A visit to London

I finally visited London. I have been to many cities around London — Brighton, Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford — but this was the first time I actually visited the city itself. We went there on a semi-organised trip with my fellow students (and teachers) from the Master Design course in Rotterdam. The idea was that you should organise your own schedule and, if possible, invite others to join the activities you organised. I visited three different agencies in three completely different offices. One owned a complete building overlooking the Thames. Another had a few rooms in an enormous palace. The first office we visited reminded us of an apartment in Amsterdam. Not too big, not very small, with 50 people working in it.

Peter Gasston at rehab studio

Peter Gasston of rehab studio was so nice to invite us to their studio for a fantastic talk about the future of the web as he sees it. It was an excellent start of our three day visit. He talked about the fact that a few enormous companies like facebook and google are taking complete control over ever larger portions of the web. Where at first they were pointing people to things elsewhere on the web, they now more and more host the content themselves. Which also means they control it. And they prioritise it. That’s really scary. These companies don’t necessarily work for the common good. They work for their shareholders.

Peter also talked about augmented reality. Where nowadays you’ll mostly hear visionaries talk about virtual reality as the next big thing, Peter focused more on augmented reality. There should be a webAR. We don’t want this this new playground to be controlled by these giant corporations as well. It was thought provoking to say the least. For me as a person who really likes the web because of its inclusive principles it’s somewhat scary to see where things are going at the moment.

Nesta

Manon Mostert – van der Sar organised a meetup at Nesta where Bas Leurs gave a provocative talk about design and innovation. When Bas talks about design he doesn’t talk about making pretty things, he doesn’t talk about creating logos or even applications, he talks about designing eco systems. Which led to the conclusion that the word design means nothing without an extra word to accompany it. So to clear things up, Bas talked about eco system design, which is often referred to as working on so called wicked problems. He warned us at the beginning that he would probably piss some people off with some of the statements he was going to make. He succeeded. The thing that he provoked me most was a hierarchy in design he talked about, and particularly this quote: everybody can design a logo. It’s either a disdain for important details, or it’s a problem that more senior designers have. They don’t remember how complex their profession is since they understand it through and through. The rest of the talk was really insightful. Loved it.

Doteveryone

Together with Jop Japenga we visited Doteveryone, a think tank founded by Martha Lane Fox. Doteveryone aims for a society where people have digital skills and digital understanding, where companies take an ethical stand and play an active role in society, and think about the common good, instead of just the shareholders. It tries to start a conversation about technology, about digital ethics between companies, government and users. Martha Lane Fox was the driving force behind the incredible success of the Government Digital Services in the UK. Let’s hope this will be as successful.

Other stuff

I also visited a few museums. And I walked a lot. And I ate curry (some bad, some excellent). Next time I will try to prepare this trip a bit better. I could probably meet more people. But on the other hand I liked the ad hoc nature of this trip.