Archive for the 'Theory' Category

Lunch Bytes

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Earlier this year I attended a Lunch Bytes conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. (HKW generally puts on fantastic conferences at reasonable costs, and as such, is worth checking out). Also at the conference were vis-com-des people Sophie Dyer and Solveig Suess. The conference was a summary of other various symposia that have taken place under the Lunch Bytes banner (an initiative of the Goethe Institute) on the topic of Post-Internet Art. This is a highly contested term, and rather than try to write up what everyone said, (you can see the videos of the presentations here), I asked if Sophie and Solveig would be interested in exchanging questions and answers from the conference. They generously agreed, and that exchange can be read below.

Continue reading ‘Lunch Bytes’

Everything is Super

Super-Community (and Conversations) are two new interesting platforms (with interesting content) from e-flux.

Potted History

Edwin Pickstone: ‘A potted history of the alphabet and its designs’

Edwin Pickstone: ‘A potted history of the alphabet and its designs’
Principal Seminar Room 1, Reid Building, 14 Jan 2015, 1pm

Looking at the histories of type design, Pickstone will speak about particular fonts linked to works in the exhibition, including Eric Gill Gill Sans and Alasdair Gray.

All welcome, no need to book

via ‘A potted history of the alphabet and its designs’.

Part of Spheres of Influence II.

Why design cannot remain exclusive

The Open Design Now website is well designed. I have the book (available for loan, as are other books), but hadn’t seen the site before. A useful and interesting resource.

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:

Speed? What Speed?

Ivan Illich is a very interesting thinker. I fully realise that starting blog posts with these kind of sentences is glib to say the least, but it’s very difficult, (in blog form and time-limit), to outline why. He’s a perceptive critic of institutions and of many of the givens of contemporary society and contemporary design. Possibly best to defer to giving a flavour of his work; this is from a text he gave at John Thackara’s Doors of Perception conference in 1996, the full link is at the bottom;

“…Here I speak to a very special kind of shaman — not teachers or physicians, not prison officials or transportation engineers, but designers. They do not conduct, rather, they design liturgy. They do not govern the enclaves, but act as advisers to those who construct them. They are not the progeny of shoemakers or masons, but the descendants of a Renaissance brain child, the disegno. They are experts in the intentional and reflected integration of sundry artefacts; sources of a new weave that distinguishes the Baroque from the Gothic.

However, designers not only provide the shape of integration, they inevitably spread guiding assumptions about the principles to which the elements of a whole ought to be subservient. Both the cockpit of the car and the humble door handle sell ergonomics; they tickle and attract your seat and your hand. For half a century ergonomics — things designed to fit the body — has been an assumption spread by designers. But the new given you want to put on the agenda, speed, has the power to disembody. It disembodies one’s perception of the falcon no less than of the Beethoven sonata. That is what my friends Trapp and Rieger have just tried to explain, and that is also my main point.

For decades, design has peddled speed, most of the time surreptitiously and uncritically. Faster seemed better. Now you want to open a new epoch with the claim that slow speed can be beautiful, and appropriate speed optimum. You want to open an era of intense speed awareness, and promote it by means of design. You want design that hails the postmodern slobbies: slower but better working people who punctiliously protect their appropriate pace.”

via Speed? What Speed? Prisoners of Speed, by Ivan Illich: Change Observer: Design Observer.

Chance, by Design

I have some issues with Dr Aleks Krotoski’s BBC Radio 4 programme – Last Bus to Serendip, (but yes, we all have issues don’t we, hmmm, critical designers, hmmmmmm, sitting round, having issues with things). Anyway, despite these ‘issues’, there are a couple of good interviews in there – the best with James Burke, presenter of Connections, an episode of which you can see above.

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

Design (Counter) Domains

“And thus the critical force of history was separated into various specialisations and absorbed back into business as usual within the spectacle. Having renounced the criticism of the world, the world – in the form of journalism, art and the academy – can safely ignore it. The margins outside the spectacular world that once harboured a glimmer of negation have been all but foreclosed. What remains is professionalised anaesthesia, mourning communities, discourse clubs, legacy fetishists. Some ages betray a deep respect for their critical thinkers. To Socrates, they offered hemlock; to Jesus, the cross. These days it’s Zoloft, a column – or tenure.” — McKenzie Wark, 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International.

(Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, on Ubuweb)

Signs of the Fourth Dimension

via Camberwell Illustration: Signs of the Fourth Dimension.

A Feral Studio: Additional Information


Image: Emlyn Firth

Thanks to Nick, Lizzie, Floris and Malcolm (pictured, as drone) for a fantastic series of talks last night, and a great workshop – If you have research material you gathered, please do upload it to the tumblr.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the emergent architectural forms of Google Dominion, you can read one of Momus’s blog posts about it here. I can also recommend reading up on Heterofascist Park if you want to know which young Scottish architects are going to be forging a new nation in the event of Independence happening.

Thanks too, to Seb and Sophie for the lovely new Feral Studio website.

via #AFS03 – A Feral Studio.

This is Visual Thinking

The Muppets, Henson and Sesame Street are covered in an interesting article in the latest Bulletin of the Serving Library.

Tiny Field Trip


This is advance warning of a trip for graphics 3/4 to the CCA on tuesday morning to meet and talk with Stuart Bailey. Dexter Sinister’s ‘Identity’ project is currently on display at Tramway, and they’re also involved in this film event at Tramway that you may want to go to. You might also want to download this companion piece to the identity project.

Nice/Critical Writing


This site contains Critical Writing in Art and Design by students on the Critical Writing postgraduate programme at the Royal College of Art. I went to the RCA degree show this year and was very impressed with the work of this particular course. As I was looking through their publications I noticed Rick Poyner was standing next to me. I’ve yet to see a post on Design Observer about how he was standing next to me, but suspect he’s still editing it. I’d been meaning to write a quick summary of the trip and the show, but it has evaded me. However it was nice to see the work of VisComDes people Stuart White and Sandy McInnes, who both graduated this year from the RCA Visual Communication masters course with some excellent work. (Creative Review review here).

Rights and Wrongs

Everyone. Seems to be. Talking about. Taste.

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.

The Power of Networks

In this RSA Animate talk, Manuel Lima, author of ‘Visual Complexity‘, talks about a shift, over the last century, from trees to networks as a way of understanding the world. This is significant if we’re starting to talk about ourselves as a ‘distributed academy’ (for which we could read, or at least reflect on, the ‘distributed network’).


Undercurrents is a collection of current 4th years dissertations, edited and compiled by Christopher MacInnes with layout and cover design by Seb Howell (vis-com-des person). All profits go back into future productions.


The arrow and the frame on Click Opera manages to touch on a whole range of topics relevant to current projects; Banking, currency, wild knowledge, art archive, not to mention an interesting reflection on Google adwords. And not only does it contain some very interesting thoughts in the continued thread of good and useful arguments against ternary or binary thinking, but it is also awash with great hyperlinks.

While on the topic, big thanks to Anja and Chris for their currency workshop earlier in the week. There are some pictures below, and a link to Anja and Chris’s bookmarks on the topic here.

Thought provoking diagram of the week

from Slavs and Tatars.