I bought this after the exhibition which I reviewed here back in October 2011.
The exhibition was great and I think a huge success for the Design Museum. Kenneth Grange does exactly the type of design I love; function first but still beautiful. Simple things produced at scale, designed for everyone. It was after visiting this exhibition that I decided to take the job at GDS.
The book is really the catalogue of the exhibition which itself was a monograph of Grange's life and work. It contains a piece by Deyan Sudjic and history of his life by Gemma Curtin who I think was the curator of the exhibition.
The book contains lots of sketches which are always fascinating and like Grange's work they need very little explanation. I love sketches like this and I like reading the stories behind designs, the process. I think most designers do.
I imagine most designers have a poster similar to this one he did when he was ten. Maybe not about the war, but very direct first attempts at graphic design.
There's an interview with him which a quick scan tells me is as interesting and as humorous as he is in real life. Yesterday he was the guest on Desert Island Discs which you can listen to here.
Grange was one of the founders of Pentagram, I can't find much about that in here but it must be in there somewhere.
There's a timeline at the end, a simple device but there isn't a better way to get across the influence Grange has had on Britain and the world. The 70s were a productive decade.
Interviews, opinion pieces, timeline and sketches - it's a good format for a design monograph. Functional, simple and more approachable than most. A fitting book for the man himself. I'd like to read this book.
You can buy Kenneth Grange: Making Britain Modern from Amazon.
Part of a series; Reviews of books I’ll never read.
I own these books. I’ll never read them.
I only many books like this about design, mostly monographs of designers. When I bought them I don’t think I ever intended to read them, yet I still bought them. I imagine you own similar books. Sure, I always imagined a future sitting in an Eames chair reading designer monographs all day long, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
They're part reference book for a future project and part information I'd dearly like to have readily at hand. Some are huge and heavy, some are small. Usually they have lots of pictures and not many words. And yet I've still never read them.
So I thought it would be good to do a series of book reviews that explain why I thought they were interesting enough to buy, and what I can tell about the book just by flicking through a few pages and then writing a blog post. 400 words and 4 pictures, that sort of size. It might be fun, hopefully we'll all learn something and I might start to absorb some of that information.
I’ll try and do one a week. I've started with Kenneth Grange: Making Britain Modern.
Phil writing about kettles is brilliant. Obvs.
I really like the Spotify ads that are around at the moment. I like the simplicity of the message. I like the simple but bold graphic style. But most of all I like the way the language feels like Spotify and not all marketingy. Almost like someone at Spotify has written it rather than an ad agency.
And then I noticed the little footnote about the playlists. Ah ha, I exclaimed, activation opportunity! Not really. But I did think that was a nice link back to the product. They must be actual playlists. After all it actually says, "Actually an actual playlist by an actual user". Except they’re not.
Or rather they weren’t when I took that screenshot. There are now 3 “sorry i lost your cat” playlists. And one “ i don’t know how to make a playlist” playlist made by me, just a minute ago. (Find that here. Caution: opens Spotify and starts playing Celiné Dion 'I Don't Know'.)
Given how easy it is to make a public Spotify playlist and given how obsessed marketeers are with activation and driving people online from offline channels, you’d think someone would have made a playlist. (Someone other than me and three other randos.)
That leads me to think the agency were very good at copying the style of Spotify in words but not in deeds.
Anyway, here’s a picture of a bus.
I have no idea why the picture at the top is sideways on some browsers. It's 2016 and I'm still using Typepad and Flickr.
Driving back from breakfast on Sunday morning I noticed a Lamborghini in front of me and then one behind me. A Lambo sandwich.
Nothing that unusual in West London tbh.
Driving further, I noticed more "supercars" and then the street became full of young men taking photos, selfies, filming on GoPros and flying camera drones. I had driven straight into Supercar Sunday. In my beaten up Prius.
I think supercar sunday is a fairly regular community meeting up in fancy cars, but this one was sponsored a bit by HR Owen who provided some extra fancy cars to swell the ranks.
This is a textbook example of one of those phenomena you know nothing about but when you stumble upon it's glaringly obvious why and how it would exist. And they are everywhere online, obviously.
The Lambo behind me was driven by Yiannimize who's a famous Supercar YouTuber. 700k subscribers. Also driving around was Lenny The Geeza. 142k followers on Insta. It's hard to tell whether they make a living out of this and the own the cars, or they work somewhere related to these cars and just drive them around and document it on social media for fun.
Who cares. It seemed to me like everyone was having a nice time.
Watching one of the YouTubes I spotted me driving through the crowd in my beaten up Prius, as shown in the diagram below.
More pics here if you're into that.
We live near the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and I’ve started swimming there.
There is much to be written about this architecturally and socially. This is just a quick blog post, so lower your expectations accordingly.
Designed by LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953–54 it opened in 1964 as part of some grand plan. It is still a fantastic facility to have locally and it provides a valuable service but it has been neglected with hints everywhere to its former ambitions, like the rest of the park.
It’s a fantastic looking building from the outside and full of big ambitious spaces inside. As wikipedia says, “It has a particularly interesting interior: there is a central concourse with a complex and delicate exposed concrete frame supporting the roof, which has a folded teak lining”.
Participating in any sporting activity there is a very odd experience.
The commercialism needed to keep it going results in moments which when combined with the usual faded glories of municipal sports centre jar with the modernist vision.
It’s an incredibly strange budding to put a sports centre in. It feels more like a concert hall, and when I discovered LCC designed the Festival Hall that made a lot of sense. There’s the same large scale but also the odd disconnected nature of the buildings and the slight unease that you’re lost wherever you are. There are three swimming pools; one you have to leave the building to get to.
What is needs is a billionaire modernist architecture fan to restore it and then operate it in a way it’s still viable to go swimming for for £2.85.
"The design of profitable digital products + services can limit your world view to an extremely narrow perspective."
Required reading for design students and professionals. Good article pointed out by Russell. Make you think.
Great gifs too.
Found via Edwin Heathcote, the way they market flats (apartments) is so odd. It’s usually three words that sound vaguely aspirational but don’t make any sense.
Always words real people don’t say in those combinations. Made more insulting by the way the words (and usually the buildings) have no sensitivity to the community around them.
Like most marketing but even worse.
Went to see the Arup exhibition. Good, worth a visit, too small like all these design exhibitions. Russell, you would like it.
It’s in that funny little space to the left as you enter the V&A. It’s very well made, I guess well “engineered”. They’ve thought harder than usual about how you move around a small space.
There’s a good bit on collaboration and multi-disciplinary teams. Thing is, there always is in these exhibitions about designers from the 50s and 60s. They always talk about collaboration and working in multi-disciplinary teams. They don’t always call it that, but they naturally just work with whoever they need to achieve the end product.
"Our point of view is in favour of teamwork rather than stardom. The data, the knowledge required, can be found not in one person, but in a number of persons."
They also always talk about working closely with a client. When Kenneth Grange spoke the other day he told the story of how his early Pentagram colleagues always questioned why he was never in the office. He replied he was always with his clients, what were they all doing?
These designers, the ones they make exhibitions about now, have always worked on big, ambitious projects. And to do that you have to collaborate. Right?
I saw Richard Rogers in conversation with Christopher Turner as part of the London Design Biennale.
Sorry for the poor picture. Rogers was wearing an amazing pink shirt and green jacket combo that would make most people look like kids tv presenters but managed to make him look more statesman like.
Here are my notes, unedited, from the night. My comments in (brackets). These should not be taken as verbatim quotes. They are notes.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
We're handing back the city to people
Pedestrianisation, cycling a good thing
I'd be surprised if the car lasted 20 years (This is an interesting thought, we're getting used to seeing sectors completely transformed in about 10 years - Blockbuster to Netflix. It's not crazy to think the same could happen to the car.)
The Garden City is a bad "utopia"
1850 average age was 17
I'm worried about weakening of the city when we take the life out of the city
It's too late not be seriously damaged by climate change. But I think there's a good chance we won't destroy mankind.
(His phone rings. It's an iPhone.)
The big five house builders are in the business of profit
Better for them to build 100 houses and make a big profit than build 1000 houses and make a much smaller profit
We've never built fewer houses than since 1922
Sadie Khan is interested in affordable housing (says he's been talking with him)
The production system is controlled by private interests which is not the same as the interest that wants to build more housing
2000 citizens in Athens when it started and the motto was - "I promise to leave the city better than when I entered it"
(There are maybe 60 people here, it really does feel like an intimate chat.)
Trafalgar square was the biggest roundabout in Europe before
At a simple level buildings have to meet their users needs and then be beautiful to be uplifting
Notting Hill Gate is very high density
Height is not necessarily essential for high density
Highest density in Europe is Barcelona and has nothing over 8 stories (bar one or two)
It's had 3 brilliant mayors
The walk along the canal from the Olympics to Camden is fantastic
There is no excuse not to build the right number of houses we have the technology
(Someone asked about Brexit. Massive sigh from Rogers. Head in hands.) I'm scared. It's amazing that we're so parochial to think the nation is a thing. The big problems facing us like climate change won't be solved by individual nations.
I'm a big fan of cities. Nations are only useful for sports.
I bought an Amazon Dash button last week. Obviously.
Ordering one is easy enough, it costs £4.99 which gets deducted off your first purchase.
I chose Andrex as that’s the only brand I could us using in this household. We don’t really buy the other brands listed.
Setting it up isn’t as simple as I’d expected. Takes a few goes, lots of bluetooth syncing issues. Many other tech things have this issue, but it felt like a big overhead for some toilet rolls.
You can choose which Andrex product you’d like from a small range. In common with Prime Now and Add Ons and other speedy Amazon services it seems like there’s a minimum spend of around £15. That’s a lot of toilet rolls.
I pressed it late Thursday night and on Saturday morning 45 toilet rolls turned up.
A completely customisable one would be incredible.
Presumably that will come.
It looks awful.
Looks ok in the photos, but it’s bigger than you think and there would be no way I’d want this in my bathroom stuck on the wall. The logos are just too ugly. That’s an odd thing to write when bathrooms are notoriously filled with ugly logos and I could conceivably change my mind with subtler logos. This isn’t just a designer’s comment. It feels weird.
The experience is strangely cold. And I'm an easily excitable early adopter type.
Two points here:
1. I press a button and 24 hours later the thing I want arrives on my door. It knows exactly which one I want, it knows my address and it debits my account. That is an incredible experience.
2. Nothing really happens when you press the button. A little green dot flashes. 24 hours is a long time to wait for something to happen after you’ve pressed a button. It’s all a bit of an anti-climax.
This raises all sorts of awkward questions for brands and “customer experience” people. The worst thing Amazon could do would be to layer on lots of meaningless jokes and ideas. An app you had to fire up that had an animation of Andrex puppy loading a lorry would be an awful idea - for example. But you can imagine the temptation.
The experience is brilliant, really. Maybe the button needs to make a noise. Maybe we’ll just get used to it. I am not advocating more "brand experience". Far from it. Please don't write a think piece claiming I think Amazon needs more "brand experience". I don't.
Maybe it's just feels odd because it's a new behaviour. I could imagine a dozen of these in a garage, or maybe an airing cupboard and on Sunday afternoon you go round pressing them as required.
It feels like it would be more magical if they played with the economics, and there is much more eloquent writing on the economics, innovation and marketing impacts of this from Simon Wardley and Matt Webb. This is a snowflake on an iceberg controlled by Amazon.
And remember, “in the future every product will carry a buy button."
One last thing. Whether you love this or hate this, the point is that Amazon is a company that can make this happen and almost no one else can right now.
I did my first Parkrun on Saturday. 5 sunny kilometres around Dulwich Park.
I loved it. Great atmosphere. Good fun.
Parkrun is a phenomenon there are about 150,000 runners every Saturday all across the globe. There were about 200 people in Dulwich.
This is old news but it’s a real internet enabled, ground up community. It’s free, you can register online and then you get a printed barcode and therefore a time, but you don’t have to, you could just turn up and run. Staffed by volunteers.
The rules or operating principles to setting one up seem to be: Saturday 9am, 5k, in a park. That's pretty simple.
It's a lot less intimidating than joining a running club. A bit like blogging used to be "networking for shy people" you could see how this could be a running club for shy people. It's more diverse than a running club too, a variety of ages and speeds. Not massively diverse, but that might just be the park I was in.
Using the network to good effect. Creating shared online and offline platforms.