3Doodler experiments

Post-graduation and job hunting is wearing me down, so what better than a little creative experimentation with my new 3Doodler!?

In case you don’t already know, the 3Doodler is ‘the world’s first and best 3D printing pen that allows you to draw in 3D’ (the3doodler.com). It uses plastic filament which heats as it travels through the core of the pen and cools almost instantly as it leaves the nozzle, allowing you to bring your doodles to life.

The video for this pen is super exciting and also, I soon discovered, totally unrealistic for the beginner… I was tempted to leave this out as my doodles are significantly inferior, but it’s interesting to see the potential in such an innovative tool:

SO, how to even begin… the video makes 3Doodling look incredibly easy (it’s not). In the same way that you learn how to use a new piece of technology, practice makes perfect; for example, here are my first few attempts:

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Not exactly groundbreaking.

I decided to start on a simple project; before I started to try and create masterpieces like the Eiffel Tower, I decided to stick with what I know and create the alphabet… using the slow speed on the pen of course. This wasn’t a hugely long project, I’ve just spent an hour or so experimenting, so it’s more practicing and getting used to how the pen works, but there were several interesting things about the final letters.

I used a plastic wallet as a base as this seems to be what the heated plastic works on best, but it also meant that it welded slightly to the plastic which meant it bent slightly as it was pulled away, creating interesting shadows when the letter is then placed on a flat surface. Also the ends of the letters aren’t clean cut, the plastic thins out as the pen is pulled away. This was the result:

(More photos/ experiments to come soon!)

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The Chain Reaction Project

If you know me you’ll know that I have a bit of a soft spot for good charity design (see Coca Cola Cough Medicine) and I came across this project, by Singapore based branding agency, Bravo Company.

The Chain Reaction Project is a non-profit organisation, launched in 2009 by a group of women who were committed to transforming lives in some of the world’s poorest nations. Their mission is ‘to find a cause and have an effect and, from there, grow their initiative by inspiring others to be catalysts for change as well’.

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For the design, Bravo Company have chosen to go down a simplistic but effective route, utilising simple lines and a two-tone colour palette. The identity is restrained yet accessible through the use of rounded terminals and a similar sans serif typeface; the overall impression is a blend of playful and technological undertones, implied by a light and consistent line weight throughout the branding.

The logo mark is based on the Chinese character ‘ren’ meaning ‘people’; it represents the company’s namesake through three points branching out from one – a concept that is pushed further in the use of the identity as a basis for a larger network of assets. Hexagonal forms are created when the logo mark is repeated and combined, creating a visual chain reaction but also referencing hives and communities – a visual representation of the brand values.

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The identity integrates seamlessly within a series of icons, one for each of the charity’s various causes, proving its flexibility and cementing it as an essential element of the brand mark.

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The Chain Reaction Project further embodies the concept of their namesake through their business card, which creates its own physical chain reaction. The business card is perforated, so the recipient keeps one and gives away the other three.

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The card they keep is complimented by handwritten details on the back, in the hope that this will encourage the recipient to feel individually responsible for their part in the bigger initiative.

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All of these design elements come together to form the branding for The Chain Reaction Project, using strict geometric angles and rigid designs which appear human and approachable through the softening of edges and rounded terminals.Described by Dr Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, as ‘a bridge of solidarity and compassion that connects us as human beings’, the 3-stroke identity holds its own as a stable and brilliant brand story.

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Image source: The Chain Reaction Project

Face-to-screen time

The face of communication in the UK is changing. 71% of consumer phone users have a smartphone and the way in which we use them isn’t just changing the speed with which we can get in contact with people but also the way we interact with the real people face-to-face. Screen oblivion is an issue that interests psychologists, doctors, councils, police, parents and friends, and that’s just the start. Why such a diverse range of people? Because technology facilitated through the screen of a smartphone has infiltrated every corner of social interaction, especially among those deemed the ‘digital natives’.

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Smartphone use in society is a hot topic of conversation, not least when considering the safety of people using them in public. The subject of this post focuses around street photographer Babycakes Romero’s project entitled ‘the Death of Conversation’. Romero sees a beauty in the symmetry shown, if one person is on their phone, another is likely to be and the odd photo shows one person stood, gazing into space as if alone when in reality they are in the company of others. This demonstrates a certain sadness, these photos are not an unfamiliar sight in our society; in fact I’d challenge anyone to walk down a city street for ten minutes and not see this multiple times over. When people are alone, bored, feeling awkward or uncomfortable then they take their phone out of their pocket, unlock it and scroll through messages, social media, photographs… anything so they do not look like they are alone. People are so plugged in that they would rather look at a screen than the environment they are walking through, or the friend they are spending time with. They’ll pull their phone out to browse what their online friends have been up to when sat in front of their real friends. People sit in restaurants with their partners, but with their phone sat lying face up on the table next to them; they go on holiday to exotic places but waste valuable time checking what friends back home ate for lunch that day; parents alienate their children by prioritising a text and colleagues are too invested in what their Twitter feed tells them than building meaningful relationships with colleagues.

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What does this mean for human relationships? We are spending time, the most valuable commodity we have, investing in other people’s screen-lives and false selves; a photo is worth a thousand words, but the smiles could be fake and plastered on to show people ‘what a good time they’re having’. The biggest problem lies in when we do this when around other people. Every person in Romano’s photographs has left the house to interact with people, yet most are choosing to interact with a screen instead of the person in front of them, their attention is in another place and the attitude given is that the person on their phone would rather be somewhere else. People are beginning to crave a release from technology and with little wonder when one can invite their friend to dinner yet still feel like they are dining alone.

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I decided to spend a week tracking my own smartphone use, conscious that I probably spend more time on the device than I should. Although the results were interesting, it’s worth noting that they weren’t reflective of my total screen-time, as I also use a laptop and often an iPad throughout the day. I was still surprised at my results: On average I was spending 100 minutes a day on my phone, a solid hour and a half; the highest was 138 minutes and the lowest was 46. Predictably the busier I was the less I used my phone but it still seems like a crazy amount of time to be wasting looking at a screen the size of my hand. I also used another app to see how often I was checking my phone throughout the day; the lowest was 42 and the highest 96. I’ve also noticed that despite feeling uncomfortable about having apps ‘watching’ my phone use, I’ve started consciously noticing and using my phone less in social situations.

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Interestingly there is a conflict about whether using your smartphone around others is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ manners. I’d argue that those who think it’s good manners are possibly more attached to their smartphone than to those with whom they are spending (screen)time with. It will be interesting to see whether there will be a shift in social etiquette that frowns upon phone use, especially that of browsing social networks, around other people unless absolutely necessary. There’s a huge amount of potential in the time you set aside to spend with people and it’s time to value face-to-face contact over face-to-screen.

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Image source: http://www.boredpanda.com/the-death-of-conversation/

No Make Up Selfie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This weekend I was nominated to do a no make-up selfie. For those of you who aren’t aware of this trend, it’s a social networking viral craze used to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. However for something so seemingly ‘good’, it has caused a huge amount of controversy.

No one seems to be sure where the trend started but one sure fact is that it wasn’t set up as a campaign by any cancer charity; some have said it may have been prompted by this (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/11/laura-lippman-selfie-kim-novak-solidarity) while others say it was a reaction to the now-famous Oscars selfie led by Ellen De Generes.

Personally I wasn’t sure what I thought about it, I have seen people praising the trend and people slamming the trend so I thought it would be worth exploring a little before doing one myself. Initially all I thought was ‘not more selfies’, I’m not a fan of the posed, caked with make up photos I see every day and all this seemed to be (initially) was another way for a girl to fish for compliments on the way she looks without make up, while still wearing foundation and some not-so-subtle eyeliner. I’ve even seen ‘no make-up’ selfies of people wearing fake eyelashes which, forgive me if I’m wrong, completely defeats the point. The first round of pictures I saw didn’t even mention donating (that started to pick up after the first round of criticism), but then I noticed followers of the trend beginning to upload two photos, one of their bare face and one showing the text donation, slightly over-philanthropic perhaps but you can see why people would want to prove they had done their part after all the ‘why don’t you actually go and do something’ comments.

One criticism appears to be ‘what does not wearing make-up have to do with cancer’ and the answer is essentially nothing. As I mentioned previously, the trend was not a campaign devised by charity strategists or fundraising teams and therefore searching for a deep meaning within the trend won’t get you very far. Having said that, meaning could possibly be found; a cancer survivor (who doesn’t actually agree with the trend) offered this as a potential explanation:

“(No make-up selfies are a way of) baring yourself, exposing yourself, making you feel vulnerable, trying to understand a mere taste of the fragility that someone with cancer experiences when they look in the mirror”. 

The main criticism that I have seen appears to be people blindly saying that those who are posting no make up selfies are having no effect and not helping the cause. I would like to argue against this. I strongly believe that this trend has made a huge difference; cancer research charities have raised £2 MILLION in three days from a campaign that they didn’t even set up.  Even those who took part early in the craze and may not have donated have nominated others who may have donated. For example one person doesn’t donate, but nominates five others. The five she nominates donate £3 each and nominate five other people each, all of which donate. Even if the chain stopped there that’s £90 raised for cancer research! So even those who didn’t manage/didn’t want to donate have unconsciously raised money through those they have influenced to take part.

As for those even shorter sighted people who say this trend will do nothing to raise awareness – look how much controversy it’s caused. If I look down my Facebook timeline today I’m sure I’d come across at least five selfies and at least one person moaning about how it’s not making a difference. And I’d like to argue that those who moan about people doing the selfie and not donating – how many men do you moan at for not donating or being sponsored while doing Movember? A lot of men I know do it for fun, but because people notice something different it’s still raising awareness of a great cause and they are doing something rather than doing nothing. Even if you knew nothing about the trend, seeing a photo of a girl who you hardly recognise, due to the lack of make-up, is enough for you to stop and question why she’s uploaded that photo when she’s usually so image conscious. It is a trend that is only successful because of people’s vanity, if it was just a standard selfie than no-one would notice anything different; if a girl gets complimented on her ‘natural’ look in the process, where’s the negative in making her feel a bit better? As long as this is not the sole reason she posted it then I can’t even see that being a valid criticism. The whole concept of social media is built on people’s vanity in building their ‘online presence’ and showing themselves in the best possible light.

I agree that it’s a ‘lazy’ way to help but people have such busy lives that perhaps a quick photo and a £3 donation is just the easiest way to help out. How many of us would stop to talk to the fundraisers standing outside the tube station every day, listen to what they’re trying to raise awareness of and give them £3 towards their cause? Probably not very many. How many of those who criticise would go out of their way to buy that homeless man they walk past every day a breakfast and chat to him? These are other easy ways to give to charity but they are still ways that the majority of people don’t make time for. I think if you’re going to criticise the no make-up selfie trend, personally I’d like to see how you’re taking the time to do something better.

The whole ‘campaign’ goes to show the incredible power of social media, £2 million is an incredible achievement in such a short period of time. One professor of Communications said “this campaign has captured the imagination, very rapid communication like this has never been faster in human history”. It’s incredible that now we don’t have to go anywhere to do our bit, incredible that we can feel like part of a community in a fun task with our friends but also know that we are helping, even if it is in such a small way and at minimum personal cost to ourselves. At the end of the day combining popular trends with fundraising is a great way to reach young and untapped audiences.

This is a short-term fix for cancer charities. Cancer charities find it harder than not-for-profit organisations that are raising money for a specific cause at a specific time to organise mass fundraising drives and it’s something that arguably features so heavily in our day to day lives that we forget how important it is. This campaign shows us that fundraising doesn’t have to be something that is out of our reach as busy people, something that we can do with our friends and something that isn’t a chore. It’s raising money, it’s raising awareness and it’s showing support if nothing else. I’d like to remind everyone that the NekNominate drinking game craze was incredibly popular just a couple of months ago, it was only criticised by adults who were quick to condemn the binge drinking and irresponsibility and it led to three deaths; I have seen far more comments from my Facebook network condemning the no make-up selfie trend than condemning NekNominate so social networks, let’s get our priorities straight.

Text BEAT to 70099 to donate £3 to cancer research to help beat cancer

Snap happy

Last week three VIPs took a moment in the most important and publicised event in the world that day to capture their own image on a smartphone. Little did they know that this would become the most circulated and reproduced images from Nelson Mandela’s memorial and one which would spark debates on society, photography and what Michelle Obama thought of it all.

It’s a strong statement in our society when a smartphone is the resounding topic of such a momentous event and one which prompted the Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries to ask whether camera phones are killing photography.
(You can read his article here: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/dec/13/death-of-photography-camera-phones?commentpage=5)

Jeffries observes that smartphone photography encourages laziness, we don’t stop to consider the shot but are more concerned with capturing the moment than capturing unique angles, compositions and lighting for the perfect image. Smartphones are putting professional photographers out of business, in the same way that the rise of photography in the 1850s meant that many family portrait painters lost their livelihood.

The wave of popularity for smartphones holding ever more sophisticated cameras has meant that the value of a good photograph, let alone a printed one, has diminished and any old person on Instagram claims themselves to be a ‘photographer’. Photography can now be held alongside the fast fashion, throwaway culture that we live in – the mentality that if we take hundreds of photos in five minutes of an event, somewhere within them will be the one we intended to get… or close enough.

We have lost the little rituals in personal photography, such as considering a shot at an event because we only have 26 photos on a roll of film or waiting a week for photos to be developed. The equivalent of having a photo of our family in our purse is now having them as your iPhone background. Hundreds of photos will be forgotten or lost on hard drives and psychologists even argue that there is such a thing as a ‘photo taking impairment effect’, where the act of relying on a camera to record memories means that you subconsciously store the memory to a lesser extent than you would have otherwise. We are suffering experientially just for the sake of a phone full of photos.

It all seems a bit doom and gloom as far as photography’s concerned, but there’s a whole other side to the story. Despite the rise of platforms such as Instagram, a person with a smartphone is not qualified to call themselves a ‘photographer’ and more than a person who can doodle can call themselves Michaelangelo. There is definitely a blurring of the lines between personal and professional photography, but it’s far from being killed off.

Digital photography has brought photography to the masses; as with anything put into the mass market, the quality is bound to suffer, but that doesn’t mean that the craft of taking a ‘proper’ photograph is lost. Digital has taken away the expense of buying, developing and printing film and it allows people the potential to capture great images, even if they’re not the kind of images you’d want to be put in your wedding album.

It has often been said that ‘the best camera you have is the one you have with you’. Naturally a DSLR will always beat a smartphone camera but they are a huge effort to carry on your person at all times, whereas you’re more than likely (if you own one) to have your smartphone readily accessible in a pocket or bag. Yes, the process of photography has changed in terms of the everyday person but we, as human beings, often use our personal, less than professional photographs as a means to connection.

Social networking has allowed us to share with more people and over vast distances more than ever before, and it also allows us to share our photographs – there is often no photo limit and the platforms are usually free to use. We are encouraged by others and it’s often a shameless form of self-promotion with users plugging in to the rise of ‘hey, look what I’m doing/where I’ve been’ photography. Our society loves to be able to see things in our friends’ lives and be able to pass comment on them remotely, we’re often not too bothered about high-res images, excellent lighting or inspired composition.

In the 21st century as a culture, we are recording our own history in an unprecedented way. In September Facebook revealed that its users have uploaded more that 250 billion photos, and are uploading 350 MILLION NEW PHOTOS each day… That’s an average of 217 per person, per day. (http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-350-million-photos-each-day-2013-9). It’s a momumental amount of data and proves how obsessed we are with documenting our daily lives, from what we have for breakfast to the oddly dressed person we saw on the tube.

We have an incredibly casual approach to taking photographs and a lot of them will be irrelevant to look back on in 20 years time but it’s still an interesting insight into daily lives, I’d rather see a picture of what someone had for dinner than read constant status updates where they tell me they’re bored/hungry/tired.

But I don’t believe that photography as an artform will die as long as there are those who want to learn the craft and consider photographic composition and lighting rather than just being concerned with just getting any photo that hints at the intended meaning. The landscape of photography is adapting and advancing with technology, but this is a natural step for progression. Fashion photographer, Nick Knight, champions the iPhone as a great tool in his photography and the iPhone Photography Awards show that not all smartphone users are taking endless photos of their cats.

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A selection of winning photographs from the iPhone Photography Awards 2013. (See more at https://www.ippawards.com/index.html)

Of course there is potential in smartphone photography, so long as the elements that are photographed are considered, but photography as a profession will still sit on a level higher. Personally I wouldn’t hire someone with an iPhone to take my wedding photos, no matter how qualified they may be, but perhaps we need to see this as an opportunity or a new path within photography rather than a disaster for the industry.

The Tube Map: a very British symbol of simplicity from complexity

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We’ve all seen it, I see it every day and stare, absent-minded, at it for roughly two hours as I travel to and from work on a variety of lines. To me it goes hand-in-hand with ‘please mind the gap’ and ‘stand clear of the doors’, but to a newcomer it is an aid to getting around the world’s second largest megacity.

It has inspired other underground (or subway) maps the world over and has been parodied globally to give the lines new significance – from a Biblical tube map to what each tube station tastes like, put together by a man with synaesthesia.

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The Biblical Underground

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‘Tastes of the Underground’

It’s a map of London, albeit a non-geographically accurate one, which is symbolic of more than just train lines, but has become an icon of the capital and an inspirational piece of design. But why has it been so successful? How has it become this icon of our capital city and why is it so highly merchandised – why don’t we want iPhone cases and pillowcase covers with local bus routes printed on them?

 In March 2013 the creator of the tube map, Harry Beck, was honoured with a blue plaque which commemorated the 80th anniversary of the map’s birth in the year of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

However, Harry Beck wasn’t a big-shot designer working for TfL, but was originally employed to draw electrical circuits for the Underground and, in his spare time, sketched out a diagram to replace the haphazard and complicated map that Londoners used at the time for want of something better

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The tube map before Beck

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Beck’s tube map

A map, by definition, is a representation of the features of an area of the earth, showing them in their respective forms, sizes and relationships. However the tube map, for all it’s simplicity and accessibility, is not geographically correct; as this is the premise for a map then there must be a deeper explanation as to the success of such a diagrammatic and geographically inefficient ‘map’.

Map designer, Aris Venetikidis, gives us a possible explanation as to why we have such a love for those inaccurate coloured lines. When we move to a new environment we start to build a cognitive map in our brains of where we are – as we spend longer in the environment, this map expands until, eventually, you know your way around. In order to do this, you construct linear routes linking point A to point B – our mind constructs these straight lines and generally a route coming off that first line will be at a 90 degree angle. We attach meanings and emotions to the things we find along these lines and fill our cognitive maps with markers of meaning. Imagine for a moment that you are drawing a quick map for a friend, you are likely to use straight lines and corners but it is highly unlikely that it would be a geographically correct representation if you laid an OS map over it.

Explaining this unlocks the secret to the success of Harry Beck’s map; although he didn’t realize it at the time, he was creating a map which correlated to the language of our brains and how we would create a simple map of our environment. Aris Venetikidis therefore attributes Beck’s success to three things:

  1. the omission of less important information
  2. extreme simplification
  3. extreme geographic distortions

(Aris’ TED talk can be seen in full at http://www.ted.com/talks/aris_venetikidis_making_sense_of_maps.html)

There are many who argue that geographic distortion is detrimental to both Londoners and tourists in terms of creating a sustainable way of getting to know your environment. The misrepresentation of the distances between stations causes confusion and unnecessary travel – for example between Covent Garden and Leicester Square which is a three minute walk. Another example is the route between Chancery Lane and Farringdon Station; on the tube this would require two changes and four stations yet it is a seven minute walk between the two.  

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The ‘Walk Map’

‘Legible London’ is a system which encourages and helps those in the capital to find their way around by walking. They describe themselves as ‘giving people the confidence to get lost’ (Patricia Brown, Chief Executive of the Central London Partnership) and make the point that ‘109 journeys between Central London Underground stations are actually quicker on foot than the Tube’ (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/microsites/legible-london/3.aspx). With this in mind the Central London Partnership created a visual language and consistent mapping system which encourages people to walk around London and to remedy the fact that Beck’s tube map may have skewed people’s perceptions of where things are. The CLP also developed terminology which tapped into the phychological idea of cognitive mapping in order to implement their scheme. During research they identified specific areas of London which they termed as ‘villages’; these were areas such as Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Knightsbridge, areas with commonly used names which can help pedestrians to quickly relate one part of London to another. Within these villages they further identified ‘neighbourhoods’, for example within Covent Garden lie the neighbourhoods of Seven Dials, Neals Yard and Long Acre, with the intention that as the pedestrian becomes more familiar with the area, the more they will subdivide it into smaller, linked pieces, building a more detailed mental map.

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Legible London

Despite the drive for people to really get to know their surroundings and walk around the city rather than use public transport, Beck’s tube map remains an iconic design which is immediately recogisable globally and has visibly influenced other transit designs, for example the Moscow and San Francisco subway maps

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Moscow’s diagrammatic subway system

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San Francisco’s subway system

Beck’s design is an extreme simplification of an overcluttered system which has made navigating the warren of the underground possible both for Londoners and newcomers to the city. The oversimplification prompts the language of wayfinding in the brain and explains that virtually all perception is about simplification, omission and compression; The success of a non-geographically correct map such as Beck’s is that the mental map we build is not strictly geographic but revolves around the relationship between relevant and memorable locations and routes between them.

#RoyalBaby

The Royal Baby, the Prince of Cambridge, Kate and William’s son, the future King… this child has been given more names (and had more photos taken of him) in the first 24 hours of his life than any other baby in modern times – before finally being named George. No-one is indifferent to the birth of our future Monarch, whether you are a fan of the royals or not.

It’s estimated that Prince George of Cambridge will boost our economy by prompting $240 MILLION on spending – this is broken down into these estimated figures: £87 million on celebrations and party supplies, £80 million on merchandise and £76 million on media including books, DVDs, magazines, and newspapers. (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/07/23/royal-baby-economy-boost_n_3638066.html?utm_hp_ref=uk).

A huge amount of that spending is on merchandise but what kind of merchandise has this landmark birth actually prompted? Is this design that will last through the decades and truly represent the significance of this great occasion for Great Britain? Most probably not if you’ve seen any of it.

So have a peruse over the crème de la crème of Royal Baby memorabilia and decide for yourself whether you’ll be contributing to that £80 million figure or sticking with a trusty bottle of champagne.

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How about a Lego version of the couple? Created by a couple who are renowned for their bespoke designs, this isn’t the worst idea in the world but would you pay £30 just for two and a half tiny figurines?

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Scoot over to eBay and you’ll find homemade versions of the couple plus Great Granny, slightly more special given the handmade element but still not sure where you’d put them.

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And if you’d like to pretend that your own newborn is actually the heir to the British throne then there are a multitude of products to choose from, not least of which is this dummy above. Personally if I had a child I’d want them to grow up with their own identity intact. See more wannabe Royal Baby products below.

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Aside from all this, the Royal birth has prompted some more entertaining responses from the world of social media, most notably this, which has been doing the rounds on Tumblr.

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And Twitter spoke of little else with Royal baby mentions reaching 25,000 tweets per minute post-birth announcement; whereas the #royalbaby has been used 900,000 times (this figure is still rising). Some Tweets were serious, some not so… here are a few of the latter for your entertainment.

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And finally… COME ON Britain, really?!

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In other news, brands churned out some clever copy as fast as possible to make their ads culturally relevant for the day:

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But it hasn’t all been as tacky as (some of) these; we live in an age where the birth of a VIP has been saved from every possible angle in HD, thousands of articles have been published and will be forever available online at the click of a mouse and praise has come in thick and fast for the Royal couple who have shown from their behaviour that royalty doesn’t have to be a thousand miles from real life. So congratulations to Wills and Kate and welcome to Prince George!