I went to see Ai Wei Wei at the Royal Academy. It was good and very Instagramable, as you'd expect. Good stuff, more pictures on Yahoo! photos.
A few thank yous. Tom Loosemore and Mike for bringing me into government and for convincing me the conditions were right for good design. When I first met Mike I said we needed to think about this project like a railway network or like the road signs and he told me I was the first designer who hadn't started by telling him their favourite font. I knew we would get on.
Thanks to Martha Lane Fox for writing such an insightful and concise report and Francis Maude for backing it. One Thursday evening when they accompanied me to the House of Commons to meet the All Party Parliamentary Design Group led by Barry Sheerman is just one example of their support for user centred design.
Thanks to everyone at GDS. I have never worked with a smarter group of people. I have never worked with a group of people so dedicated to making stuff better. I will miss them loads. As Mike said, "Government doesn’t know how lucky it is."
GDS is in good hands with Stephen leading it and over the next few weeks I'll be supporting him making sure design is strongly positioned for the future.
The design team are amazing. I'm proud to have worked with such a talented bunch.
I have often said government has a history of producing great design and some of the greatest designers have worked in the public sector. Tom Eckersley, Kenneth Grange, Jock Kinear, Margaret Calvert and many more, you know the names.
Every designer should work in the public sector. Being a civil servant and using your talents to help the people in your country is an honour. In an industry so often obsessed with novelty and persuasion, government is a chance to do real design work. If the government started a fast stream programme for design grads it would start to change the industry and make services better at the same time.
Sadie Morgan says HS2 is one of “the country’s great design opportunities”. The HS2 Design Panel, led by Sadie, is a good example of design being integrated in to a project early with public ministerial support. The design team are putting user needs up front. That team has already done some good work and I look forward to seeing what they do in the coming years.
Winning Design of the Year was an unexpected and high profile highlight and I’ll always enjoy those memories. But I am genuinely more delighted when people tell me how easy they have found using a particular transaction or service.
The other highlight is the design community we have started. Design is not just in GDS, there are six heads of design in government now and the community is blossoming. It meets regularly, it uses online tools to collaborate and it speaks with one voice. It's a strong group making big decisions based on user research. This recent guidance on "asking about gender and sex" is exactly the sort of thing a group like that should be publishing. Leading by example and setting standards for everyone else to follow.
Blog posts like this by Simon Wilson in HMRC or this by Ben Holliday in DWP are a goldmine for how to design services today. There are future leaders in that group, working every day to make services better for users.
That community is the future of design in government.
If you want to get in touch my details are here.
There are a few things you notice that indicate someone somewhere has been toiling away in the digital transformation mines. In isolation they're small things and easy to miss, but if you start seeing a few of them regularly, you know something's going on.
This is one of them. The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition now lets you take photos in the exhibition. They encourage you to put them on the internet. They have short urls set up. Professional photos of all the exhibits are online.
Small things, but someone worked hard, probably for a long time to make that possible. Digital transformation obviously involves much, much more than this, but this is a good sign.
At the beginning of this year Russell and I sold our shares in Newspaper Club. It's a brilliant, profitable business, well run by lovely people but it was time for us to move on.
More of that another time.
Around the same time we noticed what Collyn was doing with Bowndling and asked if we could get involved. We have some experience with selling physical stuff online, we know a bit about ‘sportswear’ and it seems like we could help.
Sorry this post got saved as a draft and it's taken me ages to finish it.
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Visited the LCC show and went back to CSM yesterday. Popped into the RCA one evening last week. Some observations.
Bahamut That by Hiro Hong fires smoke rings at the dragons. (Subtly aimed at the Head of College's office.)
I liked these letterpress posters "visualising how dyslexia looks and feels to non dyslexic readers' by Hannah Constable.
"An interpretation of the main character's development within the film Fahrenheit 451, with each sequential book chronologically symbolising his standpoint within a dystopic society that has outlawed books." by Thomas Fursdon
There was an Oculus project at every show.
We enjoyed these screens a lot. No idea what they were about. But Mark described it as "sick".
And now the grumpy bit. There was a lot of this.
One show I got to early, a student turned up and spent a good half an hour trying to turn on various projects. I reckon they managed to get less than half working.
I know I'm not saying anything new here and I know it's hard to organise and put on a show. I've done it, as a student and at the Designs of the Year show.
It's genuinely a tricky problem. Visit any gallery and you'll see screens with error messages or mistaken screensavers. But this feels like a design problem - design something that works in a display without you having to be there - and it feels like a challenge design courses should be tackling, particularly the interactive ones.
Grump over. Anyway.
Went to see Never Mind the Bollards this week.
There were some interesting bits. I wasn't sure whether Public London: 10 years of transforming spaces was part of the same thing. So that's slightly confusing. But it's all just walking around Instagraming stuff so no harm done.
Slowly, cutting across different timelines and agendas, stuff is getting better.
This big, public stuff takes a long time. It's not complicated, it's just hard.
I love stories like this one below.
I'll talk about this type of stuff in my talk at Sheffield Design Week this morning. See you there.
I saw this terrible ad in a terrible magazine and immediately thought 'that's never a Mark Twain quote'.
He never wrote like a terrible copywriter writing a brand values. In fact, people in general never wrote in that odd one word per sentence way in the old days. Did. They? And those words, feels too much like the Everyday Contemporary Luxury style of copywriting you see on housing developments these days. Never a Twain quote.
Turns out he might have written it as part of a much longer piece, but probably not.
" 'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'
This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but the attribution cannot be verified. The quote should not be regarded as authentic."
Someone has made a digital version of the keypad on a vending machine. In almost every way they have made the interaction worse. (Ignore the bit about no product at the end, that can happen any time.)
While we're on the subject it's a Flickr video and I have no idea how that works any more. You may have to click here to watch it.
I've been using Google Art Project for a while now. Install the Chrome extension and you'll get a work of art every time you open a new tab. The art changes every day.
It's a really nice texture change during the day. Just enough change to make you notice and not enough to be annoying.
Was lucky enough to get a before opening hours tour of the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. It's stunning.
McQueen was clearly a creative genius. Able to take random moments of inspiration and turn them into a rich supply of ideas, enough to fill a collection, a show, all the marketing, and much more.
Able to give those ideas deep meaning, so that you could enjoy the clothes just as clothes (and lots of them you could actually wear down the shops) or you could keep digging and probably still be finding stuff weeks in. And then he did that every six months. If you talk about "storytelling" you should go and learn something.
All that and he seemed to have a very clear sense of purpose. A huge drive to make things and change things.
And if you're not bothered by fashion, it's worth going for the exhibition design.
You should go*. Everyone says it's sold out, but Poach pointed out you can still get tickets during the day.
* Not you Russell. This review will do for you.
There's a new sculpture in the park. By Conrad Shawcross (ex UAL) it consists of three structures one of which is shown above. Look how climbable that looks! Hard to resist climbing on that. Especially if you're 6. Or 39.
Approaching the new sculpture I kept looking for the Do Not Climb A4 notices stuck to it, but there were none. You are allowed to climb on the climbable looking thing. This is a sculpture that is fully compliant with Davies's 3rd law. Well done park people.
We talk about this a lot on this blog, but for listeners who are unfamiliar, Davies's 3rd law states:
"if you make something that looks incredibly climbable, you shouldn't be allowed to say people can't climb it"
There's a much broader point here. In interaction design this means; make a thing look like it does what it actually does.
It is a crime to make it look like it you can do something and then say you can't do that thing. Usability beats training. I don't just mean websites. Applies to door handles as well.
And here's one I saw this morning when trying to log on to an energy supplier.
You enter you username password and then click the big green button. Which takes you to a registration page and asks for your detail again. Endless loop.
Took me three or four goes to realise you need to click the small orange button that's slightly cut off.
Anyway, back to sculpture news. Here are some examples that do not obey the law, with a blog post.
And here's one that does, with a blog post.
The Conrad Shawcross sculpture is in Dulwich Park and well worth a visit. More info here.