Made with slitscan.space
Made with slitscan.space
If you (or anyone) still read this you’re probably aware I’ve been banging on about Centaurs for a little while.
I started idly sketching something that could become a shorthand for a ‘centaur’ actor in a system. The kind of visual shorthand that you might often use on whiteboards or in sketches of flows in designing interactive systems.
For example… back in 2006 I sketched this…
My first centaur symbol sketches… was trying to make it something quick and fluid but kept getting hung up on the tail…
I then progressed to subjecting colleagues (thanks Tim) to impromptu lifesize whiteboard centaur sketches…
But then I remembered Picasso’s 1949 light paintings of centaurs which inspired me to do some quick long-exposure experiments.
Again, long-suffering colleagues were pressed into service (after buying them some beers…)
And I think that the constraint of having to paint the centaur body in a few seconds of long exposure got me to a more fluid, fluent expression
But then I think in the end it was Nuno who nailed the tail on this old designer…
More centaurs soon, no doubt.
How the Penguin Cafe Orchestra got their name is as beautiful as their music:
“In 1972 I was in the south of France. I had eaten some bad fish and was in consequence rather ill. As I lay in bed I had a strange recurring vision, there, before me, was a concrete building like a hotel or council block. I could see into the rooms, each of which was continually scanned by an electronic eye. In the rooms were people, everyone of them preoccupied. In one room a person was looking into a mirror and in another a couple were making love but lovelessly, in a third a composer was listening to music through earphones. Around him there were banks of electronic equipment. But all was silence. Like everyone in his place he had been neutralized, made grey and anonymous. The scene was for me one of ordered desolation. It was as if I were looking into a place which had no heart. Next day when I felt better, I was on the beach sunbathing and suddenly a poem popped into my head. It started out ‘I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random’ and it went on about how the quality of randomness, spontaneity, surprise, unexpectedness and irrationality in our lives is a very precious thing. And if you suppress that to have a nice orderly life, you kill off what’s most important. Whereas in the Penguin Cafe your unconscious can just be. It’s acceptable there, and that’s how everybody is. There is an acceptance there that has to do with living the present with no fear in ourselves.”
The session I staged at FooCamp this year was deliberately meant to be a fun, none-too-taxing diversion at the end of two brain-baking days.
It was based on (not only a quote from BSG) but something that Matt Biddulph had said to me a while back – possibly when we were doing some work together at BERG, but it might have been as far-back as our Dopplr days.
He said (something like) that a lot of the machine learning techniques he was deploying on a project were based on 1970s Computer Science theory, but now the horsepower required to run them was cheap and accessible in the form of cloud computing service.
This stuck with me, so for the Foo session I hoped I could aggregate a list people’s favourite theory work from the 20thC which now might be possible to turn into practice.
It didn’t quite turn out that way, as Tom Coates pointed out in the session – about halfway through, it morphed into a list of the “prior art” in both fiction and academic theory that you could identify as pre-cursors to current technological preoccupation or practice.
Nether the less it was a very fun way to spend an sunny sunday hour in a tent with a flip chart and some very smart folks. Thanks very much as always to O’Reilly for inviting me.
Below is my photo of the final flip charts full of everything from Xanadu to zeppelins…
A while back, two years ago in fact – just under a year before we (BERG) announced Little Printer, Matt Webb gave an excellent talk at the Royal Institution in London called “BotWorld: Designing for the new world of domestic A.I”…
This week, all of the Little Printers that are out in the world started to change.
Their hair started to grow (you can trim it if you like) and they started to get a little sad if they weren’t used as often as they’d like…
The world of domesticated, tiny AIs that Matt was talking about two years ago is what BERG is starting to explore, manufacture – and sell in every larger numbers.
I poked at it as well, in my talk building on Matt Webb’s thinking “Gardens & Zoos” about a year ago – suggesting that Little Printer was akin to a pot-plant in it’s behaviour, volition and place in our homes.
I’m amazed and proud of the team for a brilliant bit of thinking-through-making-at-scale, which, though it just does very simple things right now, is our platform for playing with the particular corner of the near-future that Matt outlined in his talk.
I got my Brompton six years ago, while I was still reverse-commuting every day from central London to Hampshire. Nokia’s UK design studio was located in glamorous Farnborough at the time, and quite a few of us travelled west from Waterloo for an hour or so, where there was a incredibly-depressing shuttle bus to the anonymous office park where we drank a lot of tea and tried to seduce implacable engineers and product managers with endless flash mockups of what we thought were better UIs than s60.
But that’s a tale for another day.
The train ride you could cope with – competitive crosswording with Matt Brown, Joe McCloud’s stream of consciousness narration of the suburban landscapes we trundled through (think Jonathan Meades meets Bill Hicks), Eddie’s terrible puns – but wait for the shuttle bus and the cramped, smelly bus ride itself were the last straw for many, who opted to bike the last couple of miles to the office every day instead.
There were a few tribes – the fast and furious fixies of Adam and Silas, Tom and Mattias the oak-legged mud-loving MTBers… and then, me… initially on a Strida, with its rubber belt, tiny wheels, pennyfarthing-seating and terrifying twitch-steering.
Despite it’s quirks, I loved the Strida – at least compared to the shuttle bus. It was perfect for the train -> work -> train -> pub -> first floor flat daily life I had back then.
The lack of gears started to be noticed on even the slight climbs between Farnborough station and Nokia HQ, so after only a few months, in September 2006 I upgraded to my Brompton.
Up until last year it was my primary bike – until I started cycling my entire route to work rather than folding up and getting on the train. It sat forlorn in the studio, and then my kitchen – until last Saturday when I sold it to welovebromptons.co.uk, from where it will hopefully find a new home.
I loved my brompton as I’ve not loved many of my possessions. Not only for it’s utility and efficency – but also for what it represented: British design, engineering and manufacture.
I was fortunate to be invited to the Brompton factory in 2010.
I believe that at the time it was (and it still maybe) the only full manufacturing site in London. It was fantastic to see the skill, care and attention to detail that was given to every process.
Also the integration of design, engineering and manufacture – the continuum of concern that the designers had for the material and human processes at work in the factory.
Design was not an abstract activity, but an integral one – with a tight feedback loop from the shop floor, the testing suites, the customer service.
And the shop floor itself was a treat for a designer – a rainbow of coated metal…
So, sadly it’s goodbye to all that for now, no longer will I be able to tuck my green machine into the convenient parking bay provided by The Shepherdess…
But I dare say I’ll own one again, one day.
Handsome, handsome machines.