Monthly Archives: March 2013

Question: How do you engage delegates at a busy trade show to take an interest in your brand? Answer: Frame your sales tactic in a way where ‘the rules of engagement’ are already understood.

VisitBrighton asked us to “turn their stand on its head” for ConFex 2013 (a trade show for events organisers). The challenge: engaging delegates in conversation. Our solution was simple – we created the ‘Brighton Conference Supplies Store’.

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An eager trade show delegate takes a helping of free Pick ‘n’ Mix

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We illustrated a tree with the sights and sounds of Brighton hanging from the branches

We stocked the shelves with a range of humorous spoof products, designed to get conversations started. Everyone knows the rules of shopping. 1. You browse. 2. You show an interest in a product. 3. The shop assistant now has permission to talk to you. Products ‘on sale’ included Regency Regency Sauce, Chunky Keynote Chutney, Gloriously Nutty Networking Cookies, Extra Virgin Conference Oil and a whole range of fun spoof products.

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Extra Virgin Conference Oil

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Prince Regent Plonk

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Gloriously Nutty Networking Cookies

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Break-out Session Beer

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Chunky Keynote Chutney

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Sparkling Organic Sea-Cider

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Ahem, ‘Regency Regency Sauce’ (with apologies to Dragon Jones)

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A can of sea breeze, fresh from the beach

The ‘shop assistants’ were from VisitBrighton. Our solution made it easy for them to start conversations.


A warm welcome from one of the ‘shop assistants’ on the day

To create buzz, we mailed out empty Pick ‘n’ Mix bags to delegates and invited them to come and fill the bag on the stand. Judging by the speed the Pick ‘n’ Mix was disappeared, the idea was a success.

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Free Pick ‘n’ Mix!

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And here is a very nice email from the client saying how happy she is with the project…

Dear Chris, Simon and Miles

Just a quick note to thank you all for all your creativity, commitment, flexibility and artistic-ness (is that a word??) in working together to create the VisitBrighton stand at Confex – we couldn’t have worked with a more delightful team!
The stand was super-busy; the concept certainly drew a huge amount of interest, stimulating some great conversations. For once the fabric of the stand really reflected the identity of the City! Thank you so much for grasping our brief so well and really delivering a fabulous end product. Thank you again for all your help – it’s a real pleasure working with you all.



You’ve probably heard about Google’s 20% time (it almost seems like old news now). Well, my studio has its own humble version of ‘20% time’, we call it ‘A-level projects time’ Bit of a weird name, especially as none of us at Harrison & Co are 17 or sitting A-levels.

The name was inspired by the artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, who famously completed an art A-level a few years ago. This was long after they were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003 and already very established artists in their own right. I love that kind of backwards thinking. I can’t find any links to this story on the interwebs, so you’re just going to have to trust me.

Our ‘A-level projects’ aren’t meant to be perfect, or good-looking, or trendy, or cool, or ground-breaking, or award-winning, or hipster-blog-friendly. We do them for fun. There are no rules about style, medium or what subject we choose – the only (very loose) rule is that you have at least one A-level project on the go, and if it’s a bit quiet in the studio, it’s something you can turn to for a bit of fun. A bit of no-strings-attached creativity.

Thought I’d share a few of our A-level projects that are on the boil in the studio at the moment. This first one is all about found typography, usually spotted in the street. This is the progress so far. Shaping up nicely, might use it in a project soon. Again, not meant to be stylish, hip, cool and certainly not done to impress anyone – just the pure pleasure of finding and looking.

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Letters found in the street, snapped on an iPhone and made into a bitmap

This next one is a bit weird. If you live in Brighton you’re almost certainly familiar with Iydea, the veggie cafe on Kensington Gardens. Last year I decided it was time to start getting fit and eating better. I discovered Idyea and started to go pretty much every lunchtime. Their food is amazing – wholesome and colourful. I kept looking down at the empty tray after I’d finished and would see these amazing colours and textures. Then the inevitable happened: I started to photograph them on my iPhone. I bought some coloured paper and started religiously shooting each empty tray after I’d finished. The owner of Idyea found the images I’d been making on Facebook and asked if he could frame one for the cafe.

25 empty Idyea takeaway food trays

25 empty Idyea takeaway food trays

Next is a lovely little illustration project that one of my designers, Scott, has been tinkering with: kind of illuminated letters intricately illustrated with quirky motifs. The lovely thing about this is the hidden message that lies within each piece, if you are eagle-eyed enough to spot it.

A-Z by Scott with added hidden message

A-Z by Scott with added hidden message

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Scott’s little dalliance with illuminated letters went on to become our Christmas gift to our clients in 2012. Scott illustrated a globe with the words ‘Peace on Earth’ intertwined into the image. We made a short run of 50 signed giclée prints and sent them out to our clients. The response was great, with several clients framing the prints for their homes and offices.

'Peace on Earth' our limited edition giclée print that we gave to our clients for Christmas 2012

‘Peace on Earth’ our limited edition giclée print that we gave to our clients for Christmas 2012

My next A-level project is all about gaffer tape. I love the stuff and it’s a return to something that I’ve already played with before. The possibilities are endless. For me this next piece of work will lead up to an Open House exhibition in May which is part of Brighton Festival. Pop down and say hello if you are free.

Gaffer tape, the possibilities are endless!

Gaffer tape, the possibilities are endless!

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Our branding for English PEN applied to a jute bag

I’m drawn to design with ‘soul’, and for me, hand drawn lettering = soul. Two designers I admire who work, almost exclusively, with hand lettering in different ways are James Victore and Marian Bantjes. Victore uses it to provoke, Bantjes to illuminate. I used my own hand lettering to rebrand VisitBrighton and the writers charity English PEN. They both took a few hundred attempts and lots of cutting, pasting and matching the right letterforms to reach the final solution. The end result, a sense of freedom and independence that a font can never really achieve, in my opinion.

A photograph I shot on our studio balcony for a brand look book

A photograph I shot on our studio balcony for a brand look book

My photography mates will not thank me for saying this… but graphic designers can often make pretty good photographers – so try shooting your own project photography. It will improve your thinking, rationale and the originality of your final solution. I often set up simple shoots for small budget projects – sometimes using available light or portable studio lights. If you know you’ll need to commission a full-on shoot, involve the photographer early on – they’ll take your ideas and really  make them sing if they are involved and part of the process.

The future belongs to designers who like to get their hands dirty

The future belongs to designers who like to get their hands dirty

I encourage designers to start with a blank sheet of paper and turn off the Mac. Free from the distractions of the internet, Photoshop or fonts, sketch out your ideas unedited and raw. Artistic ability is irrelevant. If your client is an Orchestra, go and listen to them in concert. As Bob Gill says, “Don’t sit at your computer, waiting for lightening to strike”. It won’t.

Inky trousers courtesy of Anand.

Back in December, Laura Snoad asked me to write a piece for Digital Arts magazine on ‘failure’. Here it is…


Failure. How to fail better. It’s always confused me to be honest, this statement. I’m sure Samuel Beckett meant well when he had this flash of inspiration, but I bet quite a few people (me included) have scratched their heads and thought… “eh?! why would anyone want to fail, let along ‘fail better’?” So, have I ever failed before? Yes. Have I ‘failed better’ since? Not consciously.

For me, failure is less about the end result and more about the very beginnings of a project. Sometimes, I’ll try and set myself up for failure at the start of a project. What do I mean by that? For me it means being OK with following an idea, even though I can’t really see the end result in my minds eye. Potentially an idea that might meet with failure, after days of work. When you have a paying client waiting for a result, that’s quite a hard thing to stick to. No one wants to fail on a paying job – so sometimes we ease back into the comfort of ideas that we know will work in the end – rather than indulging in ideas that might end up in the long grass.

How do I navigate away from the comfort of an idea that I know will succeed and pursue an idea that could fail? I just keep scratching. When I think about creativity I think of it as an itch that always needs a scratch. I think you have to keep moving towards the ideas that might not work, and keep scratching unlit they start to yield something interesting. So, you could also look at that another way – taking the long road. The comfort of ideas that we know will work don’t take that long to come to fruition. The other approach takes time, and that isn’t a luxury we can all enjoy.

So, to sum up – failure is about:
– setting yourself up for failure at first in order to succeed in the end
– resisting the comfort of an idea that ‘you know will work’ and getting cosy with ‘an idea that might come to naught’
– creating the time and space that it takes to ‘fail’, which means buckling in and knowing that this might be a long ride
– knowing the difference between a project that ‘deserves a bit of failure’ and one that ‘just needs to succeed’

Harrison & Co celebrated its 10th anniversary a few weeks ago. Neil Bennett, editor of Digital Arts magazine, saw a tweet about our 10th birthday and asked me if I would like to write a piece for his magazine on what I’ve learned over the last decade. Here it is…

DA article LZ

The article as it appeared in Digital Arts magazine

Ten years ago, Chris Harrison left the safe confines of a London firm to set up his own design agency in Brighton. Here’s what he’s learned over the past decade.

Working with talented designers
Over the last 10 years, the highest highs have always been linked to producing a great piece of work as a team. It sounds corny, but I get a much bigger kick out of seeing another designer at Harrison & Co hitting the mark with an idea, than if I had done it myself. Not everyone who sets up their own studio goes on to employ a team – but if you do it can be, by far, one of the most rewarding things you do.

Great clients
I’m lucky Harrison & Co have attracted some really good clients. One of those is William Norris, Communications Director at Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. It didn’t happen overnight, but after several years of working together, we now do our most compelling work for Will and the OAE. He trusts creativity and he understands the value it brings to a brand. Our best work of the last 10 years has been a collaboration between us, the OAE and the arts photographer Eric Richmond. You can’t do good design without good clients.

Branding Brighton
An opportunity came up to rebrand VisitBrighton (the council operated tourism arm). I put forward some credentials for the tender – our bid was rejected, point blank. The feedback – our work wasn’t ‘bold enough’. I knew the project was right for Harrison & Co, so I put together a second proposal, which the client hadn’t asked for and wasn’t expecting. I ditched the ‘proposal speak’ and made an impassioned, and personal, 10 point pitch about why we were right for the project. We won the tender. It’s one of my favourite rebrands that we have done to date. If you really want something, don’t be shy about going after it.

Mrs Harrison
I was having some wobbles 10 years ago about leaving behind the security of a Creative Directors salary at a good London agency (with posh sofas), to set up Harrison & Co (from a dusty sofa) in Brighton. My wife gave me the nudge (shove) I needed to take the leap. She has played a really important role in the last 10 years. She’s honest about the ideas we produce. She is my common sense mentor for business decisions. She also writes some mean copy. The last 10 years wouldn’t have happened without her. Thanks Tash.

About 7 years ago I was waiting for a train at Farringdon. On the platform I spotted Rod Petrie, one of the original founders of Design Bridge, (the London based branding agency) and I went over and said hello. Rod had interviewed me for a job in 1991 (although he didn’t remember it!). To cut a long story short, Rod, now an independent coach, agreed to mentor me in those early years of Harrison & Co. It made an enormous difference to me and the business. Serendipity has played a huge part of the last 10 years. You can make plans until the cows come home, but you can’t top lady luck showing up.