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Then and now: The Bauhaus and 21st century design

Don Norman assesses the Bauhaus movement, and its relevance to design today. He notes that despite its widespread cultural influence, it failed to produce a single object that significantly improved people’s lives.

Consider the “Curriculum Wheel”… developed by Walter Gropius in 1922… It contains three years of study, starting with form and materials, moving to advanced topics in materials, composition, and construction. Never a mention of people. Never a mention of usage. It was all about form.

Elements of this remind me of contemporary debates around flat design and other superficial user interface decisions. This form or that form isn’t right or wrong, unless you know you are meeting people’s needs.

Everywhen β€” Massive Attack

A lot of bands I liked wilted somewhat after Radiohead released Kid A. Not Massive Attack. 100th Window may not be their most admired album. But I thought it was one of the few that successfully met the Kid A challenge.

Gone were the trademark trip-hop beats that made them so successful in the 90s. In came a more clinical, experimental electronica sound. It switched some people off, but I think elements of this album are superb. It was an impressive reinvention, but it was also still unmistakably Massive Attack.

Language in web teams

Content designer Sarah Richards shares an amusing story of a technique she has used to help people from different disciplines and backgrounds who have been talking at cross-purposes.

We are meant to be content and communication experts. But we often see people putting little effort into how they communicate internally, or even within their own teams.

Broken TV

People don’t want technology

Technology firms are full of technologists who love technology for technology's sake. But it's causing problems for people who just want to get stuff done.

diamond geezer on why companies are installing badly designed phoneboxes

I can’t say I’ve noticed new phoneboxes popping up, but maybe things are different in Edinburgh. Nevertheless, I found this blog post by diamond geezer fascinating.

BT’s new InLink sounds especially awful:

All the action takes place on the thin side farthest from the road, where no separate receiver is apparent. Instead there’s a socket for a headphone jack, provided by the user to cut costs, and a loudspeaker at waist height which’ll broadcast across the pavement…

Most striking is the big red button which if pressed immediately dials 999, an innovation surely far too tempting for passing fingers, which must have emergency switchboards cursing.

So why in this day and age would new phoneboxes be emerging? The answer is depressingly familiar.

Legends of the ancient web

Maciej CegΕ‚owski considers the parallels between the early decades of radio, and the web. He notes how radio became a crucial propaganda tool for the fascists of the 1930s.

In less than four decades, radio had completed the journey from fledgeling technology, to nerdy hobby, to big business, to potent political weapon.

It’s a great history lesson. Read on to find the silver lining in his talk.

Accessibility according to actual people with disabilities

We often hear about the theory of accessibility in design. But we know that the reality can often be different.

So it’s great to see such a comprehensive run-down of actual digital accessibility complaints from people with disabilities.

The article ends with a sage point:

Basically everything that people with disabilities comment on are things that annoy everyone, so fixing these issues makes your interface better for all users!

Modified Blue Jam artwork

There may be no real science behind the concept of Blue Monday. But there is definitely something strange about mornings in January.

I always go back to work as soon as possible after the new year. On my morning walk to work, the streets are dark unlike any other time of year, and eerily quiet.

It’s now a new year tradition of mine to spend my first morning walk of each week listening to Blue Jam. Chris Morris’s peerless radio programme of the late 1990s mixed dark comedy with downtempo music. It was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in the small hours of the morning, maximising its unsettling vibe.

That vibe seems to suit these weird, dark Mondays in January.

The programmes are available to download via Cook’d and Bomb’d.