to provide the idea, in all creative disciplines – this is what sets us apart.

Our industry thrives on great ideas. Our skill and experience as designers and advertisers allows us to harness these ideas and create beautiful things. However, beauty in design is only one aspect to creativity – of course the campaign needs to be impactful, effective and produce tangible results. It needs to be malleable, flexing and re-configuring when required. These aspects need a bigger picture mindset, a harmonious working environment as part of a wider team. At all times though, the core idea must remain sacrosanct, existing as an omnipresent touchstone.

As the image above says, together we can create something beautiful – that’s why we work with clients as opposed to for clients. But the beauty must begin with an idea.

Check out some of our ideas:


Designers adore special finishes, with cost-effective foiling making a significant re-appearance in recent trends. So when our design team were invited along to Multiplicity Glasgow at Drygate by Foilco it seemed like the perfect event for any designer. Foiling and Beer, what’s not to love?

Speakers for the evening came from far and wide to talk through the virtues of special finishes. Astrid and Pablo from Spanish design agency Atlas focussed on 3 particular pieces from their agency archives, with the book ‘Pain’ by photographer Toni Amengual a particularly inspiring piece of work. Much of the pertinent imagery was concealed within the french folding, enticing the reader to ‘break’ the folds to view the imagery – a tactile and imaginative solution to a difficult brief. Other contributions from Andrew of Foilco, Tony of Graphical House and Adrian from D8 proved equally as inspiring, highlighting that the road travelled by the design agency is a long and challenging one, something which all of our friends in the industry can certainly relate to.

There seems to have been a flurry of design focussed events taking place across the city recently, and long may it continue. These events and speakers inspire us to create our own magic moments and drive the creative community forward. It also provides us with the necessary leverage to demonstrate classic graphic design and beautiful finishing which is both elegant and cost-effective.

Good design breeds trust and improves communications.

#SuperBowl Sunday

You might not know much about American football but you will know that around this time of year the hype about the Super Bowl is too much to ignore.

You may also know that its not just the football that people are interested in, it’s the adverts as well. Normally we‘ll Sky+ our shows so we can fast forward through the ads or we use the ad break to do anything else other than actually watch the ads. However, the rules seem to change for about 112.2 million people who tune in to watch the Super Bowl.

Brands understandably want to take full advantage of such a captive audience but it invariably comes at a cost. In 1990 the ad space for the Super Bowl was around $37,500. This has increased year on year since. In 2000 costs were around $2.2million and last year it reached an all time high of around $5million for a 30sec ad slot.

That is some serious ad money, not to mention the cost of actually making the most stand out and memorable commercial. So, what’s next for these brands?

2013 was a game changer for Super Bowl advertising by one cream-filled cookie, Oreo. The famous blackout of Super Bowl XLVII meant that all the prep and money spent on TV advertising was irrelevant. Oreo took full advantage of ‘real time’ advertising with their “You can still dunk in the dark” Twitter campaign that went viral.


Since then, advertisers have now understood that the success of a Super Bowl campaign isn’t just the 30-60 second ad slots but the real time advertising of social media.

Thanks to innovative brands such as Oreo, advertising now has to work harder and more creatively to generate tangible brand awareness and results. A powerful ad needs to be paired with good hashtags and more importantly the ad has be ‘sharable’. In last year’s game over 50% of ads created a unique hashtag to support their main advert and that number is expected to climb this year.

So grab a Bud, get those hot dogs on the grill and and settle down to enjoy The Greatest Show On Earth. Oh, and keep one eye on your Twitter feed during the ad breaks…

Head in the Cloud

Creative Cloud blog

As more and more design agencies and creative professionals around the world migrate their software over to the Creative Cloud and Adobe tightens its grip on its monopoly of design software, it begs the question – is the move beneficial?

Maguires moved our software to Adobe’s monthly subscription service five months after its proper launch in October 2013. Not because we are ultra-geeky and crave new features that are seldom-used, but purely because we were due a software and hardware update and the eye-wateringly expensive, boxed software was no longer available. Putting the financials to one side, has this helped our productivity? In many ways, yes.

The premise is fantastic – all Adobe creative software working ‘in harmony’ across your computer at work, at home and (increasingly) your tablet and mobile device. This gives you the opportunity to try software that you normally wouldn’t have (After Effects anyone?). Not only that, but Adobe throw in Typekit, their large font collection, 100Gb of cloud space and a Market that includes a Library of vector graphics, icons, patterns, UI Kits, for-placement images, and other design assets. All synced between your devices. Pretty impressive. Until something goes wrong that is…

Blank Creative Cloud app

The main Creative Cloud app is not without its bugs. This is meant to be a central hub for all application updates and an overview of all things Adobe. Often for myself and other colleagues it is just a blank white window! This is one of a few bugs I have encountered. So, like most people, I use Google to find the answer to this. This leads you to an Adobe forum with multiple people complaining about the same problem. In amongst the complaints there will be an Adobe member of staff who has listed a step-by-step approach on how to troubleshoot the issue. The last step will nearly always be ‘uninstall all Adobe applications and reinstall Creative Cloud’. Personally, when I’m busy, which is most of the time, I’d rather just live with the bugs, rather that spend hours trying to fix software.

There are cautionary tales from the past about what happens when massive companies forget about their customers’ needs. Remember QuarkXPress? Terrible customer service and exorbitant pricing, as well as the challenge from Adobe saw it lose its market share rapidly. Software bloat is also a good indicator of a company resting on its laurels. Illustrator in particular, is guilty of this, most probably due to the fact that Adobe bought its rival Freehand, then stopped manufacturing it. Features in the Illustrator menu bar range from the always-awful ‘Free Distort’ to options that were buggy on release many years ago yet they have been left to rot – step forward the ‘3D’ and ‘Stylize’ options.

Technical issues aside, there is also that word ‘monopoly’. Many creative professionals find it morally wrong that smaller font houses and photographers suffer as a result of Adobe’s practices. There is alternative design software emerging that is cheaper, doesn’t involve a monthly subscription and can open existing Adobe files. I recently tested Affinity Designer (available from the Mac App Store) and thought it was a joy to use. As well as getting rave reviews, Affinity has a launch panel that showcases work done by designers and illustrators using their software, which is a nice touch.

I believe that we, as designers, should not be held to ransom by the tools we use. Adobe software is, in essence, one of those tools. The moment that a software company thinks they are indispensable is the beginning of the end for them.


Here is an old Illustrator problem I raised in a forum. I never did get a solution, although an upgrade mysteriously fixed the issue.

Goodbye ol’ Flash

So, it seems that Apple finally have their way once more and Adobe Flash has now been vanquished from the web….alas, long winding and often pointless animations followed by an ‘Enter Site’ message is now a thing of the past. Good riddance, right? Well, maybe not for this old Flash veteran….

Back in the early noughties when the dot com bubble had been and gone, the web was a creative hub, fertile with ideas – some good, many bad. Design and tech agencies were spotting opportunities to enhance UX with immersive and creative experiences which went beyond mere information gathering. Macromedia Flash (as it was known then) was central to this creativity. Leading the way were an agency called Hi-Res! who defined the era with a beautiful, curious and fascinating piece for the motion picture Donnie Darko:

As a young, hungry and completely inexperienced creative, I saw Flash as the perfect platform to express myself – crazy flyout menus, unique hover states and a total disregard for classic UI design in many Flash sites drove me to believe that Flash was the future for me….what’s not to like? Unfortunately, my early attempts at Flash interfaces were overly ambitious at best and downright appalling at worst. However, I took heart in the creativity of pioneers such as Hi-Res! and others and pondered that once I mastered Actionscript 2 & 3, everything would fall into place.

Flash had a problem however – it was unstable, unreliable and buggy. Many web pages, bloated with flash banner ads, took an age to load or simply broke.

Then the iPhone came along. This truly was the beginning of the end for Flash, with HTML5 introduced as the saviour of the web and Flash perceived as a noisy, loud and bad mannered nuisance. Flash’s time was up.

Although I understand all the reasoning behind Flash’s death I can’t help but think that in some way the web is worse off for it. Granted, page load times are infinitely superior and sites don’t seem to break so easily, but there is a spark of creativity that is now sadly missing. Freelance designers, who used Flash in all sorts of creative and imaginative ways to showcase their work now use Behance or some other standardised platforms. Many websites are now built from formulaic themes, with much of the content looking and feeling the same. The element of the ‘blank canvas’ and creative freedom which Flash provided is now gone.

So goodbye old friend – thanks for all the memories, both good and bad.

Plagiarism v Inspiration

The recent controversy surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo has been as fascinating as it is costly. Designer Kenjio Sano has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, providing detailed explanations of his creative process when required. His response, however, is tainted by a previous project where his company was also accused of creative theft whilst working with the Suntory brand. Ultimately, the Olympic Committee for Japan have scrapped Kenjio’s logo and the situation has descended into farce.

This debacle is undoubtedly a blow to the integrity of designers everywhere and has ultimately re-opened the inevitable question – where is the line between plagiarism and inspiration? Of course, this debate has raged for centuries, from painters and classical composers to Elvis and his comparisons with Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

More recently, I read about interesting case raised in Jon Ronson’s book, ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’. Ronson highlighted the situation of Jonah Lehrer, a science writer who used fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan and was ultimately exposed by a New York journalist. Although this isn’t strictly plagiarism, what became more interesting was the public shaming of Lehrer in the printed and on social media. Ultimately, what once was the career of a rising star is now in tatters, with Twitter users queuing up to pour scorn on his once lauded work, some would say justifiably so.

The grey area between plagiarism and inspiration is indeed an interesting one. Examples like The Rolling Stones early blues riffs and their undoubted homage to Muddy Waters certainly walk a thin line. Ultimately, it will always come down to an artist’s conscience. There is no doubt Kenjio Sano is a hugely talented designer but only he knows if the Theatre de Liege logo was copied.

In previous blog post I commented that inspiration is everywhere and this is certainly true – designers and artists must harness their environment and act as a sponge to produce work which is pertinent. Indeed, without inspiration, no creative work would see the light of day. The difficulty lies when work is knowingly and consciously copied without sufficient accreditation – this leaves the designer or artist exposed and at the mercy of the public, something which Jonah Lehrer will testify is not the most pleasant of experiences.

Inspiration Everywhere

Inspiration is everywhere, found in all creative disciplines. Over the last 2 weeks, ‘Imagine’ by the BBC has focused on 2 giants in their respective fields – Frank Gehry and Jeff Koons.

Gehry, now 86, is a fascinating character with a body of creative work which continues to astound and divide. His passion for creating buildings and environments which stand as works of art in their own right provide many cities worldwide with fluid and beautiful focal points.


Possibly even more controversial than Gehry is Jeff Koons, a pop artist who courts and embraces controversy with his polarising body of work. What is striking about Koons is his utter conviction in his concepts and the fascinating language used when rationalising his art.


More recently, I ticked a major ‘bucket list’ box by attending a Bjork gig as part of the Manchester Arts Festival. Bjork has been a true inspiration of mine, both musically and creatively for many years. Her propensity to continually push boundaries sonically and visually creates a truly astounding live performance, one which will live long in the memory.


I passionately believe that designers must extrapolate inspiration from all around them, be it music, art, literature, nature or industry. Designers must act as a conduit for their environment, continually gathering and consuming media of all kinds. The question, of course, is how this inspiration manifests itself in our work and what form this takes. What is certain, however, is that artists of all disciplines continue to create and inspire in fantastical and beautiful ways and it is our duty to appreciate and aspire to in equal measure.

The morning after the night before

Well what can we say other than, what a night!

A lot has changed for Maguires over the past 6 months with a new brand, offices and website – not that we needed a reason to throw a party but we decided this was a pretty good reason to have a ‘shindig’.

We moved into our new home just after the New Year with a few extra inches on our waist from Christmas feasts – the subsequent carrying of heavy boxes down a couple flights of stairs wasn’t ideal with a few members of staff needing to take a mid-carry breather. But here we are in our shiny new open plan studio with our conference room looking like an exact replica of the glass box from the TV show ‘The Cube’ – we also have our very own in-house silver fox Nick, who has a passing resemblance to Phillip Schofield 🙂 It took a couple of weeks for us to settle in and for everyone to decide on what’s going on what wall, with a studio full of designers making in-house design decisions…not an easy task.


From January to now, we have been extremely busy with new clients and many exciting projects, so our party came just in the nick of time! (no pun intended). When I started in January, Chris asked me to start planning the party and I went straight into party planning mode from day one. I love it, I like a list and another list, I believe you can never have too many lists in life. We wanted to make the party fun and show everyone the direction Maguires is moving in, which I think we achieved very well, if I do say so myself 🙂

The food and drinks were the stars of the show. We had the guys at Social and Cocktail, if you’ve not heard of them then check them out! – A pop up mobile bar, with two professional bar tenders on hand to demonstrate how the cocktails are made and even letting you jump behind the bar to give it go yourself which team Maguires obviously did, what more could you ask for?


And the food…WOW amazing! So amazing that we don’t actually have any pictures of it as people were eating it faster than we could snap! Please check out Islena in the Merchant City,

When thinking of what we could give our guests as a thank you after an evening of cocktail and canapes, a mid-morning brew and cupcake combo was the least we could do (don’t say we’re not good to you!)


So huge thanks again to all our lovely guests, caterers and characters that made the evening such a triumph.



A Family Affair

Maguire Advertising was started in 1997 as a two man, one woman team – Nick, Margaret and Stephen. During the first few months, business was conducted from my bedroom where our one PC lived, which was particularly unsettling for me since I was a typical lazy student at the time and was deprived of my much needed long lies. Since those humble beginnings, more family members have joined (namely myself and briefly Paul) as well as a number of highly talented, diligent and affable employees.

Anyone who is involved in a family business knows only too well the intense stress and pressure that define the role. Personally, the pressure is exacerbated every time I look at the plaque outside the studio and see our family name etched on the glass signage. However, this is also coupled with an inherent sense of pride and awe at how far we’ve come, both as a family and a business. There are undoubted highs and lows, with tempers fraying and emotions running high – many times it’s felt like there may be a tipping point around the corner. Despite this however, the family unit remains strong and the inherent trust between family members galvanises the studio in times of hardship. Integral to our success are our aformentioned employees, who work with a passion and pride that makes them feel like extended family members.

My maiden post on our new blog is not an exercise in blowing our own trumpet or preaching about the family unit. It’s merely a recognition of our travails to date and a reminder of how far trust, hard work and dedication can take you, values which are present in family businesses across the UK and beyond.

With a mixture of luck, courage and talent, and a few laughs along the way, Maguires will hopefully continue to evolve, grow and create to the same high standard we’ve achieved since the halcyon days of the late 1990s and my bedroom PC.


We currently have no vacancies but are always on the lookout for talented freelancers.

Send us your portfolio to [email protected]

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