Hector Serrano’s Waterdrop


Hector Serrano has finally presented his Waterdrop installation for Roca at 100% Design London. I wish I was there to see it myself. It looks like a stunning installation with hundreds of rods tipped with blue light set into a ‘floor’ that can undulate like water ripples.

There are plenty of images and info on the site and be sure to check out the Making Of… gallery.

Hector’s next project is designing and curating Spain Emotion at Tokyo Designer’s Week 30 Oct – 3 Nov 2008.

(I did an podcast with Hector for Core77 a while back for your listening pleasure…).

Art is the tonsils of education

I interviewed the renown fantasy illustrator, John Howe, for Desktop last week. I had a great chat with him and he talked about design and art education, some of which I had to cut out due to space. The tonsils comment I couldn’t bear to leave on the surgery cutting room floor:

“Art is perceived as a necessary appendage in schools. Art is the tonsils of the high-school system – everyone agrees that it is important, but they certainly can’t figure out how to teach it. I think it’s a right-brain left-brain confusion between learning to draw and learning to write.”

He went on to explain how we are taught to write with a pen or pencil in a certain way and then apply that to drawing because we use the same tools. But that means we use our analytical, language side of the brain to draw. (John holds his pencil quite differently from writing).

Most adults draw like 12 year-olds unless they go on to work in an industry where they still draw, because it’s no longer perceived to be a useful skill in later life. It is a great shame because the skills of imagination, thinking and seeing that one learns through drawing are useful for so much more.

Why is so much New Media Art so shit?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently whilst writing my PhD stuff recently (it covers this area a lot).

Fortunately the Near Future Laboratory explain why with their Top 15 criteria that define “interactive” or “new media” art. It’s worryingly spot on, which makes me suspect the writers have made a few of these themselves.

I’ve been guilty of some of these and my students have definitely been guilty of all of them. What’s worse is that I’ve seen plenty of multi-thousand dollar grants go towards much of that crap too. (I’m just jealous of course – I want someone to fund my lame ideas to the hilt too).

In answer to my own question, I think it’s because it takes itself and the medium too seriously. That makes any kind of art shit in my book.

(Thank Nik)

Designing Education’s Future

I gave a presentation yesterday at Northumbria University’s School of Design’s staff conference called Designing Education’s Future: online, collaborative, playful and socially aware. I just found out it has been featured on Slideshare, which is always good to hear.

I’ll try and stripe the audio on it soon to help it make more sense. It’s an extension of The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be and goes into the Omnium projects quite a bit more.

Thank you to all of you at Northumbria who made me so welcome (and for the surreal conversation Aysar).

Sponsor my brother for cancer awareness


Matt (insanely) cycling up Mont Ventoux, Bedoin in 2hrs 13mins

My brother, Matt, beat cancer back in 1996 and is, thankfully, still with us.

On the 26th July 2009 he’ll be taking part in the UK’s toughest cycling endurance event (open to the public), and the third toughest in the world, the LEL 2009.

LEL stands for ‘London to Edinburgh to London’ and is the premier Audax UK Event, held every four years. The aim is to cycle the 1,400km within 120 hours. To do the event will require 280Km of cycling everyday, for five days, including through the night and with minimal support.

The aim is to raise more than £1,400 – at least £1 per kilometre – for the charity, Orchid, which is the only UK registered cancer charity to focus entirely on the male-specific cancers. Male cancers don’t get that much press attention and men don’t discuss testicular, prostate or penile cancer too easily either. Orchid aims to help raise awareness of these cancers that are more prevalent than you might think (1 in 14 men are at risk of prostate cancer in the UK and one man dies from it every hour, for example).

If, like me, the idea of even cycling one-way to Edinburgh fills your body with horror, let alone cycling back again, at least you can make the effort with your fingers and sponsor Matt online.

Paleo Future


Image: Paleo Future

The future isn’t what it used to be.

Whilst looking around for an image of a flying car for a presentation, I stumbled across the fascinating (and amusing) Paleo Future blog. It’s a collection of historic attempts to predict the future with associated glamorous robots and other assorted imagery.

There’s also a Paleo Future Flickr group (where Matt got the name) and another one called In The Year 2000.

(It also lead me to a great set of images from legendary “visual futurist”, Syd Mead)

Do you shutdown or sleep?

laptopbaby 1.jpg

(Photo: Paul Watson)

What’s the emotional difference between shutting your computer down and putting to sleep? Or turning your phone onto silent mode instead of switching it off?

I need some input from you all (aka comments) on this one.

I’m interested in this because I’m thinking about the idea of closure when it comes to interactive experiences. Stories end, usually, with a return to equilibrium and it feels irksome when they don’t. Everyone has had the experience of watching a film and suddenly the credits roll and you think, “Huh? Was that it?” (with the exception of French and Japanese films where nothing actually happens anyway).

What makes you stop interacting with something? Is it getting the task done? Is it boredom? The bus arriving? What’s the emotional feeling at the end of it?

I feel sure there is an emotional difference between turning your computer or phone off as opposed to sleeping/muting it. There is definitely an emotional reaction when it shuts down or crashes of its own accord.

What’s your take on this? Do you have any examples of this be handled, managed, designed in good or bad ways?