Hello Trees children's books

The 'Hello Trees' series is crafted to welcome new learners aged 4-7 to the world of reading - by getting them into the world outside! These easy-to-carry books were written by experts in both British tree species and in education to provide teachers, parents and any other adventuring companions with a tool to support learning both inside and outside the classroom. Trees make a fantastic starting point for activities in a wide range of subjects, from learning about biology using the botanical illustrations inside, to creating their own  artworks in the style of Andy Goldsworthy.    The books and lesson plans are already being used across the country. Brambleside Primary School in Kettering used the Hello Trees books to promote science learning. Evelyn Clawson, Eco and Science coordinator at Brambleside, is trialling the Hello Trees Plant Science Lesson Plans for KS1 Y1.‘The children find the books exciting’, Evelyn says. ‘Learning to identify trees using these child friendly storybooks becomes fun and memorable. Well illustrated, fact filled and memorable.’  The author, Kate Bretherton says "the first thing almost every teacher says is ‘Good font’ - getting the right font for educational purposes was one of the reasons I came to ODI for the design. You are known as the experts in education design and illustration. Also, ODI gave the books the look that shouted ‘young children’ and ‘clear, accurate information’, just who the books are for and what they contain."  The books are available to collect individually if you would like to try them out with the species in your playground or garden, or are available in complete 'Explorer' and 'Classroom' packs for bigger adventures. For more information or to make a purchase, please visit the Hello Trees website.​

Johnston Goes Overground

ODI’s origins go back to 1968. Back then, despite the typeface being over 50 years old, ‘Johnston’ could not have been chosen as the company font. It was under license to London Transport. More familiar to Londoners than any other typeface, and famous amongst graphic designers, but otherwise it was not seen outside the London Underground for which it was commissioned. Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Eiichi Kono, the Japanese type designer, the man who can be said to have saved a unique part of London’s heritage for the nation. Working for the Banks & Miles design company in 1979, it was more by chance than design that he had the opportunity. The company had been given the job by London Transport of updating Edward Johnston’s original 1916 alphabet and the task was presented to Kono on his first day at work. A lucky break for him, and for us. A stroke of unexpected fortune too, for Edward Johnston, when in 1913 he was asked by Frank Pick to create a new typeface for the Underground Electric Railways of London which would “belong unmistakably to the times in which we live”. Pick, in charge of publicity and commercial matters, saw the need to unify the growing Underground’s lettering styles and separate it from the plethora of advertising. Pick wanted a sans serif typeface of “bold simplicity”. Originally called the Standard Alphabet – it was the first new block letter of modern times. Johnston was a calligrapher but had no experience in type design. Picking up the mantle from William Morris’s efforts to revive the craft, Johnston had shown his early calligraphy to William Lethaby hoping he would agree to taking him on as a student on a new course of lettering and illuminating at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Lethaby said ‘no’ to accepting him as a student – instead he offered him the job of teacher, which he began in 1899. Johnston, and his student Eric Gill, moved to Hammersmith in 1905. Through its association with Morris, Emery walker and the Doves Press, the area was recognized as the centre of the Arts and Crafts movement. They were steeped in the philosophy of creating hand-crafted work in preference to the slavery of mass production. In 1906 Johnston’s manual ‘Writing & illuminating & Lettering’ confirmed him as the greatest calligrapher of his time. By 1913, he and Gill had moved again, to Ditchling in Sussex, where Gill formed a community of craftspeople. Their insistence was on seeing the ‘artist as workman’. Johnston taught and worked among craftsmen, not as a designer of mass-produced typefaces for the printing industry. So when he (and Gill, who soon dropped out) began working on the design, for what became Johnston Sans, Johnston had to learn quickly. But those arts and crafts ideals of ‘fitness for purpose’ and the scribes aim – ‘the making of useful things legibly beautiful’, seemed equally relevant to the task and very ‘modern’. His writing style eschewed unnecessary ornamentation. His emphasis was on plain lettering, proportions and legibility. Letterforms should result directly from the tools used, be it the pen, the quill or the chisel. His Foundation Hand letters appeared to form naturally from being written with a broad edged pen. The tools used now for the Underground letter were a compass and straight edge, but they produced letters that were far from purely mechanical (as the later German typefaces were), drawing as they were on the knowledge of Roman capitals. In the days of hot metal, other sans serif typefaces, most noticeably Gill Sans, Granby and Franklin had already supplemented Johnston, either because the numerous printers didn’t all hold the face or the material required different sizes or weights. By 1979, the use of Johnston Sans in the Underground system was far from consistent. One idea put forward was to abandon Johnston altogether. Fortunately, not before Eiichi Kono offered his alternative, a thorough revising of the original. He proposed a new weight, ‘Medium’ to sit between the Regular and the Bold. And a redrawing of every letter, sometimes with subtle, sometimes with more obvious changes such as to the lower case ‘g’ and to the number ‘1’ which added a flick. What didn’t change, thank goodness, were the diamond tittles on the ‘i’ and ‘j’ and in the punctuation. If anything makes Johnston different to other sans faces at a glance it is these. Why diamonds? Johnston was famous for promoting the broad edged pen stroke. Holding the nib at a 45 degree angle naturally produces that shape dot. Here is Johnston reminding us, in a clever way, of his calligraphic background. New Johnston, as it was now called, ended up as nine fonts in three weights, plus a later ‘Book’ version for setting body text. It wasn’t till the late 1990s that Johnston’s Underground alphabet was finally authorized for use outside London Transport. Blinking into the sunlight it finally went Overground. And now it’s the ODI company font.​

The Company Logo and the Power of 'Oxford'

Many years ago I was on holiday in Italy. I commended the hotel waiter on his command of English. He said he went to night-school after work each week. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked. When I replied ‘Oxford’, he dropped on to one knee and bowed his head in mock genuflection. Not the sort of response I am used to, at least not in a crowded restaurant.The fact is that the word ‘Oxford’ is a powerful one. Without any more information to back it up, it suggests… well, what do you think it suggests? Quality. I explained to the waiter that I wasn’t a professor, just a designer who happens to live in Oxford. But our company did design books for teaching English.Many of those books have been for Oxford University Press. It’s notable that it just says ‘Oxford’ on their covers. No more of an identifier than that. The place and the publisher have become one. This is the power of ‘Oxford’ to sell services, whether you are a publisher, or a plumber.Or an illustration company. When Oxford Illustrators was formed in 1968, they adopted the Radcliffe Camera for their first logo.Radcliffe Camera Designed by James Gibbs and finished in 1749 the classical domed building houses the Radcliffe Science Library and is one of Oxford’s most distinctive architectural icons.Although the company had no direct connection with the University, it was a clever move to link them to the University ‘brand’. And it was appropriate – after all most work in the early years was for scientific, medical and technical illustrations.In 1976, a sister company, ‘Oxprint’, was formed. This made three sibling companies as there was also ‘Oxford Illustrated Press’, a small publishing business which also acted as a production company for publishers.The Oxprint logo had no image – it was just the name in Goudy Handtooled. Letrasetted in, what was for the time, a trendy lower case it was also meant to lend an air of traditional class to what was a brand new company. It suggested ‘publishing’ rather than ‘graphic design’.The Oxprint logo Unfortunately, the name ‘Oxprint’ also suggested printing which wasn’t a core part of the business. As a result, the name later changed to ‘Oxprint Design’. By then, the company was keen to expand out of publishing to embrace commercial graphic design, and the new type design reflected that.With the move from drawing boards to computers, the Radcliffe Camera logo took on a new ‘3D computer graphics’ design, in the form of an exploded diagram. 3D Radcliffe Camera Oxford Illustrated Press had already been sold, so it was just the two companies that formed the new Oxford Designers & Illustrators in 1998.The new design adapted the Radcliffe Camera again and brought these two together in a very simple typographic solution using the Optima previously used by Oxprint. These were two mature, experienced companies with a loyal customer base that wanted to reflect that with a quiet sophistication. The Oxprint Design logo Now, since 2013, the current logo ‘swirl’ uses New Johnston ITC as the company font. Designed originally by Edward Johnston for the London Underground system and first used in 1916, versions of this have only became available for commercial use relatively recently. Johnston, the supreme calligrapher of his age and steeped in arts and crafts philosophy, created one of the greatest and most long-lasting corporate identities in the world.Oxford Designers & Illustrators logo Why is this an appropriate typeface for ODI? As specialists in designing for young children, they need to use educational letterforms. Letters such as the lower case ‘l’ need to be distinguished from the capital ‘I’ and ‘1’. Johnston had his own reasons for requiring the legibility of letters – they had to be read in dark spaces and at speed.  The fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the company is a cause for celebration and the start of the next chapter in their history – with this new identity. They say that ‘knowledge is power’. Through their design and artwork, ODI will continue to help empower children (and waiters in Italian hotels). Oxford Designers & Illustrators Gold Edition 2018 logo

ODI is 50 years old and employee-owned!

The company originally began life as Oxford Illustrators back in 1968. A sister company, Oxprint, followed in 1974 to provide design and typesetting services to accompany the illustration work. This meant that the two companies together could provide a total package for their clients’ book production – just as ODI still does today. After various other organisational changes, the two companies eventually became fully incorporated as Oxford Designers & Illustrators Ltd in 1998. Fifteen years later in 2013,  all but one of the existing directors retired and a new General Manager was appointed from among the staff. It was decided that there should be a different approach for the company in the future. As newer recruits gradually joined the company, they brought in new ideas and there were discussions about the benefits of employee owned companies – this seemed like something that could work for ODI. The model we chose is 'indirect employee ownership', which is widely known for being the company structure used by the John Lewis Partnership. Put simply, it means that instead of any individual(s) owning shares in the company, all of the shares are held in a trust, to be run for the benefit of the company and the people working there at any given time. Trustees are appointed to oversee the running of the trust, normally one from management, one nominated from the staff, plus an external person. One of the benefits of becoming employee owned is that staff can have more say in the running of the business, so there will be regular meetings where we have the opportunity to comment on matters affecting the way things are being done. The management and trustees will also keep staff apprised of the company’s financial outlook; when the company is in the financial position to do so, there may be dividends and/or bonuses paid, so it is in everyone’s interest for the company to do well! As our General Manager Roger Noel explained in the Employee Ownership Association's article, "In an industry where it is difficult to predict the work, the move to becoming employee owned has made us more sustainable for the future and provides a more formal structure for staff to feel more involved in the running of the company." "We also feel it makes our business more attractive when recruiting and it has had a really positive reaction from two people who recently joined the business. There is more transparency now so the employees can see where we are financially, and that when we are struggling there will be no additional reward – but that in the future as we continue to work together we can work towards being able to share in the rewards." It has taken ODI a long while to get to this point, but the general feeling about this change is very positive, and we are optimistic that this is the right direction for us. Here’s to the next 50 years of great work from ODI! You can find out more about the different models and about EO businesses in general from the Employee Ownership Association, who have been very helpful and an invaluable source of advice and support throughout the transition process.  John-Paul Clough, ODI Production Manager​

The Angry Farmer

We are pleased to feature the delightful children’s book ’The Elephant and the Angry Farmer.’ This book is the first in an ongoing series based on the stories the author, Edward Bernard, told his eleven grandchildren when they were young. It follows the trials and tribulations of an increasingly perplexed farmer as he tries to find out who is responsible for the destruction on his farm. We follow the farmer and his trusty sheepdog on a romp through the farm and ruined flower beds, investigating a trail of mysteriously large footprints and comically large piles of poo! A keen-eyed child might be able to spot a tail or a foot peeking out from the undergrowth, something that adds an extra element of fun to the story. We have enjoyed working with Edward and the talented artist Jan Lewis to see his characters brought to life in this colourful and charming short story. All the proceeds of this book went to the Oxford Children’s Charity.​

Kidlington Centre Frontage

ODI was approached by The Kidlington Centre, enquiring whether we could help them with creating some graphics and artwork for the front of the shopping centre

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