Thursday, 30 September 2010

Day 273, on which John reviews the #newtwitter [30.9.10]

Dag to hundrede treoghalvfjerds. That's right, because of the day (after the day) I got the new Twitter site design, I'm devoting a whole post to Twitter and will be using annoying #hashtags throughout. Twitter Thursday I call this. It doesn't really allirate but, uh, well, never mind. Too much brainpower usage after some English homework has left me mindnumb. Blurgh.

Here's what my Twitter profile looks like in the #newtwitter style. Pretty slick, you may think, and I agree. Maybe it's just the cool colour scheme I chose for my profile. Maybe it's the actual site design. Who knows?

Firstly, I like the larger profile pic. So many profile pics are too complex for a thumbnail size and just get disregarded as 'something'. With a larger size, viewers can actually see what your profile pic is. I also like the simpler site design, with the large sidebar which you can preview Yfrog and Twitpic photos in as well as quickly see hashtags and @tweets attached to a tweet. That's good.

However, the enlarged sidebar looks strange to me. I'm used to reading blogs, with a larger left bar than right, and this Twitter layout looks a bit odd to me. Tweets on the left are meant to be read first, so shift that other bar over and make way for the tweets! That's just my blogger opinion, though.

One thing I dislike about the #newtwitter is the new design. Yes, a scrolling top bar is useful and yes, the background has been pushed away and it's simpler, less is more, yada yada yada. But Twitter seems to have lost its quirkiness, the cartoon bird is gone and so are the clouds in the background. I doubt the Tweet whale will be back, either. It seems Twitter has become more cold and utilitarian, like Flickr did with its update a while back. Twitter seems more like a full-blown software-within-a-browser rather than the quirky little one-use app it used to be. It's more serious, more bulky now. And I don't like that professionalism. I want Twitter to go back to the days when it was fun, light, and a little site. Things have got too serious for my liking.

But I use the Tweetie app for Mac OS X so I don't have to bear with the Twitter site. Woo.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Day 272, on which less is more [29.9.10]

Dag to hundrede tooghalvtreds. I had a meeting about a certain design challenge named 'Design Ventura' today, very interesting stuff. Design Ventura is a competition organised by the dismally small London Design Museum, to encourage kids to design stuff for their gift shop. It's great and all, we had some interesting visitors over to our school to help us with our designs, but what I Hate (capital H) is that it's all 'design to fit a problem'.

Whilst that's not explicitly mentioned in the brief, it's what they're training us to design. One of the ideas was an ice cream scoop that could heat up to melt the ice cream. Whilst that's a good idea and all, that's not design. That's what I'd call 'design'. Pfft.

OK. Now for another design rant, because I admit that posts have been pretty lightweight recently and there's nothing better than a two-tonne design rant to weigh it back down. Like a brick in water. Or a brick in air. They both fall (one sinks, but it's technically falling).

Less is more.

These are three famous words by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, who was one of the founding fathers of modernism back in the 1920s. He was in the Bauhaus movement, which was the leap pad from modernism to take off from. Why? Because Bauhaus acted under one principle that no designers had done before: function before form. No frills and Victorian details, not just wood, but in fact putting function first and revolutionising the world of design.

So back to 'less is more'. This is a foundation concept in everything my favourite designers have worked from: Jacobsen's middle name was simplification, The Panton Chair is proof that Verner Panton had the right idea, and Dieter Rams was practically Van Der Rohe's son in terms of design philosophies. What the three words mean is reducing the product to its bare minimum.

Why? Users can get scared off. Why have lots of frills, decorations, bits 'n' bobs when you can in fact put across your message with less detail? As I've mentioned before, something should look good from far off, and that doesn't mean the user squinting and saying 'what's that thing on that chair there?'. They can come over and see for themselves, but their first impressions of it have been 'confusing' or 'hard to make out'. 'intriguing' is not the same as 'I wonder what that is', kids. Remember that.

For our example today I thought I'd delve into some Finnish design, because - amongst other things - I'd forgotten the difference between Eero Aarnio and Eero Saarinen. Though it's pretty dumb that they have the same first name.

Everyone knows what this chair is: Aarnio's Bubble Chair. It's a true classic of late-20th-century design. It has lots of important design points relating to personal privacy and creating new spaces, but I'll save you that for today. I'm going to focus on 'less is more'. Because, Aarnio has shown here that less really is more. No decorations on the bubble, no little details - shelves, trays, metal outlines, nothing. No frills. No extra bits 'cause it might look good with a khaki motif. No. Nothing. This is also a very Finnish thing to do - Finnish design is very bland and simplisitic. Not always my piece of cake at times, but the bubble chair gets my vote. Complete with Aarnio's daughters, as in this photo.

As a result of the 'less is more' approach, users can warm to the design because they know what it is. It's not trying to be something else, or two things - a personal workstation bubble, complete with desk and drawers, for instance. It's simple a bubble. Sliced through a sphere, curved edge for safety, attached via rope to the ceiling. Three parts, two components. It doesn't even come with the cushions. It's simply a bubble. You can personalise it with your own cushions and doodads (here Aarnio's daughters have chucked in some garish silvery things), so you can start to form a relationship with it. Remember I've talked about aesthetic flexibility? Well, this is it. Your cushions. In a 'blank canvas' chair. It's a striking shape, it's interesting, it's truly intriguing, and there's no 'selling points' - no shelves, no 'comes in red, too'.

Less certainly is more.


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Day 271, on which John talks STEAM [28.9.10]

Dag to hundrede énoghalvfjerds. Tuesdays aren't good either. And there you go, that's all the time you're going to get from me in terms of moaning about what day of the week it is. Homework is slowly creeping in (on the western front, yes, and all other fronts), but I've managed to hold it off yet and only got a bit. It'll pile up later on this week I'm sure. Yeesh.

OK, the big news of this week is that it is STEAM this saturday! STEAM is my abbreviation for the Brickish event at the STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway. Which is the only proper LEGO event in the UK all year, so I've been waiting for this ever since I left it last year. To remind you of what it looked like (if you went or not), here's my photo from last year:

It's happening this weekend, the 2nd and 3rd of October, at the STEAM Museum in Swindon (somewhere amongst the roundabouts). I'm going to go on Saturday, and no - I'm not 'too excited' about this, it's my one chance for contact with other Lego fans away from the internet all year. One chance. And I'm not going to miss it for anything.

I'm actually displaying this year (my second year), which is really great. Whilst I can't be a member of Brickish because then moved the entrance age up just when I was about to reach it, I can display my stuff at a Brickish member's table. In this case, it's Jake, who is also hosting Tac's dark bley mechs. So, if anyone asks, it's Jake's creations, ok? Brickish will no doubt hate us for it, but it's their fault for moving the entrance age up. And it's Jake's space to deal with, so what's wrong with giving some of it to us? Silly Brickish.

So, I'll be displaying three things at STEAM on Saturday:

Firstly, I have to show off my Ishøj House to the world. It looks much better in person than any photo will justify, so you have to go see it. No amendments to the design, I'll admit, but it's still awesome. And I can take the roof off and show you the insides, too. Should be great.

Then there's the JOHN Collection II catalogue, printed out on shiny paper and all, because it deserves that. It'll be held together by a string loop, to make it look makeshift and easier to turn the pages, like a book at a museum exhibit. I'd love to bring along a fully lit JOHN Collection scene, but that takes a heck of preparation and I just don't have the time now.

And finally, rounding off the three and being, sadly, the second non-Lego exhibit, I will be bringing a small booklet of never-seen-before JOHN Collection III furniture! It's top-secret and the folks at STEAM are getting a special sneak preview, 'cause I love you guys. There's seven pieces in the booklet, some of them are the best in the Collection so far, so I encourage you to flick through that... but don't tell anyone about the designs! They will be officially released at Christmas!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Day 270, on which John says 'hæ Ísland'! [27.9.10]

Dag to hundrede og halvfjerds. Yeesh, monday has hit me hard. And no, it's nothing to do with me staying up last night watching Juno last night. That was totally okay. Nothing up with that. Though I admit I had some odd, odd dreams last night... ah, let's try and forget them. My imagination does strange things when left unattended. Like loose baggage at an airport, only it does a lot worse than just going missing. Oh boy, a lot worse.

In other news, Juno was just as good a movie the second time as the first. It didn't lose anything, thought I found myself preempting some of the lines 'cause I know them well. Like, the 'it probably looks like a sea monkey at the moment. We should probably leave it for a while, let it get a little cuter' line and the majority of the scene in the shop at the beginning ('that's no etch-a-sketch, fertile myrtle - that's one doodle that can't be un-did' - great line). But I had forgotten the last scene, so it was a great surprise to see Michael Cera and Ellen Paige singing together on their guitars and the camera pans out... and then to black. Beautiful ending. So sweet, d'aww.

Anywho, Iceland. I've been looking at a lot of photography recently, both for my art GCSE and for this blog (the two are no coincidental, there's reason), and what I've realised is that photographers take photographs in sets. I've kinda done this before, with my trips to London, Denmark and Portugal, but I want to make a set that isn't based in one specific place; rather it's about finding a certain mood.

And thus, I was inspired by the Iceland duo of inspiration: Sigur Rós' song 'Hoppípolli' and the Icelandic photographer Pétur Thomsen. I reviewed his stuff a while back. For example, this photo is from his set 'Umhverfing III':

© Pétur Thomsen 2010

So I thought I'd create something similar to Thomsen's 'il y a' set, or perhaps even his three 'Umhverfing' sets, which are about the interaction between man and the environment. Perhaps a finding Icelandic traits wherever I go. Now, don't despair (or otherwise), I still love Denmark, but Icleand has a certain mood (or at least, Thomsen's projected mood) that I'd like to capture. Plus, this will help in my art GCSE, so it's a double-hit.

More info on this project as it progresses. The little blog (basically a direct copy of JOHNSPACE Photos, but in white) for the project, titled 'ísland', is here. The photo isn't in the set; just an example of what it will look like.

I welcome tuesday with open arms. Why isn't it here already?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Day 269, on which John has a Sys Bjerre evening [26.9.10]

Dag to hundrede niogtres. By 'Sys Bjerre evening', it means I just listen to Sys Bjerre songs non-stop. All evening. Well, actually, until 9 when Juno is on Channel 4, so I'm going to unplug Sys Bjerre and go watch that again. I strongly suggest you guys watch it, too. It's a great film, very slick screenplay.

As for Sys Bjerre, if you want to know what I've been listening to, here's a handy list of the silly Danish songs currently on my playlist from Ms. Bjerre:

  • Alle Min Veninder, which everyone in Denmark hates for some reason. I like it because I can't understand it, heh heh.
  • Pik, whose title translates into something quite rude, but if you ignore that it's quite a nice upbeat number. And some photos of Sys cycling through on the video, too, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Kegle, which has a HILARIOUS music video where Sys is bowling. Not intentionally hilarious, I'll admit, but the bad editing and even worse acting just make it a 'watch-for-the-lulz' video. Song's not bad either.
Now, because I can't think of much else to say tonight, I thought I might sum up my annoyances from today. It may be funny (note may), and will at least give this post a certain purpose and body. Whilst sounding like a grumpy old man. So here goes.
  1. Denmark thinks no one buys there music outside their country. And, whilst this may be for the most part true, I buy their music! Well, not all of it. Some of it. Some bits. Hej Matematik, mainly. Rasmus Seebach. Sys Bjerre. So, did they consider releasing Bjerre's new album in the UK iTunes store? Is that too much to ask? Just put it up there, if no one buys the songs, no loss, right? Well, Denmark doesn't think so because I can't find head nor tail of her new album. Perhaps it isn't released yet...
  2. 'My spoon is too big'. Uh, not really, but that's a quote from Regected Cartoons by Don Hertzfeld, which I encourage you to watch on YouTube. It's very funny. OK, back on topic, my bag is too small. I bought a new school bag recently and it's too small. Even for my camera. Goddamnit Jenkins!
  3. Sunday is unfortunate. Unfortunate why? Because it happens to be the day before monday. It couldn't have happened to a nicer day. Sniff sniff. Wait, hang on, we've done this 'hating mondays' thing before. Yada yada yada I wish mondays didn't exist yada yada yada the end.
  4. Other people are better photographers than me. We've definitely done this before. Something about there being amazing photographers on Flickr, I'll never be that good, teenage angst etc etc etc. There, that was easier, wasn't it?
  5. I lost another bloody eBay order. Yeah, I know I promised I wouldn't mention eBay again, but I'm annoyed about this one. I was there, poised over the 'place bid' button to outbid the rascals who currently held the lot, with ten seconds to go. I clicked the place bid button, hoping to be (as usual) taken to the bid confirmation page, one more click and those Futuron sets are mine! I clicked it, all a-flutter (cause it was exciting and all), and IT TOOK ME TO THE LOG IN PAGE. Now I did not see that coming. Quick, John, log in! Quick!!! But it was too late, and the login page had delayed me over the ten seconds and I lost the lot. Boo hoo.
Oh, before I go, a quick update: there are a few little amendments and changes to the JOHNSPACE site. Namely the dividers on the sidebar are now white (oh! exciting!), the comments section on post pages is snazzed up a little, and there are nice chunky 'Older posts' and 'Newer posts' buttons. Plus I removed the home button, but you never noticed that anyway. So yah. Enjoy yourselves.


Saturday, 25 September 2010

Day 268, on which John gets back to that photography thing [25.9.10]

Dag to hundrede otteogtres. Well, here we are, saturday. Great stuff. Not feeling so great myself, though. Didn't get up until 1:00, and not because I'm a tired teenager (though I am that too), but because I was sleeping off my flu/stress (fless? stru?). I guess that's why. I usually don't wake up so late. But lucky me for  getting the sleep, I guess.

Good news; I managed to write a good chunk of Cronas 13, which I know you're all very interested in (hahaha sarcasm right there). I haven't written it in a few days, and I want to get it done as soon as possible. So, yes, much progress being made. Much progress on the various scenes (one character just killed himself very dramatically, whilst starting a whole bunch of new mysteries), but not so much if you think about how much I've got to go until the end. Two thirds of the way there, I'd say. The hardest thing is that, as I progress further into the story, each section takes longer to write because I've got to refer back more and more, and they're ending up being longer. Yeesh.

ps. Please watch this. It's Hoppípolla, by Sigur Rós, an Icelandic band. You've certainly heard it before, Icelandic or not. In fact, I think the Icelandic lyrics really contribute to the feel of the song. Watch watch watch... and listen, of course!

Okies, we're still on the photography topic, don't forget, so I found this British photograher Daniel Freytag via the awesome blog It's Nice That.

One of his sets, called 'Recreational Area', is very interesting. Let's check it out:

I love the framing of this shot, the negative space where there's no swing on the left, and the one swing is pushed to the other side, as if trying to get away from the space.  It almost feels like a portrait of the swings; straight-on, no interruptions or trickery. Also, no post-production. Very bland.
Freytag's motif is finding the interesting amidst the uninteresting, and he's done exactly that here. The bin seems so out of place, so badly thought up, yet lonely in its bright colour in the faded grass and boring trees (that are in every photo in this set). There seems to be some sort of wit, or irony, with the bin being bright yellow, when the actual metal bin is outsized and ugly in comparison.
I originally thought all three of these shots had been shot against the same trees, but in fact they've not; the backgrounds just look very similar. That forces you to look at the objects, and disregard the backdrop. The important thing is that there's no one in any of the photos; no children using the swing, or the seesaw. The colours are fading - trying hard to stand out - but time is dragging them away. These are snapshots of a moment, because before long these will be gone. Yet it seems to be somehow out of time - there's no concentration on movement, or what year it is. It's not important. Perhaps the objects will sit there eternally, on their own, unused.
Well, that's all for now. Adios!


Friday, 24 September 2010

Day 267, on which John takes a train [24.9.10]

Dag to hundrede syvogtres. OK, I'll admit, the train I took today (or will take, tense depending) is also in my mind. 'Cause I'm continuing on from my recollection of my trip to London last Monday. There's two more photos to go, so I'll make it quick and not blag on about sushi this time. Also, it's late and I'm extremely tired after a stressful evening, so I'll make it snappy.

Unlike Snappy Snaps. That's a photo shop, I used to get my photos developed there. But they did everyhting short of drawing penises onto my negatives and totally ruined them (yes, and), so they're behind me now. Plus, what photo shop doesn't stock 400 ASA film!? The cheek of it!

All photos are from John Too, don't forget to check his (ie. my) photostream out, it's full of great stuff. Om nom nom.

After taking postcard shots of Nelson's column and eating sushi (and dropping it on the floor) at Yo Sushi!, we walked down to the Transport Museum. Outside, in that general area (forgot the name it's 11 at night let me off jeez), a magician was doing his thing. Very funny. Very quick. I always admire magicians, a lot of slight-of-hand involved in doing what they. As you can tell from the sushi dropping debarckle, 'slight-of-hand' is not in my vocabulary. But I'm slight with other things (like my taxes ahahahaha oh wait I don't pay them), so all's well that ends well. Shakespeare quote, right there. Lovely. I must admit that some utter idiot got in the way of my camera, so this otherwise perfect shot looks rubbish. And you don't see this sort of photo - ruined or not - in a postcard, so my work is done.

So we got on the train to go home and that's where today's post title comes in. I took a whole bunch of shots on the train, as it usually takes half an hour for the driver to wake up, find his slippers, and haul the heap of junk out of Grove Park station. I had time to kill, so I snapped a few snaps. Most of them were rubbish, 'cause I'm not used to 200 ASA film (because Snappy Snaps didn't sell my usual 400 ASA). I like this one though. Best of the lot. I'm not even sure whether you're allowed to take photos on Southeastern trains. You need a permit to film on a bus, I know that, but trains I'm not so sure of. Ah well, it's not like the driver would see and ask me to delete the photos... once they're on the film, there's no taking them off! Muahahaha!


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Day 266, on which John goes to London... IN HIS MIND [23.9.10]

Dag to hundrede seksogtres. I'm feeling a little better today, which is good, because I missed a blog post two days ago because of this damn illness. Apparently it's a mixture of flu, 'brain strain' (technical term), stress (pfft I'm not stressed (goddammit I said I'm not stressed!), k?) and flu. The fearsome threesome. And not a threesome in that way, you dirty person. It's like the three horsemen of the apocalypse. They're riding to my house. And Stress keeps asking "are we there yet!?" angrily. Brain Strain can't string two words together; he focuses on riding his horse. And Flu, though weak and feverish, is leading the others valiantly, riding to my house. I'd hold them off with my nunchucks, but I don't know how long I would last. We'll see when they arrive.

So today, I'm going to take you to London... IN MY MIND! WoooOOOOoooOOOoooOOOOOooo!

Yeah but, no, but, well, I went to London last monday and I finally got the film developed and the photos are up for all to see on John too, my secondary Flickr account (speaking of secondary Flickr accounts, Dano's got one now ahahahahahahahaha... too far?). So let's take a trip to London... IN MY MIND!

Here's the main shot for my art project. Yeah, I don't just go on random trips in school time. I have to be working towards something. Pfft targets pfft. I wanted to show the bright, garish - and thoroughly depressing - merchandise stores in our sorry capital. I never saw anything like this in Copenhagen, I wonder why. Oh yeah, that's right, it's because Denmark is too cool for shit like this. Anyways, I upped the  saturation and yada yada yada, this shot was violently born. I would've got it straight-on, too, but I'm an idiot and it's both off-kilter and not straight on.

You get the idea, though. I took a couple of shots like this, they're not very good. Because I was kinda stuck for good angles, it was all just the postcard shots that everyone else dragged me to. Look, take a picture of Nelson's Column! How about, no? Fifty kazillion shots exactly like yours have been taken throughout history. In fact, it was only Nelso who looked on to his column and said "hey, that's a nice angle" who had the glory of being the only person to take a completely unique shot of the column. Underneath; been done before. Straight on; been done several billion times before. Bird's eye view; Google maps has got that covered. So Nelson's column is pretty much out of the question. So out, it's like baggy shirt out. Yeah, that out. Like, when you're watching an old episode of Friends, and Joey's wearing a massive baggy shirt... that's how out photos of Nelson's Column are.

I quite like this shot, from Leicester Square, but since my camera doesn't have zoom it's a little wide. A shorter depth of field would have helped too (I think this was f/5, would've preferred f/2.8). Ah well. Leicester Square is smaller than you'd think. They must have some really small movie premières there. With the stars squeezing their way through the crowd of five people to get to the double doors of the Odeon. And they close this park in the middle at night, because they're evil and hate fun and all its derivatives. They also want to kill all children. They're not nice people.

After taking this shot (or was it before? I forget), me and my pals (well I say pals (I mean friends)) went out for lunch. Why? Because we were hungry. It was 1 o'clock or some ungodly hour like that. Yeesh, do I have to explain everything?

Anywho, what I'm trying to get at is as follows. We ate sushi. Yeah, I know, sushi! John! Sushi! Who'd have thunk it? Well, my friend did when he suggested it to us. So we ate at Yo Sushi!, in London someplace. For some reason this is the only shop which feels it needs to greet its food in its name (or at least the only shop since 'Hola Tortillas!' got closed down in that manky tortilla debarckle). It even insists on having an exclamation mark at the end, so that the sushi hears the owners saying 'Yo!' to it. How nice of them.

Sushi is pretty great actually. The chicken with soy sauce was heavenly, I'll admit that, but I had a bit of a problem with the sushi roll things. Namely, they tasted nice once chewing/chewed, but the act of putting them in your mouth felt like you were slipping a package of leather-clad drugs into your gullet. Plus, I'm a dexterous guy but chopsticks don't like me. They did everything short of stabbing me in the chest. I admit I dropped one of those sushi roll things on the floor, but I don't think anyone noticed (well I did, and the sushi, but it was dead by the time it hit the floor so that's one less witness to worry about).

The sushi restaurant format is incredibly cool. Bordering on the coolness level of Denmark, or even bacon. The chef cooks up the little roll things (etm) in the middle of a long, oval-shaped conveyor belt. You sit around it and grab the ones you want. You then collect the platters, stack 'em, whatever, and at the end go to the till and tell them you ate five less than you did. Bingo, you pay less. Which you need to do, considering that water costs about a zillion pounds per ounce.

One of the funny things about the sushi restaurant format is that it becomes competitive. For example, if you see the chef (who didn't smile once in the time I was there, and looks dismayed every time you pick a dish off the belt as if you've pulled an arm off his underpaid body) put a dish on the other side of the belt that you want, it becomes very tense. Will that shady-looking businessman nick my leathery sushi rolls? He's in between me and them! Quick, conveyor belt, move faster! I'm sure it's against sushi manners to run round the belt and nick a dish before it's got to you, but we did it nonetheless. 'Cause we were badass like that. And I wanted my goddamn chicken!

Shit guys, I've gotta stop. The three horsemen of the apocalypse just showed up. I'll show you the rest of the photos later. Excuse me as I go beat the crap out of those three fellas. Be right back.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Day 265, on which John celebrates the 100-days-to-go milestone! [22.9.10]

Dag to hundrede femogtres. Guys, I have an apology. Sorry, lots of sorries, several sorries in fact, that I missed yesterday's post. I know you don't care, but I care because it's important to me that this is a 365 project, not a 237 project or whatever. But who cares, I only have 100 days left! Wahoo! Yippee! Nevertheless, 100 days is a lengthy period and I'm not out of the woods yet. 100 days left. Just... keep... blogging...

Today has been a tough day. And an eventful day. Tough because I've still been ill, and had to deal with the horror of not blogging yesterday.  And eventful because of this story...

Today, the Flickr community was leaked images of a whole shitload of 2011 Lego set pics. Brilliant, they were, brilliant. That stupid Ninjago theme, new Adventurers (woot), new Atlantis, new Technic (oh wait, no one cares), yada yada yada. Awesome stuff. And they sat up on Dano's and others' photostreams for a couple of hours. That was all good. Peder was insulting me again, but that's just life I guess.

Then this happened at TLG headquarters in Billund:
Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (TLG owner): "Oh hej, Jørgen, check out all de noo stuff on Flickr!"
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp (TLG CEO): "Kool stuff, Kjeld. I doo like John's noo pictuer, it ees very well lit!"
KKK: "Ja I guess so. Hey, what abaut Dano's stream? I doo like his ecchi stuff."
JVK: "Kool. Oh noes! He had got our picteurs! Gåh!"
KKK: "Kweek! Phone Flickr!"
JVK: "Hello? Flickr?"
Flickr: "Hello sir, how can I help you?
JVK: "Please get rid of dose picteurs on Dano's account!"
Flickr: "What's that? Totally delete Dano's account cause we hate him? Sure, sir!" (hang up)
JVK: "Vat? Noooo! Dey have deleted his account instead?"
KKK: "Nooo! Veyre am I gonna get my ecchi naw!?"

Dun dun dunnnn! Tune in next time for another enthralling episode of 'Kjeld and Jørgen: mid-west Danish crime fighters". On a more serious note, that's what happened. It's really not anything particularly exciting, and I know Dano would hate me for making a big thing of it here, but I needed something to blog and this is what's been happening for the past hour. It was either that or more furniture, and I know you're sick of it.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Day 263, on which John talks about his story again (yeah, I know, just skim-read it) [20.9.10]

Dag to hundrede treogtres. Yeesh, I really do not feel good. I went to the doctor today. He said I had a virus, and that I should do yoga and go out in the sun more. OK, we all know I don't do much exercise, and this blog is the testament to my not going out much, but I did not need him to tell me that. So that was a pretty useless trip. And I still feel awful. He said something about me being stressed too, but I'm not stressed. Didja hear me? I said, I'M NOT STRESSED!! GODDAMMIT!

Heh. Just a joke.

OK, since I can't think of anything else to blog about (this illness is affecting my mind), I'll tell you about the story I'm working on. The one that will be illustrated by Lego and appear on my photostream hopefully before June next year. Then it'll take a month or two until I finish uploading it, two parts per day. I don't want it to flood my photostream, but I don't want it to take ages either. I'm going to make a great promotional site as well, with bios on all the characters (because trust me, you need to know the characters). Just you wait and see.

Here's a quick summary:
The story is called Cronas 13, and it documents the trials and tribulations of the crew of the freighter Kolumbus after it unexpectedly crashes on a barren sandy planet called Cronas 13. The crew is lead by their stubborn, hard-working captain René Janu, who narrates the story to us. The crew is full of good characters, from the sarcastic navigator Adéla to the shy meditrician Jonas. Follow René and his crew on their journey to get off the dunes of Cronas 13. What brought their ship down? What's their mysterious cargo? And will they ever get back home? Dun dun dunnnn!

It's coming out really well. The story is scattered with mysteries, and there's loads of strands for you to follow as all the characters develop. And no, it's not going to be like any other sci-fi film. It's not one of those everyone-dies-at-some-point flicks. Sure, there are quite a few deaths, but they're needed to advance René's character and to make it more exciting. There's a bunch of action scenes, but - and get this - in the one I just wrote, no one dies. Yeah. So it's no boilerplate story.

I'm on part 63 at the moment (don't worry - it won't seem so long when you read it, part 63 will be about a month after I release the first one), and I'm - I think - a third of the way through. It's hard to tell, because the climactic parts take five or ten parts to tell, but I can skip whole days in one part. I'd like to do so much in the story, but I'll have to scale it down so there's only one other 'main part' after this one. The crew are in a mysterious base at the moment, but they'll soon get out of that and be captured! I won't tell you any more than that. Just, read it when I'm finished. You'll like it.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Day 262, on which John gets déjà-vu gets déjà-vu gets déjà-vu gets déjà-vu gets déjà-vu [19.9.10]

Dag to hundrede toogtres. Are you getting déjà-vu with the title? Good - it's not just five typos, heh. Just a funny idea. We'll get onto what it's about in a sec. Until then, refreshments! [refreshments go here] Well, now you're all refreshed, I'd like to announce it's a full month until my birthday! Gasp! A momentous occasion, I'm sure you'll not agree. Really, I shouldn't care much that a number of human-chosen time units elapsed since I was brought into this sordid world. But I get presents, so it's all balanced. Woo, kthxbai.

I watched Groundhog Day again today. The funny thing is, I'd never actually seen the end. After first watching it several years ago, I've watched it a dozen times since but never watched the ending. That's right, I never got to the end of Groundhog Day. If you get the irony associated with the similarity with me not seeing the end of the film and Bill Murray not seeing the end of the day, then woo - gimme a internet high-five. If not, shame on you. Get logic, dude.

The reason why I never saw the end is because it becomes dangerously slow. A mixture of 80s filmmaking and a flabby plot, the film rambles on like some diseased old tramp you'd find on the street. It takes a quarter of an hour for Bill Murray to finally successfully seduce the main lady, when actually a simple montage of thee minutes' length would suffice. Perhaps the director wanted to show how long it took Murray's character to achieve simple steps forward with Ms. Frizzy hair? Hah. Perhaps they just didn't know how to tame the editor.

The ending wasn't too bad, actually. I didn't see all that helpful-Murray stuff coming, I simply thought he'd be honest to Miss Frizzy and get the girl and then the cheesy titles would start scrolling. It's nice that he became a more-rounded individual by the end, learning the piano and how to chip ice etm., it was kinda sweet. But my gawd, the style. I'm sure Harry has no problems with it, being an 80s fan and all, but Madame Frizzeaux (aka. the producer from an 80s-styled hell) does actually dress like a man. And Bill Murray is dressed like a tube. Seriously, I had no idea he had legs 'til he took that bloody trenchcoat off. Yuck.

There's always been a scientific side of Groundhog Day that I've been interested in. One of my friends told me that apparently, if you add up all the days and calculate how many times Bill Murray would have to relive the day to know all those people and play the piano and pull the girl, he'd have been stuck in the loop for millennia. Think about it. That's a heck of a long time. And you could only do so much, it'd have to take under 24 hours. How far could you travel? Would you have enough time when you got there? Probably not. What's the flight time from Pennsylvania to Copenhagen?

Another interesting thing about Groundhog Day is that it's totally owned the market of day-loop films. There really is no others, or no significant others. Groundhog Day totally encompasses everything you could possibly do in a day-loop film. No exceptions. Producers sit in offices in Hollywood saying "hey, what if we make a film about a guy stuck in a day-loop where he saves someone's life because he knows they'll die because he's lived the day before?" just to be met by the answer "Nah, they did that in Groundhog Day." Murray gets the girl, saves someone's life, kills himself (several times), goes mad, gets depressed, gets some random girl, learns more about people, becomes a nicer person, gets life insurance, eats doughnuts, makes a snowman, learns to play the piano, gets drunk, wakes up at 6:00, nearly gets the girl, wakes up at 6:00, learns to love a town that he hated in the start, stops being so egotistic, wakes up at 6:00, predicts the weather, fixes a tire, wakes up at 6:00... and that's only some of the stuff he gets up to. So it's all covered. No similar films and, surprisingly, no remakes. Because it's just about current enough. And if you made a remake, there'd be nothing big enough to change.

So the director must be rubbing his hands with glee. As for the scriptwriter, he'd be rubbing his hands as well, but probably over a tramp's fire in the street because no one gives a shit about scriptwriters. Let alone their salaries.


ps. 'etm' is a term I picked up on Urban Dictionary meaning 'and shit'. As in, etc='et cetera' and etm='et merda'. God knows whether it's accurate or not, but it's funny.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day 261, on which John looks at more of Thomsen's photos (and not just because he's Icelandic) [18.9.10]

Dag to hundrede énogtres. I still feel bad. Don't know exactly what it is. Whatever it is, I probably shouldn't be moaning about it to you. However, whilst I haven't been able to go out anywhere, I've been quite productive! I've been working hard on that story of mine, the one which will be in small sections, illustrated by Lego scenes. Much like Bart De Dobbelaer's Prometheus, and The Life Aquatic with Clumsy Pete, but better. I hope. I'm really trying to make the reader empathize for the characters, so there's some really bold personalities there.

The only problems is making the reader care for the main character, who has ended up as the least colourful character because he has to go through everything and still narrate in the same voice. It's tough work trying to show his personality, but I've got a few ideas that will hopefully show it by the time the story finishes. The general plot is this: a large freighter is unexpectedly dragged down into the atmosphere of a planet on a remote system whilst transporting a vital cargo. It crashes and the crew are left without a ship, to fend for themselves on the dunes of the sandy planet (*cough* not Tatooine *cough*), and hopefully find some way off...

The story will end up being in about a hundred sections. Hopefully less. I'm currently at 55, and they're quite lengthy chapters. About half a page of A4 in 12pt font, I'd estimate. But it varies. I'm thinking of now referencing back to the crew members' pasts, much like Lost. The story is really a pastiche of inspiration. It originally started because of the fantastic online game Morningstar, but it's since moved away from that so don't think you'll find out the ending from playing it. The bit I'm writing at the moment is very much like Aperture Science, and you'll see the odd Star Wars reference in there I bet. Nonetheless, it's much more interesting, understandable and the characters are much more likable than in Mr. De Dobbelaer's series. No offense to him, he's a better builder than me, but I'm taking this story writing thing seriously.

OK, I mentioned Pétur Thomsen's photographs yesterday but I felt it best to show a better set of his today. And also to feed that Icelandic landscape lover in all of us.

Whilst the 'il y a' project is great, Thomsen had to give in to the call of all the Icelandic photographers and photograph the landscape. This is all in his set named 'Imported landscapes'. However, what I like about 'Imported landscapes' is that Pétur has not just shown the landscape, but humans interacting with the landscape in the form of a massive construction site. It's an interesting contrast piece between the snow-swept peaks of Iceland's dramatic landscape, and the unnatural building materials piling up around it. Very clever.

This shot is one of my favourites; it has such depth and soft, coloured lighting. The tracks seem really deep, and the ramp leads you up into the photo.

Here you can see Thomsen's contrasting at its best. The man-made hill of soil seems to fit in to the contours of the natural hillside behind it, but it's still in contrast. It's as if the photo is a transition; from the natural at the top, through to the digger-ruined ground at the bottom.

I like to think of this one as a man-scale still life. It seems like it's made of bold, bright elements arranged across the floor. We have the bright red container, the spindly repetition of the grilles at the top, then some other, softer elements scattered around the rest of the frame. Perhaps there's a contrast between the identical metal grilles and the messy piles of planks elsewhere.

Here the division between the man-made and the natural is almost invisible. Where does the rock start and the scaffolding end?
This one's here just for its wacky composition. It seems to show that the Icelandic landscape is still difficult to work with, despite all the construction sites.
Man-made installations into the landscape are creating new spaces.
This is my favourite. The contrast between the crisp lines of the girders and beams of the man-made structure and the almost paper-like texture of the snowy slopes behind it. This texture makes the photo look almost purposefully grainy, but it's just the background.

That's all I have time for at the moment, but please check out Pétur Thomsen's site for more photos from 'Imported landscapes'. They're all brilliant.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Day 260, on which John admires some Icelandic photography [17.9.10]

Dag to hundrede og tres. Because, in Danish, fifty sounds a lot like half-sixty. Silly language, but I still love it. Moving on, I'm still ill. Even more, perhaps. Was fine when I woke up but throughout the day I got worse and worse and now I feel like - uh, let's say I feel like rubbish. If I recall correctly, the last time I blagged on about how ill I was on this blog was back in January. When I kept mentioning snow. I need to reread my January posts sometime.

Before we finally finish Dieter Rams' 10 principles of good design, I have some photography for you. Yay.

Pétur Thomsen is an Icelandic photographer, but that's about all I know about him. Iceland is one of those half-Scandinavian countries I'm always interested in. It's like Scandinavia's cousin, somewhere far off, somewhere snowy, somewhere seismic, somewhere barren. It always seems like a rougher, more remote version of Sweden. And kinda like Denmark too.

Iceland's a great place for photographers. Lots of stunning landscapes. But what I love about Thomsen's photography is that he shows you the urban side of Icelandic. Not even Reykjavik; he explores the suburbs and small towns nestled in pine forests in the landscape. The human side of Iceland, though there's little human activity to see in his photos. The following are from his set, 'il y a':

I always love old cars, and this shot reminds me of my Renault C4 photo from Portugal, heh
I like to think this defines Icelandic towns - barren, rough and embedded within the landscape. As if, the landscape comes first and 'don't mind us, we'll just fit our buildings in here, between the trees'. Notice the total lack of people, too. Spooky. Another thing to notice is that, though I'd usually prefer film for these moods of photos, the crisp lines of digital photography remind me of Iceland's sharp peaks and clear skies over snowy slopes.
This, I feel, perfectly defines the mood of Icelandic settlements Thomsen is trying to achieve in 'il y a'. It's urban, it's bleak, it's unimaginative, it's desaturated, and there's even a mysterious figure on the left to hint at life. There's not much of it, though.
Notice how man-made things are working around the landscape, yet again. Though, I guess, if you have a landscape like Iceland's, you wouldn't really want to build telegraph poles into it. Nice framing here too. And colours.
Sadly, we must leave Pétur Thomsen alone for now. However, the next 20-day challenge (after it being the same three times in a row, whoops) is this general guide: 'write posts about photography'! So hopefully more Thomsen stuff tomorrow.

Dieter Rams' 10 principles of 'good design' cont'd

10. Good design is as little design as possible.

I like this one. I don't agree with it much, but it's cleverly said. This really is a Dieter Rams thing to say: it's about stripping a product to its bare minimums, so it's simple functions in a box. I like to think that Rams is also saying that the way the functions are naturally arranged are the best way. So if you just wired up all the components to make the product do the right stuff (thinking of radios here), the way the components have to be placed to prevent wiring becoming tangled will actually turn out to be the best way for them to be arranged. It's a nice thought.

However, that isn't the case. If it weren't for the problem of the mechanisms in early typewriters, we'd all be using DVORAK keyboards. You see, the QWERTY formation originated in typewriter, where it was chosen simply because it meant the bits inside didn't get jammed. That was just where the keys turned out to be after they managed to make all the insides worked. That's now stuck, even though it's not the most efficient version. DVORAK is another keyboard formation that has letters placed strategically to allow users to type more efficiently. Much better. But, because it worked in typewriters, QWERTY has now become the only keyboard formation to use. A simple story of when 'as little design as possible' ends up creating something that we'd rather design a bit more!

So there's the ten principles of 'good design'. And, for the most part, I agree with them. They're centred a lot of industrial/product design, or what I'd call 'design' - so not the kinds of things Jacobsen was too fussed about - but some of them are very, very important. My favourite? Either 'good design is honest' or 'good design is unobtrusive'. Those are my ethics, at least.

Onto different things tomorrow, at last!


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 259, on which John tries to get a move on with Rams' principles of design [16.9.10]

Dag to hundrede nioghalvtreds. Yurgh, I've had a building headache today. It started at about 11, and has been growing more and more annoying since. I shouldn't really blah on about my headaches on this blog, but there's a still chance it'll turn into something else and I'll be proud of myself for documenting it from the very start. Heh. OK, let's try and make more progress with Dieter Rams' ten principles of 'good design'...

8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

This is an interesting point, but one that shouldn't really be included. Design, by its very definition, is well-detailed. Even if you think you're creating a simple shape, you've still got to think about the details, the edges, the materials, the joining techniques... there's a lot more than just a cool shape. One thing that separates good designers from great designers is an ability to see your design on several different scales.

Firstly, on a human scale. What users will see it as. Secondly, on a smaller scale - all the little details like screws and fixings that you'd only notice if you look close up at the chair. Which users will do, if they're interacting with the chair enough. Then they'll appreciate your attention to detail. There is a third scale, which is from far off - what does the design look like from afar? Does it maintain its style? Does it lose its shape due to stupid frills? (*cough* crappy Spanish/Italian design *cough*) That's another thing to think about. Enough for yah?

I'm in a Panton mood, so here's a Verner Panton chair, The Amoeba, to look pretty on this blog. You can see that from a human scale, it's slick, smooth and natural. Classic hippy 60s stuff. Classic Panton. However, if you look closer, you can see a functional seam where the seat meets the backrest. You can see the division between the two parts running down the side of the chair. You can see the backrest curves inwards slightly. These details are really appreciated if, as here, they're done well. Then, from the afar-scale, the chair is so bold and natural it'll stand out and maintain its appearance. I prefer it in purple, though. More amoeba-like.

9. Good design is environmentally friendly.

Oh God no. Please, Dieter, why did you have to include this in your ten principles? WHY!?!

Aw crap, I guess I'd better talk about this now. This one is one of the few principles of the ten that I don't agree with. Everyone loves a challenge, especially designers, but functional challenges.  The challenge of being environmentally friendly seems like something which only acts to hinder your creativity, and prevents risks from being taken. If we didn't have to care about making the atmosphere poorly, who knows what we'd have created in the past ten years!

And whilst I do appreciate that eco-friendly design can create great stuff, I still wish we had the design community of the 1950s. Jacobsen, Eames, Panton, Le Corbusier, Van der Rohe, Saarinen, Aarnio... all designers who had barely heard of climate change, and all creating beautiful designs. Perhaps I've just got an affection for mid-century modernism? Probably. But I still believe that eco-friendliness is one of the silliest, and most unnecessary (well kinda) challenges we have to cope with.

Additionally, eco-friendly designs seem to be those which are what I'd call 'design'. IE, they're made to fit a problem, and not simply as art like those 50s designs. Eco-friendliness is what's killing 21st century design. No wonder we haven't had any real design classics in the past few years (Starck's Juicy Salif is the only one I can think of, and that's not eco-friendly). Being environmentally friendly has become a starting point for designs, when - if anything - it should simply be a small consideration further down the design process. Please, guys, can we ignore the environment for once?


ps. I do care about the environment, I guess. I just wish it didn't have to be so prominent in 21st century design.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Day 258, on which John salivates over Helvetica (part 50 billion) [15.9.10]

Dag to hunrede otteoghalvtreds. Yeesh, today was tiring. After two days of school trips (the only two I'll have this year, no doubt) it sure sucked to be back into normal school lessons. Ah well. Now I just have to go through that entire day over and over again until the end of term. Which, annoyingly enough, my school has decided will be on the 22nd December. Seriously?!

Woot, here's a brief Helvetica interlude to my slow trawling through Dieter Rams' design principles. As you know, Helvetica is the best font ever ever ever full stop the end. No doubt. No exceptions. It's near-perfect (true perfection is impossible), and yet created over 50 years ago. By the Dutch type foundry Haas.

So, due to me experimenting with Adobe Illustrator, I ended up putting a Dieter Rams quote in Helvetica and making it look all neat. Sweet. I'd have done a Jacobsen quote, complete with the Egg chair in the background, but all of Jacobsen's quotes are rubbish. The best I found was 'people buy chairs, and they do not really care who designs them'. The phrasing is all off, and the actual point of the quote kinda defeats the point of Jacobsen completely. Ah well.

A4 size, too. Go print it out, you know you want to. The background of the words is from a photo of one of Rams' few chairs.

Rams' 10 principles of 'good design' cont'd

7. Good design is longlasting

This seventh principle is a bit of a moot point. It simply means, if you think about it in a functional way, that the product should physically last as long as possible. ie. the materials don't rot or degrade. It stays how it is for as long as possible. But what's the timecap on that? Considering the oldest furniture we can still use in everyday life is from the early 20th century, I'd conclude for it to be about 100 years. One century. One century for the original copies of your design to float around houses and auctions and shops until they become too antique to sit on. That's it.

But what's the timecap if you're making copies of your chairs? If they're to be produced again and again? Well, that doesn't mean the design will last much longer at all. Still, the cap is 100 years. Mainly because after 100 years, your design will be so out-of-date that no one will want it any more. It won't be in style. Well, why would you fund the production of 1000 copies of a chair first made in 1910? It's too old. You could probably get a chair produced off-and-on for 70 years, tops. That's based on how long Eames and Jacobsen furniture will keep being made, or how long I predict.

That may mean that, adding the two timescales together, your design could last until it stops being made (70 years on), then on until it stops being safe to sit on (100 years). Sadly, that's not true. The cap is still 100 years. No matter whether your design is in good condition, it'll be old fashioned by then. Only the museums will want it. If it's not being used in everyday life, the design is useless. And yes, I wrote useless in italics. Because I mean it. Having your design in a museum is bloody pointless! No interaction whatsoever!

But what about the sentiments and details of the design? The stylings? The production techniques? Well, they could go on forever. Even now, in the 21st century, we're seeing a plethora of designs based on details from Edwardian architecture, or Victorian furniture. They don't bring nostalgia; they're too old for that. They bring a sense of formality, and intricacy. Saying 'this product is posh, it's proper. We respect our past. Don't forget it'. Perhaps 200 years in the future, we'll see Jacobsen's curves of the Egg and the Swan and the metalwork on the legs of the Eames' DSR chair appear in furniture? Or virtual furniture, perhaps?

No matter what the future brings, it's definite that whole designs don't last long. They fade, and lots of details are lost forever, but they all help fashion develop and evolve. No matter how quickly the materials rot, the designs themselves are building blocks for the next generation.


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Day 257, on which the Beach Boys and Babybels aren't so different [14.9.10]

Dag to hundrede syvoghalvtreds. Mmmm, Icelandic music is so good. Namely, Sigur Rós. If you don't know their songs, you do - search on YouTube, iTunes or Spotify for 'Hoppípolla'. You've heard it before, for sure. No doubt about it. It's used almost too much nowadays, but always remember it was Icelandic before the English version came out.

Beach Boys and Babybels. Here's a quick similarity, for the sake of the post title. We all know the Babybel theme tune: 'ba-ba-ba, ba-babybel'. That's how it goes. Though, it is actually a shameless rip-off of the Beach Boys' song 'Barbara Ann', which goes 'Ba-ba-ba, ba-barbara ann'. So there you go. You learn something new every day.

I guess we'd better carry on with Rams' 10 principles of 'good design'. I visited the design museum up in London today, so I'm in a designy mood. They have a whole wall covered in the ten principles there! Much love for Dieter Rams. Also I knocked over a Starck Juicy Salif juicer, but that's another story. And it didn't break, so hah.

6. Good design is honest.

This principle is pretty loosely defined, I must say. Not what you'd expect from a German functionalist designer. Honest. What do we mean by honest? I guess, using my own interpretation, Rams means that a design is pure. That it doesn't try to be something else, doesn't try to be a 'three-in-one!' or show off complicated dials and buttons which don't really do anything. Because, the truth is, we get fucked around enough by people and we shouldn't get fucked around by products.

Having a dial on a radio that - seemingly - doesn't do anything is dishonest design. Even if it does something, but its function makes so little difference it's impossible to notice, it's dishonest. You want to provide what the user wants. The user doesn't want an FM radio that has a range of 500 frequencies, when there's only radio stations on the first 200. It's unfair to the user. Similarly, designs which look like they can do something but actually can't (contrary to what is shown in their aesthetics) are dishonest. Whatever happened to treating the customer like yourself?

I think one other example I can explain of design dishonesty is in a camera I saw today. A so-called 'bridge' camera; semi-pro. Between a consumer camera and an SLR. And it had writing all over it. Saying its specs, who made it, what chip it's got inside, its model number, everything. In big letters all over it. Once you buy a product, it mustn't keep advertising itself to you! Or even to the people around you! That is dishonest, unfair design, preying on the consumers. Using their purchase as a chance to sell more cameras. My old film camera from the 1980s doesn't even have the model number on it, which goes to show how much consumer culture has changed us.

That's all for today. Sorry I'm being so slow about this, but I've been very busy these past few days. We'll get them finished eventually.


Monday, 13 September 2010

Day 256, on which John carries on with those principles [13.9.10]

Dag to hundrede seksoghalvtreds. Mondays, eh? How sucky are they? Well, not too bad today as it happens. Not bad at all. Not if you have a school trip they're not, har de har. Up to London I went today. National Gallery and the Transport Museum. Slightly uninteresting and mind-numbingly dull, respectively. So, luckily, I'm onto more design talk tonight. We're carrying on with Dieter Rams' ten principles of 'good design'. We're currently on 4.

4. Good design makes a product understandable.

This goes back to Rams' history with Braun, when he was trying to market the latest technologies (ie. cassette players) to the innocent consumers. They didn't know how to use such modern, complicated technology. Before then, music players were mainly still phonograph-style. Rams had to convey the use  and means of use of the new radios to the German public.

This takes a lot of work, and was part of the reason why Rams' super-functionalist approach was so effective. He stripped the designs right down to their bare essentials, knowing that if it had a few unnecessary dials or crazy patterns, it's confuse the user. Imagine today, if you see an image of a nuclear power station control board, you have no idea how to use it. You'd be scared to start; it's daunting. And that's exactly what the public would have been like if Dieter Rams had not reduced the designs of Braun's radios. The controls are simple, monotone, and spaced out. They are also grouped by what they're for; for example all the volume controls in one place. This is one of the famous Geställt Principles of Perception; that elements grouped together will be perceived by the users as being related in their function.

5. Good design is unobtrusive

This is one of Rams' principles that I really agree with. I'm a big supporter of subtle, unnoticable design. If a design looks good, and works well, then that's all it needs to do. It doesn't need to have big frills or bright colours to make it a good design. You shouldn't notice a good design. That's the total truth. It's meant to be subconscious.

For example, the Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen (he had to come into this somehow). It's a simple, plain design, but it's a good design. You're not meant to notice it; especially not in this modern-day world when you see Jacobsen rif-oofs all the time. Yet, it still maintains its design and its function. It still looks nice, but you don't really notice it.

Here's an example of what not to do. I was in the National Gallery today, and one this I hated was the frames on the artwork. OK, maybe I'm not a big fan of paintings in the first place, but why should you purposefully put shiny elaborate frames around them to distract from the paintings? You're appreciating the art, not the frame. An art gallery should be about focusing on the art, not distracting the user with stupid sculpted frames and retro wallpaper. Epic fail, National Gallery.

Well, more principles explained tomorrow. John needs to sleep now!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Day 255, on which John covers the ten principles of good design [12.9.10]

Dag to hundrede femoghalvtreds. Today has been busy, busy, busy. I managed to find time in the morning to map out the third JOHN Collection catalogue (so now I know exaclty which pieces I need to do, eg. two chairs and two tables for the living room). 18 pages in all, including the two covers and a 'welcome page' which is just to use up one page of space so everything is on the right spreads. That won't be on Flickr; you can find it on the Issuu preview when I get the PDF up at Christmas.

Design. Ah, how I love you so. And Jacobsen, too. A friend recently asked me who I'd invite to a dinner party if I could invite anyone. I said Jacobsen, then realised I'd end up chatting in Danish to his corpse and ignoring the other guests (Zooey Deschanel and my clone) all evening. Damn, why did he have to go die on me?

So anywho. I was reading an article in the Telegraph Magazine (yes I read the Telegraph yes I'm conservative get over it) and there was an article about the German industrial designer Dieter Rams. There they mentioned his ten principles of 'good design'. So I figured I'd take a look over them and add my comments. Because I know you all love my posts about design (/sarcasm).

1. Good design is innovative.

I'm not too bothered about this one. Sure, design must be innovative in its aesthetics, but it doesn't have to be a new idea. This is one of the main differences between 'design' and design. By 'design', I mean the sort of thing when they ask you to find a problem and solve it. This is totally agree. You don't have to find a new place for a product, like something which keeps slugs off your plants, or something to store Wii games effectively. That's just problem solving.

Design, ie. that which is not in quotes, is about creating something beautiful and effective (in my mind). Even if it's a dining chair, of which hundreds have been made before, it's still design. I take 'innovative design' to mean an innovative shape, or an innovative use of materials. Half the fun is taking a convential object (ie. chair, table) and seeing how unique you can make your version whilst preserving it as what it's meant to be.

Here, you can see Verner Panton's 'S-chair' is what I call innovative. Innovative material (at the time), innovative techniques for making it, innovative base, and yet it's still recognizable as a chair. This didn't need to be a totally new product, fitting a new problem. It's a chair, and it's b-e-a-utiful. I need to buy one.

2. Good design makes a product useful

Hmm. A product should be useful, by its very definition. If a design isn't useful, then it's not designed. Industrial design is what makes a product useful, but not efficient to use. However, all design must be useful or it will never be sold. Aesthetics can aid this, because - as I mentioned a few days a go - if a product looks nice it's easier to use. Dieter Rams was all about functionalism, so that's why this is on his list. For him, designing started with the use, then working out how to make the use as efficient as possible.

3. Good design is aesthetic

This is a bit odd, in terms of wording. I guess Rams means that the use and advantages to the design must be immediately obvious when you see the design. One of the main concepts of this is affordance. That means that the way a product is shaped and designed should automatically tell the user how the design works and what it's for.

Sadly for this explanation I have to use a British design. It's the Polyprop chair from British designer Robin Day. The chair has a large hole in the back of it, which is curved at the edges. The chair affords being held by the hole, like a handle. The same goes for walking sticks and knives that have handles which notches for each of your fingers. The shaping affords the product being held in a certain way. Affordance is a uniquely human concept, because it's all about inferring the use to the user without a massive arrow saying 'hold here'.

Affordance has more to do with industrial design (or 'design', bleaugh) that proper, Jacobsen-style design, because it's about a complicated function that needs to be explained to the user. Whereas, if you had a Jacobsen chair like the ant, it wouldn't need to afford being held in one place because it's not aimed for efficiency. You hold it where you like. It's good design like that. However, the Polyprop chair could hurt the ikkle wikkle hands of schoolkids so it affords being held in a place that is both safe (rounded edges) and makes the chair easier to hold (weight is balanced on either side, as opposed to holding it from the top of the backrest). That's why Dieter Rams says good design must be aesthetic; he's a product designer who designed lots of Braun's early super-functionalist radio designs. So basically, the user must know how to use the product. That comes before any sort of aesthetics.

I'll cover a couple more tomorrow. It's late, and I'd better be getting on to doing whatever else I do in the evening. Adios!


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day 254, on which John builds, builds, builds! [11.9.10]

Dag to hundrede fireoghalvtreds. Ey up lads, what's new? Well, if you'd been so nice as to ask the question back at me, I'd say something about the JOHN Collection. Because I've managed to photograph all the pieces I've made so far. They add up to about 30, a combination of tables, chairs, shelves, lamps, and the odd bench. Which, in my mind, is just a long chair. You may remember I photographed a few of the pieces a few months ago - around the time of nnenn's death by my memory.

That was about ten pieces. Since then, I've built a shitload more chairs and tables, so that's what I photographed today. Sadly I can't show you them (I'm saving them for Christmas), but you'll like 'em when I'm done. If people don't appreciate a year's worth of furniture, then I don't know what they will appreciate.  I really hope you all like this. Some of them are really good. I'm going to start compiling them into pages around now; just so I can work out what I still need to build (eg. a table for the outdoors category). As for my co-builder, I don't know what the sitch is. I'll just end up doing it on my own, I guess.

Well, OK. I can show you one piece. Just one.
Clippon Table Two, © John 2010

There you go. It's called the Clippon Table Two, and I'm not sure where it's going in terms of departments yet. I'm thinking home, perhaps home office. Anywho, it's an alright table (and one of three), so I thought It'd be OK if I showed it to you. It's not the best so far - far from it in fact - but it's still nice (colours need changing gah).

You can also see in the picture a guy. You probably don't know who this is, but he pops up in my MOCs a lot. An awful lot. Too much, some may say. He even posed in an airport luggage car though his suave suit was totally out of place. Just 'cause I always have him on hand. His name, as many know, is Björn the Dirty Swede. Because he's a dirty, dirty swede. Tsk tsk. So now he's become the third in a short line of JOHN Collection models:

The first JOHN Collection featured a smiling guy. Not a Swede, funnily enough, because he wasn't blond. But he was dressed in a blue jumpsuit. Trendy.

The second JOHN Collection featured a similarly non-blond individual, this time looking bright in a red jumpsuit. He also had better hair.

So now everyone's favourite dirty Swede, Björn [the dirty Swede] is taking on the role of JOHN Collection model. I was thinking about a green jumpsuit for him, but it so does not go with his hair. So a suit and dark green trousers it was. Woot.

Until Christmas, this is all the JCiii you'll see. Sorry. But hopefully it'll blow you away when it's done. Hopefully.


Friday, 10 September 2010

Day 253, on which John discusses form and function again [10.9.10]

Dag to hundrede treoghalvtreds. It's only a day until the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Eek. Well, we'll cover that topic tomorrow no doubt. There's been a truckload of depressing documentaries on Channel 4 about it (they just keep churning them out), so one more day of watching them may provoke a post about the events of 2001. Perhaps. We'll see whether another source of inspiration finds me. I'm posting late again; I know. Only 20 minutes to get this post done. Gawsh.

Form and function. Those two contrasting concepts that are at the basis of all design. ALL design. No exceptions. Every designer has their own ideas about what should come first, form or function. Here's the clincher: studies have shown that using a product that looks nice can actually subconsciously make it easier to use. That's right. If a product has good aesthetics, users will perceive it as easier to use and it'll be a better product.

Let's take an example. A Danish example. A Jacobsen example. Because I'm in that mood. Below, you can see a photo of the handle Arne designed for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, one of his best works (though sadly he died before it was finished and his mates completed it for him):

There it is. Schmexy, huh? Jacobsen has done what all other Danish designers have done in the past and followed the Scandinavian rule of design: purity of form. That's it. That's all Scandinavian design is about; those three words. Purity. Of. Form. Kjærholm, Jacobsen, Panton, IKEA, Aarnio, Saarinen, all the others. This is the principle they worked on, though sometimes not being consciously aware of it.

So what does purity of form mean? It means the design is stripped to its very essentials, the elements which it needs to function: here, a place to hold the handle and a hinge. Then the elements are reviewed and the designer find a way to combine them together into one connected, flowing shape. That's all there is to it. And here, Jacobsen has perfectly balanced the function of the handle, and its key elements, with aesthetics, thus creating a beautifully shaped handle.

Purity of form.

That is all.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Day 252, on which John looks over more of Arne Jacobsen's work [9.9.10]

Dag to hundrede tooghalvtreds. This week's not been that bad, actually. As first weeks of the year go, it's not bad at all. Good. Good good. Sure, it's been slow, but my homework has been light/non-existent since the start of the week so woot. I've been working more on that story tonight. The idea is that, like Bart De Dobbelaer's stories, it will be in small parts and each part will be illustrated with Lego. Except, unlike Bart's chapters, mine will be a bit longer and the Lego illustrations will be in-depth scenes, not vignettes. Also, they'll be better, heh heh. No really, the story is developing really well. I just need to get it finished, then I can start building.

Before we begin, take a good long look at this man. This is Arne Jacobsen. Pronounced ar-nee ya-kob-sǝn. Danish designer. Died in 1971. Had awesome glasses (clearly), was a bit fat (acknowledged it) and scribbled most of his furniture designs. That's him in a nutshell. I see a Series 7 chair poking out from behind him there. He's so cool he sits in his own chairs. As for the pipe, that's more subjective.

Today we'll be focusing mainly on Jacobsen's only project in the UK, St Catherine's College in Oxford University. It's a large complex that Jacobsen designed and built over many years. He took several trips to Oxford to ask for more and more money off the clients to spend on the building. His designs for moulded concrete pillars extending in three dimensions were seen as insane by the backward Brits, but Jacobsen kept trying and eventually he got his way. Woo.

Here's an annoyingly blurry picture of the main hall of St Catherine's College. You can see - vaguely - the massive concrete girders that caused the arguments between Jacobsen and his clients. They're an impressive, strong, heavy element in the design. Repetition is key in architecture, especially that of Jacobsen's. Then we have an elegant chair of Arne's in the foreground (can't remember the name). It's made of one single piece of steam-bent wood, in a beautiful shape. The high back, which Jacoben doesn't do much, is so effective here. It's formal, plain and functional. It offers you some safety and support, which is just what Oxford students need. The base, like many of Jacobsen's, is a little dull, but he believe a chair was a shell which sat on a base so bases weren't what he focused on. In a way, it's good that most of Jacobsen's chairs are just different shells and seats on the same base. Brushed stainless steel never hurt anybody.

Let's not forget Arne Jacobsen's Series 3300 chairs, which are on the right in this picture here. I must say I don't agree with the placement of them right next to The Swan on the left; there's too much contrast between the aluminum tubing and sharp lines of the Series 3300 and the subtle curves of The Swan. The two are designed for different settings; one formal and geometric, the other informal, comfortable and curvy.

Here's a better picture of those chairs, though not in the same room. You can see the girders infiltrate every interior of the college, which is good because running architectural motifs are so in at the moment. Google search dutifully tells me that the chairs are called Oxford Task Chairs. Good name. You can also see the probably-mahogany wood they're made of. Mmmmm. No corners, just one swift curve of wood. Nom nom nom.

I'll leave you with this dramatic shot of one of the student rooms in St Catherine's College. Spot the Jacobsen chair! And the sleek windows and architecture at the top there. Now scroll up and look at that photo of Jacobsen again. Tell him his designs are great. Say it out loud. Say it to his face.

Heh. nighty night,

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Day 251, on which Arne Jacobsen maintains his place in John's mind as the high ruler of all things awesome [8.9.10]

Dag to hundrede énoghalvtreds. This week is going really slowly, for some reason. I then finally get a free evening, and have to take a trip to #tehlaegoez chatroom to work out what all this quitting is about on Flickr. It's not serious, or at least I don't think it is, but as usual #tehlaegoez dragged me in, and oh boy was I having fun being insulted on there. Fun fun fun. But it's good to be back on, talking to the lads and all that. Good good.

OK, our topic for today is the unstoppably cool Danish designer, Arne Jacobsen. Yes, he died in 1971, and yes, he was a total dick to work with (according to interviews with his colleagues), and yes, most of his furniture designs were simple scribbles and his assistants designed the details. But he is still a great designer. I think then, for the sake of showing what he loved the most, we should take a look at his architecture and interior design mainly.

Exhibit 1; Rødovre Town Hall. Designed back in the 60s. Classic retro modernism, clean lines, lots of repetition, and some splashes of colour for a bit of friendliness. You may think the vast plane of windows seems boring and office block-ish, but in the 60s it was the height of modernism. And, in its own Danish way, these windows do look pretty good. It's very flat, bland and 60s, but you have to expect it from Jacobsen. That was his style.

Another of Jacobsen's most famous designs is his stunning architecture in Danmarks Nationalbank, the headquarters of the Danish national bank (funnily enough). The outside is strikingly neat, clean and formal. Just what you'd expect from a bank, you see. It looks a lot like a vault, too. Gold and secure. That's what you want from a bank.

The interior of Danmarks Nationalbank is where Jacobsen really shows off. There's right angles everywhere, with beautiful lines and interaction between elements, for example the glassy staircase which looks as if it's lightly touching the varnished wooden floorboards like something from heaven. The green/brown/magenta colours look sleek, posh and appropriate.

Cute details like this, small things on a massive building, really appeal to me. Little shelters and places that you can shelter from the rain in. Also, the car is cool too.

Nothing shows off Jacobsen's luxurious designs in Danmarks Nationalbank more than the main hall, which rises the full six floors of the building. The lighting fills up the concrete-walled space, and the contrast between the bland walls and the splashes of comfort and interactivity (ie. the Swan chairs below). However, even if you were conversing in the chairs, you'll feel the vast space of the hall. It's very quiet; it almost says 'shush, respect the design' to you and you speak in hushed tones. The staircase is spacious (luxurious, yet again - in contrast to the utilitarian architecture, the interior design emanates some small feeling of comfort), and so provides you with space to check out the views and admire the hall. Shapes are kept to a strict geometry, but Arne splashes out with the simplified organic shapes of the Swan chairs. Not sure why, perhaps it seems too cold to sit in chairs with clean lines and right angles (eg. Serious 3300 from Jacobsen). Hmm.

More Jacobsen tomorrow, maybe.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Day 250, on which John laments about his short life [7.9.10]

Dag to hundrede og halvtreds. It seems, on this third round through the Danish numbers, I'm finally learning them. See: ti, tyve, tredive, fyrre, halvtreds. Hopefully I'll remember the rest too, when I get to them. It really is a good way to learn them, despite what you think. Shut up and ignore them, readers. That's right, I just told the entire readership of my blog to shut up. Heh.

I feel so awesome today, because my monitor came. That's right, another screen for mah computer. So I can edit graphics on a surprisingly large-looking 24-inch screen and have all the toolbars etc. on my normal laptop screen (it's an 18" MacBook Pro, by the way). Very cool. But it hurts my eyes, and the colours aren't spot-on, so boo hoo. I feel like I'm controlling some sort of beastly machine, sitting with the massive screen glaring at me. I'll get used to it.

You're life's short. There, I said it. Yeah, go bawl your eyes out; mine's short too. You can be happy that, as I've just told you you're life's short, I will soon die also. "Soon, John?" you ask. Yeah, soon. Not soon in stupid human years, but since when were they useful? What can change in society or geographically over the course of one human year? Nothing. Your life could change a lot, but that's meaningless in the general scheme of things.

So, in the general scheme of things (and, yes, you're going to hate that term before we end this post), your life is short. You think you can maybe make a difference in that life, but really you've got no chance. You could do one tiny thing that could be part of a pile of tiny things which in turn could be one of many piles which amounts to something kinda important in the general scheme of things. That's not very monumental, though. A part of a part of something kinda important. And that's if you try.

But I won't amount to anything either. Perhaps I will, if I decided to go into physics or politics or something. But my interests lie solely in how I can manipulate and develop the most human concept possible: emotion. That's what you do when you create art or design. You're creating something to prompt an emotion; if you're a good artist or designer your work prompts the emotions you want. Perhaps I design something that people use a lot; a design classic (I wish). Even still, that will be passed down for five generations tops. It may be the basis of another style or design, but soon enough that will be forgotten too. Sadly, our lives are only meant to donate a small part to the general scheme of things (hate it yet?) .

Your life is short. So's mine. So's everyone elses. But maybe, just maybe, if we try that little bit harder, we can make our tiny lives donate that tiny bit to that pile, and perhaps we can be part of that pile which amounts to that kinda important thing. We will be forgotten (that's a certain), but we'll have helped. As for me, it looks like I'm helping for now, and the future is sadly something I won't get to see, let alone get to influence.

Does everyone think these things or is it just me?