Steve, Author at A FINE STUDIO

The Eagle has landed


Last night we went along to the grand opening of the Norwich Barclays Eagle Lab, a collaboration between Barclays and WhiteSpace Norwich. We now join the illustrious company of other important UK tech hubs like London, Brighton, Bournemouth and Cambridge who boast their own Barclays Eagle Lab.

The launch evening was quite a glittering event, featuring TV presenter and local lad Jake Humphrey and Norwich City’s John Ruddy. The presentation included a heart warming film about the Barclays Eagle Lab in Brighton with short speeches afterwards from Neil Garner, founder of Whitespace Norwich, and Barclays staff involved in making this collaboration possible.

Small groups of the audience got to see the lab in action. We marvelled how the laser cutting machine made wooden coasters personalised with the names of the people watching and marvelled at tiny, fully movable skeletal fish key rings that the lab’s 3D printer had created. We also saw the work of the lab’s vinyl cutter adorning the walls, which made us think about making a colour version of the frosted vinyl FINE logo that we have on our studio door.

The Eagle Lab at WhiteSpace Norwich is a significant resource not only for helping start-ups, small tech firms and independent creators get their hands on cutting-edge technology, but also for entrepreneurs and young people who want to let their imaginations run wild. The lab will also run community events, digital Tea and Teach and LifeSkills sessions to help inspire future innovators.

We can’t wait to try it out!

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October 27, 2016

The Writers’ Centre always rings twice


After we completed their new website, the Writers’ Centre Norwich commissioned us to develop a new site for the International Literature Showcase, an online resource to connect everyone who works in literature both in the UK and across the world.

We began work in early September, with only five weeks in which to design, develop and make the site live for it’s online festival week in October.

As it was a companion piece to the Writers’ Centre site, we were briefed to keep the graphic design similar to acknowledge this, but everything else was new. We created unique advanced search functionality and easy user journeys to aid discovery of the featured British writers and organisations, as discovery, networking and connectivity was one of the main objectives of the site.

The site went live at nine a.m. on the deadline of October 17th and has been well received so far by it’s target audience. The Writers’ Centre Norwich were pleased we turned around the project with such a tight deadline with our small team, but we couldn’t have done it without them. Group hug!



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October 25, 2016

A new site for Writers’ Centre Norwich


Full screenshot of Writers' Centre Norwich website homepageBack in February, three months after we opened our doors, we were fortunate enough to be invited to tender for the Writers’ Centre Norwich website redesign. We jumped at the chance as we wanted to get our teeth into such a large project and the Writers’ Centre Norwich is exactly the kind of client (the cultural/arts sector) our fledgling studio wanted to work for.

It got better. Our pitch won, beating five other established local agencies to do so. Not bad for a new start up, powered by people who were suffering with that god-awful flu lurgy that was going around at the time (we were hoping the client attributed our sweating in our presentation with nerves).

What followed was five months of hard work and relationship building, culminating with a site that has been universally praised by everyone at the Writers Centre Norwich, from Stakeholders to Board members. Rob and I gave ourselves a pat on the back with a trip to this year’s Reasons To conference in Brighton, and we’d like to thank the Writers’ Centre Norwich for being such a great team to work for and with. Also thanks goes out to our extended team, UX expert Tom Haczewski of The User Story and back end whiz Olly Bradshaw.

See the new Writers Centre Site here.

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September 16, 2016

Reasons To: Go To Brighton


As A Fine Studio has been working so hard recently, we decided to treat ourselves with a visit to Reasons To: Design, Code and Create, a fab three day conference down in sunny Brighton. Both Rob and I had visited this conference before in it’s previous incarnation as Flash on the Beach, and we thought attending it on it’s tenth anniversary would be a great way to cool off away from the Studio.

Left to right: Jessica Hische, Rob Skinn, Erik Kressels and Steve Kirkendall

We saw talks by people we knew, others we didn’t and our design heroes who attracted us there in the first place. The talks ranged from the technical to the creative, all inspiring, some surprising. Highlights included the brilliant Yves Peters, explaining his battle to get a better UI for OpenType fonts in Adobe’s InDesign; the wonderful Jessica Hische, who shared both her fabulous work and her working process; Erik Kessels with KesselsKramer client work and his own, personal projects both of which had the audience in fits of laughter (much later we ended up in the pub with Jessica and Erik – what a great night that was).

Mr Bingo and his hilarious postcards

Other talks we loved came from Stefan Sagmeister, arguing that beauty is totally important for human life as opposed to the ugly utility of Modernism; Artist and Rapper, Mr Bingo (above) who made everyone laugh even harder than Erik Kessels did, with his fantastically rude, sweary and (unbelievably) treasonous work; Jared Tarbell’s sublime, machine generated organic shapes emulating the natural world; Espen Brunborg’s ‘The Secret Life of Comedy’ reminding us that we need to make more interesting web sites to fight the growing homogeny of the web, almost a companion piece to Stefan Sagmeister’s talk; Sculptor Wilfred Wood, ex-Spitting Image, with his fantastic heads and bodies he’s made; Seb Lester whose typography and calligraphy lulled us into a reverential silence and the incredible Joshua Davis, who blew everyone away with his work for Sub Rosa.

The amazing Joshua Davis

It all went far too quickly, but for the shot of inspiration it gave us it was worth every penny. Enough reasons to book your ticket for next year?


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September 7, 2016

When Stévie met Jean


Selection of books by Jean Jullien including Holidays, Low Glow and Affiche.

I had a fantastic surprise on the weekend – while shopping in the West End of London with my wife, Jean Jullien posted on Instagram that he was doing a book signing around the corner from where I was standing. I am a huge fan of his, so I shot around the corner immediately to the top floor of Uniqlo at 311 Oxford Street to meet him. Scooping up a selection of his books on display, I was delighted when he signed each one with a funny drawing. We had a brief chat and when discussing French cartoonists, my heart warmed when he told me that he too, liked my all time favourite cartoonist, Marc Reiser.

My selection of signed Jean Jullien books.

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June 28, 2016

We love Aaron James Draplin


Front cover of Pretty Much Everything by Aaron James Draplin

Large of stature, frame and heart, Aaron Draplin is the King Kong of graphic design, swatting away mediocrity from on top of the Empire State Building* with his bold, no nonsense work, filtered as it is through his beloved mid/late century American vernacular.

Luckily for us, those wonderful people over at Abrams have collected this portfolio of unapologetic wonder and delivered to us, the unworthy, a Draplin designed, packed-to-the-rafters book aptly titled Pretty Much Everything. In it, he charts his journey into design with great humour and humility, reminding everyone that you too, can make your own career from a job you love. And furthering the love, Mr Draplin has designed a slipcase and other goodies to complement your purchase of this book, which you can order here.

Opening spread of Pretty Much Everything by Aaron James Draplin

I am a happier person for having bought this book – why not do yourself the same favour?

*Yes, I know he lives in Portland, I was being metaphorical.

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May 31, 2016

Manuals 1 – A Fine Studio 2


Cover of Manuals 1, published by Unit Editions

My name is Steve Kirkendall and I’m a design bookaholic.

Among my favourite book dealers is the superb Unit Editions, many of whose titles grace the book shelves of my snug home studio (aka the back bedroom). However, one Unit Edition that is missing from my library is Manuals 1, their first book on corporate identity manuals.

Unfortunately, when I finally decided that I should get myself a copy, they were sold out, snatched up by designers far wiser than I. Comforting myself by quickly purchasing Manuals 2, I declared my interest in a reprint, hoping that one would happen as quickly as it had for other sold out titles.

But then, Unit Editions said they’d discovered six copies of Manuals 1, lurking in a far flung corner of their warehouse, and who would like a copy? Faster than a speeding bullet, I emailed ‘ME!!’ in 72pt Helvetica Black. But I was too late. However, Unit’s Sam Stevenson contacted me to say that I could have a used copy that was knocking about. He said it’s a bit worn, so we could let you have it at a discounted price. Even better, I thought.

But it got better still – Sam then got in touch a few days later and told me that one of the people who’d ordered one of the last six copies no longer wanted it – would I like this, the last remaining copy instead. YES, I screamed ecstatically, bowing before him and kissing his shoes, (which was no mean feat as I was in Norwich and he was in London) before firing off my Paypal remittance.

Happy ending. Sitting next to my copy of Manuals 2 is Manuals 1 and looking at both is my big, fat smiling face.

Oh, and by the way, in a twist that would bring tears to the eyes of a contortionist, it was announced a week ago that Manuals 1 is now the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. If you’d love a copy but missed out the first time around, get your self here.

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April 11, 2016

London lists and Unit Live!


Listicles, don’cha just hate them? With their “18 Mismatched Celebrity Couples”, “10 ways to lose weight while eating twice your body weight” and “9 Cats That Were President of the United States” – they are a frown-inducing area of the internet.

However, even an urbane, sophisticated individual like myself cannot resist a headline like 20 awesome and often unexpected places to find design inspiration in London. Being a ghastly know-all, and a recovering Londoner, I had heard of most of the places mentioned, but it did reveal a few surprise gems that piqued my interest.

So, last week, armed with a little bucket list made from the only listicle I’ve ever read (cough), and a ticket for that evening’s Unit Live! event at Logan Hall, I travelled to the capital for a graphic designers grand day out.

Leila's Shop, Shoreditch.

First on the list was Lelia’s Shop in E2 where I met my old photographer friend, George, for lunch. Lelia’s sits just on Arnold Circus, another place I’ve always wanted to see, and home to Britain’s first council estate. George and I walked off our lunch, marvelling at it’s unique architecture, before he returned to work shooting £5000 surfboards for the Financial Times.

Crossing Shoreditch High Street onto Rivington Street, I came across the next item to be ticked off my list, the sublime Artworks Bookshop. This was worth the trip alone – many of the specialist, dedicated design bookshops in the West End that I used to visit in the 90s are now long gone, with only Magma and the design section in Foyles and Waterstones reminders of those halcyon days. But this was just like going back in time, with shelves shining with the best design books and magazines. Fighting the urge to buy everything in the shop, I settled for one book only, Glyph: A Visual Exploration of Punctuation Marks and Other Typographic Symbols by Shiro Nishimoto. This wasn’t my first purchase of the day though, as I’d bought a couple of members magazines from You Can Now, a few doors down from the Artworks Bookshop.

Artwords Bookshop, Shoreditch.

Leaving the electric unicyclists of Shoreditch behind, I tubed to Forbidden Planet to buy a belated birthday present for my fellow FINE partner, Rob, before having a quick drool in the aforementioned graphic design section of Foyles. By now, my list ticking was done, and I met up with top designer, fellow Path-mate, and all round gentleman, Dan Bull, and we headed off to Logan Hall for the highlight of the day, Unit Live!


What an evening – Adrian Shaughnessy mc’ed the event, introducing Tony Brook who spoke of his brilliant design studio Spin, and previewed the next wave of titles from Unit Editions; Harry Pearce of Pentagram explaining his lifelong fascination with photographing curios and coincidences, and Lance Wyman amazing everyone with how he built a career based on taking chances and producing powerful communicative graphic design – including the now legendary identity for the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Afterwards, as each designer signed copies of their beautiful Unit Editions books, I managed to chat to Tony Brook (who I hadn’t spoken to for over 20 years) and also to Adrian Shaughnessy, another of my design heroes.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

PS. It turned out that I wasn’t the only designer there from Norwich, as I bumped into Darren Leader, who coincidently, knew Dan Bull. Small world.

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March 16, 2016