• Sagrada Família Barcelona

    Sagrada Família Barcelona

    Work on the Sagrada Família started in 1882 using the conventional neo-Gothic designs of Francisco de Paula del Villar. The work was handed over to Antoni Gaudí who worked on it for the next 4 decades.

    This is a truly awe inspiring temple and inspired by a deep seated faith. With its impossibly tall columns representing trees and arches for branches, the interior is a sort of homage to the natural world.

    The organic and natural curvature of the arches and stone work is a hallmark of Gaudí’s architectural style. While we revel in Gaudí’s indomitable signature curves and shapes, we forget that in order or achieve them, he was an accomplished structural engineer. The imposing mosaic stained glass windows are typical of the exuberant flashes of colour seen in much of his architecture. Natural light pours in and is diffused over the light coloured stonework.

    Sagrada Família is not a cathedral though it was elevated to the status of a “minor basilica” when Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the unfinished church in 2010. Today, although still in construction after 133 years, it attracts three million visitors annually. It is scheduled for completion in 2026, to celebrate the centennial of the architect’s death.

  • Wearable technology – its application and implication

    Wearable technology – its application and implication

    I’ll state with reasonable confidence that this decade’s newest fad is officially wearable technology. I say ‘fad’, but clearly I’m doing the wearable tech industry a huge disservice, because the fact is the value of this sector globally is forecast to be worth nearly 6 billion US Dollars in 2018 1.

    It’s a compelling statistic but hardly a bolt from the blue. How many people do you know wear smart watches, Fitbit bands or something of that ilk? It’s likely we all know someone who uses a wearble if we don’t own a product ourselves. For the record, I don’t have a wearable, but my LG phone does monitor my steps, which incidentally, is as relevant to me as knowing how many times I blink on a given day! Even as a digital designer I regard myself as a ‘late adopter’, no matter how fancy the brand name is and these names are inventive . . .

    Fitbit Flex, Vivofit Wireless, Polar Loop, Withings Pulse Ox Activity, Jawbone Large UP – to name a few interesting brand names for wearable wrist bands dedicated to monitoring people’s lives.

    From tracking steps and distance to calories burned and quality of sleep, there seems to be an explosion of wearable tech that is carving its way with alarming speed into the fabric of our everyday existence. And we seem to be lapping it up with care-free abandon, because it gives us a means to measure ourselves and make a positive change. Or does it? As a designer, I’m curious to know three things:

    1. Just how pervasive is wearable technology?
    2. How useful is the data?
    3. And, what are the implications for privacy?

    How pervasive is wearable tech?

    Wearables come packed with sensors, monitoring temperature, heart rate, blood glucose levels and your location via GPS. This data can easily start to build a personal profile relating to lifestyle choices and habits. They are designed to give unprecedented levels of details relating to individual performance.

    Their application is widespread in professional sports and is now becoming more accessible to the masses. Take tennis, for example. It’s a sport where the traditional TV medium has fanatically pushed statistics, during and after matches. Professional sports men and women have been ‘stats-fed’ for years, but now the average Joe has the means to access key metrics about themselves.

    As a keen tennis player I’m fascinated by the possibilities of match statistics. The tennis racquet manufacturer Babolat is currently leading the way with their Babolat Play sensor equipped racquets2. It interfaces with a mobile app UI and enables players to access data such as their fastest serve, ball spin rate in RPM, ball impact locator, average ball speed on both forehand and backhands, longest rally and even a rating on technique.

    For players who don’t own a Babolat racquet there are other standalone devices that can be attached to a racket for much the same sort of data. Now the game is more than about just winning or losing a match. It’s about finding out why and benchmarking performance against other match statistics to make meaningful comparisons.

    The shortfall, it could be argued, is that it cannot account for your opponent’s performance relative to yours unless they too have the same device, with the same metrics and a visual means to compare them side-by-side.

    How useful is the data?

    It’s not just in the sports and fitness sector that wearables are prevalent. We are seeing its application transcend to embrace other lifestyle related sectors in the form of tattoo-style diagnostic patches.

    Take the BioStamp Research Connect3, a flexible wearable sensor that’ll adhere to your skin and keep an eye on your vitals. It’s been designed specifically for researchers who are looking into problems with movement, motor skills and other neurodegenerative disorders.

    The medical tattoo has an accelerometer and gyroscope and hardware capable of monitoring the electrical activity generated by skeletal muscles, as well as a miniature ECG.

    Another skin patch created by the same company in partnership with L’Oréal is designed to let people know how badly their skin is being damaged by the sun. My UV Patch is a stretchable, ultra-thin sticker that’s loaded with a series of dyes that change colour depending on how long it’s exposed to light.

    Users can then take a picture of the patch with their smartphone, with a companion app calculating how much damage they’ve silently endured. In addition, the app will offer suggestions on how to be more “skin safe”.

    So the application of wearables is wider than satisfying the whims of health and sports fanatics – wearbles might have the potential to be life saving. We all see the need for that in an increasingly aging population. Wearables could benefit people who care for loved ones living with chronic health issues. For instance, if caring for a relative with dementia, wearable technology may prove useful in being able to tell how they are feeling, whether they’ve eaten, if they have taken their medicine or locate them if they’ve wandered off.

    What are the implications for privacy?

    But is there a more nefarious implication that is lurking away in the background? Like with all new tech, there always is a sinister side. More often than not it’s to do with privacy. According to TechCrunch4 wearable devices are about to provoke a new revolution in user privacy. Due to their small size and how they seamlessly run in the background in real-time and on the go, they garner much greater volumes of streaming data, potentially making them more vulnerable to security breaches.

    Manufacturers will always claim that their devices are secure and that they are meeting any threats head on. Leaving plain old dodgy hacking aside however, there could be other implications from the proliferation of wearable data that are perfectly legal but just as unpalatable for the average consumer. Health insurance companies may use wearable data to formulate a lifestyle profile and charge premiums accordingly. This could be an alarming Big Brother scenario, which many people would say contravenes their civil liberties.

    The idea of profile building is not a new one, but wearable tech lends itself so well to it that some gyms are using them to monitor their subscribers and offer rewards based on activity monitoring. At first glance it sounds innocuous enough, a bit like store loyalty cards, but imagine if they sell this data to third party organisation, such as insurance companies to scrutinise lifestyles? There are huge implications for premiums and for most people this would seem a little too intrusive.

    So where is the line marked between intrusive Big Brother-style monitoring and personal self-development? At the moment, a firm line has not been drawn and the jury’s out. The wearable industry is still in its infancy but the issues raised here will in time, permeate the public consciousness and bring the debate to the fore.

    For now, we revel in the new technology and its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it is a fashion accessory as much as a data-gathering device. This dual role is what I believe to be its raison d’etre. As designers and technologists we know that wearables are here to stay, and they’ll give us yet another medium to apply our design skills to.

    1. WeStatista: The Statistics Portal
    2. Babolatplay.com
    3. Engadget: 1st gen of real wearable tattoos
    4. TechCrunch: How wearable tech could spark a new privacy revolution
    November 18, 2016 By admin Design Technology Wearables
  • Retro Games Room Poster

    Retro Games Room Poster

    A ‘retro’ sign I’ve created for my kids! They’re a bit too young to appreciate retro, so I admit – it’s for my own personal satisfaction!

    November 12, 2014 By admin Design Typography
  • WW2 Inspired Poster

    WW2 Inspired Poster

    This morning I walked into the studio and found two work colleagues cleaning our tiny fridge. It was full of disused and long forgotten ‘legacy’ food stuff clogging up the little space we have available. So I felt compelled to contribute in the only way I know how – by leaving them to it and designing a WW2 inspired poster. ‘Never have so few, put so much, in so small a space’! Thanks to Jessi Tabalba for her fridge illustration.

    July 31, 2013 By admin Art Design Illustration
  • Superhero Avatars

    Superhero Avatars

    Following on from my previous post and adopting the ‘edgy’ concept I have produced some icons of well known and best loved superheroes from DC and Marvel comics. The characters’ inherent visual distinctiveness lends itself well to this minimalist approach. No prizes for naming them!

    July 25, 2011 By admin Comic books Design Illustration Inspiration
  • Tennis Player Avatars

    Tennis Player Avatars

    To celebrate the first week of Wimbledon (the greatest, most historic tennis championships in the world), I have created simple, ‘edgy’ avatars of some famous names featuring, Federer, Nadal, Williams, Ivanovic and a few more.

    June 22, 2011 By admin Design Illustration Sport Tennis
  • Depicting Hindu Mythology

    Depicting Hindu Mythology

    I recently bought a book called The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel, Pixar animator and illustrator. Originally intended for my son aged 5, I found I was drawn to it probably more than he was. The illustrations of gods, demigods, avatars and Hindu symbols are exquisite, child-like and imbue a sense of wonderment. I like the predominant use of flat block colours and the rigid, sharp shapes that give the characters a striking pose. Demonic or benevolent, it’s the eyes that lend the figures their emotion.

    Following the success of his first book Sanjay has subsequently published; Ramayana (Divine Loophole), ‘a graphic retelling of more than 100 vibrant illustrations and sketches of a cast of characters – demons, gods, animals and humans’ of an epic Hindu story. His visual style is reminiscent of The Pink Panther cartoon title sequences and more recently The Incredibles title sequence, incidentally, a Pixar production!

    Credit: Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel, published by Chronicle Books.

    Find out more


    February 8, 2011 By admin Art Books Culture Design Inspiration Religion
  • Web design tools and techniques for 2011

    Well it’s been some time since my last blog, but then again I like to think I’m an advocate of the principle; ‘quality over quantity’! Anyway, I wish you all a happy and creative 2011. I begin by looking back at some tools and techniques that I have learned about (if not used) and to extol their virtues so that they may enhance your web designs. None of them are new or revolutionary, but some have influenced the way I work as a designer and I’ve personally found very useful. I’m not giving snippets of code here, but I do provide links for further reading. So in no particular order of importance . . .


    Kuler is a web hosted Adobe product for designers wishing to experiment with colour variations (in a nut shell). It’s a highly versatile tool which allows you to browse ‘themes’ (colour pallets) quickly and modify them by mixing and matching colours using their very cool interactive colour wheel and sliders. You can also create your own themes and share them. You can discover some really beautiful themes and combine colours you’ve never even thought possible. Even if you’re not applying this practically, it’s immense fun to use just for the heck of it. If it’s intended for practical purposes, I must say it should come with an advisory label: ‘for those not well versed in colour theory or have had little or no design training, use with care and ideally, under the supervision of a qualified design practitioner’! In other words if you’re the type to fall under the spell of cool interactive wheels and sliders without forethought or consideration, things can get hideous.

    Google Font API

    As web designers we’ve been limited to web-safe fonts for HTML text all of our professional lives. Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Georgia and Times New Roman, have all had their fair share of use. But wait, for some time now there have been font replacement tools that allow rich typography into web pages without sacrificing accessibility, SEO, or HTML mark-up semantics. There’s Typekit, Cufon and sIFR to name a few.

    There’s also Google Font API which arguably is the easiest and least technical to use. It’s a free web service that allows the ability to use other fonts in a resource efficient way i.e. without putting any strains on your own server. Google takes up the slack and provides a library of fonts, although it is a limited repository so if you’re really serious about great typography you may find it a tad frustrating there aren’t more fonts available. All it takes is to add one stylesheet link element and then to declare the style for your tags in your CSS. No really that’s all it takes!

    Galleria JQuery Slider

    If you’re a reader of any good web design resource blogs such as WDL, Smashing Magazine, Six Revisions, Vandelay and Abduzeedo, you will have been exposed to a plethora of articles relating to JQuery plugins. JQuery sliders feature highly and there are so many great ones it’s kind of difficult to choose the right one for you. In terms of ease of use and versatility I favour Galleria. Here are some of its features:

    • Automatically creates thumbnails and dynamic image sizes client-side
    • Allows a custom feed from your Flickr account or any other external feed to display images on your web site
    • Good performance, cross-browser
    • Supports HTML captions, keyboard navigation and linked images etc
    • Nice scrolling!

    960 Grid Generator

    Every web designer should work to some sort of grid system. It’s been lauded for some time now and the real advantage is that it helps designers to streamline their workflow. I don’t want to be asking myself how wide to make this column and does the overall dimension divide neatly by ‘x’ etc. Grids don’t stifle creativity at all – they give us a good framework to design from.

    I use a 960 grid system for all my web work: why? All modern monitors support at least 1024 x 768 pixel resolution. 960 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 24, 30, 32, 40, 48, 60, 64, 80, 96, 120, 160, 192, 240, 320 and 480. This makes it a highly flexible base number to work with. It also allows you to reuse much of the CSS layout elements from previous projects so that you don’t have to re-write CSS from scratch. I recommend reading ‘The Personal Disquite of Mark Boulton’. It’s a great place to start and he writes with some expertise on the subject.

  • Running workshops

    As a creative lead I’m responsible for the visual direction of an interface, be it a website, system or intranet. The key to a successful design process is to get clients, involved, engaged and on board with what the design problem is and the steps taken to address the problem.

    Usually these two broad aspects would feature prominently in a creative brief. But what if our clients are not equipped enough or have the necessary experience to provide a detailed brief, which is so often the case? After-all they’re not designers. Anyone involved in the process of design, whether they be graphics designers, information architects or even content strategists have the responsibility to understand their clients’ requirements. They would have had some experience of running or facilitating workshops – an invaluable tool to help us with the process of design. Whilst I am not describing workshop techniques such as Card Sorting and Audience Profiling here, I aim to give some practical help to anyone who is involved in running client workshops.

    What are workshops?

    A brief, but intensive group meeting (often facilitated by one or more people) aimed at the production of a specific outcome.

    Fairly self-explanatory, however, this could also be an appropriate definition of a meeting. Meetings and workshops are two different things. The way I like to think of it is that meetings involve a lot of talking, whereas workshops involve a lot of talking and doing. ‘Theoretical versus practical’ could be another way to differentiate them, although there is some overlap. Workshops are far more inclusive than meetings as they are designed to galvanise people into action, even the shy retiring types. Perhaps the best way to differentiate them is that you come away from a meeting with a plan of action but you walk away from a workshop with actual findings.

    So why do we do workshops?

    In a nutshell, we do workshops to glean as much useful information as we can to help inform the design process. By their very nature workshops extract information from people but there are other benefits:

    1. Keep the client involved and engaged with the project
    It’s the clients’ project and if it’s going to be a success then it’s important to have the client totally immersed. Workshops can often be a sound-board and that in itself adds a lot of value. Clients will feel they are being listened to and they will more readily believe in the solutions that will eventually follow, as a result of the workshop findings.

    2. The client is the subject matter expert – lets tap into their minds
    Apart from mind-melds and hypnosis which aren’t really practical, workshops offer a less intrusive way to get into the minds of participants. What we’re trying to understand is the deeper workings of the organisation, the inherent behaviours of the people we’re designing for, the business model and the political landscape according to those close to the business. Not all views concur a hundred percent but you will identify recurring themes and patterns more often than not.

    3. Provides a legitimate forum for challenging the clients’ preconceived ideas
    Clients come with their own ideas of how something should work based on their experiences. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes those ideas can be at odds with your design principles. Either way it’s a good idea to gauge their way of thinking early on. Workshops engender an environment where you can legitimately challenge them, without any major implications to the project. It’s also a chance to educate your client with principles you hold dear.

    4. Better understand other facets of the project
    I conduct creative workshops, where I want my participants to discuss aspects of visual design. Invariably many of the discussions lead to such things as functionality and interactive behaviour. Although your task as conductor and facilitator is to keep it on the straight and narrow, this can be a good thing as long as you don’t lose sight of the agenda. You should indulge your workshop group to a certain degree so you can pick up on things other work-streams might have missed.

    5. Add value and increase your profile within client organisation
    Successful workshops can be as much a learning experience for the client as it is for us. Most people go away feeling like they have contributed to the project and achieved something of significance. That’s how it should be at least, but never underplay the importance of workshops. When run properly, aside from your task of gleaning information, they will help in building a relationship which is invaluable to the smooth running of a project.

    Planning and preparation

    The old adage of ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is apt here. Workshops take a lot of planning. You need to create assets for your practical exercises such as cards, print outs, assessment forms etc, which can be time consuming but worthwhile. Here are some practical recommendations to help in the planning process. Workshops are a valuable experience if you:

    1. Define your goals
    Firstly you need to know what you want to get out of the workshop. Ask yourself what information you need to progress the design process. This will allow you to choose and to devise an appropriate plan for practical exercises.

    2. Get the right people to attend
    This is surprisingly more difficult than one might think. Workshops are held during the early fact finding stages of a project and you don’t necessarily know who should attend. You have to trust in the project lead or champion from the client organisation to gather the right people or stakeholders to make the workshop worthwhile. Much of the time you have to be prepared to run the workshop on numerous occasions so that the client is satisfied all bases have been covered. Six or seven participants are a good manageable number.

    3. Choose a colleague to assist in facilitating
    You can’t do it all on your own. If you’re leading the workshop you need another person to help you facilitate. That means recording findings and listening in to conversations during break-out sessions.

    4. Choose the right location
    Again this is not something you have much control over as it usually means relying on rooms being available at the client organisation. If you have six or seven participants you want a room big enough to accommodate them comfortably but not such a huge room so that the energy of the group easily dissipates into the space. Try and ensure there are other informal spaces available outside of the room so that they have the option to break-out in smaller groups.

    5. Create an agenda
    Without an agenda, you risk straying from your desired goal. Split your session into defining chunks and attribute timings around them. It’s important to try and stick to the timings so that you set expectations clearly and allow for questions and feedback once it’s completed.

    6. Allow smaller groups to break-out for practical exercises
    Break-out sessions are important as they allow for more fervent discussions. Working in pairs is far less daunting than voicing opinions in a large group and you can glean so much more listening in to these ‘smaller’ conversations. It also allows shy or restrained characters the chance to have their say.

    7. Determine how you will record the findings
    The standard way is to write away with pen and paper furiously whilst keeping an ear to the discussion and trying to facilitate the conversation. This is not the most practical method so you need to have someone help you. In addition, have supporting feedback forms, empty A4 sheets, cards or whatever material you deem fit for participants to fill out. You can then collate these at the end to support your own notes.

    8. Explain how you will use the findings
    This can easily be overlooked but it’s a good idea to inform participants before an exercise how the information will be used. This will give them the necessary context and you’re more likely to elicit the right sort of information.

    9. Provide the necessary materials
    If you’re asking participants to write, scribble, draw, build or any other activity, give them the right tools and don’t assume they will come equipped. Provide pens, paper, post-it notes, lego or whatever they need to complete tasks.

    10. Ask for feedback
    Again a pre-prepared feedback form would be helpful. It gives people the chance to comment on your workshop so you can make improvements for next time. Try and break it down into components such as quality of presentation material, facilities, depth of information, group activities etc and allow them to attribute a score against the criteria.

    So now you have the basics it may be prudent to run mock workshop sessions with work colleagues to test your workshop plan. Have fun.

    August 18, 2010 By admin Collaboration Design Web
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About Me
I’m a Creative Director with 20 years digital design experience. I get a real ‘kick’ out of conceptualising ideas, crafting creative solutions and influencing a strategic vision.