Tonight for tea with the kids we had our own twist on Chilli Con Carne. It was inspired by flicking through ‘How to be a Better Cook’ by Lorraine Pascale and spotting a recipe for Slow Cooker Chilli Con Carne, and then making it up with a lot of things we had in the fridge. As our daughter isn’t a big fan of spicy, I kept the chilli powder to a minimum and strategically renamed it to Beef Un-Chilli.
This is a dish my 13 year old son prepared for a cookery competition at school. He went on to win the entire competition and his dish featured on the specials of a local hotel. Below are his notes with full step by step guide.
The main bulk of our work with DrugDev is focussed on the creation of a style guide, accompanying component library and prototypes for the Innovation Lab but once in a while we get to do something a little more public and today is one of those days.
Fresh from my success with a vegetable loaded sausage casserole I put together a similar dish with pork chops but changed things around a bit. It was another hit, it turns out that the children really quite like Provençal vegetables.
My 10 year old daughter came home today, sat at my typewriter and rewrote the story she’d written at school on the theme of Little Red Riding hood told from the wolf’s perspective. Now, I am sure I am being something of an overly proud parent here but what she wrote, the way she wrote it blew me away…
I’ve used the slow cooker twice this last week and my first attempt, a navarin of lamb, should have been a gourmet treat but ended up a mushy disaster. That said not all was lost, with a little bit of work with the food mill and a dash of cream, it did go down well the following lunch time as a lamb, lentil and horseradish soup with sourdough. Waste is a constant annoyance in my house and soup laced with cream is often a quick solution.
It was a Top Gear India special, in which our trio of cheeky, loveable middle-aged men, take on the efficiency of the Dabbawalas that prompted the search for Tiffin Tins.
We’re keen to redesign our site but time is an issue and we need to do a lot more work on the types of content we want on the site.
Working with the internal team at the British Museum, we designed a site to help teach the new History Curriculum in England.
We are looking for some help to build a style guide for a large, well established, start-up with offices and development teams in the UK, US and Australia.
It’s really pleasing when an open source bit of software makes it very easy to do a bit extra with it, and solve an urgent problem with a single line of code.
Part of our motivation to move out of London to the outskirts of Oxford was to get a bit more space and as people who work from home, to finally get the office into its own dedicated room. In London the dinning room was the office and the kitchen was an anti-social little box, with room for only one person at a time; the result was not much enthusiasm for cooking and too many take aways.
I always think of boiling as the art of letting things taste of what they taste of. The trick then is simply combining those flavours well.
If you’re familiar with any CMS, I’d say this is definitely worth investigating for smaller projects and setting up Jekyll to run locally on the Mac was easy peasy.
I sit on the fence with the net Awards. On the one hand it would be nice for our business if we somehow got nominated and on the other hand there’s the issue of cronyism, or ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.
The problem with WordPress is not with the platform itself but in using it as a shortcut for what you are really asking for, something on the cheap.
I am really happy to see entries from Elliot Jay Stocks and Trent Walton popping up on the CSS Zen Garden, a sure sign that it’s about to be big again. In a world where responsive web design is mainstream, one pager marketing sites the norm and heavily art directed articles are getting more common place it feels like Dave Shea picked a perfect moment, again.
I’m not a massive pasta fan and pasta with tomato-based sauce, you can keep it. Seeking a lunch the other day I was quite surprised how well this concoction turned out
Having been hired by DrugDev to consult on the user experience of some in-house tools, I wanted to get the staff who were the users of those tools involved in a series of collaborative workshop sessions to explore the problems of the existing systems and input into the new design. The challenge was to plan a workshop with junior members of staff in mind, more used to sitting at their desks and dealing with reams of data than attending workshops where they would be encouraged to be creative, sketch ideas and problem-solve collaboratively. The one minute colour monster competition is one of the tools I invented to warm up the group.
I’ll be honest, my children don’t really want for much in the way of consumer goods. You could probably say they were a bit spoilt. They don’t get pocket money as a regular thing. My eldest though has an increasing interest in the idea of having his own money and the idea of having a job. He’s also stuck a leg cast over the summer due to a dislocated knee, making manual chores a bit tricky.
The latest iteration on the Rationalist Association site sees a bit of a maturing of our use of the RA colour palette, so this seems like a good time to talk about the palette, how it’s evolved and how we’ve learnt to use it.
I have been very lucky to work with the RA. I’ve had incredible amounts of freedom to do what I feel is right and what we’ve come out with, I am pretty proud of. When I look at the site, though, I see lots to do.
We recently got involved with designing a landing page for a new charity fundraising initiative, which threw up a few responsive illustration challenges.
The 3rd of July marks twelve months since the Rationalist Association got in touch about redesigning their site and what started as a four month contract has become something of a labour of love.
Over the years I’ve been a Project Manager, a Web Designer, the CSS guy, a Front-end Developer, a User Experience Manager, a User Experience Architect and a Product Designer. To anyone who I talk to who isn’t working in the industry, though, I still say I am a Web Designer and it’s the title I prefer. That the job is more complex than it was when I started is irrelevant, it’s still what I do, I design stuff that lives on the web.
I have been in the privileged position of being able to hire indepenedent moderators to do usability testing and on one occasion our external moderator handed me a real gem that I use all the time now.
Our logo has been a long time in the gestation. As usual, designing for ourselves was the most difficult project, but we have finally settled on the latest iteration.
We’d never purposefully rip-off someone’s site and I’d be gutted if we were ever accused of it. But we are so often inspired by a lot of design that I worry we might accidentally steal. And that’s before we even get to the fact that there’s a lot of ‘samey’ looking sites out there. It’s healthy paranoia and we have a few internal checklists to try and avoid such things.
Rather than spend lots of money on printing wedding invites and then posting them we decided to do it all digitally.
The text is too big! Has been something of a reaction to the Rationalist Association site.
I’ve been attempting to write something concise about the Rationalist Association for some weeks and it’s not happening. Prompted by a writer friend I’ve decided to start by breaking it down into little chunks. Part one then, the team.
Today we’ve released another piece of the Rationalist Association puzzle. For me this release isn’t about visual design, really at this stage I see a year ahead where we iterate and chip away at the visual design and refine as we go along.
I’ve been quietly watching a little ruckus develop on Twitter about the so called A-listers, the same old faces, the leaders in our field, the speakers, the ones sent down from on high to inspire and inform. There appears to be some resentment and I mention it only because I see it crop up quite frequently.
Since the very start of the Rationalist Association project we’ve been sketching ideas for a simple, responsive nav and nothing so far has hit the mark. It’s all adjusted too much on screen resize.
There’s something satisfying about thinking for yourself once in a while and the Rationalist Association project has been an opportunity to brush the cobwebs off my CSS editor and find out what the youth have been up to whilst I was gone, it seems they have been busy!
It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely excited on finding new tools to help me do my job better but Kirby and Gridset are two such tools.
I’ve now had the chance to have a good play with my new toy, the Wacom Inkling (thanks John!), which essentially is a really quick way to turn sketches on any paper into digital drawings, and wanted to share the results with you all.
Today we launched an expriment. It’s early days, the design needs a lot of work but we’re testing/measuring a concept. It’s one little piece of a much bigger puzzle.
Anybody who knows me well will know I am a cynical old git, although these days in an effort to improve my image I might tell you I am a believer in the scientific method… as an excuse for being a cynical old git. I often feel cynical about personas but use them a lot.
Facing the challenge of design in a responsive world, we’ve introduced the concept of style tiles to the Rationalist Association project, which has been a very interesting process.
Finding a way to efficiently blog about design process as we go along is in itself a bit of challenge. So I’ve decided be less chronological and try out challenges and potential solutions instead. One of the big ones, we need a paywall.
It’s not often a client comes along and agrees to let you talk openly about the work you are doing. So when the team at the Rationalist Association (http://newhumanist.org.uk/ra) gave the thumbs up last week for me to do just that, before we’ve even really got started, I felt excited and scared in equal measure.
We have long been fans of “Brain’s Fairy Aiding Inventions” so when Samantha Bryan (aka “Brain”) recently came to us with a problem we were happy to help. She has been sending her ‘fairy inventions’ (sculptures made from a combination of wire, leather, found objects and collected materials) out into the wide world for ten years and wanted to come up with some way of tracking where they are.
Using the Google Maps API, and taking inspiration from Samantha’s ‘Victorian invention’ aesthetic, I created and recently launched Fairies Reunited, a fairy track and trace tool where those with a Brain’s Fairy can send their photo to be put on the map.
I recently redesigned and built the website for former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, for one of his publishers, HarperCollins. Michael is currently more popular than ever with the release of the film of his bestseller, War Horse. Given this, the brief was to create a website that was more easily maintainable than the previous site and also provided more opportunities for interaction for his legions of fans.
In terms of design, HarperCollins wanted to reflect the more cinematic look and feel of some of the recent covers for his books. The site had to cater to an audience of parents and teachers as well as children, and display not only Michael’s writing but also his extensive charity work. The navigation had to be clear and simple in order to work for all the different audiences.
Working with Canonical (the people behind the Ubuntu operating system), I illustrated and designed a page for “Ubuntu for Eyewear” which entirely coincidentally went live on April the first.
The concept is that “Ubuntu for Eyewear provides a full Ubuntu desktop, projected onto the lenses of your glasses.”
For John’s Birthday card, I drew our family as pandas off to celebrate. It was done as a series of ink and pencil sketches, scanned and pieced together in Fireworks. Here you can see some of the evolution of the idea.
The initial sketch was a much more traditional panda shape but too static. Looking at the shape of the pandas I drew inspiration from Alex T Smith’s picture of a polar bear on his excellent blog. You can see me working out how to translate this into a panda on my second sketch.
Having spent a week back at my mum’s in my home town of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you some of the legends of its past.
Situated between Dewsbury and Huddersfield, Mirfield may seem unremarkable, but it has many claims to fame. The Brontë sisters all spent time here during the 1830s at Roe Head, a boarding school for refined young ladies, with Anne then going on to become a governess at Blake Hall for the Ingham family. The enigmatic Dumb Steeple on the western edge of the town was a gathering place for an army of Luddites before a notorious attack on Cartwright’s Mill at Rawfolds. A couple of people died in the attack and several more were injured. For some people most impressively, Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame was born here and went to my secondary school, Mirfield Free Grammar (a fact which they have commemorated by naming an assembly hall after him).
From the very start, The Long Song by Andrea Levy makes you more acutely aware than usual of the physical book you are reading.
The book you are now holding within your hand was born of a craving
The foreword plays with your expectations of a foreword, which is usually expected to be outside of the world of the fiction, and tends to be a factual piece of writing written, crucially, by a real person other than the main author of the work. In The Long Song, the writer of the foreword is the fictional son and publisher of the fictional main narrator, July. The effect is twofold; a gradual awakening of understanding in the reader that we are already in the world of the fiction and seemingly conversely, that the fiction of the novel is framed as fact.
I have recently been talking to a publisher about a minisite for a children’s book, which has led me to think more generally about what websites for children’s books are for, why they are there and what people want from them.
I don’t know about you, but when I am immersed in a book, particularly one which successfully creates a world for you to inhabit (think Northern Lights, Mortal Engines, Harry Potter), the end of the book comes as a kind of mini bereavement. That is what creates the desperation for the next instalment - the door to the world has closed and, though you can reread the book, there’s no more discovery or exploration of that world until next time. You sit and look at the cover for a bit, willing it to be new again, and then maybe, maybe you go online. You are looking to be allowed into the world again, even if it can only be for a jaunt, an excursion, rather than the prolonged stay you would get from another book.
I thought it might be interesting to show the making of this little illustration I did. It was inspired by our surnames (once they are combined), Oxton King, and has been christened ‘The Ock’.
The image started as a pencil sketch on a bus, just a doodle really. This sketch was then scanned into the computer.
Taking the sketch into Illustrator, I started to block out the basic shapes of the ock with the pen tool over the top of the sketch. When doing this I find it helps to have the transparency of the shapes set fairly low, so that you can still see the drawing underneath.
Then I started to play with colours on the blocks of the ock, I didn’t really have a colour palette for this but knew I wanted warm shades of browny orange. The other step at this stage was to ‘live trace’ the pencil drawing in Illustrator, which basically converts the pencil to a rough vector. This was moved to the top layer of the image and set to 20% opacity and blend mode ‘darken’, which starts to add a bit of texture to the illustration.
What caught my eye most of all on my trip to the Museum of Brands was a small display dedicated to the paraphernalia produced to advertise and accompany the 1951 Festival of Britain.
The Festival was intended to mark the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition and also to raise the grey, rubble-filled, harshly-rationed spirits of post-war Britain. It was to be a beacon of modernist design and set the template for the coming decades.
The distinctive logo I had seen before, but the other quirky design details were new to me. The overall effect was celebratory, striped, bunting-bedecked, good old-fashioned, but also forwards looking, British fun. It almost had a seaside feel to it.
The Museum, tucked away down a pretty side-street in Notting Hill, moments from the hustle and bustle of the Portobello Road, houses an astonishing collection of ephemera collected by the social historian Robert Opie. It is an extraordinary testament to the collector’s obsession, which began at the age of 16 with a packet of Munchies and now extends to thousands and thousands of items from every day life.
When the thousands of pieces of our social history are assembled into some giant jigsaw, the picture becomes clearer as to the remarkable journey we have all come through.
The museum is laid out as a ‘trip down memory lane’, starting with the Victorian era and tunnelling through to the present day. The amount of items on display is almost overwhelming - every inch of the museum is filled with packages, toys, games, books and advertisements from each era. This saturation allows the visitor to become fully immersed in the style (and aspirations) of the time.
Beyond the time-tunnel is a fascinating exploration of brand. Individual items such as Johnson’s Baby Powder or Cadbury’s drinking chocolate are followed on their journeys from conception to mass-market popularity today. Interestingly, to my mind, the most successful (in terms of design) brands today have stayed very to true to their original packaging. Take Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Brasso, mental images of which are immediately conjurable to the British anyway, the packaging is almost identical to their original packaging.