Lessons learned the hard way

I discovered the most beautiful and insightful book today; an art piece by Aleksandra Mir – The How Not to Cookbook, Lessons Learned the hard way.

Recipes are designed to facilitate immediate success, they rarely document the ways in which it can fail. Based on Aleksandra’s personal history of cooking disasters, the project invited 1000 people from all around the world to offer advice of how NOT to cook.

This book was set up on mass in a lovely gallery space in the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, where there was a bit of library feel. Although all of the books in the exhibition were the same.  I also liked that they took some of the ‘lessons learned’ into the community in Edinburgh to share the myriad of methods for learning how not to cook with members of Streetwork Edinburgh.


In this book there are examples of ‘what not to do’ from people all around the world including entries from: Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, France, Italy, the UK and the US. The book is also split up into a range of unconventional cookbook chapters, from dating to drugs and everything in between.

The concept of this book started me thinking about learning and the ways in which we learn. It is not a new concept to learn from ones mistakes and we all do it… yet it is often a very good way to learn and often not always the easiest. There are no formal study pieces that I know of that present a series of things not to do in order to move forward. Particularly, in response to a specific topic. Yet reading parts of this book makes me wonder if learning from a collective of many peoples’ mistakes, could prove to be as valuable as the endless series of how-tos.

Of course it is good to learn from positive stories and routes for success. However, when trying to follow specific directions i.e. a recipe (to success?!), it is often the case that you have to substitute one part of the recipe, to change the quantities, to perhaps just add what you have got together and hope for the best. This may not always end up as a bad combination, in fact it could and certainly should work out better than a prescription recipe. But it certainly is valuable to have the knowledge that things do not have to work out perfectly on the first attempt. That in fact there are lots of people for whom it didn’t, but who could still pass on positive advice, despite through sharing perhaps a negative story.

As Scott Berkun discusses in his blog post How to learn from your mistakes:

What’s missing in many people’s beliefs about success is the fact that the more challenging the goal, the more frequent and difficult setbacks will be. The larger your ambitions, the more dependent you will be on your ability to overcome and learn from your mistakes.

My original post on blogger here. 

I love libraries

I have just visited my local library and it reminded me how much I love libraries: these amazing houses for books. I love that there is a whole building dedicated to people that want to read, to learn and to think. Yes, the internet is a hive of information, but a library is so much more. It is a place where you don’t always manage to find exactly the book that you were looking for, but you have the opportunity to look, to flick and to discover.

Public Libraries

Such interesting social spaces: they offer a place to go in city which does not ask anything of you if you do not want it to. You can be there for free and if you want to read a book, a magazine, search the internet, or simply sit and do nothing… you can. Because of this there is a diverse mix of people within these spaces and the best bit is they are all there for slightly different reasons. Some there for a specific reason, others perhaps simply there as there is nowhere else to go.

Library friend
Library friend

I remember meeting this amazing old man in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. I don’t know why, but I really felt the need to speak to him and so I did. He was amazing; at 85 years old he could hardly walk and he was blind in one eye (you can’t make this stuff up), yet he said that he went to library almost everyday as it was his place to go outside of his house and he didn’t really have anywhere else. He said that he was trying to learn about different things, so he read as many different books as he could, just a little bit at a time. Continue reading “I love libraries”

The gallery of graphic design

I have just discovered the somewhat unassuming website titled the gallery of graphic design, which behind its simple interface, is host to a feast of advertising gems (some not so shining), from the period between 1930 and 1969. There is the possibility to search by magazine, year, advertiser, product, keyword or issue.

And with copy lines such as “Men Love Women, Who can make pie like this” and stories such as “False teeth and true love…(Or) how gertrude got her man”.

It is certainly a great snapshot back into the history of advertising. Perhaps a good place to explore on a rainy day.

Pictograms with expressions

I started to think about the way pictograms are often used to convey basic messages, almost always without any sense of expression. However, having the opportunity to add a sense of life, to basic black shapes, can result in a wonderful thing. As is shown by the pictograms at the Lighthouse design gallery in Glasgow, which add a sense of humour to their message.

Continue reading “Pictograms with expressions”

Discovering dennis

There are so many good photographers in the world. Particularly with the increase in digital, there seem to be a growing number appearing every minute. When I look on Flickr, I get lost in a sea of photography: the good, the bad and the ugly. However, when I see something that hits me and constantly makes me think about it. I know I have found a keeper.

I first saw the work of Dennis Darzacq when I was living in Paris. I went down a little street, into a little building, down some small stairs and found myself in a delightful gallery space, with some fantastic images. The series of photos on display were called La Chute and I was won over. How did he capture these people in these seemingly impossible positions? Do they not create the most incredible portrait of the young people living in the Banlieus of Paris? Just a reminder that good photography is about the an interaction between the photographer and the subject, which then captures the heart and imagination of its viewers.

The delights of Erwin Wurm

Tonight I was just thinking about favourite things. I have often been one to say that I can have so many favourites that it is difficult to choose. The problem is, that is easy to be inspired by things in life and it can be difficult to choose just one as a favourite. I think I can define something as a favourite, as opposed to an inspiration when it continues to inspire me in a long term. That every time I revisit the work of a specific artist, that it gives me a renewed sense of pleasure, that it makes me want to find out more, to learn about who inspires them and who they inspire.

Erwin Wurm is one of these favourites. 

I simply love his work. I discovered him a few years ago, when I came across his book The artist who Swallowed the world in the school library and since then I have been hooked. I love the simplicity of the idea in alot of his work, yet I find so much of it to be extremely compelling. It often makes me smile. which is the most important of all.

I love the series – 1 minute sculptures, which are based on simple interactions between the model and their surroundings. They are interactions which are unusual, that cause you to stop and take a second to look and to chuckle, as it is if for a single moment the person has been caught in the act of doing something that is normally not done. It is almost like a photographic diary of everyday people caught in a strange moment, these pieces seem so quick, so brief in their creation. However, there also seem to be many deeper messages that can be read within the photographs.

I like that you can notice traces of his work in others. I guess that’s pretty standard in art. I see his work as a possible inspiration to design work, mostly in the sense of the idea – not to take products and spaces at face value, to search for all possible ways that something may be used or interpreted by the people that interact with them.

My original post on blogger. 

Falling asleep in public

There are times when there is a need to take break in the day. Especially when spending a whole day in a new city, and planning to stay out at night. Over the years I have felt this sense of overwhelming tiredness appear at various times. So recently when in London (well in fact yesterday), I went back to the one space that I remember as being truly possible to relax for free in this big city. Continue reading “Falling asleep in public”

Keep Moving?

The impact of this one girl standing still in Stockholm, while people all around kept moving and moving made for a fantastic sequence. I do wish I had continued to photograph it for a moment longer. However, I still think it just captures a thought, the sense of stopping, and standing still, for just a moment.

Yet it often seems that if you do begin to slow down, take time out… that the world around you speeds up and just moves faster and faster. Therefore, there is a sense of need present within the world today, to not stand still, but to keep going as fast as you can all the time. It reminds me of the quote by Carl Honore in a TED talk from 2005, when he states that we are;

a world stuck in fast forward, a world obsessed with speed, of cramming more and more into less and less time[1]

So is the answer simply to slow down; to hit the slow motion button on the remote control? Does the slow motion button still exist? Carl Honore discusses slowness, mostly in relation to life issues and one important question he raises, which could apply to life or design is;

Is it possible or even desirable to slow down? [2]

Instead of simply embracing the chance to breathe and consider what we have already, we are almost always thinking about what we need next.

[1 & 2] Carl Honore, Slowing down in a world built for speed, TED talk – filmed July 2005, posted Feb 2007.

Originally posted on my old blogger blog here. 

My first blog – circa 2008

I just rediscovered an old blog called Open Your Eyes, that I set up in 2008. It’s funny, it was such a long time ago and yet the initial intentions of it really weren’t so different to those of this blog. I have decided to move some of the relevant content over here, not all of it – but there are a few fun nuggets. The original, full of wacky grammar and all is still live here!


I wonder if I will look back at this blog in 8 years time and be amused by it also.