If you've got an iPhone (and if you're a designer, there's a 74.3% probability that you do have one), you'll be wanting it to look super lovely at all times. So how about some tasty'n'free wallpaper for it?
QR (Quick Response) codes are a bit like barcodes, but instead of needing a barcode scanner to read them, you can use a mobile phone camera (either one with the software built in, like the Nokia N95, or by downloading a code reader onto your phone). The QR codes generally contain a machine readable version of a URL, so that your camera decodes the image and opens up the relevant website in your phone's web-browser.
It's essentially a physical hyperlink, or 'hardlink'. (So if you use your phone to take a picture of the code above, it should shoot your phone's web-browser across to the best design blog in town.)
This tech is big in Japan (where mobile technology is generally a few leaps and bounds beyond ours), having been developed in 1994 by Denso Wave. But it's gradually popping up over here, and will probably become more and more popular as phone technology catches up. (Nokia pre-installs code readers on its N93, N93i, N95 and E90 phones, and this page from their site lists places you can download readers for their other phones.)
If you're not rocking a Nokia, Kaywa produce one of the leading code readers, which you can try installing on your phone – though it doesn't work on iPhones yet. (But if you've been naughty and have a jailbroken iPhone, you can download the iMatrix reader.)
You can also create your own QR code over with Kaywa.
People are finding all sorts of interesting ways to play with the codes. Here's just a few of the bits we've discovered so far:
Semapedia is encouraging people to create QR codes as stickers to put up at physical spaces, linking back to the relevant Wikipedia articles. (The Semapedia site has also got a useful drop down list of phone makes and models, linking to the code readers that work with them.)
On a bit of a sidenote, we reckon this area is potentially a gold mine for networking events. We've always wanted to be able to pass a scanner across a crowd of people at a party to see who's who. We can really see a market for a small smart badge versions of QR codes, so that you can advertise yourself to a room. And since you get to choose which webpage the badge links to, you're in control of the information people can access about you - it could be a page you've posted just for that event, your business website, or even something entirely unrelated...
There's another Facebook application "Add to Friends" Gear which does a similar thing, creating some rather dubiously designed stuff that features links to your profile.
2d-code.co.uk is a blog with lots of stuff about QR codes, including a story about how you can screw with your QR codes to make them look more intersting, as they allow for up to 30% deterioration of the code while remaining readable. Which means the BBC could stick their name into their code.
qrcode.es is a Spanish site all about QR codes, inluding a feature about using them as an updated version of laserquest in a battle round a shopping store, and a short story competition, where you have to create short stories (just 100 characters including spaces) that can be embedded in QR codes.
They also do some t-shirts and products, inluding this baby's bib which decodes as "My parents are freaks. Please, adopt me!". Which is, frankly, genius.
And finally, there's a (currently fairly shallow) Flickr pool of people doing interesting stuff (stamps, stickers, artworks) with the codes .
We love these little linksplats.
Admittedly at the moment they tend to be ham-fistedly stuck onto adverts and posters rather than properly integrated, which looks rubbish; but hopefully as people start playing with them more and more, they'll start to appear in more refined and witty ways.
The new Brit Insurance Designs of the Year show started last week at the Design Museum, taking over from where the old Designer of the Year show left off in 2006. We went along on Saturday to take a look, and we'll tell you all about that in just a moment.
But first, a gentle rant.
The show is, as you can hardly have failed to notice, sponsored by Brit Insurance. They've stuck their name right in front of it. The awards that go with the show are sponsored by them too. They're called the Brit Insurance Design Awards. And frankly, that's just rubbish. Instead of being mutually beneficial, it's mutually detrimental. It makes the Design Museum look cheap, happy to bend over, grab its ankles and get its elegantly shaped butt branded by its corporate master; and it makes Brit Insurance look greedy and egomaniacal. Instead of making the event and awards the most important thing, they've made their sponsorship the important thing. And that doesn't make us like them much.
This is a grim trend that's been happening wherever sponsorship occurs (Carling Academy anyone?). Don't get us wrong, it's a very good thing that corporate sponsorship exists. It makes stuff happen, in bigger and better ways than would otherwise be possible. But, please, let's restore some sense of modesty, elegance and sophistication to the way it's done. Wouldn't the Designs of the Year show, as supported by Brit Insurance, sound far better? Patronage, not prostitution*.
The show itself is a great mix of work arranged by discipline: Architecture, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Interactive, Product and Transport. You might question some of the entries, but it's a really valuable opportunity to see what's being going on across the design spectrum in the past year. It's also great to be able to play with some of the entries, including the Nintendo Wii, Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori's TENORI-ON digital musical instrument, and Ross Phillips' Replenishing Body Kiosk (pictured above, being used by some kids in a much looser way than intended).
In the graphics section, we were particularly pleased to see the Butt Book nominated - it's a compendium of Butt Magazine (that link is not at all safe if you're at work), designed by Jop van Bennekom, and we've noticed it being the 'inspiration' for rather a lot of work recently.
Winners in each section, and one overall winner, will be announced in March.
* The fact that Peter Saville's "THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS" sticker is one of the graphics entries feels deeply ironic.
We have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with the D&AD lectures. Sometimes they're utterly brilliant, with compelling speakers who talk with passion and wit about their work. Other times they're boring and banal displays of rampant self-love.
But it looks like the current president Simon Waterfall has done a bang-up job by inviting some really interesting speakers to come along for the 2008 series, and he gets extra points for nicking the Pecha Kucha format for one of the talks.
The line up is:
The Pecha Kucha night, with speakers from Digit, Hi-Res!, Poke and AllofUs amongst others
Bob Greenberg from R/GA, creative genius behind the motion graphics for Se7en
Sir Christopher Frayling, rector of the Royal College of Art
Amsterdam based graphic design group Experimental Jetset
Apart from Nick Bell, who's speaking in Manchester, the talks all take place at Logan Hall at the Institute of Education in London (near Russell Square).
So, the Cupertino kids have been getting busy again, with Apple launching a raft of shiny new tech goodness on Tuesday afternoon. You can watch Steve Jobs wowing the fanboys on this film of his keynote speech.
They've launched a super slim laptop, a new and improved version of Apple's set top box for renting movies directly to your TV, added Mail and Maps to the iPod Touch, added movie rentals on iTunes, and also launched Time Capsule, a new external hard drive which plays nicely with the latest version of OS X.
We were most happy to see the updated iPhone firmware (v.1.1.3), which means that you can now customise the home screen on your iPhone. About time really. You can now ditch the applications you don't use (or at least slide them across to a second home screen), and create icons for your favourite web pages.
Usually when you do this, you just get a screengrab of whichever webpage you're bookmarking (like The Guardian one in the picture above), but brilliantly, Typepad, who host our blog, have also made it possible for bloggers to create customised icons for their blog, so that you get a proper smart'n'shiny icon.
So, if you're an iPhone user and a We Made This reader, you can go ahead and stick us on your homescreen without worrying about it looking all messy. Hoorah for tech goodness!
The Zune is Microsoft's answer to Apple's iPod. The general buzz on the web right now is that it's not quite up to scratch; but it's early days yet. For a full (really, really full) review, check out this page from Engadget.
In the meantime, the Zune's got a tasty site full of graphics, short films and music to celebrate its launch. Check it out here. We've been particularly liking the animation above, especially because of its Regina Spektor soundtrack, Us. (We liked it so much, we went and downloaded a copy... on iTunes.)
We nipped over to South Kensington on Saturday to check out Game On, the new videogame show at the Science Museum.
The show is basically a giant arcade charting the history of the computer game from its infancy through to today, with the likes of Pong, the ZX Spectrum, Donkey Kong, the Playstation, right up to the XBox 360 all featured, with playable versions of stacks of classic games.
It's pretty massive fix for the nostaglia junkies out there, and we were particulary excited to revisit the Intellivision game Pitfall, and even more excited to step into an original arcade version of Star Wars. Incredibly, the game still holds pretty much the same level of joy that it did back in the early eighties, when we were spotty pre-teens playing on the arcade at the end of the pier. But maybe that's just us...
The show's pretty light on any real analysis of the impact of gaming upon other art forms, or upon society, and it would have been great to see more about how games are developed; but as a nostaligia fest for geeks, and a playground for real kids, it's very much worth a visit.
And remember. The Force will be with you. Always.
This has been bugging us for a while, if you'll pardon the pun.
Sony have published lots of pre-launch shots of their new Playstation 3 (which is much delayed, and looks like coming out early next year), and they all show it with a large logotype emblazoned across its chest. The thing is, the logotype is set in the exact same typeface* as the current Spiderman movie franchise, the latest of which, Spiderman 3, is due for release early next year.
Just what the heck's going on here?
They're both Sony brands, so is it some kind of co-branding thing they're trying out? It surely can't just be an oversight as both brands are far too high profile; and the typeface is hardly being used much elsewhere. Either way, it feels like a huge mistake, particularly for the PS3, which should be presenting itself as a cutting-edge product, rather than one borrowing its identity from a movie franchise that's already four years old.
Deep strangeness. We'll be interested to see if the logotype is still there when the PS3 eventually launches.
*For the typegeeks amongst you, the typeface is a version of Mata by Greg Samata, though with a bit of a sideways lean to it.