First the designers, now it looks like Account Management have got involved.
These water fountains have caused a stir on the design forums.
They've been called "hideous" and "naff". I'm not a fan of them visually, but I think "naff" is an extremely patronising way to critique public design. But anyway, there's plenty of discussion about the design of them here and here.
They are undoubtably a good idea. Presumably you can't just revive the old stone fountains and presumably someone else other than the government has to pay for them, so that might as well be Thames Water.
What I find most fascinating is that they look like an ad campaign made into a 3d object. More persuasion than usability. There's one near me, I'll report back in a few months.
UPDATE: It has been covered up. Maybe it was the designers.
UPDATE: Account Management are involved
I love Cindy Sherman.
Actually I don't. I don't like the photos that much. They're good, but I don't find them amazing. I absolutely love the fact that all her pictures are self-portraits. 40 years of that, that's brilliant.
What I mean is that I like Cindy Sherman like I like Radiohead. Because it's well known that it is possible to like the idea of Radiohead without actually liking the music.
Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery.
More info here WARNING opens on a page that auto plays a loud video.
Very good. I enjoyed it way more than I expected. You should go. Dulwich Picture Gallery continues to have surprisingly good, though small, exhibitions. Russell, worth a look if you happen to be in Dulwich.
I'm sure Modernist is the correct technical art term, but it didn't feel how I think of modernist. If that makes sense. It felt much more industrial. There was more movement than I was expecting. The prints felt like stills from a film.
The London stuff was great and I'd not seen any of it before despite always thinking I've seen all of those London Underground posters.
Closes 8 September. More info here.
The other day I was looking at the recycling pile and I wondered what Alan Fletcher would have done with all that cardboard. Remember that he made these incredible animals out of rubbish he found with his grandson Tobia. Mike Dempsey has the full story here. Alan set the bar high for side projects and these ended up in the RA Summer Exhibition.
He made also lots of collages from found bits of cardboard. More of those here.
I thought Alan would definitely have done something good with all the Amazon boxes that you find in every recycling bin. The smile is crying out to to be played with.
Inspired by Alan I started drawing on the Amazon boxes we had at home. I started adding eyes to the smile. Here are the first few. Like all good side projects I started an Insta @eyesonamazon.
Worth noting that although Alan was my inspiration; whatever Alan would have done would have been far better than anything I am about to do.
Giles and I were talking about cows because he wrote about how he had a nice chat with some the other day.
I've always been a fan of cows partly because they are easy to talk to and partly because the black and white ones have a nice graphic quality against the fresh green grass. That's always appealed to my visual sensibilities.
Here's a good picture of that phenomenon by Guy. Lovely stuff.
All this reminded me of the magazine Pentagram's DJ Stout used to design. It was called Dairy and it featured a big portrait of a cow on the front cover of each issue. Not messing around, big, glossy portraits of cows.
I went to visit DJ Stout in 2010 when I was in Austin for SXSW. He had some of the portraits on the studio walls.
And let's not forget Matthew and his cows.
Picture by Russell
Cows, pretty much their own design system.
Mayo has reminded me of Gateway 2000 and their excellent cow packaging boxes.
I spotted this on the way to work and it reminded me of the Innocent cow vans back in the day when everything was nice.
These bins by Hackney Council which I wrote about on this blog thirteen years ago.
I'm sure there are others. Send 'em my way.
You should go. Book in advance but beware it is still very busy. Russell only go if you can find a quiet time. Maybe first thing on a Tuesday.
Some of the classics. The blockbusters. Which is always nice to see.
This exhibition isn't just about Van Gogh though. As the title says, but I hadn't really noticed, the exhibition is about Van Gogh and his time living in Britain and how that influenced him. So there are other paintings, prints and sketches from Britain at the time by other artists. They are very interesting but may not be what you are expecting.
The Tate have constructed a well told story about Van Gogh. I learned more about him, which was good.
It's very busy. Of course. But you should still go.
Over in New York the other day I was kindly invited by Malcolm Garrett to the opening of Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics at MAD. If you're in New York you should go.
It's a brilliant, packed exhibition of the graphics surrounding the punk scene from the years 1976 - 1986. It's not just punk, there's a healthy dose of Peter Saville...
I really hope it comes to London soon.
I liked this quote from Henry Ford. Only refer to the past if it helps future progress. Ignore nostalgia, learn from history.
No-one ever does that of course. Not designers, nor politicians. Too many people hark back to a rose tinted past. A biscuit tin painting version of a future. Well, fuck that.
(Phil, it's not lost on me that this plaque is from a replica of a statue which is the past copying the past and aiding no progress whatsoever. Literally a copy. Thus the medium destroys the message.)
88. There’s a movie made entirely of Russian Dash Cam footage found on YouTube.
Of course there is. Yet another thing you’ve never thought of but is startlingly obvious.
89. Tide designed some new washing liquid packaging for Amazon.
The official blurb says “to keep the convenience of online shopping for the consumer but reduce the overall impact of that convenience on our environment.” All the headlines scream how Amazon is forcing packaging redesigns. Easier to get in the warehouse and easier to deliver.
This flat letterbox friendly wine bottle is a much better example.
Two quick thoughts:
Retailers have always forced FMCG products to do this - remember for most FMCG companies the customer is the retailer not the consumer.
What's really surprising is that this has taken so long. Whatever next, making your website easy to find on Google?
90. Pentagram signed up three new partners
Three new ones since Jon Marshall joined in para 63. Astrid Stavro, Sascha Lobe and Yuri Suzuki. Stravro and Lobe are traditional additions to the Pentagram stable, but Suzuki is different. Well known for working with sound and technology. As Suzuki says, “I was quite surprised in the beginning that Pentagram approached me to join as a partner. But Pentagram wants to investigate the field of sound and interactive design. In a way, I think it’s a perfect match.” Suzuki and Marshall point Pentagram in a new, more truly multi-disciplinary direction.
91. Meet the Humans of Flat Design
That strange phenomenon of abstracted non-identifiable humans, styled and flattened out of all recognition. Harmless and without personality, point of view or reality. You can follow the best examples on Twitter.
92. Another management insight from the Toyota Production System
Tom Taylor of Poplar discovered "Genchi Genbutsu" or "Go and See" recently. Genchi Genbutsu is a principle which states, "If the problem exists on the shop floor then it needs to be understood and solved at the shop floor." Obviously but rarely found in modern management or boardrooms full of PowerPoint. Genchi Genbutsu is also known as Gemba attitude. Gemba is the Japanese term for "the place" in this case "the place where it actually happens". Reminds me of Show The Thing and more broadly, user research.
83. Good advice about email
Let's start with this excellent article in the New York Times. Detailed and accurate.
84. Design Principles
Here are three new ones that grabbed my attention recently, The NHS design principles, the principles behind Bulb design and Lyft on Colour. The Lyft link isn't really principles but an article on how they use colour at Lyft and the tool they built to make better colour decisions easier. It's an open source colour algorithm called ColorBox.io It's pretty epic.
The Lyft Design team are worth keeping an eye on.
85. Ive interviewed in an echo chamber
I think I once said on this blog that although an interview with Jony Ive will never give away much, any glimpse behind the curtain is interesting. In this new interview the curtain stays tightly shut. As much as I like Jony Ive, Ruth Rogers, Richard Rogers and indeed the River Cafe this is an echoing interview in an echo chamber.
Still, here it is. Jony Ive on the Apple Watch and Big Tech’s responsibilities (might be behind a paywall for some).
86. Sketching elephants and other animals.
Paul Rand used to sketch a lot of elephants which reminded me of Durrell Bishop's wonderful, never-ending sketches. Which reminded me again that I must sketch more pointless stuff. Maybe I'll start something on here to force me to stick to it.
87. Working late, responsibly
Alice linked to an excellent blog post about working late and techniques for handling that. I was looking for an old email the other day and found this from my advertising days.
I can't really remember the incident but it's not the fault of a particular client or agency. It's the culture of the advertising industry that makes this so commonplace. It's expected that everyone will work late and that a deadline means you must work right up until that point. That's not healthy.
This article by Dan Carley is a good read and full of pragmatic, sensible advice.
I think Richard Pope once asked Twitter if anyone had tried writing down things to do in a way that reflects the size of each task.
I used to do that.
I went through a period of writing a To Do list and putting everything in boxes that reflected the size of the task. I looked back through some old notebooks trying to find evidence of this. Inevitably I couldn’t find one that exactly matched my memory, but here’s what I did find.
I used to try and write small things, like remembering to email someone, in a small box. And bigger tasks, like writing up End of Year reviews, in a bigger box. My thinking was that if something happened like a cancelled meeting, I could quickly look at the list and see the small tasks that could be accomplished in 20 minutes. In my memory there more variation between the small boxes and the big boxes. Maybe that has something to do with my hand writing.
I used boxes because there’s a real satisfaction in being able to see the page getting filled in as the week progresses. It’s like a To Do list as a progress bar.
I also tried adding a little visual reference. Like a coffee cup or and email envelope. I can’t resist this sort of thing tbh. I always wrote these on a Monday.
I always aimed to get them done by Monday lunchtime. I found spending most of Monday writing a properly considered To Do list made the rest of the week far more effective. It feels like a luxury at the time, but it feels essential come Friday morning.
I tried a Kanban style one, but I don’t think this worked at the weekly ones.
At some point I stopped doing this and went fully digital. It has the advantage of portability and it’s easier to generate work notes from and copy stuff into, but it loses the feeling of progress.
I like Jasper Morrison's work. I like how Penguin covers look in an interior design setting. Therefore I like this.
It's called the Jasper Morrison Penguin Huddle. It's a neat little invention that clasps your books together so you can stand them up. Like a portable book shelf when you have the books but not the shelf. It's an elegant simple piece of design and it feels clever.
But it's a hundred quid. Which is a lot of money, but then I don't really know what the correct pricing would be for this. You could use mugs you had lying around and they would be free, but on the other hand one second hand Penguin book from a shop that sells Penguin books for an interior design setting probably costs £100 these days. Plus £5 for the coffee.
And who actually displays books like this? People with enough room to have spare room on the "side" who probably have a spare £100. I dunno.
Maybe you could use it for other things. It feels like you could. That would be fun. Anyway.
77. Pictures of colourful pigeons.
Beautiful. On Instagram too for a more regular fix.
Leila Jeffreys Instagram
78. Man puts a huge poster of himself up in McDonalds and no-one notices
There’s a serious point here, Jevh Maravilla noticed there were no Asians in the generic photos on the wall of his local McDonalds and so took a photo of him and his friend in the same nondescript style, added the same nondescript graphics, printed it online and managed to stick it to the wall inside McDonalds. It was 51 days before anyone noticed.
BBC News: Poster prank hoodwinks McDonald's
79. Fantastic series on interesting Art and Design schools
A collaboration between WeTransfer and Lecture In Progress has identified eight art and design schools around the world “doing things differently”. Refreshingly it’s not the usual suspects and includes institutions in India, Japan and South Africa. Beautifully designed too.
I was surprised not to see any Design schools from China as they are expanding quickly, but still well worth a read.
80. How a photograph nearly started the collapse of the global banking system
Fascinating tale of what (rich) FT correspondent John Authers saw on his own personal run on his Wall St bank in 2008. What did he see? Lots of other (rich) Wall St bankers withdrawing their cash.
“I was finding it a little hard to breathe. There was a bank run happening, in New York’s financial district. The people panicking were the Wall Streeters who best understood what was going on.“
Undoubtedly a photo would have caused a stir, he suggests it could have started a global run on banks and caused the whole system to collapse. Maybe it would. Maybe the photograph would have been a modern day Don Mccullin-esque image of suited financiers. He decided not to report the story as a journalist, quoting the phrase used commonly on social media these days “The right to free speech does not give us right to shout fire in a crowded cinema.” Was he right? Make your own mind up.
In a crisis, sometimes you don’t tell the whole story (may be behind a paywall for some readers)
81. Jaguar Land Rover have been testing self-driving cars with massive eyes on the bonnet.
They are used to look at pedestrians in the same way a driver would, to help the pedestrian know when they’re stopping and so on.
Easy to dismiss this as nonsense, but I would like to see more testing of “human-ness” like this in technology. Somedays it can feel like service design and user centricity are in an ever quicker race to the bottom.
82. Thread: Six errors in the opening scene of the Tom Cruise film American Made
Planes that didn’t exist until years afterwards. Planes they never operated. And so on. Errors in films are common, and understandable, but this seems quite major.
Went to see the London Mastaba the other day. I liked it, you should make the effort to go. It's dead easy, you can just walk past.
It's on until Sunday 23 September and then they will probably spend a week taking it down which I imagine will be fun to look at. The pictures of it going up were good.
Picture taken by Matt Brown used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)