Archive: conference

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.


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: , ,

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.


- 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.


- 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: , , .


Notes from New Adventures

The other week I went to (probably the last) New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham. Met up with some regular freelance faces and some new ones too.

The atmosphere at New Adventures is always a good one—inclusive, friendly, fun. The free bar at the after-party was one of the highlights. I even managed to miss my last train home (something I’m making a habit of). Here’s a short run-down of what went on.

Notes from New Adventures

The Nimble Process
Jason Santa Maria

  • First up was Jason talking about process. A linear process starts to make no sense (something I also noted in this blog post).
  • Jason talked about being scared of launching when he felt something wasn’t quite ready—something I think a lot of us can empathise with.
  • Show your clients MVU (Minimum Viable Understanding) layouts and designs—don’t spend time working up pixel perfect mockups.
  • Encourage clients to participate in the design process and allow them to feel ownership of a design. This will alleviate blockers in the last furlong of a project.
  • To encourage prolific ideas generation he shared a technique with us: use Alphabet 100 to draw the same thing many times. Use this method for logos, for layouts, etc.
  • Since the web is primarily text, start a design with copy and typography first. (We followed a similar route when re-designing the Mudlark website by choosing to focus on content to dictate our layout and design).
  • Jason quoted Dan Mall “Let’s change the phrase ‘designing in the browser’ to ‘deciding in the browser.’”

Appropriate Tension
Tyler Mincey

  • Tyler began with talking about his time at Apple and finding the right amount of ‘push and pull’ with the various inter-disciplinary teams there.
  • He talked about a ‘culture of respectful challenge’—always ask “why”, it encourages critical thinking and learning.
  • Understanding constraints: Innovation is when you move the constraints iteratively, not just designing within them.
  • ‘Good products as communication’: communicate through your work—the care and attention to detail will show through.

The Inertia of Ideas
Michael Heilemann

  • Michael designed the ‘Kubrick’ default WordPress theme. He explained how it was something he did for fun but ended up becoming wildly popular—people even named their dogs after the theme.
  • He talked about his journey from working on things he enjoyed, to working for the open source community, to then being offered a job at Squarespace.
  • Michael worked on an innovative technique that would improve the user experience of a CMS. It was rolled in to the main Squarespace service the day he showed it to the boss.

Responsive Teaching
Tiago Pedras

  • Tiago is a teacher and designer. He shared with us his journey through life up to how he teaches his classes today; which are practical, engaging and employ gamification techniques (involving a gold spray painted coconut.)
  • He encouraged us to share our passion.

Billboards and Novels
Jon Tan

  • Jon talked about the qualities of ‘impact’ and ‘immersion’.
  • He highlighted that the web is about reading. We can really take advantage of this now that we have webfonts and OpenType control.
  • He discovered that good typography induces a good mood (backed up by science!). Dispelling the common notion that it enables us to read quicker.
  • “Fonts are wayfinding apps for emotions”.
  • Jon taked about scan paths. Where does your eye focus when viewing a website. Use colour to highlight something and interup this scan path (and other techniques).

New Adventures in Code
Seb Lee-Delise

  • Seb started with talking about the separation between a ‘designer’ and ‘developer’.
  • Traditionally in educational settings there has been a (literal / spatial) separation between these disciplines. Anything art related would be in a separate campus to the maths and science classes, for example.
  • Between the ‘designer’ and ‘developer’ there is a hybrid emerging. Things seem to be leveling out. (I commented around this subject a while ago on Twitter).
  • Seb calls himself a “Creative Coder”.
  • He acknowledges coding can be a daunting learning curve but, as with most things, it’s very rewarding once you get there.
  • Seb’s talk was really engaging. He’s a funny guy, and his enthusiasm made everyone want to code.
  • He also did some live coding on a Commodore64 (!) and some JS stuff. Seeing this live was a nice way to break down the barrier of some of my code-related reservations.

The Beauty in the Impermanent
Steph Troeth

  • Steph talked about wabi-sabi, musing that we’re indulging in the immortality of things because we ourself are mortal.
  • She referenced James Bridle’s The New Aesthetic.
  • Showed us some examples of ‘low-res’ shoes, examples of digital imperfections out there in the world.
  • Throwaway vs. permanent or impermanent vs. permanent.
  • We get fonder of things over time.
  • How can we make digital things that are allowed to grow old gracefully?

Wayne Tells it Like it is!
Wayne Hemmingway

  • Wayne went on an entertaining, insightful, funny ramble about his life—an inspiring narrative that highlighted integrity and ballsyness.
  • As a board member of the Design Council he highlighted that investing in design will yield the highest return of all sectors.
  • He also said not to rest on the quality of your work—it’s more about what you stand for.

Jessica Hische

  • Jessica’s bubbly up-beat talk rounded the day off nicely.
  • As a freelancer, she talked about the importance on working on the stuff we love, which will then feed in to the paid work that occupies the bulk of our time (and pays the bills).
  • Jessica also touched on work-life balance, burnout and cats.

Now I should go catch my train. Wait, what time is it?

Designing Playful 2012

It”s been a couple of months since this year”s happened. Now that we”ve stopped worrying if there is enough tea*, we”ve had chance to catch-up on the  and start thinking about what we”ll do in 2013.

*there is definitely enough tea.

Playful pin badges.

It”s useful to think briefly about 2012, though. Learning from previous events, people”s feedback and our own thoughts, we had a few key aims for this year:

  1. Focus on Play.
  2. Excite People.
  3. Broaden Horizons.

Focusing On Play.

A lot of different elements have seeped into Playful over its life-span; most for good, but not all. We felt it was important to strip back to the original focal point – “play” – and not get too bogged down by other things.

Play is a broad concept and has a lot of affordances, allowing us to look at different behaviours, uses, contexts, meanings and approaches. It”s a tool for understanding relationships, how things work and navigating the world. It”s not saying “games”, but games are a key part of it, whether formal or informal.

That”s a hell of a lot to put over in six and a half hours, without getting distracted by other things.

“Planes, by Utku Can (@utku)

Exciting People & Doing It Yourself.

A major reason for our approach this year was seeing lots of people struggling, financially, to do what they were trying to do. The kind of thing that”s seen Glitch sadly close recently. We wanted people to still believe in doing what they”re doing, to be re-excited, refreshed; to go back out with a renewed sense of vigour and some new ideas.

To that end, we wanted to bring the DIY spirit to the fore; sacking off The Man and getting things done on your own steam.

We invited people to talk about , small publishing, digital craft, speculative design, making products outside of the system, and a healthy dose of ScandiCommunism – things that point towards different ways of doing it yourself.

Bikini Kill, Rebel Girl

Broadening Horizons.

Playful has a curatorial role: we”re not just putting businessmen on stage and asking them to hawk products. It”s our job to offer up some unexpected things, new ideas, different perspectives and, you know, give people the chance to think about what they’re doing in a more playful way. We are asking people to talk about things that are interesting to us, relevant and hopefully pointing towards greater trends.

We can”t do that by having same people all the time. We need to bring people and ideas beyond what we can see in front of us, bring in new voices, new brains and take a punt on some potentially raw speakers. One of the most important ways of doing that is actually having diversity on stage.

We have, in the past, struggled to make the line-up more than 25% women. This is a hugely common issue, and something that the majority of conferences fall down badly on. Various reasons are often cited for this: not asking enough women, not trying hard enough, not making it as appealing, not being as accommodating, not knowing enough women, perceived tokenism etc.

Last year”s event felt lopsided. Two female speakers withdrew shortly beforehand (urgent travel, illness) and we only managed to fill those spaces with men. We realised we had a failing in our approach, so decided to do something about it. That was in the form of an open Google Doc calling for women to put themselves forward as a speaker. It wasn”t just for Playful, but to address the issue in general.

That quick solution has now turned into Articulate, a proper project with Caper, aiming at redressing this imbalance across all creative and technology conferences.

It”s really A Good Thing. Please support it and get involved.

Next Year

We will be doing it again. Same place, sometime in late October. Looking forward to finding out what it”s all about again.

See you then.

STRP Festival

I am off this week to talk at the STRP Festival in Eindhoven.  Last year this was the most inspirational and exciting event I attended all year.  Partly because I was able to mix a healthy dash of music (MIA, Aphex twin, sleigh bells, Erol Alkin, and Two Many DJ’s) with a great symposium on data and some good interactive art (surprisingly good) – more Photos from last year.

This year I am hosting the Symposium on play.

The digital revolution is over, the big ‘bit rush’ has passed, now we live in a post-digital era. Whether something is analogue or digital does not matter anymore. Digital and interactive are everywhere. Playing is a serious thing and meanwhile the digital migrates from the virtual reality to the objects around us. Along with MU and TU/e, STRP Festival will discuss the many forms of post digital culture.
Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.  Since 2003 he’s Professor of Internet studies at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Dries Verbruggen studied at the the Design Academy Eindhoven. He is a multidisciplinary creator in fields ranging from interior, design and arts to architecture and video. Verbruggen is one of the co-curators of the MU exhibition
The Future of Art, KS12, Emergence Collective (GER) What are the defining aesthetics of art in the networked era? How is mass collaboration changing notions of ownership in art? How does micropatronage change the way  artists produce and distribute artwork? The Future of Art begins a conversation on these topics and invites your participation.
Russell Davies is partner at R/GA London (Agency for the Digital Age) and with the Really Interesting Group (RIG). He also founded The Newspaper Club. He writes columns for Campaign and Wired.

Mary Flanagan is artist, author, educator and designer. As Professor in Digital Humanities she’s associated with the Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (US).  Flanagan is the author of Critical Play: Radical game design.
Ben Schouten: The Role of Play Inaugural lecture by prof.dr. ben Schouten, department of Industrial Design,  Eindhoven University of Technology.

Oh and the music looks good too.