Monthly Archives: May 2004

Danny Brown has won the Design Museum’s “Designer of the year” award. From The FT’s report on the awards:

“A 27-year-old multimedia designer who first started creating images from his home computer at the age of five was yesterday named Designer of the Year.

Liverpool-born Daniel Brown received the £25,000 award at London’s Design Museum. It was presented by Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple and winner of the inaugural prize in 2003, who said Mr Brown’s work ‘changes the way we look at and engage with digital imagery.

It is technically innovative and emotionally engaging, but also gives us an extraordinary amount of freedom in the way we experience it’.”

I could launch into a giant rant about the nature of design vs applied art, art itself, and the generally crappy job the Design Museum* does both at distinguishing between them and promoting that beyond the industry. But, after all, Danny’s stuff is at it’s best just breathtaking, and deserves this recognition.

Well done, Mr. Brown…

* Their near-useless Flashtastrophy of a site is here. Hey, Ms. Rawsthorn! 1998 called, and they want their UI designs back!

P17 of the June issue of Wired (with Pixar’s “The Incredibles” on the cover) has an advert for a joint promotion between Wired, W Hotels and Apple:

Plug in and play along to your own digital soundscape from W Hotels and iTunes®, the world’s best digital jukebox.

Your W Wired Package includes:

  • High Speed Internet Access
  • Wi-Fi Access in Living Room*
  • 3 iTunes music downloads
  • 3-month WIRED magazine subscription
  • Unlimited local and toll-free calls
  • Plus, Wonderful accommodations you’ll love

I’ve stayed in a W twice (before the taxman gets excited: one night only each time, as a once-a-year treat!) and they are wonderful little coccoons of unreal, luxurious space. More cosy than a Schrager, with just enough ‘ponce-factor’ to let you pretend you are a rockstar, or a secret agent posing as a rockstar, for one night.

As broadband and wifi become as much as a free, expected part of a satisfying hotel stay as a good shower – the next step has to be stuff like this – creating personal, luxurious, digital media cocoon.

Monkeymagic has been listening to Dr. Robin Dunbar:

“Dunbar was talking about his new book, The Human Story. One of the ideas in it was that religion, myth and story-telling are cohesive forces – they offer ways to help us make the trade-off between short-term desires and long-term gains, and they oil the wheels in our social machinery.

Religious ecstasy, feeling at one with the (socially constructed) world, and that buzz of being in an audience watching something good all seem to be signs that opiates are beginning to float round our circuitry.

These chemical carrots exist as an aid to group-forming. But here’s the rub. These same carrots might also ensure that the group acts against any individual who might take away their high. The bigger the high, the bigger the aggression.”

The internet must be such a great petri dish for scientists like Dr. Dunbar. I met him once at a Cap-Gemini event examining how religions are built, but I forgot to ask him if he took note of online groupthink and flamewars.

» MonkeyMagic: The Flipside of the Collective is War.

Via John Battelle’s SearchBlog, the chief of Amazon’s A9 search engine Udi Manber declares:

“Think about how the Web has changed your life in the last 10 years. Now, try to extrapolate 10 years forward and you should feel dizzy. We’re still in day one of developing and innovating in search. There’s still a lot of exciting discoveries to be made,”

In his keynote to the WWW Conference in NYC, he goes on to say:

“For most users, they expect it to be as simple as possible and that’s a barrier. If music was invented 20 years ago, we’d all be playing one-string instruments,”

which struck me at first as a statement that would make a crowd of developers chuckle, but otherwise isn’t particularly helpful.

First up: if music was invented 20 years ago then there wouldn’t be much differentiation in expertise between players and the listeners. They would probably be very happy with the one-stringed instruments, grinning like loons, thinking that this new ‘music’ stuff was where it was at.

Secondly: complaining that your ‘users’ are holding you back is not a argument most users have a lot of sympathy with, cf. Boo.

However, if one interprets it as a comment on the medium – on the difficulty in communicating with computers and through digital interfaces – then perhaps it makes sense.

If A9 and Amazon commit their resources to understanding how to play a few more strings and still get their audience humming along with them, then the search engine wars won’t be over till the fat lady sings.

Or something.

Dan moblogs the new Batman movie being filmed with Bloomsbury as a backdrop.

“I didn’t see any of the glittering cast (dir. Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer etc.) though I did see plenty of replica US police cars with Gotham Police Department insignia on the side. Rather incongruous in genteel Bloomsbury, I can tell you.”

Well, if a Welshman can be Bruce Wayne, why can’t Gotham City be Bloomsbury? Come to think of it, there are some great contenders for Arkham Asylum in Wales… this in my hometown, for instance.

“Anyone who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep.” – Frederick Goudy

The Typepad templates insist on letter-spacing or tracking the type of the section headers in my side bar. I don’t have a clue how to get round this other than to upgrade to the $150 pro level, which is far to much money to spend on the self-indulgence of blogging, let alone the self-indulgence of being a typography nerd, when most people probably read this tripe with the type their RSS-reader dictates.

I’ve fiddled as much as I can to try and get the design to something I like (no way I can find to make the main body of text any wider – which really ticks me off as it’s not quite a comfortable reading width for a single column, and it’s a fixed, not ‘fluid’ design) within the constraints of the Typepad UI, which really, really encourages fiddling. The ‘safety’ it inspires, along with the myriad tiny but tempting changes one can make lead to hours of fiddling.

6Apart should sell some AdWords space in their interface, the amount of time my eyeballs are in it…