Monday, November 23, 2009

Mathieu Lehanneur's science based designs

Mathieu Lehanneur's talk for TED highlights some really fundamental principles of design. Is it colour theory? Typography? Is it perhaps the socio-economic impact of design?


It's even more fundamental than that. It's about being human.

At a martial arts seminar once I heard a Systema guru speaking about styles and how to effectively make the techniques work. "Do you think this move is more like the crane style of kung fu or tiger style?" (referring to the idea that fighting systems have evolved after emulating certain animals in their habitat). The head honcho snorted and said, "Humans shouldn't need to imitate animals they should concentrate on being human".

In a similar way Lehanneur states in his opening part of this lecture how important science is to him: the science of being human because therein lies the answer to design solutions. He says,

"Science helps us understand how we see, how we hear, how we breathe, how our brain can inform or mislead us.
It's a great tool for me to understand what could be our real needs.
Marketing people have never been able to do that.
Marketing reduces things. Marketing simplifies.
Marketing creates user groups.

Scientists admit complexity, admits fluctuation and uniqueness."

Understanding how we perceive and interact with our world is essential for designing products or communications. What I find intriguing about his approach is that he looks at the real essence of the problem. Often designers talk about solving problems but really just create a make-over or 'paint it up' to look pretty (and in fairness often clients want this as a solution rather than any deep searching study into what is really needed!). This guy at least looks at the very heart of the problem and works in deep thought into the solution. Designing isn't about drawing pretty pictures it's about solving problems. Drawing helps us communicate ideas. Problem solution is about thinking. It's about seeing how we are as humans.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zen and the art of animation

Richard Williams is a renowned animator who discloses below part one of the animator's survival kit. This approach works for lots of different aspects of life and is something I encountered early on in my relationship with art! I remember having a colleague confess that he lobed doing the dishes. This is something I loathe but do on a daily basis as we don't own a dishwasher. His claim was that this 10 or 15 minutes of the day gave him solitary time to think without distraction. The process of washing the dishes freed him from thought; the actions he needed to perform with his hands are automatic requiring no brain effort thus allowing him to take stock of the day.

Maybe, as Williams alludes to in this video, to do something well we need to immerse ourselves in the task at hand. If we do, he says, the quality increases.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Interaction at the museum

Saw a quite interesting interactive display at the Fitzwilliam museum recently. Not the interactive we usually think of, you know...push this button, prod that, watch this film, walk over there... This was much better: a bank of screens showing marvellous images of nature, celebrating the diversity in life which Darwin spent his life trying to understand. the neat 'interaction' was that you could add your own colourful nature photos to the display via flickr. So it's not instantly gratifying in terms of interaction but I'd wager this was a bit better in some ways. If you submit, you need to come back to the museum to see if it was accepted! Encourages re-visits and a great feeling of connection with the exhibition! Two for the price of one.

Friday, October 02, 2009

New distorted world view

Check out this interesting but distorted view of the UK based on the density of where people live...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Microsoft's power of advertising

...or "Let's make a really crap advert and get people talking about it"...

Well that's one way I guess. I just thought this was eye wateringly cheesey. I was waiting for the punchline to arrive but it never came. It seems that this really is the advert pushing a Microsoft product which I, frankly, couldn't care less about mostly based on watching this ad!

Ha, ha, ha! It's so much FUN using Microsoft products! Ho, ho, ho!

Thanks to PR.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How are your Photoshop skills?

The Eight Principles of Success

Very neat, short film by Richard St. John outlining his ideas about the journey through to success.
Only 3mins 55-worth a look as it's straight-talking and inspiring.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Verdana is the new futura then?

What were IKEA thinking of? Using a font like Verdana, which is primarily a screen font, across all their media is bonkers. I know that often there is a dynamic that needs addressing between the main corporate font which is used in printed matter and a 'replacement' font to be used globally in Powerpoint slides, Word processing and the like and particularly websites which really can only display a small number of font styles. So what to do? Often a similar type of font is chosen for the online use/Office use which either closely resembles the corporate font or complements it nicely. That's one way.

The other way is to blanket use one monolithic font across everything, like this use of Verdana by IKEA. The great advantage, of course, is that it's cheap. Times are hard for IKEA too after all. The down side is that we, the consumer, know it's cheap.

Is this a wise, functional choice based on sensible cost cutting in a tough economic climate or the easy way out?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are you fired up...?

...ask a silly question!

Systemising knowledge with Wolfram|Alpha

Is this a new way of bringing together all that information out there?

Does this fill in what wikipedia and google seem to leave out?
I don't know to be honest but this seems like a powerful way of systemising knowledge.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

CSS stuff

Just a CSS snippet to help me on my way...

p {margin-left: 2px; margin-top: 80px; margin-right: 45px; margin-bottom: -5px; }

a.nav:link {color: red; text-decoration: none; }
a.nav:visited {color: purple; text-decoration: none; }
a.nav:hover {color: orange; text-decoration: underline; }
a.nav:active {color: blue; }

Monday, July 06, 2009

Chat box

Ok so here's a widget for blogs or small-scale wannabe interactive websites: chat box.
Looks interesting but I guess is only really useful for a dedicated community which you know is going to be logging on frequently. Otherwise it might be like having a website counter on your page-fine but not if it shows 58 hits since 1998!

Check it:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Creating creativity

Radio 4 show tonight explores whether scientific research can be creative.

I was struck with Anne Miller speaking about her experience of creating products in a scientific arena. She said when she first started creating ideas and products she thought there must have been something wrong with her ideas as so many scientists were creating barriers to her theses.

Even when creating graphic design I come across barriers to great ideas. I'm not being precious here, I do realise that design is led by marketing and business and as such responds to criteria set out by the client. To a certain degree the 'blue sky' research spoken about in the radio show doesn't operate to criteria, but some clients just don't get the idea of inputting 'research' into designs. I've spoken to clients who have come to me wanting cutting edge contemporary designs and ideas but really they already have preconceived ideas about what they themselves desire. This is somewhat dangerous. In this sort of project we usually end up pandering to the client's personal desires. The client has confused business and marketing criteria with their own taste. Very often I'm asked to try it in orange "because the wife wants to see it like that". On the other hand these guys are paying for it but it must be designer's responsibility to check the client and make sure they realise that this deviates from the design specification laid out initially which responds accurately to the target marketing.

Shall we try it in pink?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Your business card is crap

I'm not quite sure if this is for real or not but it's damn funny.

I like the way he actually claims that it doesn't fit into the rolodex. Pardon? Isn't that ...the point? If it doesn't fit in it'll get chucked out in my experience. 

He may not have the best business card in the world but he is a brand. For sure.

Check out this link for more business card laughs:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Santander takes over

"The bank says that rebranding will cost it £12m, although this does not include any of the cost of advertising or expenses. The savings by integrating the businesses has been estimated by the bank as £180m."

So Santander wants to bowl over Bradford and Bingley, Alliance and Leicester and Abbey and there's much talk about why and will it pay off? For me it has to be a no-brainer. Santander wants to consolidate (ok) and I think they realise now is the time as people have lost faith in bank names all over but especially the UK. I'm sure there are high level strategic reasons for repositioning services and products and giving a Europe-wide portfolio for customers but really, are they risking anything? This article says some customers will be lost but to which other trustworthy bank? Are there any?

Kuniyoshi exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

From the Arthur R. Miller Collection
21 March—7 June 2009

The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition on one of the greatest Japanese print artists, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Featuring over 150 works, the exhibition presents Kuniyoshi as a master of imaginative design. It reveals the graphic power and beauty of his prints across an unprecedented range of subjects highlighting his ingenious use of the triptych format.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cropmarks xtra for Freehand

Ok so a bit of geekiness here... I like Freehand. Ok, yes I know it's no longer supported and Adobe make Illustrator so why bother? Well it's like a comfy old pair of slippers: feels great and does the job but maybe not as good looking as the new pair you got for Christmas.

What a palaver to sort out cropmarks though! You know, you set up some artwork; it's all beautiful; you have to manually add in cropmarks (Acrobat can do this sometimes depending on the version you have). Not anymore! I found (a rather old-but hey, so is Freehand) xtras plug in that Boris Jerenec has developed which simply sits in your xtras folder and adds another easy to use cropmark-making tool! Thanks Boris and here's the link to his site:

Camcreative Networking

I always used to think networking was a great way of getting business. But now I don't think it is. Networking is a great way to extend your (wait for it) network. More often than not I'd find myself at networking events where there was a glut of suppliers with not many potential clients in sight. Sure I might be going to the wrong networking events but even so I think there is value in this. 

Camcreative is a bunch of creative professionals who get together frequently to chat and keep in touch. This is very valuable to me: keeping in touch with what's happening in creative terms, with the industry and with client industries. A lot can be gauged from chatting to contemporaries in a relaxed atmosphere over a beer. In addition to this Camcreative features a guest speaker each month who brings something useful and interesting to the discussion platform.

I don't go to Camcreative expecting to find new clients but I do find like minded creatives and we can discuss what's afoot in the industry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New ways of working

We want everything these days. We want everything, anywhere and NOW. Which is why computer manufacturer's like Sony are making small, thin, but fairly powerful and certainly stylish laptops like the P series. Surf anywhere and do anything but beware...this is no netbook claim Sony!

"Once we say it's a netbook people think that it's cheap and lousy - we want stylish and cool," Sony Australia's VAIO marketing manager, Kent Tanigaki, said.

Don't worry though, Sony remains stylish and fashionable encouraging you to "make a statement wherever you go" with their natty different colours: onyx black, garnet red, emerald green and crystal white.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Can graphic design make you happy?

Intriguing look at the relationship of our state of mind with our designed environment by Stefan Sagmeister.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Pepsi-giving you more than a drink in a can

QR codes (Quick Response) have been taken up by Pepsi making it the first time this technology is widely used in the UK. The QR has already reached a type of cult status in Japan where it was invented and uses a type of barcode technology printed onto products which can be swiped by a mobile phone giving additional product specifications or competition information. 

Pepsi are rolling out the QR codes on their Pepsi Max products as part of a renewed Mobile marketing campaign showing that they are well ahead of the game in the QR and aiming at early adopters. Check out this article on QR codes.