Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Film Critic Sandwich (Day 84)

Linder Sterling collage

Linder Sterling collage

A big BAFTA day today – not so much for the film award nominations which were announced this morning, which were pretty predictable, although why American Hustle is doing so well baffles me (and I’m a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook), but for the fact I had a very interesting and enjoyable day working there. On arrival at 195 Piccadilly I had a lovely chat with Mark Kermode – we know one another from school but haven’t met properly for ages, since I was doing some film reviewing after leaving university and we crossed paths at movie screenings. He was sympathetically encouraging as he explained how long it took him to write his three books in terms of words per month, which went over my head a bit as I haven’t been thinking in those terms (deliberately).

From the off I ran across a variety of colleagues, some ex-Channel 4, most C4 related, from the producer of Fresh Meat to a former Head of Interactive at the Channel who kindly offered an intro to a literary agent. So a jolly time all round.

Work began with an interview of the super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett, close friend of Peter Saville and fellow graduate of the Manchester Post-Punk scene, who came to prominence through his fresh designs for the Buzzcocks record sleeves. The record that got me into Punk was the Buzzcocks What Do I Get? single (which sadly did not have Malcolm’s sleeve on it when I bought a copy at Smiths in Chichester, but which lead me to his beautiful silver and day-glo orange cover for their Another Music in a Different Kitchen LP which I got given that Christmas). We talked about Tony Wilson and Factory, with whom he worked and hung out a bit, and about the prospects for creatives from the North and regions, a lovely wide-ranging interview-cum-chat.

Then back to the writing where, having taken my only working day away from it since starting on 1st September yesterday to do some personal admin etc., I had a bit of a break-through in terms of structure. Material I had been planning to integrate into the case studies I now realise would be better and more easily included interleaved between the chapters. I came to this realisation when I went back to add to the short intro I wrote a while back. The argument of the intro was tight and didn’t allow for any insertion without breaking the flow so I tried the additional material I wanted to insert as a short piece between Chapters 1 and 2 and that worked, so I am now going to site all the contemporary and personal reflections between chapters not woven into them. This will keep the narrative flowing and clear and avoid any confusion of timeline.

Next up was a meeting about one of the spin-off projects and then I headed for home. As I walked down the stairs I passed Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) on the landing and then Mrs Hudson herself (Una Stubbs), who was so polite that she was worried she had pushed in front of me when I was having a quick conversation with one of the receptionists. The days of Alf Garnett and Rita Rawlins are clearly long gone as she appears very much like Mrs H incarnate. I deduce some Sherlock event was going on.

When I got off the tube I bumped into Bob McCabe, author of Harry Potter: Page to Screen, co-writer of The Python’s Autobiography and a bunch of Monty Python related titles. He’s just launched a new movie-related site The Last Word on Earth. So the day has a pleasing circularity.

design by Malcolm Garrett

design by Malcolm Garrett

Deep Joy (Day 55)

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville tattoo

New week, new chapter. After a lot of focus on the Literature/Ginsberg chapter last week, I felt the need to strike out into new territory so dived into the 24 Hour Party world of Tony Wilson and Factory Records. Where myth begins and reality ends needs a good deal of attention, and in clarifying that I hope to reaffirm that for all the ‘prat’s, ‘cunt’s, ‘wanker’s that were lobbed his way, his enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the music, creativity and city were a significant contribution. I put together the chapter outline around the principle of Being Your True Self whether that’s as an individual creative, a city or an emerging talent from the regions.

Tidying up loose ends from last week I spend some time corresponding with some friends of Ginsberg in New York and his very helpful estate. I rounded off the emailing session by venturing into new realms and contacting a music impresario from Northern Ireland whom I want to interview for this new chapter. All being well, an interviews trip to Belfast will be needed next month.

At lunchtime I sat down to watch Grant Gee’s (no relation) film about Joy Division to get me in the mood. I had a chat with Grant in a lift last week in Copenhagen where he was pitching a film about Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. He’s also made a documentary about WG Sebald which I’d love to catch (I couldn’t make the screening they did in Aldeburgh on its release much though I would have loved to – Rings of Saturn sits on the Shelf of Honour). I hope to catch up with Grant in the next few weeks at his South coast base (when I’ll also visit Oisin Lunny, who I had the pleasure of meeting on the Subterranean Homesick Blues morning). So the film got me suitably fired up, reminding me of the one time I saw Joy Division live at the Lyceum (a few hundred yards from the Subterranean Homesick Blues cul de sac).

So I got back to the typewriter-substitute, whacked on Atmosphere, and began sketching out the new chapter. One thing I learnt during the afternoon that I hadn’t known was that the band themselves found the source image for the cover of Unknown Pleasures and gave it to Pete Saville to work with. They got it from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy of all places. It now deserves a place in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Creative Alchemy.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy source image for Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

 

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

Bright Sparks (Day 28)

Finger spark

The day was focused on meeting the head of a London art school for advice on Design candidates and also to explore whether this project and the subject of catalysing creativity through openness, generosity, sharing and altruism is of interest to his institution and how that interface might work. We had lunch in Kipferl at The Angel, an Austrian restaurant which we’re both fond of. He felt it would be useful to have a term for the type of person I’m writing about. I did have one I was trying on for size at the outset – Bright Sparks – but I felt the phrase has too much baggage. It’s derived from a passage in the Surrealist Manifesto by Andre Breton which talks about the creative spark which happens when things that don’t normally belong together are combined in an innovative way.

The rest of the day I spent reading about the scientific/evolutionary explanation for Altruism and Co-operation.

ORF idents

 

London Lineage

From being born at one of London’s highest points to tapping these very words beside one of its secret oases, my whole life has rolled out along the Northern Line so this evening I had a stab at mapping it…

My Northern Line

4 differences between a podcast and a radio programme

At the one day Future:Content conference put on this week by London design outfit It’s Nice That the medium of Audio was covered by Francesca Panetta of The Guardian (podcasts) and (in her spare time) Hackney Podcast. Listening to a recent podcast of hers capturing Hackney at night I was reflecting – being a huge lover of radio (I listen to over 20 hours a week) – on what’s the difference between a podcast and a radio programme…

  1. A podcast does not have to fill airtime or a specific slot length – that means the subject-matter can define the shape of the content
  2. It does not have to appear with the exact regularity of, say, a weekly slot – so you could make more of an event of its appearance
  3. You have deliberately chosen to listen to a podcast, it’s not background or encountered by chance
  4. One that Francesca placed great emphasis on, a podcast is usually right in your ears (i.e. often they are consumed on earphones) – so sound design is that much more important and impactful.

I’ve made some radio in my time, some arts and music stuff for BBC World Service and Radio 2 with a variety of inspiring people from John Peel (on vinyl/records) to Jonathan Miller (on mirrors in the arts), loved the experience of that very special medium, and really want to carve out some time to do a bit of podcasting this coming year. I also want to pick up again on my Songlines project from next month.

I was covering Future:TV on the day. I focused on the re-socialising of TV through social media. It was an honour to be sandwiched between designer Neville Brody and Deyan Sudjic, Director of The Design Museum. I’ve had Deyan’s book Cult Objects on my bookshelf since 1987 and taking it out again on the eve of the conference it looked very much like a product of the 80s with its watches and pens, Filofaxes and objects of sleek matt blackness. My beloved Olympus XA2 pocket camera features on page 63, a happy matt black blast from the past, haven’t seen it around the house in a dog’s age. (Nor for that matter have I seen my copies of issues 1 to 10 of The Face, but they’re bound to be in the attic.)

Neville Brody arrived fresh from the student cuts demo in and around Westminster. He showed photos he’d just taken, including a placard saying “I still hate Thatcher” (also very 80s) which brought a smile to the lips. He reflected on how the current student generation has forgotten how to get angry and protest, how the day’s events felt like some kind of reawakening, and he brought with him an old school energy and rage at the assault on the Future:Contentmakers, the designers and artists of tomorrow. There’s something not right, was my first thought of the day as I walked down to the tube heading for the gathering at Shoreditch Studios for a day of interesting reflections on where Content is going, not right at all about addressing a problem of excessive debt by starting people out in life with excessive debt. The student fees question has brought out the worst in the LibDems (speaking as one who helped vote them in, in as much as they were voted in). It came out yesterday that, as Chief of Staff, Danny Alexander wrote about putting “clear yellow water” between the LibDems and the other parties on the issue of student fees – did he forget that clear yellow water is otherwise known as a streak of piss?

 

Future:Content summarised on It’s Nice That design blog

MindGym

Hooked up the other day, after a dog’s age, with designmeister Jason Loader (who has just set up on his own as Yeah Love). We made MindGym together way back when – a game about creative thinking. Jason has been kind (and patient) enough over the weekend to dig out some of the old design assets from a moribund machine…

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: Spy sim

MindGym: Spy sim

There are some more here

All these 3D environments were designed by Jason Loader (at a time when they typically took over 18 hours to render, so a bit on the frustrating side if you didn’t get it right first time).  MindGym was a concept I came up with at Melrose Film Productions in the wake of making a series of films about Creativity.  I nicked the title from Lenin or one of those Ruskies, who used the term with reference to chess. So Jason and I started work on it, then the pair of us hooked up with NoHo Digital to realise a bastard creation of great energy. Rob Bevan (now at XPT) did the interface design and programming, skilfully combining this kind of rich 3D with elegant 2D inspired by You Don’t Know Jack. His creative partner Tim Wright led the writing team – him, Ben Miller and me – it was a comic script with serious stuff underlying the gags. I couldn’t help chuckling recently when I heard someone refer to Rob & Tim as the Jagger & Richards of new media. Talking of which, Nigel Harris did the music and sound design – excellent audio was one of our explicit creative goals, again inspired by YDK Jack. And talking of Jack the lads, Paul Canty (now of Preloaded) and Mike Saunders (Kew Digital), who were just starting out, were also among the production team. The studio was infested with red ants (possibly flesh-eating), but it didn’t distract us from the task at hand…

Day 1 – US / UK remix

A formula for the future:

US Optimism and Can-Do

+

British Pluck and Make-Do

Poster from WW2

Poster from WW2

= a +ve, progressive way forward

A good place to start (this side of the water): www.landshare.net

What’s pumping the nads of the telly industry?

Here’s a nice little piece from the new issue of the cracking 4Talent magazine. It’s come along way over the 9 issues to date, evolving out of Ten4 magazine based in the West Midlands to become the nationwide contender it is now. This issue’s gorgeous cover in Burne-Jones colours is designed by London-based Slovakian designer Petra Stefankova, one of the winners of last year’s 4Talent Awards (for which I had the honour of presenting the New Media award).

cover of 4Talent magazine

Adam Gee: New Media Factual

“I have an upcoming project, codename Sam I Am. I’m busting to tell you about it but I can’t yet [Update SP4 readers: it soft launched today, hence the link]; it’s necessarily under wraps. It’s a very entertaining concept and interactive experience which still manages to convey a substantial meaning – in this case about the diversity of Islamic culture, and the narrowness of most of our experience and understanding of it.

The commission I’m most proud of: The Big Art Mob. It applies new technology and media behaviours to a worthwhile public task: mapping the best of Public Art (from bronze geezers on horses to Banksys) across the UK. Interested people from all around the country and beyond (we’re big in Brazil) are photographing artworks on their mobiles and uploading them to the map, having a good online natter about arty stuff along the way. You can interact wherever you are – I’m particularly proud of the WAP (mobile) site at bigartmob.com/mobile. It’s been nominated for 3 Baftas alongside the likes of the iPlayer and Dr Who, so it’s punching above its weight in true C4 stylee.

In the way that Big Art Mob finds a worthwhile purpose for moblogging (mobile blogging) I want to find missions and purposes for other emerging interactive tools and technologies like, say, Twitter – in itself geek masturbation and possibly the end of civilisation as we know it, with a creatively conceived context perhaps something exceedingly good.

I’ve spent the last 5 years at Channel 4 exploring what public service means in a digital world – from Big Dig to Big Art Project, and one or two projects that don’t even have ‘Big’ in the title like Picture This and Empire’s Children. But Big is important: ambition, scale and impact are all vital.

Cross-platform and interactive media is what’s pumping the nads* of the telly industry right now, and it’s vital to its future. All the creative and entrepreneurial energy is welling up in these areas and Channel 4 is ready for action.”

* [John Bender is absently tearing up books]
Andrew Clark: That’s real intelligent.
John Bender: You’re right. It’s wrong to destroy literature. It’s such fun to read. And…
[examines title] …Moe-Lay really pumps my nads.
Claire Standish: Moliere!

Human Footprint

Calculate your human footprint now

Skin Up

The Big 4

The blue wrap came off. The Big 4 saw the light of day. A real buzz was released into the air around the Channel. Big Art, bold creativity.

The Minister for Culture Margaret Hodge unveiled the 40’ high figure four based on those much admired idents on Channel 4. On the approach to the Channel’s Richard Rogers designed headquarters in Horseferry Road (London SW1), the 4 stands three and a bit storeys high. The structure forms a figure four only from a particular angle, just like the on-screen idents masterminded by Brett Foraker. The concept of the TV graphics is that the four only comes together for a fleeting moment. So, strictly speaking, the Big 4 should be viewed walking by, no stopping.

The structure has been skinned by leading British photographer Nick Knight. He is the first of four artists to tackle the task over the coming year. His approach: skin the figure with images of people’s hearts – from the outside. White skin, black skin, brown skin, the patchwork that is modern Britain. Stand in the middle and you can hear the beating of a heart.

In three months it will be the turn of Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, and then the marvellous Mark Titchner. The last skinner will be the winner of a competition run in conjunction with the Saatchi Gallery.

The Big 4 celebrates 25 years of Channel 4 Arts and the launch of the Big Art Project – an innovative, bold cross-platform initiative involving a 4 part documentary series from Carbon Media, the commissioning of 6 new works of public art across the UK – from Beckton to the Isle of Mull, and the first comprehensive map of public art in the UK in the form of the Big Art Mob – a mobile blogging initiative where people photograph public art they know and love and send it from their camera phone into a visually led blog and a Google Map mash-up, the Big Art Map.

Today I had a meeting at the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association with its Chief Executive Jo Darke to make sure the Big Art Mob complements what the Courtauld Institute-based research project has been doing. We (Jo, me and sculptor Nick Pearson) had a fabulous chat in a tranquil corner of Somerset House animated with passion for public art. What I so love about this interactive commission is it’s so adaptable to partnership initiatives. From arts & disability groups to the Arts Council, from Kew to specific creations like Aluna, Big Art Mob is an easy, accessible way to record, explore, enjoy, engage with public art in all its forms.

The day before the unveiling Montreal-based Mexican-Canadian multimedia artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer revealed his idea for the Big Art piece in Cardigan on the Welsh coast to the local community. Home of the first Eisteddfod, hub of the oral tradition; point of departure for America in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Lozano-Hemmer has really got under the skin of the place and distilled in a work based on buoys floating just off the river bank, collecting and projecting back the voices of the local population and interested people beyond.

There’s 2,800 job cuts being discussed at the BBC today. That’s over three times the size of Channel 4. What the Channel lacks in bulk, it makes up for in size of ambition, degree of creativity and scale of idea. Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog. Between Saturday’s unbelievable England rugby match in Paris and yesterday’s unveiling of the Big 4, I’m totally c!h!a!r!g!e!d.

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