05 11 12

Many thanks to Tom Burton, Clare Reddington and Tom Mitchell of This happened… Bristol for inviting me to give a presentation about RjDj on July 17, 2012. It was the first time that I’d given that particular presentation, so a bit rough and ready. Tom Mitchell was also kind enough to give me a tour of his lab at the University of East Anglia, and also the nearby robotics lab!

30 07 12

Augmented Reality hype is (finally?) going mainstream. Sight by Ori Golad and Deborah Aroshas [video] shows off some of the possibilities of a Google Glass-like technology. It reminded me too much of Keiichi Matsuda’s Vision of the Future [video], which has a grimier (and thus more cyberpunky and interesting ;) bent. While all of these prognoses are enthusiastic (and many years ahead of their time regarding technological ability), I doubt that we’ll be hacking ghosts anytime soon. But hey, one can always dream.

28 06 12

"CH will tear us apart." I took this picture on April 27, 2010 on the corner of Cremer Street and Geffrye Street near The People Speak headquarters in Shoreditch, London. The mural is iconic, dramatic, and doesn’t leave much else to add. Based on the classic Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, the image came into my life at a critical moment during a relationship meltdown. To wit,

Just that something so good just can’t function no more.

I asked a friend to edit the image. CH is Switzlerand. She went one way, I went the other. I’ve had the picture for a long time now, but still stands as one of the best pieces of art that I’ve ever created (and that’s saying something considering I just took a picture and asked someone else to photoshop it ;) So, up on the wall it must go to be admired by all.

13 04 12

Many friends have asked me what Biel is like. What is this strange place in Switzerland that no one has ever heard of? After getting into a bit of a scuffle with @dizzybanjo about how nice London is compared to anywhere else in the world, and how much London misses me (especially the very fine ladies at Allpress in Shoreditch, bless), I could only respond with a few reasons why Biel, well, why I like Biel. This video probably won’t be much of an explanation for most people, but at least from my perspective this video gives a sense of what it’s like to walk around the streets at night. It’s true, there really isn’t a whole lot going on. But I like that. Biel leaves you alone to do your thing, it doesn’t get in the way, and there isn’t anything desperate and begging for your attention because OMG it’s just so new and trendy and popular.

08 04 12

It is my great pleasure to host King Totoro in my home. An original 60”x40” giclée by Mister Giles, Totoro is one of my all-time favourite characters. It’s impossible to walk away from the movie without a big, silly, warm smile on your face. I’ve had my eye on King ever since I discovered Giles’ street art that he had started to post around Shoreditch in London. So here’s to you Paul, thanks again, and if anyone is interested in his work, I can’t recommend him enough! :)

22 01 12

Experience Engineering

And I don’t mean Imagineering. And I don’t mean user experience design. Today I have given a name to a practice which is much more widely practiced than anyone would prefer to admit. It is experience engineering. I defined it quickly in this tweet as:

The numbers are all wrong, the math makes no sense, and the user is happy with their experience.

Naturally there is the well known start-up credo of “just get it done.” The practice of designing or engineering a system with known flaws, because it can be implemented quickly, and with the express intention of returning (one day) and redoing it correctly. Of course, oftentimes that day never comes, and good intentions are free.

But I’m talking about designing a system with known flaws, to save time, and without the intention to do them correctly, because “the user will never know the difference”. I suppose it’s the pedantic, academic engineer in me, but this practice really irritates me. If you can do it right the first time, save yourself a lot of effort in the long run. And don’t insult the user by expecting them to be too stupid to notice that you’ve swept a whole load of shit under the rug. They’ll notice. Their world will suddenly become very inconsistent, with more than a few “Matrix moments”. Inconsistencies break the “magic moments” in which your application or service just works.

In the end, you’ll just end up hacking in fixes to your bad decisions in order to smooth over inconsistent user experiences. Eventually the whole tower will tumble, and you’ll wish that you had done it right in the first place. 

21 01 12

Embracing Non-Privacy

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine, Lisa Long. Don’t bother looking for her, she doesn’t exist on the internet. Lisa works in enterprise software, providing professional support and operations. She makes a point to not post publicly about anything, lest her professional image be tarnished. What different industries we work in! I post publicly about almost anything. On Twitter I post links of professional interest and retweet stupid jokes, on my blog I will brain dump anything from bad movies to the RjDj vision. And this is open for anyone to see and read. On one hand I see this as a good thing, and on the other hand I don’t care.

Lisa disagrees with me. In her line of work she will be judged by her conservative clients based on what they find out about her online. Regardless of who she is and whom her clients will end up working with, the first impression will be her online record.

But I claim, there is no privacy on the internet. To begin, just try reading the Risks to Internet Privacy section of Wikipedia’s article on internet privacy. The best strategy is to use social media in order to control your image, because you will be found.

But that’s not say that privacy isn’t valuable. I once got sucked into a lengthy discussion about the Wikileaks affair, certainly the best entertainment of the last year. My foil was a policy analyst with some experience in high-level governmental discussions. The point was made that there are many situations in which secrecy or privacy is absolutely necessary so that parties can feel free to try out different solutions to their problems. If everything really were public or first sent through the media spin-machine, the negotiation process would in fact be much less efficient or effective, or at worst not even possible. Grudgingly, I was forced to concede the point and agree.

What’s my image then? (Un?)Fortunately I’ve always been a bad liar. So my image is more or less who I am. I’m a nerdy guy who likes to have a laugh. Deal with it. I take my work seriously, with a great deal of enthusiasm and passion, I have an ambition to break new ground, and I enjoy what life has to offer. Just like most other people in this world. I try to avoid compromising pictures of me on the internet. Not that they don’t exist. It’s ok. Everyone has been stupid and drunk in their lives, even “serious” people (wouldn’t you love to see some pictures from DSK’s sex parties, or Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties?). In fact, personally I’m apt to trust someone who has such pictures available than someone who doesn’t. What is the latter hiding?

In this way I very much agree with Google’s old mantra that you can be serious even in a t-shirt. So let’s have that meeting in a coffee shop or a bar or on the street. Let’s be serious about our work. Then let’s have a laugh. Sod all of this social privacy rubbish.

20 01 12

Information is Beautiful

I’ve slowly made my way through David McCandless’ Information is Beautiful. Information is indeed beautiful, and so is this book. As a lifelong lover of facts, just pure and simple facts about things that I can rattle off at house parties and have people stare and wonder why I know that, those kinds of facts, well, this book is full of them. Of course, I swore that I’d never buy this book.

Maybe it was a matter of expectations or expectation management, but while I enjoyed all of the facts and pretty pictures, I came away with a rather dissatisfied feeling. I suppose I was expecting info graphics and information visualisation of a very clever and highly developed sort. What I got was a lot of clip art, possibly arranged in a visually amusing way, but not such that I came away feeling like there was some deep connection between the information and its graphical manifestation. More often than not, I got a nonce, a trick, a distraction. But ultimately I would still recommend this book. There are plenty of ideas in there, many of them good, many of them somewhat amateurish. But who knows where you will take your inspiration from?

Facts are fun! - Me

29 11 11

BSS not Basic Service Set

I’ve been reading my way through the interviews at the back of SupergraphicsBarbara Stauffacher Solomon is a woman whom I’d like to meet. With this many honest and biting quotes, she most assuredly has more than a few stories to tell. Some of my favourite quotes from her interview.

Can you describe how you came to do this [original Sea Ranch supergraphics] project?

I was having an affair with Al Boeke.

What is your view on this [supergraphics as means to convey commercial messaging] development?

My house in San Francisco presents a different selling job. The ordinary four-storey building was… in keeping with this old San Francisco neighborhood. …open the door you see a gutted and remodelled glass and white … Corbusier Maison Citron (sic.) architectural space.

Yes! I’m a general fan of Corbu anyway, and I admire the Citröhan design. I would relish the opportunity to walk into her house thinking, “Christ, yet another San Francisco shithole built out of wood and liable to fall down at the mere hint of an earthquake,” only to discover Corbusier in my face. That would be a good day in my book.

…beacons of modernist design… - offered you a job which you declined.

I was in New York working at Geigy to make some money while I waited for Heinz Hossdorf to get a divorce and marry me. I just wanted to get back… and be with my daughter… I was more concerned with all this than my career. … I did the work for a few months and returned to Heinz and more waiting. As for Unimark, I feared that if I worked there, I’d go to hell in New York.

You also seem to have become disillusioned… Can you talk about this?

I worked too hard, always alone, being frantic not famous. I liked working alone in my office,… but I wasn’t good at the self-promotion game. Charles Moore and Bill Turnbull became aloof when I married Dan [Solomon]. It seems that I got too much press that didn’t mention Charles. He hired other designers for his next projects and publicized his Sea Ranch buildings painted with my Supergraphic without crediting me.

Unfortunately real books don’t have crtl+f, but I know that Barbara had at least one more great quote in there about how design is about “turning shit into ice cream.” That’s a keeper! I’m sure to piss off a few designers with that one.

Barbara, without knowing any more, my heart goes out to you. You’ve had a hell of a life, that’s for sure.

The interview with Paula Scher also had a zinger.

Why are so many of the leading figures in Supergraphics women?

I have no real proof of this but… women always get low paying jobs. Jobs that have puny budgets. Supergraphics is the best way to get a lot of bang for your buck.

25 11 11

Techcrunch TV Interview with RjDj

Here’s a pretty good interview with Mike Butcher from Techcrunch about what’s going on at RjDj. Overall a good description of what Reality Jockey is all about and what’s coming in the future. Plenty of super old footage and creative editing ;) Filmed on the roof of RjDj London headquarters.