Hey, look! A new header!

I felt the need for a header that spoke more of me, and happily I seem to live with Designerus Domesticus, or the common or garden graphics hipster. He’s great, isn’t he? (He works for these lovely people if you think he could be great for you too. You know, in a more appropriate way.)

I asked him to draw inspiration from the classic EPCOT Center designs of the 80s since that’s my Disney Golden Age (every fan, except maybe the brand new ones, has one) and it seems extra appropriate as we approach my very favourite park in the world’s 30th birthday. Since I can’t be there in person…

I still have my mouse ears, but sadly I have long since lost my rainbow-hued, red-brimmed sun visor with the old logo. This is my way of bringing it back into my life a little.

And now, back to business.

The Artist: Yes, it’s that good

Last week, Dogs Trust was chosen as the recipient charity for a special screening of The Artist, in Leicester Square. Uggie the dog, the film’s main canine actor, came along to be charming in front of the cameras (something he found effortless) and hang out with Freddie, our CEO Clarissa’s ‘granddog’.

When you have a toddler it is, in any case, always a treat to get to go to the cinema, but it also means you can feel you need to justify the night out by seeing something good. (This is silly of course; spending the night out is justified by the fact that you have a toddler.)

In any case, I found The Artist to be exactly as good as the gushing suggests. It’s better if you know less, rather than more, going in, but the general premise (a silent movie about silent movies) is pretty widely known. It’s wonderfully deft; a clever idea made lovingly with an excellent cast and beautiful attention to detail. Oh, and the dog is in it a lot more than you expect.

If I had to drag out a criticism… oh, you know what? No. Of course there are flaws but since the successes are far more a) numerous and b) memorable, why ruin it by dwelling on them? I’m not reviewing this for a national, I’m chatting with my friends about it.

If you really want to know, ask.

But better still, go and see it.

Blog refurbishment

Like the new coat of paint?

I have a bit of a secret weapon on board here, which is the less mouthy Goldstein in the partnership: my husband. Look, here he is! And here! Give him a wave.

He patiently listened to my mad ideas about cats and Disney and Disney and cats and blogging about Whiffle. And he made them into something that I think speaks pretty well of me.

I’ve also tidied up the copy on the Pages and removed some of the extraneous bumpf. I’m a great believer in spring cleaning writing – and websites – and this bout of scrubbing and polishing was long overdue.

I hope you enjoy the new look.

NFP Skills Swap: My design skills for your events experience!

This is a guest post from my husband, Ashley, who was made redundant from his job at 2Simple Software due to education budget cuts. He is now hoping to change careers, and is looking to volunteer to get the experience he needs.

I’ve been a designer for about 15 years, and I really enjoy the creativity. But I feel it’s time to stretch my skills and find a new challenge. I’ve been considering a move to events organising for some time, and am very keen to get some experience in this area. Talking with Alex, we both quickly realised that community fundraising teams are an excellent place to find that experience because so much fundraising is events-driven – like Dogs Trust’s Waggy Walks, which I took part in last year, as you can see.

I’ll be looking for relevant internships and events to volunteer for, but I also thought there might be a way I could use my existing talents and both give and learn at the same time. So here’s the idea.

I’ll exchange a day of free design work, for a day of volunteering with your events / community fundraising team.

My design experience is wide, spanning flyers, catalogues, exhibition banners, invitations, newsletters, web graphics* and more. I’m a flexible user of Photoshop, Illustration, InDesign, Quark XPress and more, so whatever your preferred format, I’ll be able to use it. I’ve also done some event photography, including Waggy Walks 2009 (you can see some of the photos on Flickr).

As for the experience, I’ll happily muck in with anything; all I want to do is learn and be helpful! So whether it’s a nationwide event like Waggy Walks or a small local fete, I’m keen to get involved. And of course if you could just do with a hand with this and don’t need any design work, then that works too!

Here are some examples of things I’ve designed:

More examples can be provided as needed.

I’m not completely new to events in my professional life as I’ve done sales presentations and product demos at huge exhibitions like BETT and I also had the job of keeping photo and video records of any events held at 2Simple’s offices.

So, can I help your team? If so, please email me and I’ll get back to you asap.

*Not animation or Flash, though, sorry!

This week on BitchBuzz: simple recipes and women’s resources

And no, sexists among you, they’re not the same thing.

I’ve got a bit of a list of things to write about for BitchBuzz and haven’t had the time to do much of it.  I have made a start on a new post I hope to make quite a regular one, which is Simple Recipes for Anyone; basically, if you can’t make these then you should probably step away from the kitchen, never to return.

First up is shortcrust pastry, and in the schedule (but not live yet) is chocolate ganache icing. If you read this blog, you’ll actually already have seen the recipes for both of them… Given that the vast majority of people who come looking for this site are actually seeking buttercream icing, that’ll be next.

The women’s resources, on the other hand, are quite different and much more serious. The post is all about the Women’s Resource Centre and the wonderful things it does to support women’s organisations and lobby the Government.

Oh, and top of those I got in a quick piece about the Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair, which fellow design fans ought to enjoy as it happens over the next few weekends.

Next on the list:

  • Quick travel guide to Rome
  • A piece about a very talented UK baker who’s now launching her own business
  • A savoury recipe (I know!)
  • A post on a cute cupcake bakery (no, there can never be enough)

Just as soon as I have time to write them.

Dogs Trust Waggy Walks launched with help of Prettier Pixels

Waggy WalksJust over a month ago, a web designer called Alex sent us a message through his @prettierpixels company account on Twitter, offering to volunteer some time and help us build a WordPress blog. Somehow, five or six weeks later, we have a beautiful new website, Waggy Walks, promoting a big sponsored dog walk for Dogs Trust. I’ll be there, and am negotiating to have my husband on a collar and lead, so do go and visit the site to find out more / sign up to take part…

WaggyWalks was built on MicroSimple in the end – a new CMS being developed by Jamie Knight which is ridiculously easy to edit. This was helpful as there would be multiple non-web savvy users needing to add updates and the more straightforward the better.

Alex spent quite a few hours reconstructing the design from flyers another designer had produced, putting the site together, redirecting URLs, sorting out registration forms, setting up and testing emails, making last-minute changes to the original brief and getting it all working beautifully for us. He also found time to advise and help Jacqui and me as we re-built the website for the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (ICAWC).

We’re so grateful for Alex’s hard work and expertise, and would recommend Prettier Pixels for any design and development work (particularly using WordPress) that you need. He’s incredibly helpful and fitted all this into the day job. Although he volunteered his help this time, his rates are really reasonable considering the amount of effort and perfectionism he puts in.

Many thanks must go to Alex and also to Jamie for the use of MicroSimple. Now we’re just looking forward to seeing more and more people sign up for the Waggy Walks event. You don’t need to have a dog (if you check out my blog header you’ll notice I don’t!) and if you can’t come to any of the 10 nationwide events you can still take part by sponsoring the Mascot Dog, whose name, chosen by our online communities, will be announced shortly.

Ten Days of Disney: Pixar

Mike's New Car

Mike's New Car

The initial distribution and then acquisition of Pixar is one of the creative decisions I’ve admired the most from Disney. The digital animation pioneers have consistently turned out tightly scripted, smart, engaging movies that appeal to kids and adults alike and have done it all with groundbreaking artistry.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m quite the Apple fan (so sue me) and think that Pixar might be one of Steve Jobs’ best projects ever. I think the harshest criticism I’ve ever heard about a Pixar film was directed at Wall-E, which a friend described as a “two hour ident”. To which I say “so what?”. One of the best parts of going to watch a Pixar film in the cinema is the warm-up animation, starting with the bouncing, angle-poise lamp ident; why would I mind if the undeniable cute factor, warmth and humour of this is extended over two hours?

Oh, and the director’s commentary on short Mike’s New Car (on the DVD of Monsters Inc) is absolute comedy gold.

Day One: Howard Ashman & Alan Menken

Day Two: EPCOT

Day Three: Landscaping