Behind the scenes – An apple a day


Lucy and I were talking about our process the other day and how we usually present our work in our portfolio when it’s all shiny and polished. We thought it would be interesting to share the ‘behind the scenes’ story of each project. Every project is so unique, with it’s own challenges, discoveries and triumphs, it only seems right to shed light on how we got to the finished result.

So we start here with our first project of the year. Well, 2016 certainly got off to a speedy start for Creative Data. Having been commissioned by Bristol Health Partners just before Christmas to create a public engagement exhibition for them by the 18th of January, we had to get ourselves off the starting blocks pretty smartish.

The Design Brief

Bristol Health Partners is a strategic collaboration between the city’s three NHS trusts, three clinical commissioning groups, two universities and its local authority. They describe their mission as improving “the health of those who live in and around Bristol and to improve the delivery of the services on which they rely, and to act as a mechanism for change in our health and care community and our city region.”

They have identified ‘using data better’ as one of their priorities and wanted to create a public conversation about the topic. That’s where Creative Data came in. We designed a participatory exhibition that encourages people to share their everyday experiences and by doing so reveal new challenges and opportunities that can help improve quality of life in Bristol.

This was a fast and furious project – we had two weeks to design and produce the materials for the exhibition, £1000 to spend on materials, and just one day to install it. Well, it ended up being about 3 days in the end, but more on that later.

Firstly though, it’s always great to have creative constraints on a project, whether it’s time, budget, space or, in this case, all three. These boundaries force you to focus and make design decisions in the knowledge that there are limitations. The downside of course is that there is no time to test or prototype, which can lead to difficulties when doing something new.



The Venue

Our venue for this exhibition is the Engine Shed near Bristol’s Temple Meads station. Situated in Brunel‘s original station building this amazing space is now home to innovative enterprise in the city, with a co-working space for start-up businesses. They say their mission is “to stimulate long term economic growth by supporting business, inspiring young people to get involved and to showcase to the public and potential inward investors the exciting opportunities that exist here.”

It’s a great space to work in, with its historical stone facade contrasting with the newly refurbished, sleek, contemporary interiors. The first challenge the site presented was that it’s not a public thoroughfare, which means we needed tempt people passing by in the street. We decided that we had to start the exhibition outside the building to grab attention. We wanted to take people on a journey both through the narrative of the subject and through the space.


The Idea 

Lucy and I knew that we wanted to play around with the idea of a ‘data trail’ as a way to connect people with the invisible stream of data we’re creating all day everyday with our smart phones and digital devices.

We came up with the idea of creating a physical trail that people could interact with, adding their own stories and experiences. While data can often seem rather black and white, it is the small actions of everyday life that add colour and meaning. With that idea in mind, we decided to invite visitors to share their data/experiences to ‘colour’ a monochrome trail.

We decided to divide the trail into different thematic sections each reflecting on an area of everyday life that connected to an aspect of health and wellbeing. We designed a series of colourful icons that could be used to answer questions about experiences associated with each of the themes.

In each sections visitors would be able to contribute by hanging a colourful icon, from boxes around the skeleton structure, to the data line. They would also be able to add more detail by writing on the icons before they hung them on the line.

After getting the go-ahead on the designs we moved into full production mode.



The Volunteers

First thing’s first though. To create this journey through data and healthcare, with only one day for installation, we needed help. Thankfully we got it in the form of three amazing local volunteers – Eduardo (above), Lucy and Chloe. We couldn’t have asked for more enthusiastic people.

They showed up with big smiles and were ready to do what was needed. There is not enough gratitude in the world for people who just get stuck in to help on a very tight deadline. Lucy and I could not have done it without them. John Kellas was also very generous with his time, helping out whenever he could.

The Structure

Above, you can see Eduardo getting the frames for the exhibition text ready. One of the things about doing an installation in two weeks is that you need to use ‘ready mades’ wherever possible. That’s where Ikea comes in handy, a lot of the time.

To create our physical ‘data trail’ we used Ikea coat stands, paving stones as weights, an awful lot of rope and Lucy’s amazing structural engineering talents. The trail starts outside the building, miraculously passes through a window, winds up the stairs and ends up zig zagging through the building’s foyer.



The laser cutting

To symbolise the themes of everyday life we wanted visitors to consider we chose visual icons that represented each theme – Mobility, Work, Food, Leisure, Sleep. Again, to save time we used ready-mades – buying vector drawn symbols from Shutterstock. My idea was to have these icons laser cut in card so we could hang them on our data trail.

Pre-bought icons and outsourcing the laser cutting seemed like the way forward. And it was, mostly. I just hadn’t factored in quite how long it would take to layout 120 icons on five different sheets and draw cutting lines around them all. Well, now I know. It takes a long time!

The best thing about this part of the story is that we met Neil from Bristol Design Forge. Laser cutting isn’t the cheapest production technique, and we needed 600 icons cutting in 5 different colours. Thankfully, in return for featuring the Forge within the exhibition, Neil agreed to sponsor some of the cost of the laser cutting.

This really saved the day and we are so so happy with the final results. Above, you can see John and Lucy sorting out the icons into their themes before they go up on the line. Below, you can see what they had to sort through and the gorgeous work that Neil did on the different colours.



Time constraints

Thankfully, due to our simple design structure and to our brilliant volunteers, we did get the main structure up in the space in one day. However there were a few crucial details that needed more time. Laying out text for an exhibition is a time consuming business and, in fact, oddly enough it takes even longer to write something as concisely as possible.

One of my criticisms of our work in this exhibition is that there’s probably too much text, which can be off putting to visitors wanting to participate. On this point I refer you to the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, who once wrote, wittily and accurately, at the end of a letter “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

We put up the exhibition on Friday 15th, the text posters were printed by the very helpful Hobs Reprographics on Monday 18th and put up in the space the same day. The weekend in between was spent madly typing and editing.

Safety constraints

At the end of the day on Friday 15th, Lucy and I decided that our genius plan of weighting down the coat stands with round paving stones was only partially working. We realised that if by chance someone stumbled and fell on the line, the whole thing might come tumbling down. Not good!

Lorraine from Engine Shed very kindly offered up her Saturday morning to allow us to come back into the space and create a reinforcing superstructure that attached the whole ‘data trail’ to the building’s interior structure. After that we felt much happier with our creation.



Weather constraints

Here’s Lucy, very elegantly hanging up some of the icons on the line outside. This was before the wind and the rain got to them. Yes, in our rush to get it all done on time, it can definitely be said that we hadn’t fully considered the effects of the winter weather on the outside section of the installation.

I had a plan, which, of course, I thought rather ingenious. I would waterproof all the icons outside with a clear spray lacquer. This, ingenious plan, I can tell you hear and now was not a success. Not at all. Not only was the spray lacquer extremely toxic, but it also didn’t do much waterproofing I’m afraid to say.

After the first weekend we could already see the cardboard suffering from exposure to wind and rain and the structure was being battered. So we resorted to plastic laminating. This was a previously abandoned solution, for aesthetic reasons, but needs must and thankfully the Engine Shed was able to lend us their laminator. John Kellas bravely accepted the challenge of laminating all 120 icons for the Mobility section, and we are enomously grateful to him for doing that.


Here’s a photo of what it looked like before the lamination process begun. I love this pic of the train icon hanging outside Brunel’s original railway station. Very poetic. I love it even more now because the train was lost to the wind after the first weekend. Sadness.

Printing on Tyvek

After another week in the elements, it was clear that the outside structure needed further TLC. Lucy and I popped down to Bristol earlier this week to make some crucial amendments. We secured the stands to the fence so they wouldn’t be blown over by the winds and we swapped the outdoor paper posters for new ones printed on Tyvek, which was suggested by Hobs Reprographics and suitable waterproof solution. We currently wait with baited breath to see if it works.



Participatory elements

Another benefit of our return to Bristol this week was seeing how the participatory elements of our design are working. It was wonderful to see how the postcard had turned out. They are there so that visitors can make their recommendations to Bristol Health Partners about how to ‘use data better’ in Bristol healthcare. It was also a delight to see the colourful icons gradually going up on the line.

Each time someone adds an icon to the trail, they are contributing a piece of data to the overall story of health in this city. By sharing our everyday experiences we will reveal new challenges and opportunities that can help improve quality of life in Bristol.



Get Involved!

I will leave you with this very cheerful yellow tree icon, which was put up by someone in the sleep & rest section of the trail. The exhibition continues in the Engine Shed until February 26th. Bristol Health Partners are hosting an event on February 22nd called: Health, data and the public good: Practical examples and planning for the future .

“These afternoon and evening sessions will bring people together to learn and discuss how health and data interrelate, and how they can be harnessed for the public good. The sessions include a conversation cafe, lightning talks and networking opportunities, and are jointly run by the RSA West (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) and Bristol Health Partners.”

We encourage you to get involved!

Creative Data Christmas Card 2015


We’ve had great fun designing our Christmas card this year and we hope you’ll enjoy making it just as much. As with all the things we create, it’s intended to be beautiful, playful and useful.

The card works as a 3D table-top festive decoration, using the smallest triangle as the base, but it also doubles as a handy phone stand (perfect for facetime) or card stand, using the longest triangle as the base.

Hopefully you will have already followed the 21 steps to creating your structure. We’re sure you got there on your own, but, just in case, here are some photos of what your finished article should look like.

Happy making and we look forward to seeing you for more playful creativity in 2016.

Leonora & Lucy

Credit: thanks to Snapguide for the inspiration.











Inspiration Monday: Top 5 tips for the London Design Festival 2015

The craziness of the London Design Festival is upon us once again. Each year it grows bigger and bigger, encompassing new parts of the city that have previously felt left out of late September’s creative buzz. Even to the hardened design festival goer London’s sheer scale can seem overwhelming. So, to help you with the impending FOMO, we’ve chosen 5 happenings that we think are must-sees.

I’ve chosen these, of course, through the Creative Data lens, which means I am interested in works that engage the public in a dynamic, interactive way, have an attention grabbing beauty, and will provoke conversations about some challenging social and or environmental themes.

We’ve also made an effort to chose events that are off the beaten path and feature emerging talent, as we know you’ll already have the V&A, Somerset House and Design Junction on your hit list.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 16.33.05

1. SustainRCA – Royal College of Art

Having been a judge at the first SustainRCA Awards in 2011, I am always excited by this show of new talent and their take on what it means to design a sustainable future. There are will be, inevitably, fascinating ideas in this show from across all RCA platforms. This is where the future is being created. The RCA says:

“This year, topics such as renewable, de-centralised energy and responses to London’s housing inequality, lack of connection with nature and the circular economy are most prominent. Notable work includes leather alternatives from jellyfish blooms and pineapple leaves, a controversial new way of mining precious metals and flexible wind harvesting structures.

This year’s theme is New Narratives – a nod to the need for new political and economic paradigms, and those willing to take a stand on environmental leadership. Expect ingenious products, materials innovation, solutions for society, and thought-provoking pieces that herald a bright new world.”


2. Curiosity Cloud – Brompton Design District

I think this installation by Austrian design duo mischer’traxler is vying for top spot at the festival in terms of beauty, drama, interaction and thought provoking content. This is what LDF say about it:

“The installation comprises 250 mouth-blown glass globes made by the Viennese glass company Lobmeyr. Each globe contains a single hand-fabricated insect and each insect has been printed onto foil, which has been laser cut and then hand embroidered to create the body. Capturing the full range of human engagement with this natural order, 25 insect species are represented, falling into three categories: extinct, common, and newly discovered.

From a distance, the insects are quiet and calm. A scattered few across the installation move, their vessels emitting a soft, glowing light. As visitors enter the darkened room and approach the installation, the insects come to life – moving more rapidly and emitting trilling noises as they collide with the glass in which they are encapsulated.

‘We have created a calm, yet alluring atmosphere, where people can engage with the installation and each other,’ say the designers. ‘It is a playful experience, but also a thoughtful project pointing at mankind’s relationship to nature. We want people to be surprised and delighted.'”


3. Colourful Crossings – Bankside Design District

This year the festival has finally arrived on the south side of the River Thames with the Bankside Design District. The work that leapt out at me when scrolling through their listings was ‘Colourful Crossings’ – 3 installations by 3 different artists that encourage interaction with the neighbourhood. This is what LDF say:

“Avenue of Art will take art out of its traditional gallery contexts and transform public spaces with exciting and engaging experiences. The project aims to encourage greater footfall along the street, changing the way it is used and perceived by pedestrians and motorists. The artists commissioned include:

EXYZT – a French collective of architects, artists and makers whose pieces are designed to encourage participation from the public. Their piece Crossing Stories will feature designs applied to the roadway and street furniture to draw visitors on a journey, and will build on their earlier work in the neighbourhood.

• Renowned photographer Morgan Silk, who will collaborate with a computer programmer to create a photographic image which uses anamorphosis and a new material to create an optical illusion.

Adam Frank is an artist and designer from New York, who will bring his work ‘The Performer’ to the UK for the first time. The piece is a simple spotlight projected on to the ground, when a pedestrian walks into the light it triggers a spontaneous round of applause.


4. 2°C – Aram Gallery

I’m intrigued to see the visions that several interesting designers have come up with in this exhibition about how we communicate climate change. This is what the Aram Gallery say:

“Devised by Disegno magazine, the exhibition has been designed by award-winning creative agency Universal Design Studio and curated by The Aram Gallery’s Riya Patel. The exhibition features original work by designers Dominic WilcoxIlona Gaynor, Maria Blaisse, Marjan van Aubel, Neri&Hu, Parsons & Charlesworth (see image above of Char-Dolly), PearsonLloyd, Ross Lovegrove, Sam Baron and Universal Design Studio.

2°C argues that design has a valuable contribution to make to the climate change debate. Presenting models, photography, graphics and objects, the exhibition will show provocative and thought-provoking proposals for how design could change public understanding of the issues surrounding global warming.”


5. Zero Waste Forum – Protein x Matter

Amazing to see another environment focused event happening this week. This panel discussion tomorrow evening looks promising. This is what Protein x Ma-tt-er say:

“Join us for a panel discussion with a new generation of designers, experimenting with innovative, sustainable production methods, for a look at how we’re heading for a zero waste future.”

Marjan Van Aubel (image above from The Energy Collection) — is a designer of materials and objects whose practice spans the fields of science and chemistry. Her work has been nominated at the Design of the Year Awards twice and is featured in MoMA as well as the Vitra Design Museum.

Shamees Aden — is a London-born researcher and a multidisciplinary designer exploring the potential of how new scientific practices could impact future designs. She has worked with the likes of Alexander McQueen as well as Nike.

Silo — is a zero waste restaurant in Brighton designed from back to front, with the bin always in mind. It’s eliminated the production of waste by simply choosing to trade directly with farmers, using re-usable delivery vessels and choosing local ingredients that themselves generated no waste.”

Protein x Ma-tt-er: Zero Waste Forum’ at One Good Deed Today, London, E2 8AG, 22 September: 19:00 – 20:00

Inspiration Monday: Design, When Everybody Designs by Ezio Manzini


“People live at the same time in a social space and a physical space; therefore their interactions also occur in both spaces. In the first they produce social forms, while in the second they produce places. All together they create society…

A place is a space endowed with sense. In other words, it is a space that is meaningful for someone. In view of this, and given that meaning emerges from conversations, it would appear that for a place to exist there must be a group of people who talk about it and act in it.

…the physical space that people occupy becomes a place when those sharing it decide to do something about it together… this means that they decide to start and manage a place-related collaborative organization; in so doing they become a special kind of intentional community… a place-making community.”

These three statements are taken from a new book by the great Italian design theorist Ezio Manzini‘Design, When Everybody Designs’ is an exploration of the area of design in which Creative Data is situated, that of co-creation between designers and communities.

I have to say this book is written in quite a dense academic style, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a light, easy read, but if you are passionate about social enterprise within the context of design, and ideas around co-creation and community organisation, then it has some excellent insights into where the industry is now.

Lucy and I went to see Manzini speak at the Royal Society of Arts back in June, where he was launching the book. In his talk he spoke about the overlapping fields of design, problem solving and sense making, which we felt dovetailed beautifully with our Creative Data mission.

Creative Data’s work revolves primarily around sense-making within physical spaces. By helping people explore how complex issues relate to their own lives, in familiar spaces, we are building capacity for understanding and action. In doing this we hope many people will be able find their own solutions or coping mechanisms that work well for them in their lives and wider communities. This co-creation approach is essentially what Manzini is talking about in this book.

Here’s an interesting statement about the role of designers from his RSA talk,

“Design should be able to criticise. We don’t want to be egoic designers, we are facilitators and we bring the ideas. We must dare to say something – we have to have ideas and it’s important to have different opinions.”

The notion of design as a a way to facilitate criticism of the current system and develop collaborative responses chimes usefully with the way that Lucy and I practice  in Creative Data. We are  interested in developing conversations to challenge preconceived notions, offering a critique of issues that develops interpretations of intuitive responses and new practical solutions, as opposed to identifying technical or theoretical challenges. This is why the phrase “…meaning emerges from conversations,” from the excerpt at the top, really jumped out at me.

In this book Manzini goes against current sustainability thinking by criticising what he called ‘Solutionism’. In our obsession with solving the world’s problems he believes we might be being a little short sighted.

“Not everything should be reduced to finding a solution, that’s not rich or deep enough.”

Certainly with the Creative Data mission of co-creation, conversation and exploration, rather than take the straight road, we are looking to go on a winding journey with people to develop deeper understanding. In a world that praises speed and efficiency, taking time to cultivate rich and deep meaning isn’t the norm, but we believe it creates more engagement and therefore more effective behaviour change in the end.

Manzini emphasises in this new book that designers have the capability of forging new social norms and that without community involvement, seemingly big and clever design ideas won’t last the course.

“If you can solve problems and build social links, then the solution will be sustainable.”

The book looks at how designers are the new connectors and bridge builders between an increasingly creative and connected world. He puts design into 3 categories:

Diffuse design – everybody and their broad creativity

Expert design – professionals and their specific skills

Co-design – the collaboration between community and professionals to create multidisciplinary projects

I think this is a helpful viewpoint for those professional creatives who are threatened by the idea that everyone is a designer now. I have always seen our job at Creative Data as a kind of translation service from theory and academia to life in the real world. We are the designers (expert) but we want to work with communities to tell their stories (diffuse) and in the process create a multi-disciplinary practice (co-design).

As Manzini suggests, there is really nothing to be afraid of when everyone designs. It only offers up more opportunities for us to build the bridges to a new vision of, what Manzini calls, SLOC – a slow, local open, connected world.


Inspiration Monday: Follow the Things

Part of a LEGO illustration of the production of Christmas toys. Leoging by Ellie Bird, part of the Follow the Things Project, Ian Cook et al.

Part of a lego illustration of the story behind the production of Christmas toys. Leoging by Ellie Bird, part of the Follow the Things Project, Ian Cook et al.

Ok so Leonora has gone away for the weekend (it looks lush, I’m very jealous) and I’m seizing the reins of Inspiration Monday for a week and taking it in a distinctly geography themed direction.

As you may know, I’m human geographer part of the designer/geographer collaboration that is Creative Data, and I never miss the chance to talk about how brilliant and useful cultural geography can be.

One of the many things that cultural geography does well is find ways to tell detailed, personal and important stories.


In that vein the Follow the Things (FTT) project gives us one of the finest (in my opinion) examples of public-focused cultural geography.  Brainchild of cultural geography superhero Ian Cook, FTT provides a novel way to find out about some of the interesting stories behind the commodities that make up our everyday lives. 

Visit FTT and you will find an extremely familiar looking, some may say amazonian, shop-front. This, however, couldn’t be more different to the jungle inspired Behemoth – you can’t buy anything here, but you can explore the stories of where all the things you have, need and want, come from.

From coffee, to human kidneys and the contraceptive pill, you can find commodity stories that will take you on an adventure around the globe.

Many of the stories are created by some of the super-clever undergraduate students at the University of Exeter, but the website also curates other sources, such as TV documentaries and newspaper articles.

And the best bit…some of the stories are presented using LEGO. Yes long before the University of Cambridge proposed their Professor of LEGO, FTT were using their LEGOlab to visualise the stories behind the commodities that are essential parts of our everyday world.

That’s all. Consumer Culture, Cultural Geography and LEGO, who could want more on a Monday afternoon?

Inspiration Monday: James Victore Says “Get Paid For Your Voice”

“Your voice is the way out, your voice is the answer. You have to follow that. You have to work hard and get it out into the world.”

So says designer James Victore. And he’s damn right.

We’re big fans of the V man (I just made that up, though it kinda works because James is awesome at giving bullshit the V sign. Don’t mess with this straight talking man). His weekly videos are must sees for any self-respecting, wanna-be world-changing designer.

Burning Questions is roughly hewn out of tough love for the kind of people like the letter writer, Natasha, in this video and like us, who see how much creative potential there is in building capacity to address some of the world’s most complex issues. The best way to do that is to develop your own voice and put it out there in the world.

Though Creative Data has been evolving for over 5 years now, (yep, we actually started our first project in 2009), it’s only recently that Lucy and I have been in a position to take on the Creative Data mission full time.

In the last few months Creative Data has become a Ltd company, we redesigned our website, we took an exhibition to the Houses of Parliament and Lucy became a doctor of cultural geography (yes, she’s fancy). It’s been momentous and, now we’re getting into the groove here, we’re really feeling Victore’s advice. It’s time to push this birdie out of the nest and see how it flies.

In other words, we’re developing our voice. We know what we want to do, but we also want other people to know too, so that we can find awesome new collaborators. We are making a concerted effort to put ourselves out there with regular blogs, events (upcoming) and we even have a podcast in the works, oh yeah.

It’s daunting to stand up and say “Here we are. This is what we’re about,” but, as James says, it’s better than following a whole load of stinking butts, aka ‘the herd’. There are so many challenges that are affecting people’s everyday lives, if we don’t stand apart and offer new solutions, we’ll never make the difference that is really needed.

I’m going to leave you with a wonderful quote from the author and celebrated environmentalist David W. Orr that sums up this Inspiration Monday.

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”

So, my fellow peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers, keep using your voice to make a difference. It’s really needed.

Oh and don’t forget to subscribe to James Victore’s Burning Questions. He gives the most valuable advice in the world, the fact that it’s free is just an incredible bonus. You’re welcome. You can thank us later 🙂

If you’re (quite rightly) outraged that James doesn’t charge for his weekly nuggets of wisdom, you can soothe yourself by donating to his Patreon page to let him know you care.




Inspiration Monday: 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations by Mike Monteiro


We’re big fans of the brilliantly straight talking Mike Monteiro of Mule Design. He’s a fab speaker and so it makes sense that he’s written a great piece on Medium imparting some wisdom about the many ways designers can shoot themselves in the foot when trying to communicate their ideas.

There are a lot of articles out there about the most efficient/effective ways to do things in industry, but sometimes it’s great to be reminded about the ways in which earnest, nervous, but ultimately passionate creatives keep getting it wrong.

Here are Mike’s 13 (plus one bonus round) pointers on ‘what not to do’ at your next crucial presentation. Below each point I’ve included the first line or two of Mike’s elaboration, but there’s a lot more juice in the full article.

1. Seeing the client as someone they have to please

Your client hired you because you are the expert at what you do. They are the expert at the thing they do.

2. Not getting off your ass

This is your room. Your first job is to inspire confidence. Not just confidence in your work, but also confidence in your client that they hired the right person.

3. Starting with an apology

Do not start the presentation with an apology or disclaimer. No matter how much more you had hoped to present, by the time you get in that room, whatever you have is exactly the right amount of work.

4. Not setting the stage properly

You have gathered all of these busy people together. They probably have other things to do. So let them know why they are in this presentation.

5. Giving the real estate tour

Never explain what they can obviously see right in front of them. They can all see the logo on the top left. They can all see the search box.

6. Taking notes

You’re too busy giving a presentation to take notes. You’re on stage. Ask someone else to take notes for you.

7. Reading a script

I’m already asleep. You need to convince your client that you’re excited about what you’re showing them. Let’s be honest here. This is a show. There’s a little smoke and mirrors. There’s a little Barnum.

8. Getting defensive

You are not your work and your work is not you. It is not an extension of you and it is not your personal expression. It is work product done to meet a client’s goals.

9. Mentioning typefaces

Clients don’t give a shit about typefaces. And if they do, they’ll ask. The thing I’ve heard most often from clients is “I don’t know anything about design.” (They’re wrong, btw.) This is their way of telling you they’re uncomfortable.

10. Talking about how hard you worked

The worst feedback you can get from a client is “Wow. It looks like you worked really hard on this!” Stop using your work like a time card. If you did it right, it looks like it was effortless. It looks like it’s always existed.

11. Reacting to questions as change requests

“Why is this green?” “I can change it!”

12. Not guiding the feedback loop

There’s only one question worse than “What do you think?” (It’s coming up.) Ever hear a designer scream about a client giving them the wrong type of feedback? I have.

13. Asking “Do you like it?”

Dear sweet lord in heaven above and all his angels, you just gave away the farm. They are no longer viewing you as an expert. You are no longer their equal in expertise.

…and one weird trick that you won’t believe works every time.

Learn the client’s goddamn name.

I really dig the way, although he’s giving some tough love here, that Mike is being really supportive of the designer in this article. Yes, we all want to impress our clients, no doubt about that, but too often we do it at the expense of ourselves. Mike is here to remind us that we are the creatives in the room and that’s something to stand up and be proud of.

#9 particularly, is standing out for me right now. Not so much the typeface part, as the client saying “I don’t know anything about design” part. We mostly work with clients in non design / art fields and we get this statement a lot in meetings. It’s great to be reminded that the best way to respond to this is making them comfortable with being the expert in their field and reassure them that you are the expert in yours.

“They hate feeling uncomfortable, and you do too. It’s on you to get them back into their comfort zone, which is the thing they’re experts in – their business. Which is great, because that’s something you are not an expert in. It’s great to have one in the room. There’s already a design expert in the room – you! So when presenting the work, talk about it in terms that relate to their business. Talk about how the decisions you made as the design expert match up to the goals of the project. Then your client can judge those as the subject matter they are.”

Click here to read the full article on Medium, there’s so much meaty goodness in there.

Also, if you haven’t watched Mike’s excellent Creative Mornings talk, titled quite simply ‘F*ck you, Pay Me’, it’s a must watch primer on the realities of business for all you designers out there and the importance of taking time to cover your ass when going into new working relationships. Having been burned a few times ourselves, we highly recommend paying attention here.

And to wrap up this Inspiration Monday package with a beautiful bow, we need to credit our source which is the very excellent Storythings newsletter. Do sign up for their weekly drop of amazing stories into your inbox. Yes, I know, we spoil you with all this goodness. Happy Monday guys and gals.

Inspiration Monday: Visualising Air Quality; two great new projects


Air Transformed

Wow, look at that beautiful necklace! Pretty stunning, eh? Well it’s designed to be eye-catching not just for aesthetic reasons, but for health reasons too. This design, by data visualisation artists Stefanie Posavec and Miriam Quick, show us the air quality around the area of Sheffield. Stefanie explains the city, a former steelmaking city, is notorious for it poor air quality.

“Each necklace represents a week’s worth of data from sensors measuring large particulate (PM10) levels. Since particulate matter damages the heart and lungs, we felt a neckpiece was an appropriate way of communicating this data.”


“The segments range in size from small to large and in texture from completely smooth to spiky and sharp to touch; the larger and spikier the segment, the more particulates in the air at that time. By running their fingers over each necklace, the wearer can literally feel how the air quality in Sheffield went up and down over the course of each week. Dangerous particulate levels have the potential to hurt/prick the finger of the wearer.”

Grist featured this fabulous design project last week, which included several designs for sunglasses etched with varying graphic patterns referencing the different pollutants in the air. As Suzanne Jacobs reports, “Altogether, the lenses make the glasses pretty hard to see through, which is the point: Pollutants make the air hazy.”


We love Stefanie and Miriam’s beautifully tangible take on a very intangible subject. The fact they made products to be worn specifically on the areas of the body most affected by air pollution is particularly effective.

The necklace sits on the heart and lungs, which are most vulnerable to particulates, and the sunglasses blur our vision while also enabling the wearer to graphically see the differences in air quality, which are usually invisible to the naked eye. You can read more about the details of the Air Transformed project on Stefanie’s site.


Google Maps Air Quality

It’s a double whammy of air quality visualisation stories this week as we move from the physical to the digital and Google’s announcement that they are now mapping air quality via Google Street View and Google Maps.

This is amazing news to us, as it’s something we spoke to Google London about nearly four years ago when we were working on a proposal with them for an air quality installation. Sadly our project never came to fruition, but it’s fantastic to see that great minds think alike and that the US team developed a pilot in Denver, USA which is now expanding to San Francisco.


Google have strapped Aclima air monitoring sensors to Google Street View cars in order to the collect the vital data needed to create the visualisations in Google Maps. Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Program Manager for Google Earth Outreach explains more.

“Environmental air quality is an issue that affects everyone, especially those living in big cities. This partnership with Aclima builds on our ongoing partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, enabling us to take the next steps in our pilot project to use Street View and Google Maps as an environmental mapping platform. We hope this information will enable more people to be aware of how our cities live and breathe, and join the dialog on how to make improvements to air quality.”

Below is a video that explains more about the project.

We’ve been following the air quality agenda for four years now and have made several attempts to create a large scale public engagement project on this tricky topic, which hits the hot spots of health, environment and politics.

It takes bravery to take on such an inflammatory subject and we’ve discovered, to our great frustration, that not many people are up for it. We’ve missed out on funding, we’ve been rejected by museums and, most recently, we even had an air quality project commissioned and then cancelled at the last minute.

Our own project nosedives notwithstanding, the good news is that over the last few years we’ve seen the subject of air quality receive hugely increased coverage in the press in the UK, mostly thanks to the very diligent and persistent campaigning from Simon Birkett at Clean Air London, and we see more and more creative visualisation projects emerging.

It’s really great to see an organisation like Google, with the resources and clout that they have, as well as independent artists such as Stefanie Posavec and Miriam Quick, take it on. This is a challenge that needs to be tackled and talked about at every level.

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Inspiration Monday: Purpose is the new bottom line

“If the animating spirit is not a love ethic, grounded in actually making the lives of other people better, you might have some short term economic gains, but over the long haul we have not found that enduring businesses and brands come from that.”

This Creative Mornings (NYC) talk from social entrepreneur Casey Gerald is a great point of inspiration for any young business that sets out to make the world a better place. And we definitely put ourselves in that category. As Casey says, the road is long and hard, but ultimately it’s so much more rewarding than staying comfortable within the status quo.

With Creative Data we are opting to explore small qualitative data in a world of big quantitive data, because we think the stories within local communities are the ones that most need to be told to inspire positive behaviour change.

Casey is a motivating speaker, for sure, but he’s also an inspiring doer. Along with 3 other Harvard graduate, he started MBA’s Across America which goes into struggling communities and offers Harvard MBA skills to local entrepreneurs. It’s a radical option for someone primed for a career, as he says, at Goldman Sachs.

Rock on Casey, we feel your love ethic. Do watch the talk, but we also recomend the Q&A posted below, which holds some real nuggets of goodness, including the quote above.