Apr 13

GOV.UK – Design of the year, a breakthrough for all of us

Last night the GOV.UK website won Design of the Year after winning it’s category – Digital – last month. Significantly, I think, it is the first website to win the prize.

The work itself is excellent, the team is outstanding. I know and have worked with some of them, and they genuinely are some of the very best in their fields. The win is well deserved.

The transformation of the organisation is less talked about, and despite obvious setbacks (“Digital by Default” came under fire recently, “Identity Assurance” seems to be taking longer than originally sold) massive progress has clearly been made.

But I think they have won something for us outsiders too. For everyone working in digital generally, and design in particular they’ve won the right to finally say “No” and do less, better.

To do it properly and stop cutting corners. To take the time to start small, write yourself principles and guidelines – and then follow them. Any coincidence that the Service Manual was published yesterday?

No doubt, people will copy now – but that’s the point. This isn’t just a really good website that almost everyone will use. It’s a guide on how to make really good websites for anything, for everyone and that’s powerful.

So thank you GDS.

Imagine if that power could, inevitably, sell things too? I await the ‘gov.uk of advertising’ with, almost, positivity.

Oct 12

Standing desk, one week in

I’ve been trying out using a standing desk arrangement for a week so far and I thought I’d make a note as to how it’s gone. I already had a desk on Ikea trestles, so jacked that up to the maximum height – 92cm – and placed the 15″ Macbook Pro on a small wooden set of drawers – 15cm tall, Ikea again. A second 22″ screen sits to the left on another wooden unit. Both screens get angled upwards a bit, and the Wacom tablet is lower, to the right, about 8cm off the desk on a solid binder, so angled up a bit. I have a solid toolbox in front of me to raise a foot onto, as a stool when sitting too. Cost = zero. Your costs may vary.

I work like this for about half the day, on and off. I tend to move the laptop down onto the desk and pull up a Steelcase Leap chair at maximum height for some things, and seem to do more of the standing before 2pm and more sitting later on. I always get an hour out walking the dog between 2 and 3pm.

So far, it’s quite good although I’m not sure I can make any great claims for increased attention or a massive surge in energy. It does definitely feel better than sitting all day long, especially if in the evening you might watch TV, read or play games. I wrote this standing up, and although it’s 4pm now, the dozy feeling of late afternoon is kept at bay.

I will report back in a month.

Nov 11

Quick test

Oct 10

Week 3

I left the cliffhanger in Week 1 struggling with the logo. After much revision, including the standard false “ah, this is it” moments at least twice, we got there. (Sorry it took so long team!) I will unveil as soon as I am able (couple of weeks probably) but I think we struck a balance between obviousness and subtlety.

Nicely it lets us do some interesting customisation based on user activity, clearly inspired by the ace Dopplr http://blog.dopplr.com/2007/10/23/in-rainbows/ ‘sparklogo’ that changes with cities visited and building on work from /dev/fort4 performing colour frequency analysis on content the user sees. Look at pictures of blue skies and the logo will start reflecting that, dive into something else and primary colours might become prominent.

Ah, you’ll get it when you see it.

Oct 10

Week 1


I’m hitting the reset button the weeknote counter because technically my extended run of designer-at-large amongst you has come to an end. I’ve signed an employment contract, have a desk in an actual office and a list of tasks all for one company. Shit got real, as I imagine the kids say.

We’re going to be a wee bit hush for a few weeks yet, but only a few as I think we’re looking at three or four products out and proud by end of the year at a minimum. Fast, good, cheap – we picked the first two.

So I talked about doing some wireframes and mockups for iPad apps before, these are ongoing. In the gaps I’ve been doing logo designs for company. Man, I forget how hard this stuff is. Doing a tweak or refresh of something existing I’ve done a few of, but from scratch only two or three. You try to conjour up all your hopes, ideas, messages into as few strokes as possible. Oof, proper Hard.

It continues.

App of the week: updated Remote, now for iPad. Pretty nice, playing this tune from here on that thru the big speakers using this. Sweet.

Sep 10

Week 509

SAD Lightbox

Avoiding the effects of the darkness of winter at the moment, while chugging through a second round of wireframes and designs for new project, after excellent spiralling design/feature/detail chat with Norm & James. That’ll get a bit easier soon I think with a permanent space.

Last week was quite large, or felt that way, beginning with a chunky bit of mockup design completed to show off an iPad concept – fairly straightforward actually, don’t want to scare the horses just yet. Following that with a busy presentation day and arrival of inlaws to stay for a few days.

This week, we have our first all-hands in an actual office space too – fast moving (although we’re warned to bring our own deckchair…!). Love it.

Sep 10

Week 507

The long weekend was a joy, and although this isn’t ‘work’, we did get round to scooping out about 9 frames of honey we’d taken from our bees earlier in the summer. The messy results of that sticky process are now sitting in a slowly filtering honey-bucket awaiting bottling in a few days.

After that, it was a new month, a new term and it feels like a new start. Having had hardly any EMI work to do this week I’ve been able to focus on the new startup. Now everyon is off holidays, we had a great catchup meeting on Thursday, with the whole team together. Awesome stuff, a few shifts in the various strands but overall momentum, which is invigorating.

Immediate tasks bubbled up with a pitch next week so Friday was spent putting some very quick screens for an iPhone app together and sketching out an iPad app. This weekend I’ll flesh those out and should have nice work ready for midweek.

In addition, I’ve been helping out with a little site for the New Forest Festival, learning a bit more than I’d like to know about WordPress. Really, I’m shocked by how popular WP is – it’s a right messy old nightmare doing things in it. Back to MoveableType for me next time!

Busy busy busy!

Aug 10

Week 506

Back on the weeknotes horse after summer off, apologies for the absence. It was a self imposed quiet from not wanting to crap on and moan about work not going in my preferred best direction. Also, I didn’t want to undermine myself by talking about future plans prematurely.

I’m currently splitting my time between winding down my participation with new digital product development with the record label and early design work for a new startup I’m involved with. The contrast between the two especially strong right now, where the project I had originally begun in November is culminating in multiple releases in early October. Meanwhile the startup has assembled a killer team, has multiple streams spinning up and should have a couple of early products out in October with more following.

This brush with corporate culture has been quite interesting but eventually the frustrating inertia inherent becomes frustrating and the opportunity to get out and at least fail fast again is irresistible.

May 10

Week 488

So like Phil I’ve had a lot of trouble getting back into Weeknotes after a holiday break. I tried doing the 30 Days Of Music which I will continue – just not right now.

I’m currently in a nice hotel room at the top on Nob hill in San Francisco. I arrived a week ago to continue work on a better digital music product, and this past week have been working with IDEO a bit. They wind down now and we shift to development with Pivotal Labs.

It’s a bit nerve wracking, I’m not sure we’re quite ‘there’ yet but we are a step or two forward from our prototype phase. The amount learned having built that is only now becoming clear to me and it’s been a big help deciding what is interesting and what is fun, rather than being dry and dusty about the whole thing. Users are not archivists, old records are not data.

Being Sunday I took some time away from work to enjoy sunshine, Blackpool winning their Premiership playoff and the Maker Faire here in SF. I can haz arduino, finally. The week ahead should be lots more work, not sure if it’ll be fun, but have a feeling it will be decisive.

May 10

Day 7 / A song that reminds you of a certain event / A Stroke Of Genie-Us

I’m not very cool, I rarely keep up with the trends but for a brief moment in 2001 I felt quite close to the new “thing”.

The thing was mashups/bootlegs and the one that tipped me over the edge was this one by Freelance Hellraiser – A Stroke Of Genie-us with bits from The Strokes Vs Christina Aguilera. Here’s a photo (not mine) from the what seemed like the smallest, hottest, most important club for all of 2 hours- King Of The Boots!

Bastard-Dec 07 2002 (3)