The Designer’s Review of Books Launches

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If you haven’t already heard from me about it, I launched The Designer’s Review of Books at the end of last week. I’ve been so busy reviewing and promoting it, I forgot to promote it on my own blog. Duh.

It seems like it has struck somewhat of a chord, which I’m really pleased about. There seems to have been no single place for reviews of design books up until now, only design sites (albeit great ones like Design Observer) that also had some book reviews.

I hope to do at least weekly reviews, if not a little more frequently. There are also a few well-known designers who will be writing reviews of some of their favourites. I hope, also, to review a few disappointments too – it’s easy to just talk about the great stuff, but people need to know what doesn’t come up to scratch too.

Do go and take a look, subscribe, tweet it and tell your friends. And if you’re thinking of buying any design books from Amazon, you can help me keep the site going through the Designer’s Review of Books Amazon Stores.

Creative Collaboration & The Future of Education

Slime Mould

I presented my seminar on Creative Collaboration and The Future of Education at Urban Learning Space yesterday and very much enjoyed the Glaswegian hospitality of all the folks at ULS.

Although it would have been nice if I had managed to leave a little more time for discussion, I was really encouraged by many of the responses and questions afterwards. I gave me a sense that there are plenty of like minds out there wanting to try make some real changes in the system and philosophy of education that align better with the creative/knowledge economy and the Play Ethic.

Ewan McIntosh, in an amazing feat of very fast typing and live blogging, has some thoughts on the first part of the talk here, in which I went through Omnium’s projects and Creative Waves 2007 in particular. He also added some great links and thoughts about the second, Future of Education, part in a separate post.

The slime mould you can see above is a metaphor I used for lots of small trends that are developing in parallel suddenly connecting up and coagulating into what appears to be a complete, coherent organism (which is essentially what ‘Web 2.0’ is a case of).

It can happen suddenly and there is the potential for this to happen in education and completely upend things. I think the likelihood is probably that it won’t be as upended as it could be because of the established mechanisms for controlling that status quo. (I also talked about outlying villages and towns coagulating into suburbs and finally being absorbed into major cities as a similar, slower, example).

However, the change will happen in any case and the real challenge is to be asking the right questions far enough in advance to work out how to deal with these rapid changes. At present I haven’t seen much evidence of this from within institutions themselves.

Incidentally, I owe the use of the slime mould metaphor to Steven Johnson and his excellent book Emergence.

ULS will be putting up a podcast and the presentation material on their website soon, I’ll post a link when it’s up.

UPDATE: It’s not on the website yet but you can find the podcast by subscribing to ULS’s iTunes feed.

The Playmakers

I’ve just been introduced to a wonderful book.

Timeless Toys

It’s called Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, by Tim Walsh and documents the history and development of classic toys.

The original, self-published, book was called The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys and Tim has a website and blog of the same name. I’m still waiting to receive my copy, but there are several excerpts on the Playmakers site that document the history the Super Ball, The Slinky, Jenga, Pez and Play-Doh (did you know it was wall cleaner?).

All the stories are inspiring examples of people thinking totally outside of the box and putting everything they had into an idea that they were sure would work, even if they had huge fears about it. Most of them are incredibly simple too and plenty were the result of accidents or of playing with materials. There seems to be a real sense of inventing things and then seeing what they might be useful for, rather than the other way around. It’s quite a Google approach to working and a real antidote to all the marketing/functional specification driven projects that are so often part of our daily jobs.

For extra, slightly nerdy thrills, there are also some fascinating patent diagrams Tim managed to dig up. The G.I. Joe one is particularly weird.

Thanks to my PhD supervisor, Ross Gibson, for the heads up.

Len Lye biography

Len Lye Biography by Roger Horrocks

Sometimes the Internet really works.

Shortly after I wrote a post about Len Lye’s films on You Tube (already bouncing off Dan Hill’s original post) I got an e-mail from Roger Horrocks who wrote biography of Len Lye. Roger was one of the founders and former Head of the Department of Film, television and Media Studies at Auckland University and, more pertinently, was once Lye’s assistant.

Very kindly, Roger sent me a copy of his book, which looks like a great read from the first skim through (it arrived this morning). Lye produced an amazing breadth of work, always thinking of new ways to create. I particularly liked the quote on the dust jacket that “Lye was – in the words of poet Alistair Reid – ‘the least boring person who ever lived'”. That’s not a bad epitaph.

Roger Horrocks and his wife, Shirley, also made a documentary about Lye called, Flip and Two Twisters, which you should be able to get from that link to their website or from the Govett-Brewster gallery.