Week N+1

The office of AAA in Paris, complete with recylced bottle lampshades.

The office of AAA in Paris, complete with recylced bottle lampshades.

Well, the week does not feel like it's quite over yet - I'm working my way through Saturday - but as my Mac has just seized up I thought I'd start work on this update.

This week started in Paris, visiting Atelier d'architecture autogérée (studio for self-managed architecture) - AAA for short - to talk through the creation of a website to allow the various participants of the Rhyzom project that they have started to document their activities and findings. Part of the aim is to do this in a structured way to allow the building of a map of the network of participants this creates, with the aim of this map extending further out after the initial project has completed, and to create a platform which grows with future projects rather than dies after it's initial active phase. The working meeting allowed me to start working on the structures and code needed to drive the site - though I have a worry that the structures are so complex that getting people to enter the information may be problematic - this is making me rethink some of my existing toolset and how people approach managing data in that.

Travelling to and from Paris gave me a chance to catch up on some outstanding work on a new website for Avant Gardening a project which has been bubbling under for some time, a series of projects about gardening and environmental awareness in London. The new website is finally getting there - I've been working on it in fits and starts all week - so hopefully, issues with the domain names aside, we can get it live next week.

On top of this I did some design and functional tweaks to my CMS Framework to make the extending structures of the kind of sites I make easier to manage - though it seems that most clients have a desire for quite complex outcomes and so it's often hard to reconcile that with usability. A never ending task of reduction and rethinking, but a useful one.

On Wednesday I also managed to get on with a number of the updates to Spatial Agency (primarily in terms of CMS updates, but also a couple of design tweaks), an update to the CMS and some design tweaks on Rona Lee's website, as she ploughs into bringing her site up to date with her last burst of work, and a couple of other updates to the usual suspects from last week : Grizedale, Park, Somewhere, What Will The Harvest Be?, Rossi & Rossi.

On Wednesday I also managed to dig further into the Lawson Park Electronic Library, getting all of the initial data loaded into the CMS on the live site, and getting the management interface for it (mostly) built.

On Thursday I went to Sheffield, to help Studio 8 at Sheffield University School of Architecture. An initial presentation to some of the groups raised some interesting questions, such as issues about the longevity and worth of websites that stop being contributed to, especially given the level of lifestream noise created now.

After the presentation I set to work with the group to look through data they have been gathering in the last weeks and apply some tactics for analysing and refining it to present a final mapping of issues they have found in Sheffield. This was interesting and challenging - they have gathered a lot of disparate information from many sources and are trying to bring it together in a cohesive way - initially using a Ning and Google Maps, this has faltered for a couple of reasons - the amount of data they have, and the limitations of the Tools at hand to present the complexities of the information. I tried to encourage them to look a the information in a new way, to work out what they were trying to say and what was the most pertinent way to present each core group of information they have, as a number of views of sheffield, rather than trying to put all of the information into one view that became overwhelming. I look forward to seeing the outcome; the have a lot to do in the next week or so, so wish them luck.

In talking to the students I got the impression that there was a feeling that there would just be a 'technical' answer, which there seldom is - in fact part of the problem I constantly come across is the desire to create something with a complex outcome, and expect to be able to have it all simplified by some program or device. Unfortuantely that's seldom the outcome - computers can work much better the other way - analysing information to produce simplifications, but generally if you are trying to achieve something complex then it's going to take a while to sort it out.

Finally, to a couple of days back home in front of the computer, working through Avant Gardening and Rossi & Rossi's websites - punctuated by some great Pho for lunch with Francisco Salvado, during which we bemoaned the homoginisation of corporate web design, something that I'm working against since my release from SHOWstudio and the ned to think less about the concerns of advertisers and marketplace, not that that stops me thinking about usability, but I also want to create work that engaged people through being challenging, at different levels. Sometimes work should be about the audience making an effort, as much as the the designer.

I was hit yesterday evening with a new logo for Rossi & Rossi - which kind of throws my existing design (based on their previous logo) into disarray. I'm still working out how to manage that one. Got to love a client curve ball. A lot of today has been about that.

The week ended on a nice note, with a request from Kieren Reed and Abigail Hunt to start building them a shared & split portfolilo site(s) for their work. It should be quite a straightforward job - a releif from some of the more complex issues I'm dealing with else where, but has it's own set of unique requirements which will make it it's own challenge as well. That should come into shape in early 2010.

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