for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity – offers real food for thought

I go to loads of events, conferences and talks, and although I always have the best intentions I very rarely get round to writing up my notes for you to enjoy. This time however the talk I went to this evening was so amazing it would be wrong not to share! The event was at the RSA to honour Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of the truly incredible Architecture for Humanity, with the RSA 2009 Bicentenary Medal.

I’ve been a fan of the non-profit design organization for a while now, ever since I learned about their tsunami relief project (thanks to Design Museum’s Designer of the Year competition) and love getting their newsletters and wishing I was clever enough to enter their design competitions, but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see Sinclair in action – and I think I love him!

The video gives you a pretty good overview of the way the organization works, and is definitely worth watching – but it was the content of his talk that was even more powerful. Here are my jumbled notes, I hope they make some sense and give a bit of an insight what was a truly eye-opening and inspirational hour it was, and I highly recommend you watch the video when it’s up on the RSA site (probably in a week or so)

– Architecture for Humanity has helped somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people so far

– It is a decentralised network of people using their architectural skills to make a difference – 72 local chapters 5383 volunteers – they were surprised to find that the majority are licensed architects (67%) [ie not students], 62% are female, average age is 32 years, 15% are British, and there’s a 50/50 split between those from developed and developing countries

– Aftermath of Katrina was ‘criminal neglect from US government’

– ‘don’t just be the change – be the bank’ – allow people access to funds directly
Lots of the African Americans in New Orleans owned their houses outright (had been passed down through generations) so didn’t have mortgage = didn’t have credit rating, so got nothing to rebuild

– A4H created a library of skills for/ with residents – swapping practical skills – invisible economy coming up to help each other. They found that lots of architects were turning up just to get involved and help rebuild the community

if you don’t build it it doesn’t exist – you can’t just design it you have to build it

– One graphic design student converted 70 pages of government policy into a one page visualisation – this was so powerful for the government A4H managed to force change in policy

– Needed to create homes to be sustainable – to help the families afford the insurance and the energy bills- being sustainable as a way to create equity

– There are 4bn people in emerging middle class – spending money on healthcare, improving homes and education

– In this century we’re going to double the number of structures on this earth – it’s  pretty exciting time to be an architect

– Creative commons architectural ideas – 21000 people involved so far

– A4H ran a competition to design a classroom for the future – connecting with local schools – teachers and students being part of the design team – creating site specific ideas. 1000 teams entered from 65 nations, 250 schools got new designs

– some recent projects: Skatistan, Plastiki, The Homeless World Cup in Brazil

– some brilliant points:

  • It’s better to be the tugboat than the oiltanker – we can move much faster with the ebb and flow
  • It’s better to have 5billion clients than 50
  • Culture is an aspect of sustainability – everything is local – people interpret religion, community in diff ways
  • A strong society creates strong economy
  • There is no such thing as the 3rd world
  • Your client is your design expert
  • Ethics is aesthetics
  • We build communities not destinations
  • Instigate the no asshole policy – don’t work with them, don’t take money from them, don’t hire them

Filed under: collaborative working, creative ideas, good, Uncategorized, , , , ,

And i’m back…

Apologies for the serious lack of posting, I took a hiatus from blogging but have decided it is time to return!

I have seen and done so much amazing stuff over the last 8 months that I don’t even know where to begin, so for now will just offer one awesome thing I discovered today, together with a promise to fill in the blanks as much as possible… and post much more regularly from now on!

– everyone needs awesomeness like this:

An Awesome book

An Awesome book

Based on the simple concept of dreaming big, “An Awesome Book” is the inspiring debut work of Los Angeles writer/artist Dallas Clayton. Written in the vein of classic tales by Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak it is a sure hit for all generations young and old.

more Awesomeness

Dallas initially wrote the story for his son, but when other people showed an interest he decided to produce and sell the book himself and its popularity has led him to tour around the US reading it to as many kids as possible with the explicit aim of giving away one book for every one sold.

Watch this video of his experience creating and selling the book, and how incredulous he finds this sudden success of something made purely out of love – that really is awesome! (sorry, it won’t embed for some reason!)

(via booooooom)

Filed under: products with a purpose, search this out, Uncategorized,

Coraline: so much more than 3D

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while so whilst I’m in the confessing mood I really should announce how excited I am about Coraline, the new movie from the ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ director, Henry Selick. Everything about the 3D stop-motion film looks amazing – from the brilliant puppetry to the fifty fantastical sets, all painstakingly made by hand utilising crafts and skills that are rarely promoted these days. The talent is astounding, with over 250 technicians and designers involved, including people like Althea Crome who knits in miniature and created all the clothes used on the puppets, at some points using knitting needles that are “almost the dimension of a human hair”. And that’s before we even get on to the story itself, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, which sounds like a thrilling alternate-reality fantasy horror- the type that engages the imaginations of all ages.

coraline website

The website with its eerily beautiful music is an adventure of its own, full of engaging behind-the-scenes content, fascinating videos about the skills involved in the film, downloadable posters, and interactive activities such as ‘Button your eyes’ that are a pleasure to use.


Even better, all of the film’s marketing was just as carefully and creatively thought out and included the sending of 50 handmade boxes to select – and very lucky – bloggers (including the guys at Coolhunting, BoingBoing, and NotCot), that were filled with sections of the screenplay, a selection of props and exclusive corresponding stills from shooting – plus personalised letters relevant to each blog.

coraline box

coraline box2

coraline box3

(Notcot has a great post with images of almost all 50 boxes here)

And then there are the Nike Coraline Dunks – two differently packaged, specially designed ranges including the 100 pairs in the Movie Props edition given to streetwear bloggers such as freshnessmag, and the even more exclusive Wooden Box Edition of which only 15 pairs were produced, packaged in a special key-locked wooden box, and given to the world’s best sneaker boutiques.

coraline dunks

The clip below shows a brief overview of the marketing strategy employed, all of which is pretty darn impressive, so big props to a fantastic campaign by Wieden+Kennedy:

The film is apparently not released in the UK till May 5th (boo), but there’s plenty of content around to keep you intrigued for now…


I realise I forgot to include this great video about the making of the movie. Enjoy

Filed under: clever promotion, entertainment

I <3 Siftables

I’m a HUGE fan of this idea from MIT grad student David Merrill and really hope these go into production soon. I tweeted a link to this the other week but have only just come across the video of his presentation at TED earlier this month. No point me explaining more- just watch the video below or here, or read more about the project here

Vodpod videos no longer available.

David’s last thought at the end of his presentation: “My passion is for making new human computer interfaces that are a better match to the ways our brains and bodies work… We are on the cusp of this new generation of tools for interacting with digital media, that are going to bring information into our world, on our terms”

Filed under: talent worth watching, technology, Uncategorized, visions of the future

Desperate times call for extreme measures…


Filed under: ads that caught my eye

Crisis takes homelessness to the streets


This is a fantastic piece of advertising – simple, hard hitting, and perfectly positioned. Just goes to show that you don’t need to spend loads on building apps and viral games to get your message across. The cheaper the campaign, the more money the charity has to actually do good.

Crisis is taking advantage of the freezing conditions with a short ad campaign to drive home the message that  rough sleeping is not acceptable in the UK in the 21st century.

Donations from the campaign will help Crisis to deliver its year round services, helping people off the streets with education, links to vital services, housing and employment

Having helped out at the Crisis Christmas shelter this is a charity close to my heart, and one that I hope people will support both financially and vocally – find out more at and add your name to the petition to put rough sleeping to bed for good

Filed under: clever promotion, good,

Inventive fun in the snow

snow fun3

Alongside the snowboards and expensive looking sledges, makeshift toboggans seen in Primrose hill today included: pizza boxes, road signs, ironing boards, inflatable mattresses, paddling pools, lilos, and even a toilet seat! We were very kindly offered the use of some bin liners, which was a much better option than removing the very last marking on the surrounding roadworks!

snow fun1

snow fun2

snow fun4

Filed under: stuff, ,

Little Chef gets a mighty makeover

little chef

I knew Heston was giving the Little Chef menu a revamp, but I had no idea they also had the fantastic Ab Rogers design in for a complete overhaul. Created for a Channel 4 documentary ‘Big Chef Takes on Little Chef‘ as part of the broadcaster’s hefty season of British food programs, the newly designed Popham restaurant (somewhere near Basingstoke apparently) opened it’s doors in November, but these are the first pictures i’ve come across.

little chef2

Not only does it look fun, light and welcoming, but extra attention has been paid to the toilets to encourage drivers who are just stopping off to use the facilities to stay for some food. From the press release:

The new scheme incorporates a unique and unforgettable experience: Cooking tips screen-printed on the walls, the ambient sounds of the kitchen in the lobby, the aroma of coffee passing through the space, and an interactive extract sound, all about food, which triggers when the customer enters the toilets.

Even though that does just sound like more marketing, at least it would make your motorway stop more enjoyable – and informative, and if Heston’s worked his magic then it’ll probably be a meal worth pulling over for anyway.

images via dezeen

Filed under: brand extensions, entertainment, food n drink,


textronicsAccording to my sources Adidas international have just aquired Textronics, a leader in the development of wearable textile sensors – in particular heart-monitoring sportswear which is sold under the brand name NuMetrex. The purchase may be an indicator that the sportwear market is ready for wearable monitoring to go mainstream, and Adidas may be the first ones to do it…

Filed under: brand extensions, industry news, products with a purpose, ,


pink things

These amazing pictures are part of an ongoing series by Korean artist JeongMee Yoon, who since 2005 has been photographing girls and boys around the world surrounded by the pink and blue items they own as the topic for a thesis on gender sterotypes and global consumption. I’m pretty late to the party as the project has been in the press a fair bit, however it’s definitely still worth a mention – both for the subject and for the beauty of the images themselves. Currently on display in NYC, 2009 will see an exhibition of the images touring Beijing, several galleries in California, and the artist’s native Seoul.

blue stuff

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: arts & culture, worth seeing,