Thursday, April 30, 2009

campaign unframed unleashed

Well, now Mr Tait has talked about it, I guess it's out there.

I've stuck up the slideshow at

But I intend to build a nicer site where you can roll over the images to reveal them.
Like this.

I just need to teach myself some more code. Unless someone else wants to build it for me? :)

I shall keep looking out for people to unframe each week in Campaign. If I get you... please don't sue me.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

subscribe to this blog via twitter

Lots of people use their twitter accounts to announce new blog posts.

For some reason, I've always felt uneasy about advertising my blog in my personal stream. Maybe because I assume most people don't care. Maybe because my confidence is low about the quality of my posts.

So I've decided to create a twitter account just for my blog: @now_in_colour

This account will only tweet new blog posts. Nothing more.

And I won't promote blog posts in my personal twitter stream.

So if you want to know when a new post appears here - and like me, fail to keep on top of your rss reader - you know what to do.

Oh, and if you're wondering whether I tweeted this post, I didn't. The eternal loop between here and there made my head spin. I feared a black hole might open up.


the texture of digital

During my first attempt at designing the I Feel Earth website, I made the sorts of errors that I imagine lots of amateur digital designers make. One class of error was the over-engineering of roll-over states.

In my inexperience and keenness to make the page feel alive, I overdid the rollovers. The result was a very tacky collective experience, everything glowing or jumping off the page under the cursor. Thankfully that particular experience will never see the light of day.

I was thinking about this the other weekend. I was at the Sunday Upmarket, passing a stall with little hand-made bags and accessories. The mixtures of fabrics and surfaces triggered something in me - and like everyone else passing - I reached out and stroked my fingers across the surface of the nearest bag. Like we do.

Our desire to touch things is instinctive. It's a primal exploration our eyes are incapable of performing.

So I started to think about the texture of websites - or rather digital stuff as a whole.

I sometimes find myself waving the cursor across the page in a zigzag, much like I did with that bag in the market - to get a quick sense of the texture of that page. Is that weird?

If someone did the same thing to my early design attempt it would probably have felt a bit like this:

I wonder how many people think about the collective texture of the site/app they're designing. Or rather how consciously they do it. While designers clearly think (constantly) about our eyes' journey across a page, do they think similarly towards the 'low relief' we sense when we roll across it?

Is this kind of thing going to become more relevant as touch-screen experiences become the norm?

I also wish I had some good examples to share. But my new blogging philosophy is to write things down quickly before I get bored of them.

Any thoughts or examples? I'm spent.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Now you can piss off Hasbro too!

As a semi-addicted player of Scrabulous, I was more than annoyed when the lawyers came in and closed down the Facebook app, Scrabulous way back when.

My irritation continued when Scrabble announced they would release their own Facebook game. And the final straw was when I tried the Scrabble game and it was really flashy and over the top. Read: annoying.

It had gone off my radar, but this weekend I found out (very, late, apparently) that Scrabulous was back - with a new name - Wordscraper - and some new rules.

I haven't played with it much, but wanted to share one cheeky thing they've done. It not only sticks two fingers up to EA/Hasbro, it's also a reminder of the makers' understanding of digital media over the two corporate giants.

To get around legal issues of making the game feel and look like Scrabble, Wordscraper's default settings are very different. Fort example, there are 8 tiles instead of seven and the board layout is totally different.

The simple-but-genius bit is that you can build your own custom game, with your own layout and your own rules. So anyone that loves Scrabble can simply rebuild the Scrabble board themselves. Recognise the start of this layout?

Clearly it's not a tactic that has beaten Scrabble. The Scrabble app has 575,022 users vs Wordscraper's 158,766. But I love their ingenuity and I for one will be trying it out properly.

I had never really thought about the power of customisation to get past legal issues in this context. Opens up some interesting possibilities.

I spoke too soon:

Friday, April 24, 2009

the art of obvious

Doing things is better than saying things. Agreed.

Thinking about this in the context of embryonic-global-transparent-connectedness (cough), I've recently been giving an internal high-five to something more specific than just doing things: Doing obvious things.

I'd go as far to say that doing obvious things is often better than saying clever things.

'Obvious' has a terrible reputation. It sounds like a name for something without much value. But doing obvious things simply means giving people things you know they'll like.

Overly-clever communications ideas can be cumbersome; unnecessary blockages or distractions between your audience, your offering and their peers.

Agencies and businesses often fail to do obvious things because of an in-built desire for originality. The irony is that this crusade for novelty has turned things around. Obvious things are no longer obvious; they're off the radar for those who are paid to be clever. Very clever things on the other hand have become the new 'obvious'.

Of course there is such a thing as 'bad and obvious'. You have to make it entertaining, interesting, pleasurable or useful. Luckily, if it's obvious in the way I describe above (I.e. Your audience will like it) then you're probably half way there already.

Here are a few excellent examples of good-obvious things I've seen or been reminded of recently:

Red Bull in Venice
After record flooding, Red Bull got some dude to wake-board across St. Marks Square. This might not seem obvious. But think about it: Every ramp, runway or stretch of water is a canvas for celebrating extreme sports and speed. You just have to look for them. This only seems unobvious because people tend to think in terms of billboards rather than experiences; and campaigns, rather than moments. It's good-obvious :)
(Seen in this great list)

Adobe on Delicious
The software giant is bookmarking the most inspiring, interesting uses of Adobe software. I feel the urge to use the word genius. Of course, it isn't genius. It's simple. And almost free to do. So why don't more companies do things like this?

As Adrian says:
This is really smart. They’re driving traffic to these content creators from their 2700 fans (and their networks) and they’re maintaining a master list of the best how-to information on their products.

Blendtec on Youtube:
Yes, this old chestnut. But over-celebrated for good reason. "It's a blender. Let's see what it can do." Cheaper than TV and about a million times more spreadable.

Nikon in Georgetown
People love photos... of themselves and their friends. Nikon simply gave the people of Georgetown a load of awesome cameras, let them go crazy and then displayed all the images in the town hall. Its simplicity and integrity summed up with a gracious: "Thank you for doing this!" from a lady who took part. Every person involved became an instant brand ambassador.
And much cheaper than hiring a hoard of extras and shooting an expensive ad. (Via Faris) on the streets
A different kind of example.
This is only unobvious if you start your thinking process with traditional advertising. The solution here was simply to remove all obstruction between the audience and the problem they wanted to highlight. It's good-obvious. (And cheap!)

Nike store across the web
How do you promote your store in banners? Put your store in the banners. Let people browse products directly from the ad.

I'm guessing some people will disagree that all of these examples are obvious. But that's probably because it's a crude word that sounds like criticism. I use it with only positive intentions and I think all of the above are excellent.

For me, 'obvious' means ignoring your desire to be clever and focussing on bringing people and the things they want closer together. Then you can think about doing those things with charm, wit and creativity.

What would you do if your budget was £50, instead of £50,000? I think you'd probably do something good. And something obvious.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

grid lust

Last week, we were invited by our friends at Skype to watch a special screening of Objectified in Soho.

It was quite enjoyable. None of it made me think anything new, but I'm into design enough to enjoy watching designers talk about the stuff they make. So I was happy.

What got me particularly excited (this will annoy some of the future-gazing designers in the movie) was this Grid Compass laptop from 1982; the first commercial laptop computer:

I'll give you a moment to smile at its tiny screen.

One of the nicest details of this beauty is a 'scoop' in the hinge of the lid. Its presence meant that a stray pencil that found its way into the crack would be popped out again as you close the lid down. The simplicity and thought behind that is very lovely indeed.

If you're interested, there's a video about the Grid here. I won't embed it because it's a bit dry and basically features people talking - slowly.

Incidentally, all this got me looking for other vintage laptop stuff like this. Nice:

Anyway, I got wondering - when we're bathing in invisible, hyper-haptic post-hardware devices - do you think we'll long for a big scoop that ejects pencils like pop-tarts?

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Peter Funch's Hybrid Manhattan

This is simply the best thing I've seen in ages. Photographer, Peter Funch spends weeks on New York street corners and then composites together 'collections' of people.

The results are wonderful:

In some way (Oh dear, I'm going to blurt this out before I've considered it properly) these images are a beautiful, visual metaphor for creativity: bringing together disparate elements to conjure up a new perspective on something familiar.

And the clunkiness of my last sentence goes to show how much lovely visual metaphors are needed!


Via Kottke


Monday, April 20, 2009


I swear people make up new acronyms just to make me feel stupid. I've been seeing PMSL appear recently and if you - like me - didn't know what it means, it means 'pissing myself laughing'.

What's more amusing though is that there is PMSL training available. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in those classes.


I'm blogging a lot more at the moment. It's good. It's getting my brain working. I'm making a promise to myself to continue.

The knock-on effect is actually very motivating. Simply by putting a few thoughts out there - and tweeting one or two of them - has resulted in a lot more interaction with people in a very short space of time. Especially with my Twitter hooked up to my Facebook.

I need to keep this up.

In case you care, I have a new blog design coming soon. Which will appear at It's going to be big. Not in terms of popularity. Literally: Big. Awesome. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009




Friday, April 17, 2009

how to be social


Nice things are important. They give us reasons to talk to each other.

So when businesses give away nice things, I feel it a duty to do that whole 'see it, snap it, blog it' routine to spread the love. If enough people do that, then more businesses would create nice things and the happier and more social we'd all be.

So, here's a nice thing:

Attempts at bastardising I [heart] NY are usually tiresome (some can be brilliant, mind).
I like this effort by Thai restaurant Yum Yum in Stoke Newington.

Toothpicks! Fun and useful. Hooray. Not a world-changing idea. But all I wanted was to remove the chicken from my teeth. So I was happy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Campaign Unframed

A couple of years ago, an editor at AdWeek called me asking for a photo to go with an article I had written for them.

I was sitting in my boxer shorts at home. So I threw on a shirt and suit jacket and did what any person in my situation would do: I took a self-portrait, posing in a that ad-rag kind of a way. The sort of pose that says:

'I know some stuff and I should be respected. But not too much respect. I'm human too, just a guy. I'm accessible. But serious. But relaxed. There's a big friendly bear under this cold, academic exterior.. you just gotta peel the layers.. '

You know the sort of thing.
It's amazing how easily you get sucked into posing in that fake ad-land way.

What was more amusing though, was that I didn't put any trousers on. It was a portrait shot. So there I was in our apartment in Brooklyn, posing in this ridiculous way with no trousers but a suit and unironed shirt.

In the spirit of transforming bad things into good things, this gave me a little idea. Only a small one. A bit of fun; mostly forgettable. But in the interest of transient pleasure, I introduce:

Campaign Unframed
It's not just me - lots of ad-folk look very serious and important in their profile pictures in trade magazines. I thought it might be fun to provide a glimpse beyond the borders of the photographs to suggest a different side to them. The proverbial no-trousered look, if you will.

I'm not having a dig. Not really. Like I say, the inspiration came from my own example. But when people are looking a little too serious for their own good, I might just have some fun with their picture.

I've created three examples so far. The Photoshopping isn't great, sorry. Here's one, of Pete Robins:

This and two others can be seen in this Flickr Set: Campaign Unframed.

I might do more at some point. They're quite fun. So next time you're submitting your picture to Campaign, watch out - I might getcha ;)


Update: Paul called me out to share the one of me. I (honestly) couldn't find it. But fair's fair. I've produced an artist's impression over here.



Tweenbots has been doing the rounds.

It's thoroughly charming and heartwarming at the same time.
Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal.

Funny isn't it. If a tourist was bumbling around like that it would just be annoying. Maybe they should wear big smiley cardboard faces.


Locale is an Android app that allows the user to create different 'situations' in which their phone behaves differently.

It looks quite clever, but seems to be mostly a semantic evolution because I can do a similar thing on my phone, only they're called 'modes'.

Semantics are everything though. This immediately reminded me of the phrase Woody Allen coined: "We've got a situation here!" A wonderfully meaningless sentiment but its tone doing the real communication leg-work.

I suppose the same is true for Locale situations. The real fun is coming up with them.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

zero-tilt gaming

So, until the summer release of the next iPhone, I'm stuck with my Blackberry Curve. Meanwhile, friends and colleagues continue to tease me, moving pixels by dragging their fingers across their screens and tilting the handset.

I thought my extended wait might be easier to deal with if I embraced the Blackberry's strengths.

So I've made some 'games' that have been designed to take advantage of non-iPhone features. Specifically, I've focussed on the Blackberry's rigid-ometer. The feature that prevents the tilting of the phone from (annoyingly) affecting the contents on-screen.

Introducing Zero-Tilt Gaming.
Tilt and shake your handset as much as you like - nothing will change at all!

I've made three games so far:

Simply add one of these images as a wallpaper to your phone and you're ready to play. No matter how much you tilt or shake your phone, they will not move or change. That's persistence plus fun, times awesome. App store eat your <3 out.

You can download the images without titles here: Guard, Cat, Protester for a purer gaming experience. They're 320x240 pixels - which is the right size for the Blackberry Curve.

Try them out and make sure you show your slippy-pixelled iPhone-owning friends.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

why you should be interested in new technologies

Excuse my poor drawing.

(Update: removed the 140 character thing, which was misleading. Anyway..)


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

bakertweet, made by poke

"How? How the f**k did you actually do that?" was my basic line of questioning when Zolty, a Poke colleague showed me this the other week:

This is Bakertweet. It's not an April Fools hoax. If it was it wouldn't be very funny. And Poke are good at being funny.

They're also good at being clever bastards.

I say 'they' because I'm an ideas person. I'm good with concepts, frameworks. You know, charts and pixels and stuff. So I marvel when people can just make really clever stuff. For real.

Bakertweet is a box of electronics that allows our local bakery, Albion (London E1) to tweet when bread is fresh from the oven simply by turning the dial and pressing the button.

You can follow Albion's bakertweet here.

It's clever innit. I can say this because I had nothing to do with it. :)

Iain explains a little more over here.

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