running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Banksy's long-awaited film, 'Exit Through The Gift Shop', will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

It will be the first time the elusive artist, who has never revealed his identity, has spoken on camera. The plot is apparently the loose story of an eccentric French shop keeper turned documentary maker who attempts to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on him.

John Cooper, director of the Sundance Festival, said the story was so bizarre that he questioned whether it could be real.

"Exit Through The Gift Shop is one of those films that comes along once in a great while, a warped hybrid of reality and self-induced fiction while at the same time a totally entertaining experience," he added.

Banksy is a seminal figure in modern art, and over the years his appropriation of stickers, stencils, posters, billboards, walls and sculpture have helped shape 'street art' into the most significant counterculture movement of a generation. As well as Bansky doing his thing, the film apparently contains exclusive footage many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work.

The big question is whether or not Banksy's identity will be revealed. It seems unlikely, given how powerful his anonymous brand has become, but either way the movie will hopefully follow in the footsteps of Gary Hustwit's 'Helvetica' and become required viewing for everyone working in or studying visual communication.

'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is in UK cinemas on 5 March.

Banksy @ wiki

One Final Flash in the Pan?

Flash CS4

My HND New Media students are currently working on a project where they are developing a web design for both screen and handheld media. They create a single layout, but employ two different stylesheets, and the css has to take into consideration the limitations of the handheld environment. One of these limitations turns out to be a bit of a surprise - the iPhone does not support Flash.

It seems perverse that one of the gadgets of the moment doesn't use the standard plug-in for web animation and streaming video, but this is Apple we are talking about, so there must be some method in their madness.

And recent developments support the rumour that the future is looking a little less bright for Flash.

During the launch of Apple's olastest offering, the iPad, Steve Jobs argued that the reason Flash wasn't supported on either the iPad or the iPhone was because "no one will be using Flash in five years time".

Its a big statement, and one not to be taken lightly. Jobs has a talent for calling it right when it comes to interactive technologies. For example, when Apple launched the iMac in 1998, much to the astonishment of just about everyone, it didn't include a floppy drive. And look what happened. So Adobe must surely be worried.

Furthermore, Jobs argues that HTML5, the forthcoming upgrade to Web standards, will render Flash obsolete.

HTML5 will allow browsers to replicate much of what Flash does without having to use any plug-ins at all. What's more, HTML5 is backed by the big guns (including Apple, Google, and Adobe), and is the summation of everything we have learned about web interaction during the past 10 years. Couple that with the brilliance of CSS3, and Jobs' case looks decidedly strong.

And the early adopters know it. YouTube has just launched a beta project to play its videos using HTML5, and if you are using a new version of Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari, you won't need Flash to watch streaming video. HTML5 video will also run fine on both iPad and iPhone.

Adobe counters that creatives who want to do cutting-edge web-based animation will continue to use Flash. After all, there are still plenty of things Flash can do that HTML5 doesn't support, and hundreds of the world's best websites are Flash-heavy.

The worst-case scenario for Adobe is that Flash will become a sought-after retro phenomenon; their best-case that the iPad will be a flop. Either way, Flash will still be shipping with the next few versions of the Creative Suite.

Even if the iPad does fail, there's still the iPhone to worry about, and it is a huge, Flash-free customer base. As of now, web design for handheld devices is an important feature of the newest wave of development trends.

From a designer's point of view, using HTML5 and CSS3 as the basis for all web content would be a welcome consolidation. Not only would it ensure that web standards were attainable design goals, but for many there would be a sigh of relief.

Firstly, relief at not having to learn Flash and ActionScripting. And then not having to relearn it for the next upgrade. And finally, relief at the death of 'skip intro' and 'site loading' prompts.

from The Guardian - The Day iPad Launched.
from the Washington Post - The Death of Adobe Flash?

How Can it Not Know What It Is?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

So said Deckard after questioning Rachael, a Nexus Six replicant who is unaware that she is not a human but an android, in Ridley Scott's seminal 1982 sci-fi classic 'Bladerunner'.

The film, set in 2019, was based on Philip K. Dick's novel 'Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?'.

The branding for Google's recently launched smart phone seems to have borrowed heavily from it too, according to Dick's daughter Isa. The phone is called the 'Nexus One', and its operating system is 'Android'.

Isa Dick is claiming that these are clear infringements of her late father's trademark rights.

Google Nexus One

This has happened before with futuristic names and techy gadgets. Verizon used the 'Droid' name from Star Wars for one of its Motorola phones, but it had to do so under license. Turns out 'Droid' was more than just a word, George Lucas actually owned trademarks for the term.

But the terms from Dick's work are merely character names. The objections against Google would probably stand up in court if a new movie, novel, or advert came out referring specifically to android and nexus as fictional characters. The link is so tenuous that the claim will surely never get that far.

Even so, Google will probably negotiate a settlement, if only to protect the image of their new gadget, which is being marketed as a direct competitor to the iPhone.

Personally, I think 'Nexus One' is a great nod to Dick. Surely he would have appreciated it being used to name a handheld gadget that harnesses everything we have learned about interactive media, and can do things even he never dreamed of in his sleep.

Bladerunner @ IMDB
Philip K. Dick on wiki
Google Nexus One

Printliminator - CSS to customise web printing

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

In the bad old days of the web, designers spent most of their time finding workarounds to make sure that pages displayed the same in each of the main browsers.

Thankfully, a decade or so into the 21st Century, Mozilla, Opera, Safari and even Internet Explorer are all singing from the roughly the same (style)sheet.

The big headache now for designers is the proliferation of media devices and their attendant accessibility requirements. Websites now need a stylesheet for screen, print, projection, handheld, and so on, all meeting W3C standards.

Typically you create a separate stylesheet for each media option, using this simple css - {display:none;} to hide unwanted page elements in any given stylesheet.

The biggest headache is styling in this manner for the most primitive device of all - the humble printer.

A stylesheet for easy printing will normally exclude background images, ads, flash and so on. But this leaves no room for customisation of the printable content and can ruin the careful css presentation of the page.

Enter Printliminator - a bookmark tool that lets you remove any css block element section of a page - thus giving you a flexible way of choosing what content you print from a webpage.

It even lets you compile a print media stylesheet based on your selections.

The whole process is intuitive and beautifully conceived. Printliminator appears on your desktop as a small four-button console, and it highlights div tags on the webpage with a simple red border.

The console stays on top of any element on a webpage because its an absolutely positioned div with a z-index of 1000.

Now all you need to do is bookmark it, and try it out on this page - Printliminator.

Sign Out Forever

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Committ Web 2.0 Suicide

I can't be the only person out there who has a social networking account that I don't really use, which continually bugs me with friend adding and other forms of virtual intrusion, and which I wish I'd never signed up to.

And as you'll know if you have tried to cancel a Facebook account, all you can do is disable it. And they keep the data.

But of course anything cultural that moves into the mainstream eventually faces a backlash or a counter-revolution, and its finally arrived for social networking, courtesy of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.

This piece of software, developed by a Dutch agency, lets you delete all your social-networking profiles, effectively killing off your Web 2.0 alterego. The service currently runs with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The website design is funky too. They've gone all-out with the Web 2.0 visuals (circa 2008), with a glossy 3D logo, big font sizes, a reflected logotype and some nice lightbox effects. The site also has a great list of 'social suiciders', detailing the date on which they signed out forever, and how many friends they lost. To round off the concept they include a great little video showing the software in action.

Not surprisingly, Facebook are a bit upset by all of this and have reportedly
blocked the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine IP address. We'll see how long that obstacle lasts.

I guess the next development will be for those suicides who wish to reverse their decision. The guys at Suicide Machine are claiming there is no way back, but they are probably already working on Web 2.0 Resurrection.

Out of the Studio and Into the Fire?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Design Week is about to publish an article on branding by Christian Schroeder, chief executive of Lambie-Nairn, the UK-based agency that famously designed the branding identity for Channel 4 and for O2.

Schroeder feels that designers should take control of pitching and marketing branding strategies to company bosses, rather than taking the more traditional route and passing the job onto advertising agencies.

Despite the long-held view that the strategic direction of brands is the responsibility of advertising agencies, Schroeder makes the valid point that the industry is in a transitional state due to the ever-increasing diversity of media platforms and channels. Maybe a redefinition of what designers do is in order. Schroeder complains that 'no-one is standing up and challenging the position of the advertising agency, even though the campaigns are becoming increasingly tactical and short-term, and this position is less tenable than ever.’

There's no doubt that many ad agencies are looking to short-term gain rather than focusing on the longevity of a brand.

But that's not the whole picture.

Schroeder accepts that we (designers) are in the business of ideas that have a commercial value, but so are the ad agencies and the branding managers. They are merely responding to the current economic climate. As soon as things perk up again, campaigns will loosen up and look to the longer term.

Creatives have enough on their plate satisfying client needs without moving into the business-end of the industry. No-one would dispute that creatives do their best work when the only thing they have to worry about outside of the studio is what pub to meet in at 5pm.

There are implications for education as well - the 'communities-of-practice' approach, which I'm an advocate of, emphasises collaborative studio work, which helps students share ideas, develop creative best practices, and understand the most productive way to define and develop their role in the industry.

It seems to me that bypassing ad agencies will lumber creatives with a bunch of pressurised responsibilities that interfere with the design process, and ultimately detract from the fun of it.

Design Week
Brand New

Too Close to the Bone

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

This clip from YouTube needs no explanation or comments.

There is also a sequel, which is well worth following up.

Seeing Thru Your Desktop

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Samsung OLCD Laptop

2010 is off to a flier with the announcement of the Google Nexus One, but of equal interest has to be Samsung's amazing step into the future with their 14-inch notebook prototype which features a semi-transparent screen.

The screen casing is made out of transparent plastic, and is about 40% transparent when the machine is switched off. I'm guessing that you can't control the transparency when the laptop is on, which is hardly going to help when it comes to using applications, but it looks great and will surely feature in the next 007 movie. And a bigger version of this wouldn't be far off the huge transparent interfaces used to track pre-crime in Spielberg's 'Minority Report'.

The Engadget website features a video of the Samsung in action -

Pixies - Minotaur Box Set

Monday, 4 January 2010

Pixies Minotaur

It's probably the only music coverart ever to get its own video and pre-launch exhibition, and apparently there are still a few left. The Pixies monumental box-set 'Minotaur', which was released on June 15th 2009 in a limited edition of 3000 signed copies, is apparently almost sold out.

The boxset was designed by Vaughan Oliver and photographer Simon Larbalestier, the original collaborators on the album artwork for all five Pixies' studio albums during the 1980's. The albums were all released on the legendary 4AD label, for which Oliver designed dozens of brilliant album covers up until 1987.

Minotaur includes all five studio albums (Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe le Monde), on vinyl and CD, plus some other DVD and Blu Ray assemblage, and is all packaged inside a custom designed folio. Also included is a 7.75 x 8.25 inch 54-page book. There is also a deluxe version that includes more discs and even more photography. A copy will still set you back about £200. Check it out if you have not seen it -

4AD Records
Minotaur Exhibition Video
Interview with Vaughan Oliver