Jan 13

Return of the Jedi – Making of souvenir

Rolling back to 1983 an excited boy went to see the third in a fantastical series of films, and acquired this slim book on the way. I’d never seen anything like it – a neat story synopsis followed by detailed pre-production notes, tales from the shoot, post-production special effects taken apart and described. Concept art! Fantasy vehicle blueprints! Matte painting explained! Giant models shown in progress! How exciting!

“Art of…” movie books are common now, and with the rise of CGI images less about physical modelling and logistics, but this slim volume was just the ticket for a 10 year old making unofficial Lego Star Wars and getting a lot out of drawing and early computers. Crazy times.

jediThey must have sold millions, it’s relatively cheap and available on Amazon


Jan 13

Typography Now – Why Not Associates

Imagine a young impressionable graphic designer-in-training with the shiny new tools of the revolution being taught side-by-side with the old metal craft ways. This book proved irresistible. But nothing ages quite so badly as funky distressed typography, and, to be fair, much of the content in this book was on the borderline of good taste at the time. And so, once a prized document of the blazing trail feels like a slightly embarrassing relic of a more innocent, dumber age now. Oh well.

Typography NowIt’s available quite cheaply used on Amazon.


Jan 13

Some great books

I’m going to post a series of short posts during January about some of the art & design books that at one time or other I’ve found inspiring, as a designer. A few are recent, most are older, with some defining books from childhood. Not all these books stand up now as great design source material, but a few do. These are my great books, yours may vary.


Dec 12

Syd Mead – Sentury

Less good this one with pretty lightweight text but great products, interiors and giant tractors. Pretty heavy on the giant tractors actually, with a large number of casino and resort concepts at the other end of the whimsy spectrum. Videogame work is included too, but feels less well resolved than the movie and vehicle designs.

Also included here, the ugliest sofa known to mankind.

SenturyUsed copies fetch silly prices on Amazon for some reason.


Dec 12

Syd Mead – Oblagon

This is a nice mid-80s collection of the mixed work Mead was doing at the time. Famous hard sci-fi movie work from 2010 and Blade Runner sits beside muscular automobile concepts and renders. There’s even a Honda Prelude there, driving through Jupiters moons.

OblagonUsed copies turn up for silly prices on Amazon.


Dec 12

Max Headroom — TV movie storybook

Going back even further here. It’s 1985, Max Headroom is all over the media. The TV movie has been shown only once, and even then had a bit of a gremlin. I did see it though, it was fantastic. I spent years waiting to see it again, but this kept the story alive.

When we had a prelaunch period for TIOTI, we ran an online video stream of the whole movie on the preview page. Seemed appropriate for a movie seemingly stuck in rights limbo.

Max HeadroomUsed copies are available cheaply on Amazon.


Dec 12

Roger Dean, Martyn Dean – Magnetic Storm

Grabbing my christmas money I rushed to pick up the sequel book. This has a more practical focus – documenting the publishing company they set up following Views, and all the other desirable books I still chase. More ambitious stage design and architectural projects also appear. And even more, every page was pored over. I’ve never been the same since, and on idle moments in meetings today I will be automatically drawing some twisted tree or rock.

Magnetic StormVarious reprints and formats are available on Amazon.


Dec 12

Roger Dean – Views

I got given this one christmas while still at school, 1989, and completely devoured every inch. Rather than just being a straight art plate book, it is a complete (up to 1975-ish) working history with tales of  building stage sets, funky seating designs, album covers, logos, architecture. I didn’t know better, so the idea of a single designer being able to span all those things seemed sensible – the aesthetic was consistent.

My delight was complete when realising this was a reprint, and a sequel was also available right now too. To the shops, and the beginning of the design book addiction.

Views montageMany reprints and versions available on Amazon.


Dec 12

Lessons learnt from doing startups

Quick brain-dump of some clear, brutal lessons I have personally learnt doing a few startups over the past five years or so. I’ll maybe add to and unpack these at a later date, but these lessons are hard won.

Lesson #1 if it involves someone else’s copyright content, stay away. It will end in tears & disappointment.

Lesson #2 It can *never* hurt to spend an extra week or two just talking through the whole thing before beginning.

Lesson #3 If Google enters your space, pivot sooner than later. Seriously.

Lesson #4 Operate a single veto over senior hires – either total love or don’t hire that person.

Lesson #5 Get your employment contract and shares/options in writing, in clear language. Stick it on the wall.

Lesson #6 For all the user research in the world, if you wouldn’t use it there’s probably something wrong.

Lesson #7 As unsexy as it is, *start* with powerful email marketing and metrics systems from day one. Not an add on.

Lesson #8 If you are spending a week per month just covering your arse for the board meeting, you’re doing it wrong.

Lesson #9 A simple clear vision to rally behind is *not* optional. A startup tries out many things, but if they all align to the vision, momentum is never lost.

Lesson #10 Don’t put money in if you have talent (code, design, hustling, writing) – there’s loads of money around, not much talent.

Lesson #11 Avoid dilution with good employee share pools, and try not to accumulate massive liquidation preferences – you will lose interest when your potential upside < earning potential as a talented n.

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.