Archive for the 'Design' Category

Dyson: Against the Odds

just finished James Dyson’s Biography: Against the Odds

His engineering approach and back shed attitude, coupled with his British Indefatigability, means he comes out of the books like a sort of Fred Dibner for the design world.

Choice cuts include:
The problem is this. When marketing began to emerge as a separate and identifiable skill, some time in the fifties, it quickly came to be considered as a distinct managerial area, and ultimately the area around which all others in a company should gather to determine their movements. This was fine, for marketing was still something that began inside the factory and was a process that continued all the way to the consumer, and kept producer and user in delicate harmony. But then is started to move away from its roots. Marketing became more portable, agencies sprang up that did nothing else, and gradually, and inevitably, marketing and advertising became detached from design and production.

Ahhh, so true. Here’s another:
A journalist what came to interview me once asked, ‘The area where the dirt collects is transparent, thus parading all our detritus on the outside, and turning the classic design inside out. Is this some post-modern nod to the architectural style pioneered by Richard Rogers at the Pompidou Centre, where the air-conditioning and escalators, the very guts, are made into a self-referential design feature?’
‘No’ I replied ‘It’s so you can see when it’s full.’

The house I rent has a Dyson, an old DC02, the first ‘pull along’, it’s a bit knackered now, and resembles the battered up robot in Disney’s the black hole. But it’s still going. It’s interesting to see how much his technology has been imitated, as well as his colour scheme a la iMac. Particularly derivative are Hoover, with their new The One. God what a rubbish name, there’s a train company called The One somewhere in England, and it buggers up all the platform announcements in this deregulated age, e.g., “The One 1:51 service is at platform 1”. Anyway, Which? voted The One a pile of shit, and it’s no looker either, cherry red and white? Wasn’t there a toy robot from Tandy with this colour scheme in the 80’s? Anyroad, Vac wars are well and truly on, and up for grabs is the verb, so this weekend I’ll be ‘Dysoning’ my lounge.

PS. Strangely Chuck Norris’ autobiography is called ‘Against all Odds’. It’s, well, odd to think of one lanky galloot tinkering with vacuum cleaners in his shed in the UK, while in the US Chuck’s putting stunt men in hospital with shattered vertebrae.

In looking for interior design tips…

..I found this.

an exhibition of Europe’s worst interiors of 1974, nice!

Norwegian Good….

Part I – No way! I’m in Norway!

Safely back in Blighty after a trip to the land of Norse-men. And very nice it was too, I found Norwegians to be lovely, welcoming, and well mannered bunch of folk. Oslo boys and girls are all well dressed strapping six footers with perfect bodies, and big blond bouncy hair doos! On the flip side, the booze is pricey.

Any-road, I was there to work. NRK, is the national public broadcaster funded by a licence fee. It faces a lot of the similar problems we at the BBC face. Mind you the licence fee in Norway is £190! And NRK employee’s don’t have to pay it (unlike here folks)! So me and a colleague spent three days doing workshops, and giving presentations and talking about design for online and interactive TV. I think they thought design was about choosing colours and optimising jpegs. That’s graphics in my book. Design is about systems and how people use them. They’d perhaps not considered this. It’s a bit crazy because all around Oslo I saw some great design in the fields of transport, architecture and fashion.

The main thing we talked about is how to reduce the number of links… Scando sites all seem to have LOTS of scrolling. This may have come about because VG, which is a newspaper, had online content early on. it’s website reads like a newspaper, it even looks like a newspaper on a table! Where as UK and US sites developed a they’re own form of layout, language and usability, Norse sites basically took the form and layout of newspapers. From what I can gather, VG is sort of like The Sun with perhaps a bit of the Daily Mail. There’s a couple of other popular sites, and they’re all huge too. Norwegians seem to favour smorgasbord design, where all the stories are laid out in front of them, they read the whole thing, then perhaps click on something that takes their fancy. Norwegians are very tech savvy, with more broadband users per head that the UK. So, yes the page loads quickly, but is it usable?

I was really careful to not say, ‘this is the way we did it, this is how you must do it’. Hey, if scrolling is an attribute in Scandinavian internet usage, so be it, but to me it seems overly complicated. One thing I heard a lot was ‘well people click on it, people use it’. One thing I’ve learnt is that a: users will click anything, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, b: click thru’s aren’t the best way of measuring a sites success. It’s like measuring the success of a super market layout by the amount of footsteps taken, if things are laid out in an easy user friendly way, the amount is less.

The other issue they face is departmental fiefdoms, where people don’t want to share resources, and worse, users. And in the trad model you can see why, dept A gets next years budget based on it’s click thru’s. It wants to keep users clicking like mad around the pages it owns. One idea talked about at the beeb was budgets perhaps factored by how well you offered users links to other similar content in other areas, after all, users just want the content, they don’t care which dept it’s served up from.

In the end it comes down to this.. They have a great bunch of people, great content, and a really opportunity to shift the paradigm of Scandinavian website design and usability. If, over time, they can make a page that’s light, strong and usable, people will wonder why they put up for so long with all these other behemoth pages.

Part II – No way, I’m in bar in Norway – hic!

Work over, we had the weekend to mess about. Saturday night we went to see the sell out Team Antonsen live show. Think Jackass + The Mary Whitehouse Experience + Trigger Happy TV, watched in Wembley Arena with 9000 other people – in a language you can’t understand! Luckily the fellow beeber who came with me was Norwegian, so imagine a gag, 8999 people laughing, her translating it for me, the me going… ahhh, heh heh. And they say comedy is universal… Lots of it was taking the piss out of people from the north, then some famous burned fireman came on (think Simon Weston) then a famous para-olympic skier with no arms (think Abu Hamza). There was a lot of penis gag demonstrations, and a rock band on at the end singing about Mexico (?)… in all one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I also got to eat Reindeer, and was forced to drink a cocktail in bar that consisted of a shot of Uzo, Tabasco floated on the top of that, then tequila on top of that… The rest is a blur

Anyway, photos of these sort of things here [Norway]

Norway a go go!

NRK, the national broadcaster in Norway, hav invited me to come and present research on how we’ve redesigned the BBC homepage. Us PSB’s have got to stick together! So, it’s a 7:20 am flight to Oslo tomorrow.

Look how long there homepage is! Talk about below fold! Seems to be a trait of Scando media sites from what other things I’ve found. At least it encourages users to scroll, said one Beeb Userbility Manager….

They’ve got a copy of The Glass Wall (a.k.a ‘how we built the homepage’. Google it, it’s hard to find now but is out on the net somewhere, much to the chargrin of Beeb internal comms, tee-hee).

I’m looking to get some interesting Photography done too.

Updates upon my return at the weekend..


Doors, now with instructions!

It’s all so clear to me now.

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Products

Planning, as this picture so beautifully demonstrates, is something people don’t do enough of, even/especially* here at the beeb. This can in turn lead to bad products and services. So in this case, the ‘campaign’ to promote cheap phone-cards at my local internet cafe takes a real nose dive in quality.

You’d have thought he’d have stopped at ‘phone’, and maybe gone for a horizontal ‘cards’. Might contrast nicely with the ‘£3.50’? form a bit of an I shape, this being an internet cafe and all. But no, he’s ploughed on with the original idea and, low and behold, it looks shit. Ahhh it’s all so familiar.

Incidentally, it’s now been painted over, which brings to mind a George Rorick quote said to a junior who’d rushed a piece of work due to a deadline but then had to be redone because it was wrong… ‘So, we don’t have time to do it right, but we have time to do it over?’

*delete depending on job title

Whistle for it. . .

ThisisLondon Nice piece about Midland mainline using a louder type of whistle to ‘launch’ it’s trains. Apparently the old whistle just didn’t get us stressed and crabby passengers moving quick enough, which was having a knock on effect on train punctuality. . (beats leaves on the line) . . the shriller the whistle, the quicker people obey.

Anyway, the whistle in question, the Acme Thunderer, is produced by Acme Whistles of Birmingham, to a 100 year old design, and still carried by Police Constables today. Take a look at the (gulp) T2000 from Acme, this is the Whistle Robo-Cop would use. Is this company the last surviving example of British Manufacturing?

Begs the design question, how can you improve on the deisgn of a whistle? Perhaps some objects reach a design zenith? They might be made different materials, or be subject to the whims of fashion, but do some object warrant a certain final form? Writing implements don’t seem to have changed much (history of the pencil), nor has cutlery & (history of everyday things) online summary here. Perhaps this is because where change happens least is where the object is constrained by our form, the size of our hands or the size of our mouths?

Still, it’s nice to see Acme prospering since they lost the Wiley E. Coyote supply contract.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
August 2020