Blogging from The Big Chair

We’re working with leading Scottish hypnotherapist Kate McEwen at the moment on her new hypnotherapy blog, Kate’s Big Chair. It is an interesting project as the idea is to get Kate blogging, which she is on a daily basis, and then as she explores the paradigm, to add layers of complexity to the project.

We’ve set up the site with the default theme, no SEO extras, no stats package, just a name and version 2.6.5 of WP. What the project is doing at the moment is highlighting the necessity of good quality writing which Kate really can do. There’s a great post on drinking water and habits, as well as the beauty of exercise.

The Yachties Strike Back

The sequel to Making the Most of Small Spaces … This ad looks at the Kames Hotel’s traditional strength – its location. Sailing has always been a mainstay of the business and this piece will go into Welcome Anchorages, a publication funded by the Crown Estate for those sailing around the West Coast of Scotland. The glorious photo was taken by Philippa Elliott, one of the proprietors of the hotel, one sunny summer day bouncing around in a rib within sight of the hotel. As she says, they were going so fast she couldn’t take photos in raw format and had to resort to jpeg. No problems here given the 131mm x 88mm dimension.

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Bagpipes for Generation iPod

In piping circles one of the biggest challenges to travelling abroad is transporting the instrument. Unfortunately, because pipes are made of wood, hemp and other variable material, the changes in air pressure and moisture mean that on landing in distant parts the whole thing has to be re-fettled (or fettled or something …), otherwise it’ll play out of tune. Robin Beck of Cowal Bagpipes has produced a (truly beautiful) small Scottish Bagpipe which does not need to be re-fettled on arrival in said distant part. The reason? Because, like the latest MacBook Pro, the instrument is made of Aluminium, solid blocks of it. It is a truly beautiful object (more so than the Mac I’ll venture, because it is made by hand and is so shiny). Here’s a picture to prove it:

Even more gorgeous than the MacBook Pro

And why, you might ask, are we talking about bagpipes on this design site? Ah well, we have just produced the CowalBagpipes.com website, selling, not only the aluminium Small Scottish Bagpipe, but the innovative Beck Valve and sundry other piping accessories. Here’s the grab showing the conventional version of the pipes made of blackwood (the type that needs re-fettling):

Using the Kiwi wp-ecommerce to drive the cart

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RSS Aggregation in WordPress

Splogging or Spagging or Blamming?! Not sure of the right term evidently, but I mean those ‘blogs‘ which take RSS feeds from others’ blogs and reproduce content verbatim in order to make an income from the traffic gathered therefrom. There ain’t no excuse for such laziness eh? We should be looking at banning such practices surely … ?

Well, there are times when it is justified, for example when a blogger has several blogs, in different contexts and wants to draw them together to create an über-feed. I have just done this. At charles.dixon-spain.com I have collected all the feeds from the various blogs I run or contribute to, as well as added my Twitter, Facebook and (eventually) Flickr accounts, and have created such a feed.

I am not sure whether this will be interesting or not, but I am feeling relieved that somewhere there’ll be a comprehensive listing of my output (which is not inconsiderable).

There’s a codisel to this though. The likes of google.com will positively discriminate against splogs, spags or blams and this discrimination may leak into their listing of the original site. Why? Well sometimes it may be difficult to work out which is the original story given the technical expertise of the blammers. I’m not sure on this one really, so while I research this issue I’m not going to let search engines know about the site.

Here’s the über-feed, go on! Subscribe, do!

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A Perfect Day …

A perfect brochure for a perfect day. A4 format with inserts. Photographs by Philippa Elliott. Weddings. A beach. Wellies. An apotheosis of design to rank with that for the original brochure ordinaire. And by ordinaire I mean for the ordinary stay rather than ordinary design. The two brochures we’ve produced for the Kames Hotel are the epitome of how we design for print: clear, textured, edited and aboveall, visually arresting (tho it does help to have such great photography). Not for nothing are we considered the premier design bureau in Argyll.

Some of the pictures are repeated from the ordinary brochure

Watermill WordPress Theme

We’re presently working on a website for B&B / Self-catering establishment ‘The Watermill‘ and we’ve used WordPress as our platform of choice. The theme uses some random number generation in the header to bring up one of a selection of twenty photos (rather like the Kames Hotel), as well as some nifty css (styled for Mac-only at the moment) to create a SEO header. With some customised calls to ‘wp_list_pages’ and a layout which, while based on Kubrick, utilises only the ‘widecolumn’ class the project is finally coming into sharp focus.

All the photography is ours as well, and lacking a wide-angle lens we decided a multiple stitched photoshop doc would be as good, and actually turned out better than spending four hundred quid on a Canon lens. Now, onto the copywriting.

Ye Olde Mappes o’ Comgall an’ Dunomhainn

Scoular Anderson’s illustrated maps of Cowal and Dunoon (Gaelic in the title) have been used by various bodies over the last few years as introductions to the peninsula and its main town. As a designer I have been itching to get my hands on them for a while, and with AFC2 my chance came. We had a lot of fun with them, particularly Scoular’s sketches of the chef and the artist (central to ArtsFeastCowal2).

Suffice to say alot of photoshop work went into both ensuring the main AFC objectives were fulfilled and the new branding sat well with the maps themselves. We used illustrator to finish the maps off (and Google Maps to check the locations of all the exhibitors, a map we are using on the site to further promote the participants), although that was an intensive process, given the 30+ exhibitors and listees. Anyway, here they are:

ArtsFeastCowal Brochure Cover

And if you’d like to download the pdfs they are here: CowalDunoon.


(Yep, we coined it here right now – it’s ours and we now have to justify the term with a relevant, hard-hitting blog entry about the blogging, twittering, twitching classes who aim to do business while blogging indiscretely (albeit anonymously sometimes) about their activities).


(Inspiration is sometimes a little hard to find. Of course I could choose to blog on Steve Jobs’ coming keynote, or a Guardian tweeter calling for twitter.com to be a paid for service (please, most respectfully, be quiet), or my latest greatest WP implementation and theme for a photographer.)


(Then of course there’s Ofcom, broadband and the great rural/urban divide and the ongoing disinforming stuff about how the major economic benefit is having any-slow-broadband rather than superfast-broadband – and the case for the latter is not proven. Two words: South Korea).

No, I am working all day on one project which needs finishing so I shall, just record the post title and do nothing else. Obviously all rights are reserved on ‘BigBlogBizBuzz’ and apologies rendered to Dr. Seuss and his publishers.


The second year and a significant change in the branding, but not in the philosophy of an event which had a significant social and economic impact last time around. This year the brief was to update the branding into something which would bring this premier Cowal-based event into the 21st century, using what are regarded as the local colours (blue and green) and give them a twist by retaining the idea of the red dot. The result is (we think) stunning – the website to ArtsFeastCowal is here.

The new look for a new year

So long and thanks for all the fish …

… especially this Salmon curled upon a restaurant seat from the Kames Hotel taken by proprietor Philippa Elliot. In fact all the photographs used on this brochure were taken by Philippa, and represent a superbly original take on what would normally be considered a journeyman project and has resulted (we think) in a really superb product. These photos are in part exhibited in the hotel (and can be purchased from there).

So long and thanks for all the fish

Inside is an Aladdin\'s cave of pictorial and typographical delight.