Category Archives: design news

The changing face of book design

Publishing in the UK is developing rapidly and so it is vital that our workforce develops too. As digital innovation continues to drive growth and as publishers gain access to increasing amounts of data, the skills required are changing and new job functions and departments are springing up across all forms of publishing.

(snippet from The London Book Fair website)



Modern book design dates back to the early 1890s and William Morris’s Kelmscott Press. The books were expensive but beautiful. Morris designed his own typefaces, made his own paper and printed the books by hand. They were designed to be read slowly, to be appreciated and treasured, making an implicit statement about the ideal relationships between reader, text and author.

A century later and the next invention to change the design world so dramatically was the Macintosh computer. Introduced in 1983 it was the first mass market computer specifically made with the creative person in mind. With its graphical user interface, integrated graphics software (MacWrite & MacPaint) and postscript fonts they allowed a designer to not only typeset copy but to lay out pages ready for print, marking the end of Exacto knives, hot wax and galley type. HL Studios was there from these early beginnings and is proud to be amongst the first UK studios to use them as standard.

As the internet evolved from the early 1990’s increased speed and bandwidth has given designers a whole new media platform to create for. The bulk of a professional designer’s work is now either for the web or application UI elements, all of which will be viewed and experienced through a variety of media devices giving designers ever more creative opportunities.

For the millions of people browsing bookshops and websites today in search of the perfect read and the years of research into design and emotional response, the age old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has never been so irrelevant!


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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in design news


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Spritz reading

A new mobile app will be loaded onto the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 and Gear 2 smart watches. The aim is to increase your reading speed up to 1,000 words-per-minute by flashing the words at you one at a time. 

Picture 1

Reading basics

Traditional reading involves publishing text in lines and moving your eyes sequentially from word to word. For each word, the eye seeks a certain point within the word (Optimal Recognition Point or ORP), after your eyes find the ORP, your brain starts to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing. With each new word your eyes move and then seek out the ORP for that word. Once the ORP is found, processing the word for meaning and context occurs and your eyes move to the next word. When your eyes encounter punctuation within and between sentences your brain is prompted to assemble all of the words that you have read and processes them into a coherent thought. When reading only around 20% of your time is spent processing content the remaining 80% is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word and scanning for the next ORP.

Where Spritz claims to be different

“Spritzing can be learned in less than 5 minutes and, if you don’t spritz for a month, no practice is needed to return to your previous speed. From the fonts used to the algorithms that process content, Spritz is designed to empower effective reading on a small display area. Removing the eye movement associated with traditional reading methods not only reduces the number of times your eyes move, but also decreases the number of times your eyes pass over words for your brain to understand them.”

We’ve tried the online version in the HL Studios office and whilst it’s definitely fun to use as a test, is it really a viable alternative to traditional reading?

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in design news


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World Book Day 6th March 2014



If you work in publishing, or you have children, you cannot miss the fact that today is World Book Day!

With events all over the country in bookshops, schools & libraries World Book Day is big news!

As an avid reader and lover of all things book, it surprises and saddens me how many people do not read for pleasure and Oxford University Press’s Books Beyond Bedtime report highlights this fact.

It revealed that many parents stop reading with their children from the age of 7 – when experts believe that just 10 minutes a day can make a dramatic difference to their educational attainment.

With Reading for Pleasure at the heart of the new National Curriculum introduced this term, this nationwide research involving nearly 1000 parents and school children aged 6 – 11  found 44% of 7-year-olds are rarely or never read to at home. This is despite the fact that nearly half of ‘reluctant readers’ of this age said they would enjoy reading more if their parents read with them.

According to Unesco (the United Nations agency which promotes knowledge), the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure. Young people who read outside of class are 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age.

So if your not in fancy dress today, or taking part in a promotional activity, why don’t you make a nice hot drink and curl up with a good book?!

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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in design news, illustration news


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Creation Requires Inspiration!


‘Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity’

We’re a creative bunch here at HL Studios, and for today’s blog post, we thought it best to give you an insight into what inspires us on a daily basis when it comes to our work…with a twist.

Each set of images has been chosen by one of our members of staff, see if you can guess who’s is who’s. The images are linked back to the HL Studios ‘about us’ page.

This person chose artists that fall into a realm of what can only be described as ‘prog modern fantasy’ as their inspiration, in their words…”M C Escher, Chris Foss (wow!), Roger Dean, Theo Aartsma (Big wow!).”


This member of staff is clearly inspired by more traditional high fantasy artists, they have chosen Eyvind Earle, Hidemi Kubo, Brian Froud and John William Waterhouse.


Next up is a creative who finds joy in the bold and the brave, in their words “My inspiration comes from the flow and form found in design. I admire structured design, especially corporate identity. My influences are: Designers Republic, Banksy, Phillippe Starck and the wonderful world that is deviantart”.


Our next entry is from someone who takes their inspiration from the wonderful world of media as a whole…”design to me is the colors and shapes used in graphic effects for tv, web and print”.


The next entry has rather a lot of inspiration, they have listed them all here…”Sin City, 300 and graphic novel style art – not that awful manga sh*t. Coraline, Nightmare before Christmas, Morph and anything animated with models. Mexican Day of the dead celebrations and paraphernalia (am I sounding like a serial killer yet…?!).
Packaging. I’m an absolute sucker for great packaging design. Mobile phone boxes, the little hole in Maltesers boxes, Cadbury’s egg n spoon desserts, Mikado sticks… am guessing I should add food here… FOOOOOD!
The English countryside & the seasons. Photography and photo manipulation apps, take my phone everywhere and take pics of everything. And oooh I love a good sign as well…”.


Our last entry draws their inspiration from both modern and vintage forms of artwork, their list includes Lucian Freud, vintage movie posters and books from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the clean cut designs we find on the world wide web.


We hope you have enjoyed looking at our inspirations as much as we have enjoyed collating them!

How many did you guess right…?!

Love, the HL Studios Creative Team.

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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in design news


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Tips on writing the perfect Creative Brief

A brief should describe and communicate your ideas and intentions clearly.

Information should never be conflicting or contradictory.

Always include a page size, or an artwork size if it is an illustration brief.

If there is a preferred colour palette, font and size, stroke width in mind then please state this!

Remember that things are always open to interpretation.

Sometimes it is handy to state what you DON’T want, it’s just as important as what you DO want.

If you can provide photos, or a sketch to help explain your brief then do so.

A description of the target market: age, sex, race, religion…anything to guide the creative.

If you are handwriting the brief then please make sure the writing is legible.

Here is an example of a really nice clear illustrative brief, followed by the artwork which was produced from it:





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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in design news


Our 10 Best Illustrations of 2013

Presenting a list of the 10 illustrations we are most proud of from the past 12 months…

ScholasticAlice in Wonderland Smoking Caterpillar


This is a fun artwork that was drawn for a series of books comissioned by Scholastic. It included many other characters from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and also ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, but this was by far our favourite!

RaintreeDinosaur Infographic


When we first saw the brief for this infographic we initially thought ‘thats a lot of dino for one artwork!’, but they were so great to draw that when it was finished we ended up quite liking it, however busy it may look!

RaintreeDiagram of a Collision


This is an excellent example of some of the more technical artwork we create here at HL Studios. Another job from Raintree, this artwork shows an aerial view of a motorway collision.

RaintreeReduce, Reuse, Recycle


An infographic from Raintree that represents the mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ in quite a cartoony yet striking manner. We decided to feature this as it is a rather unusual style of artwork, and we’re always happy to show off the diverse range of styles the studio is able to produce.

RaintreeAnimal Abilities


Animals are great to draw, fact! We had lots of fun with this series of artworks, and this one is a particular favourite in the studio. It’s actually rather relaxing to draw animals (depending on how tight the schedule is of course!) and this artwork is a nice example of the range of different creatures we get the chance to illustrate.

Pearson OxfordBlack and White Villa


This illustration has been chosen as it is a fantastic example of how an artwork can still be brought to life even if it is drawn using black and white. The perspective on the building is also very well done and therefore deserved a place in out 10 Best Blog.

Pearson Oxford ‘Church


This is one of two artworks that were created for Pearson Oxford. It is a lovely example of how a simple cartoon style can still be used to portray a serious subject. There are some nice uses of shadowing, and the blends used for the brick work give a great perspective on the whole piece.

Pan MacmillanDanubia Map


We take a lot of pride in our cartography skills here at HL Studios, and this map in particular is an amazing example of what our illustrators can produce. The level of detail in this map is beautiful and absolutely deserved a place in this list.

MacmillanShanghai Waiter


This piece is a collaboration between a few of our illustrators, it has been chosen for this list as it demonstrates how well the team works together whilst also showing off both techincal and figurative styles.

Cambridge University PressAnne Boleyn


An artwork for CUP that was an absolute joy to illustrate. Again it is a straightforward style but capturing the likenesses of famous faces is always good fun to do.

We hope you have enjoyed this post, don’t forget to keep an eye out for more creativity from the illustration team in the future!

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in design news, illustration news


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Back by popular demand …


There is a massive solar storm hurtling towards the earth.
Please ensure all staff take the appropriate precautionary actions …

… and dont forget any pets.

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in design news

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