"Paul Smith collaborated with Evian to design a limited edition bottle."
No he didn't, Evian gave him some money and someone suggested putting the brand assets on the bottle.
"...imbuing the bottle with a sense of energy and fun."
No it doesn't, it imbues the bottle with a sense of laziness and a lack of creativity.
I love Paul Smith. But designers should stop doing these terrible, lazy "collaborations".
There's a newish BMX track I pass on the way home, in Burgess Park. It's always packed and looks like a lot of fun. The other night in the sunset it looked great. I stopped to take a few photos, but then I thought I bet loads of people have already done that properly.
I was right, it's all over flickr.
I was inflating my tyre in a bike shop the other day as shown in the picture above. I always do it with the value up there because it means I have to reach down less. The cycling technician said to me, "why are you doing it that way? Do you like working against gravity?".
Putting aside his record shop grade sarcasm, he encouraged me to infalte my tyres with the value at the bottom, so that gravity works with the pump. he's right. It's a good idea.
I love stuff like that.
Just saw the Lego movie. A really nice touch was the inclusion of classic Lego characters like this 80s classic space guy.
I had a few of them as a kid. Remember how the bottom chin bit of the helmet always broke? The chin bit is broken throughout he movie. Nice touch.
Went to see In The Making the other day with some of the design team. Organised by Barber Osgerby - it's really good. Shows you how (fairly) everyday stuff is made by freezing production at a certain point and show you that.
Here's a tennis ball at (I can't remember but say...) 30%.
Here's a marble at (say) 50%. Photo by Tom Armitage.
As usual it's tiny. Tinier than a normal DM exhibition, it's in a corridor really. But worth a visit if you're nearby.
When we made Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 5 years ago we printed 1,000 copies and gave them away for free. We wrote a blog post and asked people if they wanted one. We "sold out" in just over 24 hours. But then it took us two weeks to get all the papers sent out.
Yesterday we launched a service on Newspaper Club that will let you sell papers directly from the site. We’ll handle the payments, printing and delivery — you just need to design your paper. You can make a paper + sell it to 1,000s - no setup fee, no paperwork, and no minimum sales. You can sell one copy, you can sell a million copies.
The first paper available to buy is Things Our Friends Have Faved On The Internet. We wanted to do one similiar to Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet but no-one writes anything anymore. They do fav stuff though, so we made a newspaper out of Stellar feeds.
It even has a massive picture of a fox.
There's something about what we're doing at GDS that's making us unlearn our habits.
Two designers recently have talked to me about how they've had to change how they work since being at GDS.
One who was surprised by my approach to not being that interested in design work until they had found someone who could build it. I'm paraphrasing but they said, "I thought that was odd at first. But it's taught me to work with people who are not designers and it's taught me to think about more than design work when designing things. It's also made me better at my job because I know how to get things made." (Something like that.)
Another who was used to working in prototyping software and now mostly uses a mixture of sketches and code. Paraphrasing again, "I realised that too often we were set up to make a prototype and that's what we optimised to build. Now we're making a real thing and the prototype is just one stage of that." (Something like that.)
Organisations survive on habits. They find what works and they make that a habit so it can be repeated. Manufactured. Sold. And then those habits can become the problem, as Shirky says "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."
Often when you're trying to fix a problem what you need is to do things differently. To break the habits a little.
What helps us here is the focus on user needs. What is the user trying to do? How can we help them do that as simply as possible? Forget the habits and structures and mental models that exist, even if they exist in how you work, find the user need and then do that. Focus on that.
Because maybe the way you work is part of the problem.
This feels like three half posts made into one, but anyway.
A teeny bit related this blog post from the brilliant Leisa Reichelt "There is no UX, there is only UX."
I've been a big fan of Diana's Diner for many years. Since roughly 2001.
It's near to GDS and I'd recently started going there again. Great place. I came back after the summer holidays and it had closed. And a new sign had appeared.
Let's call this Week 1.
I thought I'd take a picture every week to measure progress. Here's week 2.
And yesterday was week 26. Half a year.
Here are the rest of the pictures.
Very good. You should go. 11 – 29 January 2014, 10am – 5pm (closed on Sundays). Upper Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, SE1 6SB
I've saved up a few half written blog posts and put them together as one loosely joined blog post. If I'd have posted it over the Christmas break it would have been a sort of review of the year. Warning: jumps around a lot.
In praise of Nest
I'm a huge fan of Nest. I think they're one of the most exciting companies around at the moment. Taking the exciting stuff of the last x years and putting it into boring things. Making boring things better. The internet of boring things. I love that they are taking dull but useful and important things and making them much better. A smoke alarm is exactly what clever people like that should be working on. Not shiny things for a niche, smart, clever things for the masses. That's good, that's the goal.
They have had criticism for making a £100 smoke alarm, but that is how they have to start. The price will come down. There is a lot more to come from Nest.
And their marketing is good too. Simple, well crafted. "It should warm you before it alarms you" is a great line with a good visual. Brilliant stuff.
(I actually wrote this last year before the Google acquisition, but in my mind that changes nothing.)
Good + scale, not good + niche
That's what you're aiming for a friend told me. Does what you're working on pass the taxi test. Taxi test? "What do you do mate?" " Oh, I work on X" Has the driver heard of it? Does it make sense? I bet they remember the original Carling Black Label ads... See also; In praise of Nest.
Marissa Mayer / Christoper Bailey / VCs
Christopher Bailey - a designer recently promoted to CEO of Burberry. He had actually been shadowing the old CEO for sometime, so is more than ready to step up.
Marissa Mayer - not a designer in the traditional sense, but someone that understands the design of products in the fullest sense. Not everything at Yahoo! is perfect (see blog post here) but she's doing exciting things. Momentum.
And John Maeda has joined well known VC Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers as a partner. More here.
This isn't really a thing, but it's something I'm interested in. I've always been interested in the business, management, spreadsheet side of things.
Which brings me on to "the strategy is delivery" a blog post Mike wrote at the start of this year. It's one of the most popular GDS blogs and keeps getting referred to. It ties in with the point above and has been something I've always been keen to focus design on. What's the point of what you're doing? If you're a designer that doesn't understand delivery then you're just making pictures. And that's OK, but be sure to know the difference and be sure to know which one is needed when.
Beyoncé released an album solely in iTunes.
She announced it on Instagram. Went to number one everywhere. Marketing spend? I know some people at record companies and it seems no-one knew anything about the release date. Not her record company or anyone else's. And they are not happy off about that. Highlights the power and freedom a successful artist who understands digital can weald. Would make me extremely worried if I worked at a record company. Lessons here for others too.
Play is playful play
I've spent a lot of time last year out and about in the UK with people working on government services. Important, but unglamorous things like Carer's Allowance. Trying to use design to make those services better. As I sit on the train reading Tweets from the usual suspects, one thing has really struck me - how would that sound to Maureen in Arcacia Avenue, MIddletown, England? Would that sound like help? Does it make sense or does it sound like jargon. In my opinion, most of it sounds like jargon. Play is playful play is a phrase I just made up. But you know what I mean. We've all done it, I'm sure I have. But next time, ask yourself if this is helping real people make stuff better. Say it out loud and ask yourself what it would sound like outside of zone 1. (Works for smoke alarms.)
GDS won some awards this year (more here)
Winning Design of the Year and a Black Pencil was an odd experience. Design of the Year got by far the most attention, by absolute miles. Francis Maude, our minister, enjoys telling people and you can see it makes sense when he mentions it. Black Pencil? No-one mentions it and I think that's because it's so hard to explain what it is and why it's good. The narrative is too complicated.
To my agency friends, Black Pencil is disproportionatley exciting. It's like catnip. The effect is startling. I remember when Tony D was president of D&AD and he was always saying it should become like a hallmark and it should be on things that have won so that the public get used to seeing it and it would mean something. He was on to something there. D&AD should think about that.
I went to service design conference in November and they made a poster about it. I met a lot of service designers this year. As ever I'm wary of all terms (see also Design Thinking, Mobile First) but they are starting to feel like the right sort of people. Less ego, less superstars than other areas of design. Less "we can fix this with more design". More actual doing. More desire to fix things and go outside of design if that's what's neccessary. Good, thoughtful people. They need to do more, have more successful examples, but still - good.
We got this over Christmas. It's a handy little tool for opening that horrible sealed plastic packaging that's everywhere these days. I have seen life hacks where they recommend you do this with a tin opener, but this tool is better.
It comes packaged in that horrible sealed plastic packaging.
Something about the product is the service is the marketing and the form not following the function and packaging / marketing not understanding the product. A missed opportunity.
I've just finished Michael Bierut's 100 Days Project. Above is the final "design operation" and below is the first. I still like that one.
The full 100 is here on Flickr.
A quick recap. The brief (given by Michael to Yale students) is to do a "design operation" every day for 100 days. I chose to imagine my life was a New York Times Op Ed column and do a little graphic illustration for each column.
It is incredibly hard. Just remembering to do it every day is hard. Finding time to do it with a family and a job is hard. And choosing the 'op ed story' each day was hard. Making them good was hard, but if you wanted to make one hundred good graphics this isn't the way you'd go about it.
This project is about process. Michael told me he gives the brief to teach students what work is like and to help them develop ways to cope with that. Repeating a design operation every day whether you want to or not. Doing it when the ideas are flowing and then doing it when the ink has tried up and the computer doesn't work and the client hates everything. Doing it late on the train. And then doing that all over again the next day. That, after all, is what work can be like.
You learn techniques to get you through the days. Little mini systems that get you through the dark days. You let a few duff ones go by. You get good patches. And eventually you get a decent standard you can pretty much deliver all the time. Occassionally you do a really good one.
The one big difference from real work for me, was that you can't easily ask for help and you can't commission your way out of it. Or rather you could but I didn't. I'd like to have tried a week of commissioning illustrators.
I enjoyed it immensely but I'm glad it's over.
For what it's worth here are some highlights and low points.
I think these are my five favourites.
And here are five I'd rather forget.
Days 45 - 51 was the series that worked best for me. I'd like to repeat that.
Day 81 got the most views on Flickr.
Day 21 got the most favs on Flickr.
I was happiest with the little techniquie I'd developed by the end. I wrote about that in the 93 days update.
I woud do it again. Maybe I will. I'd quite like to talk about it somewhere, maybe at a college? And I'd love to set it as a project. I'd better ask Michael if that's OK.