35 Years Of Progress?

Ian Bogost’s Atlantic article I Wrote This on a 30-Year-Old Computer was written entirely on an 30 year old Macintosh SE and makes for a fascinating trip down memory lane and back to the future.

There’s much to think about in the article, but one line really stood out to me:

Computing was an accompaniment to life, rather than the sieve through which all ideas and activities must filter.

‘The sieve through which all ideas and activities must filter’ – what a phrase and what a thought.

Within my online ‘bubble’ there seems to be a growing movement away from social media and being ‘always on’ and towards Digital Minimalism – a phrase coined by Cal Newport in his latest book.

I wonder if we’ve made as much progress as we think we have over the last 35 years, or have we become shackled and beholden to the devices and services we’ve created?

You’ve Been Had

Street Art – Woburn Sands – England

The Game Of Thrones Theme Via Fender

Composer Ramin Djawadi is joined by Tom Morello, Scott Ian, Nuno Bettencourt and more for this epic, guitar driven version of the Game Of Thrones theme.

I wish they had used this version on the show almost as much as I wish Dr Who would use Orbital’s brilliant version of the Dr Who theme.

Don McCullin Retrospective

I recently spent a morning at Tate Britain viewing the Don McCullin retrospective.

Don McCullin is one of my favourite photographers; I originally came across his autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour in a book shop and was fascinated by his life and images.

McCullin is perhaps best known as a war photographer, something he’s uneasy about, feeling that his images haven’t done enough to change peoples view of war.

As you walk through the exhibition its hard to understand how anybody that sees these images can not be affected and not understand the insanity and futility of war.

McCullin’s photographs reinforce a long held belief of mine that a single still image capturing the defining moment can convey more emotion and reality than moving images can.

Digital photography is fantastic, but seeing photographs printed large brings them to life in a way no screen can. Don McCullin printed the photographs on display himself. McCullin has always favoured a dark and high contrast finish that I adore, these prints bring a depth and tactility to the images that is hard to describe. You want to touch them as well as look at them.

McCullin’s war photography is extraordinary but it’s his photography of England I love the most.

From his early street photography in London’s East End to his social reportage of the North in the 70s and 80s and latterly his incredible landscape photography Don McCullin has a unique style that captures the gritty beauty of England and its people perfectly.

Looking for England

To coincide with the Tate retrospective the BBC has made a wonderful documentary following Don McCullin as he revisits the places and scenes of some of his iconic photographs of England.

It was particularly interesting for me to watch him work. I love street photography and having shot a little myself it was fascinating to watch his approach; often he will directly engage with the subject, asking permission to take their photograph, which enables eye contact in the photographs, something I have always felt was a defining feature of his photographs of people.

I was fortunate to see him at The Goodwood Festival of Speed as featured in the documentary and to speak to him briefly.

Equus Leather – Beautiful & Bespoke

Whilst talking about creating enduring beauty I wanted to share these fabulous videos from Equus Leather with you.

Equus Leather create bespoke, hand crafted leather items, and this video showing the creation of a handmade watch strap is absolutely captivating:

The Equus straps start at £160, but when you see the amount of handwork, care and attention that goes into their creation they begin to feel like good value. Especially when compared to £50 for a piece of mass-produced rubber from Apple.

Equus recently worked with other craftsmen to create a classic attache case:

I’ve always joked about taking up woodworking as a retirement hobby, but now I think leather working might be even more satisfying.

DO Design by Alan Moore

Do Design book

Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Moore, author of DO Design, give a talk on Creating Enduring Beauty.

Ahead of seeing Alan talk I re-read DO Design and was struck by this passage:

The purpose of the work for the Shakers was as much to benefit the spirit as it was to produce the goods.

The universe had clearly decided it was time for me to think about the Shakers and their design philosophy as earlier in the week I had saved this quote defining it thus:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Isn’t that the most perfect philosophy for designers, creators, makers, craftsmen and us all?

In DO Design Alan proposes 14 principles for creating enduring beauty:

  • Be curious about the world
  • Increase your depth of field
  • Develop an ability to adapt
  • Observe
  • Go see
  • Understand language
  • Be open
  • Work better together
  • Start with optimism
  • Recognise no boundaries
  • Surrender
  • Only work with good people
  • Let go of fear
  • Seek to create enduring beauty

These principles are described in more depth in DO Design and are worth the price of admission alone.

Read, absorb and re-visit regularly.