To the Ministry's main lobby The Ministry Blog
concert setlists


17 November, 2010

Rose-tinted marketing

Visiting Birmingham yesterday, we noticed a shop window displaying 'steampunk' clothing.  Without wishing to be snobby, it wasn't great: a vague amalgam of generic 'gothy' and steampunk references, as interpreted by a high-street chainstore for mass-production.  I didn't need to explain to K why it was just wrong – even someone with negligible experience of 'the culture' (okay, we went to the Vampire Ball in Whitby this year, but that's it) could instantly see it was a half-hearted attempt to cash-in.

5 August, 2010

Insert link here - yes, right here

Don't be so ridiculous.

2 July, 2010

"Is CSS the new Photoshop"

Via John Nack (Photoshop's Senior Product Manager): two examples of complex web graphics generated by CSS alone: no separately-prepared .jpgs, .gifs, etc., merely code alone.

14 June, 2010

Try again

If I find a website's source code more readable than the rendered pages, that's not good, is it?

23 March, 2010

They've done what?

Apparently, the New York Museum of Modern Art has 'acquired' the '@' symbol for its Architecture and Design collection.

15 March, 2010

Different directions

In the USA, emergency exit signs show the word 'EXIT' (solely in English), usually in red, which subliminally suggests 'danger', 'stop' and hence 'not this way'.  Elsewhere, the international convention is a pictogram (universally recognisable) of a stick figure running through a door, depicted in green (suggesting 'safety', 'go' and 'this way').

11 January, 2010

I can see it in the pixels

A 'hacker' blog examines a fashion photo in detail, using surprisingly straightforward forensic techniques to establish the presence and nature of manipulations.

23 December, 2009


Why do christmas card designers insist on depicting snow with pink & green glitter?

26 September, 2009

No sole

One of the things I love about modern architecture is the interplay of art and engineering; neither purely fanciful nor purely utilitarian but a combination of both.

24 August, 2009

Who needs a dictionary?

I really ought to remember that I don't design websites for myself.

12 August, 2009

Reinventing the bottle? No.

I've belatedly stumbled upon a (prototype?) design for readily-recyclable paper bottles (as opposed to waxed/plasticised paper cartons, recycling of which may be uneconomical).

8 June, 2009

Stay cool

Germaine Greer's slightly overblown lyricism may harm her message, but she's right: industrial cooling towers and municipal gas holders are beautiful objects, at least as worthy of preservation as street trees.

18 May, 2009

Pictorial communication

As part of a Graphic Design Diploma, Melih Bilgil produced an animated  'History Of The Internet'.  It's excellent, not only for the documentary content – not too techie, but neatly explaining & contextualising half-familiar acronyms – but particularly for the minimalist, icon-based graphics.  Very inspiring.

24 April, 2009

Let's not get entrenched

There's a lot I dislike about Macs – rather more than I dislike about Wintel PCs – but having spent yesterday afternoon listening to a senior manager at Apple, I've realised some of my criticisms aren't the ones I thought.

20 April, 2009

Alarming pursuits

Try an alarm clock that flies away (but isn't a cockerel).

17 February, 2009

Slightly insecure now

I don't write like a designer.

Do I?

26 January, 2009

No more land art on Clougha

Since October, Clougha and other quiet corners of landscape around Lancaster has been enhanced by the Andy Goldsworthy -inspired land art installations of 'Escher' (Richard Shilling).  My favourite is his 'Clougha Egg Cairn', a technically excellent dry stone stucture but also quite simply a beautiful object, well suited to its location on a ridge overlooking a popular path.

24 December, 2008

Tidied away

When I was a child, and presumably for at least a century beforehand, individually-wrapped sweets were 'sealed' simply by the ends of the wrapper being twisted into a literally iconic shape.

11 November, 2008

Well proved

Mike Essl asks the intriguing question 'is graphic design art?'.

Unfortunately, he does so in a way which reinforces my answer: "no".
And, nominally, I am a graphic designer.

21 October, 2008


When I read about the possible return of open-rotor aircraft engines, I immediately thought about the romance of Spitfires and 1930s-era aviation.  However, try a quick Google Images search for 'open-rotor engine' – they're hideous – like particularly unattractive varieties of cephalopod.

9 October, 2008

Canít touch this

Khoi Vinh describes the conflict between (print-format) design magazines attempting to convey useful information and feeling obliged to exemplify the subject.

11 September, 2008

Don't faucet

At long last, we're back in our proper building, our old offices having been remodelled into a semi- open-plan arrangement delineated by dividing walls without doors.
One 'refinement' has been a ban on kettles in individual office spaces, balanced by the provision of a communal kitchen with both chilled and boiling* water on tap.  The same tap.

19 August, 2008

The secret of good cooking: pre-planning

If you're going to instruct people to "brown the chicken then add 1-2 tbsp" of your cooking paste, why sell the stuff in a jar with a neck narrower than a tablespoon?

29 July, 2008

Strange choice

Wikipedia explains who Mary Slessor was, but it still looks odd that the reverse of a Clydesdale Bank £10 note features a map of rural Nigeria.
I'd have expected something more obviously Scottish on an item at least tangentially representing the nation.  The reverse of the Royal Bank of Scotland's £5 note*, for example, depicts Culzean Castle, Ayrshire.

16 July, 2008

Great minds

In the Guardian, Jonathan Glancey attempts to defend Zaha Hadid against criticism unfairly ascribed to her for cost overruns at London's Olympic Aquatics Centre.

7 July, 2008

What are you doing at six? How about five past?

Now available as a free download or printed on demand as a hardback book: the most intricate diary in the world.  At two pages to an hour, you'll need a new 726-page volume every fortnight.

20 June, 2008

Accessibility consideration

Seen on a website (designed c.1999):

Click on the picture for a larger version.
(Do not click on the picture if you are using a text-only reader.)

6 June, 2008

Let it stand alone

I like design; it is the basis of my job, after all.  However, I do have a bit of a problem with designers who over-analyse and over-intellectualise their work.

3 June, 2008


A study reported by The Register apparently found that the US consumer electronics industry can expect 11-20% of items to be returned to retailers as 'faulty'.  Think about that: depending on the product, up to 1-in-5 is alleged to have been sold with flaws.

27 May, 2008

Creative barcodes

Barcodes obviously need to be functional, incorporating a machine-readable block of thick & thin straight lines and a human-readable serial number, but they don't have to be utilitarian.  As such firms as D-Barcode* demonstrate, it's entirely possible to incorporate the essential elements into a more creative graphic element, such as a waterfall, apron or even a pizza.

9 May, 2008

Cielo adentro

I love these 'faux skylights': photos of country scenes and skies, several backlit, which make picture frames and ceilings look like windows to an idyllic outdoors.  Photos on ceiling tiles is a nice idea.

2 May, 2008

Do hit

Not much to say about this: 1m x 0.7m x 0.75m 'cube' (?) of 10cm-thick steel, which one is intended to beat into an armchair.

Sledgehammer provided.

21 April, 2008

Knife-hooks for coats

Those who loved the knife rack mannequin might also be interested in these coathooks which resemble kitchen knives rammed into the wall.

8 April, 2008

Push to open

I have no problem with the idea of button-operated doors for the disabled, but doors which can only be operated electrically annoy me.

3 April, 2008

All change

I really like the new designs for UK coins, which replace the 40-year-old reverses with segments of the royal shield of arms; very nice graphic design, and I particularly like the way one could assemble a complete rendition of the arms by arranging five coins, one of each sub-£1 denomination, on a table, whilst the £1 coin has the complete arms.

27 February, 2008

Mine is the right to be wrong

It seems the new partially-customisable BBC home page has been launched.  Remember to amend your bookmarks to avoid it.

25 February, 2008

Trivial annoyance of the day

DVDs which start to play the film automatically.

23 January, 2008

New angle

I don't know whether she still does, but my sister used to really like spiral staircases, to the point of taking unnecessarily long routes from 'A' to 'B' via 'Q' because a particularly attractive example was visible from the street at 'N'.  I've never felt the same sort of "want!" reflex about stairs... until now.

23 November, 2007

Pushed too far

I couldn't say how many meetings I've attended in which I'd have loved to discreetly slip someone one of these cards.

16 November, 2007

Not crate

Over three weekends, the individual offices on my corridor are being vacated in preparation for building work (we 'decant'* across campus for about a year, then return to an open-plan layout).  The contents are being placed in plastic crates for a removal firm to transfer, as Health & Safety regulations prevent us moving anything ourselves.

30 October, 2007

Nice logo

Well, it is.

27 October, 2007

Drawing in

Ever planned to make a spur-of-the-moment sketch in landscape format, but been foiled by a portrait-orientated notebook?

17 October, 2007

Cufflink link

I don't wear cufflinks, nor indeed shirts with cuffs, but....

16 October, 2007

Does not compute

BoingBoing Gadgets has discovered a Japanese PC built into the abdomen (waist to thighs) of a mannequin dressed as a French maid.  Ew.  Not want. 

4 October, 2007

Flat pack dish-rack

I suppose the target market of this space-saving drying rack for dishes would have the mindset/discipline to put away dry dishes and fold the rack away.  I'm not sure I would!

2 October, 2007

Liquid rescale

Most people, and hopefully all web designers, are aware of liquid layout*, whereby a web page's layout (especially text flow) changes to accommodate different widths of browser panes.

25 September, 2007

Doesn't fit

One could wonder whether a 'web editor' is in the right business if he asks people to assess the value of a conference "on a scale of 1-10" by providing a tickbox....

16 August, 2007


While a move away from infantilising smock dresses is undoubtedly welcome, there is something dubious about the industry's belief that the only other option for a woman is to dress as if she charges by the hour.

9 August, 2007

Mmm... readable

Nice colour scheme, eh?  Black on very dark olive.  I've just joined a new discussion forum (more to the point, I've just paid to join a new discussion forum) in which this is the sole available style.

7 August, 2007

Smartly unraveling

Though I can't find a single mention on the event's own website* , the BBC reports that the SIGGRAPH 2007 conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques included 'Unravel', a fashion show of innovative clothing.

21 July, 2007

Can do that, Dava

Scientists designing a 'next-generation' spacesuit for astronauts clearly need to balance protection (and loss of mobility) against mobility (and loss of protection).

10 July, 2007

Canard de bain

My French is appalling*, so frankly I don't understand the details, but a public art project along the Loire estuary between Nantes and St Nazaire, France has produced some wonderful pieces.  Amongst my favourites are this 'flyover' bed, this partially submerged house and this giant rubber duck.

5 July, 2007

Treasure maps

In this week's 'Classics of everyday design' (the 24th, already), Jonathan Glancey celebrates Ordnance Survey maps.  As he rightly says, they have an attraction beyond the 'merely' practical, but in terms of practicality, I do think the OS's 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 series are the world's best.

28 June, 2007

Random queries no. 116

One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry.  Can I help?

what is tesco logo font

21 June, 2007

Well reminded

Visiting Venezia in March (name-dropper...), we saw flyers advertising an exhibition of everyday objects, primarily clothing, carved in wood.  We eventually found the (closed) gallery and happened to see a couple of other pieces through the windows of (very) commercial galleries, but otherwise I'd almost forgotten about it.

29 May, 2007

Should all be this way

Top website!  It's Miranda July's promo site for her book of short stories, and has a unique visual & narrative style*.

[Via Neil Gaiman.]

15 May, 2007

Perspective needed

If you click on the link, you'll see what appears to be drawings of kitchen chairs, as if by young children.  However, they're actually three-dimensional real chairs made of powder-coated steel.

2 May, 2007

Well spotted

There are times when I disagree with Jonathan Glancey, the Guardian's architecture/design critic – he can be a little resistant to modernity, favouring the cosily retro.  However, I applaud his 'Everyday design classics' series in the Guardian for identifying unconsidered examples of good design.
Today's (the seventeenth in the series – I recommend reading the archived posts too) discusses the Yale key and associated  lock.

29 April, 2007


A wrist watch encased in black leather. Stylish, and a bargain at $275.

Yes, that's encased, meaning it's utterly useless as a timepiece.  And?

14 March, 2007

Where am I?

I'd love to install a camera at the top of the main stairs in my office building, to capture the blank confusion of those people who have accidentally ascended one floor too many, and unexpectedly run out of stairs in an unfamiliar location.  I did it myself a few minutes ago.

5 March, 2007

Not merely weird

Here's an interesting, if a little too wide-ranging article by Jonathan Jones on surrealism, which is supposed to be about the influence of the Spanish landscape on Dalí, apparently.

28 February, 2007


That's clever: a large window above a waist-high wall, which folds out of the side of an apartment building to provide a balcony whenever required.

26 February, 2007

Lateral thinking

Two 'ingenious' inventions seen at Shiny Shiny:

20 February, 2007

Slice of life

For some reason, I really like the idea of this wall clock.  It is (or simulates) a 7 cm slice taken from the face of a grandfather clock, with full-size hands indicating the time merly by their position.

[Via BoingBoing.]

16 February, 2007

Milk bags

Not a euphemism, but a serious alternative to standard plastic or plasticised/waxed paper milk cartons.
These 'rapidly' biodegradable bags aren't a new invention – apparently 65% of fresh milk sold in Canada is bagged – but it's good to see Welsh dairies I happen to recognise leading introduction to the UK.

4 February, 2007

Speaking of upcycling...

... I wonder whether any product packaging or similar articles suitable for upcycling are deliberately designed for likely secondary uses.  Are yoghurt pots optimised to be used to grow seedlings, for example?

26 January, 2007

Very Bosch

The gallery of Jeff de Boer's armour for cats and mice was 'link of the day' at User Friendly, but when you've finished admiring them, don't forget to look at his other galleries, particularly the exoforms, abstract shapes inspired by historical armour.

17 January, 2007


The term was new to me when I encountered it in BoingBoing, but it's a nice idea.
Apparently coined by William McDonaugh and Michael Braugart in their book on ecologically intelligent design (er, that could have been phrased better!), 'Cradle to Cradle', it refers to reusing a disposable object in a way which increases its value.

14 January, 2007


Alternative uses for everyday items; some useful, some, er, not, but all ingenious.

13 January, 2007

Plus ça change...

Matt Blaze says:

Somehow, for all the attention to minutiae in the guidelines, everything ends up just slightly wrong by the time it gets put together at an airport. Even if we accept some form of passenger screening as a necessary evil these days, today's checkpoints seem like case studies in basic usability failure designed to inflict maximum frustration on everyone involved.

10 January, 2007

But is it art?

I haven't felt much inclination to decorate my house; 3½ years on, the walls still feature the slightly odd colour scheme chosen by the previous owner, gold-and-purple ceiling roses and all.  There's a larger number of interesting rocks on my windowsills than conventional ornaments, which themselves are on show as much for their personal significances as for their visual appeal or any sort of thematic consistency.

6 December, 2006


Bethan Lloyd has had the ingenious idea of part-glazing china teacups so that the tea's tannin gradually stains only primarily the unglazed design, generating a unique and evolving brown pattern.

28 November, 2006

Not Tesco at all, honest.

Having spent much of today attempting to design a logo for a new outreach programme, and having accidentally produced a Web 2.0 version of the old Tesco logo twice, I thought I'd better check a few existing examples for inspiration.  If anyone else is in a similar situation, try

17 November, 2006

What the font... the name of a potentially useful utility which helps designers identify typefaces.
Simply upload an image of the text, and the site will either analyse and name the font automatically, or allow users to submit it to a user forum for the attention of fontspotters.

16 November, 2006

Marketing opportunity

The University's main admin building also houses a number of student support* departments.  I heard about this second hand, but I presume it was an overseas student (i.e. a non-native English speaker) who asked where one could buy 'thong johns'.

27 October, 2006

Too spiky

Oh.  That's disappointing.

23 October, 2006

Reuse, not recycle, II

Supermarkets in the UK, and presumably elsewhere, provide dividers at checkouts, to distinguish one customer's groceries on the conveyer belt from the next customer's.

28 September, 2006

Suits you

The first new students (mainly from abroad) have started to arrive, and with them their eccentric dress sense (actually, that's usually in the spring term; freshers first arrive dressed by their mothers).

18 September, 2006

Barely legal

You probably know by now that I like the work of 'street artist' Banksy, so I was pleased to find photos of his recent Los Angeles gallery show.

15 September, 2006

Define 'art'

Various green spaces within the University have hosted unusual structures in recent weeks.  They've resembled livestock enclosures, but in odd shapes.  In plan view, one was 'S'-shaped, with both ends open, another was the shape of a round-bottomed bottle, and others were less describable.

6 September, 2006

Real web design

Wow!  This site really breaks out of the (literal) box of conventional corporate web design.  It's great to see the standards of art-based print advertising applied to the web, and disappointingly uncommon.

4 September, 2006

Change for change's sake

Sainsbury's low-fat fruit yoghurt is sold in four-packs of individual 125g pots.  The intention is clearly for the consumer to peel off the foil lid and, well, consume from the pot, using a teaspoon.

30 August, 2006

Laced case

Laced caseInspired!  I'd be tempted to buy this CD/DVD box set for the packaging (if not necessarily for much of the music...), even if someone didn't have a birthday approaching in, er, nine months... make that a non-christmas present, then.

Don't read this entry, H.

18 August, 2006

Flaky corn

The Students' Union shop sells individual portions of breakfast cereals, foil-sealed in plastic bowls with milk and a spoon.  Somehow this makes me want to slap someone.

14 August, 2006

Wouldn't do

A certain institution with which I have a slight professional connection is developing a new intranet site for finance/procurement purposes.  I happen to know the designer has been asked to tone down the usability; otherwise "well, people might be tempted to use it."

14 July, 2006

Steelettos again

Helen's response to yesterday's 'mediaeval' heels was a link I'd already noticed at BoingBoing but hadn't clicked through.

13 July, 2006

Don't tell H

Ah.  I just did.  Bugger.


11 July, 2006

Enabling the imagination

This is the sort of open-ended design I particularly appreciate.  It's a toy which helps children play for themselves, but which doesn't have a predetermined single defining use.  It's not a chair, nor a sledge, nor a hat, nor a turtle shell, but a child could use it as all of them, or anything else the individual imagination allowed.

8 July, 2006

They'll love it

Perhaps I'm discovering something empirically which professional marketers already know by training: is there a significant mismatch between the personal preferences of those commissioning corporate imagery (adverts, websites, etc.) and the preferences of target audiences?  Is there a risk that inappropriate adverts might be published because older executives misjudge or are poorly advised about 'youth' audiences, and the converse?

22 June, 2006

Stamp mugs

Spill tea down the side of a mug, and you'll leave a brown ring on the table.  Yet it doesn't need to be a ring.  These mugs have more decorative bases, and hence leave novel cup marks – presumably where you still wouldn't want stains, but that's not the point.

19 June, 2006


Now you can buy flipflop sandals with a bottle opener built into the sole.

Great: the instant convenience of opening a bottle whilst simultaneously smearing whatever you've stepped in onto the bottleneck.

30 May, 2006

Table accident

I recoil from the idea of a novelty conference table: "This table will be at the center of different viewpoints, cultures and motivations colliding with each other to form something new and powerful, this idea is symbolised in the colors and design of the table."

However... I quite like the object itself.

23 May, 2006

Москва невоплощенная

'Unrealised Moscow' offers illustrations of proposed architectural projects in Stalinist Moscow.

17 May, 2006


Why are modern (well, 20th Century) municipal cemeteries so bland?  The Guardian reports one architect's attempt to 'restore some beauty and civic pride' to the 'most under-valued public spaces we have'.

13 May, 2006

Invisible bookshelf

The Selfshelf: a bookshelf disguised as a book, so that a stack of books placed upon it look as if they're levitating unsupported.  And the title of the fake book?  'Cesi níest pas un livre'.

10 May, 2006

Credibility gap

Oh, come on.

Look; sorry to be prejudiced, but if you're tendering for a web design project expected to cost around £50K / $100K, a portfolio on a Blog*Spot site simply won't cut it.  You really need to have your own domain.

3 May, 2006


Who wouldn't want a brushed-steel armadillo curled up on the kitchen worksurface?

Pity about the price tag, though.

2 May, 2006

Difference, please

I have a Hitachi DVD player connected to my TV.  My digital TV tuner is also made by Hitachi.  Each has a remote control handset.
Fine so far, but there's a problem: the handsets have near-identical layouts.  In a darkened room – such as when I'm watching TV or a DVD – they're indistinguishable, and I find myself ejecting a DVD to change channel, or raising the volume to fast-forward.

It's not a big deal, but it's such a pointless design flaw.

25 April, 2006

'Perfect'? For what?

A study reported by New Scientist has found that web sites designed to the golden ratio of 1.618:1 – supposedly the most aesthetically pleasing in art – are less usable than other proportions.

Could it be that the golden ratio promotes appreciation of the overall composition, rather than extraction of specific information?  Hence, is the ratio inappropriate for some web sites (and, by implication, suitable for others)?

19 April, 2006

Customer friendly

Like the majority of the global population, I dislike phone caller management systems, and always prefer to deal with companies by e-mail or post.  Sometimes I can't avoid using the phone, so I make a cup of tea and prepare to be stuck in a queue for 15-20 mins.

24 March, 2006

Modern marvels

'MAKE:' presents the top 25 (US) inventions of 2006 (that's a bit premature, isn't it?), as chosen by the 'Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge'.  There's quite a range, from surgical instruments to bridge supports, from chemical engineering to sports.  Some seem a bit academic (I nearly said frivolous, but that's unfair), such as a maglev bow & arrow or remote controls for a (real) horse, but some are excellent.

22 March, 2006

Service with a sneer

Updating a link, I happened to look at the website of the company that makes/rents academic robes for the University.  Ignoring the 'FAQ's' link (as I'm not a FAQ, it's plainly not for me), The site requires each visitor to select the intended institution, then agree to the company's terms & conditions (and financial liability, I think) before continuing into the site itself.

17 March, 2006

Door closed: does not compute

A while ago, I wrote about the potentially-confusing design of Intercity train doors, and the idea that it's not a matter of improving signage or audible warnings; the doors need to 'Just Work'.

3 March, 2006

Great British design?

BBC 2's 'The Culture Show' is running 'The Great British Design Quest', a three-stage poll to identify the public's favourite British design icon (1900-2006).  The Culture Show and the Design Museum produced an initial shortlist of 25 design icons, which was voted down to ten.  These were discussed on the programme, then further public voting cut the ten to three.  The 'winner' is announced in a fortnight.

12 January, 2006

Naming process

I love the name of these sound-isolating earphones: Griffin EarThumps.  Very Narnian.

I can't help wondering about how, and why, that name was selected.

23 December, 2005

This is my stop! Let me out!

Intercity train doors are now opened by pressing an adjacent circular button.  The button is inactive until the train is at a complete standstill; unless the button is illuminated, it's inactive.  That makes sense – if one knows.

10 December, 2005

Protect your noggin

Wouldn't be seen dead in a bicycle helmet?  I'd rather not be seen dead, so I do wear a helmet.

24 November, 2005

The long short version

Sometimes it's rather frustrating to do web design for a university.  Academics can be so prolix and self-important....

5 November, 2005

Tightlaced babe

I thought the very idea of a maternity corset was a joke when H told me about it, but I suppose it might provide welcome back support.  Maybe.

3 November, 2005

Failed marketing experiment

Just seen:

  • Milk with 'a hint' of vanilla – if you think you'd like that, why not just buy a pint of ordinary milk and add a couple of drops of vanilla essence yourself, rather than pay extra for a novelty product?
  • Milk with 'a hint' of strawberry – if in doubt, I sniff milk to check whether it's gone 'off'.  The tell-tale smell resembles strawberries.  There's no way I could drink this stuff.

12 October, 2005

For the boudoir-challenged

Three examples of 'cutting edge' yet supposedly functional designs for space-optimising furniture (thrilling, eh?), all via BoingBoing:

20 September, 2005

The taming of the screw

Someone's redesigned the screw.  Yes, the humble, so-simple-it-couldn't-be-improved-upon screw.
This is the sort of design work I really appreciate.

[Via Boing Boing.]

14 September, 2005

Familiar logo

As El Reg reports, the new "fresh, inviting, and open" logo of Quark is identical to that adopted by the Scottish Arts Council in 2001.  The only difference is that Quark's copy is in PANTONE 368, officially designated 'Quark Green'.

12 September, 2005

One step too far

A classic pocket watch which opens to reveal a sundial in one half and a compass (to align the sundial) in the other might be a fairly good idea.  Adding a tiny reproduction of Stonehenge to the sundial is a nice novelty, allowing the user to predict solstices.
However, the associated website is so overblown as to be just comical.

7 September, 2005


It doesn't have the same sociological elegance as the chewing gum target I mentioned yesterday, but this invention, a shower which recirculates used water, could be rather more revolutionary, especially as clean water becomes a scarcer commodity worldwide.

6 September, 2005

Worth trying?

I wonder whether this would work.

If people are going to spit out gum in the street, regardless of laws, incentives and campaigns, etc. - give them somewhere to do it.
[Via Boing Boing]

24 August, 2005

Something missing

Understandably mocked by Gizmodo, Sunblades are sunglasses without the, er, glasses.

17 August, 2005

Exotic guitars

Ulrich Teuffel's revolutionary guitar designs aren't entirely to my taste, but they're interesting and designed for optimum functionality and sound quality.  Whilst I can appreciate the craftsmanship, these, by Peter McGilton are primarily playable gimmicks.  Unlike Teuffel's, they don't redefine the instrument.

Don't misunderstand me: some (not all) of the novelty guitars look amusing.  It's just that for me, the music is all that matters.  If a modification doesn't improve playability or sound quality, don't bother with it.  I couldn't care less about 'showmanship', and any band using a twin-neck, dragon-styled guitar with an integral harp is not a band I'd choose to see.

12 August, 2005

Smart card

I'm about as impressed by this as were Lifehacker and the NY Times*.  The very best inventions are the simple ideas, which simplify one's life.

The memory card manufacturer Sandisk has produced a new model which plugs directly into a computer's USB port.  No USB between the camera and computer, no memory card reader  The card itself is 'about the size of a postage stamp', but a hinged section folds down to present just the essential contacts, omitting the bulky housing of a standard USB plug.

Wonderful idea.

8 August, 2005

That street art again

I expect everyone who's ever used a web browser has encountered a site displaying the same photos of curiously three-dimensional street art.  It's been mirrored and copied so often I couldn't guess which was the original URL.

Now there's a web page explaining a little about the pavement artist, Julian Beever, and his technique.  It's fairly obvious, though it hadn't occurred to me, that he uses anamorphosis i.e. the image on the ground is considerably distorted, but looks fine from one oblique angle.

16 July, 2005

An issue to address

This would probably qualify for This Is Broken, the archive of flawed user interface design [16/04/08:  Site dead, so link removed].  It's the Royal Mail's Postcode Finder utility; type in the address and hit 'Search' for the postcode, or switch to the Address Finder, type in the postcode and search the database for one of 27 million addresses.  Simple, and useful (if one hadn't been required to log in to even access it  – I used a fake Bugmenot ID, of course).

29 June, 2005

Right direction

A pair of swimming googles has been designed which projects elapsed time and number of laps onto the swimmer's field of vision.  I'm not overly concerned about my times, but it'd be liberating not to have to keep a conscious count of lengths, and I can imagine it being of real use to competitive swimmers in training.

The aspect which impresses me most is the technique by which the device increments the number of lengths.  When the swimmer enters the pool, he/she presses a 'start' button, thereby setting the direction of facing.  A compass in the unit then notes each time the direction changes by 180°.  Elegant simplicity.

25 June, 2005

Don't just paint what you see

Every Tuesday evening in the late 1970s and again since the 1990s, my mother has attended a painting 'class', not literally for tuition but as more of a social group.  Frankly, I think she took the painting itself more seriously in the early years, and my favourites of her paintings are from that period, but she still produces good ones.  She favours oils, for the textures achieveable (though I'd love to see more of the richly-detailed watercolours of which I know she's capable), even when a rich texture isn't really required*.

24 June, 2005


Gallery of improbable bikes (and trikes, and quads).

[Via Spinneyhead]

17 June, 2005

Space invaded

Space Invader, Prague. ©NRT'Space Invaders' is an unofficial street art project whereby small ceramic tiles are anonymously cemented to public buildings, displaying the pixellated villains of the 1978 video game.  It's not so much graffiti as guerrilla art, and the best examples blend into their surroundings.
Several cities around the world feature so many examples that maps to 'landing sites' have been produced, but they've infiltrated further than even the project's global home site seems aware; this one occupies a very prominent location in Prague.

Click on the image for a closer look.

12 June, 2005

What's wrong with Arial?

If you fancy a little Sunday afternoon amusement, have a look at this gloriously snobby article about 'The Scourge of Arial'.

The author acknowledges that the font is entirely suitable for its purpose: a standard, readable typeface for routine, not especially decorative, use.  However, he goes on to make essentially empty criticisms.

23 May, 2005

Of course!

Why has no-one ever thought of this before now?

Rotating electrical sockets.  If a bulky plug or transformer is blocking access to the other socket, twist it to a different angle.

This deserves to sell well.

2 May, 2005

Kiss it better

... with a mouth-shaped sticking plaster.

If that's a little too twee, how about slapping a rasher of bacon on that cut?

But whatever you do, don't think about the concept of a shower curtain decorated with pictures of meat.  Don't.

27 April, 2005


Needies are:

interactive plush dolls inspired by codependent, high-maintenance relationships.
Hug a Needie, and it'll flatter and sing to you.  However, if you pay attention to a different Needie, it'll whine and conspire against its rival.

[Via Gizmodo, but don't go there - stay here and pay attention to me!  ME!  Ahem.]

23 April, 2005

A fancy straw

If it wasn't for the fact that I drink negligible quantities of alcohol (less than a pint per week, and that's in batches of fewer than once per month), I'd quite like one of these: a fake Grolsch bottleneck (neck, shoulders and distinctive flip-top cap) which one could attach to a can of beer.

[Via Gizmodo]

14 April, 2005

They rise - a bit quicker

This is of minority interest, but if any other sculptors/painters of Games Workshop's 'Warhammer 40,000' miniatures are looking for a shortcut in generating Necron iconography, Glashaus Design offers a very suitable freeware font.

From the home page, click on 'Glashaus Fonts'.  The one you're looking for is 'Echolot'.

22 March, 2005


Ever prepared a rough 'sketch' (in Photoshop) of a logo, just intended to convey the concept to a client, then have the client simply use that rough as the finished item?

I was paid, so I shouldn't really worry about it, but I'm still annoyed to see unfinished work on posters, letterheads, websites, etc.  If I was so inclined, I might have been tempted to boast about my work achieving a degree of prominence, at least within a narrow market sector, but in this instance I'd rather stay anonymous.
Not one for the portfolio!

19 March, 2005

Odd product, odder advertising

It might seem a strange idea to fit a mp3 player into the ammunition magazine of an AK-47 assault rifle, but what I find even more bizarre is the way it's presented on the manufacturer's website.  The dubious benefit of using barely-dressed models (the 'Triple Kalashnikov Girls') is ruined by juxtaposing a gratuitous photo of a (covered) female crotch and a photo of some bearded, long-haired Russian ex-rock-star gnome peering myopically at the camera.

[Via Gizmodo]

16 March, 2005

Wake up!

I've already mentioned the ascending alarm clock, but Gizmodo links to two other effective, novel ones.
The first is somehow endearing: mounted in a furry cylinder, when one hits 'snooze, the clock rolls itself off the bedside table then goes and hides, in a different place each day.
The other sounds effective but probably annoying.  At the required time, it fires it's four-part 'off' button into the air.  One then has to find the segments and reassemble the button (it's a jigsaw) in order to stop the noise.

24 February, 2005

Refreshment on a bad day

I think I'll just quote Alizon on this one:

Want.  Want.  WANT!

22 February, 2005

More buggies

I covered much the same topic a couple of weeks ago, but the New York Times gives a few more examples of excess 'helpfulness' built, or rather programmed, into modern cars.
To be fair, some users do appreciate such features (as I said earlier, they'd just annoy me), but as the article explains, the car/manufacturer doesn't always know best, and customisation can be difficult.

17 February, 2005

Just run it under the tap

I seem to have been posting about slightly unusual household goods recently.  Must be a phase, as here's another (with a healthy return to despair and cynicism...).

When I was a child, I was taught that if I couldn't open a jar, running it under hot water would loosen the lid.  When I was a little older, this was supplemented by my mother's purchase of a plastic pad which improved one's grip on even a wet or greasy jar/lid.  It probably cost £1.

16 February, 2005

Dragged out of bed

This is a good idea.  The Sfera radio alarm clock hangs from the ceiling above the bed.  When it goes off in the morning, a quick tap triggers the snooze function but also causes the cord to retract, so that ten minutes later, one has to reach higher to gain a further snooze period.  It only stops when it reaches the ceiling, by which time one obviously has to get out of bed to turn it off.

[Via Core77]

4 February, 2005


Onkar Singh Kular has had a wonderful idea, creating:

... a set of mugs in each of 128 Pantone shades of brown so that each family member or co-worker can choose the mug corresponding to their favourite colour of tea.  Whenever a relative or colleague makes tea for them, they will be able to tell from the colour of the mug exactly how strong it should be and how much milk to add.
Now that's top design.

[Via Boing Boing]

4 February, 2005

Spring heels

spring heels

Incorporated into the design of all STRUTZ® footwear is a strut shock absorber.  This innovative concept in shoe design allows a persons body weight to be transferred from the heel to the ground.  This dampens the shock stress to the entire foot.
Innovative, maybe, but ugly.  To date, their online store only offers strappy sandals.  Gizmodo seems to agree with my immediate impression: "something so overtly mechanical integrated into something so dainty" just looks wrong, not to mention a bit chunky.

3 February, 2005

Floating links

An experiment for web designers: set the page background to bright red (#ff00cc - thanks for the correction, danbee!), body text to black (#000000) and links to cream (#ffffcc).  The immediate effect will probably be repulsion - it's far too violent a colour scheme.  However, try to read a block of text containing inline links, and after a few moments those links will seem to float above the plane of the page.  I've never encountered that 3D optical illusion before.

Might be useful; I just can't think where.

28 January, 2005

When it all gets too much...

... use your ScreamBody:

ScreamBody is a portable space for screaming. When a user needs to scream but is in a situation where it is just not permitted, ScreamBody silences the userís screams so they may feel free to vocalise without fear of environmental retaliation, and at the same time records the scream for later release where, when, and how the user chooses.
See the site for more, well, psychobabble.  Interesting concept, overstated rationale.

20 January, 2005


There's a poster outside Sainsburys at present, advertising a supposedly health-promoting live yoghurt:

Reduce your
[product image]
with vegetable extracts

Mm, cholesterol with vegetable extracts.  Yum!

7 December, 2004

Best kept in the dark

What is it about minimalist lingerie that inspires utterly pointless, tacky innovation?  Here's another in an ongoing series which demand the simple question "why?"

6 December, 2004

iPod socks

No.  Just no.  Not even if I owned an iPod.

30 November, 2004

You HAVE to be joking

These mousepads are ergonomic, and a valuable insight into contemporary Japanese culture - honest.

Not want.

[Via Boing Boing - don't say it]

26 November, 2004

Look at that!

I'm not sure why, but I've always found cutaway drawings fascinating.  It may be inherited from my father.
Hence, I was pleased to discover Kevin Hulsey's website, which not only displays excellent, photorealistic examples from his portfolio, it explains his (very laborious!) working methods (see the ocean liner).

17 September, 2004

Fetishising rodents

Microsoft have released a black leather IntelliMouse.  Want!

Damn.  That's just the name of the colour, unless the dark red version really is made of crimson fire.  Ow.

22 August, 2004

I'd rather you didn't

Following on from Monday's backless g-string, the 'Show Me' thong/necklace:

The jewel of lingerie: an innovating concept. In a twinkling of an eye, it changes itself into a lovely necklace. Seduction, sensuality, desire... the detachable jewels can be worn around the neck during the day and showing out of a trouser at night. This is the MUST HAVE for every trendy women in 2004.

19 August, 2004

Of course it's art

The graffiti artwork of Banksy.  I have major doubts about spray-painting live cattle and 'colouring-in' statues, but the rest of his work is excellent.

16 August, 2004

Seen it all?

This truly is a world of limitless ingenuity.  The backless g-string.  A concept so far ahead of its time that consumers mightn't even understand.

[Via Sal]

10 May, 2004

BBCi debranding

I see the BBC website has dropped the 'i' from its brand name: 'BBCi' has reverted to the rather more meaningful '', which is not only more intuitive but avoids the problem of people trying '', a minor but avoidable source of confusion.  The elimination of a superfluous brand name will presumably streamline links mentioned in broadcasts, too, as presenters will no longer have to refer the audiences to "BBCi at ''" for supplementary information.

22 January, 2004

Logo design trends

An overview of fifteen current trends in commercial logo design; not only useful for inspiration, but also a warning of what's becoming passe.

12 December, 2003

Logo RIP

Company logos don't last forever; fashions, ad campaigns, takeovers and company failures mean many well-known or influential logos are no longer with us.
Okay, this is a website promoting a book, and a lot of the 'meat' of the subject is presumably held back for its purchasers, but it's still an interesting taste.  I remember the circumstances surrounding the loss of some of these logos, others have personal significance, and I hadn't realised some had gone!

4 December, 2003

Everyday genius

Mildly interesting promotional site at Honda UK, where visitors are asked to vote on the most influential (I think - it's not specified) of ten shortlisted everyday items: can opener; ballpoint pen; stapler; tap; zip; corkscrew; bra; teabag; light bulb; toilet.
Which do you regard as the most important/most influential on everyday life?

Site Home Tull Tour History Annotated Passion Play
Day in the life... Page design and original graphics © NRT, 2003