View – History – Flatten layers: part 2. Anniversaries

From the optical illusion of the Russell Square aeroplane to the temporal plywood of anniversaries. At one level, anniversaries are meaningless folds in the map - artifacts of an arbitrary time-system force-fitted onto the relentless drift of natural history. An ocean liner strikes an iceberg and sinks. The-square-of-the-number-of-fingers-a-human-has multiplied by the-time-it-takes-for-the-Earth-to-circumnavigate-the-Sun later, we're watching a … Continue reading View – History – Flatten layers: part 2. Anniversaries

No Idle Words: a style guide for the age of austerity

Russell Davies' lovely post on the writing style of the GOV.UK beta inspired me to scan this 1951 Post Office writing guide. We inherited it from my wife's grandfather who taught telecommunications at the Post Office's training college, in the days before BT. If anyone knows more about the booklet I'd love to hear from … Continue reading No Idle Words: a style guide for the age of austerity

Down with Façadism: a provocation for Culture Hack North

I was honoured to be asked to do a short talk on the opening afternoon of the brilliant Culture Hack North event in Leeds this weekend. For one thing, it was a chance to appear alongside Rachel Coldicutt's dream team of Rohan Gunatillake, Natasha Carolan, Lucy Bannister, Helen Harrop, Frankie Roberto and Greg Povey. Also, … Continue reading Down with Façadism: a provocation for Culture Hack North

“If they could sentence me for thinking, I would have been sentenced for life”

This Ada Lovelace Day I'd like to introduce you to Laura Ann Willson of Halifax. The way into this tale, the loose thread that first attracted my attention, is a 1920s advertisement. But tugging that thread a little, Laura Willson's story just gets better and better. Her achievements, it seems, are so diverse that no … Continue reading “If they could sentence me for thinking, I would have been sentenced for life”

At dConstruct, the real world is calling. It wants its designers back

Kelly Goto stands on the stage at Brighton's Dome, head down, staring at her palm, a perfect mimic of the modern smartphone user, and issues a simple challenge to the dConstruct audience: "Help people to stay upright." This is the pivotal moment at which digital design finds itself. After decades training people to gaze into … Continue reading At dConstruct, the real world is calling. It wants its designers back

The Dissolution of the Factories, or Lines Composed a Few Days After Laptops and Looms

In the corner of an attic room in one of Britain's oldest factories a small group are engaged in the assembly of a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic. They - it - all of us - are there for Laptops and Looms, a gathering of people whose crafts cross the warp of the digital networked world with the … Continue reading The Dissolution of the Factories, or Lines Composed a Few Days After Laptops and Looms

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party

I have been using the word "machine" in this connection, because it was the only name by which it was designated at that time. The adoption of a suitable name, however, was being discussed at this time by Mr. Sholes and his associates. "Printing machine" was first suggested, but the name did not meet with … Continue reading Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party

History and the copy machine: the economist’s price of everything

The Economist (and it could only be the Economist) blog makes an astonishing attempt at quantification with the following chart, titled "When history was made": The underlying equation is this: SOME people recite history from above, recording the grand deeds of great men. Others tell history from below, arguing that one person's life is just … Continue reading History and the copy machine: the economist’s price of everything

The past is a platform from which we launch into the future*

In my dayjob, mobile media, we spend a lot of time talking about platforms. Curiously we like to think of these platforms as eternally new and shiny. “Legacy” is is not a windfall from the preceding generation. It's a perjorative term. Sometimes we even set our old platforms on fire, which is strange, because, as … Continue reading The past is a platform from which we launch into the future*

Breathless from the fumes of the data exhaust

Can one person be in three places at once? The most requested superpower among Foo Campers seems to be time travel. Maybe it's because with a dozen or more amazing things going on at once we'd like to loop round at the end of every day and do it all over again. With only one … Continue reading Breathless from the fumes of the data exhaust

Press the green button to raise the ocean

The 17th Century terraformers who carved out the Canal du Midi enlisted an army of plane trees and cypresses to strengthen its banks. These days, sadly, many of the trees are dying off from disease and old age, but their roots still make for good moorings. Floating along the first canal to link two oceans, … Continue reading Press the green button to raise the ocean

Mobile experience in use and ornament

Thanks to @MrAlanCooper for highlighting Rahul Sen's beautifully-written piece on the relevance of the Bauhaus movement to modern-day interaction design. The world would be a better place if more designers could cultivate such a deep appreciation of the history. I tried to  comment on the Johnny Holland blog but was foiled by the pernicious Recaptcha, … Continue reading Mobile experience in use and ornament

Insert faces here: a 160-year-old placeholder made of stone

There's something tantalising about unfinished buildings. This one's not on the scale of Nostell Priory's west front pediment but was a delight to happen across on a Northumbrian spring day. The small stone gargoyles on the north wall of St Michael and all Angels Church, Howick, were all carved by Maria, 3rd Countess Grey (daughter-in-law … Continue reading Insert faces here: a 160-year-old placeholder made of stone