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Trading up


Regular readers will have noticed a change in the Quill’s usual look. Gone is the stock photo and generic-text title and in its place, an actual blog header and logo all my own!

I have wanted to create a unique visual brand for the blog for a long time. I don’t just write, I am an avid online reader and always enjoy a blog or site defined by a clear and strong visual identity.

Without the budget to employ a design company, or the skills to create something myself, I put out a clarion call on Twitter for a ‘skills exchange’. I got the idea from my friend, Manchester-based journalist and vegan food blogging queen Andrea Wren.

Andrea recently started up a Facebook group called Skills Swap Tameside and Manchester encouraging people in her local area to swap skills and services in return for the skills of others.

Payment in kind for services and products is nothing new, especially in somewhat straitened times and indeed, I had read about it making a resurgence in recent years; haircuts in return for boiler repairs, a wedding cake accepted as payment for a car service and so on and so forth.

I have always liked the idea of trade rather than commerce – giving something useful and getting something useful back – but it was only now I realised I was actually experienced enough at what I do (I’m a qualified news and features journalist) to offer a trade exchange of my own. So about three weeks ago, I tweeted my request:

Any designers willing to discuss a skills swap? You design me a logo for the blog, I offer editorial services, proofreading?

Within minutes, I had several offers of help, including my friend, local actor and writer Andrew Devonshire. Having worked on poster design for the theatre group he belongs to, The Bart Players, he described himself as a “keen amateur” but within hours had created a logo incorporating a brilliant interpretation of the ‘quill Q’ I’d had in my mind for over a year. I was surprised, not only that I had received responses so quickly, but also that a friend had a talent I never knew about and was so forthcoming in helping me with it.

In return I would very much like it if this blog could help get the wonderful Bart Players the bums on seats they deserve for their next production, the renowned comedy God of Carnage at the Crescent Arts Centre. It’s the first staging in NI of this hilarious Tony Award-winning play which Roman Polanski brought to the silver screen last year, starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster. Tickets are £8 from the Crescent online box office, so hopefully I’ll see you there.

Meanwhile, another Andrew I had connected with on Twitter, Andrew Molloy was quietly working away on a not-dissimilar design which I ended up choosing and is the one which now forms the public face of The Patchwork Quill. Andrew, a skilled graphics designer, created a blog header, a Twitter background and two different avatars, all of which you can now see featured across the Quill’s online presence.

It is exactly what I wanted. I have had a half-baked picture of that ‘quill Q’ in my head since early 2012 and knew I wanted a splash of colour as a nod to the ‘patchwork’ idea but nothing too busy or girly. I think the whole thing is clean and elegant as well as pretty. I like the literal interpretation of the ‘patchwork quill’ that has simultaneously remained unfussy and simple.

As well as his design work, Andrew Molloy is an graduate architect and PhD architecture student. Anyone wishing to avail of his architecture skills and knowledge or his work on any graphics projects, drop Andrew an email at molloy <dot> aj <at> gmail <dot> com and visit his blog, exploring his architecture writings and research.

Do drop me a quick comment below to let me know what you think of the new look and remember the feedback survey is still open if you want to leave those thoughts anonymously.

I’d also love to hear your stories of skills swapping and how it worked out for you. If you haven’t tried it before, will you give it a go in the future?

Finally, thanks again to the two talented Andrews and I look forward to working with you both again.

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