Category Archives: Creative

Open Design 2015 about to kick off!


“Open Design Cape Town Festival is a 12-day city-wide festival that celebrates the values and impact of design and innovation as key drivers of economic, environmental and social development. The Open Design Cape Town Festival is positioned as the leading showcase of how human-centred design can improve living conditions, build human capital and drive job creation. Through Open Design, the genius of innovative social design, service design, universal design and sustainable design has gained a firm place on the calendar of international design weeks.

Open Design Cape Town brings together all the design disciplines to remove the exclusive stigma associated with design. The programme is designed to educate and empower youth, develop human capital, nurture leaders and activate responsive citizens.”

Applying Design Thinking to City Planning

A great video I saw recently posted by the Service Design Network. Looks at the impact of design in general, and on our environments.

When Simple is Best: Ryan McArthur

I have always been impressed by Graphic Design’s potential to communicate BIG ideas in a digestable way (…good Graphic Design that is…) A colleague of mine posted an amazing link to a series of visualisations which made my day. Quotes from inspirational people like Wilde and Einstein are visualised in a minimalist manner by Toronto-based designer Ryan McArthur. Hope they inspire you too. McArthur’s work is available on Etsy.

How Apple And Microsoft Agree On The Future Of Design

This article was penned for oDesign. The original article can be found here.



With so much attention paid to Apple’s new mobile softwareiOS 7, it’sworth noting the extent to which Microsoft spearheaded flat design. The refreshing UI of Windows 8 and Windows Phone sparked a debate around the pros and cons of skeuomorphism, helping to usher in an era where gaudy textures, visual metaphors, and decorative, oft 3-D elements became frowned upon in the digital world. Apple has removed most of these design flourishes in the software running its new iPhone 5s and 5c; even Googlehas trended toward flatter aesthetics.

Thanks largely to the kamikaze design efforts of Microsoft, we now live in the post-skeuomorphic world. So what does that design have to offer beyond software that’s flat? Everyone seems to agree, the new trend will be software that’s more physically integrated with hardware.

This week, as Microsoft prepared to launch its Surface 2 tablet, I took the opportunity to find out how the company’s designers felt about leading this industry-wide design transformation. Apple’s new OS, for example, leans strongly toward being what Microsoft calls “authentically digital,” eschewing its legacy of skeuomorphic interface design shrouded in real-life visual metaphors. Yet, when I ask Microsoft Creative Director Ralf Groene whether it’s validating that so many companies are now taking cues from Microsoft, he takes a long pause and is careful not to boast. “Um … no,” he says. “I mean, it’s flattering when someone takes your idea. But what’s more interesting to me is that [we have moved beyond] getting people used to PCs by using a desktop metaphor from the physical world.”

“We don’t need all these frames and … I almost said wood veneers, but that wouldn’t be fair,” he continues, apparently holding back a subtle jab at Apple’s iBooks app. “We don’t need all these references to the old world. People have grown up with this technology–we can now move into next level.”

What exactly that “next level” is beyond flat and veneer-less remains uncertain. Groene spends time talking up the importance of creating intuitive metaphors for wonky concepts like the cloud; he also stresses the importance of developing services that can seamlessly transition from consumption to productivity environments. But when asked what the next step after visual skeuomorphism is, Groene does indicate that it could “go more into interaction design.”

It’s a sentiment we’ve started to hear from other designers. Apple’s real-world visual metaphors, for one, have arguably been replaced by interaction metaphors, which work to sync the digital and physical worlds (or industrial design with interface design). With iOS 7’s Parallax feature, which imbues the system with life-like motion effects, users can physically manipulate the phone to alter its digital appearance. On the home screen, for example, as you tilt the phone back and forth, the background wallpaper will look as if it’s shifting accordingly, with its icons floating on top as if on a different plane. “The way they’re reimplementing the UI framework with physics–it just feels natural,” former Apple designer Loren Brichter recently told Fast Company. “They’re mimicking the real world. So in a way, the skeuomorphism, which was previously going into visual design, is now going into interaction design.”

For Microsoft, we can see early hints of this transition in its Touch Cover, thepressure-sensitive keyboard attachment for its Surface tablet that measures not only what you press, but how hard you press it. As the company showed off this week, the Touch Cover is creating new opportunities for interactions between the physical and digital world–one designer yesterday referred to programs built on top of this platform as “app[s] that I can [physically] touch.”

Drew Condon, an interaction designer at fitness startup RunKeeper, is optimistic about this trend, especially considering that Apple’s new iPhone comes equipped with an M7 motion coprocessor, which continuously tracks motion data via the device’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass, without comprising battery life. Condon argues that the “motion effects, dynamics, and core physics engine” of Apple’s new iPhone “should make it much easier for applications to define innovative new interaction models.” He smartly summarizes the pros and cons of this design direction, wondering whether mimicking real-life gravity in the digital world is another form of skeuomorphism:

There’s chatter that the layering and depth in iOS 7 is actually more skeuomorphic than before. All the screens-on-screens and glass and physics make the design more–not less–dependent on literal metaphors from the real world. It’s true; software allows us to create things independent of constraints of physical reality (there is no gravity in the matrix), but that doesn’t mean we need to reject the fact that the operators happen to live in a familiar, learned, unavoidable physical reality. There is an actual difference between ornamenting a design with stitched leather and simply admitting that light, inertia, and matter exist as fundamental forces of physics in the universe we live in. Using transparency, blurring, laying, motion, or making objects bounce off one another is not artificial, it’s natural. There is a fine line between natural and ornamentation, and that line is usually made of stitched yarn.

In other words, traditional visual metaphors, such as Apple’s stitched leather and fake wood veneers, are not only unnatural, but they also impede the experience. Inversely, the experience feels both more intuitive and more natural when it includes physical interaction metaphors. It helps to bridge the gap between industrial design and software beyond simple color cues we see tying together iOS 7 and the iPhone 5c, and Windows Phone and devices like the Nokia Lumia. As Jony Ive recently explained of Apple’s new iPhone, “[The] experience is defined by hardware and software working harmoniously together … We continue to refine that experience by blurring the boundaries between the two.”

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Energy from your feet: When sidewalks and dance floors become energy sources

The possibilities for design within this is limitless!

TED Blog

The average person takes about 150 million steps in a lifetime. What if we could turn all that movement into energy? Two innovators are working on it — including a TED@London speaker. While one has built a system to capture the energy of foot traffic, the other is harnessing the power of smooth dance moves.

Mashable directs our attention to Energy Floors, a groovy company based in Rotterdam that has used dancefloor power to create more than 8 billion joules of electricity so far. In 2008, the team created Club WATT — an ecological dance club with flooring tile that harnesses the ecstatic movements of dancers, converting kinetic energy to actual electricity. Their first big idea: Launch a network of sustainable dance clubs with glowing, interactive floors, while simultaneously launching a line of floor tiles called Sustainable Dance Floor. But as CEO Michel Smit tells the TED Blog, that…

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Design Revolution?

ImageI recently rediscovered a book by Emily Pilloton (Design Revolution: 100 products that Empower people, Metropolis Books) which I bought back in 2010. I was originally stuck by her incredible (and some may say a tad optimistic) view of design for a better world. She undertook a project (Project H) with her partner Matthew Miller to redesign the educational system and curriculum in Bertie County, North Carolina, the poorest county in the state. The first group of students began the programme in 2010. This story inspired me to buy her book. As a lecturer in product design I found many of her comments raw and over-simplified, but non the less true…

“Today’s world of design (specifically product design) is severely deficient, crippled by consumerism and paralyzed by an unwillingness to financially and ethically prioritize social impact over the bottom line. We need nothing short of an industrial design revolution to shake us from our consumption-for-consumption’s-sake momentum.”

Paging through the book in 2013 I try to establish how much progress we have made in the last 3 years. Designers are more awareness, social responsibility is more of a priority, the sustainable tipple bottom line is almost a mantra and everyone is focused on ‘making a difference’. But do we? Do we live the change we talk about in design studios and classrooms? The world around me doesn’t seem to have benefitted much from all the ‘community workshops’, ‘design interventions’ and responsible design ethos so prevalent today. Instead I see small pockets of excellence, often driven by one or two individuals who care, and are truly invested in change. This leads me to believe that change probably won’t come in the form or a revolution, but rather as a slow current.

A great resource for design classroom, is the Design Revolution toolkit which you can download.

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Neil Gaiman – Inspirational Speech at the University of the Arts 2012

“I never really expected to find myself giving advice to people graduating from an establishment of higher education.  I never graduated from any such establishment. I never even started at one. I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I’d become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.”

I fell in love with the work of Gaiman at a very young age. His stories, graphic novels and later movies are a constant source of inspiration. When paired with the artwork of Dave McKean his work takes me to a world of wonder. This keynote address, given at the University of the Arts address in 2012  is his reflection of the creative industry,life and writing. A must watch for all artist, designers and creatives.