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Homegrown design talent

Ireland a graphic design infant, excited and enthusiastic but lacking the stature of accomplished talent that can write, teach and run a commercial practice that can be internationally acclaimed.

Well our time has come as one of our own, an old college classmate has just become the first Irish Designer to be elected to the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale), David Smith of Atelier has taken a giant leap into the world of international design and now sits with legendary international designers such as Dunbar, Bilak, Niemann, Brockman, Sagmeister and many, many more. David will now take on the role as ambassador to increase an awareness of AGI and its aspirations in Ireland. Well done Dave, I am sincerely proud.

Here is a video of David’s work as presented at this year’s Offset conference.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/17079679 w=620&h=349]

They used to be 2 foot long

There I am getting stuck into a cup of tea with my mate and he asks, “so, what do you fancy with your tea?” Anything chocolaty, I reply. Out he comes and hands me a Curly Wurly. “Where’s the rest of it I ask him ?”, “I remember when these were 2 foot long ! This then sparks of a long conversation about how bigger things were ‘back in the day’ and how everything around us seems to be getting smaller. This especially noticeable in the confectionery and technology departments.

So, I thought I’d make an observation or ‘Blogservation’ today on how everyday things around us are getting smaller. Enjoy.

Music on the Go
We’ve all been there, thinking we were really cool with our ‘Cassette Walkman‘ and dodgy looking earphones, that looked more like ear muffs! This then progressing to the ‘CD Discman’, now these were great. Better sound quality, the ability to flick directly to your next track (Wow !). The only problem with the Discman was that it looked a little dodgy shoved down your jeans pocket and the slightest sneeze or bump would make your ‘Duran Duran – Greatest Hits’ skip. Then came the ‘Mini-Disc’ player. . .and that’s enough said on that. So on to the present day and welcome to the Digital Revolution. Although there are many mp3 players available, the iPod range seems to be way ahead in the market and look how small they’re getting. Fits in your pocket, thousands of songs to flick through and you can do cart-wheels until the cows come home and your music will play without skipping. This technology had been getting smaller and smaller, but I have to say I’ve noticed a few ‘Hipsters‘ around sporting the ‘Walkman’, but we’ll leave that to the hipsters.

What’s that at the back of the TV ?
The television has been and still is a big part of all our lives and it certainly was in mine. I’ll never forget the first TV I got back in the 90′s, a “12 Channel”, 15″ Philips. Even though you could only get 3 or 4 channels back then, I was made up, plus, I got some exercise walking from my bed to the TV to change the channels. Well over the years the TV has had some dramatic changes, the most obvious change acknowledged by my 7 year old nephew when he asks me, “What’s that at the back of the TV ?”, referring to the large dust covered hump on an old TV in our spare room. So now the TV no longer takes up a whole corner of the living room, with its big rear-end gathering dust, now your 50” screen, 2″ thick, Full HD sits proudly on your wall, like a famous painting in an art gallery. . .plus you don’t have to move from the couch anymore to change over to ‘Network 2′.The used to be 2 foot long !

So we all know the Universe is expanding, but that’s not the case when it comes to our childhood confectionery delights. And not even the Candy Man can help us out on this one. Take the ‘Curly Wurly’, ‘Wagon Wheel‘, ‘Creme Egg’ and even the old ‘Mars Bar’. What has happened to the size over the years? They were HUGE !! Now, granted that when I was a child eating a Curly Wurly, I was a lot smaller, but as people who know me will tell you I haven’t grown much since, so this is definitely something that I would notice. I also noticed this when tucking into a packet of King crisps. These days the crisp packet has more air packed into the packet then crisps.

On reflection though, we complain everyday (especially in the office) about how much junk we’re eating. So it may be a good thing that our favourite childhood treats are being cut down in portion-size after all. . . now where did I put that Curly Wurly !?

Pivot : Tender bid in motion

I wrote a blog back in October about the World Design Capital that focused around the question of bidding for the 2014 programme and since then a decision was taken by Ali Grehan and her team to move forward issue an RTF, assess consortium entries, interview and choose a team.

Well done, Bob Gray of Red and Grey Design a close friend and family relation of evolve, who as part of the successful group that won the contract to create the tender bid for the World Design Capital 2014. We are an industry lead by deadlines but given the task in hand, the scope and inclusion necessary this deadline is still an arduous one. I am confident that in hands of the successful tender team with the heart of the matter in mind our bid will be a worthy one, that will leave us with the building blocks of a more connected design community.

I was in Australia earlier this year and stumbled apon a little gem of a book the Melbourne Design Guide a very informative design led piece, which led me to a website www.designvic.com which is a Victorian Government initiative delivered by RMIT University in collaboration with industry stakeholders to increase the competitive skills of designers in local and export markets, while developing the design innovation and excellence capabilities of small to medium enterprises in Victoria.

The main goals of this initiative are to create: innovative Victorian Industries, where design is a value driver underpinning; a more creative and commercial design sector; and new markets for Victorian design and designers.

They use Business Ready and Design Ready programs, Design Victoria partners with leading professional associations, business experts, peak industry groups and associations, tertiary education institutions and government to achieve the highest standard of outcomes.

With this bid, we are one step closer to establishing a model similar to that in Melbourne, let’s keep the focus and put some real building blocks in place and develop the design community that we all crave for, diverse, layered and connected.

Why the Smartphone Market is not all about iPhone

If you’re a smartphone user in Ireland, the odds of you owning a iPhone is 7 in every 10, which is, by any standards is the market leader by a long way. So you may be like one of a few friends that lately I have heard questioning other people who didn’t buy a iPhone, but instead, decided on a Blackberry [RIM] or Android based smartphone. Now, I can’t talk too much here as I am an owner of an iPhone, mainly due to my old LG smartphone dying a death and because of my impatience in waiting for my mobile network to re-stock a certain HTC.

Peoples individuality will always have a factor in purchasing smartphones, but iOS has growing competition from Android, RIM and Symbian platforms and over the christmas period, Windows 7. So I’m in the majority, but have spent my working life in an minority – that is, using Apple Macs. In using a Mac for the past ten years, certain softwares have been left in isolation from its OS, but more specifically in the field of web design for its minor market OS system browsers. This is not as big a problem as it use to be, but its still something that bemuses, especially when you come across some well know websites that just sloppy programming on Safari/Firefox/Chrome and Opera for Mac.

When programming sites for launch these are the browsers that our testing begins in. Normally if everything is ok in these your pretty sure it’ll run 95% on all other browsers. Then we cross testing on a PC as the site develops, testing in Internet Explorer 7/8/9 [don't get me started], Firefox, Chrome and Opera, de-bugging any errors. You will never get it completely 100% for ever browser but you can close it down little by little so the majority of users will not have issues.

But what’s this to do with smartphones? Well designing websites for mobiles is bespoke to a clients budget; if you can afford a lighter version of a site, or if your target market requires this, along with various other considerations, then it’s worth looking into. But the majority of smartphones have no issues with viewing sites due to the smartness of their browser OS [We'll not mention the iPhone flash content issue...].

The biggest market for smartphones is Apps, and this is where companies and their design partners must look to future smartphone sales in order to avoid isolating users. Recently in a meeting about design and developing an App, in a discussion for having a cross OS App, I was a little confused and taken aback when one developer told me that the Android/Symbian market wasn’t of interest, as the iPhone dominated the Irish market.

Global Top 8 Mobile OS: Oct 09 to Oct 10. Source Statcounter.

But 30% of smartphone users do not use a iPhone. This is still a big chunk and in isolating this market, in the end, your business could suffer from these growing platforms. If you look at the global mobile OS platforms, iPhone has only 22% of the market, dropping from nearly 34% in February of this year. Currently, the growing global mobile OS platforms are Rim [Blackberry] and Android.

Happily, the developer friend has had a change of heart and has since started looking into developing for those markets. These mobile OS platforms, like with the global market, will make headway into the iPhones Irish market domination. Having your business prepared and aligned with the correct partners in developing applications for this will be a crucial over the coming year.

Crowdsourcing, where is the big idea?

In 2008 a friend pointed me to a site called 99designs. The site’s purpose is to provide design solutions through open competition. A client proposes a brief and sets a ‘prize’, designers then submit concepts to compete for this ‘prize’ with one design taking the winnings.

Back then I thought it was just spec work on a larger scale, and presumed the demand for good design and good business practice would keep sites like this to a mere annoyance. Sadly, 2 years later, the term ‘crowdsourcing’ is now part of our lexicon and high profile crowdsourcing campaigns are increasingly being unleashed on the world.

Last year Unilever ditched Lowe as their Peperami brand handler in favour of crowdsourcing. The brief for the ad was posted online by Crowdsourcing specialists Idea Bounty with a $10,000 prize for the winning idea. Anyone could enter. The winning idea was aired last month.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vRJWpDakA8&w=610&h=368]

According to Matt Burgess, Peperami managing director, “Today’s consumers are looking for new levels of brand engagement and this experiment shows that for the right brand, such as Peperami, crowdsourcing can be an excellent vehicle for creative consumer interaction.” But I think the competition (which was ultimately won by two advertising creatives who shared the prize) lacked the big new idea Unilever and Idea Bounty were hoping for. To me its a mildly humorous retread of the classic Lintas work of the 90s. It seems Peperami has Crowdsourced creative ideas for an already strong brand and advertising style, so the creative agency had already done all the hard work and the client saves considerably by letting the public contribute the last piece.

Only 1,185 entered the Peperami competition though, perhaps due to the extent of the input required, too much hard work for some? Well in August, more than 1.6 million votes were cast to decide the outcome of the BT Jane and Adam storyline cliffhanger, with 70% voting for Jane to be pregnant. Created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the new ad continues the story arc that began with actors Kris Marshall and Esther Hall back in 2005. Perhaps BT’s crowdsource success was due to their short, swift television and Facebook campaign, or perhaps the lack of imagination required by the general public did it (seriously, watching the preceding ads, what else was the public going to decide their fate to be?).

More recently I hear Gap are to crowdsource their logo after the social media backlash against the rubbish they released last month. Their actions reek of “we’re afraid of the public, so we’ll let them take over”.

And it gets more surreal, today I read that Durex plan to launch a crowd sourcing campaign despite every art director and creative the world over having a great durex ad idea up their sleeve. The most worrying part of this free pitch request is the prize “The winner of the competition receives £2,000 and the spot will air on MTV.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against new methods of creativity, I know a social collective brings innovation, and the benefits to the client are obvious- casting an enormous net to pick and choose the fish they catch. But the ready availability of cheap media tools with the greater demand for quick turnover creates a supply of low quality work. As Eric Hillerns’ commented on the pro-crowd sourcing polemic in Forbes Jan 2009 “A CAD program does not make me an architect and a copy of QuickBooks does not make me an accountant…”.

This form of spec work is not going away, in fact as we’ve seen in the last year crowdsourcing is rapidly migrating from the fringe to the mainstream and the potential to damage the design industry could be significant. I recommend reading this article which details 6 reasons crowdsourcing is a bad idea, but to summarise:
• It’s not a productive use of time
• It’s not good for long-term business relationships
• It kills creativity
• It can hurt brand reputation
• It generally results in poor work

I think the design and advertising industry have a responsibility to stand up for our craft, to educate our clients and the public of the importance of good, quality design over the quick and the cheap. As designer and architect Barry Sheehan said to the Irish Times this week “Design is a crucial part of the economy, but it’s often portrayed as superficial, a luxury, rather than something at the core of everything we do”. At a critical time like this, lets not shoot ourselves in the foot by jumping on the crowdsourcing bandwagon.

Mac App Store: Yeah Or Neah?

Following the announcement last week of the Mac App Store, an upcoming centralised location for downloading new Mac programs, we’ve had a bit of time to analyze what this means for apps as well as software going forward, plus the pros and cons for developers.

The App Store for iOS [iPod, iPhone, iPad] has been a overwhelming success for Apple, with more than 7 billion downloads in little more than two years. The App Store is successful because it makes it easy to discover apps, easy to update apps and easy to get apps on all your iOS devices. This is what Apple will be bringing to the new OS Lion Mac App Store.

So why are Apple bringing Apps to the Mac now? Well the iPod and iPhone is a mass market device, and dominate a large segment of their markets. Mac’s segment isn’t so impressive, with around 3.6% of the world market share according to estimates. So in truth, the Mac has yet to reach its full potential. Can an Mac Apps store help it gain in market share? In launching the store within iTunes, Apple can tease their iOS users with thousands of Mac apps.

Shop window for developers
This shop window will also entice developers, with Apple already encouraging developers to prepare to submit applications in November. There are numerous excellent software applications for Mac that are literally unknown and the Mac App store could work wonders for many a developer.

Developers will receive the same 70/30 split with Apple for their commercial apps, something that may either strike application developers as a good move [Espresso?] or a bad move [Adobe?], depending on their market segment and budgets.

Initially the Mac App store will just be a distribution option. You will still be able to install non Apple-approved software on the Mac.

But will this always stay the case or will the process change? Will Apple eventually lock down the Mac, so the only software allowed to run on the system is Apple approved? Then what? Will other manufacturers such as Dell, HP etc. follow suit? Will App stores pop up across the web?

Or maybe perhaps we’ll all realise that the web is ‘the’ App Store, and revert back to web apps, undermining the whole concept? Apple doesn’t allow plug-ins in the App store. This would channel out mainstream applications such as Firefox and for a vast amount of Mac users, the Adobe Suite. So what would happen to these applications in the long term and how will Apple deal with updates and application backup?

So, Yeah Or Neah?
On the surface at least, it seems a Mac App Store would be good for developers, consumers and, of course, Apple itself. But a negative aspect to it would be that it creates yet another wall that goes against the grain of the open web. It could also spark new conflicts between Apple and the developers with their strict rules and lengthy processes for Apps.

We’ll have to wait and see how this one pans out. Is it all a bit too ‘1984‘? We’re still over two months away from the opening of the store. Many additional details will be heard between now and then, hopefully some clarity will come from this.

What is RSS and how do I subscribe to an RSS feed?

Since the launch of this blog a few months back we have received a few emails and phone calls from people asking what is an RSS feed and how do I use it? So firstly, I’ll explain what an RSS feed is; the second part [using one] can be a little less straightforward. Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin.

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site’s email newsletter.

What do I need to do to read an RSS Feed? RSS Feed Readers and News Aggregators
Feed Reader or News Aggregator software allow you to grab the RSS feeds from various sites and display them for you to read and use.

A variety of RSS Readers are available for different platforms. Some popular feed readers include FeedReader (Windows), NewsGator (Windows – integrates with Outlook) and FeedMyInbox. There are also a number of web-based feed readers available. My Yahoo, Bloglines, and Google Reader are popular web-based feed readers.

The majority of browsers also allow you to add RSS feeds to your bookmarks [Firefox, Safari etc.].

Once you have your Feed Reader, it is a matter of finding sites that syndicate content [like our blog!] and adding their RSS feed to the list of feeds your Feed Reader checks. Many sites display a small icon with the acronyms RSS, XML, or RDF to let you know a feed is available.

MetaMirror

mirror2 MetaMirror

Meta Mirror, designed by Notion, is a concept visualising the perfect interactive TV platform for users (Internet Protocol Television – IPTV). The Meta Mirror, in concept phase at present, would use software downloaded on a tablet, smartphone or laptop, and display contextual information over a mirror of the television broadcast.

So, how would it work? Here are three senarios from the guys at Notion:

For sports the main screen is dedicated to the game/match in question. Real time statistics of the game, together with twitter updates and other scores of the viewers choice are all overlayed on the device running MetaMirror. In addition, new forms of online betting / merchandising / purchasing are enabled.

In lifestyle programming tagged objects, in this case ingredients, become clickable. This in combination with 3rd party supermarket plugins makes putting together shopping baskets simple.

Music broadcasts are enriched by track names, album details and further artist information. Direct links to iTunes, Ticketmaster, Wikipedia and broadcasters music websites allow viewers to delve further into the music on screen. As smart object recognition becomes more commonplace, instruments are tagged automatically.

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a quickly growing segment of the market. Google, for example, has come out with a service called GoogleTV. This internet-based platform works as an entertainment hub on your television screen. It searches your TV channels and the internet for what a user wants to watch. IPTV, according to statistics,  will be in 14 million homes by the year 2014.

A really interesting and innovative concept, the potential of this up-and-coming technology is infinite.

Robert Hod: Wired Magazine

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=13947721&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=ae1317&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Robert was commissioned by Wired Magazine to create a feature illustration for issue number 18:08. They were particularly interested in the aesthetic of Roberts Addition Subtraction Project, using the issue number itself to maintain the feel of the original inspiration.

The project went through many different looks. My original idea was to try to make the gravitational and orbital forces mold the digits out of a sea of particles. The initial studies were pretty positive but the leading ‘1′ digit was proving to be problematic. The ‘8′ and ‘0′ were fine because they were simple forms made of circles. Spinning an attractive force did a good job of creating the rounder digits but I was struggling with the ‘1′.

I went with an entirely different approach (which was eventually rejected) for a while. I created gravitation depressions where the digits forms were and flooded the scene with force particles. The forces repulsed each other but were drawn into the digits and spread out to create the 18.08. I then flooded the scene with particles and let them do what the forces instructed, much like in the Addition Subtraction project. I was rather fond of the result but it deviated from the original inspiration too much so we ended up going back to the original idea.

You can read more about the project here.