Exhibition Trip

When faced with a “Go to an exhibition” instruction – I went for the closest one (as the crow flies).

I took myself off to the FailBetter exhibition around the corner at Trinity College Science Building.

DSCF5858 - Copy

I deliberately didn’t do any research into this trip in advance so I’d arrive with a blank slate with no expectations.  I’m so glad I did that.

True to form I found myself getting lost in words I found around the room.  Yes of course most of the exhibits were interesting but big words on walls captured my attention more.  Perhaps I found myself wondering more about the belief in success more than the failure of failing.

A footwear Fail

Ok so  I saw some some mountaineer’s boots that didn’t quite take him to the top of Mount Everest.  Hmmm – ok. I failed to get the whole “failure” message at first till I read into the accompanying information sheet about this guys attempt to reach the summit.  It turned out he cut corners with the quality of his boots – choosing an inferior pair as they were lighter and in his opinion made better sense for the purpose they were required for.  Needless to say he never made it to the top in these boots.

It was not the boots that failed.  It was he who failed as he made a bad decision in the planning -process.  This guy learned from his bad decision and later went on to conquer Mount Everest in the proper souped up boots that were designed for purpose.  Perhaps we could take the same lesson with regards to web design.  You get out what you put in.  If you use the correct formats, the advised methodology and dont’ always go for the easiest/cheapest option – the result is bound to be a superior one!

Samuel Beckett  -a fail??

Samuel Beckett once said “to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail”.  I think it’s only in failure that we can truly realise the potential within us – to challenge ourselves to further reach for perfection within our craft.

beckett quote


Of course we saw many things at this exhibition – but I didn’t find myself going “wow” as often as I had hoped.  For the most part I believe the underlying message was to do your  research work well – know your customer – know your user/reader and understand what ultimately will be the elements the item will be remembered for.

best fails exhibition trinity college 2014


fonts 19.03.14x

What is our fascination with fonts?  We all have an opinion on them.  There’s the ones we regard as looking like it’s been written personally by our loving grandmothers and others that make a 3 year old child look like a virtual calligraphist by comparison

Why do we always have to change things?  Perhaps change is the reason why we are currently evolving new and ever creative ways to express the written word.

For me, fonts are an expression of tone.

I often write little notes or short poems and find myself yearning for that perfect font to display it in.  That just-right font that will illicit the emotion that the words themselves are trying to convey.

But that’s just me…….

When it comes to design and fonts – the rules and red tape seem to be abundant.  Companies & institutions want to invoke trust from their reader.  Messages of different importance need to be represented in an equally “important” font.

web font purple www.underware.nl

When fonts go wrong

We’ve all seen the various advertisements that at a glance look wholly inappropriate right?

Here’s a reminder:

flickering lights    gumballs

No of course there’s no need to point out the blatantly obvious bad choices that were made when selecting the fonts.  Sometimes – it’s as simple as how one letter bumps or bleeds into another that causes nothing short of a foulmouthed inbreeding of characters.

Fonts have names – don’t confuse them!


There are utterly thousands of different fonts – but unless used correctly – the message conveyed may indeed be lost on the reader.

(I’m secretly  ‘loving’ the obvious gaffe made by the scribe of this particular gravestone – perhaps I’ll request it for mine !)

So fonts have names and personalities and tones and depth and underlying messages…..

It’s no wonder people are so afraid to be creative with their fonts.  It’s the old classic ‘ fear of being judged’.

Even with the introduction of Google fonts for websites – I fail to notice any dramatic change in what I see online.

Fonts have an anatomy too!

components of a font

We’ve come along from the cave drawings of yore.  We now have come so far along the typographic journey – we have now almost humanised our fonts.

So, as in life – we have to dress for the occasion.

We just have to figure out the right top-hat, tails and fancy cumberbunds to dress up our messages in.  Will our font people look cluttered when standing together or alternatively will they look like billy-no-mates when aligned in a row with a gaping space between them?

If it’s a party invite go with the slightly innebriated-looking comic sans (if it’s a kids party) or a slightly more elegant font for a more formal gathering

Will you look at that font!

I can’t believe my eyes – not one for keeping up with the Jones’s – I giggled inwardly when I found a forum where a reader was wondering what type of font was used for the most recent Royal Wedding invitation cards.  Over-enthused about discovering the answer – I duly followed the thread.

Hmmmph – nothing special!

zapf antiquaDesigned by Hermann Zapf (born November 8, 1918- ) – Zapf Renaissance Antiqua (1984–1987)

“You are but a flick of the wrist

Upon which I entrust my sentiment.

Take my words along your path

And deliver untainted to my muse.”








Design & Proportion

Divine Proportion / Golden Rule

Hmmmm so it’s all about design v proportion this week.  Golden rule?  I don’t know about you but generally if somebody tells me there’s a rule I ask myself why.  So, when faced with a challenge that involved discussing same – I thought …. “How the hell am I gonna get enough time to trapse around town snapping all the buildings that may have been designed using this divine proportion notion”.

I needn’t have worried though – due to an extreme shortage of spare time I decided to see if I could find some everyday examples of this concept in everyday items at home.  It took all of about five minutes and I had found a couple.

docking station golden rule   

Fearful of having to learn some incomprehensible “Mathematics Law” in order to understand this concept, I was only too delighted to find a simplified way to calculate it.

It would appear that the Golden Rule (Divine Proportion) has been derived from and is closely related to Fibonacci numbers.

Fibo what??

Simply put fibonacci numbers are numbers that are calculated by adding the two previous numbers together.

Fibonacci numbers

So, armed with the solution to create this miracle of design (and PowerPoint software)  – I couldn’t help but try it for myself.

Divine Proportion using Fibonacci rule

Divine Proportion using Fibonacci rule

golden rule ear

I found it funny to find out that some of us have perfect ears based on the Golden rule!

Divine Proportion in Website Design

Having been advised that this rule is so prevalent in website design – I checked it out for myself.

Twitter could’t have used this design any better.

twitter site

Coloured by Emotion

It’s not often we take our own “personal colour analysis test” but I sometimes wonder what the results would be if we did.

Green:  ttp://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/27064.php?from=172612 Blue: http://reachingutopia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/sad-woman.jpg Brown: http://www.lionslinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/iStock_000003999403XSmall.jpg  Black: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/meghancasserly/files/2011/02/0716_bad-mood_392x392.jpg  Red: http://angryjogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/angry-man.jpg

It’s commonplace to be seeing RED or feeling BLUE.

mood colour strip1 24.02.14

I’ts pretty powerful however when you see the effect that each of these colours have on each expression.

There’s obviously a good reason why we humans do make the connect between an emotion and a colour.  Probably because colour is such a highly personal thing for so many of us.  Perhaps colour enables us to personalise by shade  how we are feeling at any given time?

Green: http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs41/i/2009/012/0/d/SDS_Envy_Wallpaper_by_chenoasart.jpg Blue:  http://www.concourseonline.com/feeling-blue/ Brown: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/10/09/article-2047205-05E42E5A0000044D-881_468x541.jpg Black: http://fc05.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/142/5/b/SH___black_mood_by_FerioWind.jpg Red:  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-a89tgSc9gq4/Ue5p8o-wl0I/AAAAAAAAAqg/o0HiRGa19Rs/s320/mustafar_by_dominiquewesson-d5phhk9.jpg

For today however, I choose to continue wearing my………

rose tinted glassesas life seems so much more fun with them on!!

Green:  ttp://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/27064.php?from=172612
Blue: http://reachingutopia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/sad-woman.jpg
Brown: http://www.lionslinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/iStock_000003999403XSmall.jpg
Black: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/meghancasserly/files/2011/02/0716_bad-mood_392x392.jpg
Red: http://angryjogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/angry-man.jpg
Green: http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs41/i/2009/012/0/d/SDS_Envy_Wallpaper_by_chenoasart.jpg
Blue:  http://www.concourseonline.com/feeling-blue/
Brown: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/10/09/article-2047205-05E42E5A0000044D-881_468x541.jpg
Black: http://fc05.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/142/5/b/SH___black_mood_by_FerioWind.jpg
Red:  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-a89tgSc9gq4/Ue5p8o- l0I/AAAAAAAAAqg/o0HiRGa19Rs/s320/mustafar_by_dominiquewesson-d5phhk9.jpg

Design Evaluation: Ball Point Pen (Biro)


Being one for liking to write a lot – the design of the ball point pen was an obvious choice to review.


Ball point pens took writing instruments out of inkwells and safely into pockets.

When faced with the risk of a fountain pen spewing forward it’s contents onto a document or into a shirt pocket – there certainly was a requirement for a new idea.  A better idea.  An idea that would change the way we wrote forever.

Thus came the ball point pen, accredited to a newspaper editor called László Bíró, and his brother György, a chemist.  His innovative approach dealt not only with the issues of smudged writings and the endless refilling of ink – it addressed the need for speed and convenience.

Whilst the design of the outer casing was no great big deal, it was his understanding of the need for quick-drying ink and the ability to use it anywhere (with the exceptions of under water) that made his design the one that would succeed where many prior attempts failed.

Birome advertisement in Argentine magazine Leoplán, 1945.

Advertised features of this new design:
•New writing tool
•Automatic and writes with ink
•Always charged.
•Write with spherical tip.
•Dries instantly.
•Allows many carbon copies.
•Unque for aviation.
•Indelible ink.


The biro by it’s very essence was useful.  You could now write anywhere!  Limitations such as atmospheric pressure (as noted by the U.S. Air force and the RAF ) were no longer an issue.  The combination of the newly-developed ink coupled with a simple tubular design made it a household item within a short space of time.

Nowadays, even with the readily-available smart screen devices and mobile phones, the pen is still very much needed.  Afterall, how else can we sign legal documents, write a birthday card or simply scribble down a note to a loved one.


Biro’s by their very nature are not designed generally to be aesthetically beautiful.  The beauty is in their simplicity of design.

That said, since it’s inception, there has been an endless deluge of creative ideas based around the ordinary ball point.

A pen has become somewhat of a personal-taste item.  For some it is simply a necessary item in their desk, for others it’s an extension of their personality.

Regular functional pens

plain pens

Funny Pens

funny pens

Colourful Pens

coloured pens

Elegant Pens

fancy pens


biro,pen,ball point

Biro The first ball point pen

The design of the biro was as simple as could be.  Pick it up and write!

No longer had users the worry of spilling ink whilst filling inkwells in their fountain pens.  This was a pen that was always ready for use.

Standard components include the freely-rotating ball point itself (distributing the ink), a socket holding the ball in place, and a self-contained ink reservoir supplying ink to the ball


Whether we write with a 50c run-of-the-mill pen or a gilt edge Faberge pen, the end result is the same.  We are enabled to write in ink.

The user’s self-expression is by no means curtailed as this product’s inner workings have come to be housed in thousands of creative designs. Whether it’s a pineapple, a jewel-encrusted shell or a simple Bic – we get a product that works and does what it says.

faberge pen


A pen is a pen is a pen etc.  It writes.  It makes no claims that it will bring world peace nor that it will enable the write to become a world-renowned scribe .

Long lasting:

The owner has no further expectations of this item other than it will indeed it write.  The only understood constraint is that at some point in its life – the ink will run out.  Whilst the use of a cheaper model has a shorter lifespan, I don’t believe the design concept is anywhere near being antiquated.


Due to the simplicity of the design, there is pretty much no room for error when using a pen.  As with all items there may be the occasional mishap that involves ink leaking but it’s a very small risk.  Overall it’s design lends itself to being tough enough to endure the hardship of rattling around in a pencil case or the bottom of a handbag.


Environmentally Friendly:

In truth, most everyday pens are not designed to be environmentally friendly.  The very nature of an average pen suggests that at some point in its life it will be retired to a receptacle that will be emptied into a landfill somewhere.

The only saving grace with a more expensive pen is that it will be most likely made from a recyclable material and that it will also offer the user a chance to replace the ink reservoir.

As little design as possible:

A pen by it’s very nature is simple.  A cylindrical-designed shaft, a roller ball, and an ink reservoir.  Everything else is added for aesthetic purposes.  Personal choice drives the need to deviate from the original humble design.




Ah how the Google mind works – isn’t it marvellous! – or is it?

When popping up another one of a million light-hearted posts on Facebook I found myself in dire need to find an image to express “verbal diarrhoea” – of all things.

Whilst perusing through the multitude of Google-derived offerings, I found my bad mind had overwritten my sense of maturity as I landed on the following image – (the connection between the subject being searched for and the visual I met still escapes me by the way.)
Is it Google or my bad mind??

So I thought hmmm…… ok so lets click it and see if it is indeed just as bad as I expected.  It turns out to be a link to a blog created by a couple of London guys that pretty much annihilate self-appointed food “experts”.

I then went on to read a couple of entries.  At which point I finally remembered what my original mission was.

The lesson??  Don’t let things that look like sausages distract you from your job in hand – pardon the pun!

On a design front – perhaps clear tags would have removed this non-related visual from popping up in my search and I’d be further along with the project in hand by now!