Archive for the 'Research' Category

It’s sunny in Dundee mostly


Tentsmuir WW2 Coastal Defences

In the spirit of inter-institutional caring and sharing:


Preview: Thursday 27th March 7pm
Exhibition Open: Friday 28th March 12 – 4pm, Saturday 29th March 12 – 4pm

The White Room project space, Tin Roof Studios. 38-40 Bellfield Street
Dundee DD1 5JD

Presenting an exhibition of work created by 3rd year Illustration Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Come along to our show! It consists of hand printed posters and set designs for a series of imagined theatrical adaptations of plays exploring climate change, sustainability, urban planning and related social and political issues.

Exploring subjects such as:
Hydro Fracking, Gentrification, Micro-topias, Climate Activism, Nuclear waste disposal, Nuclear War, Social Housing, The melting ice caps, Surveillance, Community Gardening.

For more information please visit:


One of my favourite journals – Open! – which recently ceased in its print form due to funding cuts by the Dutch government, has only gone and reimagined itself in amazing website form.

Entropy! Entropy! They’ve all got it, Entropy!

Having enjoyed the last disjointed and dissociative blog-post so much, we thought we’d embark on another post rounding up links that might be of use in the current crop of graphics projects:

We start with this Beyond Entropy Publication. I’ve a copy, which I’ll bring in on Friday. The reason I have a copy is that it has ‘beyond’ in the title, and I buy any books that are about being beyond something. From there we move to entropy and communication, and the thought that the following films might be interesting:

Subsequently, we jump, via ambiguous symbols, to the typography topography project. The following film by Jonathan Meades asks many pertinent questions about the issues involved in this project – about money, class, ‘regeneration’, the languages of design – and it is all delivered in such a delicious style.

The clip above mentions the Islington Square development in Manchester, by FAT. From a ‘visual-language’ point of view, this is fascinating. In a style that is self-proclaimed as ‘radical post-modernism‘, questions of a dominant style, pluralistic narrative, the vernacular, the local and global are all mixed up*, with intriguing results.

Taste is indeed an interesting issue.

And to make one final leap, an interview with Morton Feldman:

*Clumsy description of post-modernism, radical or otherwise.

watching us

this is a fantastic resource that has a wealth of information on topics relevant to modern society and globalised culture.

“There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This still may not be an easy undertaking though, and we can understand that — especially considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the topics, as well as the crossing over of sources; but also for the fact that the information here can be incomplete, sometimes contradictory or even controversial. But this is the point. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do: provoke critical thinking, questioning… and doing.

We’ve fundamentally built this resource to inform and inspire action — and no, we’re not talking about clicking the stupid ‘Like’ button on Facebook, signing online petitions or letter writing — we mean informing and inspiring real-world action; taking this information away from the computer to rejuvenate the strong networks with the people around you in the real world, to discuss, plan, act. This is not a symbolic action or clicktivism website, nor is it a simple collection of popular content, like the other websites available. It’s a resource that aims to inform, inspire and provoke action; to generate a multitude of responses and reactions. This is just some of what is needed to break paradigms, subservience, acquiescence, and to cultivate inspiration to continue work on the plethora of puzzles and problems addressed in the information published here.”

adam curtis documentaries

TBTB* (or Hyper/Links)

*TBTB or ‘Too Busy To Blog’ is a symptom of modern life whereby sufferers experience a chronic build-up of hyperlinks that can only be dealt with by a long, disjointed and dissociative blog-post. The following are all reference points and links that have come up through, or as a result of, studio discussions over the last term or so. The approach borrows a little from the excellent things.

We begin with objects that are ‘alive‘. Pipilotti Rist. The Form of the Book, Book. Facebook’s social graph and the exploitation of ‘weak-links‘, (and an amazing resource of freely available critical writing on the subject). Danah Boyds early, but influential essay on myspace, facebook and class divisions. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product“, which echoes something Serra said. Unlike Us?

Elsewhere in the world, a dataset speaks a thousand words, and we can (thanks to Paula Scher) track the deterioration of a blog comment thread.

To architecture, the power of the manifesto, and the politics (to be viewed with the utmost criticality) of ‘progress’. Ant Farms, ‘fake’ villages (and more); Clip/Stamp/Fold, and the Fountainhead in 5 seconds.

Live surfaces, media surfaces. Augmented reality (think ‘clinic brief‘). Reality reality (think ‘everything else‘). Razzle Dazzle, and the New Aesthetic. Pixel Sorting for Dummies.

No-brow culture (E4?) and cutting through the clutter. A brand is nothing, wanting to be everything. Unexpected Creativity.

A long way from heterotopia? The anti-library, and Benjamin, unpacking. Perspectives on reading. Information Landscapes (of 1994). The Library of Babel. Unreliable narrators. Authentic translation.

Meanwhile, ballet meets synchronised swimming, or fashion? And movement, underwater. (‘Gorgeous’ say CraveOnline, Sally worked on this’ say

Laika, Neutral, UniversTypeface as programme (my machines). Printing as process, (and just-in-the-nick-of-time). The computational and generative, meets InDesign. Calligraphic lettering. And this article by Robin Kinross offers some interesting insights about the work of Wim Crouwel.

An Open School might look a bit like this.

Talkin’ Loud, Saying Something

Ross Hogg

This eye blog article — Something to say — previews the now-past 6×6 letterpress exhibition and conference at St Brides, which several VisComDes people were involved with. Pictured above is the work of VisComDes student and amateur footballer, Ross Hogg.

(See also previous post by VisComDes person and professional footballer, Duncan Tullis)

Attention! Criticism and its Distractions

This article on, and the accompanying audio discussion, may be interesting. I don’t know, I simply haven’t had time to read or listen to it. It may well relate to a lot of the other stuff we have about ‘attention‘. Possibly.

Slide Shows

Slide Shows is an interesting idea, and delightfully quiet. I’m interested in the thing that Stuart Bailey touched on in his talk earlier this year, about the relationship between performance and practise, and think there’s something interesting happening in terms of how we present work/ourselves, and our design personas (and our ideas of ‘activity’ and ‘productiveness’). These slideshows certainly seem to me to embody some ideas of ‘hybrid’ forms, and what technology might allow/provoke.

Beyond Interesting

I can’t remember if I’ve previously flagged up the brilliant things magazine. It is beyond the usual internet interesting.

Shock of the New-ish

New Aesthetic, New Anxieties is the outcome of a book-sprint organised by V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media. (downloadable as either pdf or e-book from that link there). It explores and expands upon the concept of the ‘New Aesthetic’, as coined by James Bridle in 2011. We’ve touched on this before, in terms of both the idea and some critical comment on it. Thanks to Michelle for the link.

Vis Com 12 Degree Show

Vis Com 12 is the website of this years graduating 4th year students. And representing as it does, a fantastically diverse body of works, has the most tags of any post on the vis-com blog ever.

Little Libraries

Little Libraries and Tactical Urbanism on Design Observer is a really interesting article mulling over the recent past of small independent ‘library’ initiatives, the library as institution, and the varying roles these play in ‘information culture’.

“Libraries are about much more, of course; they exist not simply to store and provide access to information. Advocates argue that libraries continue to serve crucial civic and social functions, and their tenacious faith is reinforced by a flurry of recent street-level library activity. The last few years have seen the emergence of myriad mini, pop-up, guerilla and ad-hoc libraries, which are part of the phenomenon that Mimi Zeiger, in her Interventionist’s Toolkit series for this journal, calls “provisional, opportunistic, ubiquitous, and odd tactics in guerilla and DIY practice and urbanism” — to which I might add, librarianship.”

Image: Reanimation Library, Brooklyn.

Tumblr Dryer

I’ve added the links from Friday’s project briefing to the Com Des Tumblr, including this video profile of Karel Martens.

The Serving Library Media Archive

“You are sat in a pitch-black room. Your head is gently buzzed with whisky. Out of the darkness you hear a recording of my voice.”

Some interesting podcasts, via The Serving Library.

Present Ideas

This BBC Imagine programme – Books – The Last Chapter? – is available to view until Wed, 28 Dec (at 12:39 to be ultra precise about it). Highly recommended as an overview of a pertinent topic which is also covered here (Form of the Book Book) and here (The Unbound Book), and the subject of this book and this book which were recommended to me by Edwin. And also relates, if you’re really really interested, to the ramblings of an armchair enthusiast.

And as it’s nearly Christmas, if you’re looking for books to spend book tokens on, a quick reminder that the book of the week archive is here, for perusal.

Cover Looks (Strangely Familiar)

The latest print incarnation of the Serving Library is out.

Martin Boyce and the Design Research Unit, (unbeknown to him).


“The machine is accepted as the essentially modern vehicle of form. Our designs will therefore be essentially designs for mass production, but at the same time we hope to rescue mass production from the ugliness and aesthetic emptiness which has so far characterized the greater part of its output”. —Design Research Unit, 1943

Another post-talk train ride, another blog write up. Again, seizing on the time allowed by this journey, I’m going to try to condense an interesting talk from Martin Boyce, and an interesting peruse around the Design Research Unit exhibition, currently at the Cooper Gallery in Dundee, into a succinct and coherent blog post.

The talk for me raised some pertinent issues which were hinted at in an earlier post covering an interview with Metahaven, where the politics of aesthetics raised their head, and the point was made about how the politics of a design piece can fade over time, (or at least not be directly replicated in a different place and time). Boyce’s work heavily references, and in some cases perhaps directly appropriates, design forms of various types. And he talked eloquently about about how by processing and representing these forms in a contemporary art context, their meaning is changed, “distorted by the process of recollection”.

While it might be possible to question this appropriation of accepted ‘well’ designed objects – is it primarily for their forms and aesthetic value? – he pre-empted this by talking of his lack of ‘academic’ insight into his work, and interest in “wild knowledge”. He talked about following his eye and instinct, and this reminded me of an idea of Brian Eno‘s, where he talked about the “intellect catching up with the instinct”. I think there’s probably a studio project in this, and the same could be said for his approach to his typographic pieces. It was interesting to hear how these pieces came into being and how they then went out into the world, with seemingly little reference to typographic history or conventions which we perhaps get a little fixated by.

The Design Research Unit exhibition which this talk ran alongside was a concise and functional display of some of the projects undertaken by that design organisation between 1942 and 1972. Again, the key thing it raised for me was that the politics of the time, while implicit in the work, often get overlooked by designers who seem fixated with this orderly way of working in terms of stewarding design and identity today. It’s difficult to put my finger on, but I’m fascinated by why the template laid down by this early move into corporate compliance is so resilient. Maybe it connects to ideas about why a particular way of looking at design, productivity and manufacturing, (and I guess by all this we mean the free market economy in its many facets), achieved such traction in the post-war years. Definitely a subject for further thinking, and a very good exhibition, well worth a visit.


N.b. Apologies for the use of ‘Boyce’ during this post. ‘Martin’ seems overly familiar, while ‘Boyce’ sounds a bit pompous. Rock and a hard place.

Design Research

There is currently an Exhibition at DJCAD on the Design Research Unit, a pioneering organisation responsible for some of the most prominent design produced in post-war Britain. There’s also a talk in relation to it by Martin Boyce on Thursday 1st December. Was wondering if anyone fancied a mini field trip to dundee to see the exhibition and hear the talk? Would need to leave Glasgow about 3pm, and would be going by train, at least I would, (1st class). If you fancy doing that, drop me an email or reply in the comment thread here.

Click here to book (free) tickets.

Disclaimer: Make sure it doesn’t clash with anything you’re meant to be doing in the studio.

Trend List

Trend List is a bit like every design blog you’ve looked at, viewed through different goggles. Possibly interesting and cynical in equal measure, its that troublesome burden of history again, magnified through the internet vortex.


(And I’m not sure that centre-aligned is a trend, so much as one of 3 or 4 standard ways of aligning text).

More here and here. Thanks to DC for the tip off.

Now in Production

Image: Christopher Clark, Web Typography for the Lonely (2011).

A good overview of the current Walker Arts Centre exhibition, ‘Graphic Design: Now in Production’, can be found on the Eye blog. Possibly functions as an antidote to this kind of polarised thinking, and interesting to see the ‘both/and‘ pluralist outlook in mainstream design discussions.