Not a lot of watch for your money

You can never have too many watches, I say. I used to have a very thin one, a Swatch Skin possibly? It was nothing like this one from Piaget, that’s for sure.

Altiplano Ultimate Concept WatchPiaget
Altiplano watch, 41 mm. Cobalt alloy case. World’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound watch : 2 mm, a total fusion between the case and the Manufacture movement. Manufacture Piaget 900P ultra-thin, hand-wound mechanical movement. Winner of the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” watch price at the 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).

It’s only 2mm thick? Yep.

The incredible inner workings of the world’s thinnest watchWired UK
The Piaget Ultimate Concept first launched as a show-stealing proof-of-concept in 2018; now the watch is now in fully commercialised form (confusingly, still with the “Concept” nomination). It’s a mere 2mm-thick whisper of mechanical virtuosity that’s unlikely to be trumped in thinness any time soon […]

Made to order, the watch is described as “price on application”, though WIRED understands it to be well to the north of 300,000 Swiss francs.

So what’s 300,000 Swiss francs in sterling? Perhaps it’s one of those hyperinflated currencies like the Zimbabwe dollar and this amazing watch is within reach after all.

(For instance, did you know that a German 5 Million Mark coin, worth about $700 in January 1923, was only worth about one-thousandth of one cent by October 1923. And in Hungary, their highest banknote value in 1944 was 1,000 pengő, but by the end of 1945, it was 10,000,000 pengő, and the highest value in mid-1946 was 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő.)

OK, maybe not.

Calming colours

Feeling blue these days? We should be feeling cozy shades of green really.

Almost a year ago now, Pantone chose its colour of the year for 2020.

Color of the Year 2020Pantone
Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era. Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.

I had picked a blue too, back in January, but obviously, with such a subjective topic, not everyone agreed with the choice.

“In choosing blue Pantone has missed the mark once more”Dezeen
Certainly, the dominant narrative in many other 2020 COTY camps has been green. Whether dark or bright, neon or dusky, colour companies and trend forecasters from Dulux and WGSN to the US-based Behr paints, plumped for the colour intuitively associated with regrowth and rebirth. Green reassures us at a primal level and speaks of optimism. Crucially, it’s representative of the wider ecological story that’s top of the cultural agenda right now. In this way, green chimes with the zeitgeist and its ascension of the colour charts is born of authenticity, not marketing.

Interestingly, that critique was written back in December 2019, before we knew the full extent of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all our lives. They were focussing on greens because of environmental connections, not realising what 2020 had in store for us.

The surprising power of color to ease quarantine anxietyARTnews.com
Global sales of Curator’s three most popular greens—Fisherman’s Boat, Dock Leaf, and March Day—increased by 59 percent during the pandemic while a few of its neutrals—Scalloped Silk, Soft Bisque, and Stoney Way—increased 57.8 percent. Rather than urban excitement, the selection conjures an outdoor adventure, or perhaps the waiting room of a well-appointed doctor’s office. We want to be reassured, not overstimulated, by our wall colors. It’s a contrast to Pantone’s 2019 color of the year, the electric Living Coral, which was described as “vivifying and effervescent.” “Everyone is a bit upset; they want things clean,” Cohn said. “They’re choosing positive colors because when things are negative, you want to be out there with something positive.”

What will 2021 bring?

Happy shopper #2

The shops need customers, but do the customers need to be in the shops?

Black Friday’s just round the corner, or is it?

When is Black Friday 2020? The deals aren’t canceled, but shopping will look differentGood Housekeeping
Black Friday is going to look a little different this year. Even if you’re used to going in person to a certain store every year for its Black Friday sales, this year you’re going to want to call ahead and confirm that they’re going to be open on the big day. If you are going out, you can assume most stores will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place and limits on how many people will be allowed in the building at once, so endless lines and door-buster stampedes are going to be a thing of the past.

Holiday shopping will certainly be different this year — less crowds, more clicks.

Reinventing online shopping on Microsoft EdgeMicrosoft Design
As new shopping behaviours emerge and retailers revamp their selling strategies, we investigated how the browser can play a more active role to help navigate online shopping instead of being the traditionally dormant gateway to websites. Our vision is to empower people to make confident purchase decisions by saving time and money. By automatically applying coupons and surfacing price comparisons in the browser, we are taking our first step towards realizing this vision.

So it’s safer online, but safer for who?

Amazon says more than 19,000 workers got Covid-19CNBC
The information comes months after labor groups, politicians and regulators repeatedly pressed Amazon to disclose how many of its workers were infected by Covid-19. Early on in the pandemic, warehouse workers raised concerns that Amazon wasn’t doing enough to protect them from getting sick and called for facilities with confirmed cases to be shut down. Lacking data from Amazon, warehouse workers compiled a crowdsourced database of infections based on notifications of new cases at facilities across the U.S.

Almost 20,000 Amazon workers in US test positive for Covid-19The Guardian
Athena, a coalition of US activist groups campaigning for greater regulatory oversight over Amazon, called for immediate investigations into the company by public health officials as well as regular reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19. Athena’s director, Dania Rajendra, said in a statement: “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbours and friends. “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.”

Inside an Amazon fulfillment center, masked up and spaced apart during COVID-19GeekWire
Not far from where hundreds of robots were buzzing about the floor of Amazon’s sprawling BFI4 fulfillment center south of Seattle this week, a human stood in her own wheeled contraption. The innovation-in-progress, intended to allow a supervisor to roll up to various work stations and provide support behind a protective barrier, is one of the more striking ways the tech giant is addressing employee safety in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But we just can’t get enough of it, can we?

How Amazon became a pandemic giant – and why that could be a threat to us allThe Guardian
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced results from the following quarter, and yet another boost to sales and profits. Now Christmas looms, while lockdowns have returned across the world, sending even more customers its way. Every time “nonessential” bricks-and-mortar shops are told to close, you can sense the company once again seizing its chances, and a great social and economic transformation gaining pace. […]

“You’ll never get a major retailer boasting about opportunity in the middle of a pandemic,” [says Natalie Berg]. “But it’s clear that the timing and very nature of Covid has been fortunate for Amazon. I think they’ll be the only retailer in the UK, possibly the world, to come out stronger on the other side. If there are winners and losers of the pandemic, Amazon is hands-down the winner.”

The Truth About AmazonAll 4
As the high street goes into lockdown, Amazon is booming. This Supershoppers special reveals how to buy smart off the online retail giant, from the best bargains to avoiding scams.

Out with the new, in with the old

I got off the iPhone conveyor belt around iPhone 4, I think, so all the recent talk about the new Windows Phone-style widgets within iOS14 has passed me by.

These iOS 14 apps offer home screen widgets and more9to5Mac
Apple has officially released iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 to the public. The updates bring many new features to iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch users, and third-party developers have been hard at work on updating their apps to take advantage of Apple’s latest tools.

I know I’m biased but– I don’t know, is it all starting to look a little too busy? I’d much rather look at these homescreens.

iOS: A visual historyThe Verge
Although it may be difficult to imagine now, when the original iPhone was introduced, it was actually well behind the competition when it came to a strict feature-by-feature comparison. Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian, and even BlackBerry were all established systems in 2007, with a wide and deep array of features. Comparatively, the iPhone didn’t support 3G, it didn’t support multitasking, it didn’t support 3rd party apps, you couldn’t copy or paste text, you couldn’t attach arbitrary files to emails, it didn’t support MMS, it didn’t support Exchange push email, it didn’t have a customizable home screen, it didn’t support tethering, it hid the filesystem from users, it didn’t support editing Office documents, it didn’t support voice dialing, and it was almost entirely locked down to hackers and developers.

Yet all of those missing features hardly mattered and nearly everybody knew it.

Everything, all at once #2

You could say that Matan Stauber’s final year project at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design took millions and millions of years to create.

Histography – Timeline of History
“Histography” is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015. The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events. The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years.

Clowns and sewers and balloons, oh my!

I feel old. Stephen King’s It celebrated its 34th publication anniversary earlier this month. To mark the occasion, Dan Sheehan from Literary Hub has gathered together a whole bookcase of horrors. Or not.

10 covers for Stephen King’s It, ranked from least to most terrifyingLiterary Hub
Dutch paperback edition. My personal favorite. The cool 80s glam rock lightning bolt in the background. The Saturday morning cartoon font. The stupid kid’s stupid face. The fact that the balloon is too prominent, the wrong color, and actually looks kind of friendly. The words “de stank van HET” lined up with the kid’s mouth as if he is whispering in Dutch (objectively the most ridiculous-sounding language) to the friendly balloon. It’s all great. Alas, it is not very frightening.

Smile for the robot

This couple hired a robot photographer for their wedding dayMy Modern Met
For anyone wondering about how the guests felt about having the robot photographer at the wedding, the groom assures that Eva was positively received by the entire wedding party. “This was a fantastic addition to our day and our guests are still talking about it,” Gary told Bride Magazine. “It made a nice change from the normal photo booths.”

But don’t worry, Eva isn’t designed to replace real photographers. Gary and Megan hired a professional photographer, too. “The robot is a great alternative to traditional photobooths, which are slowly going out of fashion,” Service Robots says. “Hiring both a traditional photographer and a photobooth robot like Eva means newlyweds can look back on crisp, professional shots as well as more candid, fun and cheeky photographs taken with the robot’s help.”

Playing around

I know nothing about guitars (or ukuleles, for that matter), but I can tell that playing this “self-playing” guitar would not be as simple as that description suggests.

Self-playing electric ‘circle guitar’ can pick at up to 250 bpmdesignboom
Anthony Dickens has built the circle guitar with the help of a team of brilliant engineers to generate sounds, textures, and rhythms that would be impossible with a conventional electric guitar. What differentiates the new design from other electrics, is the motor-driven spinning disc in its body that rotates at up to 250 bpm under the strings. This innovative feature makes it possible to exceed what the musician’s hand can achieve alone.

OK, so I can’t pretend to understand even half of this—mechanical step sequencer discs? hexaphonic pickups?—but it’s great to see the start of what is in effect a brand new type of instrument, one I reckon Wintergatan’s Martin Molin would love to get his hands on.

If redesigning musical classics is your thing, check out this other designboom post I came across, via Moss and Fog. Looking closer, you can see it’s from 2017, so I’m not sure if this ever took off, but I’m smitten, to say the least.

The Elbow cassette player is a turntable tonearm for tapesdesignboom
In an industry obsessed with nostalgia, the humble cassette seems to have missed out on the craze that turned old school records back into a music must-have. Yet Brainmonk, the design team behind the Elbow clip-on casette player, have other plans to give the traditional tape the attention it deserves. Described as a ‘portable cassette player reduced to the core,’ Elbow gets rid of the heavy plastic casing that’s usually found on a tape players and strips it back to a single clip-on pulley that almost leaves the cassette to play itself.

After looking into this a little more, I can see that it didn’t take off. According to its Facebook page, the project is suspended, and they’ve not bothered renewing their website domain. This Verge write-up perhaps gives us a clue why.

The Elbow cassette player concept is as impractical as a cassette tape – The Verge
I’m curious what kind of battery life you could get out of an object like this. My guess is not much. But, really, this concept is more of a fashion accessory than a 21st century sequel to the Walkman — just like the cassette tapes that it will theoretically play.

Tactile

As shown in an earlier post about light switches, it’s the little things in life that can make all the difference.

A short history of door handlesApollo Magazine
We have all become suddenly more aware of the moments when we cannot avoid touching elements of public buildings. Architecture is the most physical, most imposing and most present of the arts – you cannot avoid it yet, strangely, we touch buildings at only a very few points – the handrail, perhaps a light switch and, almost unavoidably, the door handle. This modest piece of handheld architecture is our critical interface with the structure and the material of the building. Yet it is often reduced to the most generic, cheaply made piece of bent metal which is, in its way, a potent critique of the value we place on architecture and our acceptance of its reduction to a commodified envelope rather than an expression of culture and craft.

At least someone’s making an effort.

Sekhina designs minimal concrete light switches and plug socketsDezeen
Hungarian design brand Sekhina has made a series of light switches and plug sockets from concrete as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to plastic. Billed as the first of their kind, Sekhina founder Gábor Kasza made the concrete covers for switches and sockets after not being able to find any similar products made from the material.

Waterways

It’s nice to see Futility Closet properly up and running again, now that the libraries Greg Ross visits are mostly all open. I thought these two recent entries went well together.

The Moses BridgeFutility Closet
Visitors to the Fort de Roovere in the Netherlands cross a moat using a sunken bridge designed by Ro & AD Architects.

Thinking bigFutility Closet
Parliament considered the plan [to straighten the Thames] but never implemented it. “Revely had rather an awkward way of letting loose his real opinions; and he habituated himself to a sarcastic mode of delivering them,” read his obituary. “It need not be added, that such qualities were not calculated to render him popular.”

There are some more images of Revely’s plans on IanVisits, a London heritage blog.

Leave a message after the tone

More red phone boxes adopted in Yorkshire than are left in traditional useYorkshire Post
In Stutton near Tadcaster, the decommissioned box was converted into a Christmas card last year, passing on festive messages to neighbours and friends. There is an art gallery in Settle, while York’s oldest phone box on Duncombe Place now houses a defibrillator.

Scene changed?

Some desperately needed good news at last.

Boris Johnson pledges £1.5bn lifeline to keep UK’s arts sector afloatThe Guardian
After weeks of desperate warnings that the UK was facing an irreversible cultural catastrophe without targeted support, ministers announced a package that it said would protect the future of the country’s museums, galleries, theatres and music venues.

The playwright James Graham, who has spoken passionately about the urgent need for investment, said the money appeared to be more than most people in the arts had dared dream of. … “If this package is as ambitious as it looks, then conversations within our sector will now need to turn to what our recovery might look like in terms of protecting any gains made in recent years over inclusion, representation and diversity, and how this support can reach who need it most, particularly outside of London.”

A welcome lifeline.

S C E N E / C H A N G E (@_scene_change_) Instagram
A community for stage designers taking action for theatre.

But as ENO’s John Berry says, the devil will be in the details.

‘At last a glimpse of hope’: UK arts leaders on the rescue packageThe Guardian
“£1.57bn is a lot of money, but there are a lot of institutions for this to go round. It has to be seen as a positive step from the government and for culture in general, but it will all now be in the detail, in the balance between grants, loans and help for major institutions and help for individual artists, who have been hit the hardest.

“What are the strings attached going to be? In Germany, they just came out and said we’re going to pay every freelance artist now just to get them through, on top of everything else. The reason that opera and classical music have a voice and a direct line as high up as the prime minister is that culture is spoken about on the same level as health and social issues. So it is very normal in the rest of Europe for artistic leaders to be in regular conversation with the government about public subsidy during an emergency.

“Classical music and opera are central to the arts in this country and publicly there hasn’t been enough support for them. Freelance musicians have been hit hardest. It’s just depressing to see so many artists lose their work in opera, classical music and theatre in general in the UK. The plight of opera houses has been almost invisible.”

Will it be enough?

Emergency money for culture ‘won’t save every job’BBC News
The culture secretary said institutions would have to apply through industry bodies and would be asked to prove how they contributed to wider economic growth. He said the government was confident the emergency package would protect the majority of jobs in the culture sector – but not all.

“Sadly, not everyone is going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected and sadly, I will have to be honest with you, of course we will see further redundancies.”

Need a change of scene?

Cheers! But not everything’s opening back up tomorrow, on Super Saturday.

#scenechange designers wrap theatres with pink tape in #MissingLiveTheatre campaignOfficial London Theatre
While much of the UK’s entertainment and hospitality industries will be open to customers from tomorrow, theatres sadly remain closed, unable to stage live performances.

A community of designers named #scenechange have been struck by the negative visual imagery of theatre closures and the sadness that comes with seeing venues that were once bubbling with energy, now feeling stark and bleak.

Today, in collaboration with theatres across the UK, the #scenechange community will launch #MissingLiveTheatre, wrapping theatre buildings in a positive message of hope and visibility to the industry.

It’s not just a West End issue. Far from it.

Designers will wrap theatres in #MissingLiveTheatre tapeTheatre Weekly
Beginning with the National Theatre, #scenechange will, in conjunction with theatre staff, wrap theatres with pink barrier tape reading ‘Missing Live Theatre’. The baton will then be passed from the National Theatre to Royal Exchange Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Lyric Belfast and Sherman Theatre across the day on Friday, and throughout the West End on the Saturday. The week beginning 6 July will see further theatres nationwide joining #MissingLiveTheatre, with over 50 venues already committed including the RSC, Sadler’s Wells, Theatr Clwyd, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Sheffield Theatres, Ambassador Theatre Group, amongst many others.

It’s a larger industry than you’d think, and a difficult one to be in at the moment.

Designers unite to support freelance theater creatives with #SceneChange platformVariety
Freelance creative artists make up the major part of the theater ecology — of the 290,000 jobs in the U.K. theater industry, for example, more than two-thirds are freelance or self-employed.

As visual artists, designers bring a unique skill set that can help reimagine theater spaces as the industry navigates its way back to live performance. #SceneChange aims to positively engage with buildings, directors and producers nationwide, to support and inform the process back to production.

How to get back to normal

A lot of thought is going into what happens next.

Social distancing: how we overcome fear of one another to embrace a new normalThe Conversation
We mustn’t overlook how we make sense – physically and emotionally – of a world affected by a global virus. My research has examined how our embodied use of space – our proximity, our distance, and the boundaries we create between one another, affects us socially, culturally, economically and even politically. Now we are witnessing how our bodies learn to cope in a new world shaped by a pandemic.

But this isn’t serious, right?

Transition from videocall to real life conversation with the ‘see yourself window’designboom
If throughout the many videocalls during lockdown you’ve been looking more at the little rectangle of yourself than the faces of your friends and family, then perhaps this device created by rana rmeily is for you. The ‘see yourself window’ is a small, lightweight and 3D printed gadget that hooks onto your ear and aims to ease people back into real, physical interaction.

Handle with care

Another Monday morning has rolled round again, and whilst we might not be back in the office yet, there’s still a need for a coffee. Take care with these, though.

Ceramic artist Lalese Stamps creates 100 wildly varying mug handles in 100 DaysColossal
While some of Lalese Stamps’s mugs might be safe to grab before you’re fully caffeinated, exercise caution with others. Last year, the Columbus-based ceramicist, of Lolly Lolly Ceramics, embarked on a 100 Day Project, her personal challenge to design dozens of new handles for her monochromatic mugs.

The quick brown fox has retired

Via The Browser, a look into a font design process I hadn’t really considered before. If “typography is about the spaces between the letters as much as it is about the letters”, then a popular way of evaluating how well those letters and spaces work together is through the use of ‘pangrams’, sentences that contain each letter of the alphabet at least once. But perhaps the quick brown fox has had its day.

Text for proofing fontsFonts by Hoefler&Co.
The far more pernicious issue with pangrams, as a means for evaluating typefaces, is how poorly they portray what text actually looks like. Every language has a natural distribution of letters, from most to least common, English famously beginning with the E that accounts for one eighth of what we read, and ending with the Z that appears just once every 1,111 letters. Letter frequencies differ by language and by era — the J is ten times more popular in Dutch than English; biblical English unduly favors the H thanks to archaisms like thou and sayeth — but no language behaves the way pangrams do, with their forced distribution of exotics. Seven of the most visually awkward letters, the W, Y, V, K, X, J, and Z, are among the nine rarest in English, but pangrams force them into every sentence, guaranteeing that every paragraph will be riddled with holes. A typeface designer certainly can’t avoid accounting for these unruly characters, but there’s no reason that they should be disproportionately represented when evaluating how a typeface will perform.

In 2015, I dumped the pangrams we’d accumulated and rewrote our proofs from scratch, trading their wacky and self-satisfied cleverness for lists of words that are actually illustrative.

These lists of words, whilst not being as easy to memorise, are far more useful—to the professional typeface designer, at least. Here’s just a part of them.

[…] Linden linden loads for the ulna monolog of the consul menthol and shallot. Milliner milliner modal for the alumna solomon of the album custom and summon. Number number nodule for the unmade economic of the shotgun bison and tunnel. […]

It reminds me a little of lorem ipsum. I wonder if these new typefaces went through a similar process.

Times New Arial is a new experiment utilising the latest technology of variable fontsIt’s Nice That
With Times New Arial, the collaborators combine the visual extremes of both Times and Arial into one interpolated typeface. With new technological possibilities, the hybrid represents a new era of font usage, challenging the role of variable fonts in the present cultural scape. As well as being poster children for web typography, Times and Arial also represent progress and proxies within digital design. “We wanted to combine this conventional aesthetic with new technical possibility in order to revive and refine them, so in turn, we could experiment with them in our projects,” continues David.

Scunthorpe Sans 🗯🚫 profanity-blocking fontVole.wtf
A s*** font that f***ing censors bad language automatically. It’s able to detect the words f***, s***, p***, t***, w***, c*** and dozens more, but with a special exemption for “Scunthorpe”; that town has suffered enough.

Font Books – Turn your next font into your next read
Font Books is a collection of original typefaces designed to help people read and understand classic literature better.

LogofontsBehance
Often when we see a logo, a question arises: “which font was used?” In this project I did some research on the logos of some of the most famous brands, trying to understand which font they use or which have been modified to get to the final result. Follow Logofonts on Instagram.