take a digital seat

I was pleasantly amused this morning when I got on my local bus to work. As normal the lower deck was already jam packed with commuters so I headed upstairs to grab a seat.

As I reached the top I came across this seating indicator.

This is new to me, and normally I tend to stay ahead of digital trends but I sat transfixed at the screen as people sat and alighted from their seats. I think I was the only one amazed about its introduction and I began counting the number of spare seats and referencing the location with the number of passengers there were.

It was pretty accurate give or take one or two people. But before I had a chance to work out how it was doing the tracking my stop had arrived. But I’m guessing the onboard cameras have been upgraded with some sort of positioning software that tracks heads in relation to seating location.

This type of technology is quite remarkable in that it’s been used on a bus. Travelling around London is costly and can be time consuming. I’m still not sure if this is a cost effective use of this type of technology, and with the amount of cctv that tracks us out and about on the streets anyway, this just feels like another encroachment into your individual space.

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The Heals Experience

So this was an interesting little find. Heals, in London’s Tottenham Court Road recently launched a new digital interactive feature in store. Using Samsung Galaxy Tabs with NFC chips, customers tap them on hotspots next to or on furnishings to pull up rich content about the product. They can then explore things like colour options and angles. Whats really good is it also allows the customer to save favourites and then email it to themselves for later viewing.

At the time I was in the store they were literally setting up the whole experience, so there was only a handful of Tab devices about. This would be an issue if the store got busy, say like on a Saturday afternoon, and  having only a handful of devices could annoy some customers who are waiting to use it. My only real concern would be securing the devices back on their charge platform after use.  The onus would be on the customer to put it back, once they’ve finished with it, but you know how some people are. I wouldn’t surprise at all if a couple went missing at the end of the day.

That said it was really nice to see Heals taking a digital leap forward. Personally I would’ve liked to have seen this work on personal devices through an app of sorts. Maybe using ibeacon or bluetooth technology as supporting.

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The Power of Your Writing

Im a subscriber to ‘Medium’. A blog of sorts that has a plethora of writings about anything and everything from people all over the world. I came across it through a tweet of a tweet of a tweet. And now, can easily spend an afternoon reading, learning and being inspired by the many wonderful insights.

Secretly, I’ve always wanted to post on the site. But 1. My writing is appalling. And 2. Honestly…Im afraid of trolls and negatizers (yeah i know thats not a word). But only just last week I came across this tweet on my twitter feed “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” ~ Aristotle. What resonated with me is the ‘be nothing’ part. Im not sure if my interpretation of it is correct, but i took the ‘be nothing’ part personally. I dont want to be nothing, so if it meant facing criticisms about my opinions, thoughts, writing, spelling and proper grammar so be it.

This morning I read the absolutely fantastic write up by Winnie Lim on Medium called The Power of your writing. And well all i can say is that this is my response. And hopefully a beginning too. I have often written small personal pieces for myself to re-read at a later time, but have never once felt i had the courage to post it. I have always found reading from good writers intimidating, they have the power to make you laugh, cry, to change your opinion. And like designers and creatives who publish their amazing work on dribbble and Behance, I can often find it off putting creating resentment and a self doubting perspective. So I rarely visiting them as much as I did, and if I do, its really to get freebies (just being honest here).

I digress, Winnie Lim’s piece was truly what I needed. Like a favourite school teacher showing genuine belief in your ability. It was uplifting, and perfect for a Monday morning. I wont go into detail only to say its a must read. A MUST. And for me, I will use this hopefully as a stepping stone, and learn to write as I write.

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  1. Katie

    I came to your blog hoping to find the very thing you’re afraid of. I came to seek out your thoughts and musings because there is nothing more wonderful than the inner workings and vulnerability of a creative mind. You should write. You have a story, and you have a gift. I look forward to seeing more posts like that. Be brave Gus, nobody is going to criticise you more than you criticise yourself. Merry Christmas

The site is now live!…Finally

As you know the designing, and developing your own site is never an easy process. Im actually disturbed to say that mine has been a year in the making. And you know, it’ll probably be another year before Im content with just leaving it be.

Like many others I initially looked at portfolio site providers like Cargo and Behance’s Prosite, to create a really quick and easy site. These services are fantastic, albeit with a learning curve in some cases. In fact my previous site was using one of Cargo‘s templates.

The only problem I found with such sites is that even though you have the flexibility to customise your site (within reason) soon all sites however begin to look very similar. And I found that when that started to happen, surprisingly so did a lot of the work that were being shown. Mine included. What i soon realised is that my work was getting lost. Lost in all that good shit that was being created by very busy creative people. Ultimately I let it get to me, and eventually became lazy and just stopped adding new work. My fault.

So early last year I realised that I had to do something. 2013 was an extremely slow year for me. So initially to keep me busy and stop the mental despair during quiet spells I got to the task of a site redesign in the hopes that it would stoke and re-ignite some fires that i felt had been going out. You know get the creative juices going.

The first thing I decided to do was to cut back on the amount of work I was showing. I had work going back to the early 2000. Shock horror! But I liked it then (and now) but really thinking about it, it wasn’t to everyones tastes. So I culled a lot of my early stuff, and only decided t keep a few I felt could last the test of time. Shit moves fast now, and todays trend is easily yesterdays news if you’re not on top of it. So I started a big cull.

The second thing I did was think about what I wanted my site to say about me. Im a contractual freelancer, and although i consider myself quite multi-disciplined, I had to start looking at what it is I wanted to be hired for. I often get recruiters calling me up asking me to take contracts that just do not align to what I do, and at the back of my mind I’m saying to myself “have you not seen my portfolio?”. So something had to be done there. Culling old work wasn’t the only problem. Deciding what stayed and why says a lot about you, and what you want others to say about you too.

Now the great things about sites like Cargo and Behance Prosite are that you can literally be up and going in minutes. They often offer you a non payment package with limitations such access to certain features and limited customer support, but they can often come with plenty of community support, so you won’t find yourself in a rut too long. All that being said I wanted my site to offer me more, and reflect more of what i wanted to share and how i wanted to share it. Customisation is the key. And unless you’re a dab hand at coding, you’re left with very limited options. Ultimately you have to get a developer involve. Once I swallowed my lack of coding pride I went on the hunt for developers.

My first port of call was to ask around colleagues and associates that I had worked with. I spoke to a lot of developer friends who all seemed very eager at the time. But weren’t really that enthusiastic about the idea of moonlighting. Plus my budget wasn’t looking like it was going to stretch that far. Luckily for me it just so happens during this period, that I was working with a small jewellery startup company on their brand and ident. They had approached me on designing and producing their website. I started putting the word out on social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. The usual suspects. And it was probably the best decision I made. I quickly got talking with a company out in Poland called prollective who were really eager from the get go to work with me. And when the start up site got going and i was seeing results, I knew I was on the right track with them. They were really good at listening and as eager to work with me again. So i set about sketching ideas and planning for my new portfolio.


It wasn’t long when realised that my job in hand would be a huge one. Unlike my contractual roles where i was brought in to do one thing at a time. On my own project, I became the client, account manager, project manager, art director, planner and designer. Things got very taxing very quickly, but I knew i had to get it done. I sketched plenty of iterations before I jumped unto the mac to work up a foundation, and had begun a site map tree and UX journey.


I was spending a lot of time thinking and actually very little doing, and it wasn’t long before work started to pick up again and my site looked like it was about to take a back seat. So I began to rush things, worked quickly and and cut corners. And whn I thought I was happy with the design, I even went as far as to create an after effects prototype (see below). Once I saw the prototype up I kind just dropped the ball on things it I just stopped working on it.

Other projects had taken over and work on my site was stagnate, I had to make money, so figured my stuff could wait. And to be honest i wasn’t looking forward to revisiting it. I knew I had rushed things towards the end of the beginner phase.

But I didn’t rest on my laurels. It just so happens that the new contracts I had picked up were a series of responsive site developments. This was great. It allowed me to pick up some fresh insights into my own workflow and also gave me the opportunity to pick up some valuable do’s and dont’s. I soon felt confident enough to to revisit my site again, I remember launching up the prototype clip only to stare at my screen and say “what the hell is this shit?!”. I wasn’t happy. Not at all. The design was too complex, too busy, the look and feel wasn’t right, and i couldn’t tell what was going on. I messed up, but had I not got this far then taken the step back I could’ve let this get out of hand. So I started again.

This time, with my new experience garnered, I wanted to keep things clutter free, and very very mobile friendly. Bold colours, large time face, and plenty of none webby images. I was after visual porn. I noticed that I spent more time browsing sites that used fullscreen images with bold type and minimal copy for longer periods than others. And I’m not ashamed to say I like that look. I like the clarity they offered, and the slick editorial feel. So I looked at achieving similar looks with my own twists and iterations. I spent weeks and weeks on UX and sketches, going back and forth with a very patient development team that was fully onboard an patient. I am no coder, so I was constantly asking questions and advice and suggestions, “Whats your understanding of the difference between a responsive and adaptive?”, “explain to me ‘em’?”, “I was thinking about this, but would it translate well on mobile you think?”. Always questioning yourself is the way forward. Why you did, what you did is a good self evaluation.

When I was happy with the UX journey, I approached the dev guys again with my latest iteration. All seemed good on first glance, but I would be hit with another hurdle. The cost. In my re-energised enthusiasm I UX’d and design with abandonment. Thinking I was going to get this and i was going to do that, without any implication of how much all this was going to cost. A long in-depth discussion with the dev guys and also counting the pennies had me reigning in my feature rich site in no time. After trimming away at the fat, and prioritising key functions, I finally got to a relatively content phase. I say phase, as I still intend to build upon what is currently live. (Still plenty of adjustments to be made going forward.

I toyed with working in with Sketch app at the very beginning of my design. I had heard a lot about it on blogs and such, and its gaining a real momentum. But I had to look at two key areas that would slow down the developing process. My learning curve, and also that of my developers. It was not the time to experiment. Once I was happy with my PSD files, I handed it off to build. With an extremely detailed UX included, I practically sat back, and and just waited tentatively for the first chance to see something online.

There are plenty of management tools online to help you oversee projects. I was in daily contact with my developers and they recommended Trello to me, but if ever i got confused or really needed a direct response, a quick Skype chat always watered down concerns. Once I got to grip with Trello (towards the ending of my site development that is) it was plain sail. I still know too little to want to recommend it as a tool just yet. So perhaps in another post.

Communication with the developers is key. And I would advise putting together a brief that stipulates contractual terms of agreement. I made a few mistakes in not stating clearly how we should treat amends and updates, so had teething problems at the beginning. Fortunately for I was able to reference my UX on plenty occasions when communication needed clarification. I also found that I was also able to use Firebug, (a Firefox browser extension) that allowed me to make changes live to the code on pages, such as changing specific font sizes and line spacing with any margin or error. And the developers truly appreciated my basic understanding, (a must).

To cut a much longer story short, in the end, my new site went up far more quickly than I had imagined, I had a very communicative development team working on my side, (honestly I think we only sent a couple of emails at the beginning and at the end of the project). My detailed UX documentation helped immensely as I was able to just let the developers get on with things and only began to provide feedback when the site was 3/4 done and in testing.

This is actually my first ever blog write up (hence the essay) I don’t know where i was going with this to be honest. Im not in anyway shape or form a writer of notable degree. But I wanted to share my process and say hello. So please be gentle in your comments if any at all. But thank you for your time in reading this.


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