Creative Review came to Manchester the other day to look at The Federation, a community of digital businesses we've set up at the Co-op. UsTwo, NorthCoders, NHS R&D, Liverpool Girl Geeks, Kainos and many others are already in there. More about that soon.
Anyway, I'm pleased with how it turned out so I'm putting it on the blog and linking to it - Ben Terrett on the importance of teamwork.
It's quite popular on Twitter. This is the best comment by far.
I'm surprised more places don't do this. There is such a proliferation of Uber drivers now particularly when things like football matches or gigs end. Airports would be another example.
I wonder if any new build offices or shopping centres are planning for things like this. How does a 5/10 year planning cycle react to 12 month / 18 month digital trends. Trends or bubble? Permanent or temporary change?
Digital demands changes to infrastructure faster than the pace of infrastructure.
Uber try and fix this with their suggested pick up and drop off points. That works well and co-ordinates the network, presumably based on data.
Desire paths in action.
People have always needed dropping off and picking up. In London there are still some of these lighted taxi signs outside hotels and posh blocks of flats. And parliament obvs.
Old problems new solutions. (Another episode from Tech is Neither Good nor Bad, just Different.)
This picture from R Chunn
16. Google Design released a guide to designing with machine learning.
I say released a guide, I mean published a Medium post. Such is the way of things these days.
There’s a lot of hyperbole talked about ML and this was the most sensible thing I’ve read about it so far. Called “human-centered machine learning” it’s simple, practical guidance. The bit about email attachments is lovely. If this is as successful and useful as Material Design, Google are on to a good thing here.
Essential reading Human-Centered Machine Learning by Google Design
Unusually Fast Company have written a good summary. Beware, it's one of those annoying web pages where everything moves around for five minutes before you can start reading.
Fast Company - Google’s Rules For Designers Working With AI
17. The Parliament Digital Service has taken photographs of every single MP. For the first time ever.
They photographed 90% of 650 MPs in just one day, shot against the same background as they were sworn in after the election. Each sitting averaging less than a minute. That’s impressive. They are all reusable under a Creative Commons licence. This is a simple but brilliant piece of work and exactly what parliament should be doing.
(Not everyone is happy obvs, but this twitter thread is an absolute joy )
18. Imagine having a bookcase named after you. Hello Billy Likjedhal if you’re reading this.
Naming is always fascinating. Ikea have a team of product namers, who assign names from a database of Swedish words. Bookcases are named after professional occupations (Expedit means shop keeper) or boys’ names (The bestselling Billy bookcase is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal).
19. Good article on car UX.
But, a long article about car UX that only mentions Tesla twice. Which I found odd. Makes me think no one is writing about this stuff openly. Which is maybe understandable, but I still find unusual.
Special mention to ustwo who are thinking and writing about it as ustwo Auto
20. Canyon is named Red Dot design team of the year.
The Red Dot awards are credible and Canyon are doing good work not just in bike design, but service design too. Worth watching this team.
21. BBVA has 150 designers in 11 countries, all with different specialties, not that unusual but they are also training 1000 design ambassadors. That’s interesting. Led by Derek White and Rob Brown previously of Barclays superb digital and design team.
22. Procter & Gamble cut $140 Million from digital ad spend and saw no effect on sales.
Lots and lots of reckons around this, obvs. Some context, P&G spent $2.4 billion on advertising last year, so $140M is around a 5% cut.
I’m sure most large companies could stop $100M of lots of things and have no effect on sales.
But still, there is a regular drumbeat of stories like this. And what I found most interesting is that the CFO explicitly called it out in the earnings statement. A shot across the bows, methinks.
This does the rounds every few months. Usually sparks a debate about Uber being or not being the new buses. Or something. Everyone gets very angry.
I get angry every time I see it.
I get angry because it’s such a bad piece of communication.
This version from the 60s is a London Underground ad that makes exactly the same point more effectively and more efficiently.
The modern one is so complicated. It adds two modes of transport that you don’t need to make the point.
The 60s one uses 14 words and takes a few seconds to read. The current one uses 33 words and takes 15 seconds before it’s finished playing. I bet most people need to watch it twice to understand it.
Abrams Games used to describe his design philosophy as a combination of image and text that communicates an idea with ‘maximum meaning' using 'minimum means’. The designer of the 60s poster is unattributed, but it does maximum meaning, minimum means really well.
In the era of twitter and dwindling dwell times I’m constantly surprised people don’t focus more energy on making communication simpler and shorter. We’ve had to wait until 2017 for someone to launch a 6 second ad format.
Maximum meaning, minimum means. More relevant today than ever.
But I’m not going to talk much about design tonight. So lower your expectations accordingly. I’m going to talk about teams and diversity instead.
Everyone who gets an award thanks their colleagues and mentors. Or their coaches and the left back and the goalkeeper. That’s not just being polite. It’s accurate. Individuals collect awards - but teams win them.
I mostly design for the internet and on the internet there are no lone genius designers.
The romance of the lone artisan in their garret coming up with the Big Idea is over.
And I think that’s a good thing. The design industry used to work like this. Back in the 50s and 60s it was more common for designers to work in multidisciplinary teams. They didn’t call it that of course - just worked with whoever they needed to achieve the end product. Names like Margaret Calvert of Kenneth Grange worked with a variety of different skills to achieve great things. This is even more important today. And our job is to make the organisations we work with better at doing that. Better at collaboration.
The toughest design problems in the world today require co-operation at a large scale. They need people with different talents and experiences working together to find answers that work. Design today needs teams that have lots of different perspectives.
That means we need to make it easier for people to become designers.
How I got into design is a really boring story. I studied art and design at school and graphic design at university. I’m sure lots of you did that too. But that’s much harder to do today.
This year is the 180th anniversary of design education in the UK but today it’s possible for schools to get an outstanding grade from Ofsted without teaching any art or design subjects, so 15% of schools have withdrawn arts subjects. And we’re seeing that kids aren’t studying art and design. Entries for GCSE Art & Design down 8% and A-Level 12%. I’m a Governor at University for the Arts London and we’re seeing a drop at Undergraduate Level too. (Stats from NSEAD.)
And Brexit means we’re getting fewer and fewer EU students applying. All at a time when we need designers who reflect who they’re designing for.
You can help by volunteering in an organisation like the Sorrell Foundation’s National Art and Design Saturday Club.
Advocate a career in design to your friends. And your friends’ kids. And then to people who look and sound nothing like you.
(This is picture of the current UAL Students Union Arts SU. They are a talented, diverse group.)
Encourage and promote diverse, multi-disciplinary teams.
A hard problem, but a useful one to solve - because that’s what designers do best. If it's easy, make it look easy. If it isn't actually easy, then make it easy. Thank you, enjoy the rest of your evening.
(Huge thanks to Ella who helped write the speech. She is available to help you too.)
This is not a political post and so I'm publishing after the election.
Sam Blackledge, a reporter from the Plymouth Herald got to interview Theresa May a few days ago.
He asked four specific questions about the local area. Every answer started with “I’m very clear” and then went on to give a vague answer.He got bland answers without any substance. His write up of the encounter is scathing, he described it as, “Three minutes of nothing”.
Here’s one example:
Plymouth is feeling the effects of military cuts. Will you guarantee to protect the city from further pain?
"I'm very clear that Plymouth has a proud record of connection with the armed forces."
You can read the full article and watch a video of the interview here on the Plymouth Herald.
Theresa May is saying "I'm very clear" and then not being clear at all. (See Russell's advice on how to be clear.)
But this isn’t about Theresa May or politicians. This is how leaders speak in public these days. Grandiose sounding statements that contain no substance, no facts or distinct opinions. Statements that give away nothing but sound decisive. It’s a style that’s been honed over decades and is evident in almost all forms of media. Footballers speaking after a football game is another example.
There is one alternative, here is Mick McCarthy literally saying nothing when asked about Roy Keane.
There is a more up to date example from Sam here.
This is the floor of Manchester town hall. It’s a grand neo-gothic building built in 1877. The floor is a mosaic of worker bees.
There are worker bees all over the city. I never really noticed them until Malcolm Garrett pointed them out to me.
They are everywhere once you start looking.
Yesterday Manchester Evening News published an article asking Why is a bee the symbol of Manchester?
Because it represents “the city’s hard-working past, during the Industrial Revolution. Textile mills that were commonly described as ‘hives of activity’ and the workers inside them compared to bees.”
Wikipedia has more “Seven bees are included in the crest of the city's arms which were granted to the Borough of Manchester in 1842.”
Here's a new one that got added this week.
A good symbol for a good city.
I’ve only had this book a few days so it’s no surprise I’ve not read it. In fact, I’ll never read it. That's the point of this blogging series.
I like Paula and her work a lot. Her output is vast and the book reflects that, page after page of bold, vibrant, energetic graphic design. I flick through it in the video below and I think it’s the longest video in this series. Some lovely work in there. Nice big pictures.
There’s an interview by Shaughnessy, he’s good at that sort of thing so I would imagine that’s good too.
They also discuss some of the projects in depth and where Paula has worked with a client a long time, like Public Theater, that format looks like it works really well. As ever Paula has strong opinions and isn't afraid to state them.
Any graphic design that isn’t by Paula, like the cover and the chapter pages, I presume were designed by Tony Brook and Spin. They are lovely and fit the subject without getting in the way. The book is too heavy to read, like all good design books.
Here's a video of me flicking through the book. Excitingly this one has sound.
You should probably buy this and you can from Unit Editions.
Part of a series; Reviews of books I’ll never read.
Phiadon - The White Album.
Only joking, this is Paul Rand written by Steven Heller but I’ve binned the book jacket because I hate them so much.
Good book this. Classic monograph material. Heller knows how to write this stuff. Includes an intro by George Lois and plenty of good stories. I’d actually like to read this. One day, one day.
Lots pictures. The work is so good. Beautiful.
Paul Rand as a kid in Brooklyn.
As a designer working with the client at IBM. They look so cool. In 50 years time, will post-its look as cool?
Not much else to say about this. It's a simple premise, well executed. I don't remember when I bought it or any other details. I've enjoyed flicking through it again.
You can (and should) buy Paul Rand from Amazon.
Part of a series; Reviews of books I’ll never read.
Went to see the Mies van der Rohe thing at RIBA.
In the early 60s van der Rohe designed a tower which would have been his first (and only) building in London. Prince Charles complained about it at a fancy dinner and they built this pink thing that is designed to look like a chicken instead. Can't imagine the Prince was any happier about that.
The exhibition tells that story. That's not a bad idea for an exhibition.
Here are some pictures.
On the way out we were asked to fill in a survey about the exhibition. My companion put, "Too dark. Too small." He was right.
I couldn't remember why I bought this and then looking through it it became clear. It's a seductive proposition. I like design and I like openness. I especially like it when they come together.
I like the simple use of black and white on the cover. I agree with the thought that "design cannot remain exclusive". The contributors, like John Thackara, are good. The titles of the articles look interesting, the featured projects are right up my street.
But I've never read or even opened this book.
That's no surprise, it's hard to read. The layout is mostly impenetrable, full of wacky typography and bonkers diagrams. The very opposite of openness.
I've included some bonkers diagrams above for you to examine. They feel like they've been drawn by people playing that game where you draw random charts on a whiteboard as you leave a meeting.
Back to the cover. There's a yellow circle that says, "with visual index". What they mean when they say "visual index" is pictures. What they mean when they say "with visual index" is that unlike normal books they've put all the pictures at the back because the front is mostly impenetrable essays full of wacky typography and bonkers diagrams.
I guess that didn't fit in the sticker so they opted for "with visual index".
The pictures are printed on a faded yellow stock. The book is too big and too heavy to read, like all good design books.
You can buy Open Design Now from Amazon.
Part of a series; Reviews of books I’ll never read.
Original tweet, above.
A while back, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I want to a conference about private equity to help out a friend. I was only needed for 30 minutes but ended up staying all day. Fascinating to spend a day listening in on discussions you know nothing about.
The conference was all bankers and consultants. I’m the only one not in a tie. You get the picture. One panel discussion was about the internet giants. And something one of the financiers said has stayed with me all that time.
The theme of the discussion was what to do if Google / Amazon et al come for your business. The consensus seemed to be get out as quickly as you can. There was a sobering anecdote from Tom Tom about free turn by turn nav. All fairly usual stuff.
And then someone said that by far the most scary was Amazon. By miles. He explained that the behaviour of these companies was tolerated because they made loads of money or held the promise they would make loads of money in the future. Google could do what it wanted because it was like printing money for investors. But if GOOG etc started to overreach then the profits would decline and markets would force them to course correct. Scrutiny would increase. That’s the good thing about markets. That what they’re supposed to do. (Remember this is about the most capitalist environment it’s possible to be in.)
But Amazon was different.
In 20 plus years Amazon had never made a profit. And it showed no obvious path to short term profit. And it didn’t seem in a hurry to make any.
Here’s the interesting bit.
He couldn’t understand why the markets tolerated this. By “tolerate” he meant that the share prices kept rising, but there was no clear path to profit and no indication that anyone at Amazon was bothered about that. He understood the theory about marketing share, Everything Store - all that - but 20 / 25 years?
So, he concluded, you have a company who could fund expansion by share price growth, in a market that didn't demand any profit any time soon.
That’s unprecedented. And that is the most scary competitor imaginable.
1. Abstract is the Netflix series on design everyone is watching. For decades designers have complained that there isn’t a series on TV about design. This is now nonsense, the web is full of video about design, high quality conference talks and the like. But of course what they really mean is a prime time BBC series about design, preferably just before Newsnight. (They mean Better By Design starring Seymour Powell from 2000, 17 years ago.)
What Netflix have done is make is compelling TV that's easy to access. It's good. I haven’t watched them all yet, and I’m particularly looking forward to the Es Devlin episode.
2. “Before last year, Amazon wasn’t really even in the film business. “We went from not existing theatrically to releasing 15 movies and having seven Oscar nominations,” says Jason Ropell, Amazon’s worldwide head of motion pictures."
How many other organisations could do that? Easy to say they’ve just thrown money at it, but I can’t imagine BP or Goldman Sachs obtaining seven Oscar nominations in that time.
Disrupting Hollywood: Amazon goes to the Oscars FT article (£)
3. IF is a design studio that helps people think about privacy and security. They do what all good design companies do these days and think via prototyping. This series about designing for new digital rights is particularly good.
Following on from that this meet up this is also a good idea, to talk about common design patterns and start building a community of designers around data permissions. A place for designers to learn and share. This is what the Design Council should be doing.
4. “I have a different problem with Google, which is that they never finish the job. This is especially true in their software. Google Docs is a good example. Google Docs is a really brilliant concept; it’s really well done. For the first time, multiple people can work on the same doc at the same time. But I can never find a Google Doc.”
That's certainly true for me. Too short an article, but Don Norman on Apple etc is still interesting. Beware, it's one of those annoying web pages where everything moves around for five minutes before you can start reading.