Rough notes from Seymour Powell presentation, Singapore

Saw Seymour Powell speak this afternoon. Basically, they gave a great presentation of ideas that aren’t that foreign to anyone practising interaction or product design, but as such still depressingly exotic to marketing, advertising and brand people… And let’s face it – you kind of automatically win if you end with “and here’s the spaceship we designed”…

in a very grand ballroom…
let?s just say that advertising people do their conferences very differently…

masterclass – from seymourpowell

intro by chris thomas -theme of conference is ?ideas with consequence?

design effectiveness
design council study – basket of companies that privilege design outperforms FTSE
effective design – is there any other kind?
it?s not art
david sainsbury – innovation = successful exploitation of new ideas.
brand – a series of promises that do not change over time (bernstein)

Voyage of the dawntreader – what is a star – – what it is, not what it?s made of.

Aston Martin example – ?power, beauty, soul?
?they?ve made a dreadful mistake but putting it on the dashboard.. I don’t want to be told!? (show, don’t tell)
?you don?t own it, it lives in the heart of the consumer?
brands taken and refracted and distorted by forces outside the brand
communications are become more and more fragmented
the product is where the brand keeps it?s promises – where the rubber hits the road.
?audi tt doesn’t need an ad – it is the ad? -john hegarty
the product is an ad that runs every time you pick it up.
even at the end of it?s life – when you discard it.
the brand can be redefined by the product (for good or for ill)
skoda – 10 years refining the product to redefine the brand.
is land-rover a brand or a product?
the dna of the brand is the vehicle, the product
design as a job of reasserting authority for a brand.

brands are far to important to entrust to brand managers
1.7 years is the average tenure of a brand manager
product cycles are typically 2-8years…

emotional ergonomics – you love to use it.
3d dimensional brands

phases of creativity: idea >belief > embodiment

old saw: ?a brief is a collection of the client?s prejudices? is true.

we don?t listen – we watch.
if you listen to focus groups you get post-rationlisation, not insight.
emergent behaviour comes from watching, and if you watch that you find the future.

if 72% of consumer decisions are made at point of sales then how come 72% of the budget isn’t spent there?


?unless we build a receiver into the client, they can?t be read for the violence of the new?

push/pull activity – push from tech, pull from marketing.
poor comms between both usually.

over-ambition can be the death of innovation – the search for the big idea, the category killer
usually great innovation is more about a series of small ideas brought together in a new and orginal way

often innovation theory triumphs over practice – management goobledegook and voodoo. buzzword bingo.

embodying it doesn’t usually fall to the innovation consultants…

innovation sheep-dip – flawed but p.c. idea that everyone can be creative. some people are just more creative than others…. training isn?t always the answer.

good design is cheap, brilliant design is free.

process: gets you the unexpected but relevant solution

?crucible? events – melting point for alloying the points of view of marketing and technical.
embodying an idea is so important – sketching and drawing is crucial.

redesigning the steam iron for tefal
two small headaches from user observation – why do I have to fill it through a tiny hole, why is it always falling off

c.f. shelf-demonstrable

stand somewhere else to solve the problem from where you are used to – to get to the unexpected but relevant solution

new paradigms of product – how do you create them?

when we see something we don?t quite understand – your brain rifles through all the categories it knows and tries to find a match

businesses need to be a zoom lens to see the very small things that might disrupt the vision.

occupy yourself with the parts without losing sight of the whole.

businesses should ask ?why not? more than ?why?

– george bernard shaw quote

?how far do you want to dream?

shows virgin galactic video

they give extremely good talk – the confidence and passion is something to behold…

My “Designs Of The Year” nominations

For reasons of equal self-indulgence and completism, here are the nominations with supporting text I sent into the Design Museum for their “Designs of the year” exhibition.

I was surprised that neither of my console game nominations got through, but on reflection is this the right venue for games?

Surely they are the advance-guard of interactive, digital design – the cutting-edge of interaction design from which, increasingly, techniques are trickling-down to other applications.

But, then, as they are media, stories, toys, places – the experience of which changes through play – that makes Design with a big D uncomfortable. Ah well. For debate.

In the end, Trulia Hindsight, Sharkrunners, fixmystreet and the iPhone made it into the exhibition from my list.

What would your designs of the year be?

Designs of the year nominations: Digital

Cabspotting / Trulia Hindsight / Oakland crime / work of Stamen in 2007

2007 was the year that information visualisation came out of the academic shadows and the research labs, onto the desktop – and into the art galleries. Much of this is to do with the work and debate around the work of Stamen.

While Cabspotting makes the jaw drop at the beauty of everyday data in the city, Oakland Crime Maps makes subtle political points as well as being a handsome interface for a complex, live data set. Instead of just profiting from UI conventions being set in this new field, Stamen is driving them — and a questioning, critically-thriving community of practice.


While YouTube has the headlines and the hordes, Vimeo has very happy users. Privileging quality of experience and quirky-though-painstaking design (such as its log-in screen! Possibly the most gorgeous log-in screen ever?), its privacy controls and ease-of-use have carved it a loyal niche.

By area/code for discovery channel online

Despite the clean graphics and straightforward gameplay, you might think this is a run-of-the-mill promotional game for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week? You’d be wrong. You set up a virtual team of shark researchers and navigate your vessel in the ocean off the southern california coast. The twist is that the sharks you are pursuing are not coded, they’re GPS-tagged, real sharks leading you a merry dance, in real time, around the Pacific! A pioneering, well-executed and playful way to explore natural history online.


by Clover Studio

As the sheer graphical horsepower of games consoles increases, it’s more and more gratifying to see designers opting out of the realism arms-race and creating vivid, original worlds such as that found in Okami. The core of its success is the close-coupling of the visual look of the world with the game mechanics and control-system. Turning the 3D world into a 2D traditional Japanese artwork, then using the joypad to draw calligraphic solutions to your problems creates a satisfying, involving and, often jaw-droppingly-beautiful experience.


A great home-grown exemplar of wonderful physical/digital service design. From the delightful, straightforward user interface of the website, where you create various printed objects from your content (Flickr pictures, Habbo-hotel characters), to the little touches of copywriting in the emails that keep track of your order, to the
delightful packaging your finished product comes in.



From the prolific volunteers at, a very neat exercise in using constraints positively. By returning a ‘gamefield’ of only a very small area around your postcode, and allowing only observations/fixes to hyperlocal problems – extraordinary levels of feedback and concrete solutions result.


iPhone/iPod touch OS by Apple

A beautiful bit of holistic digital/physical design, executed incredibly well with cutting-edge technology. “A remarkable v1.0” as has been said. Important for not only the quality and consistency of the UI, but also for being a genuine example of the overused term “paradigm shift”. Lessons from games UI: direct manipulation, physics and flow are now going to be everywhere – not just on mobile but on the desktop, as the iPod touch/iphones metaphors bleed back into the desktop. Expectations have been raised for the rest of the consumer electronics industry by Apple once more.


Nike+ by Nike/Apple

The cutting-edge of ubiquitous computing is not perhaps in medicine or warfare, but in personal fitness, and purchasable on the high street for about thirty pounds or so. Nike+ is the slickest, neatest, most-well-put-together fusion of physical product, digital service and networked community that’s out there (for now). If there’s any fault one can pick with it, it’s that it allows only one thing (running) to be so slickly-enhanced, and it’s this slickness that precludes further innovation by the community.


BioShock by Ken Levine / Take-Two Interactive

It’s rare that a video game is an enjoyable experience for a spectator, and even rarer to hear a spectator ask the player to go back so they can look at a design detail, a piece of scenery or architecture? The sheer detail and horrifying beauty of BioShock’s art-deco undersea setting is nothing short of Kubrick-meets-Jules-Verne spectacular. An astonishing bit of art, that also has literally killer game-play.

4×4 Meme: More About Me

I got tagged by Saffer, who I kind of regard as my commanding officer, so here goes.

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life:

  • 1987-1990: Working after school and weekend in Harris Printers, Porthcawl. I nagged the guy who ran it for a job and got one – folding stuff, stapling, sweeping up at the end of the day. It progressed through learning to set type and help run the letterpress, help make plates and run a litho through to installing and running their first Mac set-up. An SE30 with an A3 black-and-white radius screen and a LaserWriter+ that cost a small fortune.
  • 1992-93: Gregg's the Bakers, Cardiff. While in college – I had a job that involved sweeping and mopping the floor of the bakery shop and serving customers. You got to take home quiches and sausage rolls, so I thought it was a pretty sweet deal.
  • 1993-94: Architectural Assistant, Welsh Health Common Services Authority, NHS Wales For my year out working I stayed in Cardiff and had a hell of a year working in the NHS, drawing ceiling and landscaping details by-and-large but towards the end of my tenure there I got to do the early concepts for a few schemes such as a respite ward for cancer patients which had some interesting passive-solar features, and a medium-secure unit for violent mental patients, which probably wouldn't pass the Sarah Connor test, but did have nice 45 degree corners in corridors so patients could give staff nasty surprises. I also developed a nice moonlighting role getting paid cash-in-hand to do concept sketch work for one of the qualified architects over the weekend, which he would then pass off as his… This also sticks in my mind as being the one place I have worked where myself and three colleagues successfully managed to speak only using song titles for an entire day.
  • 1995: Assistant Producer, Camden Lock / Delphi: My first job out of architecture school, and into the WWW, courtesy of Mr. Phil Barrett. In a Camden basement where I met Stef, Yoz, Mick, Pouneh, Obi, Emyr, Alex, Pete, Graham, Stuart and others, mucked around with Emacs and Video Cameras; and fully fell in love with the Web.

Four TV Shows I DVR (I don't have a DVR, but let's say… time-shifted time-based media originally produced for television… ahem):

  • The Wire: I've just finished Season 2, so no spoilers. Also this is something I watch on planes, trains, buses – anywhere I'm on my own. Foe is not so into it to say the least. I, however, am totally hooked.
  • Lost: Season 4 and it is back on, as far as I'm concerned. Like the Alias Rambaldi Arc, I like my J.J.A stories weird and byzantine. The more DHARMA the better.
  • Sarah Connor Chronicles: It gets a bit emo now and again, but Cromatie is awesome. Also, I guess it's a sign of age that I fancy Lena Heady way more than Summer Glau.
  • Primeval: This is UK-pulp family scifi served straight-up and dumb, without any of the shameless Whedonising of RTD's Doctor. I love it.

Four places I've been:

  • Adelaide: Beautiful, and the central market is not to be missed – especially the lamingtons…
  • Shanghai: crazy corpuscular, muscular hypercapitalism. maximum city, reached by maglev. Maglev!
  • Aberdeen: grey stone in sunshine. A majestic market town and a little bit post-peak oil.
  • Sienna: The archetypal Italian hill town, and a wonderful place to passeggiata through the contrada…

Four music artists I'm listening to right now:

  • Saffer beat me to British Sea Power," Do You Like Rock Music?", but 'Atom' is magnificent.

That's it!

Now, I'm afraid I have to tag people don't I.

Chris Heathcote, Matt Webb, Flo Heiss and Iain Tait, come on down!

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“A jumble sale of the near future”

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7.30am, originally uploaded by Jaypeg.

Last week I went to the opening of the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum.

The change from “Designer of the Year” to “Designs of the Year” is a stroke of genius on the museum’s part, and the exhibition is a wonderfully-broad church of great work.

Brit Insurance Designs of the Year

How they will pick a winner from such a wide selection (as they have decided they must, bafflingly) I don’t know. As The Telegraph points out:

“Showcasing 100 projects across seven categories, the exhibition has something of the quality of a jumble sale of the near future. The variety of material on display is hugely engaging, but quite how the jury – which is tasked with picking an overall winner as well as individual category winners – plans to assess the relative merits of a photo-shoot for John Galliano, a budget laptop for use in the third world and the principal stadium of the Beijing Olympics, remains something of a mystery.”

For me, the best thing about it is the breadth.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more exciting thing to go and see than “a jumble sale of the near-future”.

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Which am I?, originally uploaded by Jaypeg.

Also the way it’s staged: categorisations blur into each other in the space in a way they don’t in a book or a website. Is the Wii product or interaction? Is StreetCar transport or interaction? Is that signage solution architecture or graphics?

Do we really care?

I was particularly impressed to see things like the Congestion Charge and StreetCar included – although I imagine the former will be the source of some controversy – Jonathan Glancey is extremely annoyed about it, for instance… But – service design interventions in a city as a design of the year! More of this please!

And just to put the icing on the cake – and this will please many: Tenori-On is nominated…

Despite my love/hate relationship with the Design Museum over the years, they were nice enough to invite me to be on the panel of 100 nominators for the show, ostensibly nominating work for the ‘interactive’ category.

I’ll probably post my personal list of nominations later – not all of them made it (Okami will have to settle for it’s EDGE award…), but a gratifying number did, including Trulia Hindsight, SharkRunners and FixMyStreet.

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Graphics, originally uploaded by Jaypeg.

As Sigi Moeslinger pointed out in her talk at IxDA Interaction 08, web services aren’t the most compelling thing when shown in a museum context, and the design museum hasn’t really done them that proud unfortunately, but hopefully there will be some intrepid souls who are willing to poke at an iMac for an equal amount of time as sigh at a Hussein Chalayan gown.

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Dress, originally uploaded by Jaypeg.

There’s more at the CR Blog, but if you’re in London – do go. It’s a great show, and for me, marks the Design Museum as a progressive institution in the ascendant after some years in the wilderness.

P.S.: Many thanks to Jaypeg for letting me use her excellent photos of the event.