Design Matters: Doing Better with Less

Firstly, I would like to apologise for the lack of blog posts over the past two weeks. Ordinarily I like to post at least three times a week but recently I have been so busy with work that the blog is having to take a back seat. I’m hoping that things will calm down again soon and I’ll be able to get back to a (semi-)regular posting schedule. In the meantime however, I found this interesting little video by dMass about design and how we can do more with less. I hope you enjoy it and I promise I’ll try to start posting again soon.

Is creative Britain in reverse?

Organised by The Design and Technology Association and Seymourpowell and supported by The James Dyson Foundation, The Design Museum and The Design Council, the panel discussion ‘Is creative Britain in reverse? ‘ took place on the 12th July in London.

Deyan Sudjic, Ellen MacArthur, Ajaz Ahmed, Dick Powell and other leading figures discussed the threatened state of design and technology education in Britain’s schools and universities, its contribution to successful business, and its role in supporting the UK Economy.

The discussion was prompted by the coalition Government’s education reform agenda, which could see Design &Technology (D&T) being removed as a compulsory subject for all pupils from age 5 to 14.

On the night, this short video was shown featuring contributions from designer Sir James Dyson, fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, former Rolls Royce CEO Sir John Rose, Jaguar Land Rover Design Director Ian Callum, Design Council Chief Executive David Kester, and other leading figures from across from across business and industry.

How do you feel about the possibility that Design & Technology (D&T) could no longer be a compulsory subject in the UK’s national curriculum? What effect would the removal of D&T from the curriculum have on Britain’s creative output. I’d love to hear your views on this!!



Look Above! | Appreciating the architecture above our high streets

STA Travel on the Triangle at the top of Park Street, Bristol

Last week, I received a direct Twitter message from design consultant Paolo Feroleto of Four Design  informing me of a fantastic new initiative he is running called Look Above! and asking if I would like to get involved.

Basically, the initiative is a call to action for us all to take a moment or two to look around our city and town centres and appreciate the beauty of the architectural marvels that surround us.

It is so easy to walk through town, striding from shop to shop hurriedly navigating the hustle and bustle of the crowds without so much as sparing a thought for the beauty that may be above. Spectacular architecture depicting the styles of decades and centuries gone by hides away above our heads unnoticed and neglected. If only we were to look above for a second we would realise that our town centres are not just monotonous rows of Star Bucks, charity shops, Tescos etc etc.

Park Street in Bristol

As soon as I read about this initiative I couldn’t wait to get involved. So last Sunday off I trotted into Bristol City Centre, camera in hand and head held high, eager to see what architectural delights awaited me. I must say I was very surprised by the amount of different architectural styles that were crammed into just one street.

Here are a small selection of photos I took on my gander up Park Street in Bristol.

Sainsbury's on the triangle at the top of Park Street, Bristol

Tesco express at the bottom of Park Street, Bristol

Waitrose on the Triangle at the top of Park Street, Bristol

And lastly, when I reached the top of Park street I came across this sad sight. Habitat plastered in closing down sale signs. The end of an era. Habitat you will be sorely missed.

Habitat at the top of Park Street, Bristol

I thoroughly enjoyed my little jaunt up Park Street in Bristol and it opened my eyes to the wonders that I have missed every time I have trotted up one of my favourite streets in town.

Paolo is collating imagery from towns and cities globally as a way of showcasing the architectural history that sits above our high streets. He is looking for contributions from everyone from budding photographers right through to architectural students. Selected contributions will be acknowledged on the Look Above! website and in a future book.

So if you find yourself at loss for something to do this week, grab your camera, go into town and Look Above! You might be surprised by what you see.

Please send your contributions to Paolo@four-design.co.uk

The Design Encyclopedia

The Design Encyclopedia by Mel Byars

As it is such a beautiful day today I decided to sit out in the garden and have a read of The Design Encyclopedia by design historian Mel Byars. I have wanted to get my hands on this book for some time now and last month I was lucky enough to be given it as a present by one of my best friends in the whole world. He knows me too well, sometimes it is scary.

I have known Thomas since uni and we have remained firm friends ever since. Thomas recently started work as a flight attendant for a major European airline and is now leading an action-packed life flying all over the world from his base in Germany. In a recent trip to New York, he stopped off at the Museum of Modern Art where he picked up this beautiful book for me and I can’t thank him enough!

The book is a one-stop guide to the design industry, providing an insight into the essential framework of design from 1870 to 2004 when it was published. There are approximately 3,500 entries listed in alphabetical order making it extremely easy to find what you are looking for. The entries include designers, studios, consortia, partnerships and manufacturers as well as significant historical periods, styles and materials.

Each entry that is focused on a particular designer includes a biography, details of their education, major works, exhibitions and any awards they have won. Areas covered in the book include furniture, lighting, ceramics, fabrics, glassware, metalwork and electronic product design.

Whilst the book is an extremely comprehensive publication, and quite text heavy, there are also over 700 colour illustrations that have been incorporated mainly from the Museum of Modern Art’s extensive collection.

When I picked it up, the first thing I did was search through to find the names of all the designers that I have had the pleasure of interviewing over the past few years. Most of them were indeed there of course except for a few who were not included, but I suspect there will be a place for them if a second edition is ever published.

Tom on the Bund in Shanghai

So thanks once again Thomas for such a great present! It will be invaluable for my research from now on!

29 ways to stay creative

I was browsing Moleskinerie, the official blog for Moleskin notepads,  in the early hours of the morning (as one does when one can’t sleep) and I saw this little video created by TO-FU Design showing 29 ways to stay creative. Some pretty good advice there I’d say.



As you all read my blog I’ll take a wild guess and assume that you are a pretty creative bunch of folks. So what are your tips for staying creative? Please share them with us in the comments, we’d love to hear from you. Or alternatively just tell us which of the tips here work for you or which you think you need to pay more attention to.

I personally write loads of lists, and I write down ideas as soon as I have them, particularly ideas for blog posts and feature ideas for the various publications and sites I write for. In fact, I currently have 40 ideas for blog posts written on my to-write list. Just need to find the time to write them now.

One tip I desperately need to try is stepping away from the computer (I am writing this post at 03:25am a clear indication that I spend far too many hours sat at this pc).

So what about you?

Charity begins at home

Jean-Christophe Novelli

Celebrity Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli

Last Tuesday I received an email from Cancer Research UK asking for my support in their latest campaign. This email immediately struck a chord with me as I have been personally affected by cancer and I know first-hand what this destructive disease can do to the people who are unfortunate enough to fall victim to it and how it affects those close to them.

It was a warm Summer day in August 2009 when I received a phone call from my mum informing me that the results of her lumpectomy confirmed what we had all feared…breast cancer.

The months that followed were extremely difficult for my whole family, and amazingly my mum seemed to cope better than the rest of us. She took a very matter-of-fact approach to her treatment and put all her confidence in the doctors who were helping her to fight against this aggressive affliction.

During this time I was so proud of my mum and it made me see her in a completely different way. I never knew that she was so strong and to this day I have no idea from where she managed to summon this immense inner strength to fight so hard.

But unfortunately inner strength alone is not enough to help people beat cancer. Without the work of organisations like Cancer Research UK many of our loved ones may not have been able to overcome cancer and that is why it is so important that we support them in their dedication to saving lives through research. And we can all support the new campaign.

Fronted by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, the new campaign aims to encourage everyone to have a Michelin star clearout this spring, and donate unwanted, high-quality homeware to their local Cancer Research UK shop.

Cancer Research UK is looking for all sorts of homeware, not just kitchen items but also good quality soft furnishings such as cushions, ornaments, picture frames and vases. The campaign will run throughout April 2011, but homeware can be donated throughout the year.

Simon Ledsham, Cancer Research UK’s trading director, said: “Cancer survival rates have doubled in the past 40 years and Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of that progress.  Our work is entirely funded by the public, we receive no government funding for our research, and without items to sell, our shops can’t raise any money.  So please – spring clean your home this April and donate to your local Cancer Research UK shop.”

As readers of my blog, I know that you all love interiors and homewares as much as I do. So that means that you probably have some lovely things at home that you don’t need and that you could actually do without. That’s why I’m asking you to have a look at home and find something that you could take to your local Cancer Research shop and donate. If you make homewares for a living, why not make an extra product and donate that.

It’s important that together we do as much as we can to fight cancer. Afterall, every year nearly 46,000 people receive the devastating news that they have breast cancer. In 2009, it was my mum, but it could equally be your mum, your aunty, your sister, your wife or even you. And that’s just breast cancer, but there are 200 different kinds of cancer and I don’t even want to think about how many people they affect.

The  groundbreaking work that Cancer Research UK has done into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. One day you might need it to save your life or the life of someone you love. So think carefully…and give generously!

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 3469 6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

For Japan With Love

As Japan struggles to come to terms with the destruction and devastation that has been left in the wake of the earth quake and Tsunami, my heart goes out to all those currently fighting to overcome this immense human tragedy.

In order to show my respect for all those who have been affected I will be joining others bloggers tomorrow on March 18th in a day of silence. I will not be posting anything here in order to help raise awareness of the devastating events taking place in Japan.

This initiative was organised by the bloggers behind Ever Ours and Utterly Engaged in order to help us show our support at this very difficult time. They have set up a fundraising page called For Japan With Love that is specifically geared to helping with the relief efforts. Shelterbox is the organisation that the bloggers are supporting and you can donate here. Please be generous, the people of Japan need our help.

Follow me on bloglovin’

Follow me on Bloglovin' widget

I have just registered my blog on Bloglovin’ so anybody who wants to follow me can now do so.

Instead of checking my blog to see if I have posted anything new, Bloglovin’ will always inform you when there is a new post.

Just click on the image above to go straight to my Bloglovin’ profile and click on follow…Simples!

5 Daily Essentials…

Earlier today I received a Twitter @Mention alerting me to the fact that I had been tagged by Carole King from Dear Designer’s Blog. Thanks Carole! In her blog post she had listed her 5 daily essentials and had then named 5 people who she would then like to reveal their 5 daily essentials. And to my surprise and delight Carole named lil ole me.

At first I thought this would be really easy to do. But I got carried away and after a while I realised that everything I had put on my list was less an essential and more a luxury. After all, I suppose I can live without cheese and red wine…just about…if I really had no choice.

So I started over and here is what I came up with:

Fresh bread

Firstly, I don’t think I actually could live without fresh bread. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh bread, except for perhaps the taste. I love all kinds of bread and could eat it for three meals a day if I had to. And sometimes I do!

My car

My second essential is my car, a gorgeous Citroen C3 Pluriel convertible in kiwi green, which I have affectionately named Zaba (which means frog in Polish). Now this is obviously an essential because I need it for scooting around Bristol and for the occassional trip back down to Devon to catch up with friends and family.

My sony Ereader

Third on my list is my Sony Ereader. I’m not big on gadgets and usually I find that they tend to complicate my life rather than simplify it. When I first discovered that such a thing as an electronic book existed I knew I had to have one. I was suitably delighted when DJaert bought me one for Christmas 3 or 4 years ago. Now I find it hard to imagine my life without my Ebook reader. I take it absolutely everywhere with me and love the fact that at any given time I can have over 200 books in my bag and when the need arises I can download a new book instantly without leaving the comfort of my home.

My Laptop

My fourth choice was one that needed no consideration at all. I sinply don’t know where I would be without my laptop. And look how pretty it is! It’s aHP notebook designed by fashion designer Vivienne Tam and I fell in love with it the minute I saw it. It’s great for surfing the net, doing research for the articles I write and of course for updating my blog. I also love the fact that it came in a gorgeous little red silk bag.


And fifth and finally I would have to say notebooks. In fact, I have to admit here that I’m actually a bit of a closet stationery geek, with an obsession for notebooks. I tend to buy notebooks in bulk and if I’m honest, most of them end up laying around my house unused. I simply love brand new notebooks with their fresh, crisp, clean, untouched pages, brimming with the potential of being filled with something extraordinarily interesting. It almost seems a shame to write in them.

And there you have it. My 5 daily essentials. And now for the tagging bit. I am hereby passing this on to Fiona of Flame Interiors, Hannah of Dream Wall Style Blog, Ann & Melissa from Ideas to Steal, Torie of Torie Jayne and Kia of Kia Designs

The future of the future

The Future of the Future by Richard Seymour

I was in London yesterday and whilst there I had the pleasure of meeting up with Tim and Hettie of Seymourpowell. Tim gave me this little book which features a collection of thoughts by Richard Seymour. The book is entitled ‘The future of the future‘ and I was reading it last night just before I went to bed.

I thought I would post up some of the inspirational and thought-provoking things that Mr Seymour said so that you can all share his insights into the future and the role that technology will play.

The book started like this…

A couple of years ago, a primary school teacher in the Midlands took a typewriter into class. He let the 7-year olds look at it, play with it and generally kick it around. At the end of the day, he asked them what they thought of it. The answer was startling. ‘Cool…a laptop that prints as you write and you don’t have to plug it in’, was the general consensus.

Amusing as this story is, it actually illustrates beautifully how the future works. As the Talmud (and a host of others) have observed, we have a habit of making sense of the world through our own experiences. In fact it’s very difficult not to. If your only experience of a portable writing device is a laptop, then a typewriter is a mechanical version of that. If virtually everything you use or play with is powered by batteries, then a ‘self-powered’ device is fascinating…possibly even futuristic.

Later on in the book, Seymour goes on to talk about emergent behaviour. This is what he says…

Basically, the future is being formed by a number of broad-bandwidth thinkers, who are lassoing the present from their vantage point in the future and dragging us towards them. The future is ‘pull’ not ‘push’. Put simply, the future is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy, being fought here and now, by people who have started earlier than their competitors. It isn’t created by extrapolating trends or asking consumers.

As Hobbs would no doubt point out, all the future needs to work is your obedience in accepting it. But the other engine that works in tandem with these polymaths is emergent behaviour. That’s us basically. We tend to react to the new by finding ways to work with or against it. Restrict people’s movements and ease of use with a new application, such as text messaging 15 years ago, and what appears? A new, foreshortened syntax and vocabulary to cope with it. Provide a product with a keyboard that makes text easier and what happens? The syntax modifies again, elongating itself back to something more approaching good grammar, but some of the more novel components remain: LOL, WTF! etc.

Who invents this stuff? We do. The eternal sea of interaction. What works and amuses us stays around, what doesn’t evaporates. So creating the future is a nerve wracking process. People can’t tell you what they’re going to want, really. Because they usually don’t know. So we have to get stuff out there and wait to see what the world makes of it. No wonder many businesses look desperately for ‘metrics’ that can raise their hit rate. But as the world wags on and the communication revolution continues unabated, the role of emergent behaviour is going to become even more important. And predicting how we will react will get harder and harder.

Action, as Newton observed, is met by equal and opposite reaction.

Seymour then cites his favourite example of emergent behaviour…

One of my favourite examples of this is the Mosquito, a device created to annoy and disperse undesirable teenagers from lurking around public spaces. It’s basically a public address system that generates a tone too high to be heard by most adults, but within the frequency range of the younger ear, about 22,000 hertz.

Brilliant. So what’s the reaction?

Some smartarse records this ultrasonic tone onto their mobile phone and uses it as a ringtone that can be heard only by young people. In the classroom, the teacher is oblivious of the sound.

Interesting stuff huh? Are there any examples of emergent behaviour that you can think of? They don’t have to be related to technology either.

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