Week 10

21 December 2012

And that’s the end of 2012.

A very quiet end to the year: a few little meetings to wrap up one short project and investigate another. Otherwise, I treated it as roughly a half-week, and focused a bit on some personal work, none of which is really near completion.

On Monday, I also built the visualiser for this year’s Radio Roundabout. They wanted something “a bit New Aesthetic” for this year. I loosely interpreted this brief to produce a Kinect-powered visualisation of the studio.


It’s very straightforward: it takes the IR point cloud in 3D, colours it according to what the video camera can see – and then applies a strokeweight to each point based upon the audio line-in level (RMS).

So what you get is a room full of blobs that pulse along with audio – particularly fine on the Dan Deacon or Todd Terje that played on the show, but fun with spoken-word too.

The whole project – all two hours of gluing other people’s code together – is on Github.

And that was it, really – a few leads on work I’ve followed up, but a quiet end to the year. Weeknotes are now on hold until 2013 – after the Radio 4 talk – and I’m hoping there’ll be a bit more news to share then.

Not a bad start to freelancing, then; here’s to 2013.

Week 9

14 December 2012

Week 9 seems to be the last work of client work this year.

Monday was mainly about meetings, hopefully lining up some work for early next year. In the rest of the week, I spent a couple of days working on interaction design for an iOS product, drawing out maps, wireframes, notes on aesthetics and animatics.

It turns out the Four Thought I recorded will be broadcast on Friday, 26 December at 8:45pm. Flattering to be in the Christmas week, even if it’s a time when most people might be busier with family! It’ll be on iPlayer as well; I’ll probably mention that in its own blogpost nearer the time.

Otherwise, the usual admin – and beginning to plan Week 10, which is likely going to be a form of “project week” – prodding a few one-to-two day personal projects into life, if only to keep my hand in and get me up each day.

And, today, it was exciting to share that my work with PAN is shortlisted in the Playable City competition – that might go somewhere exciting next year; even if it doesn’t, it’s great to be shortlisted given the quality of the other entries.

And that was Week 9.

I spent a couple of days a few weeks ago working with PAN Studio on their proposal for Watershed’s Playable City project. I’m excited to announce that PAN (working with myself and Gyorgyi Galik) have been shortlisted for the competition, with their project Hello, Lamppost. You can find out more about the project here.

It’s an exciting shortlist – lots of friends, peers, and former colleagues on it – which really captures the breadth of thinking around play in the urban landscape right now. Final results are announced on 21st January; we’ll wait to see what happens next. Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist.

Weeks 7-8

07 December 2012

No weeknote for Week 7; I was on holiday.

I came back straight into the thrust of Week 8, though: two pitches, a talk, and a bunch of meetings.

Wednesday itself was taken up with finishing writing, and then delivering, a talk for Radio 4’s Four Thought. This went very well in the end – and it should be on air around Christmas time. I’ll link to it when it’s available on iPlayer, of course.

Pitches went out on Wednesday and Thursday, one in conjunction with PAN, for the Playable City brief, and one with Caper; with any luck, I’ll be writing about them more in due course.

And then a Friday of meetings and post-holiday admin. Hitting the ground running, then, and with any luck, lining up a little more work before breaking for the holidays.

So, from a week off, straight in to a somewhat full-on week with typing. But: good things emerging, that I’ll write about more in due course.

Week 6

23 November 2012

Week 6 began with a couple of days helping Alex with a workshop.

I also a spent a day with the fine folk of Pan exploring some pitch work – and it was lovely to just be in a space, working through ideas with them; they’re all good folk.

Squeezed into Wendesday was a day of writing: working up a draft for the Four Thought talk in just under two weeks.

Thursday saw the launch of Spirits Melted Into Air, a piece of work for the RSC that I’ve mentioned in passing (but not detail) in weeknotes a few times. It’s now live and in the world, and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out; it’s nice to finally be able to show people a piece of work.

And now it’s Friday. I’m writing this from the back of economy on the way to the US, for a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment holiday – I’ll be in New York for the next week, taking some time to take stock, settle my head, and see the sights (and friends). Do say hello if you’d like to. I’m also going to take the time to perhaps write a little, and think about trajectories. But mainly, I’m going to eat, read, and have a bit of a holiday and an adventure.

Week 5

18 November 2012

A few different directions to focus on this week. Monday and Tuesday saw me wrapping up a piece of work with Storythings, having finished up a few nice pieces of code – though the documentation that accompanied it turned out to be as important for demonstrating the work to the client.

The rest of the week focused on business development and quite a lot of admin – quite quiet, as a result, but some interesting meetings to potentially build on, perhaps in some new directions.

The RSC work will launch next week – quite excited to finally take the wraps off it. It was great to see Natalia’s piece in the same series of commissions go live.

Also, the announcement of my Four Thought talk on Thursday – which means next week will involve trying to hammer out a draft before I take a brief holiday.

Looking back: this was very much an echo of the week before, really. But good to be plugging on, building things up, and exploring what might be coming soon. Onward.

Week 4

09 November 2012

Monday and Tuesday were spent with Storythings, and a lovely gang of developers (and friends) working on an internal hack day for a charity: building prototype products to show them what’s possible with a centralised content API. There are two more days next week on this. I’d wrapped up a small prototype by the end of the second day, and have got an interesting, more data-oriented one to work up next week, which should be good. Lovely people to work with all around, though, and some excellent lunches over on Hanbury St.

Wednesday was mainly spent working on a pitch with Rachel from Caper. This was following up some work we’d done the week before – turning our ideas and sketches into writing that met the requirements of an application form. And making a video; that led to me breaking out Premiere and my voice recorder for the second time in two weeks.

The rest of the week turned into business development and working for myself. A few meetings on Thursday and Friday, which might turn into nice leads in future. And, on Thursday, some time hacking up a small prototype piece of software – partly to refamiliarise myself with a few auth techniques, and partly to scratch an itch for some friends. A few hours saw auth with Flickr and caching lists of photos up and running; hopefully I’ll get some time in the near future to wrap that project up, although as ever, finessing the interactions and UI is already growing as I think about it.

Other good news on Friday was the effective completion of the RSC project: the work is complete, and we’ve got a launch date for it. That’ll be when press releases go out, and when I can take the wraps off it, and finally show you all. That’s in a little under two weeks time. Exciting!

And that was Week 4.

Week 3

02 November 2012

Week 3, and time to slowly reveal my codename system.

Codenames, then. They were a thing we used at Berg, and lots of my colleagues and peers use them for referring to projects. They might sound a bit macho and secretive, but they do fulfil a useful purpose: it’s nice to give things a name before you’re in a place to reveal them. It makes writing about upcoming work much easier, too: things now have a single name, rather than a vague description. It took me a while to find a theme – I didn’t want anything too SF or militaristic, which is hard when you’re trying to find good codenames – but in the end I found a big enough list of names within a theme, that also had the requisite poetry to it; it makes me smile every time I pick one. +5 points if you’ve work out what they’re named for.

A few interesting meetings this week – talking to my friends at PAN Studio about potential collaboration, and working on a pitch (which my pipeline document tells me is codenamed Detling) with Rachel Coldicutt at Caper.

I also spent a day doing some work for Makielab – an exploration of a small problem space, to help with some decision making. It turned into a battle between me and geometry, but it moved a few things on, so I hope it proved useful.

And finally, I pushed the RSC project through to what, I hope, is its conclusion. That meant: picking up a second batch of laser-cutting, printing some posters, and finishing up the promotional materials.

The promotional website has not been too complex – a single-page site covering off the main elements of the project – but I’ve also put a chunk of time into a short explanatory video. Video always takes longer than you realise, but I’m pleased with the results; I hit “export” on Friday afternoon on the final thing. As well as learning quite a lot about Adobe Premiere, I’ve been reminded of how much better a film looks when it’s got good audio. The 69p clapperboard app I bought for my phone was worth every penny. Filming, still photography, and editing, took up most of the rest of the week.

And, I hope, we’ll launch the thing formally in a few weeks. I’m really excited to show you what I’ve been up to; I’m very proud of it.

November is looking quite healthy; next week sees the first two days of four total through Storythings (“Cheriton” in my pipeline spreadsheet). I’m still trying to pin down December’s work – get in touch if you’re looking for the sort of stuff I do (or: ask me if you don’t know what it is I do).

Week 2

29 October 2012

A week featuring a lot of business development – ie, meetings. A few of those might lead to interesting things; others were just worthwhile having to catch up with old friends. That included some talking with Makielab, where I currently have a desk, and in return for a desk I’ve said I’ll do a small amount of regular work for them. On the Friday of Week 2, we explored what the first piece of work might bbe.

When not in meetings, I pushed on with the RSC project. Several successes here. I wrapped up the data-recording (for the second play I’m producing visualisations on), finalised the print output format, produced the print design for the second play, and started work on the promotional website.

I shot a chunk of film for the explanatory video on Friday, recording some live audio, and also a guide voiceover, which will need replacing next week. I’ve now got an idea of what shots are missing, and what might need replacing – I can shoot these once I’ve got the final physical artefacts produced.

Speaking of physical artefacts: the biggest success here was getting the first material back from Cut Laser Cut. I was a bit wary of what was going to emerge, but the result turned out to be very beautiful indeed, and won’t need re-cutting. Given that, Week 3 should see the remaining laser-cutting going out the door almost immediately.

So Spirits… is in good shape. I’m hoping to spend at most a couple more days on this – one to wrap up the promotional copy, and then one to wrap up the film and photography once all the materials are back from fabricators. Then, hopefully, it’s just a case of delivering things to Stratford and setting a small site live. It’ll be exciting to have my first actual piece of work since going freelance live, and I’m a bit anxious to finish it all up.

Otherwise: I continue to consider options for the end of the year. There are some interesting things hovering, and it’s a case of seeing if they’ll come into land. (If you’re looking for a smart developer/interaction designer for short projects before the end of the year, or have a Tom-shaped project lying around – do get in touch).

Week 1

22 October 2012

Late again. Oops.

This week began with two days of interaction design work for Good Night Lamp. I’ve written more about that over at their website already. It was a pretty successful couple of days, with lots of new directions explored.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent really pinning down some aspects of the RSC project: tidying up the repository, making the “recording” tool conform to stage aspect ratios, increasing the resolution of recording, and beginning to move towards a final print design.

I also started investigating quotes for print and physical fabrication, and sent the first prototype design to Cut Laser Cut – hoping to get something back early in Week 2.

And then Friday was Playful, which was a really lovely day – one of the strongest Playfuls in years. Particular highlights for me were Einar and Anab, both addressing interesting issues and challenges that face designers not just of games and playful experiences, but almost anything. A great day out, with good company, and lots to take away and chew on.

Next week sees a bit more business development, and hopefully steering the RSC work towards its conclusion by the end of the week. Part of next week’s work is producing the final output materials, and also producing the promotional work around the project – a website and a short film.