Category Archives: Travel

Stefanie Posavec @ Eyeo


I’m in Minneapolis at the annual Eyeo Festival. Like Resonate, it is focussed on data visualization in all of its forms, on the intersection between “art, interaction and information”.

See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


Analog Algorithms with Stefanie Posavec

Today is workshop day, and I’ve been lucky enough to sit in a half day session with Stefanie Posavec, who ran a class called “Analog Algorithms”, focussed on developing ideas for data visualizations on paper. Stefanie has history with Microsoft Research Cambridge, having worked a number of years ago on a visualization of changes made by Charles Darwin to the Origin of Species. This is work she did with Greg McInerny, which ended up on display at MOMA in New York, as part of the excellent Talk To Me exhibition.

Today’s workshop took place on the 9th floor of the Walker Art Centre. We sat four to a table, with large sheets of paper in front of us, and many pens and pencils also arrayed. Definitely set up for something hands on.


Stefanie started by going over her background and portfolio. She articulated the purpose of data visualizations as giving “meaning and connection”, “subtle insight” and “truth and honesty”, and argued that by drawing on paper you exploited a “tacit knowledge” and a physicality in representation that you don’t get by jumping straight to data and code.

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Favorite Photos of 2013


It’s taken me a while to put together my favorite shots on Flickr that I posted in 2013. This is an annual tradition that I’ve had going for a decade now, which I guess makes Flickr one of the longer-running services that I still use.

I’m not sure what I can learn last year’s photos. I only took 4,788 shots, which compared to 2012’s high of 7,472 doesn’t seem that impressive. But 2012 was the year of the Olympics. 2013 did feel a little more sporadic, though, in terms of my photo taking, and in terms of my photo posting. I lost track a little of what I’d posted throughout the year. I’m not sure why. I’ve already taken 1,982 shots this year, so maybe I’m rectifying that, although many of those are of the after-effects of flooding. Those are still about preserving memory, but perhaps not in the same uplifting way that last year’s shots of our family reunion are.

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SXSW Day 1: Bre Pettis (MakerBot) opening Keynote

I’m at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin Texas for a few days. It’s a huge event made up of talks, workshops, films and lots of other stuff to see. I’m going to a number of the talks, and I thought I’d try and post some of my notes online here.

The first of these is the opening keynote, given Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, which produces a cheap 3D printer, and of Thingverse, an online forum for sharing 3D models that can be printed out with these kinds of printers.

Questions for Bre were posted to Twitter under #AskPettis.


To be honest, other than describing 3D printing as “The Next Industrial Revolution” and saying that “Creativity is now accessible in the world of things”, Bre’s talk was a little shallow and vision-free. He didn’t really paint a big picture of the changes that 3D printing will bring to society, commerce etc, but instead showed lots of little examples of things that people had made, mostly with the MakerBot printer.

FWIW, he was wearing a jacket by Sruli Recht, produced using 3D printing and laser cut wood. It reminded me an awful lot of the wooden textile produced by Elise Strozyk at Central St. Martin’s in 2009. I’m not sure which part of this, if any, was 3D printed.


Here are a bunch of the examples Bre gave of things made with Makerbot:

Markerbots are starting to show up in schools (there’s an interesting thread at SXSW about how kids are embracing digital creativity – drawing, coding, electronics etc., despite the feeling that school curricula fail to keep up with the times).

Other examples include someone who created the part to fix an espresso machine, a guy who created shoe inserts to make his daughter tall enough to go on some fairground rides, and another person who replaced expensive piano parts with 3D printed version.

Bre presented a prototype of the “MakerBot Digitizer” for the first time. This is basically a rotating platform that uses two lasers and webcam to scan 3D parts so that they can be reproduced using the printer. Bre described this process as "…like when Flynne gets scanned into Tron", and a way of “building out a "3D ecosystem". He admitted that the technology has been around for 25 years, but requires a lot of post-processing, the implication being that the secret sauce for the Digitizer is the software, which must make it easier to create closed meshes that can actually be printed.

Bre also mentioned the MakerBot partnership with Autocad. In the “Create” tent at SXSW they are teaching people to use Autocads “123D Creature” iPad app to make monsters, then printing them out on the spot using a row of Makerbots.


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Here are my shots from our recent, very excellent, trip to Monaco. Highlights included jogging around the F1 loop, watching fireworks through the open ceiling at the Monaco Sporting Club, touring the roads towards Italy in a red Fiat C500 and hiking up to Roquebrune. Amazing. All thanks to Shannon’s bit of award winning.

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Favourites of 2009

I’ve added my 2009 Favourite Photos to my collection of Favourites on Flickr. Not a bad year. 42 shots, just like last year, and I’m pretty pleased with the quality and diversity. No night shots, though. I’d like to rectify that this year. I have it down on my list of things to do on 43 Things. I feel quite optimistic about my photography in 2010 now that I’ve bought my GF1.


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University visits

One great side effect of moving from the product teams into Microsoft Research is that I can focus much more on design education. This was something I think I COULD have done before, to a certain extent, but Research puts more emphasis on communicating with academia, or outside of Microsoft generally. It’s actively encouraged, which is good.

Last year I started focusing on this more deliberately, by working with Dundee University on their participation in Microsoft’s Design Expo event. I’d seen the work of Dundee students at New Designers, hired one as an intern, and finally contacted a faculty member to invite them to participate in the competition. I loved the whole process of visiting the university, spending time with their awesome students and faculty, and then helping them out in Redmond for the final student presentations.

This year I’m happy to continue my relationship with Dundee. Jon Rogers, who now runs the Innovative Product Design course, organized an “Ideas Day” last Tuesday during which a bunch of us from “industry” spent some time helping the students of the 3rd and 4th year make decisions about the directions for their projects. I was lucky to make the flight out of City Airport and make it to the college.

We started with a great Q&A session sprung on us a few days earier by Jon. He’d picked a selection of questions submitted by the students for a panel of us to answer in a sort of Question Time format. Some tough ones, too, like “commercially, how far can art be applied to product design”, “where do you see the future of interfaces heading” and “where do you draw your design values from”. I think the panel (Bill Gaver, Nic Villar, myself, Anab Jain, Charlie Rohan from NCR and Tim Regan acquitted ourselves well – here’s a write up of the event by Giorgio Giove, one of Dundee’s master’s students – more shots Tim – shot below from Anab)


Jon had had the 4th year put together a book of their “top 100″ ideas for final projects, from which they had drawn 20. These were stuck up on boards for us to talk through with the students, as well as “vote” on our favourites. I really enjoyed the conversations and the variety. Some students had already narrowed down their focus considerably, and had 20 ideas across the same theme. Some were still thinking at quite a high level, with a set of ideas that were much more distinct. I hope their time with us was useful.


On Wednesday Tim, Nic and I travelled down to Edinburgh and visited the Furniture and Product Design course in Edinburgh’s College of Art. Their course is accredited by the University of Edinburgh and going through some transition as it moves from it’s craft base to incorporating more interaction and product design. Andy Law, formerly at Dundee, has just started their as one of the faulty members, and we spent some time with him, as well as looking at the work of 2nd and 4th years, before getting a tour of their awesome facilities. The glass blowing, print making and jewellery studios are really great. In the same vein as the RCA (focusing on low numbers) but a little less cramped.

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