Double Digits and a Birthday Book

Every organisation big or small has a story to tell. The reasons it formed, the battle to get established and navigating good times and bad; the characters past and present, the myth and lore. In 2015, Matchbox celebrated 10 years, a milestone that we marked in July with much beer and barbecued food. We also thought it was a great opportunity to take stock, tell our own story, and celebrate the characters who have come and gone over the years.

Back in March, Andy (Matchbox CEO) approached the design team with the idea; let’s do a birthday book that we can get printed and give out at the birthday party. It should be around 30 pages long. As exciting a prospect as it sounded, it was also daunting – planning and writing books isn’t our area of expertise. We wanted to do Matchbox’s history justice.

Initially, we had no concrete ideas, except for one; a timeline that would run along the bottom of every page in the book. Andy and James (our Creative Director) gamely took to the post-its and thrashed out all the projects, events, and comings and goings over the last 10 years. Time does things to the memory, and some time later (disagreements notwithstanding) a chronology was formed.

Meanwhile, we ordered book samples, but were decidedly unimpressed by what we received. Looking closer to home, we decided to approach Stanley James Press. We’d worked with them before and knew they’d bring great ideas and meticulous attention to detail. In April we visited their studio, rifled through their samples and weren’t disappointed.

At the same time, we started collecting inspiration and putting together some template ideas to get some direction for the presentation of the book. Due to the unfortunate lack of content at this stage, these were very generic and few layouts survived entirely into the finished product.

Early layout and typographic inspiration

Andy was eager to see what we’d come up with, so we presented the layouts and explained the kinds of content we saw filling the pages. He looked aghast; reading about projects and seeing infographics about the number of lines of code written and cups of coffee drunk in the last 10 years were not what he had in mind. Andy’s vision was of a book that centred on the people who made Matchbox, not dry facts and case studies. Crestfallen, we workshopped some better ideas.

We’d also need more time. Fitting the book around other projects had an impact on progress, and the deadline was fast approaching. We decided that a Christmas deadline was more realistic and if it was finished sooner, all the better.

Realising it was important for everyone to have some kind of input, we started interviewing Matchboxers and collating pictures. We concluded that we needed a back story to tie it all together, so Andy set about writing his magnum opus titled The Parable of The Lazy Man. This would be his account of Matchbox from its inception to the present day. Divided into seven sections, the decision was made to serialise it throughout the book to provide structure and variation.

 

By late summer, the book was taking shape. At around 70 pages, it had more than doubled in size and we knew that we had enough content to allow us to trim the fat. Features that made the cut included a piece about our Chief Software Architect’s 43k mile jaunt around the world in his first year, a piece about the bleeding edge technology we’ve worked with over the years, and a piece about the time we mistakenly put a swear filter in a Twitter app. Matt formulated some questions for the company, Adam provided illustrations and our new producer Georgia proofread the book to within an inch of its life.

The finished product includes a red tracing paper insert and a cover printed on Gmund Bier card, made with spent brewer’s grain, which gives the cover a flecked appearance. We saw it at the initial meeting with Stanley James Press and it was love at first sight.

Organisations are about people; our book represents the great people that have been involved with Matchbox over the years. Many of the original employees are still here, and our close bond and shared experiences mean that we continue to do great work, year after year. With any luck, we’ll be able to tell another great story in ten years time.