Digital Analog Clock

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I like this digital analog clock from Alvin Aronson. Each segment slowly pushes forward or recedes back as the minute changes, which creates a analog in-between that you normally see on non-quartz clocks with a sweeping second hand. The white on white is a nice touch, adding to the blending into nothing effect.

Most digital clocks I have seen seem to follow the same, utterly boring lines as each other, based around the cheap standard components from Chinese factories. This is an elegant update to an old approach and it has a hint of playfulness to it too.

There’s a (tiny) video of it in action too.

(via frogdesign).

John Cleese on Creativity

I hate being interrupted when I’m in the midst of writing a… sorry… hang on… Okay, I’m back. Now, what was I saying? Whatever, I forget.

If you Twitter or have other message checking tendencies and especially if you work from home, you’ll know what this is like.

For some tasks like entering my tax receipts, I can happily multitask, but for writing I find it terrible when I’m interrupted and get very grouchy towards whoever interrupts me.

This talk from John Cleese at the World Creativity Forum explains two simple rules for creativity: protected space and time. Don’t let yourself be interrupted in either sphere. It’s pretty simple.

There is more about the nature of creativity and people involved in making things. I noticed Lauren picked up on the same sentence that I did:

“Most people who have absolutely no idea what they are doing, have absolutely no idea they don’t know what they are doing.”

It explains many things, says Cleese, including Hollywood, social media ‘experts’ and bad service experiences.

Now it’s time to turn off Twitter and Mail.app and get to work.

(Via Lauren at redjotter)

The future, like the past only more expensive

One of the aspects of the job of interaction design and strategy research is being asked the impossible task of predicting the future. It is a fool’s game, especially as the future never turns out to be anything nearly as interesting as the present.

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi for some reason, aside from the brilliantly prolific Neal Stephenson (how does he turn out those massive volumes so quickly?). But I was searching for a quote the other day and stumbled across this one from John Sladek, who I had never heard of before today, much to my loss probably.

“The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive.”

It seems to sum the situation up rather well. Apart from the interweb that is – everything is free online and must be true, innit?

One free (playful) interaction


Snapback pages from Chris No on Vimeo.

Great collection of “free interactions” and insightful commentary from Chris Noessel on the Cooper blog. Basically these are little interactive extras, sometimes by-products of a design, sometimes seemingly deliberate (like the iPhone example above). Things that you like to just play with and that have no obvious, functional ‘use’, hence the term “free interaction”.

I don’t think we should be surprised that things like these make a difference – play and playfulness is critical to an interaction whether it is physical or virtual. Whether it is the weight of a nice piece of cutlery in your hand or an elastic interface element on-screen, they all make the everyday object and usage more engaging. It’s often an unconscious affect going on too, but designers who understand this do very well indeed.

It is also a different mindset. It’s interesting for me that Noessel calls it a “free interaction” because that comes from a position that ‘normally’ interactions should always have a tool- or purpose-like function. That mindset seems to be oblivious to the idea that creating pleasurable affect is an important and useful function.

I think it is great, although strangely newbie (he is no newbie), that he ends with a Call To Action for interaction designers:

Since we want our designs to be humane and, presuming they fulfill their utilitarian purposes well, emotionally satisfying, I suggest that designers begin to include one free interaction in their designs to enable the channeling of energy and simple expression. Design this interaction such that:
  • It’s “free,” i.e. having no significance to the task or content
  • It’s discoverable in ordinary use of the product
  • It’s quick and repeatable (Less than half a second.)
  • It’s pleasant

Almost everything I’ve been involved with in interaction design has been about trying to foreground this playful aspect.

Sir Ken Robinson talk at the RSA

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The RSA have now added a link to download Sir Ken Robinson’s talk that he gave there last week called ‘The Element’ – “the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.”

I like Sir Ken’s view of education, namely that most schools kill creativity and dearly hope that some government bods responsible for education listen to what he has to say.

I also like that when you are given the honour of a knighthood, paradoxically everyone gets to call you by your first name, albeit it with “Sir” tagged on. So now he’s called Sirken.

He is a good presenter too and uses the classic tell-a-story, explain why it’s meaningful technique with a good dose of humour too, but the message of his talk is very important indeed.

Swearing on Twitter

Most people who know me in real life know that I have a tendency to swear too easily and too much.

They are, of course, twats.

Actually that last outburst is a rarity for me because I tend not to swear online all that much and, it seems, never almost never on Twitter. Perhaps it is the fear of the permanent, cached record of it somewhere. Perhaps it is that I’ve trained myself to be careful about crafting the written word.

Either way, Cursebird, a site that tracks people swearing on Twitter in real-time, shows how fascinating the everyday grittyness of humanity is. Who cares about tracking tweets about “Obama” or “Economic Crisis”? Swearing is much more entertaining.

Cursebird was put together by Richard Henry. @thinkingstiff seems to be leading the cursing pack at the moment, but I’m pretty sure he’s trying too hard.