The disposal of personalisation often feels personal in a way that is out of proportion with the object that is being disposed of.
Like the remains of a house made of paper and stone, a name and a cup have different rates of decay, losing form and structure by abstraction at different speeds.
No one person designed this. It happened over the course of a day at Chelsea flower show, as tea drinker after tea drinker swirled their tea, ditching the bag and stick. I doubt either that these two objects were designed with this use in mind - that just happened too - a strange by-product of their perfect relationship to one another, amplified many times over.
This is modular design. It works for one tea drinker, and it works for many. It doesn’t rob people of the joy of solving their own problems.
More things should be designed like this.
A couple of weeks back I spent a few days in Saas Almagell, Switzerland. The brightest, most expensive place on earth.
Winters are harsh but bring predictably huge amounts of dry tourist-baiting snow to every surface.
With the addition of vast quantities of tiny, moldable snowflakes - and some careful raking - roads are transformed from spaces just for cars into carriageways for multiple kinds of transport. Each night an enormous Snow Cat (pictured) restructures the roads and ski slopes with a car sized comb, cutting two deep grooves for cross country skis, and flattening another area for snowshoes and walkers.
All these uses are made possible by the modular mould-ability of snow. Tiny particles, stuck together to make any shape.
Does modularity have to ubiquitous to be usable?
Or does it simply have to be predictable?
Spending a long overdue weekend wandering aimlessly in the New Forest.
Like everywhere else in the UK, it’s landscape never seems far away from human curation. A place where things that are un-planned are put to good use - and anything that cant be, is signposted.
In places like this, natural and un-natural are just shades of useful and not-useful.
This is a picture of NASA mission central after the latest rover touched down on Mars.
Teams of hundreds of scientists spent years carefully crafting a remote laboratory that could survive the extreme conditions. They altered their body clocks so that they could operate it more efficiently, switched their language to talk about ‘sols’ rather than days. They did this all together, working as a team to explore mars
This is how their efforts were reported in the Scientist:
“The rovers enjoy significant support in congress…”
“’Disjointed incrementalism’ characterises public service design: where services are altered and adapted by changing political drivers, professional fashions, shifting institutional norms and boundaries, and the biased lessons of past experience” - Restarting Britain 2: Design and Public Services
All the usual disclaimers aside (few would argue that this report isn’t needed, nor that it contains a lot of really good points), this quote from the latest Design Commission report worries me. What is wrong with responding incrementally to ‘shifting political norms’? Aren’t shifting political norms supposed to respond to shifting social norms? And more broadly, isn’t ‘incrementalism’, disjointed or otherwise, how evolution works?
The quote fits in with a re-emerging attitude to design that appears to believe the world can be strategically planned, piece-by-piece. To do this, it’s argued, design needs to become ever more ‘strategic’ - morphing from UI to UX, from service design to system design.
This is spit. Red spit to be precise.
Its a feature of many cities, created by chewing a mixture of tobacco and highly coloured spices.
I’ve noticed it in Bethnal Green for years, knowing it was a by product of the local Asian community that live here without knowing how, why or thinking much of it, until I saw a corner much like this one on the edge of covent garden.
This chicken shop It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is filled every day, not with people who don’t want to cook, but with people who cant afford to cook.
A chicken burger costs £1.75. Cheaper than you could cook it for at home.
Waste is created when any information is transferred - heat, money, and power all lose bits when they’re transferred. When energy is scarce, waste will become a luxury.
The slogan ‘if your minicab’s not booked it’s just a stranger’s car’ makes sense on the surface of it.
Until you realize that, of course, any taxi car is probably a ‘stranger’s car’
The thing that makes your booked car not a stranger’s car is that it is part of a system, and one that is reasonably predictable.
Working for a taxi company has a higher barrier to entry than just buying a car and parking up outside a tube station right? The driver is probably CRB checked, has a clean drivers license, or at least has a record with the company that makes him traceable and unlikely to try and rape you and do a runner.
How do you know this? You probably don’t unless you’ve ever worked for a cab company. But by piecing together your knowledge of the systems that a make up a taxi company - an employee register that needs a bank account, and a bank account that needs an address - you can take a rough guess.
What happens then, when we have no longer have any knowledge of the systems that go into delivering a product or service?
Systems are usually created for a reason, by many people over a period of time with significant investment. They are more trustworthy than chaos, which has no such collective authorship.
What happens when the systems that we think we know require little investment to change, or are completely personal, will we trust them then?
When things move on, something will always get left behind.
A person has to design the way that a machine thinks, but how often do we know who that person is? They are anonymous, collective and almost completely unaccountable.
A small chaotic pattern protecting a large, ordered one.
This Friday, thousands of people (myself included) were left without cellular and data services when O2 went down.
It’s the second outage in less than three months. Back in July, O2’s response was met with universal praise for their witty fight against the barrage of ‘Fuck You’ messages they received on Twitter.
None of which helped those who didn’t know it was happening, which was almost everyone at some point, because it’s was a blackout.