SGE Travel Coach Tours reaches out to the Midlands from the Highlands

SGE Travel based in Dunoon has recently launched tours to the wild highlands of Scotland from the Midlands via Executive Coach Tours and offering a fantastic deal on their chain of wonderful hotels. We have developed, as part of an ongoing update for the group on their hotel websites, the new tour operator’s website. Available here, the new website also displays the new logos for SGE Hotels’ chain of hotels. Including a hefty element of picture research, illustrator and photoshop work alongside social network integration and a live help system, this site (and her soon to be launched sisters) are state-of-the-art.

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An e-commerce website for an architecturally-inspired book publisher

We have worked with Watermark Publications Ltd before, and this time we have created a site which comes closest to the publisher’s print design. Elegant, concise, visually appealing and above all readable. Using WP 3.0 we have made extensive use of a non-flash slideshow, the built-in thumbnail functionality, and a really nicely implemented e-commerce package. The latter is presently using Paypal as its merchant solution – with 220,000,000 users it has a pervasive presence in all the necessary markets.

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Our other development blog at Argyll Communities

During the last 6 months, ARBU has been engaged in one of the most complex installations of WPMU we have ever had the pleasure of working on. With a standing 40 websites already in place on the original Argyll Communities website and requirements for newsletters, community toolkits, external search engines, a portal-wide announcements engine and sundry other items, we had our work cut out for us. But throughout it has been an utter pleasure — not only because the AVA team are feedback positive and precise about what they require, but because the work has involved working with many of the individual communities which run sites through the Argyll Communities site. To gather more insight on the process, and how we have developed the project since November last year, visit the Development blog, here.

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Argyll and the Islands Leader

Out of our work on the Argyll Communities website for AVA, came the Argyll and the Islands Leader website. Ideally suited for WordPress, this project utilises post thumbnails, gallery slideshows, custom fields, some php applets within the theme itself, as well as some fairly thorough-going optimisation techniques for search engines and speed (a lot of which we have learned on The main challenge however was to create a sufficiently capable template to cater for the hundreds of projects Leader has funded while making them search engine friendly, both to Google et al. and using the internal WP search. The result we think is an excellent and accessible WordPress implementation which with ‘Thelonius’s’ fab auto-upgrade will stand the test of time.

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Clan Crests Released into the Wild

ARBU are releasing pdfs of clan crests which they have created via various projects over the years. At the moment only five are available, but we have another seven or eight in the depths of our archive. We love them for the animals and gaelic strangeness. No doubt when we’ve finished the established ones we’ll start making up fantasy ones just for kicks!

We’re slowly standardizing them for size and style and once they’re ready they’ll be posted here. Oh, and they’re free! And here’re two examples:


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A Small Ad

This is another artwork developing the graphic identity of the Kames Hotel. Using typeface from the A4 wedding brochure we designed last year, we’ve created a punchy, visually appealing Ad for the Scotsman on Sunday. As ever the photography is by the ever-creative Philippa Elliott, and shows elements of what the Kames has to offer (more personality per square foot than anywhere else on the West Coast).perfectdays

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Something Lairdly this way comes …

We have just finished design and writing the copy for the new A4 Presentation Folder for the project. This is the first version of what will become a series of souvenir presentation folders which existing lairds and ladies can purchase. To market this new development we have produced a ‘3D’ artwork for the website.


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Bring Your Heritage To Life! A Gorgeous Cover for the ABMHF

…. even if we say so ourselves. This project continues to intrigue and delight us here at Arbu, not only because the visual material we have been sent is so strong, but because of the variety of historical material these Museums and Heritage sites exhibit. When we were writing the back cover copy, something which I took particular pleasure in, we could draw upon the entirety of Scottish history for inspiration. The result was some of the bast marketing copy I have written for a while:

“Viking, Celt or Pict, Sassenach, Gael or Scot, Argyll & Bute‘s museums will bring your heritage to life.

“From bronze age man to the Picts and the Gaels, from the Spanish Armade thrugh the Clearances to the rise of the Victorian Industrialists, the museums and heritage sites in this guide, together create a stunning narrative of life in the region which spans its beautiful geography as much as its complex and ancient past.

“Learn about the lives of the ordinary folk as well as the clan chiefs, of the battles fought here as well as the peace lived, of the craft and artistry of the West Coast people as well as the harshness of some of their lives.

“This guide is designed to introduce you to the full breadth of Argyll and Bute’s heritage, and perhaps connect you with yours!

Now aside from writing superlative copy, one of our underplayed strengths, the branding and visuals have provided us with some challenges we have relished. For example, the original logo, works extremely well on its own, however in this context we needed to give the visitor a guide on what the Forum actually means and how it is trying to connect with its audience, hence the tag, “Bring your heritage to life!”. We wanted to subliminally empower the visitor, ask them to see these venues as being of value because of their, the visitor’s, attention. It also brings in the idea of folk tracing their genealogy, taking a positive role in constructing an historical narrative in which their family plays a part – after all what are we most interested in? Ourselves. And then there is also the idea that these 15 Great Museums create a really fantastic themed tour around Argyll, allowing the guide’s users to bring their heritage to life in a narrative of the actual journey to each of these venues.


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Branding the Hope MacDougall Collection

The work we have done for The Hidden Jewel Project has been so successful that we were asked by Dunollie to create a basic branding concept for the Hope MacDougall Collection which is about to move into a museum space in Oban. The logos were required for a multitude of applications, from creating merchandise such as t-shirts and mugs (and no doubt I’ll post the results here) to creating a sign for the museum. What was lovely was that we were given a very clear brief and were able to turn this around very very quickly.

Hope MacDougall Collection Logo Hope MacDougall Collection Museum

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A Bejewelled Debut at Spirit of the West

Finally the artwork is at the printers and the design project nearing completion (I am just sending off the poster pdf): the Hidden Jewel, as designed by us, will hit the streets on Saturday, or rather, the stands. If you attend Inveraray’s Spirit of the West family weekend, you’ll find the Dunollie House team selling tickets to July’s theatrical extravaganza.

We’re particularly pleased with the work we have done on this project, not because we have found ourselves an excellent printer in the form of CypherDigital, nor because we have been working with the delightful Catherine Gillies, but because the artwork looks really great. Often design happens in an instant, and this was the case here: the central device of the Dunollie Brooch combined with the play’s title was a gift. The rest flowed.

This is the first major treatment we have done which has been developed exclusively using illustration. No photos were used at all.  This gives the whole event a timeless quality, attempting to echo the practice of illumination rather than structuring the artwork around fashionable design trophes. And indeed this is entirely applicable, when one considers that the production covers a period before the printing press, books and modern design.