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QReative Prototypes…

22 Jun

In preparation for the Masters final show in late August, we’ve started thinking about how the show might look. I’ll report back with more images on Friday when we are due to present our ideas. The prototypes are meant to be quick, dirty and lo-fidelity but… actual size. Hmmm…

Anyway, one of my ideas is to populate a large map with content that i’ve created and gathered. The gathering, for now, will take place through Twitter, although I may also do this through workshops in the coming months.

Please tweet me (@onthesuperfly) your favourite places in Tayside and NE Fife (using the hashtag #mboxspaces) and also a brief (it’s Twitter..!) explanation. It might be where you grew up, went on holiday, secret hideaways as kids or where you met your husband! There will be any number of reasons… what’s yours?

It you’d rather not use Twitter then feel free to use the comments section on this blog. I’ll credit all of the authors either by Twitter or Login name. The stories may also have audio, video or pictures attached to them so feel free to send me links to your Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, AudioBoos, etc, etc, etc…

Eventually I’ll populate a google map. It’s physical counterpart for the Mastes show will have cute QR flags for people to scan and discover the content for themselves.

So, what are you waiting for… what’s the story?

200 Seconds…

6 May

UPDATE: Below is the lo-down on our previous 200 seconds project – we are running a similar event on Thursday 26 May as part of DJCAD’s Degree Show. Find us in the Masters Showcase, Room 212 (animation corridor) at 1pm. We would welcome as many people as we can cram in the room and come prepared to write down a bit of feedback for us either online or in the room the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. We’ll only keep you for about 25 mins so we won’t even spoil your lunch hour. Hope to see you there!  : )

In the MDes studio we were looking forward to a visit of students from Auburn University, Alabama (25 April) and we decided that, rather than bombard them with a series of talks about DJCAD an what projects we were up to, we would loosen things up a bit and turn the day into more of an event!

While we had lecturers and students volunteering presentations… some more experienced than others, what we really needed was a leveler..! How could we present these talks in such a way that would give everyone an equal footing..? Pecha Kucha was the perfect solution!

Pecha Kucha means “chit-chat” and is a format of presentation devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architects, Japan. Each speaker has 20 slides and is allowed 20 seconds for each slide. A total of 6min40sec.

The first even took place in 2003 and today you will find events, using this or similar formats, across the world.

We modified the format a little stipulating 10 slides of 20seconds each (3min20sec or ‘200seconds’ as it came to be known). What I didn’t mention before is that Pecha Kucha slides are on an automatic timer; once your 20seconds are up the next slide kicks in. While this might sound relatively easy, it’s telling how that even the most experienced of our speakers were uneasy with the format.

Nice 😉

I’m disappointed to report that everyone did great. No one went blank, cried or went over time. No one even crashed the ‘time’s up’ alarm that i’d built in for 3min 35sec… and I think the Alabama crowd sensed the nerves in the room and it added a nice edge to the proceedings.

So, for your viewing pleasure I present to you my own 200sec presentation. It’s the first time that i’ve done one of these, and if i’m honest, although i’d practiced it about 6 times, this is also the first time that I managed to make everything fit!

Adrenalin’s a winner!

A picture is worth…

4 May

Ordinarily, the adage would have us believe that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’… in this case the BBC’s Royal Wedding picture is worth several thousand stories!

The BBC say, “This high-definition, 1.15-gigapixel picture, is a composite of 189 images. The full picture measures 81,471 pixels by 14,154 pixels. The field of view covers 200 degrees.”

That’s some image, and a nice memento of the day.., if you can find yourself..!

You’ll find the image on the BBC website.

It’s another example of how technology is changing what is possible in terms of storytelling as well as capturing and sharing those stories. Millions of people will have a version of this event, what this image does is put several thousand all together for all to see.

Free Stories

2 Apr

There’s only one thing better than a story, and that’s a FREE story!

I became aware of a resource a couple of weeks ago when I found that, Director Carol Reed’s, The Third Man has passed into the public domain and is now available to watch on YouTube for FREE!

A Classic Film Noir, 1950’s The Third Man should be watched for so many reasons… the Palm D’Or winning direction, Oscar winning cinematography, and the oddly, but perfectly out of place music by Vienna native, Anton Karas.

In relation to stories, The Third Man is of particular interest… not only is the film itself a classic story and example of the genre but key characters include a writer, an actress and a con man, who can’t help but warp the narrative of his life and keep everyone guessing…

Also of interest to me is the pivotal use of a poster tower, the design of such influenced the poster towers that you will find dotted around Dundee and were in turn an influence on me starting SuperFly.

Open Culture is an organisation whose aim is to bring public domain films, audio books and other learning materials into one space for ease of navigation… visit their site and you’ll find links to hundreds of films, many of them classics, FREE to watch online; and if you find one that you particularly like there’s nothing stopping you buying the DVD 🙂


Chris Speed & an Internet of Ghosts…

1 Apr

Classic case of serendipity this week… been trying to meet up with a Computer Science chap from St Andrews Uni since November when I did the NEoN Knights QR hunt… finally got a day that suited us both, which also happened to be on the same day as a new series of seminars happening in the Computer Science building.. first up Chris Speed!

Chris Speed is a research active designer working within the field of Digital Architecture, Human Geography and Social Computing developing new forms of spatial practice that transform our experience of the built environment. He is a Reader in Digital Architecture across the Schools of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art, where he teaches undergraduate, masters and supervises PhD students. (lifted from ECA website)

An Internet Of Things That Do Not Exist was Speed’s title.. stemming from the idea of ‘An Internet of Things’.. not something I was not familiar with but a glance at Wikipedia explains it as ‘a self-configuring wireless network of sensors whose purpose would be to interconnect all things’… this resonated with Jesse Schell’s lecture; sensors in every day objects and their increase in advertising, packaging, society, etc., as they become cheaper, etc..

I don’t know exactly what my project will be yet, i’m remaining as open minded as one can with only 5 months to go until delivery… but what I would expect to find, what interests me, can be boiled down to the following:

  • a good idea
  • a modicum of tech
  • an emphasis on real world experiences
  • collectively a device for telling or capturing stories

The projects Speed talked about matched my criteria precisely… the ideas behind them are inspiring, the tech was subtle and unobtrusive and the experiences were definitely in real life.

He describes memories and artifacts from the past, their representation and connections, as being ghosts… he made the connection between children (particularly in cinema) as metaphors for innocence and temporal connections… Spielberg’s Poltergeist being an example.. but most crucially the connection with technology through touch. I’m afraid what I’m writing doesn’t do it justice… but essentially going back to that creative openness found in children and exploring it as a a way of connecting with others was interesting to me and integral to what I want to achieve.

What I recommend is you check out the projects that Speed is associated with; in particular I was impressed with the Oxfam project where donators were asked for the story behind their donation. This was recorded and and the item tagged with a QR code and an RFID tag. Scanning the codes took you to a recording of the story… brilliant! And Oxfam’s income went up by 50% during the time of the project!

I came away from Speed’s lecture with a much broader scope of what my project could be.. the QR prototypes like NEoN Knights are just scratching the surface of what can be achieved, of what people can experience and share, through creative uses of very basic and freely available technology.

However, it doesn’t have to be all-singing-all-dancing… interestingly Speed related how, once his kids have finished a book he gets them to give a quick review, recorded on his iPhone. He then creates a QR code and sticks it in the back of the book… the scanned code links to recorded review online. How exiting! How cool! How amazing would it be for you, 5, 10, fifty  years from now, to go back in time to that moment, and listen to your own review as a 7 year old; not to mention playing it to your own 7 yr old… or your 7 year old grandchild!

A ‘ghost’ of a memory encapsulated in such a powerfully simple way.

Our kids will take this stuff for granted!

Of course, there is also the possibility that that book will leave your household and find a new owner someday. Someone who knows nothing about you, who you werre, where you were from… but hearing that same recording of ‘that someone’ who used to own this book.

But, maybe when you create your QR code for your own books, why not print off a few extra codes and drop them into the same book in Waterstones next time you’re in town… share your opinions guerilla style..!

Maybe I can get Waterstones on board..?

Inspiring projects…

Possibilities limited only by imagination…

Watch this space…

Projects of Chris Speed:

Thanks to Chris Speed… hope to catch up with you again at some point in the future…hopefully not via a QR code… 😉

Open Letter To Self

1 Apr

As a concerned parent, just over 12 months ago I started looking at the evidence related to the effects of computer games on children and the wider population. This in turn led me to what I am now pursuing as a Masters Project. If you sift through the horror stories you’ll find ‘some’ genuine reasons for concern, but from the evidence I’ve seen, the key issues seem to boil down to common sense and having a decent relationship with your kids.

By no means am I setting my self up as SuperNanny, so first and foremost this is an open letter to my future self, for whom Lego Star Wars II will be a distant, idealised memory.

Jon (Jon in 2021 that is…),

Hope all’s well with you and the family…

It seems to me (the 2011 me) that if our kids (yours and mine…) are playing computer games, we really should know what those games are and, most crucially, what those games entail. Also, how many hours a day are they playing them..? We should know this stuff, and restrict as required! It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, right?

And they are good… they are glorified puzzles… and there doesn’t ‘have to be’ zombie slayings… so don’t demonise them or scape-goat them for crimes they haven’t committed..! (No one said this would be easy…) Certainly a better use of time than TV!

Talking of TV, do you remember that old Panarama ‘Addicted to Games?’ programme from 2010 where the reporter, Raphael Rowe said, ‘If I asked my six-year-old son to stop playing PlayStation football or a Wii adventure game the result was a mini-fit, complete with genuine tears and tantrums. I did not get that kind of extreme reaction when I called time on cartoons on TV, playing in the garden or his favourite action toys.’

This is one we thought about a lot at the time, having had similar experiences… however, it occurred to us… don’t switch the console off halfway through a game! It’s not fair… do parents turn TVs off halfway throughEastenders, or Corrie? (Whether they should or not is another matter…) But ‘no’, they don’t! So, just agree a time limit, then they decide if it’s worth starting another level or not…

Establishing boundaries is what parents have to do all the time… but building in a bit of ‘self management’ drastically reduced our ‘game related’ tantrums in 2011… hope that’s still working out for you in 2021! 😉

Finally, as with everything they do, try not to get ‘old’ and ‘dismissive’, join in! You might not get ‘their stuff’ all of the time, but it’s important to try… it helps keeps our kids safe and puts us in a better position to encourage variety… bowling, dancing… synchronised swimming even!

I must say that I’m looking forward to how this all turns out for us… maybe we’ll look back and laugh… maybe not! I wonder where you are just now… Maybe you’re reading this on your new holoPad at the local Syncronised Swimming Gala..? Either way, i’m looking forward to seeing you… soon!



Design and/for Sustainability

15 Mar

We had a visit in the MDes studio last week from Dr Stuart Walker.

He works at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and the blurb on his page, which reflects the theme of his lecture, says:

Research Interests
Product Design for Sustainability – explored from a variety of perspectives but emphasizing, in combination with critical reflection and writing, the creative activity of ‘designing’ as a legitimate research element. Explorations in theory and practice that examine the inter-related issues of social equity, ethics and the spiritual, aesthetics, localization and the environment. The relationship between localization and globalization, and design for sustainability.”

His work struck a chord with everyone, I would say, because we could all see relevance to our individual projects. But more than that, although I can only speak for myself, I think he hit on the nerve that tells me that everything that is wrong with commercialism and consumerism has been touched by a designer and by default, it would seem, ‘all’ designers are implicated in this crime, however small their guilt.

I’ve certainly had the ‘commercialism’ tag aimed squarely at SuperFly when, at the beginning of 2010, I did a street poster art exhibition that was also an advertising campaign for a Pop-up event in Dundee; an exhibition that is all about the ‘art’ is somehow more valid than an exhibition that also incorporates ‘advertising’. The advertising didn’t take up any more of the poster than the sponsors logo section had on the previous poster, neither was the art compromised as a result; but of course, the advertisers did pay for the exhibition!

However, that aside, their is no escaping the fact that, for Product, Packaging and Graphic Designers in particular, there is always a question of conscience concerning the work that is taken on.

While this had been something I had thought about personally, Neville Brody was the first ‘well known’ designer that I had heard publicly express ‘matters of conscience’ in the context of design.

He has said,

“I think intelligent, questioning design that can somehow help extend and open up people’s awareness is valid. I wouldn’t work for cigarette or oil companies, or even alcohol. I would find it immoral to have my persuasive skills used to encourage people to start smoking.”

While everyone will have their own ‘line in the sand’ with regards to these kinds of ethics, I believe it’s important for every designer, working on any project, to have ‘sustainability’ as one of their key objectives.

You can view some of Dr Walker’s ‘research objects’ here, and while many of them resemble props from Mad Max II, there were two points that I came away with: 1. We don’t need to wait for a nuclear holocaust in order to act responsibly; and 2. design may well be used inappropriately at time, but it can also be part of the solution.

Wiki Maps

7 Mar

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”

Daniel Boone (American Explorer & frontiersman. 1734-1820)

As mentioned here, i’ve been working on my Knowledge Swatches… and I decided on a ‘Map’ theme as these are the pieces of information that will (hopefully) help me navigate through my current design ‘problem’ and many to come…

They are loosely based on the UK Ordinance Survey Maps but are basically a sheet of A4 folded into 6 panels (each side).

‘Wiki’ comes from the idea that they should be collaborative… so if I interview someone and they have additional information I can add to the Map, and credit them, but better still they’ll add it themselves.

I only wanted to print in black and white so the covers are coloured card and are colour coded into categories such as ‘people’, ‘organisations’, ‘games’, ‘conferences’, etc… these are the icons that are printed on the back for reference…

I feel that as my project is primarily focussed on narrative then all of my tools should reflect some sense of narrative or story telling… do the Wiki Maps to the trick..?

Co-incidentally the Wiki Maps fit into the little wooden box we made for our workshop induction project. Although, in the immortal words of Chief Brody, “we’re gonna need a bigger box!”


4 Mar

This is not so much a blog post, as a public service announcement.

At times it would seem that anyone with a Twitter account can claim to be a Social Media ‘Expert’ or ‘Guru’; and Social Media is a phenomenon that can radically evolve from month to month, so it’s hard to believe anyone could claim such a title. And yet, in the few short months since I have been following this chap I’ve never seen anyone else be so at one with the concept.

If you are in anyway unsure about how you should blog or tweet or document via video, photography, sound or combinations of all five, then you should look no further than the example of Christian Payne, aka ‘Documentally‘.

What does he blog about? Everything! His work. His travels. His kids. His trips to the shops. And those are just a selection of the videos and blogs I’ve watched and read tonight.

He works as an advisor/trainer and yet, such is his ‘SM’ presence, he also gets sent gadgets and kit from big name brands to review, which he does via his blog, and usually as a video entry.

Vodafone even commissioned him, at the end of last year, to complete a ‘Social Media Hitch Hike’ from Lands End to John O’Groats, with nothing but five prepaid sim cards and a phone. He completed the task by putting out appeals on twitter and people from across the country gave him lifts, bought him train tickets, cab rides and offered beds or floor space for the night. He’s like a Social Media Frodo Baggins!

So, if you want to know how it’s done, just check out his blogs, watch his videos (his ‘5 video tips’ is embedded below) and follow him on twitter.

Then… Sit back. And learn!

twitter: @documentally


Weapons of Choice

4 Mar

Design tools, methods, ‘weapons’.. whatever.. I’m getting a bit obsessed with them.

During last semester I was working on a freelance logo project that didn’t work out. My contact was going back to a committee and then feeding information back to me; but it seems that things were being lost in translation.. and I was never hitting the nail on the head. So they pulled the job.

I’d never had that happen before.

During this time we were looking at Design methods with Tom Inns. I had an idea for getting to the ‘heart’ of the design brief by interviewing the client using my design tool – ‘Body of Work’. It was part inspired by  process I had been through on the NESTA/CEO Starter For Six project but my version was characterised through an illustration of a person… arms, legs, head, heart, lungs, etc… each element represented a part of the project and therefore helped form the brief.

Long story short (you can view it below) ‘Body of Work’ got incorporated into a Tom Inns deliverable and then resurfaced last month in a Lauren Currie workshop. While I had been designed to evaluate ‘projects’ it seemed that the ‘heart’ of the tool was actually evaluating ‘people’.. and being a ‘body’ that seemed most appropriate. I’ll modified the ‘guide’ in due course to accommodate more clearly the tool’s more rounded purpose.

Knowledge Swatches

So, then today I’ve been wrapping up my variation of the ‘knowledge swatch‘ idea. Knowledge swatches are inspired by ‘colour swatches’ but with tasters of information. I wanted mine to be open to collaboration.. I was also inspired by Colin Burns‘ characterisation of the designer being the ‘explorer’ and whether you’re Alan Whicker or Indiana Jones, you nee a good map.. so my knowledge swatches are called ‘WikiMaps‘.

I’ve styled them around the Ordinance Survey map; they contain my own content with enough room for others to contribute and I’ve arranged them into colour coded categories for swift access. All the MDes’ers are in the studio on Monday to talk about their swatches approach so I’ll document more, with images, Monday afternoon.


And finally, GameStorming arrived today and after only five minutes with it I’m really excited by it’s content. It seems to be the converging of everything I’m researching and interested in at the moment… methods, games, narrative and learning.

But while I might be interested in what it has to offer the only real test for a book like this is to put it into practice…

DJCAD, Mdes 2011.. you have been warned!!!

My posts have been getting quite long, and so in the spirit of all that is playful and fun I feel that I should offer another token of appreciation and oasis of respite through the benefaction of YouTube. My selection today is for obvious reasons… but besides the title, it’s a master class in playful entertainment, from Christopher Walken, Spike Jones and Fat Boy Slim.
Embedding has been disabled on this vid so you’ll have to click here!