Digital facade

September 6, 2009

Adam Greenfield (or @agpublic) spoke at dConstruct 2009 on Friday about Networked Urbanism (which was great) and mentioned a developing trend for architects to put digital skins on buildings. I’d seen some of this kind of thing in Tokyo last time I visited and it’s an interesting idea. So I’ve been having a look around and found some amazing examples on realities:united website. They describe themselves as a studio for art, architecture and technology.

They’re latest work is Crystal Mesh which is on a building in Singapore. They say ‘ILUMA “Urban Entertainment Centre” building the ability to dynamically express itself and to dynamically react to changing activities within and to the urban surrounding. The installation, which is identical with the building skin aims to extend the architecture and the building’s inner activities. Thus it does not represent a defined screen nor does it aim at the broadcasting of conventional (TV style) content.

It looks awesome!

So far most of the examples I’ve found are essentially large, permanent art installations. This could get really interesting though when the digital skin starts to react to the building or local environment through the use of sensors, that would really make buildings blend into their surroundings and almost feel organic. Having buildings which could interact with each other would be cool.

Here’s another crazy example from realities:united on the Kunsthaus Graz art museum in Graz, Austria. Amazing building with an amazing facade.

Kunsthaus Graz art museum

Kunsthaus Graz art museum

This article on Wired talks about the increasing trend for tech companies to produce new products quickly and with fewer features. They say this is due to a demand from consumers to get access to new technology early and they’re willing to relinquish features in order to achieve that.

While the article is about tangible tech products this applies equally to the online world of web design and development. Too often I see companies striving to release the perfect, polished web site, app or piece of functionality and by the time it’s released into the wild it’s either no longer groundbreaking or it’s been done by someone else already. Being agile is important, iterating quickly and releasing early versions as soon as they offer value to users is the way to go particularly for e-commerce businesses. Amazon does this well, through a combination of an agile mindset and the great set of multivariate testing tools it has at its disposal. Get features to market quickly, test their effectiveness (really important) and iterate their development. Good enough really is ‘Good Enough’ if it’s adding value for your audience and making you more money. I can think of a few industries who could really do with adopting this mindset…

I love design; from the minimal to the quirky, everything about it makes me happy, particularly the lines used and the use of space to define and complement design features. I also love architecture; it’s my dream to design my own home, using modern materials and methods to create a living space that’s truly unique. I also love Japan; I’ve been there twice, I long to go back, it’s probably the country where I’ve felt most at ease in all my travelling.

So I was delighted to stumble across the website of a Japanese architectural design firm today which displays examples of their designs and work within Japan. I think some of the structures are incredible and they tick all my boxes for something attractive, functional, modern and breathtaking. They’re so good I thought I’d share! A few example images from their site are below. Visit the Suppose Design Office website to see many more.

Amazing minimal exterior of this house

Amazing minimal exterior of this house

Another cool exterior shot

Another cool exterior shot

Beautiful glass sided building

Beautiful glass sided building

This is actually a house

This is actually a house

Another amazing house design

Another amazing house design

They do interiors too, just check out their website. Seeing the huge range of works undertaken by just this one agency makes me think Grand Designs is not as cutting edge as I used to believe (although I do love that program)…

The Google homepage rarely changes in anyway except for their tradition of adding themed logo’s to go with the season, holiday or event. Japan though has had a treat and the homepage of

The new design is not available in every location (I can’t see it) but it looks much better with the addition of tabs (see below).

It really would be nice to see a redesign of the main Google homepage, I’m sure with all the services they offer it is about time they offered a better way for them to be accessed from The tabbed design would allow them to make their services more prominent while keeping them easy to access.

BBC’s new homepage

February 29, 2008

The BBC have launched their much blogged about, widget based, drag & drop homepage this week.

I gave it a once over while still in beta and my opinion hasn’t changed. I love it!

It’s a fantastic design job and so easy to use. It’s obviously had a usability agency all over it to ensure it meets the needs of as many users as possible too.

Here’s an amusing look at the web back in 1996, the year I started designing myself. I would provide links back to some of the sites I built using the internet archive but sadly all have so many broken links they aren’t worth viewing. I’ll post up anonymised screenshots of a range of sites I’ve built another day…

If only web design was still so simple :-)

Innovative design

January 7, 2008

I love design and I’m not just talking web. In this article from Smashing Magazine they’ve listed some of the most interesting and futuristic designs that may (or may not) be used for devices and the like in the coming year.

I particularly like this as an example of a really cool design for a CD player:

BBC widgetizes its homepage

December 14, 2007

The BBC have released a beta of their homepage featuring Netvibe/Google’esque personal homepage features and loads of AJAX.

I like it. Very clean, well laid out, intuitive to navigate, the AJAX drag and drop is really easy to use. It’s very web 2.0 in looks though and they may have taken that style a little too far but it is a vast improvement and looks extremely usable. Good job BBC!

Drawter is great! Just found this gem of a site and it’s already come in useful.

Now I’m a hand coder of HTML, have been for 12 years, so perfectly happy creating HTML and CSS in a text editor. Sometimes though I just want to do something simple and quickly and that’s where Drawter helps.

It allows you to create basic HTML layouts using CSS really quickly by drawing out the elements you want and then generating the code.

Highly recommend you have a play. Obviously it’s great for beginners too as you can see the layout and then relate the code back to it (a good way to learn).

I had a good read of the new specification for HTML 5 last night. It’s supposed to break us free from the constraints of HTML 4 and the browsers (at least it will allow browser manufacturers to take things one step forwards). HTML 5 introduces a lot of interesting new features such as semantics, API compatibility, improved form controls and more. Some of the simplified mark-up should also make barriers to entry much lower, I also believe that the creators of WYSIWYG tools will find it much easier to create new web based tools to create sites based on HTML 5 due to the simplification of the document.

Rather than write a full review I suggest you go and read the write up from A List Apart here.


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