• Needless Things

    On: September 21, 2015
    In: economics
    Views: 3256

    We went to the rugby at the weekend. Samoa were playing the USA in a game at the Brighton AMEX stadium. Outside the ground, people in bright clothes were selling all sorts of things, including the thing you’ll see attached to this guy’s ear:


    It’s a radio that lets you listen to the commentary, or listen to the referee talking to the touch judges, players and TMO during the game.

    It helps you understand more about what’s going on. Fair enough; it’s an interesting augmentation of the experience.

    The guy had a phone that could have done that, though. Everyone in the crowd did. They could have made an app. Set up a locally hosted web server. Made it available through something like TuneIn. There are probably fifty different ways they could have streamed the audio to the devices we carry around with us anyway, and not needed to make or supply any other devices.

    Except I suspect none of those ways would have let them charge £10 per person for doing so.

    The economics of the physical object is still intrinsically understood by the vast majority of people – ‘oh, you made loads of things, but if I’m to own one of the unique things, I need to give you money‘.

    There’s still something about ‘digital’ services that means people wouldn’t pay. ‘Oh, you’re doing that anyway, I’m not paying that. It should be free…‘.

    But it’s produced by as much ‘physical’ labour. People who make it happen (who you can’t see). Devices and connections working hard (that you can’t touch).

    Until we work out a way to sell the general principle of digital distribution of physical effort, we’ll face two problems.

    Firstly, we’ll be unable to charge sustainably for things to keep them going.

    Secondly, we’ll continue to make more physical things where we don’t need them, in order to make money.

    How do we get over the atom problem?

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  • Conceptual Strategy for Intranets

    On: September 17, 2015
    In: artefactcards, people, technology
    Views: 2275

    I know, that’s a rock and roll blog post title, eh?

    A short video, explaining something that Chris, Mark and I worked on a while ago for a client, but that came back round again today when someone asked ‘any thoughts on setting up intranets?’. Rather than a long blog post, or a detailed email, I made a scratchy video…

    …using the webcam/lamp stand thing I hacked together a while ago.


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  • Metadesign For Murph – Video

    On: September 16, 2015
    In: culture, design
    Views: 2944

    The audio stream for my dConstruct talk popped up yesterday (thanks Drew), so I’ve put it together with a film of the slides to make a video. I’d have normally just dumped in the images and stitched it together that way, but the animation parts help bring some of the core concepts to life, I think, so it was worth filming. Enjoy…

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  • Metadesign For Murph, and How To Organise Your Library

    On: September 14, 2015
    In: culture, design
    Views: 2944

    Last Friday, I spoke at the final dConstruct conference in Brighton. dConstruct is a legendary conference, it was an honour to be invited to talk, and as a result I’ve spent most of the summer pulling together the ideas behind the talk. As a speaker, you’re meant to be ‘oh yes, all the talks I do are equally good’ and all that, but that felt like the best talk I’ve ever done. In a rubbish sporting metaphor, I left everything out there on the pitch, Brian…

    The audio has been recorded, and I’ll share that/mix it with slides soon, but in the meantime I’ve written an annotated version for you to read:

    Also, with the follow-up questions people asked about the ‘library’ part of the talk in particular (and creating a systems view of the world you work in), I’ve written a Medium piece on ‘How To Organise Your Library‘.
    It’s a Tolkienesque appendix, perhaps – there’s no real need to read it to get the point of the story, but you might find something interesting or useful in there.
    Anyway, thanks to the gang at Clearleft for the opportunity to grace the dConstruct stage, thanks to my fellow speakers who set my brain fizzing with new things, and thanks most of all to the audience, who were very kind about the talk in general and my ‘Russell Crowe as Jor-El‘ impersonation in particular…
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  • A manifesto for leastmoderism

    On: September 5, 2015
    In: design
    Views: 2673

    How can we do less? How can we have one client instead of ten? Work with five colleagues indeed of five hundred. Find customers who only want to buy once?

    How can we have one car instead of two? Three bedrooms instead of five? Buy two, leave the third where it is?

    How can we do this in a day and not a week? Write one sentence, say ten words, make one thing once?

    How do we create the most value from doing the least we can?

    More is less, more or less.

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  • What is Metadesign?

    On: August 25, 2015
    In: rivetings
    Views: 2908

    In preparation for my dConstruct talk next month, I’ve been researching metadesign. I’ll start posting some relevant things up here over the next few weeks if you want to follow some of the background work that goes into the talk.

    First up, a couple of talks by Prof. John Wood of Goldsmiths University, whose work centres on the need to ‘Redesign design’:

    The more I’ve been diving into the Metadesigners open network that’s been set-up by Prof. Wood and the team at Goldsmiths, the more I realise that there’s perhaps a separation which can be made when it comes to Metadesign; there’s the what it is (in the sense that it’s a series of tools and approaches), and the why we need to think this way. I might try to pick that apart a bit more, and look at the other descriptions and work on Metadesign in order to clarify it a bit for others and myself.


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  • Wearing Culture’s New Shoes

    On: August 24, 2015
    In: culture, design, making, marketing
    Views: 2937

    I’m wearing new shoes today. They’re made by Atheist Berlin. They feel like hot chocolate for the feet.

    P1050859 P1050860 P1050861 P1050862 P1050857

    Now, I’ve been following the Atheist story for a while, because I know David, Chief Atheist (is that a thing?) from when we did the IPA Excellence Diploma together some years ago (dates redacted to protect the aged). Indeed, it’s interesting to reflect on the number people from the IPA ExDip who’ve gone on to do their own thing; consultancies, accelerators, etc. The course clearly gives people a bit of motivation to do something differently.

    But within that those who’ve made a thing. Making things is different from service industries. Not better or worse, just different. Another example would be Matt’s success with Two Fingers Brewing. I make some card things you might have seen. There are no doubt more examples from diploma alumni too. And there are definitely lots of examples of ex-agency people who start making things instead of selling other peoples’ things. But it’s not just a few agency folk leaving uninspiring surroundings to play around at ‘maker’ (although Murat’s post from 2013 still hits upon most of the reasons why that happens).

    There’s a cacophony of forces driving more and more people to start making their own things. Some are positive; access to funding of some sort (grants, investors, crowd-funding), the ability to use the internet to learn new skills and find an audience at the right scale. Some are negative; lack of fulfilling work, high youth unemployment, cost of higher education.

    They all add up to interesting times for existing companies. Take beer, for instance. The number of breweries operating in the UK in the last five years has tripled. Yet beer sales in the UK remained in a long-term decline until last year, when they managed a 1.5% annual increase. All in all, it adds up to more suppliers fighting over less sales, and more interesting suppliers stealing share from less interesting ones.

    This summer has felt like what started as an expression thing for the creatively minded has started to become a business thing for a lot of people. The conversations I’ve been having and become aware of are less about how brands can support makers do their own thing, and more about ‘what happens when they start to make our thing?’

    Our culture has a new pair of shoes, and it’s starting to test just how far it can walk in them.


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  • Carlo’s Madin Desk

    On: August 21, 2015
    In: culture
    Views: 2571

    Carlo came over today to get his John Madin desk.

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    The desks are from the John Madin’s Birmingham Central Library, which has been stripped and is being demolished. They’re the original ones as designed by Madin to fit inside the library. We nabbed a couple when they were on eBay, after some smart soul had managed to rescue a few. We’ve managed to rescue a little bit of history.

    IMG_2730 john madin desks


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  • The New Family Holiday Snap

    On: August 5, 2015
    In: rivetings
    Views: 2789

    We’re sitting on a bench overlooking The Lizard, the most southerly point of the UK, on a typical blustery Cornish summer day. The weather comes over at a hundred miles an hour, it seems. One minute it can be sunny and twenty-two degrees, the next the sun disappears and a few spots of rain appear on your white paper Cornish pasty bag.

    Another family comes down the path, and stops not far away. Mum, Dad, two teenagers. They spend a couple of minutes admiring the view, gently thrilled as the waves splash against the rocks.

    “Ooo, we could take a selfie” says Mum. “Have you got your stick with you?” she asks the daughter.

    She quickly finds the a selfie stick in her jacket pocket, and takes Dad’s iPhone to perch it on top. They move closer to the edge, turn around, and spend a few minutes arranging themselves, finding the correct angle for the selfie stick to get them all in, and a little bit of scenery behind.

    Is this the new family holiday snap? Instead of trying and failing to capture the spectacle of the view, of those waves crashing against the shore, it’s a picture of the whole family instead.

    It’s still a picture that says “we saw this”, but now the focus is less on view, and more on the family – “we saw this” instead of “we saw this“…

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  • A Brand Is A Make

    On: August 5, 2015
    In: rivetings
    Views: 1881

    We’re sitting in a lovely Cornish beach cafe. Our kids are playing with another boy, of similar age, and they’re ducking and diving around the tables, sprawling out where they get the chance on the decking.

    The boy points to the logo on our daughters sandals, and calls to his mother.

    “Mum, there’s a picture on her shoes. What is it?”

    “That’s what brand they are” his mother replies.

    “What’s a brand?” he asks.

    His mother thinks for a moment. How to tell a child what a brand is…

    “It’s a make” she says. “It’s what make they are. It tells you who made them, and how, and where. A brand is a make”.

    I quickly and quietly capture this on a card, for future pondering. The children play on.

    a brand is a make Read More