Monday, December 6

Week One.

I'm not planning to update every week on how I'm doing, but week one of Citizen was interesting, and at the end of it I was happy for people to tell me I looked 'tired'. I've realised that I'm happier when I'm working, and when I'm busy, creatively.

Sunday night I filled my blackboard with all my jobs and meetings and spent the week hammering through it. (Taking the odd beak to smash snowballs over my own head with Archie.) The variety of work made it so much fun, I pitched freelance design for Motorcross Helmets, and for an online Portrait company (which I won), as well as picking up 3 small logo jobs.

I've learnt that it's very competitive out there. people want a lot, for as little at they get away with, and even after they've had it, they'll keep coming back for more. I've been working from some of the freelance sites and the scope of work to budget ration is at times amazing. It's clear that when people aren't dealing face-to-face with folk, they really do take the piss, but, on the other hand the worldwide pool of designers mean, there's always someone, somewhere to do the work.

So, I was happy I wasn't sitting round with my hand down my pants, I've got some great meetings lined up this week that I'm really excited about, and a big project about to kick off. Last Friday bought with it a nice meeting in a coffee shop with my wife, and a whole raft of opportunities that I hope will come to fruition in the New Year. 

I can see how keeping things in perspective mentally, going forward could be my biggest challenge, but I hope the positive energy from the first week will keep me, keeping on. Here's to a new week, a new year and a new way of working...

Or call 07764 898 010

Tuesday, November 16

Citizen is ready to go.

What more does a young business man need? A laptop, a desk and now some business cards.

Citizen is all ready for launch, December 2010, 9am I'll be at my desk looking at my business cards.

Who want's a meeting?

Wednesday, November 10

Nice little mention.

It's was nice to get a mention on Mudkiss for The 66 artwork I produced earlier in the year, here's what The 66 said about Citizen:

A very talented guy called Benjamin Brown created the artwork.  He’s worked with a number of high profile names and acts for their artwork over the years, so we were delighted to secure his services – it felt like a missing link.  When I gave him the brief for the logo via the label, he told Mark ‘that is the most insane fucking brief I’ve ever had in my life, I like it’ it’s rife with meanings and symbology that I can’t, and possibly never will go into! But it means something to each of us – a hint? The Fly is actually a rare ‘Black Bee’. With the EP cover, Ben simply took all his talent and came up with something that was exactly right and was visioned – and then some! All the credit goes to Mr Brown for that one.

You can read the full article about here at

Find out more about my band artwork and the kind of services I offer by visiting

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Friday, November 5

I'm a free Citizen again...

Monday November 29th Citizen version 2 (it's not called that, that would be horrible) will be born again. I'm building on Citizen as it was, and expanding the whole thing out to 3 core areas of activity: 

Citizen Corporate will deal with the day-to-day business of a normal Marketing agency, I'll be looking for branding, advertising and corporate literature projects, all the kinds of things that have been paying the bills for the last 10 years.

Citizen Arts is really Citizen as it was, a softer more artistic side to the business, that'll deal with record companies, bands and clubs, and anyone that needs a creative piece of work doing and doesn't want to get bogged down in briefs and PO numbers. 

Citizen Freelance is a freelance design service that's going to give people the experience of my 10 years in the business, working for them in their company - the way freelancers do, but booked direct through me you can avoid the agency fees.

The new Citizen site is up and running, and from here you can find out more about all my services.

It's been a furious few weeks of evening activity so far and I want to thank Karen, Dad, Maria, Ellie, Skelly, Rik, Parker, Jon, Stacey, Tracy, Jack, Brian and Chris for all your help setting up so far, I really appreciate it, it's inspiring to know I have great people around me from the beginning.

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Wednesday, September 29

We Are Low Culture Poster

Low Culture's a new web site launching in West Yorkshire, it's all about music and the arts. It's not online yet, but check out the Low Culture Facebook site the real site goes live in October and it will be

The brief for this was pretty laid back, I wanted to work something around the idea of 'Low' and 'Underground', and started work on something that was quite a direct take on that. I'm actually really proud of this piece because rather than coming from a starting point of something I'd seen or a piece of stock photography it all came from my head and a blank sheet of paper.

I wanted the objects to all represent a part of the sites focus and culture, some of them are obvious like the instruments and comic (American Splendour - my favourite, RIP Harvey Pekar), but others like the Viewfinder and kite hopefully offer an insight into the idea of writing styles and perspectives of the contributors.

Each layer was built up with textures blended on top of one another, the sky was drawn in, and the grass was created using a Photoshop brush. All the objects were found on Google searches and I chopped parts of them away to make them look half buried, then shaded around the back of them and Vivid Lighted the shade to tone it all back in.

I'm also pleased with the 'lead line' on this, it happened quite naturally, trailing from the kite down to the logo was a bit of a happy accident:

I love making artwork that's creating something from nothing but an idea like this, I'm really happy with the finished poster, I hope the people of West Yorkshire tear it down and blu tack it to their bedroom walls.

Tuesday, September 21

Brew: In The City Poster

I've started working with Leeds based label Brew Records, who I saw mentioned in an article in the NME, contacted and I've done a few posters for ALL FOR FREE! Yep, I know how to put the 'free' in freelance alright, but they're good briefs, and if the client's not paying, then it kind of gives me total creative freedom, which is worth its weight in gold to me.

This particular brief was for Brew: In The City, which is like Babe: Pig In The City, only with bands instead of bacon. There was no brief, so I decide to take it on an invasion route, like these Leeds bands were invading Manchester. My first step was to be inspired by this image from Pink Tentacle:

I liked the composition and the colours of the sky, I thought it suited (rainy) Manchester as well, so now I needed a picture of Manchester from a similar angle, I decided on this one:

After a massive clipping path, and lots of work on the colour and sharpness, I managed to get it into a similar state to the Pink Tentacle image, now I needed some texture for the sky, I've got a collection called 'Painted Skies' and used one of them for this:

I blended this in and dropped it right back so its affect was minimal, the next step was what to put in the sky as the focal point. I tried a number of things from Hot Air Balloons, confetti  and Victorian Airships, but nothing sat right in the frame. Eventually I stumbled upon this image, and it was a perfect fit:

After that there was a load of Blending, Colour Correction and they typography until I got it into the finished state, it was quite a struggle in the end, but I'm really proud of it. Brew were pleased with it and had no changes and that's where was project finished and invoic... no wait. Anyway, one day all these favours will pay off, I've been saying it for nearly ten years now, just another ten maybe? Who knows.

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Tuesday, September 7

An Escape Plan Live Poster Two

I love working with An Escape Plan, I used to play drums for them, so I feel they're in my blood ( I hope my blood is still on their drums), and if I need inspiration it drips from their beautiful recordings.

This poster was built from a few bits I've been playing with recently. The main character is a montage of different body parts found on Google, the shoes and head are then hand-drawn in solid black to negate the need for too much detail. Then there's a grunge texture laid over the top of it to bring it all together.

The smoke is done using some really effective spray can brushes in Photoshop, and over the top of that I've laid some white particles from a stock file I have to just scruff the whole thing up a bit.

One complete idea, no amends, one sign off. My kind of job. I am a big subscriber to ditching your first idea, my first idea was to do something around this Wind Costume photo, but it wasn't working out. Nice though eh?

The poster is a companion piece to this previous gig poster.

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Monday, August 9

Mongrels DVD/Bluray Artwork

I sometimes think I'm quite clever, but then I remember my younger brother, golden handcuffed to the BBC, who pay him to come up with amazingly funny ideas, and then write them, and that's what he did with Mongrels. 

Hopefully you've seen it on BBC3, Tuesday nights. It's got massive critical acclaim and really good viewing figures, so when he asked me if I'd mind designing the cover of the DVD it wasn't really a very hard decision. 

I'm really proud of this because it's the first time we've worked together professionally and it's something we plan to do a lot more of in the future, plus it's a high profile release and it might be the biggest thing I've worked on.

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Friday, July 30

The Moons – Everyday Heroes single cover

OK, so you've got a deadline, a blank page and a lead character (Dr. Moonhead) who died on the last cover. So what are you going to do?

Well surprisingly not panic, but fill the screen red and draw. That might sound obvious, but it's not how I normally work. Ordinarily the process is driven by fear, and the idea that I just can't do it. I start by downloading hundreds of images that I sprinkle into Photoshop and juggle around until something pops up that I can feel in my chest, once that's in a state I can understand, I leave it overnight and if I still love it in the morning, then it's done. 

But this was born a different way, it practically drew itself, I'd sent it to Andy before I'd finished it, and last night it was signed off and it's literally just gone to press. If I could I'd always work like this.

I really love it, it's my favourite of all the moons work and completes a really nice run of 7 Inch single covers. Hopefully we'll be releasing them in a boxset on Acid Jazz later in the year/early next year.

Goto for more information about the band.

Here's all the singles in order of release:

       Torn Between Two
Nightmare day
Let It Go
Everyday Heroes

Monday, June 7

Headline headghgh

Thursday afternoon; I returned from work to see the Times and Citizen on my door mat, I took a picture of it on my phone and uploaded to Twitter.

Sunday evening; that picture will have been seen by a recorded 57,000 people, reused on The Huffington Post, The Guardian and Photoshop Disasters, blogged and tweeted all over the world and available on a T-Shirt.

But how did this happen, how do you cause a 'Twitter sensation'?

The first thing I've learnt from all of this is, if something's interesting to you, then it's going to be interesting to other people, the challenge is getting it to a wider audience. I normally dismiss these kind of mistakes, I hate the Grammar police and the Design Police, it's the kind of self righteous nonsense that people hide behind when they've got no ideas of their own. But, I'm also a massive hypocrite, so I figured other people might want to see this huge, hilarious cock-up.

I started by Tweeting and Face-booking my find. Keen to expel the idea of it being fake, I called my post 'This is honestly the cover of the Times and Citizen'. This was picked up by a few friends and the Twitpic (the mark I began to measure from) began to clock up hits. After an hour or so I decided I'd retweet it to journalist and TV personality Grace Dent, I kind of had a feeling she'd enjoy this mistake, and guess what? She did, and retweeted it to her 17,000 followers. The picture had soon received around 15,000 hits, this continued through Thursday night and into Friday when it got it's big break. I received this email in my inbox;

Peter Serafinowicz had picked up the story and retweeted it to his 391,212 followers, things then went ballistic, the numbers jumped from 10,000 to 20, 30 and 40,000, and the story started to get away from me. It was popping up on blogs all over the world. I was getting mentions on Twitter at an astonishing rate, and it was starting to get picked up on some of the big news sites. The first was the Guardian Media Monkey.

Then on Saturday, the big time, America woke up to the story and it broke on one of the biggest sites in the world, with an estimated 10m hits a day, The Huffington Post ran the story, with my picture, and a credit linking into my Twitter profile. With the hits peaking at 57,000 they started to trail off as the story no longer belonged to me, a Google or Twitter search on 'headline headghgh' listed hundreds of stories. People claiming to have broke the story, taken the picture or that is was a fake! The Huffington Post was calling it a 'Twitter Sensation', and it really felt like it was.

The whole thing was exhilarating, there were times when I felt bad for the newspaper I must be honest, but an interesting and more serious story started to emerge from all of the frivolity. Apparently the Johnston Press Group that owns the paper has recently made a large number of sub-editors redundant and replaced them with a new system called Atex. This allows journalists to place their own headlines straight onto the paper, and apparently it's been causing problems all over the place. You can read more about that here. My story was starting to be used as leverage in a campaign against JP bosses, and was beginning to be heard by the right people. So, gratefully I decided something positive was starting to come out of it.

That night, laying in bed thinking about the whole debacle, I was trying to think of ways I could have monetized the image rights, and made some money, but it was to late now. But just maybe, in the aftermath of the story I thought I'd better be the person to make the official 'Headline headghgh' TShirt. With a new found optimism I figured you never know how big something's going to be and went ahead and did it, now, you can buy an official 'headline headghgh' tshirt from Mysoti.

So that, I suppose was my 15 minutes, it's dragging on now, and everyone's bored of hearing me go on about it, but I still think it's absolutely fascinating how one day you can take a picture on your phone in your home, and 2 days later it's worldwide being looked at by millions of people. If you think something's interesting then there's a million other people who'll agree with you, you've just got to find your own way of getting it out there, just don't get obsessed with looking for it, it'll find you.

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Tuesday, May 4

Out of Orbit Volume 1&2

Mark Refoy from Slipstream has to be one of the most easy going clients of all time, his briefs are a real pleasure to deconstruct, here's a sample:

"Something not fashionable but alluring - the thought that something very far away is doing what it has to do regardless of outside interference. Also myself and Jonny were literally jettisoned from the orbit of Spiritualized, by fault or design is irrelevant now, so there is that link. I like some of Damien Hirst's ideas that I saw in a programme about him lately but to be honest I haven't got a particular idea for an image."

I'll admit that I did panic a bit when I read the reference to Hirst, but it gave me an understanding of the kind of feel they wanted for the art, it was a great starting point and pushed the ideas to somewhere I didn't think we'd end up.

As with my last Slipstream piece, I began by looking at scientific diagrams and found a beautiful illustration of the layers of the earth's atmosphere. I tried lots of cheats to bring the original piece up to resolution, but it just wasn't big enough to sustain being potentially printed at 12inches. So, in the end I started to redraw it layer by layer, piece by piece. It turned out to be a pretty big job, it's hard to create concentric circles, cut the way they are in the illustration, but eventually I got to a point where the form of the diagram roughly resembled the original.

The next challenge was getting some texture and variety into it, I started by off-setting the same layer of the diagram on top of it's self to try and create some printers off-set, then I used some grunge textures and hand blocked some colour into certain areas.
The finished result has a great look, I'm really happy with the energised 50's feel of the colours, and I love having copy on the cover that isn't the track names. It's a great collection as well, I don't have a release date at the time of writing this, but it's going to be a digital only release (massive shame, I'm trying to get them to do a physical release, even offered to waive my fee to help fund it) on Disonic sometime this year.

You can see Volume 2 here and the full illustration here.

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Friday, April 16

What is the deal with these Tea Towels?

You might have noticed a link to a site called 'Original Wedding Tea Towels' at the bottom of the Citizen Site, or you might have seen some wedding invite artwork floating around my portfolio, and I guess there's a chance you might be wondering what it's all about. Well let me tell you.

In December last year me and Karen got married. Being a designer there was of course huge pressure on me to come up with an idea for the invitation. After about 20 failed attempts I finally hit on the idea of doing something people could keep, after all, why spend all that money on something that people are only going to throw away, so perhaps, oddly, I decided on doing a teatowel.

Karen thought it was weird and it took me an evening to talk her into it, eventually, I created the above design and got it to print, then we came to the day of sending them out. Waiting for people's responses was quite terrifying, I was worried it was going to be met with a blanket 'WHY?', but really, it couldn't have been further from the truth. People seemed genuinely blown away by them and the feedback was totally amazing.

Anyway, we got married and when the dust had settled we both thought maybe the idea was good enough to make a little business out of, so that's exactly what we did. We've been operating now for about 4 months, sent out over 100 sample requests and taken orders all over the UK, we're not the next Microsoft, but as a cottage industry it ticks over nicely.

The thing that I love about it, is it's simplicity as a model. We know there's no repeat customers, it's semi seasonal, we know where to find brides, and we know the kind of brides that will be interested in the idea. We also know the kind of budgets people are expecting to pay, and the leads times that are normal. Our experience in marketing (Karen worked at BBH) means we can use that professionalism with our clients to make them feel at ease. Our biggest challenge is getting free press from the magazines and wedding blogs, so far we've been pretty successful in getting the idea picked up, and that press has driven most of our business.

People always ask us "why don't you do mugs, coasters, or sell the idea to schools, and playgroups" but we're not going to diversify in that way and lose focus. The strength of the product and of it's targeting is it's niche; it's a specific type of product for a specific type of customer at a specific time in their lives and the smaller that target the more likely we're the only ones that can hit it. It's a nice project, and a very interesting case study in marketing. here's the rest of the designs;

Monday, April 12

Artwork on iTunes

It always makes me happy to see my artwork on the iTunes Store. Can you spot 2 different Citizen pieces on this screen shot? A prize for anyone that can.

Thursday, April 8

Citizen Wiki page

I've just set up a Wikipedia page for Citizen Studios and complied a list of all my major label work, I'm pretty proud of it as it stands. Need to get something lined up for the rest of 2010 now.

Medium 21Acting Like a MirrorUniversal Records2003
Medium 21Daybreak Vs PrideUniversal Records2003
Medium 21Black and White SummerUniversal Records2003
Medium 21Killings From the DialUniversal Records2003
MapsStart SomethingMute2005
MapsLost My SoulMute2005
MapsDon't Fear the SunMute2005
MapsInternational EPMute2006
Kooky RecordsKooky is 10Kooky Records2006
MapsIt Will Find YouMute2007
MapsWe Can CreateMute2007
MapsYou Don't Know Her NameMute2007
MapsTo The SkyMute2007
Durutti ColumnSunlight To Blue... Blue To BlacknessKooky Records2008
SlipstreamMantraNorth Star Records2008
White Belt Yellow TagTell Your Friends (It All Worked Out)Distiller Records2009
White Belt Yellow TagRemainsDistiller Records2009
White Belt Yellow TagTell Your Friends (It All Worked Out)Distiller Records2009
White Belt Yellow TagMethodsDistiller Records2010
White Belt Yellow TagAlways and EchoesDistiller Records2010
The MoonsTorn Between TwoAcid Jazz2010
The MoonsNightmare DayAcid Jazz2010
The MoonsLife on EarthAcid Jazz2010
The MoonsLet It GoAcid Jazz2010
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