Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

3 Types of BOO!

It’s September 1973, in Paris. You’re on a connection to catch the Orient Express.

What sound does that train make?

Paul Theroux described it as frseeeeeefronnnng.

Not “woosh”. Not “choo-choo!” It’s 1973. Real trains are noisy. But peer into print and it’s a quiet affair. The letters sit in orderly lines in their allocated pages. Not a boo to a goose. Just the odd capital, hat jutting above the crowd.

BOO! Three types of print noise.

1. The Sneak

Typical of advertising, because he knows he’s unpopular. He’s probably intruding on your conversation, so he has to do it with finesse or you’ll like him even less. As this sneak looks Brazilian it’s unsurprising that he delivers a fun “BOO!”

2. The Group BOO!

A book cover chorus here – created by Larry Guess using designs by Barnbrook. There are good nights to be had late at the V&A. And when groups worked together they could bring the noise. Ampliflied.


The anti-social BOO! Disturbs you so much you can’t remember what you were thinking, let alone make sense of the words on the page.

Not fun for you. Maybe a photo opp for someone else.

But that’s not what you want. You want a pleasant surprise. And typographers can give you that whenever they get the the sound, and the timing, just right.

On the same train of thought – The Godfather of Sans: James Brown; Test Your Type Knowledge: The Serif; Expert Ear on Wrong Noise: Leland Maschmeyer.

Hiding in Your Machine

Not a bad job, really. Small office – but one whole wall for a window. Wow.

What are the tips like?

Wait a second… It’s just an ad. And from a company that speaks in German. Well that’s another opportunity lost.

Luckily for everyone in the first world, it’s easy to get a bad job. The trick is keeping it.

It’s harder to get hold of a good job. And when you do it might take hold of you. Pressing more buttons and a kicking when you don’t produce. Without regular oiling, it can make you click into machine mode to protect yourself.

Not in Japan. To evade assailants and superiors you can dress up as machine and stay safe. Although it would involve hours of standing still.

Best way to stay unspotted in the metropolis. But too much robot and no progress. Shame we do it most when there’s greatest pressure. Greatest sense of danger, in public or private.

You can switch off and relax.

In Japan, crime rates are getting lower. The average age is getting higher. You’ll live, even if you’re a cyborg. You can get a job in a vending machine if it gets too much.

While we’re on that – milk two, please. Anyone else want a cup?

Mystery on Isle of Dogs

There were suspiciously few dogs on the so-called “Isle of Dogs” last weekend. And I only hope to dear God my camera read this wrong.

Must have blinked and missed a word. Either way, there are absent pieces in this sordid puzzle.

Meanwhile downtown, a White Horse has gone missing. He left this eloquent note to explain his absence:

Phew. No need to fear animal disposal this time. “Kick up the arse” sounds horsey enough to me, too. It can’t be some shadow-written sham.

Two valuable lessons in animal conversation.

1. You’ve got to watch which words you miss out. Or you’ll be misread between the lines.

2. It’s best to be clear and direct. Especially if you’ve got nothing to hide and something relevant to say.

Previously: talking to chihuahuas. Seriously: Chris Wilson’s Human Talk. Sincerely: responses to bad, automated humanspeak.

Staring Down on Stilts

As they say in Australia. That’s round the other side of the Earth from me right now. Hello from space stilts!

You could send a satellited message like the one above with geoGreeting. It peers down from Google Maps to spell things out with letter-shaped buildings.

Neat, huh?

But there’s a blinking frost about the astro cyclops. We want more freedom to play, less unsolicited surveillance.

Melanie Coles ran free and got drawing on the Earth over in Vancouver. Now we can do find and seek with the satellites instead. Suddenly they seem more friendly.

(via Neil Perkin . Thanks, Neil. I hope you don’t mind this friendly reference.)

The Canadian art student challenges you to Where’s Waldo using a rooftop and Google Maps. Puts a whole different perspective on geotagging. Paint your tag on buildings instead.

But you’re reading this online. I expect you won’t go square-eyed and anti-social working with pixels.

So let me ask you – do you upload pictures to Flickr? Flickr does geotagging. There’s been geotagging for years – and on a lot of photos. Put those photos together and we’re getting something approaching an Earth-sized 3D digital map.

If this is beginning to sound like alienspeak, I refer you to a far brighter earthling.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas gave the world a glimpse of Photosynth last year at TED. I had to rub my eyes.

Hold tight to to your stilts. Then be sure you watch this. We’re gazing into a distant future. But it’s not light years away, my friend.

Le Cool Book Launch

Mat Osman has been bouncing around the London playpen hard the last few months.

And next month Le Cool’s Weird and Wonderful look at the city will emerge victorious from the ring.

It’s the latest in a line of beautifully designed and insightfully composed European city guides. I’ve contributed a couple of pages on Latin American London, but my friends at Jungle Drums could offer you a lot more on that tip.

Cheapskates will be pleased to know you can still subscribe to Le Cool’s free weekly listings.

It’s how they got big (who doesn’t like free?). And you’ll get shorter, savvier selections there than anywhere else.


While we’re talking free, here’s a bonus selection of heavyweight web magazines: Dork, Flavorpill, Pitchfork.

Some print magazines have boxed clever online, some haven’t. But online startups have tended to take the front foot. More and more it’s making it a case of online first, print second (if at all).

Viral blogs like Stuff White People Like – and Le Cool itself – are simply the latest heirs to the dying print dollar.

At Home with Blood on the Tracks

Some things scare the waking shit out of commuters.

Improv Everywhere do lots of those things, including this recent stunt in Prague.

Transplant a living room onto the rush hour subway and something happens. Groggy bystanders get a little less comfortable. You’ve broken down the cosy, walled-in world of iPod shuffling and free paper flicking.

Do I want a free paper? No thanks. But chances are I’ll have to sit on one when I next board a tube in London.

The Decapitator has been lopping free papers off at the head to help save your ass. David Beckham and Motorola get the treatment here and, once again, commuters get a loud wake up call. (Thanks to Giles for the link.)

So, I put it to you: are we too headless on the underground?

What can we do to change it?

Gulliver’s Headphones

Audrey is a little retro princess of delicious feeling. Thanks go to her for finding these speaker treats.

Keeping it brief – because you’d rather be listening to music properly than reading about it – I was reminded of something else spotted recently. If we’re getting goofy with musical equipment, what’s in it for the DJ?

Some smart design here by handset specialist Hulger. I love this 80s phone as mixing earpiece. When keeping it analogue, why not go for the home run?

It isn’t, after all, rule by iPod. But when you live in Steve Jobs’ kingdom you might as well live large.

Or else pretend you live in the past instead.

Kids Man Speed Cameras?


Are you talking to me? But I don’t even have a car.

I might have been on a speeding bus once, but that can’t have been in London. Frankly, I think your assumptions are questionable.

Furthermore, the images on your poster suggest that if I get caught speeding, it would be as if a kid were taking footage. Does the court of law recognise such amateurish evidence?

When I took pictures as a primary school kid they were normally of my friends or the TV screen to see if the photo came out like it looked on the TV screen. For the record, it didn’t. But I’m digressing.

Can I counter-accuse you of badvertising? It would be a shame to do so. Because M&C Saatchi’s TV spot for this campaign is pretty good and it’s a serious issue we’re talking about.

What do you think? I reckon the earlier poster with the steering wheel worked, but this one’s got a bit confused.

Dodge Ads on a Segway

Chances are you’re bored of Facebook. It was too easy. You just studied the hip cats and robbed their essence of cool.

But the fraud was too successful. It rained spam. Everyone wanted a piece of you. People you barely knew were firing sawn-off Super Pokes from all angles.

Marketers caught up and brands wanted their own weapons. The best marketers started making useful applications for Facebook and MySpace (Paul Isakson is worth a read on this). But people were already migrating to Twitter to get out of the cross-fire.

Now you can search Twitter posts with Tweet Scan. That could be exciting for you. You might want to find other friends who are “bored”, “happy” or “bored”. Maybe?

But Paul Chaney has identified a sinister angle to this story. By using Tweet Scan, ad men can target the flock according to their mood. And that’s their mood as they’ve stated it. Live.

There’s only one solution: escape on a Segway.

That’s right. The Segway. You can speed to social victory on a Segway.

There was a lot of flapping about the Segway. There’s a lot flapping about social networking. Segway made their own social site for Segway users. Wow. You can almost hear the tumbleweeds rolling in cyberspace.

But we can hijack these empty brand spaces. Why the hell not? Flip it around. Take it to the advertisers. Let’s get social with a Segway. At least we’ll only be harassed by Segway in the process.

That’s not too bad, if you think about it.

Segway was, and is, after all, the future.

Words in put order your own

Saturday’s a good day to read a comic strip. If you still buy newspapers you’ll find some comic strips in the Saturday edition. And you’ve got the internet, right?


Two good legs? A pad and a pen? A wall you can cover in crayon?

Whatever your means, you could spend a Saturday afternoon at the London Cartoon Museum and draw a lot from it.

I came away with punitis, a copy of a graphic novel by Joe Matt (featured above) and the first scribbles of an idea.

A great comic strip, or graphic novel, engages a reader across two media. And with that effort of interaction, in joining the co-ordinates to “get it”, the reader becomes more involved.

When readers became gamers the interaction got steroid-pumped. Now you are the character. The story is a game and you play out the next move. The new GTA features Ricky Gervais. When you’re interacting with a celebrity fat man in a story of your own making, you know you’re having fun.

This puts completely new demands on classic storytelling, and I’m very impressed with work going on at Penguin right now. The idea comes from nonlinearity and uses the language of digital technology.

We Tell Stories (found at Boing Boing) is a project that embraces interaction. I would explain more, but you could go there and turn it into a better story yourself.

You can’t leave storytelling alone. I know I can’t leave storytelling alone. I’m already itching at the prospect of working with London Poetry Systems on an interactive poetry night next month. (Don’t worry – the words will be a lot better than these. I’m just playing around with videos on a wall).

But remember this: no one ever stopped you interacting with the humble comic strip. You can still have a good play with it. You just need to find new ways.