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Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Remarkable examples of beautiful and truly generous design are popping up all around the world. By generous, I mean places designed for people to use, enjoy and improve – at no cost and for no profit.  Here are five examples of which I am a big fan.

1. Copenhagen Harbour Baths, Denmark

I first visited the harbour baths when they opened in 2002. To this day I would still say that they are the single greatest example of generous and intelligent design anywhere in the world.  

The baths form part of Copenhagen harbour and are in water that only 15 years ago was so heavily polluted with sewage, algae, oil spills and industrial waste that it posed a tremendous health risk. Today, after extensive work on behalf of Copenhagen municipality, the water is clean for swimming and the harbour hosts five pools, two of which are for children, and three diving areas, catering for more than 600 people at any one time. On the bank, umbrellas and chairs have turned the area into a city centre beach. This is a remarkable area filled with leisure activities for all age groups.

 This is clearly not a PR stunt. This is magnificent generous design at work.  It has allowed people to colonise this once harbour area and make it one of the most popular spots in the city. I think it has been so successful and affective for four reasons:

1. It is different, edgy and it breaks the rules. Swimming in a harbour? With big ships? Open to hundreds of people at one time and unguarded diving boards! It is exciting and inviting and you know if you lived there you would have to have a go. 

2. The design is both beautiful and unique. Clearly, the function of a public bath would always be popular, but take a look it at. People cannot stop photographing it; social media pages and photo sites are filled with pictures taken from every angle. The look of it means people want to share their experience of being there and to talk about it.  Given nowadays many live by Twitter and Instagram, the baths do as good as any job in getting a place in front of people. Fantastic promotion.

3. It is not overly policed. The signs are ‘swim at your own risk’. You get to make your own decision. How liberating is that? Can you imagine this in a canal or somewhere in the UK? Health and safety alone would heavily alter it. Tight rules and restrictions are not part of the game here. Just enjoy yourselves.

4. It is free.  It’s genuinely for everyone. 

And, I should add, it cost just over £0.5m. It is staggering what can be achieved for what is, comparatively, an affordable amount for most cities. These baths have been so popular that another one just like them was opened at nearby Amager Strand Beach in January this year. This is place people want to copy. It is replicable because it works.  Just remarkable. 

2. Magdeburg Library, Germany 

Magdeburg, Germany, hosts an open air 24-hour free library. To do something so interesting in a city that is not a capital is really special. The rest of the story is even more interesting.

The industrial city was once part of East Germany and since reunification its city centre has had trouble recovering, with commercial vacancy rates approaching 80%. An extraordinary effort was made to create this open-air library after interest was expressed by residents, and it is remarkable that they pulled it off.

The library, designed by Karo architects, was initially assembled as a 1:1 scale made out of donated beer crates to demonstrate to potential supporters that the library could work. The community then raised enough money to build it. This is not just about an open-space library – it is also completely accessible to everyone. No registration is required. The 70,000 books available are borrowed on an honour system and it is staffed during the day by volunteers.

To do things like this, you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. And if you do, people will respond positively. In this case the benefit of being created by the community really works. The design and the place is so impressive and shows how simple it can be to offer something extraordinary to everyone.

3. Merida Youth Factory, Spain

The scale of this project in Spain is mind blowing. Described as ‘less a junky jungle gym and more a creative community centre’, the array of activities on offer is staggering, ranging from rock climbing to dancing. A skate park winds through the plazas connecting the buildings (almost all the ground is actually skateable), and there is a concert stage, lessons in street art lessons, circus training and, if you head indoors, music and dance.  And the whole place has Wi-Fi.  Have you ever seen anything like it?

This is such a draw for kids of all ages. The design is just brilliant – modern, vibrant and fresh. 
 
I am particularly enamoured with the approach towards skating. It really feels like it has been designed by people who know what skaters want. There are no assumptions and most importantly of all it is also not tucked away in a car park or somewhere the public cannot see. The message is that skating should be promoted, exposed and watched.  
 
Equally, it’s not just about skating. The activities are for all ages, interests and skills. The place itself is so colourful and open (designed inside out) it stops it turning into something shady or dangerous.  This is as good as it gets –  a purpose built modern version of a youth club.  

4. Stormwater pipes, India

This installation in India feels so right for the area it inhabits. Stormwater pipes are a common sight through cities in India. In Surat architect and designer urfun lab had an ingenious idea of covering one end of the pipes with coloured cellophane. When the evening sun filters through, beautiful and colourful patters are cast.  
 
It is an innovative and cheap way to create interesting design. The pipes are so visually exciting that people want to explore and create. It is as simple as it gets. 
 
Indians are often very good at upcycling and this is another example of that approach to improving something and giving it a whole new meaning.  It needs only the smallest budget – and some creative thinking. 

5. Blackpool Comedy Carpet, UK

Created by artist Gordon Young, and designed in collaboration with Why Not Associates, the Blackpool Comedy Carpet is a celebration of comedy on an extraordinary scale. Referring to the work of more than 1,000 comedians and comedy writers, the carpet gives visual form to jokes, songs and catchphrases dating from the early days of variety to the present. Sited in front of Blackpool Tower, the 2,200m2 work of art contains more than 160,000 granite letters embedded into concrete, pushing the boundaries of public art and typography to their limits.

A remarkable homage to those who have made the nation laugh, it is also a stage that celebrates entertainment itself.

More than anything else, I love how many mentions I have seen in the press. If there is one thing Blackpool needs, it is positive press. 
 
This is urban design and art in the landscape working together in a seamless and perfect fashion. It celebrates kitsch, history and modernity, and has something for all tastes.

Visitors love the Comedy Carpet and they cannot stop photographing it and talking about it. Just look it up on Twitter or flickr or Google images, it is staggering how many images you’ll see. Bingo – success. 

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This week I felt more proud to be a Rover than I have for quite a while. Blackburn Rovers released a video on YouTube to promote their new kit, that as well as showing that they are comprehending the modern media landscape produced a film that is brimming with wonderful self deprecating NE Lancashire humor. Its intelligently produced thriftily and celebrates a “local” and a local lifelong Rovers fan. It out Peter Kayes, Peter Kay. 

The ‪#‎BIRDYSDATE video is joyous, intelligent and a stroke of marketing genius. I’m proud that Rovers have adopted this light-hearted approach rather than the elitist and corporate attitude churned out by most high profile football clubs and their sponsors. The film went viral. 190,000 people viewed the video in less than 48 hours, a brilliant result and there is real potential value to be gleaned from this level of coverage. As is often the case, some people don’t get subtle humor and some just like to be negative, but its worrying that so many adults viewed the film as serious, rather than the spoof and comic gold that it certainly is. Anyone who views it as something else is daft. I can’t believe some of the comments online condemning this as an embarrassment for the club and I can’t believe how The Metro can employ such a thick journalist who wrote negatively about the film (obviously the Metro readers are not as stupid as the journalist as they rode to Rovers defense).

It could be a TV comedy show sketch, but the fact it’s a low budget, in-house production, using a season ticket holder as the star makes it all the more clever and humorous. This should be celebrated. Well done Rovers.

But then, my beloved Rovers you caved in, you took the video down and cowed down to to those who don’t get our humor and who don’t realise the value of intelligent, witty viral videos. Your brief foray into the modern world lasted 48 hours, you have, just temporarily I hope, lost your bottle. Just imagine if Channel 4 had pandered to all those southern critics who decried Peter Kay in his early days.

By Wayne Hemingway

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Renault Zoe 3

I bought a Toyota Prius back in 2003 when hybrids were still an experiment, and it’s been a great car (it’s still in the family and has done 200,000 as is still going strong).

A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a fully electric Renault Zoe on trial, to support a campaign called Go Ultra Low. Its aim is quite simply to encourage people to think about whether an ultra low emission vehicle could benefit their lifestyle.

I was happy to find out.

We spend part of the week in London and part in West Sussex. When in London we don’t use a car, and have shied away from buying a fully electric car for our house in West Sussex because of the distances we drive from there to visit family or ferry our youngest son to sports matches. The early fully electric cars had a too limited mileage between charges and were limited in size / boot space to make it work for us.

The Zoe, though, has the proportions of a standard car and we can get about 80 miles between charge, which just about does the job for what we need. You can get the range between charges up to around 100 miles if you drive carefully (the on-board computer helps you see how careful you are being) and an “eco” button which limits you to a max speed of 60 mph helps you to edge the range up further. The challenge of increasing the range by developing good habits, like driving slower and accelerating more mildly, is satisfying and definitely encourages this driver to be safer and more considerate.

Driving a whole journey in a silent car, then coming home and simply attaching the special charging unit from the wall next to our front door and hearing the charge “kick in” does all feel rather modern, and you certainly know that you are doing your bit for the environment; low emissions and energy consumption.

My gut feeling is that if “ultra low “ is going to cross over to the mass market then the cars must fit in with modern cars and not stand out as being too different. The Zoe gets this just about right. The dashboard is nice and minimal, the on-board computer does what you want it do (filming behind the car as you reverse, syncing easily with your phone, helping you to conserve battery power etc). There are nice little streamlining touches to minimise air flow such as the concealed door handles and the overall styling allows it to blend in.

The thing that does feel like “the future” here and now, for someone who thrift is a lifestyle, is the cost of a full charge: £3 to do 80 to 100 miles. Now that is exciting and saves a fair amount of cash. Add to that 4 years of servicing for less than £300, and no road tax to pay (and no Congestion Charge if they are used in London) and it does feel rather good.

Naturally, you have to plan ahead as to where charge points are and wait 30 minutes or so to be “boosted”. Roll on the day when every fuel station has rapid charge points! The days of rapid charge points at every service station are not a million miles off: according to www.goultralow.com it’s within the next year or so. So, the future is here and it feels like I am part of it!

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Birkenhead Park 01l

*Boat House Birkenhead Park

As with much of our publically funded services these days our parks and open spaces are chronically underfunded. I don’t need to harp on again about the value to our lives in terms of health, social cohesion and happiness and not to say land values, as the past few years have seen a proliferation of research that finally proves this. And whilst it’s important to keep reminding councils and central government about the value of funding open space and parks and the money it can save in health and fitness related areas, nothing is going to change in a hurry in terms of significant increases in central funding.
There is still also an obsession with communities taking control and looking after these spaces but people are under pressure holding down jobs, paying mortgages, making ends meet and the level of community involvement in managing and looking after parks and recreational space has probably plateaued for the time being.

Taking The Lead From The Victorians

Wherever I travel I always take my running stuff and seek out town and city parks to run through. The national legacy of urban parks instigated by the Victorians is one of our greatest urban assets. It often wasn’t central or local government or communities who created or funded these parks but, rather, wealthy local landowners or industrialists often acting, primarily out of self-interest (with a coating of philanthropy) to give them a shiny gloss with the community, local authorities or their workers.

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*Joseph Paxton Birkenhead Park

An example of this would be one of the earliest public parks, Joseph Paxton’s Birkenhead Park, which was part of a residential development scheme to create an attractive setting for new homes and to recoup the costs through the property sales. Flanked on all sides by handsome houses and wide tree-lined boulevards, Birkenhead Park was the inspiration for New York’s Central Park.

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*Central Park, New York

At lunchtime some of us go out from the HemingwayDesign offices for a run or to the outdoor gym in the almost always semi-deserted King Edward VII Park Wembley (it’s a hundred years old in July this year) whilst it’s generally tidy it does feel a tad under loved and lacking in decent seating, interesting planting and has none of the kind of creative touches seen in more central parks or in parks and open spaces in wealthier boroughs. Judging by the hi-visibility vests with ‘Community Payback’ printed on the back, some of the maintenance is clearly done by ‘offenders’ who are being ‘rehabilitated’. Whilst this may have some benefits to society, it doesn’t seem to be resulting in a particularly uplifting finished result in terms of thorough litter collection of creative landscaping!

Potential Modern Day Solutions

On my way back to the office though it isn’t hard to see potential modern day solutions to the ‘self-interest’ model. Over a hill within a few hundred metres, development specialists Quintain have developed The London Designer Outlet, and have created apartments for thousands of people (with more in construction). Surely it would be a selling point for Quintain to promote the park as an extension of the Wembley Park brand that they are investing in so heavily? It should help them attract viewings and buyers.

Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena are two of the nation’s primary sports and leisure venues and hundreds of thousands of people flock to Wembley to attend events. The surrounding residential streets become littered with folk waiting for gates to open, people sit on garden walls or just wander or end up waiting in boring burger bars and kebab shops because there is nowhere to go. Yet, un-signposted and a very short diversion from the route from transport hubs and car parks is King Edward VII Park, somewhere where folk could take their take away and watch a squirrel or two away from the traffic fumes. Surely the Stadium and Arena would benefit in terms of goodwill from having the park as part of their marketing in terms of ‘things to do while you’re here in Wembley’?

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*The London Designer Outlet

The building of large scale student accommodation continues apace in Wembley and some very large hotel chains have and are opening. Surely there is scope for all of these to have a good quality urban green space as part of their ‘sales pitch’ to the public.

So why isn’t ‘self-interest’ corporate funding of parks more prevalent? I suspect part of it is a reticence and fear of linking sponsorship with public amenities. To some this is seen as crass and inappropriate. But there definitely will be ways of ensuring that sponsorship and corporate funding of our green spaces isn’t crass.

Let’s get on and make it happen.

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At the end of last month I attended The Annual Open Meeting of the London Cultural Strategy Group at City Hall, London. The heads of most of London’s cultural institutions were there and one of the key discussions centered on that lack of and increasing loss of affordable space for creative and artists to operate out of. The concern about London’s high cost of living, and increasing lack of affordable housing was discussed and described as another threat to London’s position as the world’s preeminent creative city. There was talk about investigating and investing in opportunities in the suburbs.

I left the meeting and my mind was whirring. I couldn’t help thinking that the affordability crisis that is gripping London is not suddenly going to end anytime soon. There may be more affordable studio opportunities in some of London’s suburbs but the cost of accommodation is often still a burden that can stymie the chance to get creative careers off the ground. And nagging at me is the fact surely there is room outside London for creativity to flourish in mutually supportive clusters. London is a great city, but it doesn’t “own” and never should “own” the nations creativity.

At Hemingway Design we have spent the last year working on the Dreamland, Margate project and have been observing a growing creative community in Margate, fueled by evocative cost effective work spaces, a highly desirable housing stock at between 25 % and 33% of inner suburban London prices, sandy beaches and rail connection in High Speed 1 that has and is continuing to reduce travel times into St Pancras into a manageable 90 minutes. Every time I go to Margate another cool independent café, guest house, gallery, gift or vintage shop has opened. Stunning buildings that have languished neglected for decades are being thoughtfully brought into the 21st century. Margate is on the first section of a road that Brighton took to becoming a vibrant creative satellite to London. Brighton as well as being a wonderful standalone city serves London giving our capital city a seaside lung that has the cultural buzz that makes London such a draw to the world’s creative class. Epson with its dynamic University for The Creative Arts is showing signs of becoming a significant creative satellite to London.

History is on the side of this concept. London is recognised as the city where there punk movement was instigated (but don’t tell that to New Yorkers!) punk would never have flourished without The Bromley Contingent. The Bromley Contingent consisted if Souixie Sioux, Jordan, Soo Catwoman, Billy Idol. Phillip Salon and Steve Severin are all “faces” that dominated the early punk photography. In the Soul Boy days of the late 70s the movement centered on towns like Romford (with its iconic Lacy Lady nightclub).

The concept of creative satellites is starting to be discussed in the book, ‘The Creative Class Goes Global’ Edited by Charlotta Mellander, Richard Florida, Bjørn T. Asheim and Meric Gertler – where it is written:

“In the Danish Copenhagen and Aarhus regions, only the part of the creative class with high purchasing power or those with low expectations of living standards (the bohemians such as artists) live in Copenhagen or Aarhus proper while the rest of the creative classes tend to cluster in small provincial towns or commuter towns around the central hubs.”

My gut feeling is that we cannot wait for someone to wave a magic wand of affordability and unless we start to discuss and encourage creative satellites to cluster around London, then the city may start to lose its mantle as the world’s most creative city.

By Wayne Hemingway

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I’m a great believer in nurture and the concept of “practice makes perfect.” With a lot of people who excel at something, you can more often than not trace their expertise back to their childhood. If you do something all your life it becomes second nature, and you can’t always pick it up later. Famously, Andre Agassi learnt his trade at 3 years old and David Beckham learnt his signature skill of being able to “land a football on a sixpence” by spending  hours and not going inside till he had kicked a ball through a tyre hung from a tree 10 times consecutively.

 

I know from families like mine, that kids growing up with creativity around them more often than not become creative almost by default. Matthew Syed’s book Bounce, The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice says more than I can say here.

 

I therefore have a problem with people who go to college at 18 in the expectation of becoming creative. It is extremely difficult to come at it from a standing start. Being creative is in you in some way by adulthood or it’s not. You can choose to turn it off, but it won’t be easy to develop without nurture early on.

 

I was brought up in a tremendously creative household. It was a working class family in Morecambe, Lancashire that wanted to do things. My granddad made all my toys, fishing rods and so on and my mum and gran always had two sewing machines whirring. They even dyed their own fabrics.

 

Gerardine and I have four kids and they are all very creative. They were brought up surrounded by magazines and books, attended fashion and materials shows when we ran Red or Dead and frequented vintage, design shops. And after we sold Red or Dead came to visit housing developments and regeneration schemes around the world with us. We never had time to teach them, but they were immersed in design and creativity.

 

You can go out and learn things, but you have a better chance if you start that learning early in your life. Our son Jack left college after 18 months, for example, because he felt he was gaining nothing. He just wanted to go out and do it and was ready for that.

 

This is why primary and junior schools are very important. They give children a chance to indulge their passions early on. It can be too late at 18. I do though, have a problem with the lack of creativity in state schools – when we sent our younger two kids to private school they were much happier with their creative schooling. 

 

There has been an increased demand for creative education over recent years. In my generation parents wouldn’t have seen it such a good idea, working in a bank or for Marks & Spencer being seen as better options. That perception has changed, particularly among middle class parents who see design as a viable alternative and one with “bragging rights.”

 

In our business we need designers who are fleet of foot and can work across disciplines. For example, our daughter Tilly studied urban design, works with us at Hemingway Design and is equally at home designing G-Plan furniture and on uniforms for McDonalds.

 

If you’ve got a creative mind you can be flexible, but colleges don’t generally allow for that. Design for us is a state of mind rather than a particular course of study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am regularly asked by students and start ups for some pointers as to what are the most important elements for a successful business. I used to say hard work, perseverance, constant creative thinking. Now I add ‘generosity’.

Social media is rapidly changing the way that brands ‘behave’ and need to ‘behave’. Social media has allowed the public to question, unpick poorly conceived marketing strategies, take brands to task for dodgy service and poor public relations at a pace and depth that was impossible before the digital age. There is no longer the ability for brands to hide behind manipulative press departments.

All this partially explains why, you see brands relying less and less, on big budget telly advertising as their primary form of interaction with their customers. Narrative is the new Christmas blockbuster advert. Is this a permanent shift by the likes of Coca Cola? From spending vast sums on high production adverts where they tell us that they would like to ‘teach the world to sing’. Small, but with a massive impact, with the aid of a social media seeding, like the “Small World Machines” advert?

High-tech vending machines installed in two popular shopping malls in Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India – two cities separated by only 325 miles, but seemingly worlds apart due to decades of political tension – invited consumers to put their differences aside and share a simple moment over a Coke.

The “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal linking strangers in two nations divided by more than just borders, with the hope of provoking happiness and promoting cultural understanding around the world. Coke and Leo Burnett used first-of-its-kind 3D touchscreen technology to project a streaming video feed onto the vending machine screen while simultaneously filming through the unit to capture a live emotional exchange. People from both countries and various walks of life were encouraged to complete a friendly task together – wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance – before sharing a Coca-Cola.

Clever and simple projects like this that allow Coca Cola to promote its “Happiness is sharing a Coke” marketing mantra by letting social media spread relatively inexpensive projects that speak for themselves. Projects that would have most likely been lost in the pre-social media world. They allow the public to see that brands can be a force for good and can be generous.

It’s not just brands that need to be generous. Recently, I took part in the Business Innovation for Growth conference hosted by Creative Lancashire at Lancaster University. It was a vibrant, lively event where the dominant vibe seemed to be about what these individual businesses’ roles were in society. It got me thinking back to what a business conference might have been like in the 1980s when we started out. Discussions would have centered around maximising profits, margins and ROCE (Return on capital employed). The delegates would have largely consisted of men who really cared about what level of company car they were driving.

I am sure that there are business conferences out there where this is still the case but, by the very fact that that the bastion of the old order, The Institute of Directors, has lost a third of its membership since 2006 (including yours truly) is a sign of a new modern, generous and socially minded new business world order.

As a design agency we are reaping the benefits of being generous with clients and potential clients. Sharing our ideas, suggesting directions and possible initiatives before getting the job in writing used to scare us. We seem to be winning new clients quicker than ever by being open and opening a discourse prior to contract.

Those looking for work should also try the generosity route. At HemingwayDesign we get inundated with CV’s and pdf’s of the applicant’s body of work. But, when we get something in our inboxes or in the post that is clearly tailored towards our work, product design to compliment one of our ranges or is an idea that can be of benefit to one of our housing or regeneration projects then our eyes are often opened and our ears prick up. The newest recruit to the HemingwayDesign team has arrived by this very route.

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