Archive: Blog

Month Links: May 2013

May has been a fun month. We”ve been into a two-way mirror room testing the CBeebies project, published the Perceptive Radio (our BBC R&D project) and work has continued apace on and several other – as yet untitled – projects. I also left the country for a week, enjoying a wonderful Saga of my own up in Iceland.

“As a user, I would like to click on some URLs with interesting content behind them.”


Quantum Break teaser trailer, Remedy Games for XBone.

In the future, . We”re not sure about Quantum Break, the flagship new XBox Tv/Game thingy. We”re curious though, don”t get us wrong.

- A good post by Jeremy Ettinghausen of BBH Labs about “accentuating the negative” to encourage positive behaviour, the value of failure in play and the need for different approaches to get the best result.

- Our friend Zoewi has started a very good . It should work as a go-to-guide for all significant gaming and play-related events/conferences across the world. It”s really heart-warming just to see the breadth of stuff out there already.

- London is getting its own E3 fringe this year with EToo. Organised by Guardian games correspondent Keith Stuart and veteran game designer Georg Backer, EToo should help keep you from feeling lonely when everyone has sacked off to LA.

- Fascinating, long post on Polygon about , and using game design/play as a medium to explore many of the ideas around gender, roles and society.

- Some interesting things are starting to come out of the BBC”s Connected Studio process. From the Sports studio is the Virtual Crowds prototype by MadeByPi which looks to create a web-native version of the conversations in pubs and stands.

- James wrote a lovely post about being Playful by Design, and the opportunity to play about with the web”s visual form.

- NYT”s Snowfall has definitely created a nice bit of a trend, with The Guardian having done their own version this month, using the opposite element, fire; UsVsTh3m have done Icefail – a nerd link-bait version – and scrollkit wrote their own code so that anyone can create immersive articles.

- But actually, everyone secretly hates Snowfall.


Two week UX cycle at GDS, via @kalsop

- A good and interesting post by Tracie Lee twinning a couple of my favourite things: UX design and restaurants. I”ve briefly written in the past about what web design can learn about high-end restaurant experiences, but it”s good to see the other approach being taken too.

- Typically excellent article from Kill Screen discussing the , and talking to one of our favourites – Rex Crowle of MediaMolecule. The tactility of physical materials used in digital forms in something we are very interested in, and is informing a lot of thinking around .

- Pitchfork continue to spit-roast trends with both a parallax scroll and full-screen/full-attention experiences for the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. Sidenote: RAM is a tiny bit shit, but James and Richard seem to like it.

- Matt Locke wrote up “After The Spike and After The Like” – his talk at Digital Shoreditch – and it”s as essential a piece on the new forms of attention and the behaviour of “audiences” as you”re likely to read for while. Particularly useful for storytellers.

- Entertaining three-way interview with Molly Soda on the new Tumblr persona brands and the performance of personality with a hefty dose of feminist reading.

- John Tolva wrote about his ideal for people”s relationship with public spaces, taking in architecture, city design, networked spaces and human behaviour.

AND FINALLY.

QR Sushi, S&S

- Saatchi & Saatchi used squid ink to make edible QR codes for sushi, and lasercut logos into nori. Because why not, eh? Why not?

- The . This is huge news in itself, but extra significant that it”s a 22-year-old recent graduate, who has already won a BAFTA and set up their own company. Oh, and is female. That”s good.

- All the memes.

- Who”s changing what and where and oh my god it”s so busy in Wikipedia.

- The future of advertising is in beards.

- Soundtrack to May: , ,

Playful by Design

Each year Mudlark hosts Playful; our one-day conference about games, play, design, interaction and behaviour. Each year we give the conference a new look to reflect that year’s theme, keeping things new and exciting.

Last year we focused on DIY, attempting to inspire people to do things themselves, and so the design was very texture heavy—influenced by the photocopied sleeves of punk 7 inches and worn paint. This year, looking at the things we were interested in—the trends that were bubbling up and the work Mudlark have been doing—we soon realised that the nature of things was central.

We settled on “playing with form” as a broad theme, to look at approaches, materials, and using them differently—creatively and playfully. Changing direction from last year, we flipped the design on its head by employing strong colour, geometry and angles peppered with some cutting-edge browser technologies.

Design in its broadest terms is central to everything we do at Mudlark, from designing the interactions and behaviours around our latest project, the Perceptive Radio, to the wordmark laser-etched into its fascia. From the process that takes a user from A to B in the best and most enjoyable way, as in our work for Ravensbourne university, to social impact game design with Half the Sky.

In a way the design for Playful is a very selfish exercise—one that lets me design to my own brief, to try things or techniques that maybe aren’t quite ready for client consumption. It’s a way of flexing my creative muscles and, really, to show off.

Playing with Form

Greg and I set up a Pinterest board to gather and share visual inspiration and to generate a direction. As things began to develop we saw some fun coming out of using illusions. We liked the idea of messing with people almost to the point of annoyance in a fun way.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion cover art: a popular application of a visual illusion.

Some early experiments explored pure typography and layout, whilst followed a more rigid and straightforward style with some animated elements; but overall came across a bit too sedate for my own ‘visuals that fuck with people’ remit. I had to get back on track, shake things up a bit.

I was inspired by Siggi Eggertsson when thinking about visual ways of showing form. Eggertsson uses his own geometric grid to create wonderful designs and in some pieces uses contrast to create form between the segments. Initially I thought this could be a route to explore—using subtle contrast and shadows between shapes or images to show form.


A New Year by Siggi Eggertsson: Showing form though a grid, colour and subtle contrast.

A visual trick I eventually developed—the moiré background pattern—became the showpiece of the final design. Using this method I applied different colour combinations and pattern sizes for different sections of the site. I set some of the text at the same obtuse angles making for a playful and unusual layout.

This year’s design has had a very favourable reaction on Twitter and has made its way onto—signs that it has made an impression on people. We pat ourselves on the back at this knowing we’ve done what we set out to do, but also knowing that we have to top it next year.

The moiré pattern made interactive by scrolling: the showpiece of the Playful design.

In Closing

At Mudlark we’re in our element when we get to push the envelope with projects. If you have a design problem then we’d love to hear from you.

Playful 2013 will take place at Conway Hall in London on the 25th of October.

Month Links: April 2013

I always find the introductory spiel to these Month Links posts to be the hardest bit, so I”m just going to leave it as introductory yadda yadda blah blah etc etc and just get on with the URLs that we”re all here for.

So let”s to start with my absolute favourite thing of April, and one of my favourite things so far this year: the News Machine, created by Fabrica for issue 86 of COLORS magazine.


News Machine, by Fabrica for COLORS #86.

- The News Machine is a Heath Robinson-esque communications machine that mangles, interprets and republishes tweets – mimicking the information/misinformation prevalent in the 24-hour churn of news and online speculation. It”s Chinese whispers in the Chinese room. Read Dan Hill”s good and typically long post about its genesis.

- More interpretations of “what the heck is going on?” come in the form of ambient beeps as Bitcoin transactions are made. Listen To BitCoin is going to be an incredible Merzbow piece when the crash comes.

- An enjoyable read on the absolutely, horrifically abysmal movie adaptation of Super Mario Bros. (1993), demonstrating Hollywood”s general contempt for audiences” intellect and failure to grasp the difference between game story and movie narrative. Via Dan Williams” tumblr which is full of brilliant things to read. Follow it.


Playful 2013

We interrupt this blog post for a quick word from our sponsors (us).

Tickets for – our annual shindig about games, design, interaction and everything that comes from playing about — and flying off the virtual shelves.

Come along, it”d be absolutely lovely to see you.

- Jenny Odell documented the manufacturing origin of every single item she used/wore in one day. The banality of globalisation is mind-boggling, fascinating and – especially in the light of the horrific Bangladeshi clothes factory collapse – so cheap.

- GDC”s final ever game design challenge was based on “the last game that humanity will ever play“. A pretty bold and borderline-nauseating brief that would send many people under, but Jason Rohrer – creator of Sleep Is Death – designed a game made of titanium and not to be played for another 2,000 years. Then buried it. You should read a quick but .

-  Russell wrote an excellent post – to join his tiny mountain of excellent posts – about what it actually means to work in the Government Digital Service (GDS). The story of GDS is hugely important, and based on a radical ambition to completely reshape how citizens access government services, how civil servants can communicate, and freeing people up to be better at what they do.


Adventure Time.

David O”Reilly“s episode of Adventure Time, “A Glitch Is A Glitch“, was absolutely head-buggeringly superb taking in a variety of animation styles, 3D and 8bit glitch graphics. It keeps popping up on the web, but Cartoon Network are good at whack-a-mole. Keep a watch out for it, but look at these beautiful stills from the episode in the meantime and read the AV Club review.

- At last week”s Do Lectures - an inspiration creative retreat in Wales that I”d love to attend one day – they set a new challenge. Instead of just hosting talks this year, they made attendees Do Something themselves, to make a quick start-up-able idea. John Willshire and chums created Doobox - “an outdoor adventure mission kit for kids aged 6 to 11 yrs” that”s delivered right to your door.

- In the spirit of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and Typing of the Dead, Notch has created Drop – a typing skills-based game. It feels a bit like Superhexagon, and is painfully compelling.

Hyperlapse

- Teehan Lax labs have created an interactive Google Street View-based timelapse movie. It”s fun and you can pretend that you are NRK1 by making your own.

- Campaigning through retro sports data visualisations of ice hockey, the culmination of a two or three year labour of love, that . John K. Sampson tries to get Reggie Leach inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

AND FINALLY

- Sims on Instagram

- Obligatory James Bridle things: Quietweet (mutes #, @, URLs) and Dragons (replaces Markets with Dragons in web text).

- to teach behavioural ecology and Game Theory – “to win at some games, cooperation is better than competition.

- No budget, a single blue room and a shedload of LARPing, How We Made Knightmare.

- .

- Soundtrack to April: , , .

 

Month Links: March 2013

Right, then, it”s a quarter of the way into the year. Time to take stock, maybe, to look around and see what you”ve achieved so far in 2013.

That”d be pretty nice. We”ve been heads down on a bunch of intense, fast-turnaround projects that the recent past is a bit hazy and thinking is a little painful. Still, fun. Here are some things that have filled our eyes and minds in between.

- Skip to about 1″24″ on the above video if you want to get to the particularly interesting bit. When Nintendo launched the Wii U, there were some queries as to what they had in mind for the NFC capabilities on the U-controller. Now, we are reminded that Nintendo started as – and will essentially always be – . The integration of the NFC-enabled Pokémon figures is a natural extension of both in-game and out-of-game behaviours: collecting, training and upgrading your characters. At £1.50 a pop, Nintendo should probably have some time left before it becomes just a publisher.

It”s nice to see Nintendo designing with existing behaviours in mind, even if they”re applied in different ways, moving the technology to its role as an enabler rather than The Thing itself.

- Absolute Radio are taking the commercial road towards Perceptive Media to create personalised adverts based on user data, delivered using object-based programming of music and buffers.

- James saw Mark of Mark Boulton Design talk around their task of redesigning the CERN website at Refresh-LX last year. A few weeks ago the the new CERN site went live and Mark wrote an interesting blog post about the strategy for reshaping such a huge project.

- Bruce Sterling took the opportunity at his SXSW closing keynote to denounce much of the start-up scenes” exhortations of . A bold, and welcome, statement reminding all that not everything that can be disrupted by the market should be.

- Good post by Alexandra Lange on the always-reliable Domus looking at the content strategy and the visual architecture of current social sites/mobile apps. The discussion around shifting attention behaviours and trends towards users “not always looking for the whole experience, but just a taste” is very important. Now Flipboard are making the DIY magazine explicit with user “curated” magazines.

- BERG”s long post about their Connbox project seeking to solve video calling for Google Creative Lab is a masterpiece in showing your working. Starting with the broad brief, through history, low tech prototypes, collaborations, in-house behaviour testing, and video-as-design. It”s always good to see the design processes behind projects – especially when they”re this open.

- From the good of Google to the bad: we”re all a tiny bit pissed off with their planned killing of Reader. Luckily, Paul Bradshaw from OJB set up an open Google Doc of best alternatives. There are 54 so far, so the choice is still a bit dizzying.

- In the future, every single thing you do will be mapped as an input and you won”t know how to cook a carrot. Thanks, Microsoft.

- Timo”s brilliant essay on the current debate/headless march towards No UI is as fascinating as it is well argued. It takes in everything from the industrial architecture of the cloud, to the materials that can fail and takes task with open misunderstandings of what “No UI” is (eg Nest). People will always trip themselves up with absolutism, but ultimately Timo argues of “understandability” in products and appropriate UI as clear and necessary tools.

Frank Chimero provides a good follow-up piece, The Cloud Is Heavy and Design Isn”t Invisible, that looks at the negative impact of popular myths in obscuring the truth.

- Recent projects have seen us using a more explicit “designing for behaviours” approach: to start using ambient behaviour as a material, rather than as a “input”. As well as Timo”s essay, it has also led us to revisit an excellent Tom Armitage post from a couple of years ago about Technology As A Material, which is always worth reminding yourself of.

- Matt Locke writes about the growing trend of agencies becoming their own publishers/product creators – not necessarily bifurcating their services, or doing part-time projects. Of course, this brings with it a wealth of freedom but also difficulties, as we know from our experiences with and Chromaroma.

Nick Cave mood-wheel

- The Nick Cave app for Spotify is an excellent thing. Part curated, part powered by metadata. It points towards the happy medium where data and personal insights can actually make useful, enjoyable things together. A furrow we”ve been attempting to plough in various projects.

AND FINALLY

- Dark Igloo make me want to contact them.

- Going to the edge of the Earth and making do without your usual tools, and from noma”s perspective.

- Strelka post about the lifespan of technology, and the items considered “household essentials” in the UK by the Office of National Statistics – which now include eBooks.

- Enjoying the Pitchfork Advance album previews. Some sort of digital version of listening to a new LP with the liner notes.

- Gyford has been collecting the public announcements as companies shutter after being aqui-hired.

- The Guardian have made a snazzy interactive panorama of London from the top of the Shard, complete with field recordings and stories.

- What we”ve been listening to: , & .

Month Links: February 2013

Hello, March – it”s really good to see you. It”s been a while. It feels like I hardly got to know February, before it spirited away for another year.

Still, in those brief twenty-eight days, we kicked off three new pieces of work as well as continued work on a good half-dozen live projects. Good, busy days with some exciting things on the go. In the quieter moments, here”s a bunch of things we found interesting and provided happy diversions.

Olafur Eliasson, Model For A Timeless Garden.

- The Light Show at Hayward Gallery is a marvel, and really worth sticking your head in. Even if just for the Eliasson piece above.

- One of the best things so far this year is one of the smallest and simplest: Jargone. Jargone is a bookmarklet that scans websites for jargon language and suggests common, day-to-day alternatives. It”s made by Roo Reynolds and is an excellent by-product of the dedication to simple, clear, quality work being done within Government Digital Service.

- Continuing the “doing simple well” thread, James has gone back to Twitter”s post from last summer about their process in overhauling their mobile site. It”s easy for us to advocate mobile first practices, but how do you go about that when you have half a billion users and thousands of devices to serve across the world?

- We”ve been enjoying the open epistolography of Hubbub”s Recess! project – a published discourse around games between Kars, Alper and Niels.

Asshole Mario 3, Stage 1.

- Die Gute Fabrik”s Doug did a “best games of 2012″ end of year post. Normally you”d expect a top ten of indie, AAA and folk games, but Doug”s list is a brilliantly of 2012 – specific moments of play that stuck out. From a trampoline-controlled mod of Proteus to competitive yoga and the Hokra “world championships”. All incredibly exciting and envy-creating.

- Our thoughts have started about 2013: what it is, what it will look like, who we”d like to speak, things we”d like to hear more about. It”s an exciting bit of the project, the first flushes of romance before the realisation that oh god 400-odd people are expecting a good time. As ever, we”ll be looking for interesting ideas and cold hard cash for sponsorship – so get in touch if you have either of those things.

- A few times I”ve caught James making some odd movements in the corner of my eye; he has been playing with the Responsive Typography demo by Marko Dugonjić. It”s an interesting project, and feels like it touches the ideas about Perceptive Media, not just a straight up “responsive” approach.

- In other face-tracking news, the brilliant Henry Cooke has created Faces In The Cloud – a thing mixing computer vision and humans” tendencies to pareidolia.

Sruli Recht A/W 13, Runway Presentation.

It”s been an excellent month for apocalypse fans, the best since December. I read a very cold, but beautiful, collection of graphic short stories recently published by Fantagraphics, Beta Testing The Apocalypse. It”s part Ballard, part design fiction, part straight up comics. Never seen architecture used so well as a character in comics.

- Channel 4 have put out plenty of paranoid drama lately, in the form of Utopia (eugenicists, preppers & conspiracy theorists) and Black Mirror“s pop-apocalypse of glowing rectangles.

- Utopia led me to this excellent article in the NYT about TEOTWAWKI (“the end of the world as we know it”) and the prepper scene in New York. Particularly interesting in the post-Sandy context.

- Black Mirror (for all of its many, many, many failings) has provoked a few discussions in the studio. One of particular interest is its approach to interaction design, which seems at times insightful (who doesn”t want the curved digital drawing board?) and sloppy (the mixed metaphors of tactile and gestural interactions clearly come from a Surface Tablet user).

- Black Mirror is interesting in terms of how non-designers are designing interactions that are eventually adopted. That has seen us revisiting the excellent post by Einar about wifi in Sherlock, an interesting read about how Minority Report has locked people into bad IxD, obligatory Dan Hill post about world building, as well as this wonderful blog looking at HUDS and GUIs in film/games. All of which is very helpful for unnamed project #2.

AND FINALLY

To advance the cause of the world, Al Gore wants you spam climate change deniers.

- Things that have been in our ears: , , .

- A great reason to get a Little Printer from BERG.

- A blogging platform designed for transience.

- Richard took the black, in his “finest” Sean Bean accent.

- An archive for a classic of Modernist design, Vignelli”s NYC TA Standards Manual.

- A “mood data sculpture” that waters (or not) a Rose of Jericho based on scraped feelings.

- Machine manuals out emo tumblr users.

- A nice bit of IoT that processes a lot of complex data to let you know the best route to work.

- Russell”s back in café”s, revisiting some of his greatest hits.