Monthly Archives: October 2013

I managed to take a couple of hours out a couple of weeks ago to pop along to PLASA 2013.
Plasa is an audio and lights conference for entertainment professionals – sound techs, lighting engineers etc. A previous life…

I caught a talk by Al Gurdon – an Emmy award winning lighting designer, who’s past work includes the Superbowl (past four years) and tours for The Who, Madonna, Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas and more. Oh and the Olympic Ceremony!

It was interesting to see the parallels of his work, with that of agency life.
One theme that came up time and time again was that of compromise.

He mentioned that in the initial ideas stage, he’s always very keen that he and the team don’t think about the mandatories / budget / timings / locations etc.
“You shouldn’t ever start with the idea of compromise. Instead you should decide what you want to do, and then fight as hard as possible to get it to those ideals.”
Once the general idea is there, you can then start working through the specifics of what you know. If the stage is in the round – you can’t do backlighting particularly well, if there’s not a roof to hang lights from – you’ll have to find some other way of doing it etc.

It was interesting to hear the different levels of involvement that the talent will allow.
The Who were quite happy to accept a change in the set-list to accommodate an idea he had for a big start. Beyonce and Madonna on the other hand were a little tighter – they’d send across a medley / compilation in the order they want to run in, and they’ve often got certain ideas about what they want to do from an AV point of view.
In particular, I was amazed to see the artists themselves giving really specific feedback.
It’s something that they definitely don’t get enough respect for – you expect them to not be that involved in the creative process, but here they are – giving pages and pages of notes…!

Talking more specifically about the Superbowl, I was amazed by the precision and timing pressures that the team are under.
From the point when the half time whistle is blown by the referee, they have 8 minutes.
8 minutes to build the entire stage and secure it tightly, set the lights, calibrate the video screens, check the audio.
8 minutes!!
Al mentioned that there’s around 500 volunteers on the night, who are each given one job. Like ants, they each drop off one bit of stage, or bolt together one section, or plug in one cable. The project manager must be a god.

Once the talk had finished, I had a quick twenty minutes run around the conference to see if anything caught my eye.
These things stuck out for me:

I’d been looking forward to this conference for weeks – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Even the venue was exciting – Conway Hall. I’d wanted to go there for ages – but I’m always far too lazy on a Sunday morning to haul myself out of bed in time for their weekly lecture.

Duncan Fitzsimmons was up first.

He’s a partner at a design studio called Vitamins.
I hadn’t heard of the studio, but I’d seen some of their work – it’s fantastic.

This manual idea for a mobile phone is nothing short of genius.And I like what they’re doing with the lego calendar too – it could seem like a bit of a waste of money considering the payoff – but it’s interesting because it starts to explore how using 3D tactile hardware transforms our experience with digital things.

Anne Holiday was up next.

There was a lovely quote in her presentation – ‘Build what it is you want to build and learn as you go’.

She’s recently made a documentary about the Society for Model and Experimental Engineers. It was beautifully shot and I’m looking forward to watching it.

She talked about how making gets you into the flow zone – where you’re immersed completely in a project. When you let yourself go like that, great things can happen.

George Buckenham is a game designer.

He talked about inputs for gaming, which was fascinating. There’s a whole subculture on the web that obsessively discuss this stuff – discussions about the right pressure / dimples / size / shape / feedback of a button to stir nostalgia for a particular arcade game, or the correct joystick movement for a new game design.

It’s interesting to understand that for most games, inputs don’t enter the design process – you’re going onto a pre-existing platform and you therefore only have a certain amount of inputs to play with. But if you stop worrying about costs and take commercial problems out of the equation – you can design the inputs to work best for the game, rather than the other way around.

John Willshere spoke next.

He was fantastic – totally wins my vote for best speaker of the day.
He spoke about ‘putting things in things’ and how a box is often better than the thing inside it. The mystery and anticipation gets your heart pumping more than the stuff contained within.

And we often think of media as boxes too. Media is just a collection of boxes to be filled.
The silly thing about that, is that we often think of the boxes as the limit – the constraint.
Much like a vacuum is defined by it’s vessel.
Instead we should confront the boxes and figuring out how we can bend them to what’s best.

He also talked about the Artefact cards project (which I’ve seen before, and is really interesting) and a new project he’s just completed with the Said Business School at the University of Oxford. The project involved getting senior business people to start doing things with their hands again – making products rather than just thinking about them. The project culminated in them pouring molten brass into a mould that they’d each made – to create a beautiful key as a memento for the course.

Fran Edgerley spoke about some of the architectural projects that she’s been involved in.

Turning an empty petrol station into a cinema was a personal highlight.

Pippin Barr is another games designer. He talked about some of the projects he’s created recently – which was fascinating.

One of the topics he talked about was the fragility of games – how one change in the rulebook can have massive effects on the gameplay. For example, if you allow the paddles to move left and right (as well as up and down) in pong, it has a dramatic effect on the experience.

Another topic he touched on was the perfection of iPhone as a device, and how it’s a personal mission to create things that jar slightly with that. The creation of a game called Snek (based on Nokia’s Snake), where ‘awkward’ input patterns are used to direct the movement was a great example of that.

Dani Lurie spoke about the merits of mischief.

I thought it was a pretty great talk – and some of the experiments that she’s been ‘conducting’ to learn new things were really quite funny.

A personal favourite was experimenting with Royal Mail and their delivery procedures – what’s the weirdest item that we can get them to deliver (unwrapped). She stuck stamps on bananas, money, porn DVDs, umbrellas, crisps, reaaaaally long envelopes – lots of stuff! And then posted them out to see if they’d arrive. Most did – amazingly.

Marie Foulston spoke about her relationship with the game Animal Crossing.

She presented it in a diary format – which was really novel, and the slides that she’d designed were beautiful (the best we saw all day.)

Ben Reade is an Head of Culinary Research at the Nordic Food lab.

He started with a great quote – “Only play with your food when you’ve eaten all your toys.” He mentioned that there are two words in Danish for play: Spille and Lege.

Spille is play time with rules (a boardgame or chess). Lege is open play – exploration.
Ben thinks the English language lacks something without this differentiation. I think he could be right.

At the moment he’s spending his time working with fermentation and mould.
There isn’t much of a precedent in terms of robust science behind culinary tricks using fermentation.
It’s an interesting proposition, and I’ll certainly be following to see where it goes.

Dan Catt was a fantastic speaker.

He came up with an idea several years ago, that the large kindle could be used as a changeable board for a board game.

He loves Snakes and Ladders, and was inspired by something Russell Davies said on Shift Run Stop about the grading of jigsaws vs. the lack of grading for Snakes and ladders – so he decided to start experimenting with different Snakes and Ladders boards.

10 computers, 922,500,000 boards, nearly 10 billion ‘run throughs’ later – he’s found a pretty optimal Snakes and Ladders board. What a fantastic expression of commitment and passion.

He also talked briefly about ‘slow computing’ – which is a brilliant idea.
When you’re not using your computer, the computer should be doing stuff for you in the background. Maybe it’s pulling together all of your social media posts, and rendering a beautiful photograph with them – but it should be doing something. Why do you have to be sat at your desk, for it to be working? It’s a nice idea and I’m sure they’d be loads of ideas off the back of that brief.

Stefanie Posavec talked about data-related design and shared some of her most recent work – which included an installation at the Memory Palace exhibition at the V&A, and the ‘dance’ installation at Facebook HQ in the US.

Both were great ideas, and it’s great to see someone passionate about communicating insight from data – we’re gonna need more Stefanies in years to come.

Finally Rob Lowe talked about his art.

His work is beautiful – geometric shapes, with real depth.
He talked a little about Moire patterns, and how that’s influenced his work.
All quite interesting.

A top day – look forward to next year!

Wist very kindly bought me a ticket to The Battle of Ideas for my birthday.

It’s a fantastic event curated by the Institute of Ideas. You pick and choose the talks you’d like to see (there’s around six or seven running in parallel) and then race around the Barbican in the gaps to get to the next one.

First up – we went to see ‘The crisis of innovation: Dude where’s my flying car?”
There were some fantastic speakers and some really interesting things were discussed.

We learnt about the Sailing Ship effect – where the introduction of a new technology accelerates the innovation of an incumbent technology. We heard that Landrover define innovation as something that is new, articulately depicted and that creates value. Something that is new but that someone wouldn’t pay for isn’t counted as an innovation. And someone used a very cool engineering phrase ‘If there’s no heat, there’s probably nothing happening.’ I also loved this quote that was used – ‘An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.’

Next, we went to a fascinating debate called ‘Time to get serious about irony?’

It was great to see Julian Baggini on the panel, as I’ve read a couple of his books and they’re fantastic. His talk was fantastic – finishing with the sentence ‘In order to seriously examine yourself, you need to be aware of the comic mismatch between ambitions and actions.’ John Waters talked about metaphysical anorexia – our view on ‘self’ is diminishing in modern society as we morph ourselves to fit with public opinion. Late in the questions, he also dropped a fantastic CS Lewis quote – ‘You can’t see through everything. To see through all things is akin to seeing nothing. The window is transparent because the garden beyond it is opaque.’

The ‘Art of Biography’ session was good too – the central theme being that it’s the flaws in us that make us human, and it’s those flaws that make us interesting.

I’m a little light on notes from the talk – and there was a bit too much chat about Benjamin Britten for my liking – but it was good all the same.

Finally then, we popped along to the session ‘Baby on board: the battle over pregnancy.’ Wist established that she wanted to see this talk to help with work. Before that, I was a little worried…

If I’m brutally honest – this wasn’t a topic that I was particularly interested in and I wasn’t cognitively in the room for a lot of it – but apparently it was good. You’ll have to ask Wist if you want to know the details…

Brilliant birthday present and really fun day – well done everyone at the Institute of Ideas for putting on such an interesting event.

Last week I popped along to Google Firestarters – a brilliant event hosted by Neil Perkin at Google’s office in Central St. Giles. It’s a quarterly debate around the theme of agencies, marketing and innovation.

The theme for this session was ‘Planning for Good’ (something that particularly interests me as a subject matter, what with the launch of earlier in the year.)

First speaker up – planning legend John Grant.

John Grant was actually presenting via Google hangouts, from a villa in Italy. I’m not sure it was meant to be a Google product demo, but it worked pretty well as one.

He talked about ‘good’ sitting in three main areas; organisations that receive donations, marketing that acts as a conduit for donations e.g (red), and marketing with a social mission, like Dove.
There’s a fine line when you try and get a whole organization to ‘do good’. For some organisations – other company actions don’t stack up with the message.

In that instance, you get greenwashing – marketing spin designed to promote the perception that an organization is good-natured in some way.

That sort of hypocrisy can actually do more damage. John quoted an old Arabic proverb which fits that pretty well – ‘A good deed dies when it’s spoken about.”

Essentially – you need to make sure you’re acting like a human being not a marketing professional.

Next, we had Nick Hirst – head of planning at Dare.

Nick shared some thoughts from Dare’s latest whitepaper ‘How to make money & Feel good about yourself.’

Nick talked about the dichotomy we face when it comes to company objectives.
Milton Friedman advocated that a company must make money first – the first commitment should always be to the shareholder. Due to this, most companies have to slip improving people’s lives in the backdoor without spending an awful lot of money on it.

Nick argued it should be the other way around – Making people’s lives better is a much better purpose for a company.

Not only that, it seems to be more profitable.

When you chase after money directly, you can often fail. One example – Boeing’s share price tanked when it changed its mission from ‘Solving the worlds toughest problems using engineering’ to ‘maximise shareholder value.’

He summed it all up in this tidy model.

Finally, we listened to Sam Conniff from Livity.

Sam also talked about purpose – stating it’s the key to all success and competitive advantage.
Livity works with young people in and around Brixton.

They’re not an agency, but last year they were awarded best Marketing agency 2012.
They’re not a school, but they have a glowing Ofsted report.
And they’re not a social cause, but they’ve recently won a Big Society award.

Sam described Livity as a ‘more than profit.’ I kinda like that.

He talked about the purpose curve, and how it informs everything that they do with the kids. Giving the kids some inspiration pushes up their ambition.

Inspiration in. Ambition out. Bit more inspiration in. Bit more ambition out.

The talk was fantastic – and it’s well worth checking out a similar clip of him at TedX Brixton.

First up, Mary Portas
Mary Portas believes in the reimagination of things.
And it’s something that she’s been doing all her life.

(Rubbish pic – sorry!)

Firstly, with Harvey Nichols.

When she inherited the role off Creative Director at Harvey Nichols in the early 90s, it was a loss making department store. The few customers that did visit it would simply travel up to the top floor restaurant and have a quiet sherry or a cup of tea. Nothing more.

The clothing market at the time was all about boutiques from egotistical designers.
The department store model was broken, and she had no real budget to spend her way out of it.

She found inspiration in the theatre and art world – a near-nightly excursion of hers at the time. She decided she would make the department store like an art gallery space. Her and her staff painted everything white – walls, ceilings the lot.

One of the painter-decorators turned out to be a fine artist. He was spotted reading an art magazine on the rooftop smoking area. She asked him to paint all of the mannequins in the store.

She offered window space to talented student artists (Tom Heatherwick was one of the first.)

She asked studying creative to design the food court packaging and asked them to help install a bar on the top floor.

She was also struggling to get established & desired designers through the doors – whenever she’d try and get them in, Harrods would gazump them and offer to purchase five times as much stock from them.

So instead, she went to art colleges and asked for the most talented fashion designers. And she gave them each a space on the shop floor, without charging them for the space.

Potentially business crippling – they wouldn’t make the shop any money for being there…

BUT, they were the perfect loss leaders. They made the whole store cool, and people started to come in and buy from all of the other designers that they housed.

After Harvey Nicks, she then reimagined Manufacturing,

She was challenged to manufacture a £4 pair of jeans in the UK, at the same quality as the Chinese imports that were hitting the supermarkets.

Instead, decided to jolt the manufacturing industry back into life – but not at bottom prices like that.
Created premium underwear – kinky knickers.

Hired 8 staff that had never worked before, and 1 seamstress that was working part time in Tesco. Now has 32 staff, and the knickers are best sellers in Libertys. And stocked in many other shops including John Lewis.

Nothing is dead if there’s a way to reimagine it.

After Mary Portas, Sam Bompas took the stage.

I haven’t got much written down from his talk – apart from a beautiful German word ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ – which means ‘total work of art’. Bompas and Parr have a fantastic talent for creating experiences, not just pieces of art. It’s a really interesting premise – ‘how can I touch every sense?’ It’s certainly something we could think more of in terms of pitching.
Bompas and Parr have some fantastic projects that are well worth looking up – Mercedes food drive-thru, atmospheric Gin and Tonics, a jelly moat around the S.S Britain etc.

Next up was Jude Kelly OBE.

She summed up all of the morning’s talks: Take something that is unloved, and turn it into something with confidence, something that’s loved, something that is desired.

The Beatles came from a horrible town – Liverpool was a rather grimy, rather poor port.
But their confidence made that town a hive of energy and ambition.
They were the outsiders that were trying to get into the establishment, and that’s what allowed them to revolutionize creativity.

You should never underestimate your own creativity.
It’s all about having massive idealism. We do not have to live like this.
It’s not about stamina for a challenge, it’s about idealism. What sort of society do we want to live in?

She believes that everybody should be able to realize his or her own potential.
We should be celebrating difference.
It even applies to the advertising world – we didn’t believe in the Soviet Union, because one product for each category wouldn’t do. It was about diversification. Different products for different people.

She turned the Southbank centre from the concrete jungle of homeless people and skateboards, to a place with a festival atmosphere. All because she believed that more people deserved more art.

She introduced foot markets, buskers, boating lakes on the roof, art, music – and best of all anyone could just come along, they didn’t HAVE to buy anything.
18,000 people were asked to perform at the opening event.

The Southbank Centre was created for a post-war Britain that needed a pick up.
It was created to delight, to celebrate innovation and creativity.
And that’s what she based everything upon.

She believed that the place still enjoys celebrating fun and people’s right to colour.
She believed it was only grey because the paint had washed off.

And people will respond to energy, and people with energy.
She urged us all to ask ourselves, what do you believe in?
Once you’ve got it, follow it.
And others will follow you – because they’ll see someone that desires something.

Essentially, you need to move something from conventional and a little tired, to something that is desired, something that others can buy into and join you on the adventure.

Russell Davies talked a little about organizational creativity and the great work the GDS are doing with regards to reforming government communications online.

Here’s a few of the soundbites that I managed to scrawl down:

– The strategy is delivery
– Do the hard work to make it simple
– You shouldn’t have to know how government works to find out what you need
– Activities not audiences – The internet is not a broadcast medium, it’s for things you want to do. There’s an assumption that you should aggregate audiences to your own website, with potential ad revenues off the back of it. But if you’re not profiting from advertising, why not give it to them where they are not where you are. (E.g answers to some questions are answered in google, by data from government.)
– The web is not the IT department’s job. It’s all of ours.
– The web is not a marketing channel. It’s where your business is. So you need to be able to do it yourself.
– We’re of the web, not on the web.
– The unit of delivery is the team. It’s a collaborative effort. And the product is the service is the market.
– We’ve learnt how to be good at building bridges. But you can’t build websites like you build bridges. You can test and learn, you can share code (and should, it lifts all ships), you can change as you go along.
– You should obsess over user needs, not client problems.

He left us with a wry smile and the sentence “And if the government can do it, surely you can too…”

Alex Bentley talked a little about mapping social behaviour.
He mentioned that we often think in terms of our category, not in terms of consumer.
But consumers will take the line of least resistance – social learning.
And in fact, our success as a species rests heavily on our social and networking skills – knowing who, what and when to copy.

The accepted wisdom with social campaigns is to try and tap up the experts.
But that only works for one quarter of situations.

The benefits of targeting influencers will only really work in the top right field (‘expert’)
Each quadrant actually has a different time scale and shape for uptake.

E.g longer time scales for social, shorter time scales for independent…

We need to be able to plot our own categories into the correct quadrant – this will help inform what action we should take in communications, as each product/category has a characteristic data pattern.

For example:

Phil Barden was next up.
His talk was hugely interesting – all about the the use of decision science to help improve what we’re doing.
Decision science is a blend of different disciplines, and can shed new light on consumer behaviour.

We’ve moved from an economic rational model, to an emotional vs rational model. And now we’re moving to an implicit process model.

Much like Kahneman, Phil talked about the pilot and autopilot processes in the way people think.
The autopilot works incredibly quickly, we don’t notice it.
Pilot works slowly – us consciously taking the time to think through something.

The greatest thing a brand can achieve is to be chosen without conscious thought.

In the first four seconds, your autopilot can subconsciously process a number of things.


When the reward is sufficient to overcome the pain, we’ll buy.
Our autopilot drives our attention and shapes our perceptions.
In fact, we can actually track out autopilot much like we track our pilot.
Explicit tracking (standard brand tracking) is used by most businesses.But very few companies are tracking implicit reactions – and we’re not getting the full picture without it.

These implicit associations will have to line up with our goals, if we’re going to behave in a particular way.

Again, we have explicit AND implicit goals.

For example, we may believe that we buy washing detergent because we want whiter than white clothes. But it may also be for security – to show warmth to our family in exchange for belonging.

We can map these goals on a map – they broadly break down into:

We can map our brands (and whole categories) against these goals.

E.g difference between Cadbury Gorilla and Cadbury Trucks may explain the difference in success of both films.

Nick Southgate’s talk was fantastic too.
He started by debunking a widely held view: that we want people to pay attention to our ads.
Deliberately pay attention and consciously think about it.

But actually, when we look into what people aren’t consciously thinking, but subconsciously thinking.

It’s much easier to say ‘we want people to think this’ – the brief format works that way.
We can get people to think ‘this detergent washes whiter than anyone.’
But it’s much harder to get people to not think something.

He beieves that you enter this ‘not thinking’ stage when creative operates in the flow zone.

Sitting in the flow zone doesn’t make you feel anxious or confused. And it doesn’t make you feel bored.
Angry birds? It’s in the flow zone. Ikea Chuck out the Chintz? It’s in the flow zone.

The reason why it works so well is that it keys into something that people already feel about something else.

John Lewis for example? You’re not working hard to decipher that advert – you know what’s going to happen. Even if there is a twist, it’s one that is predictable.

A little like genres of fiction or films.
You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but you know what’s going to happen.
You know what you’re getting with a rom-com. You know what you’re getting with a horror.

When you come to present work to clients of – make sure you sell the answer and show them the science if they want it.

What definitely doesn’t work is saying ‘Here comes the science bit.’ That is just going to make people say no to work in revenge.


All in all, a fantastic day.
One niggle – why hold it in a place with amazing views like the below, when the talks are interesting enough to hold your gaze all day?! What a waste! Haha.


Wow – this museum is great.
There were two main exhibitions within the building – both were brilliant.

The first exhibition was called ‘The Future Is Here – A new industrial revolution.’
It explores the ways in which new technologies are changing the manufacturing and experience of products.

There was a lot of talk about the democratisation of manufacturing, and what it will mean for people.
Fabrication tools small enough to put on a desktop and affordable enough to use at home will open up a world of product-making and tinkering – a world where everyone can get involved.
A lot of the technologies that were referenced were actually on show, in the museum’s making lab.

I finally got to see a doll in the flesh.
They’re pretty scary looking, but it’s amazing the level in which you can now customise a doll before they’re printed for you.

It’s not only small batch manufacturers that are embracing the potential of mass customisation – some commercial brands like Adidas are including a degree of customisation in products too.
The mi adidas range allows personalisation on a huge level – including the colour of individual elements, the materials and even the finishes.

Manufacturing techniques can broadly be split into three categories.

Additive is the process of adding, layering and combining smaller elements.
Subtractive is the removal of parts or elements from a larger object.
Transformative is creating an object by altering the shape or behaviour of a material.

3D printing is obviously an additive process – building one top of layers.

There are different methods of 3D printing – stereolithography, selective laser sintering, fused deposition modelling and material jetting.

– Stereolithography – uses a laser to trace the first slice of an object on the top of a vat of liquid photopolymer resin (which changes its properties when exposed to light.) In this instance, the resin hardens – forming an extremely thin slice of the object. The slice is lowered slightly and the next layer is created until the object is complete. This has been available as a technique since 1984.
– Selective Laser Sintering – A laser is used to trace the shape of an objects initial slice across a thin layer of granular/powdered material. After that layer has fused together, a new layer of powder is spread over the initial one and the process starts again.
– Fused Deposition modelling – A coil of plastic filament or metal wire is passed through a nozzle heated to a temperature just above the material’s melting point. The nozzle traces out a shape, building up an object layer by layer. This method is used by the majority of desktop 3D printers.
– Material jetting – A liquid photopolymer is emitted by an inkjet-style printer mechanism. After each layer is printed, it is exposed to ultraviolet light, causing it to solidify before the next layer is created. Sophisticated jetting processes emit different materials, allowing different types of finish within the same object.

With a pro in charge of the system, 3D printing really can produce some really amazing structures.

One of the videos in the exhibition featured someone from Digit to Widget (a 3D printer company in London). Interestingly, he said that a lot of their clients are using 3D printed techniques when they could be saving themselves a lot of time and a lot of money using alternative techniques.
It’s not the only answer… there’s more than one way to skin a CAD model.

But making more generally, will soon be a life altering revolution across the world.

There was a little section on robotics in the room.

The first use of modern robotics in manufacturing was the Unimate machine operated by GM in 1961.
It was essentially just a large robotic arm that would follow step commands.
Innovative manufacturers can use robots to eliminate the need for traditional manufacturing tools like casts and moulds, a fundamental change in the manner in which products are made.

Professor Norbert Wiener was mentioned – a mathematician that became a visionary in the field of robotics. He published a number of landmark academic publications that predicted the emergence of computing and robotics, and explored the potential impact of the machine age on civilisation.
A bit like James Burke now, I suppose.

The second exhibition is called ‘Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things.’
The collection is a selection of important works from the last 100 or so years – representing the different design disciplines that have had huge effects on the UK.

There was some interesting debate with regards to ‘taste’. Reformers in the 19th century spent lots of time educating the public in taste, and these ideals also led to the establishment of the Council of Industrial Design in the 1940s. Sociologists state that taste and fashion are instead the means by which an elite set themselves apart from the rest of society. As soon as the masses catch up, the elite change the rules.
So hello, hipsters!

This is the GRiD Compass – the first example of a laptop.

I loved the way Grid systems briefed the the designer (Bill Moggridge) – they asked for a computer that could fit into a briefcase. Simple as that. No weight or colour or design mandatories in the brief, no size jargon – just a clearly defined challenge.

Modernist designers, such as Marcel Breuer featured heavily.
These designers believed that a ‘new style that rejected former tastes could contribute to a better, more forward facing world.’
What’s interesting about all of them is their ability to get other people to adopt their new designs.
Creating a mass change in opinion or action is hugely difficult – but these designers managed to do it time after time.

Perhaps it was to do with posters like these… Haha.

I was amazed to read that during WWII, plans were already underway to rebuild Britain.
Even in a crisis, we’re a forward planning nation.
As the war ended, the Government commissioned whole new towns that were planned and built to modernist design principles.

There was an interesting section on road signage and the guidelines that surround them.
Before motorways were introduced, road signs were a bit of a mess. Each local council produced their own signs according to their own criteria.

After WWII, plans for new motorways were created and the old system of signage was deemed inadequate for cars driving at speed. Jock Kinneir and his assistant Margaret Calvert worked on the redesign. The signs are laid out according to a really strict system, like on the diagram below.

The size, positioning and relationship or all elements were determined by multiples of the width of the capital letter used. The size of each sign is therefore dependant on the information it needed to convey.
This means that some signs end up really really big.

Another section focused on the Anglepoise lamp.
This is an early version of George Carwardine’s lamp in 1932, manufactured by Herbert Terry & Sons.

The lamp has evolved over time – but the core design principles behind it stay the same.
The newest innovation we saw was a flat one – very cool.

There was also corridor section on the rise of plastics.
I loved this chair, made entirely of recycled plastic sheets.

Fighting from the opposing corner, a TV set from Jim Nature questioned the proliferation of plastic use. He created a TV using a high-density chipboard casing as a provocative and environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic.

There was also one of the old iMacs on display.
It’s amazing to see how much it’s aged over the years – I remember using one back at school and thinking it was the most futuristic thing in the world. Now though, the buttons and inputs look dated in comparison to newer Apple products.

I thought this Radio-in-a-bag idea was quite a neat idea – it’s always nice to see the inner workings of products.

Top museum – well worth a trip if ever you’ve got a spare afternoon.

#1. Small panes of glass were chosen for the windows in the iconic red phonebox significantly affecting the way it looks. However, they were chosen, not for aesthetic qualities, but because they were cheaper to replace.
#2. The corporate guidelines created by Wolff Olins for London 2012 was pitched as ‘Prescribed anarchy’ – which allowed stakeholders from sponsors to venues extensive freedom of use.
#3. Millions of Bic disposable biros are manufactured every day.
#4. The word Robot is derived from the Czech ‘Robotnik’, meaning ‘worker.’
#5. It’s hard to imagine, but plastic was rarely used as a material until after WWII.

1. Cartoon Museum 

2. Churchill War Rooms 
3. Cinema Museum 
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house 
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum 
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum 
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John 
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum 
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum 
24. The Stephens Museum 

A day after we touched down from Italy, we decided we had to do something quintessentially British.
Well what could be more British than visiting the Churchill War Rooms.

The museum itself is split into two parts.
The war rooms and the Churchill museum.

We hit the war rooms first.

The first room you stumble upon is the War Cabinet room.
The majority of meetings of the war cabinet during 1940 were held in here, as were almost all of the defence committee meetings.
Churchill sat on the far side by the red box. 25 could sit in this room during one meeting.
Puts some PPMs to shame.

Walking down the corridor behind it, you see a number of things.

Firstly, the dock – a sub-underground basement that all but the most senior of staff used to sleep in, if on duty. Rats, insects, constant bright lighting and a lack of flushing toilets made this a particularly undesirable place to sleep – and lots of staff took the risk every night after work and decided to head home.

Further along the corridor is a sign holder, set to Fine & Warm.
This was to let everyone know what the weather was like above ground.

George Rance famously changed it to ‘Windy’ whenever there was an air raid in progress above ground.

There was actually a little plaque about George Rance further on down the corridor.
To avoid arousing suspicion, all equipment for the cabinet war rooms was sent addressed to George Rance – whose job within the Office of Works included ordering furniture for the government departments – the perfect cover.

One door along the corridor, Room 63, had a toilet lock on it.
A widespread rumour between the war room staff was that is was a flushing toilet – only available for use by the PM.

In fact, it was the transatlantic telephone room – which housed Winston Churchill’s hotline to the President of the United States.

Here’s a mess reciept –  officers could order “simple food such as beans on toast” in the war rooms. In the last six months of the war, drinks were rationed to two large whiskies and two large gins A DAY!

Perhaps because of the booze – staff found time for an occasional joke too.
‘Operation Desperate’ was a tongue-in-cheek scheme that the staff undertook, which plotted to obtain American stockings and chocolate.

There was an interesting story about Dennis Wheatley, who worked as a ‘Deception Planner’ in the rooms. He was a popular thriller writer, and used his talents to produce cover plans for Allied operations. His work included a plan, codenamed ‘Bodyguard’, to deceive the Germans about the place and date of the Allied D-day invasion of Europe.

Here’s an example of the senior staff bedrooms.
Pretty basic.

Clementine Churchill’s room had a little more colour.

Second big meeting room: The Chiefs of Staff conference room.
Churchill was often represented by his right hand man, Hastings Ismay in these meetings.
Some of the most important decisions with regards to WWII were made in this room.

They had some beautiful maps on either wall.

I love how this one has been pasted together.

The audioguide pointed out the Hitler graffiti on this one.

Here’s the five Chiefs of Staff with Winston Churchill in the garden of Downing Street.

Here’s the kitchen where the PMs meals were prepared daily.
(The guys head in the photo wasn’t part of the original installation…)

There was a type-pool around the corner.

One of the PM’s typists spoke of the daily struggle doing her job:
First you had the fact he had a cigar in his mouth, and his speech impediment. He was continually pacing so half the time he was facing away from you. And above all that, sometimes what he was saying was so interesting that you’d want to stop typing and just listen.

We passed through Room 59, which housed the Joint Planning Staff.
The Joint Planning Staff would analyse all information available and create strategic options, on which the Chiefs of staff would make crucial decisions.
What an amazing job.

And then we hit upon the map room.
The map room was manned day and night throughout the war.
The latest information on all fronts was collected, sifted and presented on maps. Summaries were then created for the King, the War cabinet, the Chiefs of staff, Joint planners and the Joint Intelligence committee.
This room was amazing.

The maps were beautiful.

Even the map stationary was beautiful.

And there was a entire bank of telephones through the centre of the table – where information could be relayed from all across the globe. The telephones were referred to as the beauty chorus.
The ivory one on the end connected directly to the PMs Downing Street office.

Rather neatly, you can see Queen Elizabeth and King George’s signatures in the visitors book for the cabinet war rooms.

The cabinet rooms were finally closed down on 11th May 1945. Here’s the note from Edward Bridges and Ismay to staff.

Now that’s quite enough for one museum… but we still had the Churchill museum to go around.

There were some choice quotes of his on display…
– ‘It is no use leading other nations up the garden and then running away when the dog growls.’
– ‘I must write to Ivor Novello and tell him to produce a good war song… but this time it will have to be Stop the Home Fires Burning.’
– ‘He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.’
– ‘A sheep in sheep’s clothing.’
– ‘An empty taxi pulled up at 10 Downing street, and when the door opened, Attlee got out.’
– When accused of sleeping during someone’s speech ‘I wish to god I were.’
– ‘There’s less to him than meets the eye.’
– When receiving an honoury degree ‘No one has ever passed so few examinations and received so many degrees.’
– They may say I lead them up the garden path, but they have found delectable fruit and wholesome vegetables.

I thought it was really interesting how attuned to the nuances of language Churchill was.
He decided to rename the Local Defence Volunteers, The Home Guard – as he thought the former was uninspiring.
He also requested the wartime Communal Feeding Areas be renamed Restaurants, as the former was suggestive of communism and workhouses.

I loved this monthly engagement planner he used – like a chunkier calendar.

Notes on Churchill’s working day were quite incredible.
At 8am he would wake up, and would work in bed on government papers. His secretary would often join as he dictated letters.
At 10am he would rise and bathe.
He would have appointments late afternoon, before sitting down for lunch at 1.30pm with invited guests.
On Tuesdays, the King would come to dinner.
At 3pm he would have an afternoon nap, and at 4pm he would rise and bathe once more.
At 4.30pm he would have more meetings and do more work until 8pm.
At 8pm he would have dinner. Champagne and wine preceded and accompanied dinner, usually prepared by Mrs Georgina Landemare, Churchill’s personal cook. Despite rationing, Churchill would often eat oysters, soup and sardines, followed by roast venison stuffed with pate and truffle sauce. There would then be dessert – stilton cheese, baked tart or ice cream.
At 10.30pm he would have more meetings, and wouldn’t break until midnight.
At midnight, he might watch a film or play a card game.
At 1.30am he would head to bed and read the next day’s papers (supplied to him via an early pressing.)

There was a fair bit about young Churchill, and Churchill growing up.
And some interesting bits about his election campaigns too – but this post is miles too long already!


#1. Churchill would normally light his first cigar shortly after breakfast. He smoked about eight a day.
#2. Churchill was always dressed by his valet, Sawyers.
#3. His favourite champagne was Pol Roger and his favourite brand was Hine.
#4. Churchill was 5 foot 6 and a half.
#5. Churchill referred to his bouts of depression as either the ‘black dog’ or his ‘brown hours.’

1. Cartoon Museum 

2. Churchill War Rooms 
3. Cinema Museum 
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house 
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum 
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum 
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John 
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum 
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum 
24. The Stephens Museum 

Whilst in Venice, we popped along to the Peggy Guggenheim collection.

Here’s some snaps.

Below is Femme qui marche – Alberto Giacometti.

Next are two satirical comic strips, produced to publicise Picasso’s outraged position against the senselessness and horror of war. They were originally designed to be mass produced as postcards.

Eyes in the Heat – Jackson Pollock

Alexander Calder – Silver Bedhead
As you can see from the photo, Peggy Guggenheim really did use this as her own bed head in the house.

The bed head was beautiful – I loved this dragonfly.

Pipe, verre, bouteille de Vieux Marc – Pablo Picasso

This next piece would look at home in most London creative agencies…
Changing place, changing time, changing thoughts, changing future – Maurizio Nannucci