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Live the Creative space

April 27, 2012

Signwriting in the modern context.




The Usual Mega Business!

Welcome all!  This is going to be a big fun learning curve… dedicated craftship skills, honing in on the real brushwork dynamics and training you, the next generation of signmasters.  

Yep it’s no circus, never OIAFS, and always the business end of training… go be success!

Next Course Booking   Contact Nick  07960113799

Nick Garrett: Genuine skills

Fantastic course would definitely recommend it… covered a lot over the course of the 2 days from techniques to the best materials to use. Great creative atmosphere and good insight to sign painting.   

Cool Vibes at NGS sign training!!

Quality learning – value, concise and solid training delivered in a way that makes absolute sense … and it works right there in your hand.

You’ll walk out of the studio able to make real headway as a sign painter.

4 Ways of Sharp Corners:  An assured way of making it perfect every time.

4 Ways of Spacing: Again a solid breakdown of how to sort kerning in the bag.

This course is delivered using the method featured in the forthcoming Laurence King publication ”The Art of Sign Painting” – by Nick Garrett.


How to Paint Letters - NGS 001

Clear format techniques and learning sheets deliver an easy to grasp, precise methodology.

Step by Step practice tutorials.

B stroke play 72

Hi this blog is all about solutions in design, for design, via design… enjoy and leave a cool comment or two

Nick Garrett

Contact me directly

NGS Unit 205 Regent House Business Centre, 291 Kirkdale, London SE26 4QD

 NGS Video capture

BHS – could Design have saved them?

April 28, 2016

UK high street chain BHS has gone into administration this week, with its 174 stores across the country set to close their doors.

BHS was founded in 1928 as British Home Stores by a group of US entrepreneurs who apparently wanted to follow the successful model set by Woolworths.

The business expanded heavily in the 1970s and 1980s, adopting the BHS branding and opening a series of stores in shopping malls and out-of-town locations, as well as the high street.

Millennium Stores concept

In 1995 it launched the Millennium Stores concept, developed with 20.20. The new design work, which launched in Cambridge with a floor-to-ceiling glass frontage and central atrium, was described by BHS marketing director Helena Packshaw as “embracing a whole new approach to space, lighting and colour.”

However, roll-out of the £25m concept was taken over by BHS’s in-house team in 1997 and in 2000 BHS was sold by its owner Storehouse to Arcadia founder Phillip Green for £200 million.

In 2005 BHS resurrected the British Home Stores branding and introduced a new store design created by consultancy Carte Blanche, who reportedly worked with Philip Green’s wife Tina on the in-store look.

Brand sold for just £1

Following a number of management changes and a further rebrand in 2010, Philip Green sold BHS to Retail Acquisitions for a nominal fee of £1 in 2015.

The chain closed a number of stores an on 25 April announced it had gone into administration.

We ask retail design experts where they think BHS went wrong and what could have been done to salvage the former UK high street icon.

“The high street is the most democratic of environments – shoppers vote with their feet. The demise of BHS is a lesson in not putting design and customer experience at the heart of your offer.

The store environment is like stepping back in time, their presence on social media is as uninspiring as their product range and the website is as generic as their identity.

How could they have got it so wrong when the competition are investing in getting right? John Lewis has a dedicated team looking at technology and omni-channel experience, Debenhams is collaborating with influential designers (Jasper Conran vs Holly Willoughby… go figure!) and Zara’s responsive and remorseless speed to market.

Sometimes you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone – sadly not in this instance.”

Stuart Wood, co-founder, Missouri Creative

“The clue to what went wrong is in the name. British HOME Stores. If Arcadia had developed its home product base and not tried to push clothing so heavily then I think that BHS might have stood a chance.

Think about it. They were always known for their lighting offer, there was a really good chance of rivalling IKEA – BHS was on the high street and the Swedes were not. Habitat has never attracted the mass market, which BHS always appealed to.

Design wise? Think Ikea crossed with Crate & Barrel, with a touch of Pitfield.”

Callum Lumsden, creative director, Lumsden


Broke by old creatives

The collapse of any major high street retailer sends shock waves across a host of industries. It will pull down dozens of key suppliers and leaves a gap in the market for others to fill.


Fundamentally that gap is what has caused this collapse.

There was no design migration going in or out of BHS for over a decade and stepping into the store just made you want to get right out again.

With the essentials of store experience and online ease of sales gone, it was simply a matter of time.


Designers create opportunity and winning ideas. With a dynamic creative team it is possible to turn the tide in less time it takes to swig an espresso. Design creates luck too which every winner harnesses and exploits.


So what happened? Why didn’t the design staff simply tell the management to get fucked?? BHS failed because the designers lacked the guts to take it on and take control.


As a designer you have to say ”This way will fail… this is not going to happen.


The problem in retail is the designers are simply MOR, perception starved and uncreative.


Get wrecked, hang with gangsters but don’t dull the market to death.


Until retail design teams start acting like real designers more collapses will follow as the game changes.



But perhaps the greatest risk today for UK retail and hospitality is getting through the day with a lack of ever clarifying design to market coordination and street fed idea migration.

The new market hates stagnation and pause. It thrives on change, experimentation and exploration… it even tolerates failure when accompanied by innovation and creative risk.


Failing to see this is commonplace.


The way forward it to flip inside out your old beige BHS pullover mindset and realise the game has become home to those who are liberated of confines and fly free.


A new form of design

Yep the days of most comfort zone design methods are fast numbered. It’s needing to happen on the handset and via email hosts, servers, Insta and user touchpoints.

Major product and brand design needs to be built on the hoof or Overground as it’s seen and dreamed.. on demand.

Interaction needs to become truly responsive and not just shells or crumbs.


Light Drive is the design gamechanger.


Chatting to a buddy in design very recently he had this to say:

”The corp client wants to see that the design platform is stable and that precludes visible collaboration of clustered brilliant minds… they just don’t want to see this..”

Things need to change. Design needs a redesign. The drivers are the winners.


Designers are dead without the right drive.




Nick Garrett






Brushstrokes not keystrokes – The Drum Article

April 14, 2016

Brushstrokes not keystrokes: Why handpainted signage is making a popular return

An art form all but lost, hand painted signage is experiencing a resurgence as retailers place value in the human touch.


Image showing Jack Hollands rolling out a superb stroke.


The first sign that the writing was on the wall for sign writing came in the 1980s when vinyl cutting first made an appearance and craft began to make way for computers. 

The 90s proved even more disastrous, with inkjet printers and digital design putting everything from window stickers to building wraps mere keystrokes away.

Before long the Victorian facades of our city centres were buried beneath the incongruous backlit signage of big-box stores and fast-food chains – a saturation of plastic and vinyl that led to high street bleeding into indistinguishable high street.

Thankfully, then, it looks like we’re finally getting bored with plastic, businesses no longer happy to just blend in with uninspired, identikit neighbours – much to the delight of traditional London sign writer Nick Garrett who dismisses modern signage as “offensive”.



Terms and Conditions for design industry…

April 14, 2016


Have you got your set of T&Cs clearly set out?


It’s the first thing you need to do – email me for a pro project T&C template at £4.00.

Nick Garrett

NGS Signwriting courses

February 11, 2016






Better Painted Letters NGS London Signwriting school


The Revival of Signpainting


A perfect letter says it all

I’m Nick Garrett, I’m a world class signwriter apparently: prefer to think of myself as a traditional London signwriter, author and type designer pretty much single handedly on a mission to share everything I know. Why so?

By sharing with you my dedicated knowledge: this craft will thrive… and we’ll have a lot of fun twirling the paint.

Pretty simple really.

I will show you how to handle a brush, the occasional downpour and a very cute ladder – as a fresh signwriter, applying art and methodology smoothly on site, safely, securely every time will say a lot about you. 

So while this course is focused on making beautiful cities, letters, finesse and technique, it also gives you the business end (fits your start-up budget)… and how to get you laying up the work and earning… the right way, right away.

And that is the philosophy of this certificated course. To teach the heart of the heart of the practice, all ways, always – a place where it all functions pretty simply.


Photograpy Iona Wolff

The techniques shared will make you a proper signwriter from go.

I have put together this comprehensive starter Signwriting course that actually suits all levels from beginner to returning pro. It’s a lot of fun and logical. Not only that but now I’m adding a host of more specialists courses to the 2016 roster: mastering London wharf blocks, Romans, Scripts, Typogaphics and paint effects.

 4 Keystrokes:  The concise NGS strokeplay that makes it all work.

 3 Faced:  Typefaces you must learn because they are the chosen, turnkey design industry styles.

 4 Ways of Sharp Corners:  An assured way of making it perfect every time.

 4 Ways of Spacing:  Again a solid breakdown of how to sort kerning in the bag.



”Occasionally you take part in something that alters the course of your life. I’m not talking total transformation, more like crossing over a road to be in the sunshine. The change happens quickly, you observe it taking effect. Your eyes and heart open, you see things with clarity and meaning, the new experiences create a new, more beautiful, reality and suddenly the path ahead looks different.   

It happened to me this weekend when I learnt to hand paint letters. 

Katie’s Blog

FEBRUARY 2016 COURSE Link Here>>

Choose NGS if you want the best start in your career…

on a weekend that’s all about bettering your 360 practice.

A Signpainting Workshop – For Professional Quality Lettering


I’ve been to Nick Garrett’s Workshop this weekend. It has been a mind changing journey!

Simone, Italy



Above: Wow what a fantastic workshop! Josh Stika and Vincent Plisson laying it on super clean Day 2 December 2015… all about you guys.

It Works – students going forward

Students leave the studio, go pro and succeed:  The Brushettes, Jack Hollands, Tobias Newbigin, Abdul Jalil, Kike Fitxaje, Nilgun Baklaki, Chloe Tickner, Josh Stika, Hannah Matthews, Daisy Emerson, Clive Rennels, Simone Cannolicchio, Nick Simons, Kevin Roberts, Irena Szhestekova, Rob Ventura … more here

Practice strokes

NGS certificate Sign Painter Training London.jpg

Completion certificate

We are the Revival

of Signwriting

Info pack request

‘SEND ME AN NGS Starter pack and Bite sized intro invitation


NGS Signsmiths London Lettering and Signwriting workshop. Gallery Feb 2016

February 8, 2016

NGS logo 03072

Gallery and Links!

Forthcoming courses

Learn to paint those Romans


Spring 2016

NGS Signsmiths London Lettering and Signwriting workshop.


Certificated workshops with NGS London


Contact Us and Booking

Learn To Signwrite with London’s NGS

January 1, 2016



Beginning what you will Love


The Consummate Painted Letters course by NGS

Sign writing today is proud boundless tradition thriving in the future tense.  There are few creative arts practices that allow such wholesome reward and such enormous sense of achievement over the short to medium term.  It is a renewed, utterly modern, brand based traditional practice, no longer limited by the closed shop, 5 year, die hard apprenticeships of the past.

This course is delivered by myself, Nick Garrett and my fantastic crew NGS.  We are dedicated to creating great signs and great signwriters. 

This course is jam packed, fun and astonishing… and yes for many it is the beginning of the next life.

It is also a place where a mix of talented artists, enthusiasts and beginners get intensely involved in this intricate creative process together and share the meet-up in a unique way each time. I relish each weekend. 

A delight to hear people decry the keyboard at 9.45am coffee break and by lunchtime are poleaxed and recharged by what they can do with just a pot of paint and a fantastic brush. It’s a privilege, fabulous discovery and atmosphere to be a guiding part of.

Be brave and dip the pot!

O strokes

It is an incredibly satisfying, human act, to create letters as semiotics which are after all, magical by character, definition, capacity and essence. As my 9 year old daughter Laura described it perfectly the other day ‘’With letters you are free!!’’

From the forthcoming book The Art of Urban Signwriting, Nick Garrett

By Eye – By hand – By Heart  #alwaysbyhand

Bespoke, Professional Lettering

NGS are a major signpainting studio in London promoting the truly vocational practice of lettering.  Nick Garrett is an independent master sign writer with a dedicated training environment for beginners and experienced artists.

Hard work, study and ingenuity continues to develop this successful course. Success is based on our newbies creating great signs out there in the world.


Typographer Kike Fitxaje learning the strokes – now a practicing signwriter

This course is designed to take learners at every stage of their creative path.  Students include an interesting mix of:

  • Those starting out
  • New experienced
  • Artists and designers
  • Lettering enthusiasts and Tattoo masters

Crafting Beautiful Letter Shapes & Strokeplay

Whilst Geometry is important

By Eye is essential

oct 2015 046

How to draw the brush and create all the best shapes

3 ways to chisel sharp corners

oct 2015 089

Drawing and painting great letters is one of life’s truest joys

A constant process… #youneverstoplearning

Facebook HO London – NGS

Heaps of writers follow and emulate what we do at NGS… design is highly competitive and full of challenges. We are all constantly expanding the art.  

This is genuine course because it builds on my modern sign practice by applying the lessons learnt at the coalface of writing across London today, and constant analysis of working, professional practice.

  • continually evolving
  • leading edge
  • ahead of trend
  • in-house, NGS projects of the day

Join Us     Why choose us?    Where we are

Better Painted Letters NGS London Signwriting school


Every corner of the new traditional practice has been refined and optimised for ease of learning.

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This course is all about the lettering. We have a laugh and fun on the day but it’s essentially about teaching you the real deal skills that matter.

Painted Letters


We will be practicing:
–  Setting up your kit – brushcare – go to suppliers
–  Brush practice – all day strokeplay through to sharp corners ad sweet curves
–  How to draw and paint London Block letters & history of sans serif development 1950s US scripts – looking at the structure and secrets of their visual snap!
–  Breath control and posture
–  Sharp Serifs 
–  Working on site – How it’s best done from set-up to clean-up

Gradient Learning

Designed specifically for beginners it also suits early stage writers and experienced alike, as the techniques shown are unique to the most successful signwriting crew in London.

Hardback workbook to be released in spring 2016

Laurence King Publishing
Well it’s been a fair time in the works but here it is a definitive manual on the art of painted letters.
Step by step tried and tested in the Signsmith workshops this book aims to be a game-changer, describing in detail how to prepare the brush and lay the strokes across 3 key lettering genres.
Release date announced shortly.

Page layup

Enrollment detail
All the latest info is updated here. 

For full course details info here

NGS Lettering course Group shot. 72

If I hadn’t done this course I would have been in a real mess on my first job… the little details that really count in getting organised… and the big ones!

Nick Simons

Join Us     Why choose us?     Course summary     Where we are

The handle of Truth

December 26, 2015


Paying the dues by being different – dare to care

Banksy sharp ending it

Nick Garrett of NGS

My studios fill up with students who have a pretty uniform desire in the room: to get work as a signpainter. Quite often they will mention how they have studied and done a few courses with other writers. Mostly they won’t.


As they leave the studio I have to ask them to twitter the course in order to gain valuable associative exposure. It’s a body language thing!!

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Most will never admit to doing the course via social networking and on website About Us pages because it draws attention away from them.

Some students do make a point such as Tobias Newbigin and it bodes well as it shows the client audience a sense of community and pedigree which generates the whole gamut of positive knock on effect.

Others, like my charge Jack Hollands, the very talented Brushettes, or even Hannah Matthews, or Wes Wills will never mention publically the fact that they trained with NGS. The reason for this is a competitor based notion of how to run and protect business. It reflects the distrust of many great and small businesses, creative or otherwise, in their attempt to grow. It is a bad decision for the industry, client and players. But it is completely understandable because our pasts pave the way to our futures… but is it creating a rocky road ahead? Or just plain stony misguided?

The modern herd


Understanding how you garner your best for your nugget of a start-up business is something I talk about in the Signsmiths course, as it sets out the stall of who and what you are and stand for.

My own stall and mission says be individual, honest and be open and the client is usually wrong!! (save for Tom Pepper of course!). This is to many conventional in the box businesses, a completely ass about face business mission which causes a lot of people to simply walk toward in curiosity and oft times awe and an equal measure to walk away, or even plain diss.

I have to say I don’t fear fear-based competition and react predictably with a jettison mode, as they do simply because I made a conscious decision as a child to trust in trust, be creative and forgive. I do fear for the industry, due to those new to the industry, who act out of strategic business school based fear and seek to self promote to the detriment of saving this industry.

The 80s brought signwriting to it’s knees at the hands of those who knew no better with scant training and a vinyls cutter.  Today this industry is still fragile and if it doesn’t hold together with a real sense of faith and good faith, it will be cut down by those who should and do know better. It’s own.

Over the past 3-5 years the highly veiled competitive and strategic approach to this industry from young players has come from a new set of principles born of their creative origins and scars. Believe me we have even more in common… or do we?

30 years ago and further, signwriters were ordinary blokes with an artistic gift, out of building school, seldom or never in art school. That was it usually… lettering classes, on the practice… up the ladder. I broke the mould in 81 as I came from art school, having been paid a grant to attend art school and not indebted, and a fine art background. By 83 as a recession hit (recessions are permanent for many regions and here to stay every 5 years in London), a lot of graphics students crossed over temporarily.  I stayed.

I managed to get a great tutor signwriter to take me on in Andy Whitmore. There was no internet and we went out scavenging for work until we got some great brewery connects.

Big jump to today, post 2008 a lot of young talented, dandy, fighter, tattooed, graffiti, super oss, ninja herd creatives have faced the prospect of leaving Uni never being in the mainstream industry they trained in (reality check and slap in the face). Not only that but the lack of supervisions and catastrophic decline in degree curriculum studio practice, nay quality, has forced these students to become hyper savvy and duck and weave well beyond the normal call of duty that we experienced. To survive the snipers and diss at Corporate Tech-self-ed over indebted Uni student education system today, it takes the new breed. I applaud that from the highest ladder! But your greatest strengths in one contexts might be your undoing in this one.

Which brings us up to date with what I have seen as a change in the new breed of sign painters today. Summarising their common position on leaving Uni:

  1. High Debt
  2. Talented: Fought for grade
  3. High distrust level
  4. Controlled empathy
  5. From cradle to ninja survival instincts
  6. Information extraction
  7. Share distrust
  8. Tutor or Grey aversion
  9. Tactically minded
  10. Other: Kill opposition


This combination above drives the artist toward those who share their story… and a tactical distrust of those that appear to fall into the Greyman or Other category.

It is understandable then that all the distrust strategies and red lights flash up when a student takes the risk and attends another training workshop course scenario such as NGS Signsmiths and indeed work experience and paid training.

What they don’t connect is mistaken identity and how we are, unlike in the Uni context on the same side. The mistake happens because of some fairly similar characteristics between the contexts yet night day differences in drivers and aspirations.

  • It’s total crap in Uni because of the system that owns yr ass, defensive politics and Jealousy.
  • It’s crap up a ladder because of the weather, subscribing to defensive politics and jealousy that will own your ass.


My love


Above: while not advocating a shift toward Christianity I do think self reflection and change is a good place to be.. always.


Cutting clear of Uni energy – You and the brush +some

When I left uni at 21 I was given a part – time teaching position in the college This was the entry level thing done for those the Academics took a shine to. They loved me and I thought they sucked. I did 2 months and walked … fuck that starch and shit was my Hipster attitude..

A signwriter was born.

In the Uni context the tutors have an ever declining position as their paymasters demand they jump higher through ever decreasing radiused hoops.  It is a nightmare knowing 40,000 other academics are at yr ass constantly and doing your brains in with discommunication, miscommunication and worse of all… Aca communication.

Couple that with 300 students pretending they love you, some actually do, yet all wanting you job.

That is why they are the way they are and as a student you begin very early to realise there is something wrong with the knowledge holders ethics and morals. He or she screws you and mind games you across as much paperwork as possible.

When I commenced PhD studies in University of Western Australia (Art and Reconciliation), I was amazed at how the supervisors had me off on field studies in order to back up their own work.

Well that’s how it works in Uni and it has nothing to do with life on earth or up the ladder.


Yet this experience of being driven barefoot up ravines, is ingrained in flocks of young grads and it’s toxic effect acts as a barrier and protective cynicism necessary to survive Uni, but damaging to your own professional development and the industry of signpainting as a whole. One strike and you’re out (call in an airstrike) is what causes conflict.

Did you realise you have been using the Bush and Blair philosophy to build a future on!?

You have to have the courage to recognise the velvety rut of so-called professional survivalism, ditch it as I did and as the other great blokes have done. It’s not about survival: it is about thriving.

Self Employed or Self Emplode?

Today this born again industry is shafted. Here’s why there are fatal flaws that will undermine hugely the capacity to succeed on micro and macro level.


  1. The notion of Newbie

There is nothing worse than falling into the trap of considering yourself as a product and labels make products… that don’t fit the rapidly changing landscape of 21st century signpainting. It is changing beyond it’s past limitations as it is now uniquely connected to new industries and tech. By past I mean last week.

The inherent experiences from early careers carried into a fairly matured traditional signwriting industry will likely cause fractures across what could be a more closely formed creative union. The recent establishment of organisations such as Letterheads and Better Letters are based on different energies.  The former on the ideal of sharing from true signpainting accords and the latter borne out of the opportunity of forming a collective borne of recent new industry business development.

  1. Bitchin’ n Blamin’

Don’t bitch. As Mike Meyer said to me ‘’We all have our issues..’’ and more than ever this group of people who share more in common than ever than not, need to acts as individuals with good principles. That means when the going is good share the beers but when it;s bad, like an apprentice cracks 2k work of storefront glass on ya, you have to deal with it and forgive the shit that happens… and that which can fly too. The key to the success of any team is it’s ability to dig deep and go the extra miles… which is: forgive.  Most teams have wide dynamics and difference and like the marriage it is the honeymoon ends, the marriage begins… but then something extraordinary happens… the second honeymoon begins.

Pick up the phone and talk to each other. Simple as that – don’t Blame either.

  1. The second Honeymoon

Truly rewarding is the phase that happens after some miles and battles have been won and a few lost. Unity and the ability to share the accounts in order to gain more awareness and avoidance: experience.

The sign start-ups need this depth of experience to gain ballast, density and gravity in the work.

You only become a great sign artist once you’ve understood that letters need love.  Love is only successful if there is joy, trust and forgiveness.  We get the joy from the brush but the rest and full picture we only get from each other through the passage of time.

Langhirano Italian Gourmet Vacation Tours

  1. This is surprisingly Different

If you want your business to really shine make it rise above the standards set by the norm of the day go across the horizon and do it differently.  Mindfully do it differently.

Growing is loving… digging the earth, waiting for rain.

By sensing something really big yet unknown is coming, you summon the good stuff from the heart of your heart.  Not the notion of ‘My Heart’ (that little pink thing… No! Something really heartcore).  The capacity to love forever.

When you see or hear your/a child’s first heartbeat you are filled with a sense of something enormous… boundless.  As a parent it is the triggering capacity and newborn desire to love someone for the rest of your days. It wasn’t there 5 minutes earlier… and then… as the baby beats… it is all consuming.

That is the power needed to be brought to your practice.

Being in business is all about balancing risk. You might as well take the risk at being genuine, making the right stand and tapping out bad sheep tagging practices. It’s about being strong at the core like a solid Trajan not a whisper calligraphic fucker perfect on paper but not on the brick wall: Different yet unifying.

Ha!… gotcha… expect the unexpected.

  1. Too Deep!!?

Nothing is too deep only too shallow.


  6. Underpricing yourselves. 

Never underprice.


   7. Somethings last forever 


These are a few keypoints that take on the past defence mechanisms and allow you to see another way of developing this industry.


Taking care of each other is taking care of business

By understanding the industry you are creating and joining you have a chance of transcending challenges. Understanding comes from lowering your guard because unlike the battles of the past this is a shared cause.  The biggest challenge should be the weather and the client… not those of who you share so much in common.

Getting back to the original point of sharing information about each other.  Most of the new artists walk out of my studio and feel no need to make mention of the training they had with myself and others simply because they are afraid a future client will see this and swing a focus on say my work – it is generally out of the fear of losing work.

That is not the case in reality. My prices will usually be similar but a good client will come to a new writer because they have heard the voice of their work. A good client is loyal, instinctive and responsible.

When you start out more than ever you need good clients.


They will certainly check you out… see you have studied with myself or Wayne Osborne or Mike Meyer and go to in order to ingest your roots and pedigree… why? Because you have enabled that extra layer of understanding and they are curious about you.

It deepens your client connection: that feeds through into happy letters and greater success. And guess what, it makes me feel proud to be a part of your story: appreciated. That is the real payoff for the genuine teacher… a little ego boost and smile that gets my day started.

That is in my book the real sharing of the gifts.


Do what we Love. Love is what we do… even when it’s tough.

Have a great year on the brush: the handle of truth.




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