cyclo knitter

I’ll let design student George Barratt-Jones talk about his invention, the Cyclo Knitter, in his own words:

Imagine Its the midst of winter. You are cold and boared waiting for your train at the station. This pedal powered machine gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait and in the end you are left with a free scarf! That you can decide to keep yourself or give to someone who needs it more.

Its all about spreading joy and making those boring moments more fun.


Cycle on a stationary bike for 5mins, get a 1.5m scarf. Genius.

brutalist cuckoo clocks


These cuckoo clocks make me uncomfortable, I don’t know why. They’re designed by German artist Guido Zimmermann and replaces the traditional alpine chalet that sits on top of the clock with modern (or post-modern?) brutalist concrete residential buildings. He describes the clocks:

the classic cuckoo clock stands for the prosperity of the middle class and counts as a kind of luxury for the staid home, the updated version as a panel construction shows today’s urban and social life in apartment blocks.

The blocks are based on actual buildings, an example being Glenkerry House in the East End of London. There are details like different curtains in different windows, satellite dishes, and even the dark mark left by rainwater on the concrete.

via colossal

happy mac susan kare


As reported by gruber, Susan Kare has been awarded an 2018 AIGA Medal for design.

Anyone who used macs before they got popular will have heard of Susan Kare, or will go “duh” when shown her work. From the AIGA medal page:

she created some of the most recognizable icons, typefaces, and graphic elements in personal computing: the command symbol (⌘), the system-failure bomb, the paintbrush, and, of course, “Clarus the Dogcow.”

She drew many of her creations by hand, using the smallest graph paper she could find–a 32×32 grid that so happened to total 1024, one square per pixel. Other iconic creations include the Chicago font. She later spent time at facebook and pinterest, but it’s her work at apple that is so meaningful.

#18: design a book cover


I have to start working on writing again. Task #18 of 101.1001 is to design a book cover. I had in mind to take some pics in NYC for LL. Not as many or as good potential as I wanted.

The background is of stock market quotes in a newspaper from flickr user andreas poike under cc by 2.0. If/when I get a chance to submit a cover myself I’ll get a copy of FT and substitute my own image, I just didn’t have any newspaper at hand.

The Wall Street street sign and SMELLS graffiti are my own, from the most recent trip. I have a couple of pics of the charging bull but there were so many tourists I had to borrow from someone, this from flickr user sam valadi also under cc by 2.0.

The play on the son of man is based on a pic of me taken at Carleen’s friend Tom’s costume shop last year. The apple is also my own image and the frame from a random google image search for free images. Photoshopped to make it blurry and more like a painting. It’s something that will be referenced in LL, which I’ll need to edit in.

Is it a good cover? A passable attempt I guess. Can be so much better in the hands of a professional.



Apparently 23-jan is national handwriting day, which coincides with John Hancock’s birthday. This artificial special day was invented by Moleskine, who wants people to

free yourself from your QWERTY keyboard and write out a social media post by hand

and tag it appropriately, of course. People can go to certain moleskine stores, handwrite a post and get a free notebook.

I made a font from my own handwriting, which I sometimes use for fun. So that’s my #handwritingday post.

pic of my chair may breach copyright


I’m home for a few days, and I reminded myself to take a picture of my aeron chair. Why? Because apparently, the UK government will soon require people to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects, even if you own that object. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says that copyright of artistic objects cover 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. This is something like 100 years after the object was designed and during that 100 or so years, taking a photo will require a licence from the copyright owner. Note, it’s the copyright owner not the legal owner of the object.

The aeron chair was designed in 1994, so there’s plenty of time left for that copyright licence.

Stupid or what.

playing with themes


Played around with themes. Initially found one that was like the modern magazine, with boxes for posts. Looks good but I didn’t like just excerpts on the homepage.

Found another clean looking one that shows full posts but, argh, anyone can see it’s a wordpress theme with their eyes closed. Nothing wrong with the classic look…I’m looking for something a little different.

This is the ifeature theme. At the top is a slider where I can place 3 images. Underneath are 3 pinned boxes. For me, a great place to feature various flickr sets. Full posts with right sidebar and space in the footer for more links.

While I was at it, I copied over the About pages and put them in the nav menu. The 101.1001 challenges are also on the top menu.

DTP revisited: learning InDesign


Desktop publishing was why I got into macs so much earlier than the rest of the world. I did a sort-of monthly newsletter for our student group for a couple of years when I was in college. Back then, we used Pagemaker and the then industry standard, QuarkXPress. (I personally was better at Pagemaker, that’s just me.) The software came from, ahem, dubious sources, those were the days.

I hadn’t used DTP since then, and my skills are sadly long forgotten. I idly noted Adobe bought Pagemaker and brought out InDesign. I read articles about the demise of QuarkXPress. When CS2 became free, I grabbed Photoshop straightaway. As an afterthought, I got Illustrator and InDesign too.

I still don’t know how to use Illustrator very well and until this week InDesign was a bit of a black hole too. What prompted me to sit down and focus on getting basic proficiency: a) I need to design and prepare a large number of graphical…stuff that are text- and layout-heavy; b) the professional designer who helps us with our graphics uses InDesign and c) I thought it’d be a good skill to re-learn. I was asked to help design a few small pamphlets a year or so ago. I used Photoshop because I was most comfortable with it, but it would have been more appropriate to use a DTP software.

My first reaction in opening InDesign was, ooops, how to I start. I figured out how to create a new document and set parameters such as margins and number of columns. I clicked on the text tool and tried to type, but I wasn’t seeing anything on screen and the cursor kept jumping to other selections on the menu. Something was wrong. Luckily there are plenty of guides and videos online. I realised that I had skipped the step of defining the text box before I started typing. Schoolboy error.


Took me the better part of 2 days to do this very simple layout. There are around 20 to do. I’m a bit petrified, but I think it will get easier once I get familiar with the controls: I know what I want to do, I just need to know the workflow and learn some tricks. The first page took the longest, getting the shaded highlights took a while and then the second page was simply copy and paste. It’s nice to get back into this, I look at the sample files that came with the software and I think to myself, something that looks similar is within my ability.

graphic designers will get these puns

If there’s one creative thing I like doing and wish I were better at it, it’s graphic design. I can play around with photoshop to make decent-ish posters and templates and such like. I’m not confident enough, I feel a little intimidated and insecure because I’ve never had any training. I’m also a little hampered by old software. I try my best, and people seem to like the results.

designcard01mad designcard02keming

One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of layout. So I find myself nodding at these graphic design pun cards I spotted via adweek. Anyone with an eye for aesthetics will get the joke, and I especially like the one about keming.

designcard03comicsans designcard04helvetica

Probably my favourite font ever is frutiger. Like most people, I hate Comic Sans, which should only be used for children’s birthday parties. For day to day use, I stick with Helvetica or, gasp, Arial. I’ve even taught myself how to tell the difference:



small apartment moving walls: I’d live there


via wired

An architectectural firm in Madrid designed this modern, efficient space from a small apartment. One half is a fixed living area (seen on the slideshow) and the other half is divided into rooms using movable walls. The kitchen units and bathroom are on either side, and 3 plywood units can be moved to create kitchen, bedroom and sitting/utility area. The room collapses when the units are moved to another configuration. The walls themselves double up as storage and closet.

Technology is such that nowadays, movable walls and doors made from heavy materials can be moved with one hand. The walls are suspended from the ceiling and move along using tracks similar to what is used in libraries and archives. The bathroom looks quite small and narrow and it can get to be a pain to raise/lower the bed everyday. These are the only negatives I can see, everything else looks super. Of course, this is pretty much only suitable for people who live minimalistically and tidy up as they go about their day.

The name of the firm is PKMN pronounced pac-man, it shows they have a sense of humour. The video is fun too:


#93: make font from handwriting


Task #93 of 101.1001 is to make a font from my handwriting.

It’s one of the simplest and most fun things to do on the list. I used a free site called paintfont: downloaded a template, filled it in with a black sharpie, scanned the 3 pages and within a minute or so the font was ready for download. Had to go back and fix some dots in photoshop to eliminate extra white space but still easy.

Not exactly how I’d write a sentence, because handwriting tends to join up the letters, but if I had to write something in print, this is close to how it would turn out. The 7 things card was written in my font.

books and bookcovers

bookcover bookcoverlondoners

Looking at flavorwire’s recommended october books, it occurred to me that this is a nice bunch of bookcovers. A little aghast that my favourite is a Tom Wolfe I’ll never read. The most intriguing author on that list, to me, is Chinua Achebe, not least because I just read a small article about the memoir and it seems to be one of those important books that one reeds to read.

On a separate note, the list of 50 best book covers of 2011 is also interesting. The only book on that list that I have is londoners, although the cover that won is only for the UK edition, in the US it’s a more boring, generic cover. The publishers are not doing the reading public justice, it’s not just Londoners who will get that the colours on the cover correspond to all the tube lines, there are lots of people around the world who have travelled to London or recognise the clever play on colours. Sigh. Publishers really shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Anyway, here’s a snippet towards the end of the Introduction:

The only definition of a Londoner I followed was the people you see around you. The ones who stock the Tube trains and fill the pavements and queue in Tesco with armfuls of plastic-wrapped veg. Whatever their reason or origin, they are laughing, rushing, conniving, snatching free evening newspapers, speaking into phones, complaining, sweeping floors, tending to hedge funds, pushing empty pint glasses, marching, arguing, drinking, kneeling, swaying, huffing at those who stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, moving, moving, always moving. It’s a city of verbs.

He’s still not quite a Londoner. He should have said Tesco’s, not Tesco. It’s always the doctor’s, not the doctor’s office.

star wars hipsters are dope

img src=”” alt=”bobafett” />

Something different, that is not running or food or macs. Spotted via flavorwire, very interesting twisted mashup by illustrator John Woo, of Star Wars characters in modern hipster outfits. Padme looks no different, and Darth Vader looks oh so coquettish in a Band of Outsiders suit. But my absolute favourite, is Boba Fett in Comme des Garçons. So fetcing. So dreamy. Even after all these years, I still hanker after his helmet and flight jacket.

how to design a book cover

If/when I become published I want to design my own covers. I won’t be able to paint or draw them since I’m an awful painter, but I can photoshop and I have definite ideas about what visual elements I want in my book covers.

I have a long way to go and much to learn though. This time lapse video from Lauren Panepinto, the creative director of orbit books shows the amount of skill needed, condensing 6 hours of work into 2 minutes. There’s even a brief interview about her approach. My awe of designers just went into orbit (pun intended).

Comments at bb rightly pointed out how effective this was as a marketing tool for the book. I must admit I am not bought into video trailers for books but based on this particular video, I can see myself checking out the book (due out Sept 2010 and is part of a series). Of course it helps that it’s steampunk and has vampires in it.

“this is an empty box”


Via metafilter and digg, what if Microsoft redesigned the iPod box.

Alternative link to wmv file, and as another grrrr comment in Redmond’s disfavor when I first downloaded the wmv at the second link (youtube was down) it forced me to install Windows Media Player and attempted to hijack all my media files, plus it put shortcuts all over my desktop and menu bar without my permission. grrrrr again.

The consensus is that this is so true. The simplicity of the Apple design vs the clutter and overinformative parody MS design is another example of the differences between the two companies. The spoof MS design isn’t bad, it’s just extremely boring and corporate and definitely lacks the coolness factor.

I’m watching it again. It’s so funny and addictive. I’m so easily amused, especially if it: a) pokes fun at MS and b) reinforces my Apple love.

green paddles

Remember how I don’t usually write about adult toys? Here’s something new, and eco-friendly too! Blame xeni.

Take some used tires and some old metal street signs and create something special. Not a very auspicious prompt for sex toys, no? From the mind of John T. Unger, an artist and designer based in Michigan, comes these spanking paddles made from, yes, used tires and metal signs.

Aptly called “BadAss Paddles”, these floggers are made of black rubber tire tread on one side and recycled street sign aluminum on the reverse side. They come in 2 sizes: 3”x22” or for a firmer heavy blow, 4”x17”; and 3 designs, The Original, The Master Mechanic and Talkin’ Trash. Price from $60 to $90, plus $20 S&H. The Talkin’ Trash version can be customized for up to 15 letters, like what we have here, sexy or trash.


The idea is so ingenius it’s almost too perfect. Black. Rubber. Tread marks. Did I say black rubber?

Who says you can’t be green in your scene?

command key

I was looking around to see if I can find the html character for the command symbol and came across an article on how the command symbol came about.

Originally they used the apple symbol to invoke menu commands but one day, Steve Jobs declared.

“There are too many Apples on the screen! It’s ridiculous! We’re taking the Apple logo in vain! We’ve got to stop doing that!”

After we told him that we had to display the command key symbol with each item that had one, he told us that we better find a different symbol to use instead of the Apple logo, and, because it affected both the manuals and the keyboard hardware, we only had a few days to come up with something else.

It’s difficult to come up with a small icon that means “command”, and we didn’t think of anything right away. Our bitmap artist Susan Kare had a comprehensive international symbol dictionary and she leafed through it, looking for an appropriate symbol that was distinctive, attractive and had at least something to do with the concept of a menu command.

Finally she came across a floral symbol that was used in Sweden to indicate an interesting feature or attraction in a campground. She rendered a 16 x 16 bitmap of the little symbol and showed it to the rest of the team, and everybody liked it. Twenty years later, even in OS X, the Macintosh still has a little bit of a Swedish campground in it.

Susan Kare rocks.

⌘ is the BEST SYMBOL! Oh, btw, it’s 8984.