Jun 06

Grafikea – the good, the bad & the WTF?!

[This is a re-post from the Bristol Design Festival where I’m a guest blogger – check out the original and all the other action over their blog.]

LACK SIDE TableAlong with a couple hundred others, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bristol Design Festival’s launch party last night, however, I was taking a specific interest in the Grafikea entries. As in previous years, the standard was excellent with some ingenious and occasionally subversive uses for a simple LACK Side Table from your friendly blue and yellow purveyor of Scandinavian style.

For those that haven’t seen Grafikea before, the rules are quite simple. You purchase a table (as on the right) and then, according to the official rules:

Let your creativity run wild and modify the table.

And that’s pretty much it.

The results are quite astounding.

Before the prizes were announced I took a walk around the entries and a few leapt out at me. Apologies for the photos, I was using my camera phone, I’m sure better quality press-pics are available; even better, get down to the Old Fire Station and see for yourself! 🙂

IMAG0070One of the first that caught my eye was a very Bristolian scene of the SS Great Britain sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, all on a coffee table! There were even a few fishes in the Severn that younger visitors seemed particularly entranced by.

I later discovered that this table (together with another 5) was designed and made by the ASD classes at Kingsweston School. This particular one was from Oak Class.

IMAG0078There were a number that had been decorated with graphics and very well executed designs (as you’d expect) along with the quirky and fun. I quite liked the ‘Coffee Table, Coffee Table’ and ‘Table to Die For’. On the quirky and subversive was this inverted table-come planter. Another table that caught my eye was ‘Exhibit yourself’ which had completely deconstructed the table and turned it into a pole-dancing platform!

There were only a couple that didn’t really do anything for me. One had some licorice allsorts spilled across and lacquered, another with digestive biscuits, I also wasn’t entirely convinced by the loud speakers & Mp3. Just my personal opinion.

The WFT award this year definitely went to ‘Shadows of a Table’ – you have to go along and see this in person! No photo can do it justice,part Alien, part Necromicon it positively broods in the corner looking down on the other tables and viewers alike.

And the winners are: (these are the official competition winners in two categories, Junior and Grafikea)


Beware the Table First Prize went to this entry from St Bede’s Catholic College. Transforming their table into a weird and ferocious monster. This is right by the entrance so keep an eye out at ankle level!
Delectable Second Prize went to Delectable from Lime Class at Kingsweston School. I had a long chat with one of the Specialist Teachers about the ASD Unit and how all the kids had contributed to designing their tables. In total there are 6 tables from Kingsweston showing creativity and ingenuity.

In addition to Delectable & the Bristol Bridge, there are 4 other tables from the other classes in the ASD unit. I’ll let you find them in the exhibits, suffice to say that you have to look at the identification cards to know they’re from Kingsweston, the quality is that high.

You Scream We Scream Also from St Bede’s this beach scene obviously captured the imagination along with Third place. Perhaps the title of ‘You Scream, We Scream’ helped.


Entemology First Prize went to a stunning entry from Helen Ward; Entomology. Each of the butterflies is cut from coloured paper and laid out as you might expect in any Victorian collectors house or museum.

My apologies to Helen for the poor quality photo, please visit the exhibition to see the exquisite detail that has gone into this table and also take a look at her website for more images and additional background on the artisan paper and history behind the butterflies.

Cork Second Prize went Cork from Jack Patient, a fun table surrounded by colourful corks.
Production Line Error This entry, entitled ‘Production Line Error’ from Dave Stannard won Third Place. A quirky mix-up between a table and chair.

Congratulations to everyone that took part, all the tables are available to buy from the artists so head down to the Old Fire Station for the opportunity to take home some local art!

Apr 14

Getting interactive around Bristol’s historic harbourside

An interactive stroll around Bristol Docks and become part of a story set in 1885

Take an interactive stroll around Bristol Docks and become part of a story set in 1885

Sam and I stopped by the Watershed yesterday to try out a new blend of storytelling and technology. Picking up our PDAs and donning in-ear headphones, we were invited to step back in time and experience a slice of Bristol circa 1885.

Over the next 90 minutes we walked around the historic waterfront area (starting at the Watershed, round to the Arnolfini, over the swing bridge, down to the SS Great Britain, back over to the Gasworks, ending up at Canon’s Marsh Amphitheatre) as our stories unfolded.

Sam followed the story of the unlucky Maude trying to escape her evil Uncle, whilst I stumbled over a murder to solve with the help of a nearby galley boy. As their respective stories unfolded we dodged some of Bristol’s seedier characters outside the old jail where hangings regularly took place and helped load cargo ships with Guinness, bananas and timber for the colonies.

Sam had several mini games throughout her journey and by successfully completing each, Maude’s story progressed.

My murder mystery was a proper whodunit with half a dozen likely contenders. Having worked out the full story, I then had to decide whether to turn the guilty party in (knowing the hangman’s noose would be waiting) or let them escape to America…

All really good fun, and surprisingly informative about Bristol’s history without being a dull audio tour, “Press 5 for more information about street vendors…”

Back in the Watershed we had a chat with Tom Bennett, the guy behind Interactive Places, about the experience and what the future holds.

Tom is working out of the Pervasive Media Studio and that pervasive, locative technology was integral to the walk (a GPS PDA worn pendant style with in-ear headphones). By and large, however, the technology was almost invisible, there were only a couple of times that the technology ‘got in the way’. Sam’s lost its GPS fix once and one of her games didn’t want to finish; both times sorted themselves out within minutes and everything else worked fine.

In addition to providing a great afternoon stroll, Tom really wanted to know how people got on with the system and what they’d like more of in the next version.

Both Sam and I wanted more direct engagement in the storyline with some element of multi-threading, like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series from the early 80’s to mid-90’s. That is certainly in Tom’s plan but he also pointed out that some people has asked for more history & background to be included, whilst others had asked for more mini-games and side plots. So lots of opportunities!

If you want to spend a great hour and a half wandering around Bristol’s Habourside and help out one of our upcoming innovative entrepreneurs, then pop along to the Watershed anytime between 11am and 5pm until Sunday, 26 April and say “Hi” to Tom.

Mar 31

What’s the best way to promote your product?

Red Arrows over London - Uploaded on June 22, 2006 by mundocuadro

Red Arrows over London - Uploaded on June 22, 2006 by mundocuadro

Show people!

<This is a joint post with Craig Hellen from BexMedia.>

People are visual, we like to see stuff. Long thesis and manifestos are great for explaining in great detail the nuance and subtly of your plan, but first to have to get people to read that stuff. Everyone’s time is precious so you need to make a fast, powerful case to spend some of that time on your idea.

You’ve got a fantastic idea and want to tell the world about it!

All communication is ultimately all about the message. Before you even pick up a camera there are three key things to think about:

  1. the audience
  2. the story
  3. the storyteller

In writing these articles, the first thing I considered was the audience, you. You may be interested in making pots of cash. You probably don’t have pots of cash to start with.

Hello my name is... Uploaded on September 22, 2006 by rick

Hello my name is... Uploaded on September 22, 2006 by rick

But who are you trying to reach? Are you after the Chief Executive of a global business, Angel investor, a respected academic at University, local government worker, an individual consumer or activist, other people like you? All these audiences will have different requirements and expectations in how to be approached with a great idea. They’ll get their news from different sources and in different forms. Unless you’re only interested in people like you seeing your message, really think about who the audience is.

You might want to try developing persona’s and testing your message against them. Make up an example of your target audience. Give them a name and a back story. How old are they, where do they live, where do they work, did they go to university (which one), do they have a family, what car do they drive, what TV/Radio/Newspapers do they consume? The more detail you can generate the better. If you have time, make up a couple persona and try your story out on all of them.

In setting up OpenCoffee Bristol, I wanted entrepreneurs and the professionals that support them to get together once a fortnight to discuss business development and ideas around building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bristol. I researched what type of entrepreneurs started up in Bristol and what they were in to. I spoke to as many professionals as I could to learn about them and what they were in to. Before I launched I knew my audience and was able to communicate effectively to them, as evidenced by the successful launch with support from Starbucks and local PR companies and good attendance.


Super starters - Uploaded on March 16, 2006 by Ranger Gord

Super starters - Uploaded on March 16, 2006 by Ranger Gord

Again, working backwards; what do you want people to do after watching your video? Do you want people to sign up to a service, buy a product, forward the video to their friends / work colleagues, change their behaviour, have a good laugh and move on to the next thing in their day?

Are you a business, charity, volunteer organisation or individual? Are you trying to show how easy it is to use your product / service? Are you explaining how your idea will change the world? What story are you trying to get across?

Whatever you’re trying to do, link each feature to a benefit. We have this feature so you get this benefit. Itty Biz has a great post on this.

If you’re doing a product demo then create a typical journey through your product and explain the features at each stage, along with the benefit to the customer.

A side note on humour; if you can pull it off then use carefully and be mindful of your audience. If you’re not a natural comedian then don’t even try to be funny, just stick to a simple narrative with clear feature-benefit links.

Not everyone is a natural story teller. That’s OK. It’s usually considered a good thing if you can be the outward face of your idea / enterprise and its certainly cheaper than paying an actor! Other good people to tell your story are the people you’re helping, or selling to. Personal perspectives work really well in getting a message across, which is why charities always show an individual and give them a name (even if it’s a dog or cat).

The storyteller doesn’t have to be on screen, narrators can be very powerful. The story teller doesn’t even have to speak, they can reveal the narrative through their actions and images. Remember though that you’re trying to get a message across in a short and compact way, not create avant-garde conceptual art. Large companies with huge budgets can afford to run messages that make no sense for months and then ‘reveal’ the secret product/service that they were talking about; you probably can’t wait that long.

Putting it all together

The end experience should be consistent throughout. If your audience is small businesses, then your message should appeal to small businesses and be presented by someone that a small business owner would be happy to listen to or look at. If your audience is disaffected youth then your story should be in a style they’ll be used to and presented by someone that looks like them.

Here’s an example from IBM. The audience is clear: big business, middle America, white middle-class middle-aged guy. Although this is on YouTube the ads were run on cable TV (I saw it on CNBC), between business news, where their audience would be watching. The story is simple: we’re IBM and if you adopt our technology you’ll save lots of money, and the environment. The story teller is credible, she’s a smart dressed woman that doesn’t look too out of place.

A very different approach is from CommonCraft. The audience is everyone that’s not an uber-geek but geeky enough to be using YouTube and thinking about Twitter. The story is really clear, a very simple way to build real-time informal networks means you can stay in touch with friends, family, work colleagues, anyone without having to do lots of work. The story teller is a narrator but uses plain clear English and cut out paper drawings rather than flashy 3D animation since they’re targeting people that might be wary of technology.

All rules are made to be broken, but you need to know the rules before you break them otherwise you’ll probably end up with a mess that no one will be interested in.

Here’s the classic rule breaker from Apple back in 1984.

Feb 19

London Triiibes

What do you do for a living; do you set out to change everything?

We may all be in sales & marketing now, but I still consider myself an engineer that does business development; so I felt a little out of place at first. I’m also still digesting much of the talk, so this may be a little fragmented.

When Seth began I felt there was something traceable to the work of Richard Dawkins‘ “The Selfish Gene“. Seth puts the meme concept to a very practical application.

Ideas that spread win.

Seth began with a quick history lesson on marketing. He related the story of Josiah Wedgwood and the many business and manufacturing decisions that he took, leading to the greatest marketing success of the era. When Josiah died he was the richest man on the planet. He was also Darwin‘s grandfather and the wealth he passed on allowed Darwin to spend his days exploring and ultimately funded the research that produced “On the Origin of Species“.

Josiah was living through a time of profound change, he succeeded because he transformed a craft activity into an industrial business. That was the first of 3 industrial revolutions and Seth contends that we’re in the middle of a forth. I have to agree with him.

And it fundamentally isn’t about ‘black hat SEO‘ or clever ways to interrupt people.

Seth’s opening stance was that nobody listens to advertising any more. There’s too much clutter; everyone’s buying everything from everywhere, and you can’t interrupt them any more. As soon as you launch a product or feature, there are a hundred competitors and if you’re only competing on how loud your marketing can shout then you’ve already lost.

Seth went on to talk very briefly about the 14 trends, extrapolated from Meatball Sundae. Aligning the whole business, or organisation, around some of these trends would provide the conditions for it to flourish. Wouldn’t guarantee success but would provide the conditions for success.

Direct communication & commerce between consumers & producers Amplification of the voice of the consumer & indie authority
Need for authenticity as clutter increases Short attention span due to clutter
Long Tail Outsourcing
Google & the dicing of everything Infinite channels of communication
Direct communication & commerce between consumers & consumers Shifts in scarcity & abundance
Triumph of Big Ideas Shift from “How Many” to “Who”
The wealthy are like us New Gatekeepers, No Gatekeepers

Which is great to get the message flowing but how do you get the first customer to talk about your product/service if you can’t interrupt them any more? To a certain extent, Seth offered a simplistic solution, make your product/service remarkable. If its worth making a remark about, it stops being spam and becomes one human being talking to another human being. Word of mouth marketing.

There’s an obvious parallel with Hugh’s Global Microbrand concept. Being fantastically good at what you do, and building your business inseparably from new technologies in a way that simply wasn’t possible pre-internet.

An interesting proposition was that, in fact, we all need to be in the fashion business. Fashion is all about getting talked about. And as Oscar Wilde said:

the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about

And on the internet, someone’s talking about you; even if you’re not part of that conversation. And if you’re not being talked about and you can’t interrupt people with advertising any more, you really are in trouble.

Seth wasn’t proposing that we’d all stop buying ‘regular stuff’ just because it wasn’t sexy. But if you want to launch a new product, or grow an existing market, or break into a new territory, the old rules don’t apply any more.

So what did I take away from the 4 hrs?

Well a head ache, which was pretty much what Seth promised. But also a very different approach to thinking about business/market development and the support that jbsh can offer.

  • Helping companies to identify the key memes that their product/service represents
  • Helping companies work through the 14 trends and identify the ones most important to them
  • Building a business model that can generate revenue from those important trends

How are you building your business for the future?

Feb 15

Sage advice

Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston

Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston

What one piece of advice would you pass on?

A significant part of what we at jbsh get up to is building partnerships. These partnerships involve businesses, Universities, Primary Care Trusts, consultants (business & medical), doctors (academic & medical), private individuals, etc. With so many people there are always differing perceptions about what the collaboration is trying to achieve, and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication.

In my early days of change implementation with small engineering companies in Cornwall, I was given some sage advice by my PhD supervisor:

Don’t ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to ignorance

I believe the quote to have originally been from Napoleon Bonaparte though I can’t find a definitive reference.

Its very easy when you’re charging into a situation to assume that everyone knows everything you do and has the same ambition you do. This is never the case. If you’re not prepared for it, genuine cock-ups can sometime appear to be carefully planned Machiavellian schemes to bring about your professional and personal downfall.

I try to assume that people are acting with good intentions, trying to help me succeed as I try to help them. When things don’t work out its probably because I haven’t explained things well enough or they’re acting on information I’m not aware of.

The solution is of course better communication. Better doesn’t always mean more, a 5 min phone call is usually more productive than several pages of email or “briefing” document; half an hour over coffee, or a beer, is often better than 4 hours in a stuffy meeting room. Spending the time to see someone on their territory is often better than dragging them halfway across the city/country/world.

When you have done the ground work with short, concise messages specific to each party to build shared understanding, then you can hold a larger meeting where everyone can discover that actually they are working to an agreed agenda. You’ll also know where people’s corporate and individual comfort zones are and can help a consensus emerge that still achieves the broad aims.

Of course, sometimes people do act in the short term against what might be broadly considered as ‘fair play’. However, in this world of instant, always on, communications and data overload, we are more reliant than ever before on trusted advisers and connectors.

A reputation is something you build over a lifetime, but throw away in an instant.

That’s another piece of advice for free! 🙂

Thanks to Plinky again for prompting me again.