Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Great new book for forms lovers

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Borries Schwesinger, author of what looks like a landmark book on forms design, Formulare Gestalten. I say 'looks like' because I don't read German, but the scope of the book is visible from the extensive examples, both historical and modern, and by its comprehensive assemblies of graphic styles. It is beautifully produced, and is already attracting awards. Borries is currently working on an English language version, and I'm looking forward to it.

Chance encounter

One of the joys of computer search is when it throws up strange stuff that seems much more interesting than the topic you are concerned with. Best one today is 'Sword swallowing and its side effects', an article in the British Medical Journal. I particularly like its reference to a sympton known as a 'sword throat'. Recovering from flu, I reckon that's what I have right now.

I'm a little puzzled about how this article appeared in my search for research on the effectiveness of financial advice. Perhaps sword swallowing and financial advice are both forms of trickery and illusion.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The latest high tech

There's a great collection of scanned Radio Shack catalogues here. Thanks to Collin McDougall for the link. I enjoyed flicking through them, and found myself wanting to order the latest tape recorder. We've come a long way since 1961, but it was just as exciting in those days, with hifi and tape recording still quite recently introduced. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One hundred years of progress

I've found a box of prehistoric documents, including a talk I gave to the ISTC in 1976. It was a little depressing reading it again, to find how little my ideas have progressed in 30 years. But it was nice to find these examples of information design from railway manuals from 1855 and 1972 (from Michael Macdonald-Ross's collection). One of them is very usable – pocket sized, with simple language, and accessible summaries in the margin. Progress?

Here's a scan of the talk, in case anyone's interested.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Christmas

Thanks to Paul Matson for sending me this (from Stansted Airport). Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Graphic designers have a noble role to play in news communication through diagramming and graphic explanation. But they seem to have turned instead to the naff branding of news stories. Channel 4's graphic treatment of the Mumbai terrorism was breathtakingly crass, with its fake hindi curry house logo.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I've asked a number of conference audiences if anyone has ever read the small print you get shown when you install software. One person has put their hand up, out of several hundred people. I don't particularly mind saying I agree with something I haven't read, but I don't feel comfortable saying I have read it, and even less comfortable saying I have 'read and understood' it. After all, I thought I'd read and understood my chemistry O level textbook, but look what happened.

I propose an alternative: 

You can't be too careful

Sign seen at a building site next to Farringdon tube station. I think they've got most things covered, except perhaps 'may contain nuts'.