Clerkenwell Design Week 2013
Just returned from another year of design loveliness and covetable things.
My highlights here:
Just returned from another year of design loveliness and covetable things.
My highlights here:
I’ve always subscribed to the Swiss style of less is more, so wholeheartily embracing this era of flat interface design. Given the design excesses of the past decade, it’s interesting to see how we’ve come full circle to reach this point. But I can’t help wondering – where to from here?
When I started designing websites back in the year 2000, all the world was flat. This was more by technological limitations than by choice, or possibly because we hadn’t considered there was any other way. Web 2.0 exploded in 2004, giving rise to a ‘richer’ user experience of gradients, rounded corners and 3D buttons. I spent the Web 2.0 years working in-house for investment banks, designing financial services websites. That’s a whole lot of beveled edges and drop shadows!
From here a host of web design trends emerged, first embraced, then vilified by the design community. Skeuomorphic ornamentation like hand stitched edges, forked ribbons and leather-effect binders had arrived! Designers argued that they were bringing realism to the web by introducing ‘visual metaphors’ or elements from everyday life, thus making interfaces more engaging and intuitive.
It always surprised me how wholeheartedly Apple embraced skeuomorphism, given their clean and minimal design ethic. iBook’s faux wood bookshelf and iCal’s moleskin ‘hand-stitched’ leather binder, while initially enchanting now seem terribly passe. This month, Apple profits fell for the first time in a decade and many commentators see their failure to evolve as their downfall. It suddenly seems as if Apple have lost a bite of their cool.
Flat design is quickly being adopted by market leaders. Facebook and eBay have introduced flatter versions of their logo and icons. Microsoft, traditionally the uncool laggard of the biggies, struck a winning blow with the flat interface of Windows 8. Rumour has it that Apple are now embracing the flatlands with iOS 7.
There is something about this design ethic that feels honest. Giving users what they want without the additional noise somehow seems kinder, more straight up.
Layervault, an early champion of flat design have gone as far as calling this “The Honest Design Age”. This sentiment is echoed by many across the web.
These changes aren’t all about fashion. The increase in web browsing on smartphones and tablets is forcing designs to adapt for responsive scalability on the small screen. Clear, crisp typography is also evident as part of the flat design trend with fonts like Open Sans and Promixa Nova leading the way with carefully crafted glyphs. It’s interesting to see the trend in mobile usage from my own site stats – up 18% in the last year.
I can’t help wondering where do we go from here? When everyone jumps on the flat design bandwagon will it suddenly look bland and outdated? Will my skills in creating a hand-sewn leather border ever be back in demand? It’s harder to stand apart from the crowd in a flat world.
Like the Mighty Boosh, I can’t help feel we designers have taken retro to its logical conclusion.
Just returned from Pick Me Up, the contemporary graphic arts festival at Somerset House. Now in its 4th year, the festival is an 11 day celebration of graphic art, design and illustration.
Despite its grand setting, the event has a refreshingly student feel to it. There is an inspiring showcase of work, from established studios to new graduate collectives.
Here are some pieces that caught my eye:I came away with this fab Helter Skelter print from Tris Tolliday from the Coffee Club Collective. Lovely fresh work from such a young group of designers, their enthusiasm was infectious.
Pick Me Up Runs till 28th April. Best year yet, you will leave inspired to create.
I’m working on an app design that has an innovative navigation. It got me thinking about how certain apps are defined by user interaction. When the interaction or navigation is unique to the app, it becomes part of the user experience and ultimately part of the brand. It seems to me that branded interactions are fast becoming a valuable commodity.
The app that defines this for me is Clear, the colour-pop ‘to do’ list. I found Clear’s interaction intuitive from the outset; pull down to add an item, pinch to insert a task and left swipe to ‘clear’ or delete a completed task from your list. Few actions used repeatedly. ‘Clearing’ the list is the user’s objective, which packages up the brand beautifully:
Another is Rise, the super-simple, user-friendly alarm app which has revolutionised my mornings. Drag your thumb up or down to select your rising time, the screen colour changing to reflect day and night. Swipe right to turn on and off. The colours, font and user interaction all add up to a defining brand experience:
A quick Google turned up this great article by Matthew Moore, reiterating thoughts on the above two apps. Moore illustrates his piece with some excellent animated gifs.
I also came by this new and beautifully crafted book Branded Interactions, which got me very excited – until I realised it was only available in German. [With the help of Google translate] it looks like a useful read on digital branding, applying a model to the design and development process and also interviews with some pretty tasty brand communication experts. English version please!
And if you’ve a spare 20 minutes I recommend this presentation by Nick Myers, The visual interface is now your brand. It gives a nice overview on the growing importance of visual interface design to both brand and user experience.
Twitter are making a legal claim to the ‘Pull down to refresh’ function, first used in the Tweetie app that they purchased and repurposed for mobile Twitter. This function is also used by Gmail, iOS and countless others. Granting legal ownership could set a real precedent to the right to employ a specific interaction. This could be a serious consideration for app designers in the future.
In such a crowded market a unique interaction can really set you apart from the competition. It’s clearly a key area for consideration when designing the mobile user experience.
…or how website colour schemes are influenced by football strips
I keep being asked to base websites on football team colours. This month I have designed an interface for a trade union website (“make it red like Liverpool FC”) and for a learning charity (“make it blue and yellow, like Leeds”).
I mentioned this to a group of web designers at a conference I attended this week and the response was loud. There wasn’t a single designer who hadn’t been asked to base a site scheme on an unrelated football strip.
It got me thinking about the psychology of colour. Colour associations develop so stealthily that most of us don’t realise why we associate a particular colour with an emotion, a product, the winning team or the losing side. So if you’re designing a brand or identity from scratch how do decide on a colour scheme? Should this be a considered, scientific choice or just a personal preference?
My kids are big on this. My favourite colour is grey. Grey is calm and makes secondary colours like yellow and pink really pop. That said, it probably doesn’t score me highly on the Jung/Myers Briggs personality test.
The standard corporate fallback is blue. Blue is widely regarded as a safe colour, traditional and dependable. In the UK, blue is the healthcare colour: the NHS logo is blue and nurses uniforms are often blue. We trust in blue. On the flipslide, can you think of a TRUELY AWESOME website that is blue?
Trends in colour go across design media. Yellow on the catwalk turns up as yellow in cushions and curtains in the portfolios of interior designers. This filters through to web and graphic design. If you’re on the cutting edge and have a budget to regularly update your site’s skin, don your skull-print leggings and rock it like a flatlander. If you’re in for the long haul, then perhaps a more measured scheme is needed.
Colours have different meanings in different cultures. For example, in the East white is the color of funerals while in the West white is the color of weddings. Check out the colour chart of cultural symbolism.
If you’re unsure, the best people to ask are the end users. Do they all actually support Aston Villa? Your winning colours might be claret and blue but it might not be a good fit with your audience. Test out 2-3 colour variations with your target market. This doesn’t have to be a formal process, it can be done on your iPhone in the pub. A quick, gut reaction from the right demographic will tell you if you’re heading in the right direction.
Possibly the coolest history of the coolest artist.
Narrated by the person with the coolest voice (Tom Waits). By Supermarche.
I built my first website in the year 2000. It was built in Flash, naturally. I had tried building a site in HTML, painstakingly flipping between Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG view and my copy of Netscape 4. There appeared to be little correlation between the two. It was so hard! This HTML stuff would never catch on.
In Flash you effectively drew yourself a website. At last, I was webdesigner! I set about crafting an awesome portfolio site that would undoubtedly showcase my work for the rest of my career.
The website was blue and the font was Arial, inexplicably all in lower case. Like most Flash sites of the period it eschewed all usability standards, contained no hard text and opened in a pop-up window. One in the eye for you Jakob Nielsen, with your yellow site for boring people! The piece de resistance was the opening animation that took 3 minutes to load and equally long to enjoy. This featured a series of flying screen grabs of my degree projects set to a repeating loop from a dance track.
There was an innovative take on navigation, an attempt at a 3D dice (perhaps inviting potential clients to take a chance on me?). A moving arrow pointed out the navigation, in case anyone hadn’t clocked quite how dreadful it was.
In this shiny new world of HTML5, it’s hard not to feel a little sad and nostalgic about Flash. At the time it felt so exciting and full of possibility.
Flash started its life as an animation package and joined the web in 1996. The technology was adopted by market leaders like MSN and Disney, it grew in popularity and spawned a derth of interactive web pages and games. It was bought by software giant Adobe in 2005. I remember this as the year I started designing all Web 2.0, we got a broadband connection and web video suddenly exploded. YouTube appeared, making it possible to upload and share video online and Flash became integral for enabling multimedia across the web.
It was getting all very exciting for Flash. Then in 2007, Apple released the iPhone.
The story goes that Adobe was in talks with Apple to make Flash work on the iPhone but it just didn’t cut it on a mobile processor. YouTube made the decision to offer up access to its videos in a format optimised for mobile phones, bypassing the need for Flash. The final nail in the coffin was Steve Job’s famous memo, Thoughts On Flash which denounced Flash, highlighting its many failings.
* The reason I’m getting all nostalgic about Flash is because of an email from 123-reg, inviting web designers to take part in a shared reminise about My 1st Website. And they’ve got a rather tasty MacBook Pro up for grabs…(not that I’m cheap date on the tech front).
I’m glad something’s prompted a rummage through my year 2000 CD archive – it’s nice to be reminded of how far I’ve come since my shabby beginnings at age 23. These days I would start by downloading a free HTML boilerplate and hit the ground running. Back then it was all so new, exciting and painfully homemade. Creating something in your bedroom that was suddenly visible to everyone online seemed like a revelation, your own small place on a world stage.
Keyframe animation did make me feel pretty flash. I hope the kids out there today get as excited about building their first site, despite never knowing the joy of a shape tween.
According to this morning’s Metro only “1 in 11” people will stick to their news year’s resolutions. I read this to my daughter who said her new year’s resolution is to “eat more sweets”. Kind of made me wish I was 6 again. Here are mine, let’s hope they are more than 9% sticky.
I was browsing the Typekit gallery over the holidays and there are some beautiful new webfonts at my fingertips. A fresh headline font can really lift a site from ordinary to a bit special.
Responsive web design means the site scales to fit the device you’re viewing it on – a desktop computer, a tablet or phone. You can achieve a responsive design through a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. With the advent of so many new devices and ways to browse the web it is essential that we designers provide a consistent user experience.
The majority of work I’m taking on is interface design, which I LOVE. However the more specialised I become, the less coding I do. I read a brilliant article from Smashing Magazine on the evolution and refinement going on in the front end and strategies for keeping yourself up to date in 2013. First on the list for me are CSS preprocessers LESS and Sass.
I must stop subscribing to trends because I like them. I must stop subscribing to trends because I like them. I’ve been known to occasionally go a drop shadow too far.
I vow to make these sticky for 2013.
I regularly sift Designspiration and Behance and every so often something slaps me around the chops with originality. Interestingly though, most clients I meet don’t want a website that’s original. They want a site that looks like someone elses.
When you see a site up and running, live and beautifully crafted it’s difficult to see past it. You’re probably admiring the site because it’s doing a great job of promoting the product or organisation it’s been designed for. But will this site provide such a good fit with your product or your brand?
Design is such a subjective thing and it’s hard not to bring your personal preferences to the table. One charity project I worked on was hindered by a director who insisted the homepage looked like his bank ‘First Direct’, which is like…errrr…a bank. I regularly receive feedback like “make it blue like Chelsea FC” because this is the football team that the client supports. It’s tough to explain that this isn’t what their 18-24 hipster demographic will engage with.
When designing from scratch, I think you need to cast your net wider than the web for inspiration. Good design is the result of great thinking. Getting away from the screen is vital. Books, films, signage, exhibitions, street art, it’s amazing what gets me excited. Modern design tools like Photoshop certainly make life easier but they do little to improve creativity.
I recently read an interesting article by Jessica Hische titled Inspiration vs Imitation. Some great tips in diversifying your inspiration and the joy of designing from scratch:
“If you copy someone else, you’re depriving yourself of the amazing feeling of creation, of making something that is yours and yours alone. You’ll undoubtedly love and care for the baby you’ve created more than the baby you stole from the grocery store.”
What an awesome quote. It’s time to step away from the computer.
I’m glad it’s not just me who receives client feedback like this.
The first time I saw a toaster was in the early 2000s. I had a shitty job at a small advertising agency and was hungover about 98% of the time. The toaster was painted on the inside of a window between Old Street and Moorgate and it used to cheer me up on the way to work. The building looked sort of official and I always wondered how someone had managed to paint it there.
Over the years the toasters seemed to follow me around London. Stickers on tubes, lamp posts, escalator risers. The triptych on the 141 bus route on New North Road. The bright orange flash of toaster along Hackney Road. The flying toasters across the Four Vinters at the top of Kingsland Road that got badly painted over to form an ever changing canvas of Rothko-esk weirdness.
I haven’t seen a new toaster for ages, just the ghosts left behind by stickers and paint overs. I thought perhaps the toaster crew had got older and were now pretending to be grownups, like me. Then yesterday I was running the Parkland Walk and HELLO! This spanky new toaster sprayed under the railway arches.
I’ve been working on a site design that incorporates a lot of web forms this week and surfing the web for inspiration. It’s made me realise how much time and effort designers put into bringing users to sign-up and contact forms, only to present a poorly crafted form. Here are some of my form musings:
There is nothing more off-putting than a long form that scrolls endlessly off the screen. Breaking the form into small, manageable chunks or stages make the form appear more manageable and less of a chore for the user. The checkout process on Game is a great example of this:
This is where each form field is validated separately as the user types. The error handling is instant, with the user being told that their data doesn’t match the expected format. I gleaned a lot from this excellent article by Luke Wroblewski.
Twitter have really nailed live validation feedback on their signup form.
Adding a bit of brand sparkle can lift a form from a mundane chore into something personable and dare I say ‘fun’. People enjoy relating to people and a small dose of friendliness and personality can make the input process a bit more enjoyable and human.
I love the hand drawn signup form on Christian Sparrow’s site
Choosing items from a list is easier than filling in a blank field with text. My user testing experience has shown that users are often confused when filling in blanks, especially if the labelling is not clear.
Buffalo do this brilliantly with their contact form – you can select from set options rather than filling in blanks
A well-designed form that gives the user feedback can make the difference between a successful conversation and a drop-off failure. As Shawn Borsky says on Smashing Magazine:
“We spend so much time getting people to the door that we forget to make the door as inviting and useful as the path to it.”
I was in a meeting the other day when a client started fuming about Apple’s overuse of skeuomorphism. I nodded sagely and stroked my imaginary tecchies beard, hoping I would not be called upon for an opinion.
Skeuomorphism? A hasty and covert Google revealed:
A skeuomorph /ˈskjuːəmɔrf/ [skyoo-uh-mawrf], or skeuomorphism, is a design element of a product that imitates design elements that were functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design.
…basically it’s a way of making new things appear comfy and familiar.
I often embed elements and textures from offline life into my interface design. An imperceptibly light shading can make an element appear more credible, or dare I say…realistic? So skeuomorphism is something I do every day just without the fancy title. Phew.
This thought process did get me thinking about the way I design website interfaces though. By adding a ‘real world’ texture or skin over an on-screen interface am I really making it more realistic? Or just adding an unnecessary layer of entirely superficial complexity?
I came by a blog post entitled The Flat Design Era written by Allan Grinshtein. Grinshtein encourages designers to strip back all unnecessary layers and risk creating entirely flat interfaces. He links out a number of fellow ‘flatlanders’ who have embraced a completely flat layout.
I was quite excited by this idea until I looked through the featured sites. They were all very clean and contemporary but none of the layouts got me particularly excited or convinced me to banish drop shadows forever.
If a slight drop shadow brings a button forward and makes it obvious to the user that it is a button then this is good design. If bringing a ‘real world’, familiar shape to an icon makes the user instantly recognise what it does and engage with it then this is good design.
Spending a week recreating the hand-stitched moleskin leather of Apple’s calendar is not a great use of design time.
I need to start ranting about this in meetings.
The prep school website I did the initial designs for has gone live and looks lovely. Beautiful photography of the students and gives a really engaging view of the school.
The school uniform did require the odd bit of virtual mothering!
I’m not much of a joiner so I almost surprised myself when I bought a ticket to Mumsnet Blogfest. I added a blog to my site a couple of years ago, mainly as an exercise in SEO to drive more traffic to my portfolio. It did markedly increase traffic and on the personal side it provides a nice writing outlet, regardless of whether anyone out there is reading!
I digress – the speakers at Blogfest were fantastic from Miriam Gonzelez Durantes to the fabulously funny Caitlin Moran. Main takeaways for me were from social guru Paul Armstrong on making social media work for your blog. He had me hooked from this slide:
It’s nice to see we designers are not completely redundant yet.
Paul presented some useful stats on the time UK users spend on the main social networks and user demographics. His main recommendation or “SEO crack” was Google+. Though still in its infancy it is linked to the mighty Google search and will help you get the most from your brand.
Source: Paul Armstrong, Mindshare
Another champion of Google+ was Matt Bennett from MEC Global who took a session on advanced SEO. He also advocated Google Authorship, where you can link content you publish on a specific domain to your Google+ profile. I will clearly need to spend this morning updating my presence on Google!
Brilliant day, I met a really diverse and interesting group of people and left feeling inspired. Have already signed up for next year, how’s that for joining in.
Typography really suffered in its transition to the web. For years online typography involved choosing one of the few ‘web-safe’ fonts and making the best of it. Times New Roman or Georgia for the traditional, Arial or Verdana for the contemporary. Not forgetting every designer’s favourite, Comic sans:
The advent of @font-face and services such as Typekit, Webtype, Fontdeck, and Google Web fonts means we now have thousands of fonts to choose from. But is this amount of choice making the web a better place? In my experience when a range of development options are given to the masses the result is rarely pretty. I’m convinced the downfall of MySpace was due to the endless number of fonts and backgrounds offered to users, which resulted in ugly and unreadable pages.
I read a great quote by Paul Scrivens that got me thinking:
“Instead of having a user agreement it would be cool if Typekit made you read a book on typography before you could begin using a font—the Web would improve tenfold”.
So what do you need to consider when deciding on fonts for your website? In his Smashing Magazine article ‘“What Font Should I Use?” Dan Mayer gives the following criteria for selecting the right font for the job:
While appropriateness isn’t a sexy concept, it’s the acid test that should guide our choice of font. It’s like wearing the right dress to the disco. Personally, as a designer I tend to fall back on a few failsafe fonts for body text. They’re like a comfortable and trusted pair of pants.
Fonts are loosely grouped into six groups, some feel formal and old school while others more contemporary. Does the job call for a bold and punchy sans serif or a quirky, space-age slab serif? If you’re into the science, here’s a more technical guide.
We need to decide how to mix and match and most importantly, whether to mix and match at all. Some useful tips for font combinations here
(Image: Smashing Magazine)
Applied sparingly to headlines a display font can add a well-needed dash of flavour to a design, but it can quickly clutter and over-complicate.
I have to add a number 5 to this list being -
The ‘web safe’ fonts of old were crafted, adjusted or even developed for use on-screen so you could ensure the majority of your users would find them readable. Now we have a greater variety of fonts it has become apparent all are not equal over all operating systems, browsers and devices. I have had clients insist on a font that looks squeaky clean on a mac, only to be horrified at how nasty and pixelated it looks in Windows. The only way around this is to thoroughly test the fonts across all browsers. I also find the comparison tool offered by Typekit useful as it gives an approximation of how fonts render out in each browser:
In the end I believe it’s down to experience and putting your work in the hands of a seasoned designer. As a inexperienced designer you tend to cram in as much as possible, these days I find myself paring it back and taking away. All the points above really do come naturally after years of designing for online. Copy needs space to breathe.
This is a timely one for me. I’ve spent the last two years with this WordPress blog badly hacked onto the back of my site and the code didn’t come close to validating. And I’ve felt terribly shabby about it. Most web developers I meet insist your code should validate. But do clients ever check this, or care? More importantly, do search engines care?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a set of coding standards. You can measure your site against W3C standards using their code validator. It’s a bit like checking your spelling and grammar is correct (innit). Much like each language has different rules for grammar, the code you use has different rules depending on the doctype you specify in the code.
The W3C gives five reasons why your code should validate:
Validation helps with debugging
If your page isn’t displaying or functioning as it’s supposed to then it’s probably down to an error in the code. Validating is the first thing I check if things are looking a bit squiffy.
Validating helps ‘future proof’ your site
Web browsers are constantly evolving and what looks fine on-screen today might not work when you upgrade your browser tomorrow.
Validating eases maintenance
Creating web pages to an accepted coding standard makes them easier to maintain. I often inherit old legacy sites that are quicker to rebuild than repair.
Validating is a sign of professionalism
This is the deal breaker for me. I work in a very neat and ordered way and I want my code to reflect this. It’s all about integrity and good practice.
This is a curly one. My blog has performed pretty well, despite its 287 validation errors. SEO experts like to tell you it makes a difference to your page rank but I disagree. For me, clean code = good practice. It makes sense that the cleaner your code the quicker Google can sniff out those all-important keywords. But will it be ranked down because the code doesn’t validate? Unlikely. Read this interesting debate between SEO experts.
In an ideal world all code would validate but in many cases this just isn’t possible. Code for specific browsers is not written into the standard – the most notorious being -webkit and -moz which will never validate. Hacks for old browsers are often necessary to get the page looking right but don’t validate. Widgets and bits of code dropped in from other sources often clash with your doctype.
I always do my best to validate the sites I build but at the end of the day it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t score 100%. The fact my blog validates after 2 years is enough for me today.
It’s London Design Festival and after fielding the barrage of promotional emails for the past month it was finally time to get amongst it. Now in its 10th year, the festival is suffering from urban sprawl with events across London – from the V&A to the Southbank. I decided to stay East and visited Tent and Super Brands at the Old Truman Brewery in E1.
Tent had the most appeal for me, featuring new designers showing off furniture, lighting, ceramics, textiles and lovely covetable things you don’t need but really want. Leave your wallet at home if you suffer from a similar notebook fetish.
It’s on till Sunday and worth a wander, I always leave these events feeling inspired.
And as someone with a hall full of bicycles I was rather taken with this Pedal Pod bike shelf by Tamasine Osher:
I’ve put a new site live today for a firm of sustainability engineers who specialise in environmental design solutions.
The brief was to keep it clean and contemporary and reflect the company’s ethos – creative, positive and sustainable design. The site is responsive and scales down to fit an iPhone or iPad.
Just returned from an aquatically-themed Lost Lecture in the docksheds at Trinity Buoy Wharf. A brilliant line-up; from adventurer Alastair Humphreys to marine biologist Dr Helen Scales to my favourite – legendary photographer Dennis Morris on his years touring with Bob Marley.
Aside from a sore bottom (they made us sit on Lost-themed inflatable rubber rings – honestly) a highly successful evening of diverse and interesting speakers.
Check out the next event, though as they say – keep it to a whisper: http://www.thelostlectures.com
The childrens’s shoe store I designed has gone live, check it out:
http://littlefooties.co.uk (the bright canvas shoes really pop)
Gorgeous viral from Beakus. It’s nice to see an unsanitised take on a Games so blighted by corporate sponsorship:
I have been working on a Shopify site this week and I’m really impressed with what it has to offer. I have designed a number of online stores over the years and the majority of ecommerce apps I’ve skinned up have been rather clunky and cumbersome on the back-end.
By comparison I found Shopify very intuitive. Sites are built using its own bespoke code called liquid. It’s a small and fast template language which is quick to learn but offers powerful customisation. If you can code HTML/CSS you shouldn’t have too much trouble picking it up.
The only downside I can see is that store functionality is very template-specific. I’m used to WordPress where you can plug in any functionality – Shopify seems more complex to customise. There are some well documented hacks and a good support forum but you ideally need to choose a theme that does what you want from the outset, which invariably means paying for one.
I think it’s competitively priced too, given the features it offers – a secure payment gateway, advanced inventory management and well documented Wiki/support. I would definitely recommend it to clients. Looking forward to the site going live.
Caught a couple of lectures at Artsmart, an alumni event run by UAL focused on getting ahead in the creative industries. Brilliant talk by Laura North of Speaking Out on public speaking. I nearly ran away when she mentioned group activities but I’m glad I forced myself to do it. It’s useful to get feedback on your public speaking, it’s something I naturally shy away from.
Met some lovely, talented and creative people. Check it out next year: www.artsmartlondon.co.uk
I have put a new site live today for Jon Gower, a photographer and digital compositor. Jon’s brief was a website that “wasn’t really a website” – resulting in the most minimalist site I have ever designed. His images are beautiful and the star: www.jongower.com
Just home from The Lost Lectures. It’s a great concept: short, punchy talks from interesting people, delivered in an unusual and secret London venue they release a couple of days before the event.
Tonight was no exception. Henrik Dahle, an engaging fellow who climbed a different tree every day for a year. Max Whitby, a BAFTA-winning producer who spoke about identifying bumblebees and his new iPad app of Shakespeare’s sonnets and who performed a rather beautiful science experiment. Matt Durran, a glass artist and tissue engineer who is helping surgeons to reconstruct noses. And my favorite Alwyn Collinson, an Oxford history graduate who has been live tweeting the Second World War with events as they happened in real time.
I tend towards digital media and design lectures and found it a rather enlightening change to hear about so many weird and wonderful projects and ideas. Check out the next one: www.thelostlectures.com
I’ve just seen the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I have drawn inspiration from the Bauhaus throughout my career, tubular-steel chairs and iconic, cubic buildings – I guess I was expecting to be slapped around the chops with something a bit special.
The top floor is largely work from the early days under the new-age influence of Jonathan Itten. The early pieces were rooted in Expressionism and it’s clear that the school’s functional style took a while to develop. I felt that too much space was given to early work, aside from the teapots and the final space on typography it seemed a little mediocre.
It warmed up downstairs with the lower floor focusing on the lives of the students, the staff and the community they created in their purpose-built premises in the industrial town of Dessau, under the of influence of director Walter Gropius.
It was here that Bauhaus came into its own. Contracts were signed with lighting manufacturers, and Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s bulbous, opal-glass desk lamp has since become a classic of modern furniture design. The Bauhaus building became iconic too, with its concrete skeleton and glass- curtain façade, through which all three storeys of workshop activity were visible to the outside world.
Bauhaus design will continue to inspire me, I’m sad to say this exhibition didn’t.
I’ve just put a new site live for Applecart – an arts initiative in the East End who create live theatre, film, music, comedy and drama. The brief was “from the street…but er…not street” and I think it’s turned out surprisingly on-brand! I’ve really enjoyed this project, the design evolved with lots of texture and dirtied up edges, something I haven’t got my hands on since my work for Save the Children.
Check out the site here: http://www.applecartlive.org (and buy yourself a hoody, they are well cool!)
I have been enjoying Dezeen’s ‘Made in Hackney’ series promoting local designers. With so many websites jumping on the Olympic bandwagon it’s nice to see a nod to the event that’s both inspiring and well executed. I especially love the furniture and lighting from SCP, I was in there the other day lusting over their Cedric desk!
Check it out here: http://www.dezeen.com/designedinhackney
Picked this up in a charity shop in Suffolk this weekend. Given my love of Christmas jumpers it’s officially my coffee table book of the year. Can’t help wondering who the ‘top designers’ are, my money’s on Stella Mccartney…
Just spotted on Church Walk in Stokey. Nice.
Caught this on my alumni blog. It’s a design studio and gallery opened by four students in an old butchers’ shop on Portobello Rd.
To introduce themselves to the local community, Butchers Hook (clever) set up a digital display in their front window. Using an old Nintendo Wii remote, custom-made infrared pencils, a wireless door bell and a printer they enticed passers by to create their own artwork and print it out (their business card on the back).
Take a look at their film to see it in action. What a creative way to get people talking and distribute your cards at the same time!
Managed to squeak in to see Pick Me Up before it closed. If you haven’t stumbled upon it it’s a graphic art fair held at Somerset House each year. I first heard about Pick Me Up through ArtSmart, an alumni event I attended last year and I was keen to make it along.
The fair showcases the best new work from around the UK, the nice thing being you can buy original works and prints from as little as a tenner. I love the way the work is pinned and pegged onto boards and it’s really accessible - like cult comic Modern Toss who were running a portrait booth and would immortalise you for £20. Peepshow’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Things We Didn’t Know’ also good fun - each participant in their workshop creating a collage to appear on their ever-expanding wall frieze of little-known facts (above).
Worth checking out, can imagine it will be even bigger and better next year. http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/pickmeup
Finally caught the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Tate Modern. I’ve loved seeing Kusama’s work over the years – from the polka dot trees in Singapore to Louis Vuitton handbags to the cover of last years’ tube map.
The first rooms give you a background to Kusama’s journey and inspiration throughout her career. Her designs are so iconic and contemporary, you forgot she is an artist in her 80s! Her works are more arresting on a large scale like ‘Love Arrives at the Earth Carrying with It a Tale of the Cosmos (2009)’ a crazy series of panels that I could have stared at for hours.
The highlight of the exhibition are the two rooms designed by Kusama, pic above. The Infinity Mirrored Room was fun to get lost in, lights which glint and change colour and endlessly repeat. I was seeing spots for hours afterwards, perhaps the artist’s intention? Highly enjoyable, go see if you’re in London.
I’ve just bought this for our new kitchen, a glorious design classic by Jørn Utzon. I love the way it echoes his design for the Sydney Opera House and the way it illuminates up through the shades as well as down. Luscious.
I’ve put a new website live today for London Digestive Health – a partnership of Harley Street gastroenterologists.
The group have developed a contemporary brand and have a fantastic stock of images from the London Clinic that really bring the site to life.
The brief was to provide a current online presence for the practice, professional yet approachable and I hope I’ve gone some way to achieving this.
Mr Bingo, the self styled ‘master of pens’ is worried. He’s worried that people don’t get enough fun post any more, so he’s come up with an idea…
“You send me a fiver (plus postage) and I’ll send you a vintage postcard with a little drawing and an offensive message on it. (that’s why it’s called ‘Hate mail’). So you get an original signed drawing, the postman get’s a laugh and the world get’s a little bit happier.”
I’ve been following this guys work for a while now, he has an endless capacity for making me smile. His ‘Skatebeards” are legendary.
Just come by this brilliant tool for colour matching, finding hues, tints and tones. I usually do this by eye in Photoshop but it’s nice to find an app that’s reassuringly scientific.
Just finished this – inspiring read. Far too many ideas go to waste when left in the hands of disorganised designers. Making ideas happen
Just finished a site for the Cobbled Yard in Stoke Newington. It’s a fantastic shop and a bit of Stokey institution, some cool vintage finds.
We went through a few logo designs but plumped for a beaten up, distorted font with lots of noise. The yard has a quite an urban, industrial feed so I think it works well.
I built the backend with WordPress WP E-commerce. Stock can be updated by the owner through the WordPress backend.
Drop by and give them a like! http://www.cobbled-yard.co.uk
Everyone laughed when I got this book for Christmas. A good read, especially for the font-obsessed.
After being walked through stories of font revolutionaries, from the money-motivated Johannes Gutenberg to the sexual deviant Eric Gill, it’s difficult to even look at a cereal packet in the same way again.
Spotted at the V&A today ❤
this is pretty legendary:
Just finished a site design for Suzanne Fisher Murray, a Canadian writer/editor/journalist now settled in London. Suzanne wanted visitors to explore her own “personal tube map” of the countries she has worked in. We went through a few iterations, it was a tricky one to get right!
The site showcases her extensive portfolio, from the BBC World Service to international charities.
Check it out http://www.suzannefishermurray.com
The back-end was build by Joe Mewes of 4 All Digital
Got projected onto the wall of the NFT last night by Aviva Big Picture.
Just finished a new WordPress site for a local yoga teacher. Was blown away by her photos, I wish I was that flexible! I went through a few logo iterations – I think this one really encapsulates her brand.
Check it out http://sunflower yoga.co.uk
You might just get inspired to don some lycra!