Filed under 'Notes'
I recently discovered Madlug, a travel bag business with a difference. Their story, which is clearly articulated and poignant, caught my attention.
Madlug’s story, and its purpose, is clear:
With every bag purchased a new travel bag will be given to a child in care to help them make their way with dignity.
Reflecting on the business’s founding principles, Madlug’s founder, Dave Linton, tells a story of how he was struck by the plight of a young girl in a wheelchair, who explained:
Health trusts don’t provide suitcases. Sometimes foster carers loan us a suitcase, but more often our belongings are moved in black plastic bin bags and we lose our dignity.
Determined to address this heartbreaking situation, Madlug was born, with a focused mission: to create ‘Make a Difference Luggage’.
From these humble beginnings, Madlug has grown into, “A movement of incredible people buying incredible bags so that new travel bags can be given to incredible children and young people in care.”
To date the company has given over 1,100 travel bags to children in care, helping – in a small, but important way – to give these children back their dignity.
Yes, Madlug is selling bags, but what they’re actually selling is something else: dignity.
We might be living in an age where UK CEOs ‘Earn 386 Times More Than Workers on the National Living Wage’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference to others’ lives and, in the process, help to build successful businesses.
Madlug, and other companies like it, are selling hope, and hope is a precious commodity in the here and now.
Next time you’re looking for a travel bag, why not make a difference at the same time, and pick up a Madlug bag? You’ll be helping others in the process and making your own small dent in the universe.
Since 2015, John Maeda – working with a talented team – has published an annual Design in Tech Report. This year’s edition was posted in early March and, if you’re in any way involved at the intersection of design and technology, I’d strongly recommend downloading a copy, saving it and reading it.
I’m a little late to this year’s party as my focus of late has been on teaching, writing and running workshops – not to mention taking a little time off from screens – but, as they say, better late than never.
2017’s Design in Tech Report is filled with useful advice. A number of insights leapt off the page for me:
Design isn’t just about beauty; it’s about market relevance and meaningful results.
Few would argue with this, but – surprisingly (as is often the case with key insights) – it’s often overlooked. Design isn’t window dressing, it increasingly lies at the heart of everything we do, and it’s great to see this thinking moving to the fore.
At top business schools, design thinking is moving into the curriculum.
Not before time! As an educator, I believe that the most interesting and exciting opportunities that lie ahead sit at the intersection of design and business. (That’s why Tiny Books is focused on exploring the design of business and the business of design.)
Imagine what we could do if we tore down the silos that exist between design and business education? Imagine an MBA with a fundamental design-driven focus, as opposed to design added as an afterthought. That’s a course I’d like to contribute to.
Code is not the only unicorn skill.
As a writer and designer you won’t be surprised to hear that Maeda’s stress on the importance of writing as a core part of the design process appeals to me. Writing is a critical design skill that is all too often overlooked in curricula. Indeed, it’s a skill that will become increasingly valuable with the emergence of conversational interfaces.
(My only, minor, complaint is that the ‘design schools that include writing and content strategy’ singled out in the report are all based in the United States. Design is a global activity, after all.)
If you’re late to the party like me, this year, make haste and download a copy of the report. It’s filled with thought-provoking advice.
If the web’s your forté I’d urge you to take a look at Pixel Pioneers, a series of affordable events that brings world class advice from designers and developers right to your doorstep.
Courtesy of Oliver Lindberg – until recently the editor of net magazine (and, in the interests of full disclosure, a good friend of mine) – Pixel Pioneers 100% echoes my values: it’s priced incredibly reasonably; it has a line up that features a balanced mix of speakers; and it’s touring the UK, so travel expenses should be less of an issue.
Pixel Pioneers’ inaugural event will take place in the lovely city of Bristol on 22 June, 2017. It’s just £99 for an early bird ticket, so it’s well within reach of all: snap a ticket up quick!
Even better – from my perspective – Pixel Pioneers is coming to Belfast on 16 November, 2017.
I’m very much looking forward to attending a conference in Belfast once again, having run Break and contributed heavily to Build. It feels long overdue to welcome everyone to our city once again (this time without the stress of running a conference!).
Roll on November!
I’m very much looking forward to joining a wonderful line up of speakers at DIBI, Edinburgh in March, 2017. I’m honoured to be part of a schedule that includes a host of world class speakers, including: Joshua Davis (always an inspiration), and a wide range of inspiring speakers from Slack, Clearleft and Adobe Typekit, amongst others.
I’ll be delivering the closing keynote on the first day and (I hope!) priming the audience for an evening of heartfelt discussion.
My talk, ‘A Calculated Leap of Faith’, will touch on some of the ideas I covered in my first Tiny Book, ‘Start! Stop Procrastinating and Pursue Your Passion’, and will explore the pieces you need to put in place to turn your ideas into a reality.
If you’ve not picked up a ticket – and you’ll be in the vicinity of Edinburgh in March – I’d encourage you to get a ticket before they disappear. I very much hope to see you there.
If you’ve ever wanted to speak at a conference, I’d strongly recommend reading Des Traynor’s thoughts on How to Get Started at Conference Speaking. It’s to the point and filled with useful advice that’s well worth heeding.
Traynor, one of the co-founders of Intercom, is a seasoned speaker and his advice, hard won in the trenches, is worth taking on board. One idea that caught my eye is the idea that you can, “Build your own speaking resume without having a stage.” As Traynor puts it the web is a powerful – off stage – medium for practising your on stage thoughts:
As examples, Ryan Singer and Benedict Evans have given great talks to their laptops and published these online. So when people tell me they can’t find their, “first speaking event,” I tell them it’s right in front of them.
This is great advice (and something I’d overlooked before).
I’m a firm believer in the power of conference speaking to shape your thinking, but getting started can be a challenge. If you’re considering embarking on the road to a keynote, I’m sure you’ll appreciate Traynor’s thoughts.
MailChimp’s tools are incredibly easy to use and – equally importantly – their guides are a gift. If you’re embarking on an email marketing journey (which I am), I’d thoroughly recommend using MailChimp and availing of all the helpful advice they offer.
As they put it:
The Email Design Guide is filled with tips and advice to help you convey your message in style. Learn how to better use images, fonts, calls to action and more.
The guide takes you step-by-step through everything you need to know to design effective emails, ensuring your message is heard loud and clear.
I’m looking forward to hitting ‘Send’ on my launch email later today. If you’re not subscribed to the newsletter, sign up and you’ll get a special 48 hour discount when the book launches, saving you 1/3 off the price.
I’d like to thank MailChimp for ensuring the process of creating my launch emails was effortless and easy. Hats off to their team for all their hard work!
If you’re interested in improving your thinking, one way to do so is to read smart books recommended by smart people.
Bill Gates has shared a short list of five books for Holiday Reading in a short – less than three minute – video, complete with a few thoughts on why they’re worth your time.
On that note, I’m off to my local book store….
My father was a world class chess player and, as such, I never stood a chance playing against him. (It’s a measure of his single-minded dedication to the game that he found it profoundly difficult to allow anyone to win, even when playing his grandchildren.)
As a consequence – never winning and never having a chance of winning – my early passion for the game evaporated over time. I just lacked the strength required to win, and playing against an international standard player didn’t help.
Discovering Really Bad Chess reignited my love of the game. An iOS app, developed by Zach Gage (@helvetica on Twitter), it turns the game upside down, breaking all the rules in the process. I discovered it via John Gruber via Jason Snell, who both wrote glowing reviews. As Snell puts it:
[The game] puts a clever spin on chess by seeding the board with a totally random collection of pieces.
Whilst the allocation of pieces seems arbitrary – “Try 8 Knights, 4 Bishops, and 3 pawns… why not?” – it is in fact heavily weighted. Snell summarises one of its innovations nicely:
Ranked mode lets you play increasingly difficult boards – you start with a huge power advantage over your computer opponent, and the advantage slowly shifts until you’re trying to defend while underpowered.
This fundamental reimagining of the game completely alters its dynamic and I’ve been enjoying playing it as a result. As its creator, Gage states:
Chess is one of those games I always wished I enjoyed, but its commitment to beauty, elegance, and perfect balance always turned me away. Really Bad Chess removes these boring restrictions and flips chess on its head.
The game itself offers lessons we can learn from and apply in a wider context. The history of chess stretches back thousands of years – it’s rules are set in stone – and yet, here’s a version of the game that questions those rules, toying with them to create something similar, but entirely new.
Just because something exists it doesn’t mean you can’t rethink it.
Ask yourself, what might you reimagine? There’s plenty of room in the world for more than one execution of an idea. If you make an idea your own, who knows what you might achieve.
Once a year the team at Campaign Monitor put together a list of the Top 100 Email Marketing Campaigns. It’s always a helpful reference, and if you’re thinking of running an email campaign, it’s worth exploring.
As they put it:
We’ve curated a selection of the most inspiring and effective email marketing campaigns sent in 2016.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your email marketing campaign – and email remains a great way to connect with your customers, so you should be – take a look. They’ve gathered together some very lovely work.
I try to focus my attention at Tiny Books on the intersection of design and business. Occasionally, however, my mind strays… and I hope my occasional foray into the worlds of typography and music don’t prove too distracting. I’m me and these are my thoughts. (Most of them.)
I discovered Cory Arcangel’s ‘24 Dances for the Electric Piano’ yesterday (heaven knows how… hyperlinks, I imagine). It’s utterly wonderful. I’ve been using it as an aural wallpaper and it’s a perfect backdrop for getting work done.
Arcangel describes himself as a post-conceptual artist (make of that what you will) and I’ve always found his works consistently interesting and challenging. He studied at Oberlin Conservatory for Music and this pedigree suffuses ‘24 Dances for the Electric Piano’.
I’ve always enjoyed compositions for piano – Debussy, in particular – but Arcangel’s two dozen compositions hit a sweet spot, marrying the crisp cadence of the electric piano to musical motifs drawn from the era of house music.
You don’t have to have lived through the golden era of house music – I have warm memories – to appreciate Arcangel’s music. These motifs have carved their way into the fabric of contemporary culture. As he puts it:
The sounds on certain machines can take on a life of their own. They’ve been used by so many people that they have this whole history when you hear them. You don’t hear a tinny, shitty sound; you hear all the previous songs you have loved.
I couldn’t summarise it better. What’s so enjoyable about ‘24 Dances for the Electric Piano’ is the fact that it’s the essence of house, and pop, culture. Boiled down. Incredibly distilled versions of versions.
I was surprised to discover, in an article at Vulture, that – contrary to what you might think when you’re listening – every composition is original. This only serves to underline the remarkable nature of the project.
Arcangel has captured the semi-anonymous, underground language of turn of the millennium club culture and abstracted it into the distinctive, machine language of the here and now. The album’s liner notes, summarise this ‘ghost in the machine’ spirit perfectly: “As performed by Musical Instrument Digital Interface Controlled Korg Emixr Music Workstation.”
Human. Computer. Soul.
The fine folks at The Do Book company are having a Christmas Sale, offering a 20% discount on all Do Books. Use the code ‘FRIEND’ when you checkout and save a fifth on your purchases.
Buy a few copies for yourself, they’ll change your thinking. Better still, buy a few and give them to your friends as presents this Christmas. The gift of knowledge is a gift that’s well worth giving, I’m sure you’d agree.
If you work for yourself you’ll be aware of the (hopefully!) constant challenge of being in demand whilst still needing to factor in down time for the occasional holiday.
Making unpaid time off work can be a challenge, especially when you’re aware that your free time – sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun with a beer in hand – isn’t paying any bills.
Helpfully, Matt McCue of 99U, has gathered some ideas on managing your time (and your money) so you can unwind and enjoy that beer without worrying. Take a Break: 5 Ways Freelance Creatives Make Unpaid Time Off Work is well worth reading.
As Ann Friedman puts it in the article:
If you don’t take full advantage of the schedule flexibility that self-employment allows, you’re doing it wrong.
Working for yourself can be incredibly liberating, but with that liberation come a whole new set of challenges. Set aside a few minutes and read the article, it’s filled with useful real world advice.
Each and every one of A Book Apart’s books are on my reading lists at the Belfast School of Art, so I was delighted to see the company is now offering Book Packs for an additional discount.
There are five Book Packs on offer, but the one that caught my eye is Design Business: featuring two books by Mike Monteiro (Design is a Job, and You’re My Favorite Client) and one by Dan Mall (Pricing Design).
Both Monteiro and Mall know their stuff and all three books (which I own, enjoyed and recommend) are welcome additions to any self-respecting designer’s library.
I’d encourage you to explore A Book Apart’s library, there’s certainly something that will tickle your fancy.
I discovered Tim Urban’s wonderful site, Wait But Why, thanks to a spot of judicious yak shaving last night.
His thoughts on time, particularly the idea of 100 Blocks a Day, caught my attention. I’m currently researching the effective use of time for a forthcoming article for 24 Ways, so this was a welcome – and timely – discovery. (Sorry!)
As Urban puts it:
Most people sleep about seven or eight hours a night. That leaves 16 or 17 hours awake each day. Or about 1,000 minutes. […] Let’s think about those 1,000 minutes as 100 10-minute blocks. That’s what you wake up with every day.
Urban encourages you to consider how you use your blocks of time each day, ensuring you put them to good use. Framing this idea he explores where that time might be allocated:
How many of them are put towards making your future better, and how many of them are just there to be enjoyed?
Importantly, Urban proposes that some of your blocks should be intentionally left empty, with no assigned purpose at all. This idea – building in margin – is something I’ve been exploring more, recently (and is definitely an idea worth acquainting yourself with).
Think of your 100 Blocks a day. How are you putting them to use? Are you making the most of them? If not, you might like to rethink things and make the most of every moment.
I’ve a number of Harvard Business Review’s books and they’re all worth every penny. As part of a Black Friday promotion, they’re offering a one day sale with a discount of 40% when you spend $50 or more.
Check out the offers, there are some great books and bundles and they’d make a welcome addition to any aspiring entrepreneur’s library.
It’s a lovely idea that, like all innovations, is made of other ideas. Passengers choose a one, three or five minute story and a little printer, reminiscent of BERG’s Little Printer, conjures up a story for you. All for free. As Metro put it:
The stories are printed on paper, and topics range from children’s stories to lyrical poetry. The authors of the stories are all anonymous, and over 5,000 have submitted stories.
It’s a lovely example of the potential for rethinking how content is distributed (and is something I’ve been exploring in my recent ‘Micro-Publications’ masterclasses).
Field Notes’ 33rd Quarterly Edition for Winter 2016 is Black Ice. “Eternal, shiny and chrome,” it’s a striking addition to the Field Notes line up.
As usual the Field Notes team have extensively outlined the materials, inks, printing processes and other special effects at the edition’s project page, for those that like details (doesn’t everyone?). Get yours now.
In this day and age, where there’s a wealth of reading at the tip of your fingerprints online, I subscribe to few magazines. Lagom is one.
I’ve written for Lagom in the past, but that’s not the reason I subscribe. My primary reason is that I enjoy its mix of content – which magically transports me from the world of the web to the real world, around us – and the magazine’s production values.
Nothing beats a beautifully printed magazine filled with thought-provoking content, and Lagom ticks both those boxes.
This year Elliot and Samantha Stocks are running a Black Friday sale with a difference. They’ve reduced everything by 50% (so you’ve no excuses not to pick up a copy) and, even better, they’re contributing the 50% you pay to four charities close to their hearts.
If you’re looking for inspiration subscribe, you’ll not only be helping an independent publication, but you’ll be giving to charity, too. Hats off to Mr and Mrs Stocks for all their hard work and for their approach to Black Friday, which puts philanthropy before profit.
If you design for the web, you might like to take a look at Squash by Realmac Software. Billed as, “the easiest way to compress and optimise images for the web,” it’s a handy drag and drop solution for… squashing your images and reducing their file size.
In this day and age of almost ubiquitous broadband, image optimisation is something that is, sadly, all too often overlooked, but spare a thought for mobile users with limited bandwidth or others who have less robust connections.
Version 2.0 is available at a discount – 60% off – in a special Black Friday sale. I picked up a copy and squashed the image above. My original was 25K, the squashed version was 20K. That’s a 20% saving that mobile users will, I’m sure, appreciate.
It all adds up.
We all have a duty to make the web a better place by compressing our assets, Squash is a handy and easy to use tool that helps realise the vision of a speedier web. I’d encourage you to pick up a copy.
Sad news. Casey Neistat is calling it a day and, “Ending the vlog.” As someone who only recently discovered Neistat this news was disappointing to hear.
Neistat’s a fantastic film maker and an interesting thinker. Put these two together and the result was a series of over 500 daily YouTube videos that were painstakingly crafted and filled with challenging and interesting ideas.
As Neistat put it in his final video:
The trouble with success is that it makes you very comfortable.
True to the spirit of his videos, he’s getting uncomfortable and pursuing new challenges. The good news is that he’ll still be making videos, just a little less frequently.
If you’ve yet to discover Neistat I’d strongly recommend bookmarking his YouTube Channel, it’s a veritable cornucopia of delightful thinking.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan and Tina Essmaker, the publishers of The Great Discontent, at Brooklyn Beta a handful of years ago. They’re the nicest two people you could imagine meeting. Their passion and enthusiasm for what they’re doing shines through.
Their magazine, The Great Discontent – “a print publication and online magazine featuring inspiring conversations with today’s artists, makers, and risk-takers” – is a great example of how their passion and enthusiasm manifests itself and it’s incredibly inspiring.
If you haven’t discovered The Great Discontent, I’d rectify that now. Their interviews are inspiring and will provide you with the motivation you need to pursue your passions and make them a reality.
Their Kickstarter – focused on reprinting Issue 1 of the magazine (long out of print) – has just eight hours to go and they’re sitting at $21,938 of their $35,000 goal. There are just 1,000 hardback copies on offer, and they’re discounted on Kickstarter. Do yourself a favour and back the project now, you won’t regret it.
These affordable, minimalist MacBook stickers – courtesy of Stickerlicious – are just the ticket if you’re looking to customise your MacBook.
There are a range of designs on offer, but – perhaps showing my age – the Space Invader motifs appealed to me the most. Lovely!
If you’re a digital designer and you work on a Mac, you might like Drop. A minimal colour picker, it allows you to zoom in, pinpoint the colour you’re looking for, pick your preferred formatting and magically copy it to the clipboard.
Drop also offers ‘The Palette’, allowing you to save colours for later so that all your colours are easily on hand. It also supports Apple’s new Touch Bar so, if you’re looking for an excuse to get a new MacBook Pro… this might be one more reason.
I have a terrible memory for certain things and I’m ever-forgetful, so this article – Remembering More of Everything: The Memory Palace – proved a memorable read.
If you haven’t discovered Shane Parrish’s writing at Farnam Street, I’d encourage you to rectify that now and sign up for his newsletter, or subscribe to his RSS feed. You won’t regret either.
Parrish is well-read, has a great eye and is always uncovering useful information that, as he puts it:
…helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.
I’m all for avoiding stupidity, and making better decisions and innovating are both topics that are close to my heart.
If you’re struggling to ‘remember more of everything’, this article on memory palaces will give you some good guidance. It’s a short read that is well worth setting aside some time for.
One of the benefits of working as an educator is the opportunity it affords to work with others and, as a consequence, to discover their discoveries.
Being involved in education opens your eyes, it provides you with the scope to see through others’ eyes, and – perhaps most importantly – ensures you’re attuned to the wealth of interesting things you might, otherwise, have missed.
It’s a wonderful example of how design can take waste and, through alchemy, turn it into something of value. As the duo behind Studio Swine put it:
[The] Sea Chair is made entirely from plastic recovered from our oceans. Together with local fishermen, marine plastic – [waste] – is collected and processed into a stool at sea.
The result of this process is a piece of furniture that is loaded with narrative. It’s a functional piece of seating that poignantly captures and communicates an important story.
What can we learn from this?
As humans we’re hard-wired to appreciate stories. Products that have a built-in narrative appeal to us in ways that the everyday objects that we surround ourselves with often don’t. Ask yourself: What’s the story behind your product? How might you share that story?
Do so and you’ll find your audience connects with you. Mass manufactured products serve a need – they’re low cost and affordable – but if you build a strong story into your products they can encourage your audience to go the extra mile, pay a little more, and support your work.
Studio Swine’s Sea Chair story is just a few minutes long, I’d encourage you to take a few moments of your day and soak it up, it offers a number of lessons you can learn from.
In addition to my role as a Senior Lecturer at the Belfast School of Art, I mentor a number of young creatives who are just starting out. My focus is on helping them to get the start they need, ensuring they’re positioned to succeed.
One of the first sessions I cover is ‘Your Home on the Web’, where we explore the importance of establishing a considered presence online, around which to build your brand. Inevitably the topic of biographies and ‘About Me’ pages comes up.
I think it’s safe to say that your ‘About Me’ page is one of the hardest pages you’ll have to write. It needs to be finely-tuned. You need to balance a degree of humility whilst also highlighting your successes, it’s a little like walking a tightrope….
You don’t want to come across as arrogant, but equally you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel.
If you’re starting out, or revisiting your ‘About Me’ page, I’d strongly recommend reading Nicole Fenton’s How To Write an ‘About Me’ Page That Gets You Hired. It’s filled with great advice and it’s well worth bookmarking, reading, digesting and returning to.
Fenton is the co-author of Nicely Said (with the equally talented Kate Kiefer Lee) and she knows her words. As she puts it:
An about page doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Keep it simple and put your inner-critic aside.
‘About Me’ pages are difficult, you have just one page to capture the attention of the reader, whilst underlining just what it is about you that sets you apart (not to mention conveying all of your hard-earned experience).
If you’re struggling to introduce yourself, set aside a little time and work through Fenton’s ideas, you’ll find it’s time well spent.
If you’re in the process of putting together your Christmas wish list and you appreciate Apple’s elegantly designed products, you might like to add Designed by Apple in California to your list.
A 300 page book, featuring 450 beautiful photographs by Andrew Zuckerman, it captures the essence of Apple’s meticulous design process. A visual history – charting Apple’s journey From the iMac, in all its colourful glory, to the Pencil, in quiet shades of white – it offers a glimpse into the thinking that goes into the company’s iconic products.
As Apple puts it:
[It’s] a hardcover volume that is both a testament and a tribute to the meticulous processes of design, engineering, and manufacturing that are singularly Apple.
The book, which is lovingly produced (as you’d expect), showcases not just the finished products, but the means by which they were made, providing an insight into the innovative materials and techniques that have propelled Apple to its position as one of the world’s largest companies.
Printed using low-ghost inks on specially milled German paper with gilded matte silver edges it’s a weighty tome that will – I have no doubt – bring a smile when its unwrapped on Christmas Day. (For you, or a loved one.)
I’ve been wavering over buying a copy – it’s expensive – but I’ve 99% convinced myself that I ‘need’ a copy in my library. It feels like a slice of history and, as someone who has been using Apple’s products since the Apple II, it’s a history I’ve grown up with.
If you’re an iOS user you’ve probably struggled to get media (music, films and other content) onto your devices. iTunes has long been in need of a substantial overhaul, growing ever more unwieldy with every version. What you’re really looking for is a simple, intuitive interface that allows you to drag and drop content onto your device.
Sadly, iTunes stopped being simple and intuitive a long, long time ago. It’s a shame, given Apple’s long history of making hardware and software that, “Just works.” The confusing complexity of Apple’s software and services is in desperate need of a complete rethink, rebuilding from the ground up, putting users at the heart of the process.
All is not lost, however.
WALTR 2 bills itself as, “A magic drop area for your Apple device.” Its intuitive and uncomplicated interface is what Apple should have designed, and it’s telling that it’s taken a third party developer – Softorino – to show it a thing or two about what ease of use really looks like.
The bold claims Softorino make – that WALTR 2 is, “Amazing. Effortless. Magical.” – are fully founded in fact. The application is amazing, effortless and magical.
Connect your iOS device (via USB or wirelessly) and drag anything onto WALTR 2’s ‘drop area’ and magic happens. Using ‘Automatic Content Recognition’, you can push music and movies to your device simply using drag and drop. What’s so impressive is that everything just works.
WALTR 2 seamlessly converts non-native files, for example FLAC audio files or AVI video files, and routes them to the right applications on your device, smartening up their metadata en route. Simple.
You might think that $40 for an application is expensive (especially when you can use Apple’s own workflows, in conjunction with third party tools for conversion), but try it – free – for a day, and you’ll see the value and I’m sure won’t look back.
As Ryan Singer, of Basecamp, puts it:
The best marketing trick: make an awesome product that does something people really care about.
WALTR 2 is a great example of this thinking and I think there are lessons we can learn from its marketing, and Softorino’s overall approach. Find a problem that people really care about and solve it.
If you can sweat the details so that your solution is delightful into the bargain, all the better. It’s easy for me to part with $40 when the problem that is solved is something that I can see will deliver long-term value. Find a pain point and remove it and you’ll find your potential customers value your work more highly.
If you’re struggling with iTunes, struggle no more, take a look at WALTR 2. I think you’ll like it.
I’ve been very much enjoying Patrick Rhone’s writing at Rhoneisms , and if you’re looking for someone to challenge – or expand – your thinking I’d recommend popping over to his site and having a read.
Rhone describes himself as an essayist and a commentator (both things that I appreciate). He is also the author of six books (no mean feat). As he puts it:
Through my writing, I tell personal stories and explore ideas about living a life of mindfulness, compassion, introspection, and truth. I do so in an attempt to help others. Writing is how I try to make the world a better, friendlier, stronger place.
As someone who believes in the importance of writing as a means to affect change, it’s no surprise that I identify with Rhone’s worldview. Like Rhone, I believe that writing can make the world a better, friendlier, stronger place.
Writing grows – and shapes – a mind.
You don’t need to be a web designer to enjoy Font Awesome 5’s Kickstarter video: it’s great storytelling; it’s $234,153+ funded; and it’s… awesome.
Since I started writing, a moment ago, the campaign’s raised another $2,000+ – and the figure keeps racking up as I type – I gave up updating the current total (or I’d never get this note published).
If you’re considering a Kickstarter – I did – you need to focus on your story. People buy stories, by people.
If web design is your thing, I’d urge you to back the project. If web design isn’t your thing, I’d urge you to watch the video. It will teach you a thing or two about the importance of captivating your audience.
I’m delighted to be speaking at IxDA Dublin’s annual Defuse event in Dublin on Wednesday, 7 November. If you’re in the city do come along, it’s free and the team have lined up some fantastic speakers
The theme for this year echoes that of Interaction 17: “Make it here. Make it anywhere.”
I’ll be exploring how interaction design education is changing in a connected world, with a particular focus on exploring the relationship between off- and online learning.
Working as an educator in an era of web-based learning platforms – like Skillshare and others – affords us fantastic opportunities to learn regardless of our location. It’s an exciting time to be working in the world of learning and I hope to share some of my excitement in my talk. I hope to see you there.
I suspect we’re all guilty of spending a little too much time immersed in our screens and sadly missing out on the world around us as a consequence. Kai Brach, Offscreen Magazine’s publisher, is undertaking a short survey that explores Looking at Screens.
The results will make it into the next issue of Offscreen. It only takes a few moments to complete (and it will certainly open your eyes to how much time you spend glued to the screens around you). Please do fill it in. I – for one – will be interested to see the results.
Type is my weakness… I’ve lost track of the number of typefaces I’ve bought over the years (always at the service of a project that needs something, “Just that bit different!”). You’d think there would come a point when you’d acquired enough typefaces and could stop, but… happily that point never comes.
FF Mark is a new geometric sans courtesy of FontFont. “Strong and simple [and] designed with the utmost precision,” it’s available in a multitude of weights, from an elegant hairline to a hefty ultra. If type is your weakness too, take a look it’s oozing personality.
I’m resisting – for now – the urge to add it to my library….
If you’re a notebook user, you’re likely to appreciate Tim Tu’s SketchyNotebooks, available now on Kickstarter (and just under $2,000 away from the project’s $30,000 goal).
Tu’s notebooks feature a series of flexible, pre-printed templates designed to sit behind the page you’re currently working on, enabling you to pick a pattern – lines, squares… – that fits your needs.
They’re a lovely – and simple – idea and, as they’re fountain pen friendly (which many notebooks aren’t), are ideal for the designer, journalist, artist friends in your life.
If you’re a notebook aficionado you’ll love them.
There are currently four cities – London, New York, Paris and Sydney – with more cities (and icons) in the pipeline. If you’re looking for some icons to add a little visual flavour to your project, take a look. They’re all free to use with no restrictions.
Nice work, Mr Taylor!
If web design’s your focus, it has an elegant, horizontally scrolling web site too, which tells the story of the product very nicely indeed. Lovely.
Brach has a great eye and the products he features – designed to help you create a more productive and enjoyable work environment – are always spot on (and tempting, into the bargain!).
Congratulations to the team at Skillshare for hitting two major milestones: 10,000 classes and, more impressively, two million students. Great work.
Skillshare, and other platforms like it, offer a tantalising glimpse of the future of education. A future where learning is affordable and everything you could possibly want to learn is just a click or a swipe away.
It’s an exciting time to be working in education and developing connected models of learning. As an educator, I’m always keeping an eye on Skillshare (and, as a subscriber, I’m constantly learning) and I’m delighted that the team has attracted two million students.
Watch this space. Education is changing, and platforms like Skillshare are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Universities need to focus on platforms like this. The future of learning is connected and it’s affordable. Of course there’s value in real world experiences (as an educator, you’d expect me to say that), but there is huge value in bringing together learners in virtual environments too.
When we join the dots of learning, we create wonderful opportunities. Learning should be affordable to all, and Skillshare helps realise that goal.
If you’re interested in learning - isn’t everyone? - I’d recommend taking a look at what Skillshare has to offer. Here’s to the next two million Skillshare students!
There are just three days left to back 8 Faces: Collected on Kickstarter. 72 hours to snap up a copy of what will, I have no doubt, be a beautifully designed book.
I was delighted to see Elliot and Samantha Stocks, the team behind 8 Faces (and now Lagom), hit their goal of £40,000 and push past it comfortably. They’re fast approaching £50,000 and – if they hit that goal – they’ll have the chance to update the interviews that appeared in the magazine first time around. (Let’s make that happen!)
I wrote for all but one issue of the magazine when it was first published and had the pleasure of interviewing, amongst others, Hamish Muir of Octavo, Ed Fella, and Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell of FUEL. (For the last issue I interviewed Steven Heller, which – while thoroughly enjoyable – was a little intimidating… he’s a giant of typography.)
8 Faces is lovingly produced and if you’re a typography aficionado (everybody should be!) 8 Faces: Collected will be a huge hardback book you’ll want to own.
If you missed it last week, Google is making things; real, hold in your hand things. (I know, the company has forayed in this direction before, but this feels decidedly different, it feels like a significant shift in the company’s strategic trajectory.)
The company’s new Made by Google programme is decidedly interesting and – if I’m thinking this through correctly – marks a major shift for Google, from a world of bits to a world of atoms (that act as a front end to bits).
You might be wondering why I’m sharing this at Tiny Books, a home for creative entrepreneurs at the ‘David’ end of the ‘David and Goliath’ spectrum. It’s because I think this move offers opportunities for those focused on content and content distribution.
The hardware Google’s just unveiled – Pixel, Daydream and Home… – comes together to form an integrated, end-to-end delivery system for content. If your focus is on content – whatever its form – Made by Google is definitely something you should acquaint yourself with.
Having recently developed a Micro-Publications masterclass that focuses on future content delivery platforms, I’m watching Google’s developments in this area with interest. It’s certainly an exciting time to be working with content.
Wallpaper* have put together an overview – Google’s life-enhancing gadget suite brings a new edge to your world… – that captures the essence of the opportunity nicely.
The simplest ideas are often the best and GutenTag is so simple you’ll wonder it never occurred to you. As Mark Newton, its designer, puts it:
No more complex agendas, journals, apps… GutenTag is an elegant offline solution for planning your day. Stamp it, draw it, do it. Perfect for those of us who are visual learners, creatives, and the rest of the world that is overwhelmed.
I don’t know about you, but I’m often overwhelmed. I always carry multiple scratch notebooks (one per current project) and one of these is focused on my daily to-do list. GutenTag fits this system perfectly. By compartmentalising the day using GutenTag I can visually plan my day and, as Newton states, “Stamp out procrastination!”
487% funded on Kickstarter in 30 Days, I’m clearly not alone in appreciating GutenTag’s elegant approach. If you’re forever frustrated by time, it might just be what you’ve been looking for.
“See the Day. Seize the Day.” Pick one up….
As an educator working to shape the future of the web, I believe it’s important to celebrate the best of digital in the widest sense by uniting those who design and build our future web experiences. Bringing together designers and builders we can share a holistic view of our wonderfully rich industry, shaping better outcomes.
DIBI: Design It; Build It – a conference I’ve enjoyed attending immensely – ties together the many threads of the web neatly and should be on every web aficionado’s calendar.
I was delighted to be invited to chair DIBI London, 2016 and I’m very much looking forward to being a part of the event, which has a truly wonderful lineup of speakers, who collectively span the widest of possibilities. You’d be remiss to miss it.
I’m looking forward to introducing eight exciting speakers, including: Tobias van Schneider, former Lead Product Designer and Art Director at Spotify; Stefanie Posavec, a thought-provoking designer working in the medium of data; and Jane Austin, Design Director at MOO.
It’s a measure of how good DIBI London, 2016 is that I feel guilty singling out just three of the day’s eight speakers, so – in the interests of completeness, so you know what you don’t want to miss – here’s the entire talented roster….
Josh Payton, VP of User Experience at Huge, Europe (I’ve seen Payton speak and he’s incredibly inspiring); Dan Cork, a developer with almost a decade’s experience, “tinkering with the web”; Frances Berriman, formerly of GOV.UK (an organisation I love); Marco Cedaro, a veteran of the web since the first browser wars; and Peter Parkes, Strategy Director at Made by Many.
Every one a gem.
In short, eight speakers that – collectively – gather together decades of experience that you owe it to yourself to learn from. If you’re serious about being the best you can be, take a day off and soak up their knowledge, you won’t regret it.
Tickets are very reasonably priced and there are just a handful left. I’d strongly encourage you to snap one up before they go.
I very much hope to see you there and, if you’re attending please find me and say, “Hello!” If you do, I’ll have a little something for you – a free something special – just a little something I’ve been working on.
If you haven’t chanced upon Anekdote, I’d urge you to take a moment, visit and rectify that now. It’s a lovely site with a simple premise:
Anekdote spotlights one brand each month.
The brands Anekdote shines a light on are informed by their vision and values, form and function, and design and craftsmanship. If you’re interested in beautifully designed, well made products you’ll identify with their worldview (and their idea – one brand a month – is lovely.)
If you’re in Porto next week, I’ll be delivering a masterclass exploring Micro-Publications at the soft launch of The New Digital School on Thursday, 13 October. The masterclass explores how communication is changing in an age of connected products.
Over the course of an afternoon we’ll develop ideas for micro-publications, dreaming up ideas for content and considering how these might be delivered in a post-browser landscape. In a nutshell, we’ll imagine the future.
You’ll appreciate this masterclass if you’re interested in how communication design is changing and how the opportunities to connect with others is altering in an age of connected devices.
I’ve been road-testing the the masterclass content with my Interaction Design students in Belfast for the last week and they’re conjuring up some truly magical ideas. (More on this, soon.)
Tickets are limited and over half of them have already been snapped up. If you’d enjoy an afternoon of kickstarting your creativity, pick up a ticket before they disappear.
I’ve enjoyed following Jeff Sheldon’s adventures at Ugmonk for some time now (eight years, how time flies!). When I work with young creatives with a deep desire to pursue their passion, Ugmonk is right at the top of my list of ‘companies we can learn from’.
Like many creatives, Sheldon had a dream, an idea for a creative business that he was passionate about. What differentiates him, and Ugmonk, from many others is the fact that Sheldon distilled that dream down into a clear mission and pursued it with dedication and determination.
(It’s all about: knowing where you want to go, and putting in the hard work to reach that destination.)
Ugmonk’s mission is simple – and eight years later, unchanged – it acts as a clear focus around which Sheldon has built the Ugmonk brand:
Create high-quality, well-designed goods that I would want to buy myself.
Around this mission, Sheldon has built a brand and, just as importantly, a mindset that drives him forward, keeping the story focused and true to his original vision.
True to the spirit of ‘Giving Back’ that lies at the heart of Ugmonk’s story, Sheldon has put together a list of lessons he’s learned along the way. 8 Things I’ve Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk is filled with valuable insights and is well worth reading. (As an educator, I’d go so far as to say it’s Required Reading.)
Sheldon’s eight things are all valuable lessons, but three, in particular, jumped out at me.
“Lesson 1: You can do a lot with a little.” Make the most of what you have and use it to the best of your abilities. You don’t need to be a corporate behemoth to survive and thrive, in fact there’s a lot to be said for occupying the role of the underdog. As Sheldon puts it:
Quality is never a factor of size. It’s about commitment.
“Lesson 3: You don’t need everyone to like what you’re doing.” This is great advice and echoes something I repeatedly stress when I work with young companies.
The world is a big place, there are others like you out there. Stay true to your vision, don’t sell out or compromise, and you’ll find other like-minded individuals that identify with your values gravitate towards you. Sheldon summarises this nicely:
Find your ideal customers, and forget about everyone else.
“Lesson 6: It’s ok to share your ‘secrets’.” I’ve long embraced this philosophy in my teaching, sharing the good stories (success!) and the bad (failure!). The most effective way to help others on their journey is to share what you’ve learned freely. If you’ve learned a lesson – good or bad – share it with others.
It’s all about karma.
There’s nothing worse than seeing someone else – especially someone you’re mentoring – making a mistake you’ve made in the past. There’s no need for history to repeat itself like this, and sharing your ‘secrets’ is one way to help others avoid the myriad pitfalls in life. In Sheldon’s words:
Always choose community over competition.
When we’re in it together – as Sheldon clearly and demonstrably shows – we can all achieve so much more. Everyone has eight lessons in them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone shared what they’d learned along the way?
I’m looking forward to another eight years of Ugmonk (and another eight, and another…). Hats off to Jeff Sheldon for staying true to his word and giving back, if only every other business were so generous.
If you’re in Belfast in early November (and if you’re not, why not visit?) you might like to attend Belfast Design Week, Belfast’s annual celebration of design and the wider creative industries.
The team have put on a fantastic programme that covers all aspects of design and this year I’m delighted to be delivering a full day masterclass and an evening panel discussion, both focused on the business of design.
I’ll be running a Creative Business Bootcamp, on Tuesday, 8 November, which is completely free. As I put it in the programme:
Have you ever dreamed of running a creative business, but never quite managed to turn it into a reality? Join Christopher Murphy for a one day masterclass to fix this. He’ll explore: refining your idea using creative visualisation; building a brand; sharing product stories; business blueprinting; and pricing and positioning.
In short, if you have an idea for a creative business, but never quite managed to hit lift off, I’ll cover everything you need to know to turn your idea into a reality. What have you got to lose? Why not take the first step?
Tickets are free, but they’re limited to just 20 (and they’re already disappearing fast). I’d love to see you there. Pick up a ticket before they vanish!
99U, an ever-reliable source of creative inspiration and creatively focused business advice have launched the 2017 edition of their annual conference.
Tickets aren’t exactly cheap – $999 for an ordinary joe, and a considerably more prohibitive $2,999 for a ‘patron’ – but, should your budget stretch to it, I have no doubt it will be worth every penny.
As 99U put it:
The 99U Conference is a one-of-a-kind live experience that inspires creative professionals to bring their ideas to life and shape the future of the industry.
Many conference are guilty of hyperbole – trust me, I know; I’ve run conferences and I’ve done my research – however, in 99U’s case I believe the promise of a one-of-a-kind experience is one they’ll more than deliver on.
If you happen to have a spare $999 lying around and, of course, a little travel money, you might want to pick up a ticket.
Henry Ford once famously asserted that he’d happily supply any customer with a car in any colour… “As long as it was black.”
B&O Play might be a little less restrictive on their choice of colour palettes, but The Black Collection – that they’ve recently introduced – hits the spot nicely. In this case it’s any colour… oh wait… “I’ll take it in black.”
Tempting. (As usual with B&O Play products.)
Today marks the start of Geek Mental Help Week, 2016, a cause that’s very close to my heart.
For a number of years I’ve done my best to promote awareness around the issues of mental health at the intersection of the creative industries and the wonderful world of technology. In particular, through my work as a speaker for Prompt.
If you find working in the technology sector a struggle – and, if we’re honest, many of us do – then set aside some time to read some of the articles gathered at the Geek Mental Help site. There’s lots of great advice on offer, generously shared in the spirit of community.
A month ago, to the day, I tried to kickstart my writing at Tiny Books, reflecting: “The first post – after a break – is always the hardest. The rhythm of writing, interrupted, is hard to re-ignite.”
They say, “Old habits die hard.” And, of course, that’s true for many habits, but – equally – old habits die surprisingly easily, if you’re not careful. Getting started again can be incredibly difficult if you find yourself out of practice.
After years of writing near-daily at The Standardistas and equally, elsewhere, my writing habit – once so critical to me – is flatlining, in need of a serious shock to the system.
Thankfully, Leo Babauta – of Zen Habits – recently published A Short Guide to Starting, if You’re Struggling. If you’re struggling, in need of starting, I’d wholeheartedly recommend reading it.
As Babauta puts it:
It’s hard to get going again, to get started when all the forces of inertia are against you.
Without going in to too much detail, it’s hard (from a personal perspective) to describe the feeling that, “all the forces of inertia are against you.” Suffice to say, inertia has been an almost immovable problem I have been trying to confront for months now….
I have found it incredibly frustrating that I’ve lacked the passion to write, when my purpose – trying to help others navigate the complex world of creative entrepreneurship – still burns brightly.
Babauta’s advice is down to earth and, if you’ve been struggling to get started, surprisingly easy to implement. The step that resonated with me the most was as follows:
Build trust with a single step. Every day, you just need to take one step. Just write one sentence in your journal. […] When you take that step, do it mindfully and with gratitude and joy. Smile. Enjoy that tiny victory. With that step, you’re building trust in yourself.
This post, somewhat more than a sentence, is my single step. It’s my tiny victory. It feels significant.
Generous to a fault, the fine folks at FontShop are offering eight different families of Adrian Frutiger’s beautifully designed typefaces for a mere £50. (You read that right: £50.)
Until 26 May, 2016 FontShop have priced The Adrian Frutiger Collection, thirty fonts by the renowned type designer, at a price that can only be described as a steal. Get £680 of typefaces – timeless classics including Neue Frutiger, Avenir Next and Univers Next – for just £50.
It’s an offer you won’t want to miss. Go!
Ever helpful, the team at Intercom have launched their fourth book, Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done. Better still, it’s free, or – should you prefer – available for a small donation to Code2040.
As the team summarise: “Great products start with real problems.” Start with real problems and design solutions to those problems and you’ll find yourself building better products.
Drawing together the lessons the Intercom team have learned over the lifetime of their product the book offers tried and tested advice on how to approach your business, its growth and innovation.
As Rocket Insights’ Joshua Porter puts it:
This book helps you look at the whole product picture from the point of view of your customers. For anybody looking for a powerful framework to guide your product building, this is it.
I’d encourage you to get a copy, it’s lovingly designed, beautifully illustrated and filled with great advice.
Words are a powerful – if often overlooked – form of communication. Understanding language, and being able to wrestle it into shape, can potentially make all the difference to the stories you tell and will certainly improve your capabilities as a designer.
I love this short, but incredibly potent passage by Gary Provost, in 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five word sentences are fine. But several together are monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.
Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals – sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.
If you’ve ever found yourself doubting words, read this. It sings.
A week ago Five Simple Steps sadly called it a day and closed down.
With that closure a great deal of knowledge – around designing, and building, for the web – disappeared. As a Five Simple Steps author I was, understandably, disappointed.
Thankfully, a number of Five Simple Steps authors have pooled their resources to make their books available via Future Simple Steps. If you’re looking for something from the Five Simple Steps library, the chances are that Future Simple Steps has you covered. I’d encourage you to take a look, there are some fantastic books on offer.
I’m happy to say that my two-part volume, on ‘The Craft of Words’, is now available via Gumroad, where it’s on offer as a discounted bundle. If you’re a designer working on the web (or even a designer working off the web) the chances are that words are a part of your design vocabulary. As I put it in the books:
Look carefully and you’ll notice that many of the most successful designs are built around words. Apple tantalises us with the ability to hold, “thousands of songs in your pocket.” MailChimp has created a wonderfully engaging brand, heavily focused around language.
Almost every interaction you make – whether online or offline – involves words. Words can help, words can hinder. As a designer you owe it to yourself, and your clients, to learn about the power of words.
For a limited time, use the offer code ‘language’ for an additional 20% discount and get two books for less than the price of a pint. A bargain!
In addition to creating painstakingly designed typefaces, Hoefler & Co. focus – helpfully – on telling the story behind typefaces and typography. Their latest post, Italics Examined, explores a dozen italics delving into their cultural contexts, historical backgrounds, and practical applications. It’s well worth a read.
MuirMcNeil’s flexible identity for TypeCon2016 is typically systematic, modular and rigorous. As the TypeCon team put it:
MuirMcNeil constructed a systematic visual hierarchy that operates across all graphic components. The entire system is based on an extensive set of custom parametric typefaces and corresponding background panels, utilizing black and PMS 802C neon green.
The result is, quite literally, striking. Built around MuirMcNeil’s modular type system, MMcN TwoPoint, the end product is a playful typographic identity with literally thousands of potential configurations. Lovely.
Released to coincide with Record Store Day, Warp Records have announced a limited edition 12” featuring Mark Pritchard, Bibio and Clark. The design revisits Warp’s acclaimed purple series: vinyl, minimal and iconic.
Small Is Beautiful looks interesting. An annual conference and a celebration of the world of creative micro-businesses, it promises to, “bring together some of the world’s leading thinkers on solopreneurship.”
In Edinburgh this June, tickets are available from just £99.
If you’re free from 18-19 August, 2016, I can think of no better place to be than in Berlin at HybridConf. The team unveiled a new web site today, and it’s lovely.
Tickets are on sale now, including an opportunity to ‘Pay It Forward’, offering a little support to those that are under-represented or otherwise might not be able to attend (a nice touch).
I had the honour of speaking at HybridConf, Dublin in 2016 and I can assure you that Zach, Laura and the team put on a great show.
I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be the opening speaker at beyond tellerrand in Düsseldorf, in May.
I have the greatest respect for Marc Thiele, the conference’s organiser, and I was honoured when he invited me to be a part of this year’s Düsseldorf lineup, alongside some wonderful speakers. (The moment Thiele asked me, I cleared my calendar.)
I’ll be speaking on the topic of Time + Creativity, exploring how time and creativity are bound together. As I put it on the conference web site:
Time and creativity are inextricably intertwined. The more time you make available to ‘prime the brain’, the greater the range of potential creative outcomes you’ll be sure to enjoy.
In short, time and creativity go hand-in-hand.
In my talk, I’ll explore strategies for maximising the time you have available to improve your creativity, by: embracing planned procrastination; shaving yaks; and allowing yourself the luxury of working on ‘distractions’, when you should really be focused on the task at hand. (Those ‘distractions’ are, of course, critical to your future creative success.)
I’ll explore strategies that can double or even triple your time, if you just let your hair down and let go a little. True to my – procrastinating – word, I’ll be working on my talk, right up until the moment I go on stage.
I very much hope to see you there and if you’re attending please do introduce yourself and say, “Hello!”
A homage to the International Style, Swiss in CSS celebrates the simplicity and elegance of the Swiss designers that pioneered the typographic style that shaped much of the twentieth century’s minimal and focused graphic design.
Jon Yablonski, a frontend designer focused on creating compelling digital experiences, recreates the work of – amongst others – Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hofmann and Hans Neuburg, capturing the spirit of the age perfectly.
Take a culinary journey with Around the World in 12 Dishes, a beautifully designed site that shares the stories of small food producers worldwide. As Elespacio, the digital agency that built the site, put it:
Let’s celebrate diversity and build a more intimate relationship with our food and its sources.
You don’t have to be a food aficionado to enjoy the site, which marries lovingly created illustrations with clean and crisp typography. Tasty.
On its release, I hugely enjoyed Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – inspired by the work of the equally excellent writer, Stefan Zweig – and I’ve enjoyed watching it numerous times ever since.
The story’s twists and turns and its wonderful characters had me captivated throughout.
One thing in particular that caught my eye throughout the film was the meticulous attention to detail paid to graphic design, courtesy of Annie Atkins, the film’s lead graphic designer. As Atkins puts it:
Before I worked on ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ the only emails I ever received were reminders about outstanding invoices, and now my inbox is swamped with questions about working in the art department.
I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Atkins at a conference I spoke at in 2015, and – thanks to the conference schedule – I ended up with a copy of Atkins’ Keynote presentation on my MacBook Pro, which I periodically revisit privately for the sheer pleasure of indulging in the wonderful fictional world Atkins’ graphic design conjured up.
Atkins’ work behind the scenes was responsible for building believability in the fictitious Alpine state – the Empire of Zubrowka – that lies at the heart of the film’s setting. As Atkins puts it:
A fictitious country needs all kinds of graphics: flags, banknotes, passports, street signs…. It’s impossible to imagine graphics like these. You have to do your research and you’ll find treasures that you couldn’t even have begun to sit down and draw until you saw them in front of your eyes.
If you’ve yet to see ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, I’d strongly urge you to rectify that and, if you have, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Atkins’ interview with Quartz, which projects a little light onto the process of creating a fictional world, inspired by fact.
If you’re typographically inclined you might like to know that Emigre – one of the world’s earliest, pioneering digital foundries – is offering a selection of its extensive library via Fontstand.
As they put it:
Fontstand is a Mac OS X application that allows you to try fonts for free or rent them by the month for desktop use for just a fraction of the regular price. Even better, if you rent the font for 12 months it’s yours to keep.
Emigre are embarking on this new venture by making a selection of their library available through the service. On offer are a number of favourites, including: Mr and Mrs Eaves, Filosofia, Matrix, Fairplex and a selection of their – lovely – Base series.
I’m delighted to be speaking at DotYork on 8 June, 2016 (in York). DotYork is, “a digital conference for curious minds,” and I’ll be leading an ‘episode’ on the theme of Continuous Learning, with a panel of others focused on learning.
I’ll be exploring the need to set aside time for personal development in our fast-paced and ever-changing industry.
I’m looking forward to sharing a few practical lessons I’ve learned that enable lifelong learning, not least helping you find the elusive time you need to ensure you’re learning’s constant and you’re forever ahead of the curve.
Tickets are on sale now. If you’re in York in June I’d love to see you there.
If you work with photographs, illustrations, icons (or anything visual), Lingo looks well worth a look. Developed by the folks behind The Noun Project it promises to be, “the best way to organise, share and use all your visual assets in one place.”
Available on both free and paid plans, it looks like a useful way of managing your visual assets. As the Lingo folks put it: “Files hide in folders, visuals live in Lingo.”
99U, an ever-reliable source of creative inspiration and advice, has had a redesign, and it’s lovely. As 99U puts it:
99U was founded to help people, specifically those in the creative industries, by sharing insights into making ideas happen. That mission is deep in our DNA, and we are doubling down on it for our newest incarnation.
True to that mission, 99U are moving towards a ‘more focused’ publication. To achieve this they’re: putting imagery front and centre; expanding their editorial vision (with an emphasis on creative career advice); overhauling their email newsletter; and launching a brand new 99U Magazine.
They describe this shift as moving towards the creation of, “the ‘missing curriculum’ for building an incredible creative career.”
As an educator – with a strong track record helping creatives build sustainable and successful creative careers – you won’t be surprised to find that I’d argue that the ‘missing curriculum’ isn’t actually missing, if you look in the right places, but there’s no doubting the fact that 99U offers a great deal of sound advice nonetheless.
If you’re not already familiar with 99U, I’d encourage you to explore their site, it’s filled with useful information and contains a great deal of inspiration.
Twitter celebrated its tenth birthday today. It’s been a tumultuous ten years, shaping a global, real-time conversation, but there’s no doubting the service’s impact on the world of communication.
As the team put it:
Throughout the years, you’ve made Twitter what it is today and you’re shaping what it will be in the future. Thank you for making history, driving change, lifting each other up and laughing together every day.
As it embarks on the next – admittedly uncertain – phase of its journey, I, for one, hope it rediscovers the energy and excitement that attracted me to it a decade ago. Happy Birthday, Twitter.
I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be undertaking the role of compere at 2016’s SmashingConf, Oxford.
Vitaly and the SmashingConf team always put on an educational – and, just as important, entertaining – event and I’m very much looking forward to introducing all the speakers. It looks set to be another enjoyable occasion. If you’re attending, please do say, “Hello!”
I hope to see you there.
If 3D printing’s caught your eye, but you’ve been put off by the (still) exorbitant price of entry, Mattel’s new ThingMaker might just be the device that enables you to dip your toe in the water of 3D printing, enabling you to explore its potential.
At $300, it’s relatively affordable, and it comes with software courtesy of AutoDesk, which promises ease of use, thanks to a well-designed and integrated hardware and software ecosystem.
As the price of technology continues to plummet, ThingMaker looks like an interesting new entry point into the world of 3D printing, perhaps signalling the beginnings of more pervasive use of the technology.
Andrea Tsurumi shares some thoughts with 99U on managing the demands upon your time as a freelancer (and a workaholic):
As a freelancer and a workaholic, it’s hard to know how to set my own boundaries, because the work could just never end … and that’s definitely not good for my art and certainly not good for my health, so I’ve become better about being firm about my time.
Tsurumi’s client list is impressive, including The New York Times and Penguin Books, yet she still finds time for personal projects, teaching and speaking engagements.
As she points out, you’ll never have enough time, so it’s all the more important to manage that time wisely, focusing on what really matters.
As creatives, we’re often guilty of spending so much time creating a master plan in our heads that we never actually get around to realising that master plan and getting it off the ground.
If you’ve ever lain awake at night putting together the pieces of a grand strategy for world domination (but never actually implemented that strategy) you might be suffering from ‘idea debt’.
In Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back, Jessica Abel argues that the struggle with ‘creative sunk costs’ – the oceans of time we often invest in planning everything down to the last detail – often holds you back from actually realising anything.
I can relate to this completely. I spent two years (an ocean of time, indeed) planning Tiny Books. I spent so much time thinking through every detail that I forgot the most important detail… to actually finish a book. I’m sure you can relate to this too.
Abel quotes Kazu Kibushi, who states:
I try not to to look at what I’m going to do as this [grand vision]. I’m not just fulfilling some old promise that I made a long time ago. Now I’m actually solving problems in the moment, and that’s so much more exciting than than trying to fill years of what I call my ‘idea debt’.
The truth is, no matter what you do, it will never be as great as it is in your mind, and so you’re really setting yourself up for failure.
Abel’s article is well worth reading and – if you recognise the tell-tale symptoms while reading it – it might just equip you with the self-awareness to pause when you find yourself racking up a huge overdraft of idea debt.
Grand plans are all well and good, but you need to make something. You need to start!
If you identified with this affliction you might enjoy Start! Stop Procrastinating and Pursue Your Passion, my first book on Tiny Books. Sign up for the newsletter to be notified the moment it’s ready. True to my word, the book’s with my editor – Owen Gregory – for the final set of edits, now.
Jordan Koschei interviews Ludwig Pettersson, Creative Director at Stripe, for Medium’s ‘In Progress’. There’s a lot to learn in Koschei’s interview, but one aspect caught my eye in particular, Pettersson’s assertion that:
There should be nothing standing in the way of starting a business or selling something online and charging for it.
This idea – of levelling the playing field and allowing anyone with an idea for a business to compete with others – lies at the heart of Stripe and other services like it.
Many years ago, when I ran a record label, managing payments was an expensive business, requiring credit card terminals with costly terms and conditions. Stripe does away with all of this complexity and, in so doing, paves the way for a host of new, fleet-of-foot businesses to take root.
I always enjoy Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio’s posts at Under Consideration. Collectively they cast a critical eye on the wonderful world of graphic design and branding, thoughtfully analysing the identities that cross their paths.
Vit’s analysis of the new brand for VCSO is typically exhaustive (exhaustive in a good way) exploring the rationale behind VCSO’s move towards a new, more simplified, marque.
Though VCSO’s marque might appear simple, there’s a great deal of thinking behind it, and – while outwardly distilled – if you dig a little deeper there’s a great deal of thought in play.
I’d strongly recommend reading Vit’s analysis, you’ll learn a great deal about how brands work if you do so. At the end of the day, your brand can be distilled down to its essence (in this case a series of circles), but what’s important is that you understand what that essence is.
Say, “Hello!” to Operator, a new monospace typeface (and accompanying monospace-inspired typeface) courtesy of Hoefler & Co.
Designed by Andy Clymer, Operator draws its inspiration from the world of fixed-width fonts whilst eschewing, “the many compromises required of a fixed-width design.”
It’s a lovely typeface – as you’d expect from Hoefler & Co. – and is ideally suited to code environments.
I’m very much looking forward to speaking at Breaking Borders on 17 February, 2016. The theme for the evening is ‘Mental Barriers’ and I’ll be talking about confronting some of the challenges I faced trying to get Tiny Books off the ground.
As I put it in the talk description:
In this short talk, Christopher Murphy will talk about how he used the deadline for this short talk, to stop procrastinating and actually pursue his passion. If all has gone according to plan, when you hear the talk he’ll share the story of how he turned Tiny Books from an idea, never-delivered, into a reality.
I’m making good progress actually delivering on Tiny Books (instead of just talking about it) thanks to this deadline, and I’m looking forward to sharing a few insights I’ve learned along the way.
I’d like to thank Prompt for supporting the event, enabling me to attend and share a few thoughts on the important topic of mental health in the technology sector.
If you’re dipping your toe into the world of self-publishing (which, clearly, I’m dipping my toe into) you might like to read The Bookseller’s How big is self-publishing? Whilst the figures are varied – and due to issues of confidentiality, limited – there’s a considerable amount of insight to be gained if you’re considering a self-published book.
tl;dr? The opportunities are there if you choose to grasp them.
If you’ve ever heard Aaron Draplin speak you’ll know that when he announces a retrospective book of his work contains Pretty Much Everything, it contains… pretty much everything (and I can assure you that’s a pretty much everything you’ll eagerly want to explore).
Draplin is an incredibly entertaining communicator. I had the pleasure of hosting a talk by him, in 2012, when he spoke in Belfast as a part of Build. (I also enjoyed a late night liason with him in our local McDonalds – sorry! – when I bumped into him after hours…. We were both famished.)
He’s an inspiring and entertainingly forthright speaker with American sized portions of advice to share. I’m very much looking forward to his book.
With Valentine’s Day just a fortnight away, now’s the time to get your loved one (or, perhaps, yourself?) something sweet.
B&O Play’s beautifully designed products might be at the higher end of the audio spectrum, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from their strategies (even if you can only dream of owning some of their lovely products).
For Valentine’s Day, B&O Play offer you the opportunity to Bundle Up for Sweet Savings, offering a considerable saving when you pick a couple of products that they consider a perfect match.
You might not be a purveyor of high end audio products, but ask yourself: How might you combine your offerings for the benefit of your customers? Yes, you’ll lose a little on the transaction, but what you’ll also be doing is providing an incentive to drive some sales.
The result: happy customers, that availed of an opportunity; and a welcome shot in the arm for your cash flow.
We might all be struggling to reach Inbox Zero, but that doesn’t mean email as a way to share you stories isn’t effective. The key to standing out in a crowded inbox is to put a little effort in and ensure your email is beautiful.
Ever-helpful, the folks at Campaign Monitor have put together a case study showcasing FontShop’s wonderful work in this medium. As they put it:
Some emails look more like works of art than marketing assets.
Looking at FontShop’s lovingly designed emails, I’m sure you’d agree.
You might not be a typography aficionado, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the lengths the FontShop team go to, to ensure that their emails stand out in your overflowing inbox.
How Fontshop Uses Design to Bring Beauty to Email Marketing is worth reading to gain an insight into how the FontShop team position design at the heart of their email marketing efforts. If nothing else, you might pick up a typographic tip or two along the way. (Which – I hope you’ll agree – is no bad thing.)
I had the pleasure of speaking at HybridConf, Dublin in 2015, which I very much enjoyed being a part of, so I was delighted to see that the conference is back, once again, for another year in 2016.
This year you can look forward to a new city and a new lineup. So say, “Hello!” to HybridConf, Berlin, which I can safely guarantee will be well worth attending.
As the HybridConf team put it:
We’re the conference for creatives of every kind. We’re the conference that inspires and empowers. We’re the conference that defies conventions. We’re the conference for you.
If you’re free from 18-19 August, 2016, I can think of no better place to be than Berlin. Sign up for announcements to be sure you get a ticket the moment they go on sale.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted by B&O Play’s Beoplay H7 Cenere Grey headphones: “Premium wireless over-ear headphone with authentic, clear sound performance.” At £329 they’re a little beyond my budget, but that doesn’t mean I can’t aspire.
I had to look up ‘Cenere Grey’. As a designer, with over two decades of experience, it’s not a colour I’d heard of before, but a quick search and I found a multitude of other products available in this not quite grey of greys.
(It turns out you can get a Vespa in Cenere Grey, too.)
B&O Play talk about ‘touches of magic’ when they describe the product. What struck me was the use of language as a core part of the product’s description. I can see myself now, trying to persuade Cara – my wife – that these aren’t just headphones, they’re ‘Cenere Grey’ headphones.
I doubt that will fly, but still… one can hope.
As Dave Winer puts it, in Anywhere but Medium:
[The] next time you want to post an essay to Medium, do the open web a favour and post it elsewhere.
Call me old-fashioned, but I love Weiner’s curmudgeonly tone, and I wholeheartedly agree with his thinking. As he puts it:
Medium is on its way to becoming the consensus platform for writing on the web. If you’re not sure you’re going to be blogging regularly, the default place to put your writing is Medium.
The trouble with this approach lies in the fact that, if you’re not careful, you’re driving traffic to Medium (which has its own priorities in play), when perhaps you should be driving that traffic to your own home on the web.
The web is about destinations, underpinned by hyperlinks. Medium has its benefits, of course, but nothing beats hosting your own thoughts at your own site.
If you haven’t discovered Lagom, I’d encourage you to rectify that now. Lovingly produced by Elliot and Samantha Stocks, it should occupy pride of place on coffee tables the world over (after having been read, of course).
I was delighted to be invited to contribute an article on wild swimming for Issue 3, for the magazine’s Escape and Recharge section.
I believe it’s important to have a space away from the clamour of our ever-present, digitally-accelerated lives – and, for me, that space away is wild swimming – so the article was a welcome opportunity to share that belief, for a need for non-digital space, with others.
Beautifully photographed by Dan Rubin – who captured the wilds of the rugged Donegal coastline perfectly – I was delighted with the final result.
Issue 3, like Issues 1 and 2, is a beauty and is available now.
I’ve always found Sugru’s story inspiring. It’s a story of relentless – never-give-up – perseverance. It’s also a story that we can all learn from: About the power of staying true to your vision and pursuing that vision to the end.
In 2014, when I launched my Kickstarter for my design conference, Break, Sugru founder Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh – I prefer to call her ‘Jane’, as I’ve always struggled with accurate pronunciations – was right at the heart of my speaker wishlist.
I was delighted when she agreed to speak at Break, and her talk – on the highs and lows of her journey – had attendees talking for quite some time afterwards. (It’s no exaggeration to say that she completely moved the audience.)
I was delighted to see that the fine folks at moo.com have an interview with Jane, ‘on innovation and facing challenges’. (I’ll admit, I was late finding it.)
I’d wholeheartedly recommend reading Jane’s story. If you’ve ever had a dream, but found the confidence knocked out of you along your journey, Jane has a lot to share with you. As she puts it:
Start small and make it good.
I think that’s great advice. Start small. Make something. Make it the best you can. After that the pieces – generally – fall into place.
Paul Jarvis bids farewell to Medium. As he puts it, It’s not you, it’s me. Jarvis states:
I’ve realised that I don’t want to keep playing in other people’s playgrounds. I’d rather focus on and foster my own.
While you’ve helped me grow my audience (I have more followers here than on Twitter or my own mailing list), growth isn’t my only metric for measuring what I do and how much it supports me.
Jarvis is just one of a series of writers that, as we ease into a new year, are revisiting the platforms that they embrace (or eschew), rediscovering the spirit of the open web and focusing their efforts on their own plots. (Homesteading, not sharecropping.)
Yes, Medium has benefits, and – as Jarvis acknowledges - Medium has helped him grow his audience, however, the quid pro quo is that Jarvis is driving (his) traffic elsewhere.
There’s always a trade off.
It’s interesting how many writers (and content gatherers) are following suit. There’s clearly something in the air, and that something is a desire to retake ownership of content, removing it from walled gardens and returning it to the open web. A good thing, in my opinion.
Leigh Alexander and Jeff Jarvis weigh up the pros and cons for Twitter’s mooted move from 140 to 10,000 characters:
Would a new character limit be good news for open debate on Twitter – or would the end of brevity just be an excuse for more ads?
The case for in 10,000 characters; the case against in 140 characters. (A lovely little bit of attention to detail.)
WIRED revisits the year in branding through a dozen designs. I particularly liked Coca-Cola’s no-logo logo by FP7/DXB, McCann-Erickson’s agency branch in Dubai, created as a limited-edition run.
Sold in Middle Eastern countries for the month of Ramadan, as part of Coca-Cola’s ongoing world peace-themed campaign, it’s instantly recognisable sans script. Lovely.
Throughout 2015 I had the pleasure of writing a monthly column for The Pastry Box, a shared resource that afforded the opportunity to learn from creatives the world over. As Alex Duloz, The Pastry Box’s founder, put it:
The concept of the Pastry Box is quite simple: bring people together and let them write about anything they want. If you do that, you should get some kind of testimony about our day and age.
Reading others’ thoughts on The Pastry Box over the last few years inspired me tremendously, and I was honoured to be invited to contribute to the project. My focus was on creativity, focusing on a monthly programme that readers could follow to grow creatively.
For four – inspiring – years, Alex Duloz and Katy Watkins (the project’s editor) invited a handful of ‘bakers’, “To share thoughts regarding what they do.”
Their intention was to publish a daily dose of inspiration from makers around the world. I’m delighted to have been a part of the project, and – one day – imagine some of my content for The Pastry Box will find its way into my Tiny Books. Until then, you can read my thoughts on Designing a Mind at The Pastry Box archive.
I’ll miss The Pastry Box, but it lives on in an archive of published material. It contains a wealth of thoughts and certainly constitutes a testimony about our day and age.
It’s been a time-honoured tradition of mine to launch any new journal with a short ‘Hello, World!’ post. Given that the Tiny Books site is built using GitHub Pages and Jekyll, it seemed appropriate to link to the ‘Hello, World!’ page at GitHub Guides to get the ball rolling.
Tradition, once again, upheld.