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, , , , ,

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,

104 Art Suites





104 Art Suites is Bogota’s first ‘hotel-boutique’, offering rooms uniquely decorated by a group of young Colombian artists. Under the direction of architect Alejandro Castaño Converse, each of the hotel’s suites has been designed by a different artist, encompassing the realms of painting, photography, and graffiti. The transformation is aimed at encouraging visitors to experience the enjoyment of living with art.

via lostateminor

Filed under: arts & culture,

Droog Dinner Delight

Img_1531For anyone who will be in Amsterdam on Monday 18th December- Droog Design are holding their annual dinner for 40-45 lucky people who can get their hands on tickets. Once again the concept for the dinner will be produced by food designer Marije Vogelzang (last year the amazing meal took place inside the tablecloth- see pic)- but the ideas for this year be a surprise until the night. Check back after the 18th for news from the event.

If you can’t make it for the evening, be sure to check out Marije’s amazing Proef restaurants in Amsterdam and Rotterdam where many of her amazing ideas are put into practice. If you’re really lucky you might be able to catch a workshop


Filed under: arts & culture, food n drink,


The Truman Brewery was bursting with creative talent for London Design Week last weekend. From 100% East, Talentzone, In Production, (re) Design, and Design Mais, we felt exhausted by the huge amount of work on display. It was almost a relief to be told that we couldn’t go into the too-full New Designers Selection exhibition!

There was a great array of ideas on show, mostly from graduate designers and young design companies, showing a wealth of products- the main recurrent themes of which seemed to be the importance of creating honesty in materials; a continuation of the movement towards traditional crafts such as ceramics; adding an importance and beauty to products through hidden aspects of design; and unique space-saving designs, with humour playing an ever-important role.

As a brief round-up here are my favourite products from each show; items and designers that I think will be important to the future of product design-


Luis Eslava’s USB saint, called ‘Oh Maria Keep my Data Safe’- a religious icon as memory stick which poses the idea of computers being the new religion

Img_0742Giles Miller’s fluted corrugated cardboard laptop case, which ‘gives you the chance to show the world that you care about sustainable design’.


Ali Cayless’ Rememberance Sideboard, with a series of secret openings and ‘hidden surpsrises’ such as personalised felt designs on the inside, drawing on the idea of childhood exitement and posessional values.

Img_0748Emiko Oki’s Salty Bell brings fun to the dinner table by taking a glass bell and adding holes along the rim to create a salt or pepper shaker which you ring for seasoning!
Her Trophy Tableware set is also an ingenious use of design- a set of simple stylish crockery that stacks together to create a trophy. Her pieces aim to ‘add to the dining experience, and to function aesthetically whilst not in use’

Talent Zone, a specially selected showcase of the best UK design graduates-

-Kathryn Hennesy’s take on garden gnomes- recreating the ceramic figurines holding machine guns, shows a subversive twist on an English classic


Tomasz Donocik’s ‘A Hero of Our Time’ horsehair and gold horsehead jewellery pieces for men were disturbingly beautiful

Img_0763Angel Ha’s interactive ceramics seen in her ‘Peel to Reveal’ crockery, envite you to rub the surface to remove top layer and reveal a different world of design underneath


Ernie Bakker’s Spira table is based on the old-style giant spiragraph sets- placed on top of a tablecloth, where the coaster, placemat and food stand all interact to provide artistic entertainment during your meal.


Shiv Kumar’s elegant table plays with the idea hidden beauty and peeling away the wood to reveal hidden colour.

In Production– exhibition curated by trend consultancy The Future Laboratory showcasing their selection of the best of contemporary British design in production, cleverly displayed as a peep-show

-Paint By Numbers Wallpaper by Jenny Wilkinson has already been lauded as a design classic

Timorous_beastiesTimorous Beasties fabrics- having won numerous design awards for their depiction of contemporary images on traditional textiles such as their Glasgow and London toiles, this textile design company is going from strength to strength


– ‘Lady Lush’ blown glass decanters by Romy Westwood look at British manufacturing traditions, challenging the idea of ornamental and functional objects.


– ‘Else’ leather benches by Julia Lohmann are made of a single cowhide and shaped to represent a cow, exploring the threshold between animal and material


-‘Villosus’ porcelain andhorsehair vases, and ‘Candle 1’ all wax candle and candelabra by Fredrikson Stallard. The company describe their pieces as “Fairy tales for grown ups; combining simple surface narratives with underlying themes of opulent and sensual darkness.”

Design Mais, curated by Max Fraser, was showcasing the best of Portuguese design and production collaborations. A clever way of attracting attention to the manufacturers as well as the designers, pieces displayed information from both.


-‘Soho’ multi-design chest of drawers by Pedro Sonsa, produced by Menina Design

-‘Miss Moon’ White Armchairs produced by Truffa for Sensicasa, pained pink underneath to produce a coloured glow

-‘Homesick Kit’ suitcase by Lilia Borges, Helena Silva &Joao Loureiro, and produced by Li&Fung- a company that integrates textiles, ceramics and glass sectors

(re) Design exhibition looked at eco-design products from a range of companies who utilise ecological and ethical design paths. The brochure asks ‘Can gorgeous design also be good- for you, for others and for the environment?’. A mixture of new and slightly older design ideas, there were a couple of great ideas that looked at the efficient use of materials.

-8’ x 4’ by Richard Broom Designs, which creates a chair, coffee table, dining table and picture frame out of a single 8’ x 4’ ply sheet

-‘Reholstered’ by Space Oddity who had taken an old office chair and given it a new lease of life by attaching a handcrafted ash seat and back, playing with the ideas of man-made and machine mass-production.

-Book bookcase by Carpenter & Carpenter which uses second-hand books instead of wood to create a wall-mounted bookcase

-Big Crush by Studiomold, where  crushed plastic bottles are re-used and stacked into a tower to make a lamp


-Luggage Sofa by Love Me Twice who have taken an old suitcase and upholstered the inside to create a portable sofa!

Filed under: talent worth watching, , ,


Liberty has teamed up with design curator Max Fraser over London Design Week, and the result is Design UK: an exciting array of contemporary furniture and home accessories showcased in the stunning Tudor building of the department store. As a collection of pieces they range from the handmade, intricately decorative wallpapers of Catherine Hammerton, to the simplified functional lines of NaughtOne’s ‘trace table’, each piece making a unique statement and yet fitting together surprisingly harmoniously.

The feeling of the show was of the importance of both the artist and artisan, with many pieces exhibiting a true respect for material and production. Favourite examples are the witty ‘Perfect Crime’ cast concrete chair by Peter Woollin and Kate Staddon which is shown opposite the innovative hand crafted leather and wood chair byImg_0688 Helen Murray .

Text seems to be playing an increasingly important role in product design, illustrated best here by Tracy Kendall’s bespoke wallpaper which was laser-cut with paragraphs of words, turning walls into stories.

Decoration of mundane objects is a topic that many young designers are addressing, none better in this show than Laurie Dickason’s elegant sinewy switch decorations. Other impressive displays include Jess Shaw’s ‘Clarinet’ lighting and CJ O’Neill’s ‘Feeding Desire’ decorative plates pierced with words and images.

Favourite piece of the show however was ironically the only piece disguising its design to blend into its environment – the ‘Up and Over’ bookcase by Linden Davies, cleverly designed to make the books a real feature of the room by encasing the door frame. A refreshingly  unassuming product creating a beautiful and personal result.


Filed under: talent worth watching, ,