Andrew Clarke

Designer at, podcaster of

Published Thoughts

‘Earth vs The Flying Saucers,’ ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man,’ ‘Them.’

All brilliant fifties and sixties sci-fi movies. Every one a classic.

Why doesn’t Hollywood make giant, radioactive creature movies anymore?

We’ve had giant ants, giant spiders. But there’s so much potential in the insect world for more fantastic creature movies.

Personally I’d like to see a movie about gigantic, radioactive snails.

Just picture the scene, picture the suspense of giant shelled snails towering over New York, leaving a trail of radioactive slime in their wake.

I can almost hear the dialogue.

“The snails are coming… run!”

“No, walk… slowly!”

The imaginatively titled Mr. Benn followed the adventures of, err, Mr. Benn, a bowler hat wearing businessman (whose occupation still remains a mystery) who over just thirteen short episodes from 1971 had amazing adventures.

From Wikipedia:

Mr Benn, a man wearing a black suit and bowler hat, leaves his house at 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy-dress costume shop where he is invited by the moustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper to try on a particular outfit. He leaves the shop through a magic door at the back of the changing room and enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has an adventure (which usually contains a moral) before the shopkeeper reappears to lead him back to the changing room, and the story comes to an end.

Don’t bother trying Google Maps, Festive Road ain’t in London.

With a fond smile I can remember watching Mr. Benn. The work of his writer and illustrator David McKee was sublime in its charm and naivity and the minimal animation rarely consisted of more than a panning camera across McKee’s wonderful drawings. His adventures all centered around helping the people he met after walking through the other door.

But even today there are some unanswered questions: Where did Mr. Benn keep all the stuff he nicked souvenirs from his adventures? Why didn’t he tell the shopkeeper to @%&@*% off! every time he interrupted an adventure? I suppose we’ll never know, but Mr. Benn remains one of my classic cartoon memories.

I hope you don’t miss me when I’m gone, but you’ll know that I was here.

The name on this page is Andy Clarke, but Andrew Doyle’s the name on my birth certificate.

My parents’ marriage didn’t last long. My Dad, John Doyle, was, according to those who knew him, a sweet but difficult man who suffered terribly from what would today be treated as a clinical depression.

By the time I was four, Mum moved us away from Lancashire, south to start again with Alan, her husband number three. Alan Clarke.

I saw my Dad only a handful of times after that.

My brother was born when I was six. He was Clarke and so my being the only Doyle in the house felt awkward. It was, at the same time a reminder of a Dad that I dearly loved and missed and a side of the family I didn’t see — “they’re not ‘our kind of people,’” Mum would tell me later. As if we were somehow better. — and the new family that, as a small child, I desperately wanted to fit into. It symbolised a disconnect and a great deal of sadness.

Dad’s depression took him in 1978. He took his own life at the age of 38. I was twelve when my Mum told me he’d died. “I didn’t really know him,” I remember saying coldly. When she closed the door, I cried alone.

Being called Andrew reminded me of what I’d lost, so I slowly changed Andrew to Andy. Then it was time for a bigger change.

In 1981, changing a name cost 50p and a signature. On the twelfth of December I became Andrew (Andy) Clarke, but even though our names were the same, I still felt separate. Being Clarke meant living a lie and deep down I knew it.

In the end, Alan Clarke was as false as the name I’d adopted from him. After a sixteen-year relationship, Mum discovered his bigamy and asked him to leave. She, my brother and I never saw him again. Mum married within a year, so now only my brother and I remained Clarke’s. He, at least, has a claim to it.

Shortly before we were married, my wife and I talked about becoming Doyle’s again. But the complications of changing bank accounts, driving licences and all manner of other official paperwork seemed like too much trouble at the time. That was a terrible mistake. One that we’re not the only ones living with now.

Becoming a Doyle again would make me very happy, but I know that changing back is not my decision anymore. My wife’s been a Clarke for almost twenty-five years and my son has been nothing but. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, change my name without them. I know what having a name that’s different from your family feels like, and I wouldn’t want that again, for me or them.

At the very least, I’ve come to realise that, through living under a false name for all these years, a name is just something other people call you. The name on my website, on my books and on my drivers licence might be Andy Clarke, but:

I’m Andrew Doyle.

And I’ll be very proud when someone calls me that.

We’ve been coming to this part of the south of France for a decade now. We stay in the same cottage every year, eat in the same restaurants, do the same things. It’s less like coming on holiday and more like coming to live in France for three weeks.

Some things are bound to change over ten years. We’ve seen cheap flights to local airports like Carcassonne and Perpignan come and go. We’ve seen the number of British license plates and English voices increase. Getting online has gotten easier too.

There’s no phone or TV and no broadband here, so for the first few years, getting online meant driving to an ‘internet cafe’ in a city twenty miles away. It was inconvenient, so it made disconnecting from life easy. That made our place even more of a sanctuary.

When McDonald’s opened up on the outskirts of Narbonne, it became tempting to ‘nip in’ after stocking up at the supermarket. Then, the cafe in our nearest town, just ten minutes away, installed free wi-fi. (It’s where I am now, writing this for you.) Now I have to resist the temptation to log on, check email, update feeds, and read tweets when I buy my morning bread.

We’d been coming here for years before the iPhone and for years after that, data roaming connectivity was expensive. This year, my carrier made logging on affordable, and I’ve now got the added temptation of connecting from my garden.

I’ve found resisting hard, but I’m determined not to let the ubiquity of connectivity invade my peaceful place in the sun.

I have a guilty secret.

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed watching Little House on the Prairie).

(The simple life in Walnut Grove, skipping home along the lane from school.)

I would never have admitted that at the time, for fear of the kids in school calling me a poof. But, on aSunday morning I watched Little House on the Prairie week after week after week.

Then something terrible happened.

We went away on a family holiday and when we got back, Mary Ingalls (the pretty, older daughter) had gone blind!

Years went by and while I was at art school, Channel 4 repeated Little House on the Prairie on Sunday mornings. Now in my own rented flat I needn’t worry about being ridiculed, so I watched it again from the beginning, week after week after week.

Then something terrible happened.

I went home for a weekend for a family birthday and when I got back, Mary Ingalls (the pretty, older daughter) had gone blind!


To this day, despite Wikipedia, despite YouTube, I’ve never discovered how this calamity happened.

I think it was my fault.

There’s no reason why anyone should have to wait more than 24 hours for the money you owe them, especially people you work with. So the next time you receive an invoice from a contractor or supplier, pay it right away. Don’t wait a month, a week, a day or even an hour longer than you have to. Better still, find out how to pay them before they start any work. That way you can pay them immediately when you receive their invoice. They’ll feel good and so will you.

About a year ago, I left day rates and job rates behind and started estimating, billing and working on projects on a weekly basis. A year on and I’m better organised, more productive and less stressed than ever before. Our accounts are in better shape and no one owes us money for longer than a week. It was one of the best business moves I’ve made.

The truly responsive design web designer wasn’t born until after the launch of the iPhone. We haven’t seen his or her work yet.

Why is it, that when I’m traveling, I can do a day’s work in two hours, but at home a full day’s work takes just that, a full day?

Last week, I took a train and joined over six-hundred other people at the New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham. It was an unusual experience for me. I’ve been to fifty-plus events since my first in 2005, but New Adventures 2012 was the first where I was there to soak up the experience and not to speak.

Sitting — sometimes a little uncomfortably — in the audience, I spotted people who are well known for their speaking, writing and industry leadership. People who have spoken at conferences as far away as San Francisco and Sydney. People who have written articles and books that have changed the web. People whose ideas have inspired thousands of designers and developers.

You might think that people like this were on the stage, but they weren’t. They were sitting, like everyone else, in the audience, because they were there to learn and be inspired.

That’s one of the great things about working on the web.

There’s always something new to learn and someone willing to teach you.

Anything that’s fixed and unresponsive isn’t web design anymore, it’s something else. If you don’t embrace the inherent fluidity of the web, you’re not a web designer, you’re something else. Web design is responsive design, Responsive Web Design is web design, done right.