The Sainbury's Design Archive

The Sainsbury Archive is an online repository of the supermarket chain’s history containing everything from photographs to examples of advertising from the company’s 100+ years. Particularly fascinating for designers is the wealth of packaging material on here, with hundreds of examples of Sainsbury’s own brand designs.


What we have here is no less than the story of UK consumer communication, where the timeline interface can be used to discover the changing design trends and impact of new production process right through the 20th century. The work of Peter Dixon’s in-house team is particularly fascinating, each 1000’s of new product packaging was introduced or re-designed, each with their own distinct graphic approach. As well as pictures, much of the packaging is shown as flat artwork proofs which will be of interests to students of 3D design. Aside from packaging, the photographs of store fronts, press and poster ads an even old editions of the Sainbury’s in-house packaging allow from the trace the evolution of how one of the countries biggest retail brands have communicated with it’s audience. This is a fantastic resource for research into any design project.


Half Rice / Half Chips


A HBU-UCLan project.

Last week 16 UCLan students from Animation, Advertising, Graphic Design and Interior Design headed over to China to visit our joint school HBU-UCLan.

This joint project has been running during the years of our partnership, yielding some fascinating creative outcomes to varying briefs. UCLan's 16 students were paired up with nearly 100 of their Chinese peers, and divided up into four separate groups.

The brief was simply titled Half Rice / Half Chips. Creatively open, it required the four groups of students to create a response to the similarities and differences between the cultures of the UK and China. The soul requirement of the brief was to produce a digital presentation, the content of which could be absolutely anything.

After initial meet and greets on the Monday morning, the students set about discussing the many themes that could be explored, but most importantly talking to each other and working out the gaps between their perceived views, and the actual realities of our two cultures. With five days to go from start to finish, there was a requirement to get going, but also a need to figure out what was actually going to happen. The ideas were cemented in place by the Wednesday morning, after which production mode was engaged!


Group 2 (pictured above) were fascinated by the difference in pace of the UK versus China. In China, if something needs doing, it gets done. If something needs building, it'll be built next the time you look. China has the bullet train, the UK has Transpennine Express. On a deeper level, the Chinese students told of their lives growing up. School started before most people have woken up, often not getting home until 10.30pm at night. Each and every hour is precious and the maximum is gleaned from the resource that is time.


Group 2 married the concept of the pace of life and named their project The Speed of Life. Working together creatively, the Chinese students were able to translate The Speed of Life into four Chinese characters.

the speed of life, in chinese

the speed of life, in chinese

The UK students then saw an opportunity to merge the Chinese characters with the Roman alphabet.

the speed of life, in english

the speed of life, in english

Before fusing the two pieces of typography together to create one identity.

In China, Piano Tiles has become a super popular game for smartphones. The game was shown to us by Ruby (advertising); as it is played the game gets quicker and quicker - thus harder and harder. It formed a neat metaphor for communicating the pace of life.

With the game in place as inspiration, MA animator extraordinaire Rosie took on the task of creating a demo of The Speed of Life game. In essence, the concept had a UK version of the game which was at a pace you could cope with, and had infinite lives to complete. The Chinese juxtapostion being much more intense, and also the lives tick away as it gets harder and harder.

The students also created advertising concepts, tackling the contrast in pace and cultures, chop sticks juxtaposed with a cucumber sandwich for example. The identity was also applied to various mockups.

This was just one of four projects completed during the week. We will post the others here when we can as some beautiful, witty and thought-provoking work was created.

Big thanks to Guy and Steve for organising a great trip, and our man in China, Nathan, for taking us round.  

The curious case of QR codes

Remember when QR codes tried to be a thing in England? I think the main reasons they never took off was because they required you to have your own scanning app and just didn't seem to scan quick enough. It was far more easy to just use Google.

Now ask yourself, how many times have you ever scanned a QR code? A few? A lot? I’m guessing the answer for a lot of people will be a big fat zero. If this is the case you can change that right here, right now. Scan the image below, and it'll take you to a mobile version...of my blog. How meta.


I certainly can’t remember ever scanning a single QR code. I always thought they were useless and a bit of a gimmick. Not anymore.

In China, QR codes are everywhere. They’ve moved away from being a joke and are an integral part of everyday life. Major retailers, street markets, restaurants, transport services, even beggars, and buskers. They all have and use QR codes. You can use these codes as ID badges. You can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots with them. You can use them to send parcels, reply to job adverts, you can even have them as tattoos.

The main reason why QR codes are so popular in China is down to an app called WeChat. It’s a multi-purpose app that has nearly 1 billion daily users and has been described as China’s “app for everything”. One of WeChat’s main features is WeChat pay. It’s basically the same thing as contactless or Apple payment. And because WeChat has a built-in QR scanner, it makes paying for things effortless. You take your items to the till, scan the code, type in what everything costs, show the receipt to the cashier and away you go. 

Because QR codes are used so much, they work so much better than what I remember. They’re quicker, more accurate and don’t require you to stand directly in front of one for it to work. I once saw someone scan a code from about 5 feet away.

The Chinese have also managed to implement QR codes into their advertising. I’ve seen QR codes on leaflets, press ads, billboards, TV commercials, even 20-foot ones on the sides of buildings. The codes on the adverts work the same way as they do anywhere else. Scan it and get taken to a web page. I’m yet to find any that have done something a bit more creative, but I’m definitely going to keep looking. Can you imagine seeing a QR code appear on an ad in the UK now? There’d probably be a social media frenzy with people ripping it apart and saying things like ‘creativity is going backward.’ 

I don't think QR codes will ever be as important as they are in China, but it’s nice to know that if they did make a comeback, they might have a bit more use.

This post also appears on Nathan Harper's blog.


ADvent is the latest project from third year UCLan advertising students Gail McFadzean and Olivia Hampson. A series of clips and quotes featuring advice from members of the design and advertising industry - useful for students and peers alike. 

Running every day throughout December, the videos features tips for students on how to enter the industry along with opinions on where the advertising and design industry is heading.

Follow @uclanadvent on Instagram and Twitter for daily instalments, starting this Friday.


Advertising All-Dayer #1

This week we hosted our first Advertising All-Dayer – where we bring all three year groups together and giving them a brief  by visitors from industry. The students are then split into teams and given 6 hours to solve it before coming back together for a group crit led by the professional creative team.

It’s something we’ve been wanting to do on the course for a while after a very successful project last year in the offices of BJL. Our advertising course is a specialism and one of the benefits of having smaller year groups is the ability to bring the years together for a bit of peer learning. It gives students who wouldn’t ordinarily mix the chance to work together and learn from each other, as well as giving them the opportunity to work directly with professionals in an environment very similar to a working advertising practice. Also, coming as it does about six weeks into the term it was good time for the students to do something a little different and was a welcome change of pace – though I’m not sure many expected that pace to be far faster and intense than anything they’ve done so far!


The day began at 10am with the briefing and was led by the award-winning freelance creative team Hayley Parle and Amy Berriman. They set a challenge based on one of their previous projects for Quorn that aimed to encourage families to go meat-free twice a week. The brief was brilliant in that it had a broad scope that encouraged students to think across media platforms and strategic approaches, yet was concerned with an unfashionable brand for which the students were not the target audience and without a heritage of great ads behind it – giving them a clean slate to explore things like the tone of voice, persuasion and brand positioning. They then had till 3.30pm to produce as many scamped ideas as possible with the help of Hayley & Amy and the teaching staff, who floated between teams all day to advise and discuss their ideas as they happened.

So how did it go? Well, our visitors were very impressed with the work ethic on show during the day, and with the quantity and quality of solutions pinned up when we all came together for the group critique. In six hours the teams were able to pretty much wallpaper the studio in layout scamps (which at least been a they can probably make a living as decorators if advertising doesn’t work out). Each team was able to talk through their solutions eloquently and with confidence and it was very evident that they’d taken advantage of the different interests, experience levels and skills within each team. The sheer variety of work on show was also impressive, with campaign and one-shot ideas ranging from poster and press elections to scripts and storyboards for TV and radio. It was also interesting to observe the students during the day and to see that the smaller groups were more efficient in producing the larger quantity of ideas than the larger ones, illustrating that while there are a huge benefits to working in teams, too many cooks can have a detrimental effect.

The real benefit for me though was the students learning that working at this sort of pace and intensity is not only possible, but also a great way to kickstart the thought process. Often they can spend weeks on a project to get to this stage but outside of academia this kind of time is a luxury and sometimes even a curse – we’ve all had that job that we probably spent too much time on). This is especially important for th final year. With the D&AD new blood briefs just around the corner and the degree show coming into view on the horizon it’s important to realise you have the ability to analyse a brief quickly and in just six hours can create a LOT of ideas that are ripe for development into well considered, high quality campaigns. Indeed, those taking part are now encouraged to take what they’ve done and progress it into fully formed portfolio pieces if they wish - I for one am really looking forward to see what these starting points become.

A big thank you to Hayley and Amy for running the project. See their work at