Journal

Habitables

Habitables

Having lived in my current flat for just over two years, I’m determined for this to be the year I finally make it feel like a home.

Freelancing: Year One

It’s been just over a year since I started working for myself, and during the last 12 months I’ve learnt a lot, both about the work, and myself. Having reached this milestone, time to take stock and review my goals for the year ahead.

Declining reputation of Formula One in danger of reaching critical mass 

Richard Williams:

Ecclestone is no ignorant newcomer to the sport but he has always treated traditional fans with contempt. Now so many of them are fed up with the squalid political shenanigans and bare-faced cynicism, with the endless rows and constant changes to the contrived and artificial regulations, and with the spectacle of obscene and meaningless waste, that the sport’s declining reputation is in danger of reaching critical mass.

For many, the switch to Sky could be the last straw. As Ecclestone parades with President Aliyev on the grid in Baku in June, his CVC bosses will count the money and feel that his methods are justified.

Others – and now they even include the heroes of the spectacle – fear that his full-throttle pursuit of profit risks leaving the sport in the same state as Fernando Alonso’s crashed McLaren in Melbourne a fortnight ago: an unrecognisable pile of junk, fit only for the breaker’s yard.

Bernie, it’s time to go.

What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario 

Easter Island lives as an example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. However, some anthropologists are now suggesting that the island’s ecological destruction might not be the fault of humans alone, but their imported population of Polynesian rats:

The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn’t disappear. They adjusted. They had no lumber to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn’t have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.

In this article, Robert Krulwich argues that this success story provides a gloomier example for us to learn from:

Humans are a very adaptable species. We’ve seen people grow used to slums, adjust to concentration camps, learn to live with what fate hands them. If our future is to continuously degrade our planet, lose plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, never shouting, “That’s It!” – always making do, I wouldn’t call that “success.”

People can’t remember what their great-grandparents saw, ate and loved about the world. They only know what they know. To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed. That’s when we’ll act. The new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm.

The boiling frog anecdote offers a similar conclusion.

2015 in Review

I wasn’t going to write about 2015, but reading a few end-of-year reviews has encouraged me to attempt the same, so here goes…

Olympic Heritage Collection by Hulse&Durrell 

Canadian design super-duo Hulse&Durrell, worked on what could only be described as my dream project. Researching 120 years of Olympic design heritage, they then documented and digitised hundreds of assets for use on officially licensed merchandise:

Beginning with the core elements of each Olympic Games identity (emblems, pictograms, mascots, and official posters), we set out to find their most authentic sources. The journey took us from the Olympic Museum archives in Switzerland to Olympic historians, private collections, and past-Games design directors around the world.

Where possible, emblems, mascots, and pictograms were re-created with the original techniques of their time. Design manuals originally intended for use with protractors, compasses and paintbrushes became blueprints once again – this time with a digital toolset in mind.

For wordmarks, classic typefaces like Univers, Helvetica, Times, and Futura were adapted to reflect the movable type printing process of their respective times and places. Physical artifacts were also referenced against the modern Pantone colour matching system to ensure tonal authenticity.

The result is the most comprehensive, authentic Olympic art and design collection ever created.

Jealous? I’m green with envy.

Why You Should Take A Black Cab, Not An Uber, This Christmas 

Chris Lockie puts forward the case for why Londoners should support black cab drivers this Christmas, even if it means paying a little extra:

Black cabs are fighting back, but without the support of the people of this city we are going to lose a fine service that is doing everything it can to keep up with the terrifying march of modernity. Give black cabs time to adjust to the Age of Cheap, and eventually you’ll come to appreciate their solid, dependable service.

If you don’t, black cabs will die, an honest occupation will go with it, Uber will put their prices up immediately, and the moment driverless cars become a reality they’ll be all over it like Cameron on swine (because if you think Uber cares about their drivers, you’re way off).

This article pretty much sums up my feelings regarding Uber: avoid at all costs.

Beyond the Style Guide 

With Drew kind enough to let me write for 24 ways again, this year’s contribution was an opportunity to bring together a series of thoughts that had been languishing in my drafts folder. These centered around modular design, in particular the growing use of front-end style guides:

In straddling the realms of graphic design and programming, it’s the point at which they meet that I find most fascinating, with each discipline valuing the creation of effective systems, be they for communication or code efficiency. Front-end style guides live at this intersection, demonstrating both the modularity of code and the application of visual design.

I also wanted to write about the role CSS preprocessors can play in this context, one that ensures their use is more considered and focused. Such is the power of preprocessors like Sass, that without exercising restraint, we can find ourselves creating endless abstractions, with even the most fundamental aspects of CSS being drawn into the mixin. Much like jQuery (and frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation), we can find ourselves growing dependent on such tools, to the extent that simpler, more effective alternatives get ignored.

Thinking of Sass an an intermediary between CSS and a visual language, is one way I try to keep my reliance in check: if you see a mixin or variable in my CSS, it should relate to an attribute in my design system.


So, I end this year much like I did the last, with one final article on a topic of interest. Unlike last year, I’m looking towards a new year that sees me write less long-form pieces like this. Instead, I wish to spend more time making things (my list of abandoned/neglected/potential side projects can only grow so long), and perhaps embracing a means of writing that’s a little more fast and loose.

‘The Late Show’ Opening Titles - Director’s Cut 

I’ve yet to see a full episode of The Late Show (which I wrote about shortly after its debut), but thanks to clips posted online, I’ve still been able to get my regular Colbert fix.

One of my favourite aspects of the show is the opening titles, which feature shots taken from this extended version. Fernando Livschitz’s vivid tilt–shift photography pairs well with Jon Batiste & Stay Human’s signature tune, and showcases New York City to the extent that I now want to make a return visit.

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