Other Outlets

Due to some new outlets for writing on design and related areas, I’ve made a conscious decision for Off-brand to become a ‘slow blog’ (or ‘slog’ if you like), focussing specifically on relationships between design, brand and architecture, and posting far less frequently. You may have noticed this happening anyway over recent months (years?). Hope all’s well with you and yours. Best wishes – N

On Blogs

The rather indefinite and unspecific ten-year anniversary of blogging is apparently upon us. This article by Scott Rosenberg in the Guardian neatly covers the historical context, from one view at least. What is most interesting though is the debate that rages around the medium. Prominent media commentators decry the demise of responsible informed debate. It is true that publishing thresholds have reduced to the point where little responsibility is required for text ‘published’, though it may only be published to a reading audience of a few. As John L Walters puts it in the editorial to this quarters Eye magazine, “it looks like writing, with characters and spaces and punctuation (and sometimes in the correct order), but it lacks the credibility that comes with publishing an article; the responsibility and the (sometimes unwelcome) constraints that go with the territory”*. The debate will of course continue, but we thought the following were the critical points of note which need to be drawn from the arguement so far.

1. However much you hate blogs they are not going to go away. And they don’t have to be read.

2. Blogs often get stuff wrong, but they hold the potential to be more quickly ‘rectified’. Wisdom of crowds is a powerful notion and one that ‘professional’ writers look down upon at their peril.

3. Rather than devaluing writing, blogs can also instill a greater appreciation of the written word. To say that blogs are killing ‘serious’ journalism and critique is as nonsensical as saying that sunday afternoon amateur football is killing the professional game. Quite clearly the opposite is true, a healthy active grassroots can only be good for the subject area as a whole.

4. Writing a blog has improved my writing skills (marginaly maybe, you can argue), but more importantly it has forced me to examine more closely the way things are written and the way writing style can embody content.

* Returning to the article in Eye, JLW also neatly sums up all the positive aspects of an active blogosphere, the crux being that the medium itself shouldn’t be brought into question, rather the awareness and consciousness of its scope and limitations when using it.

To conclude with a higher verdict and opinion on the subject, as it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get to the bottom of this one ourselves, apparently God hates blogs, journals, spaces and some photo sharing.

No one belongs here more than you.

No one belongs here more than you. Stories by Miranda July, and a lovely website.

Current Puns

It’s difficult to spend much time in design or communication without developing a deep interest in your native language and how it is used. This radio programme takes a groanworthy look at the world of puns and punning, throughout history to the present day, taking in everything including advertising, christmas cracker jokes and the propensity for hairdressers to use puns when naming their businesses. We’ve got a hairdressers at the bottom of our road called ‘Blow your top’, and there’s one round the corner called ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ which interestingly enough is a wasted opportunity for what should be ‘Tom Dick and Hairy’.

6 Degrees of Navigation

Just posted two new interviews to wodcast.org, (one with Martin Raymond of the Future Laboratory, the other with Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks), which reminded me that the first Peter Saville interview was picked up by a nice new (to me anyway) blog called Serif, and it turns out that one of the guy’s running this is based in Newcastle, which is where I was born, and which is where the Design Councils festival DOTT07 is happening this year, and the Festival is headed by John Thackara, but that is to digress, as the festival is mirrored by another design festival we’re having here in Scotland in each of the country’s 6 Cities, so there’ll be some visiting design luminaries in Scotland this spring, some of whom may feature on wodcast.org. Perhaps.

New Phone

in the spirit of unabaited tech advancement, (just because we can), am writing this on a phone im testing for a network provider. am impressed that it can do this but i ve still to warm to predictive text clogging, or, (switch to standard text), blogging.

A Great Idea

Wodcast launch

After the News/Off-brand have just launched a new site, wodcast.org. The site is a podcast project about the future world of design, featuring interviews with prominent design professionals. It is a resource which designers and design students can draw upon, intended to provoke discussion and debate, and the interviews are focussed on looking forward to future design challenges and how the world of design and related fields are evolving and changing.

The first interview is with Peter Saville, and more interviews will be added over the coming months.

Thanks to Peter for taking time out to do the interview, and all the folk at The Lighthouse who made it possible.

Tonight I’m gonna design stuff like it’s 1969…

…or so to paraphrase the artist formerly (and subsequently) known as Prince. So the turning of the year, and thoughts turn to design activity in 2007. What will be the stylistic zeitgeist (or shitegeist as Colin Fox puts it) of the coming year, who will dictate the prevailing trends, and who will follow? Or who cares? A definite resolution for 07 is to be more critical/analytical of trendsetting design styles and get back to the idea of good content + clarity and boldness of intent = good design, (not that an eye on contemporary design mannerisms isn’t occasionally useful). If this fails then I plan to revert my design methods to the honest days of 1969, when advertising was â??advertisingâ?? and all you needed was; product shot, logo and a paragraph explaining what the product was and where you could get it. Integrated brand communication strategy? Never heard of it…

So with all this trendsetting in mind, I guess it’s time for our predictions for 2007:

Technology
Another gargantuan effort will be made to introduce ID cards, followed fairly swiftly by the criminal ability to defraud, copy and crack these super-encrypted pieces of 21st century tech-detritus. “If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to fear” – Fine, if that’s how the government want to play it – anyone fancy uncensored live video feeds from all meetings conducted at 10 Downing Street?

Brands
Do, do, â??doâ??.

Environment
Tradeable carbon allowances will be introduced, which will be good news for me and my bike, though that massive fire I lit, the day after boxing day, may have set me back a little.

Telecommunications
Already witnessed as an emerging phenomena in 2006, we will see an increasing number of Neds (Chavs, Hoodies, Townies, Kevs, Charvers, Steeks, Spides, Bazzas, Yarcos, Ratboys, Skangers, Scutters, Janners, Stigs, Scallies, Hood Rats…) walking at high speed, in a slightly agitated manner, through our city centres, using their mobile phones to play happy hardcore tunes through the tiny speakers on the phone, thus rendering an already troublesome musical genre completely abhorant.

Law and Order
Following a sustained and intensive period of lobbying by myself, the government will re-introduce capital punishment in the UK, for use solely in cases of people who allow their dogs to foul on paths and then don’t clear it up. The realisation will hit home that, as a deterant in high profile crimes such as murder the death penalty is ineffective, as to carry out such a crime you need either be in a state of mental or emotional turmoil, or so bent on wreaking carnage that such a deterant would be the last thing on your mind, whereas in the cases of low level crime and social nusiances, the threat of execution could be highly effective.

Pecha-Kucha

Did Pecha Kucha last night at the Lighthouse in Glasgow – The slides, including the various URL’s and book references, can be found â??hereâ??.

Thoroughly enjoyed it – particularly liked the talk from â??Malcolm Fraserâ??, and the fact that two people namechecked their bicycles, a 96% efficient piece of technology apparently, and you’re not going to get much better than that.

I should have brought along more â??stickersâ?? as they were all snapped up – if anyone wants any more email me via the afterthenews website (see link, right).

Reality Following Fiction

With the launch of â??The Serious Organised Crime Agencyâ??, the government has excelled itself in blurring the line between reality and fiction. With it’s clumsy panther/globe logo and 1980’s bank gothic typeface, more often seen in those simulations of criminal databases in films and on CSI, it’s difficult to tell if this is for real or not.

A different take on SOCA can be found â??here.â??

Robots Taking Over

As I sit here working away, listening to music from my mac, I realise that my itunes, when playback is set to shuffle with a 3 second crossfade overlap, is a more convincing DJ than me. Note to self: Must practise harder.