Brunel’s Tunnel

Posted in design, events by solle on 22/09/2009

This weekend saw the launch of the Geek Atlas, a book by John Graham-Cumming at the Brunel Museum which also marked the occasion by opening up the grand entrance hall to the Thames Tunnel.

An impressive place and with a title like ‘the birth of the tube’ (worldwide) and modern tunnelling methods etc associated with it – it certainly felt like an important place to stand for a moment and reflect on a Saturday afternoon.

Thames Tunnel Grand Entrance Hall

To quote The Geek Atlas (in a nutshell):

“In 1843, the first tunnel passing under a body of water opened beneath the Thames River, between Rotherhithe and Wapping in London. The tunnel was built by Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It opened as a pedestrian tunnel featuring underground shops and entertainment, but within 30 years it had been purchased by a railway company and to this day is used to run trains.”

Thames Tunnel Grand Entrance Hall

Here’s a (v brief) calendar of the more interesting events (to know more stroll along the river and visit yourself – the book is only a fiver):

1825: Brick tower is sunk below the ground (Marc Brunel innovates the concept of building above ground and then sinking the construction) and boring begins

1827: Early example of public relations – a celebration banquet is held in the tunnel and they sing Rule Britannia and See the Conquering Hero Comes while the uniformed Coldstream Guards deafen everyone.

1828: Illness, death and then tunnel bricked up due to end of funding.

1834: Funding secured

1835: Tunnelling restarts

1838: Fifth major flood

1841: Tunnel reaches Wapping

1843: Thames Tunnel opened to pedestrian traffic and shops

1852: (financiers looking for more return on their buck) first fancy fair opens

1865: Tunnel handed over to East London Railway

1869: First passenger train travels through the tunnel

Thames Tunnel Entrance Hall

Children’s Menu

Posted in content, Data, design, forms by solle on 20/09/2009

Great children’s menu from Ask restaurants. Interactive (paper based), colourful (add your own), pictures (what does the food look like, inviting. I don’t mind if more menus were like this for everyone.

ask menu
ask menu


Posted in design, ideas, information architecture, UX by solle on 27/08/2009

My preferred list of sketchbooks readily available. There are many others but these are the ones I choose. Some better than others in terms of paper thickness, how they cope with ink, watercolour, glue, Selulotape, 2B pencil etc

Try a few out – you really can’t have enough sketchbooks, in fact I’ve started collecting them.

Seawhite of Brighton renowned for their well made hard backed sketchbooks – readily available

(Pity about their appalling website.)

A post like this obviously couldn’t possibly be complete without mention of Konigi’s Wireframe Sketchbook


Quite a bit of sketchbook porn at Fabriano

I can vouch for the quality – maybe something for the weekend 😉

Muji is always reliable in offering affordable and plenty of choice.

teNeues Slim Journals are a pleasant edition to the Moleskine-type notebook – cheaper too, if you can find them. (I got mine in a bookshop in Crystal Palace.)


Pencils Sketchbook from We Are Family is very sweet – I got mine at the ICA in the Mall


I also have a fondness for Chartwell Survey Stationary. Great for organising your boxes and arrows in all weathers. Available here


Action Book from Behance Outfiltter. Plenty of other stuff to choose from.

action book

Rhodia offer good selection. I like the rise and fall variety.

Loads to choose from at the Design Museum Shop (and a good place to get your ODW (see below).

Other worthy mentions include this pocket calendar sketchbook and these two blog posts Sketching Tools and Piggyback Post: Sketching Tools

and no post on the subject of sketchbooks would be complete without mention of the Original Designers Workbook (ODW) – a great way to start any new project – and of course the Moleskine range

What a grid day

Posted in design, ideas, information architecture, UX by solle on 10/06/2009

Yesterday was an excellent grid day. I discovered an excellent blog from Vladimir Carrer with a host of ideas around grids and layouts and handling typography – this one especially O rule + golden proportion for calculating the gutter in the grid

Carrer web log

and then remembered this indescribably good roundup of grid tools and resources by Fuel Your Creativity Grid Based Design Toolbox.

Grid Based Design Toolbox

Combine these two resources with The Grid System and inspiration like Information Architects and Mark Boulton Design and you should never find yourself stuck again.

Also check out this beta of the new Information Architects’ site

Further resource: 960 Grid System, Grid Systems – Making grids in Illustrator, The 1kb Grid System, Grid System Generator, Prototyping With The Grid 960 CSS Framework

Safari 4.0: better looking in beta

Posted in content, design, information architecture, UX by solle on 09/06/2009

After downloading Safari 4, I am disappointed to see Apple not stick with some of the tab ideas they had in the Safari 4 beta. What they’ve returned to I find muddled and confusing. In the beta the tabs were above the address bar and this seemed quite radical for a number of people. I found it refreshing and ‘open’ – the pulling of tabs into new windows was clear and straightforward and the tools/arrows/buttons for adding a new tab, viewing the rest of your open tabs and viewing any other bookmarks in the bookmark bar were clearly positioned (see below). The beta, like Firefox, really felt like a ‘tool set’ rather than just a browser.

Now in the released version the tabs have come back to the traditional position and the position of the tools/arrows/buttons for adding a new tab, viewing the rest of your open tabs and viewing any other bookmarks in the bookmark bar are now close together, two with identical icon and, my small amount of testing, encourage mis-selection and confusion. And pulling a tab out into a window is not clear at all.

It would be interesting to know what occurred during any testing for Apple to step back from the some of the innovations of the beta.

Safari 4

Safari 4

Safari 4 beta

Safari 4 beta

CV format – is it broken? Does it need fixing

Posted in content, design, forms, ideas by solle on 27/05/2009

Recently I have been playing around with my CV frustrated with the standard format. I have tried out various ideas including a persona style and one based on a grid but am still scratching my chin not quite sure if I have solved a problem that as one recruiter recently offered maybe ‘doesn’t need fixing’.

There is no doubt that a growing number of design types (especially those more at the beginning and development of careers – where ultimately a strong CV is most relevant) have realised that they have got to increase chances of being ‘noticed’ whatever it might be for and the starting point is obviously been to visually enhance their CVs.

various CV examples

The conversation has picked up with the growing interest and spread of infographics. Fine examples are Michael Anderson’s and Greg Dizzia’s. Web Designer Depot added to the discussion with a recent post 30 Artistic and Creative Résumés that garned plenty of discussion regarding readability and inappropriateness of overkill design – ‘a CV is meant to be a document not a poster’ ‘a CV is meant to convey information… your portfolio is for showing off your creativity’. And as one creative director writes quite scathingly ‘I mostly ignore these types of vanity projects when I get them. They look like some school assignment. I want to know about you in 5 seconds. And, that comes from the text.’

There’s no doubt that hiring folk when looking through CVs look for well organised and easily skimmable documents that a decision can be quickly made on.

So what to do? How do you create a balance?

The discussion has also started to appear on Twitter where some good ideas have cropped up such as Bob van Vliet and Clement Boutignon’s innovative use of Daytum.

My advice is pull out a grid and ensure that the written words describing your successes, experiences and deeds are easily readable. If you feel you can add some visual accoutrement to it without obscuring the main information then go ahead though a good barometer is to get as much feedback as you can from recruiters and HR professionals. Some will love innovation, some will be more than non plussed.

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