Tag Archives: design


The Internet urgently needs a new ‘personal opinions’ icon

I posted this on Medium last week to almost deathly silence.  I thought it would be something people might share but clearly I’ve not built up enough of a network.

One aspect of the Internet that makes me a little melancholy is the fact that so many people have to put the same phrase on their social media bios: “These are my own views and not that of my employer” or variations of that theme.

It’s sad because the Internet was supposed to be a place where people have the freedom to explore new ideas, identities and friendships. Instead, our online discourse is polluted by the anxieties and the obtuse reasoning of the corporate world.

The all-to-common “personal opinions” disclaimer reminds us how our freedom of thought and of personality is curtailed. My heart sinks whenever I read such words, because I know that the person who is writing them is on their guard, insuring themselves against some future misunderstanding or invasion of their work life into their personal space.

And yet we need such disclaimers, because on the Internet there are a remarkable number of people who are happy to conflate the views of an individual with that of the organisations they work for. Continue reading The Internet urgently needs a new ‘personal opinions’ icon

The New Social Media, All About Images, Less About The Search

I’ve noticed that instead of sharing a concise and searchable 140 character message, people have taken to sharing an image of a person with a longer quote on it.  Is this how social media works now?

Its a trend that’s taken off because both Twitter and Facebook have made the process of embedding and displaying images in their respective timelines much easier.

For example: Continue reading The New Social Media, All About Images, Less About The Search

Notes on design trends for long-form and creative writing

My virtual meeting with Sam has prompted a meandering journey through a few websites dedicated to the stylish presentation of text. I thought I would note the links in one place: first, merely to note the trend; and second because it will aid discussions with colleagues over how to present our own literary content on the fantastic PEN Atlas.

First: Medium is a relatively new site created by Twitter founder Evan Williams. Writers can create beautiful looking stories and essays very quickly. The site has the clean and spacious aesthetic that has become fashionable recently. Design led by the need for readbility and usability on tablets, mobile phones, while also providing a reading experience on desktop and laptop monitors that is easy on the eye. I was delighted that my request for an early-bird account was granted by Medium’s Director of Content, Kate Lee, and I have just uploaded a story to the site to try out the composition features.

You can read ‘Northern Line Lovers‘ on Medium (and if you like the story, please hit the ‘recommend’ button below the text). I think I will post my other ‘Ficciones‘ there at some point. Continue reading Notes on design trends for long-form and creative writing

Overthinking Facebook and Instagram

Instagram Photobomb
An Instagrammable photobomb, by theycallmemouse on Flickr.

I have become an avid listener of the Overthinking It podcast. It is a few guys, chatting via Skype from disparate locations in the USA, shooting the breeze about popular culture.

A recent episode (an atypical two-hander between Matthew Wrather and Peter Fenzel) is called ‘Schroedinger’s Instagram’, and discusses in depth the pop-cultural implications of the recent purchase of Instagram by Facebook. In doing so, they cruise by many of the obsessions and diversions of this blog.

Wrather and Fenzel talk a little about party photos and holiday snaps. The way in which people ‘pose’ for ostensibly candid photos has always fascinated me. I know people who make a peace ‘V’ with their fingers, or open their mouths as if the excitement of the moment has overcome them… but then they lapse into a rather glum repose once the flash has fired. They are consciously creating an inaccurate facade for Facebook.
Continue reading Overthinking Facebook and Instagram

Get Yourself A Cheap #Leveson Report

Leveson Report
Leveson Report, printed via Lulu.com. The pretty spectrum of blue hues is an intentional difference from the official version.

The Leveson Report is over two thousand pages long, and is published in four volumes. You can download the forty-two page Executive Summary and the four large PDFs that make up the full report from the National Archives (at the grandly named official-documents.gov.uk doman).

If you want a hard copy of the report, The Stationery Office will charge a whopping £250.

However, there is a cheaper option to get a printed version of the report. I have taken the four PDFs and uploaded them to Lulu.com, the print-on-demand website. Each document (I, II, III, IV) costs around £12, and so (with delivery included) one may obtain the entire report for under £60.

Is this legal? Yes. The Leveson Report carries an Open Government Licence (a variation on a Creative Commons Licence) which states that anyone is free to “copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information”. There is no creator mark-up on the documents (i.e. I do not make any money), so ordering them in this way is analagous to clicking ‘print’ on the PDFs and feeding two-thousand sheets of paper into your office printer!

Why is there such a disparity in price? The answer is colour. The design of the report available via The Stationery Office is printed with a blue spot colour, used in various tints throughout the report. In the cheaper Lulu versions, the content is simply black-and-white.

From the Archives

Now permalinks are the norm, its unusual to lose anything you’ve written online. We are Funes. However, now CSS is also the norm, it is possible to lose the design of any given page. For example, the posts from my archives which announce a re-vamped site design have been rendered pretty meaningless after I re-re-designed the site earlier this year. Having said that, my latest, lazy template does attempt to retain some elements of the old design, on pages that previously carried it. A web designer with more coding skills than me should create a WordPress plugin that allows older posts to use a different template for older posts.

And of course, some websites no longer exist. Permalinks only work if you’ve remembered to pay your hosting invoice. Graphic Designer Jason Santa Maria has asked his readers to post examples of their early websites (via Kottke):

The things we write are published with a specific design and context. When we change that, we break the context and alter the original qualities of that piece of work… We haven’t had enough time to step back and see web design objectively. Will the work we’re doing have historical significance? Sure. Will it have historical significance in design? Probably.

Its definitely the case that web design “dates” just like conventional print graphic design. When I reviewed the Presidential websites earlier in the year, I noted how Barack Obama’s logo and website seemed to be very much of-the-moment. (Given his recent victory, perhaps we have a new predictor for elections: The candidate with the most modern website design wins?)

Anyway, my earliest experiments in HTML is illustrated below. The site was a scrapbook for the year I spent living in Zimbabwe (back when Robert Mugabe and Tony Blair were still friends). It carried a few cute and now totally outmoded innovations, such as a counter and a guestbook. It did include some early experiments in CSS, but the menus committed the double crime of being images, and utilising some italicised version of Comic Sans. Oh, the shame of it!

My first website, using rudimentary CSS and an ill-advised use of Comic Sans
My first website, using rudimentary CSS and an ill-advised use of Comic Sans

Another page that is still online is a failed pitch for a gallery installation. It is an example of Single Serving Site, before that phrase was coined.

Forking Paths - An online proposal for a piece of art
Forking Paths – An online proposal for a piece of art

I’ve added a gallery of a few more old sites below.
Continue reading From the Archives