Free listening and learning


Big thank you to Eye Magazine for publishing this essay we wrote entitled Free listening and learning.

Creating and Managing Brand Value™

“What do marketing professionals and brand managers have to learn from an examination of the current state of Brand America? “

Fear Not. Interbrand IQ are going to tell us.

(In lieu of comment from us, we know you can make your own, but it’s essentially a similar argument and sentiment to this).

Both Tired and Tiring

We’ve stumbled upon the latest article, this time on, to elaborate on the increasingly myopic non-discussion around the demise of Creative Scotland and the cultural life and identity of Scotland. To me, the native/non-native argument seems so ridiculous as to not be worth bothering with, and has been dismantled by others elsewhere, meanwhile the political brand-wagon of the ‘Year of Creative Scotland’, coming as it does on the heels of the equally depressing, (and mismanaged) ‘Homecoming‘, gets away lightly.

Meanwhile, we’re working on getting, the app of the Voluntary National Assignment Agency, up and running. (You can read a bit more about it in Junk Jet no. 6). And once that’s running, all of the above seems irrelevant.

Regeneration Game

Not pulling its punches, with sideswipes at New Labours ‘criminal folly’ and a sardonic eye for every vanity of a modern architecture and politics in thrall to the ‘brand’, Jonathan Meades ‘on the brandwagon’ provided a really useful (and thoroughly enjoyable) watch prior to a discussion on the ‘regeneration’ of the East End of Glasgow in connection to the Commonwealth Games. Thanks to the excellent YouTube channel meadesshrine, you can watch this, and many other Meades programmes, in their entirety. With a great sound-track and withering bon-mots (“Are we looking at a monument to Frank Gehry’s limitless self-regard?”) it’s worth watching in relation to what’s going on in Glasgow, (thinking about the new transport museum in the context of ‘sight-bites’ and ‘three dimensional logo(s)’), the V&A landing on Dundee’s waterfront, and the following post (coming sometime soon) about the new Stedelijk.

Download This

The document to accompany the three screen film on ‘Identity’ is available here. Deft, succinct, artful, insightful.

Uniform Diversity

from Projects |


More here.

Going for Gold

With the Olympics in full swing, it’s a chance for the design community to re-heat some of the many arguments that have circulated about the brand design and identity of the 2012 Games. This recent easy-ride interview for Fast Company gives Wolff Olins a chance to say ‘told-you so’, and come out with some vivid brand double-speak in the process (the favourite of which has to be; “I don’t think dissonance means discord. It means an ability to be slightly off-center and still be cool – and actually means you’re cool because you’re slightly off center.”)

Elsewhere there have been overviews of the entire ‘branding package’, and there are still the myopic arguments being aired that this is not (and in fact nothing in the entire designed universe ever has been) as good as Munich ’72.

It seems that the most apparent issue is that in the contemporary games, speaking as someone who lives near to an olympic venue, there is so much branding of stuff – every ‘touch-point’ they would no doubt tell us, from the station signage, to the track numbers, to the incredible volume of advertising – that ‘design’ gets squeezed out at every turn, in favour of ‘roll-out’ (I don’t, to be clear, think these things are mutually exclusive, but they aren’t exactly the same either.) It also neglects that fact that this kind of thing (note this type of material is often missing from the fan-boy ’72 nostalgia-fests) could happen then (in 72), in a way that seems difficult to conceive of now, unless part of some kind of heavily strategised brand narrative. To wrap up, perhaps a word on the man who gave his name to that erstwhile branding establishment responsible for 2012, (a man who, in the words of Terry Eagleton, “one suspects would brand his own kneecaps if there was profit to be squeezed from it…”) – I think it would be a good time to revisit this analysis of OnBrand by Wally Olins.

Discussion Point #426

New from Gestalten: Taken by Surprise: Cutting-Edge(1) Collaborations between Designers, Artists and Brands(2).

(2) negates (1) we wonder?

The (whole) Identity of the 1972 Munich Olympics

I was contacted recently by Alexander Negrelli, a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie, who is about to publish a book called Kommando Otl Aicher, looking at terrorism, politics, sport and design through the lens of visual identity. I’m really interested in what connections or parallels may be made between the corporate design for the Munich ’72 Olympics (which graphic designers can sometimes tend to fetishise to the point of cliché) and the broader issues of the political context of the time, and its impact on the games. I look forward to its publication, however due to funding issues within the Dutch arts, this has been delayed until later this summer. A trailer can be viewed below.

I’ve written a bit more about this, and connections to a forthcoming symposium on Munich ’72 here:  M’72 Legacy « Visual Communication.

Views: 1397

[Originally published on Central Station, circa 2010]

Web-sights: My four-year-old recently told me that I had ‘beautiful eyeballs’. I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but took it as a compliment, and also had a think about what my eyeballs do most of the time. And increasingly they look at computer screens (or phone screens, or television screens).

And what is on those screens is increasingly (even tv) networked information of one sort or another, being sifted, sorted and aggregated before my very eyeballs. This coincided with some stuff i’d come across about the future of attention (and the battle for it) and a colleague asking why websites are called ‘sites?’. What exactly is ‘site-like’ about them? I imagine the phrasing is a hangover from the early days of the world wide web when programmers were trying to reach a linguistic middle-ground, to try and help people with no knowledge or understanding of the web visualise its structure — ‘nodes’ become ‘sites’, connected by lines and so on. Probably now ‘web-windows’ (if you can set aside the microsoft connotations) would be a better phrase as frequently the site is more like a frame through which to view the same information connected in slightly different constellations, or filtered by slightly different parameters, or from slightly different angles. I’m certainly noticing in web-design that people are starting to talk about web-presence rather than the (singular) web-site, which seems a more realistic concept to embrace.

The idea of ‘network culture’, and networks within networks is fascinating to me. In the euphoria around many of web 2.0’s perceived triumphs its easy to overlook a parallel story of earlier engagement with networks, a rigourous critique of some of the californian liberal utopian ideology, and an ongoing critical stance, examining the tools at work. Clay Shirky suggests that “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring”, which may have some validity in terms of mainstream or mass adoption and subsequent social implications, but that does not preclude some socially very interesting things also happening in technological infancy.

Looking forward, in a moment of syncronicity, sometime in 2047, the actual ‘views’ of this blog post will coincide with its title, i’ll have reached my eyeball-attention threshold, and i’ll be interested to see what analogies people are using to describe the web.