7

Oct

2017

First Week At Erretres

7th October 2017

As you can probably imagine this week has been a hectic week to top all hectic weeks, as on Monday morning I headed off on the metro to be reunited with the guys at Erretres and begin my first week working as an adult in a full time job – scary stuff!

Off to work on my first day

Off to work on my first day

Coming back to the office was just like coming back home, and after a shower of hugs I presented a gift which I had brought – scones with jam and butter for the entire team. They went down pretty well, although I was upset I couldn’t bring along clotted cream instead.

Anyway, we were soon whisked into our weekly planning meeting and I was soon assigned my first project, which had a quick turnaround – we had to get part of it ready for Friday! Between designing for that however, there were some other things to do as part of the initiation ceremonies, including moving my head for the announcement video on Instagram – here’s Álvaro doing his…

Ready for some dabbing

Ready for some dabbing

As usual I can’t really discuss any of the work which is going on behind the big closed metal doors, but I’m having a blast in getting stuck into some big design projects and working with a bunch of cracks (what the Spanish have taken to mean fun people). I’m even enjoying the challenge of balancing the books as an adult, meaning I’ve been making the rounds to Mercadona (a bit like a Spanish Tesco/Aldi combo) to get my 36¢ tins of tomatoes…

Back in the office

Back in the office

Outside of work I have obviously been making the most of the sun before it begins to cool down as October wanes on, including wandering around the centre which is just a few minutes walk from work. I love being able to walk out of the office and be passing the royal palace and gardens in a matter of minutes – and then onwards for coffee and a sunbathe in the park!

Wandering around the city

Wandering around the city

Passing the royal gardens

Passing the royal gardens

As you can imagine the shock of moving from casual hours to full time has meant that I’ve been pretty tired every weekday, but today is Saturday and so I had plans ready to make the most of my free day – tomorrow I shan’t be working either of course but most of Spain is shut on Sunday so it’s a bit of a write off. Last night I couldn’t be bothered to cook, so the owner of my flat showed me a nice local spot to grab some food at, and I enjoyed a lovely seafood cannelloni – something I’d never heard of before!

How I've missed good food

How I’ve missed good food

Today was another jam packed day though, as me and my flatmate Heidi had arranged to go out and do plenty of things out and about in the city. We started off at Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s huge public park, where there was an exposition of dogs and cats which were looking to be adopted. We went along to see all of them and I was happy to notice that most had stickers over their little signs announcing that they had found a new home – and also happy that there were so many dogs! I just love dogs.

Changing leaves in Retiro

Changing leaves in Retiro

A very beautiful cat

A very beautiful cat

Once we’d had out fill of our feline and canine friends, we headed to the lake in the park to stop and have some lunch, and we had a lovely long chat whilst I managed to spill all the sweetcorn from my sandwich all over my new white jeans. Genius idea to wear those…

Lunch with a view

Lunch with a view

I found it really pretty how the seasons are quite visibly changing here, with some of the trees still lush green and others turning a vivid orange as autumn creeps up on us. It’s also definitely cooling down slowly but surely, I woke up with cold toes this morning! Maybe I’ll need to actually start putting a blanket over myself… Que locura.

Changing trains

Changing trains

One we’d managed to find our way out of the park we made a quick visit to Dealz (basically Poundland) and bought some chocolate teacakes to try tomorrow – Heidi grabbed a bar of Cadbury’s Caramel and we certainly enjoyed that as we continued on with our explorations, explorations which eventually took us back to the centre and around the royal palace.

Us two in the palace gardens

Us two in the palace gardens

It was then time for me to finally visit one of my favourite spots in the city, a tiny little Mexican bar which I think serves the best tacos in the entire city – I’d mentioned it to Heidi and we decided we had to pay it a visit. The food was as delicious as ever, and I washed it down rather nicely with a fresh green apple margarita. I didn’t know different flavours other than citrus existed!

Chilling in the bar

Chilling in the bar

After this Heidi had an appointment to make and I was getting tired, but our progress was stunted by the passing of a very extra baroque-inspired procession. I didn’t manage to shove my way very far forward but I did capture a quick photo of the extravagant outfits of the dressage section…

I want one of those hats

I want one of those hats

Having just got back to my flat about half an hour ago, and at only 10:45pm local time, I’m already pretty knackered after having been on my legs all day and so I think I’ll probably put myself to bed pretty soon. The day tomorrow will be a pretty relaxed one, as I’ve just to do my washing and a few other admin tasks, and then I’ll probably take myself up to the local park and do some sketching and reading before watching the sun set over the east of the city. It sounds kind of idyllic but I’ll have to report back as to whether it’s as good as it sounds…


1

Oct

2017

Moving To Madrid (Again)

1st October 2017

I sit in my bed writing this post exactly 18 months after a blog post called “Moving To Madrid” – and so I’ve had to tag “Again” on so that WordPress doesn’t shout at me for having two blog posts with the same name! Last time I’d just moved here to start work with Erretres as an intern, but this time I sit in bed awaiting to start my full time job with them tomorrow morning.

As you probably know by now from my last blog post, I have accepted a job to work here permanently and so just yesterday I left from England to start my next chapter here in the big city. The moving process kicked off well before then however, as I had to scoot around Leeds and Burnley to say goodbye to everyone I could get hold of!

A farewell to the Leeds gang

A farewell to the Leeds gang

As you can see above, I started with a couple of days in Leeds, where I visited everyone I could including a bunch of friends who are either designers or have somehow been sucked into our design world. Convening at Belgrave, I had a lovely evening catching up and seeing everyone off whilst sipping lemonade (no cider due to a bad head) in one of our favourite old haunts.

Strike a pose

Strike a pose

After hugging and waving everyone off it was time to head back to Burnley for my last day at Burnley Youth Theatre, where I’ve worked on and off for almost six years. What I didn’t expect was a big surprise buffet, complete with a theatrical hand-clicking opening and a background of Spanish music!

A Spanish themed buffet

A Spanish themed buffet

After helping ourselves to heaps of chorizo, jamón, olives and even some nice warm churros, the team gathered and it was time to make a quick speech – something I am hopelessly bad at, but I gave it a go. More hugging ensued, and sooner or later it was Wednesday morning and still without having packed a thing I was roused early to go to visit my sister Ellie in Sheffield, where I’d agreed to make her university room a bit more homely by installing the lights I used to use in my university room – better than them being stuck in a loft!

Ellie's new room

Ellie’s new room

On Thursday I was back in Burnley again, where I headed out for coffee with a friend from high school, then went to get my hair cut, then out to lunch with Amber. Unfortunately amidst the excitement of a leaving present she’d bought me (a hilarious mechanical walking beefeater) we forgot to take a photo, but thankfully we took one whilst we were catching up in the pub the week before.

Gin and tonics all round

Gin and tonics all round

That Thursday night I still neglected to do any actual packing, however I did manage to pull out a few piles of clothes and toiletries and group them together ready for packing. The next day was Friday and that heralded my last day in England, but my mother insisted that I spend half of it with her picking my sister up from Sheffield once again. I know the road to Sheffield like the back of my hand now, I swear!

Anyway, we eventually picked Ellie up and returned back to Burnley for our last supper together as a family, but on my return I abstained from packing once again and instead had a nap to try and stave off a gradually worsening cold. Once I woke up it was panic stations as I rushed to get everything organised and packed into a mere 30kg total baggage allowance – it may sound fine but it’s not much for everything one needs for the foreseeable future!

Needing to be up at 2:30am to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight departing at 6:30am, it’s no surprise to discover that I didn’t sleep at all once I’d climbed in bed at about midnight. Fuzzy headed I said goodbye to my room, my sister and then my parents once I got out of the car at the airport, and then made it through bag drop and security in a tired daze. I don’t remember much of the flight, I popped on a new pair of headphones I bought in the airport (one last treat before the budgeting begins) and I think I drifted in and out of sleep for the whole 2 hours.

Sooner or later I found myself whipping out my trusty Madrid travel card which gets me super discounted travel throughout the city, and eventually wound up at the door to my new flat. Being shown my room by my lovely host, I soon met my flatmate and was invited out for a meal of tapas and sherry with one of her friends – an offer I couldn’t really turn down!

A delicious array of food

Tapas and tinto de verano

After a lovely evening of chatting, dining and of course drinking, we headed back to our flat relatively early as I was (and still am) full of a cold and we both wanted to get rested. We did, however, take a quick detour to Plaza Mayor, where there was an installation consisting of a huge circle of grass which brought a breath of new lease of life to the square – everyone was sat down and enjoying the ambience!

Grass in Plaza Mayor?

Grass in Plaza Mayor?

Today it is Sunday (I say this more to remind myself than you guys, it has been a busy week), and I had a relatively calm day visiting Lush and IKEA to buy a few essentials (yes, their rosewater scented solid shampoo is an essential). As I mentioned at the start of the post I am sat in bed having watched the sun go down from my window, a photo of which I attach below.

An evening over the east of Madrid

An evening over the east of Madrid

At 9am tomorrow I will be headed to the Erretres office to begin in earnest, and make no mistake that I will be back on my blog to tell you about all the shenanigans of my first week as soon as I can next weekend! Until then however I must bid everyone dulces sueños as I should really try to get some kip in!


30

Sep

2017

Surprise News

30th September 2017

I have to admit that I’ve been hiding a little secret from the general public for a couple of weeks now, as I wanted to ensure that everything was concrete and sorted before publicly breaking the news. If this post seems like it has a familiar tone then you may remember my last blog post which contained exciting news which was posted in February 2016. At that time I had managed to secure myself a work placement with Erretres in Madrid for six months, and I was over the moon!

As some of you probably know by now I had a great time whilst I was out there, from my initial move out to moving studios to eventually having to come back home for my final year of university. After this and a fun and stress filled final year I graduated this summer and suddenly I was thrust into the big bad adult world of trying to find a job and balance the books.

My family have been a great help in allowing me back home and I once again began working at Burnley Youth Theatre where I have been involved in various capacities since 2012 – they really helped me find my passion for design and get me on track for further experience all through university. After working with an array of fabulous people and companies such as Sky, Elmwood and indeed Erretres, I was faced with the dilemma of deciding where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.

I always knew that after my time at Erretres I somehow wanted to move back to Madrid, a city which I fell in love with during my first visit back in October 2015, but I did also love working as part of the great team at the studio. To this end I got back in touch with creative director Pablo and began discussions about possibly returning, and so it’s at this point I can reveal that I have accepted a job offer to return to Madrid and join the Erretres team!

Artboard 1@0.5x

Erretres logo

The past week or two have been absolutely crazy, especially with a trip to Lisbon thrown in, but I have been managing to slowly get my arrears together in order to move to Spain. It’s all still a blur, even though as this post goes live I will be sat on a plane flying to Madrid, and I cannot describe how excited and mildly terrified I am. I land today, Saturday 30th September, and my first day back at the studio will be Monday 2nd October. No rest for the wicked!

This all means that I will be now permanently based in the Spanish capital for the foreseeable future, and my trips back to the UK will probably be somewhat sporadic and infrequent due to the cost of flying at peak times such as public holidays. Have no fear however, as I will be updating my blog just as often as ever to bring you all the goings on from my upcoming big city life – which from now on will all also be posted in Spanish too as my fluency (hopefully) improves!

As ever I extend an open invitation for anybody I know who’d like to come visit or is passing through the city – most weekends I’ll be free and more than happy to show people around. Just let me know in advance!

Until then I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me achieve what I’ve always wanted to do; be in the city I love working amongst some hilarious people for an amazing design studio. I shall, to that, raise a sangría – cheers! Or maybe that should be a hearty ¡salud!…


22

Sep

2017

The Briggses in Lisbon

22nd September 2017

This week just gone was time for another trip to Lisbon after my last visit in February, but this time I was accompanied by my sister Ellie! Exploring the city from Wednesday 13th to Monday 18th, we spent a good few days wandering the city’s gorgeous winding streets and even hopped on a train to visit another town near the coast. Buckle up, there’s plenty of photos on the way!

Ellie and the patterns of Lisbon

Ellie and the patterns of Lisbon

We landed early on Wednesday afternoon and so headed out to get exploring straight away after we’d dumped our stuff in our hostel room. We covered an impressive amount of the city’s centre on this first day of explorations, wandering down to the waterfront and then up into the city’s western quarter.

Some good signage type

Some good signage type

The gate by the waterfront

The gate by the waterfront

The old shop facades of the city centre

The old shop facades of the city centre

Once we started getting a bit peckish we headed for a place that me and Izzy had visited back in February and had an amazing meal, Taberna da Rua das Flores. When we rocked up however, the wait had already reached an hour and a half! It’s definitely a place worth waiting for, so we decided to head elsewhere and vowed to return earlier the next day.

The sun begins to set on our first day

The sun begins to set on our first day

We wound up having a lovely meal at a place called Fábulas, where we found out that our waiter had starred in an advert for the local beer Super Bock, and Ellie tucked into a vegetable strudel which sounded strange but was quite delicious.

The next day we had breakfast at a little café near our hostel which became our morning haunt for our daily breakfast, before heading out to the oldest part of the city in the east, in an area called Alfama. This is the only area of the city which survived the huge earthquake of 1755 that destroyed most of Lisbon, and its age is definitely given away by its charm and its windy, narrow and very steep streets.

Relaxing during a wander round Alfama

Relaxing during a wander round Alfama

The traditional tinsel was out in full force

The traditional tinsel was out in full force

I love a good window

I love a good window

We really enjoyed traipsing up and down the various flights of steps and severe inclines of the area, as unforgiving as they may have been – we were saved from burnout by a decent breeze which was blowing in off the Atlantic! We even had a moment to compose ourself and bag a decent selfie before our hair was ruined said salty breeze.

Obligatory sibling selfie

Obligatory sibling selfie

Something too cool for us about punk, probably

Something too cool for us about punk, probably

Resplendent in red

Resplendent in red

As you can see above, I basically dragged Ellie into being a model to stand in front of some of the lovely backdrops which presented themselves to us as we traversed around. When I wasn’t instructing her to stand in front of brightly coloured doorways, however, we took plenty of time to soak in the views and enjoy the ambience – until the wind made us too cold, that is…

Colourful and carefree

Colourful and carefree

A blanket of terracotta

A blanket of terracotta with a dash of hi-vis

We also spotted some peculiar things in Alfama, including a gravity-defying pigeon and a “you tried” attempt at covering up an embarrassing bald spot on where the tiles had fallen off a building…

It's time to try defying gravity, I think I'll try defying gravity!

It’s time to try defying gravity, I think I’ll try defying gravity!

Well... they tried

Well… they tried

After a pit stop for some bruschetta and a quick coffee, we finally began to descend the hill and wandered past a few of the area’s churches and plenty more jovial street art along the way.

An explosion of colour

An explosion of colour

Pink and wavy

Pink and wavy

After returning back to sea level and an unsuccessful attempt at finding Ellie some vegetarian lunch on the TimeOut market by the waterfront, we eventually gave up and boarded a train to the far west of the city and the area known as Belém. There we stopped to snack on some pastries, had a quick bathe in the sun and had a good look around some of the buildings and monuments in their pretty surroundings.

I even managed to snap this photo of a rainbow’s fleeting appearance as the sun hit the spray which appeared every now and then when the fountain in the centre shot out a high jet of water. I was very proud of the shot, which even features a sliver of Lisbon’s famous bridge, but I think Ellie was getting bored of just sitting waiting for me to look at rainbows and so we soon headed back to the city centre.

A rainbow over Belém

A rainbow over Belém

Once back in the city we headed straight back to Taberna da Rua das Flores and managed to get a quaint little table for two after a mere half hour wait. We used said wait to go and get ourself one of Lisbon’s infamous custard tarts, so it wasn’t that bad, and then the food itself was definitely worth waiting for.

After our tapas dinner for two, we headed back to our hostel to get refreshed and then walked down the road to a rooftop bar that Ellie’s friend had recommended, and we were not disappointed. Sipping on a mojito and a martini overlooking the gorgeous hills of the city, we chatted away in the lovely evening atmosphere before heading back to the hostel to get a decent night’s sleep before the next day’s adventure – a day trip to Sintra.

Colourful flora of Sintra

Colourful flora of Sintra

Sintra is about 40 minutes on the train outside of Lisbon, and we discovered that it’s well worth the visit – just be sure to top up your travel card before you head to the train station in order to avoid the huge morning queues for the ticket kiosks! On arrival we immediately decided to stop for some lunch and to get our bearings, and so we made a plan of action over a cheese and ham toastie and a much needed 2L bottle of water – it may have been breezy but the sun still got us!

A mysterious shrine

A mysterious shrine

We began by first heading up a hill through a lovely park, where we stumbled upon the above shine. After sticking our heads in led us no closer to working out what it was there for, a gardener approached us who spoke Spanish, and so he explained to me that it was the spot where one of the local saints had apparently appeared.

 

After getting slightly lost trying to work our way out of said park, we eventually found the small centre of Sintra, and walked up to one of the many castles and palaces. We decided not to go in this big white one, and instead sat on a bench just outside, taking in the views and munching through a bag of warm fresh popcorn which Ellie had bought from a lovely street vendor.

A pretty decent view

A pretty decent view

Before heading to Sintra, I remembered that I’d seen a multicoloured palace whist researching which I thought we should try and visit, however we couldn’t seem to see it anywhere on the surrounding hills. After a quick Google search we discovered that the place that we wanted to visit was called Palácio da Pena, and so headed to the tourist office to ask how we could use public transport to get up there – this was a trip on a budget!

After having to miss the first bus as it was full, we eventually made it up the hillside and were dropped off at the gates to the grounds of the palace. We then had to part with more money than we expected, but once we’d found the palace itself we soon realised that it had all been worth it – the architecture was magnificent and the views were truly something else.

Walking up to the castle

Walking up to the castle

The gorgeous colours of the palace

The gorgeous colours of the palace

Whilst I was taking picture after picture of the palace’s colourful walls and beautiful blue tiles, Ellie wandered off and found a little door which I would have probably missed. She came back to tell me about it leading to a little path called the “Wall Walk”, so we both headed through it to check it out.

It turned out to be one of the most impressive yet terrifying moments of the entire trip! We found ourself walking around the perimeter of the entire palace, which offered amazing views from atop its hilltop location. The only thing was that the wind at that altitude was pretty relentless, and we were both soon very cold and very terrified of being blown over one of the perilously low walls of the wall walk…

The moorish castle in the distance

The moorish castle in the distance

Once we’d had a few minutes taking in the views of the moorish castle and the landscapes beyond, we soon hurried along the wall walk and back to the other, sun-bathed side of the castle, where we basked in the warmth for a good moment, before eventually descending back to grab the bus back into the centre of Sintra.

The yellow and sunny side

The yellow and sunny side

A mishmash of architectural styles

A mishmash of architectural styles

Once we’d got the train back to Lisbon, we headed back into the Barrio Alto area of the city, which is the perfect spot for an evening meal or a few drinks in one of hundreds of tiny little bars. Tired as we were, we decided just to eat, and found a restaurant with some pretty amazing views over the water and the infamous red suspension bridge. There we tucked into a lovely selection of tapas, but soon found ourselves back at the hostel and in bed as Sintra had well and truly knackered us out.

The next day we were back in the centre of Lisbon once again, and yet again found ourselves faced with a ridiculous amount of steps. I assured Ellie that it would be worth it though, as we were to ascent to the viewpoint named Senhora do Monte, which offers unparalleled views over the many hills of the city.

One down, plenty to go

One down, plenty to go

The view from the top

The view from the top

A candid shot during the descent

A candid shot during the descent

The wander to our next destination at the other side of the city had us once again on our feet for a decent amount of time, but we were sure to break it up by stopping for some lemonade and having the quick break – even if it was just for me to take yet more photos.

Lisbon in one picture

Lisbon in one picture

The patterns and colours of the city are something else

The patterns and colours of the city are something else

 

Another view of the city

Another view of the city

Once we were lower in the city, it was time to head back up the hill on the other side, so we decided to be kind to ourselves and grab the metro up there. Once we hopped off we were soon greeted by an impressive sight, looking straight down a large grassy avenue down towards the front of the city. For the second time in a day we felt on top of the world!

Looking towards Lisbon

Looking towards Lisbon

After this we headed downhill slightly to pay a visit to another place which Ellie had found by doing a bit of Instagram stalking, some botanical gardens called Estufa Fría. Not expecting much more than a few plants in a glorified greenhouse, I was pretty blown away by the scale and magnificence of the place. One minute we were wandering through a cool selection of fauna, and the next minute we were in a big heated greenhouse chasing each other round a selection of cacti. For Ellie, a biology student, this place was heaven!

Trees growing indoors?

Trees growing indoors?

Once we’d had our fill of greenery for the day, and wolfed down a nice cool ice cream in the building heat outside the gardens, we headed back to the city and had another lovely meal at Fábulas. That evening, and seeing as it was a Saturday night, we heeded back out the Barrio Alto district and had a late night drinking caipirinhas, beers and even a cheeky glass of wine in the lovely nighttime ambiance of the city.

What's going on here?

What’s going on here?

 

The Sunday morning we were once again back on our feet bright and early, heading back into Alfama as we’d enjoyed our wander around it so much a few days prior. From there we eventually headed down to the waterfront and hopped on a bus up to somewhere I fancied visiting, the tile museum.

Every colour of the rainbow in Alfama

Every colour of the rainbow in Alfama

The tile museum wasn’t exactly Ellie’s favourite place that we visited, but I enjoyed browsing the various patterns and colours and finding out about the technical process behind making the various types of patterned tile that can be found across the city. One room which was quite impressive was the golden chapel, which took us by surprise as it wasn’t what we’d expected to find amongst rooms full of tiles.

The chapel

The chapel

Eventually I got a bit too thirsty and Ellie’s craving for pizza got a bit too strong, and we wound up having a comforting pizza lunch at a local greasy spoon. We headed back into the city once we’d loaded up on calories and tried some pretty grim Russian chocolate, and I had a plan of how to get us back up into Barrio Alto to have some dinner at the restaurant with the lovely views over the water – one of the city’s infamous yellow trams!

This tram wasn’t a tram per se, but an elevador, named as such as it takes passengers up and down one of the steep hills rather than just along the flatter streets. We hopped on, got squished like sardines, and were soon rattling our way up the slope to a spot I wanted to visit for lunch.

The elevador

The elevador

That evening and all too soon it was our last night in the city. To celebrate we headed back to the rooftop bar a little earlier than the previous time, meaning we had time to grab a caipirinha and then watch the sun set over the city.

Night falls over Lisbon

Night falls over Lisbon

The next morning we’d to pack our things and then left our bags at the hostel, as we weren’t flying until quite late and had plenty more to pack into our final day! The first thing on our list was a visit to the oceanarium, so we made our way to the north of the city on the metro and when there found ourselves wandering towards the place under some menacing looking skies.

Cloudy skies over the water

Cloudy skies over the water

Who doesn't love a garish paint job on a bench?

Who doesn’t love a garish paint job on a bench?

With our tickets already paid for online, we were quickly jumping all the queues and inside the oceanarium’s exhibition. The first one was a gorgeous look at underwater plant life by Japanese artist and “aquascaper” Takashi Amano, but this was merely a prelude to the rich array of ocean life which we found in the main building, a strange looking concrete structure seemingly floating over the water of the docks.

Let's name the species that live in the sea!

Let’s name the species that live in the sea!

A precious sea otter

A precious sea otter

Ellie had a whale of a time nosing around the ocean life (sorry for the pun), and then after a quick lunch in a nearby shopping centre we headed back to the city centre. Ellie had a very important purchase to make at H&M, I completely forgot to buy some custard tarts to bring home (damnit), and I paid a quick visit to the city’s photography museum. There was a lovely exhibition on with photos from various stages of Lisbon’s history, but all too soon it was time to grab some dinner before picking up our bags and heading back to the airport.

The photography museum

The photography museum

Light filters into the metro system

Light filters into the metro system

After landing at Liverpool Airport and then driving along the motorway in the early hours, I managed to get us back home in one piece and we eventually managed to hit the pillow at about 3:30am. What a slog!

As tiring as this all may have been however, we both had a lovely time visiting the city together and I am definitely looking forward to visiting Lisbon again sometime in the near future. I was also happy to have taken Ellie on her first city break, and am happy to report that she enjoyed it so much she’s considering doing more in the future. As a brother then, it would appear, my work here is done!

Stay tuned for more exciting news and a preview of my new website over the coming days…


21

Sep

2017

Future Iconography

21st September 2017

The other day my mum’s friend and her young daughter came to visit, and we all wound up in my room having a snoop around the decor. If you’ve ever seen how my room looks, you’ll know that I have a set of shelving which showcases a photo frame, a green phone and two clocks in sequence. The phone handset is actually connected to an old MP3 player which makes it ring loudly once every 15-20 minutes, and when you pick the phone up there’s quiet hold music playing 24/7.

This is relevant to this blog post on iconography, I promise…

Whilst all gathered in my room, the phone happened to ring, and my mum’s friend went to pick it up. She made a comment about the old-style phone, and then said something which got me thinking: that her daughter of 11 years probably wouldn’t know what the old-style phone actually was.

I’m dubious about how much truth is in the idea that an 11 year old wouldn’t know what an old phone receiver looked like, but it certainly took me back to the debate about the infamous floppy disk save icon. We’ve heard stories about younger people being presented with floppy disks and wondering why somebody had made a physical copy of the save icon, and I profess that when I see the icon I relate it in no way back to a floppy disk.

Artboard 1Save

A famous case of a problematic icon continues to be the share icon, with Gizmodo (and many others) picking up on how nobody seems to be able to agree on what a share icon should look like. Even Microsoft felt obliged to make a change to theirs just this February after tests showed people were having problems pinpointing the meaning their previous icon. The problem with the share icon is that the act of sharing is very abstract – it has no universally accepted physical properties which can be simplified into an icon.

Artboard 1@2x

What I have noticed however, is that there seems to be a separate group of icons which may one day fall victim to quite a distinct problem. I’ll take some of icons on my iPhone as examples below: namely the phone, camera, and video icons. These are all perfectly understandable for all users at present; but consider something: all these icons rely on mental associations to real-world physical counterparts in order to make sense.

Artboard 1icons

The camera icon relies on a user knowing the shape and form of an old-style phone receiver (like the one in my room), the camera icon relies on the user being familiar with the shape of a traditional camera, and the video app icon requires they know what a clapboard is. This is all well and good in a world in which the majority of us have had experience with these objects, but what about those being born into an increasingly digital world where exposure to these kinds of objects (especially defunct ones such as floppy disks and large old phone receivers) is increasingly limited?

Apple themselves seem to be aware of this paradigm, having changed their voice notes icon from a rendering of an old-style microphone to a more graphic sound wave. It could be said that this was just a move aligned with Apple’s big push to ditch skeuomorphism which occurred with the release of iOS7, but the skeuomorphic elements of the design were actually removed prior to iOS7’s release.

Skeuomorphism, for those unaware, refers to the act of “making stuff look as if it is made of something else” – see how the old Mac Calendar application used to resemble the leather cover of an actual diary. Yuck.

Screen Shot 2011-07-13 at 12.31.15 PM

This rather seems then to be a move towards making an icon which is more easily understood in the 21st century, where large recording microphones are uncommon, today more a reserve of audio recording specialists. The sound wave would be recognisable to those living a near exclusively digital lifestyle, as the UI of the application clearly presents this graphical interpretation of sound when it is used – it has become more ubiquitous than an actual physical microphone for this purpose.

Artboard 1VM

Of course I am not saying that a new generation will suddenly cease to understand the meaning of such icons, as the meanings will continue to be known through what Microsoft describe in their blog post as “ubiquitous meaning”, or something which is “universally accepted as a true representation regardless of its symbolic meaning”. As an example they present the octagonal red road sign which is accepted as representing “stop” even though as a symbol it is not (when you think about it) actually related to the physical act of stopping.

It could be argued that the save icon is a modern day example of an icon which has moved from being a physical representation of an act, i.e. saving a file to a floppy disk in days gone by, to one of these more ubiquitous meanings. Nowadays everybody simply uses the floppy disk icon to represent the act of saving, and so it has become universally accepted as the save symbol, with hardly anybody who sees the symbol actually considering the actual physical object it represents.

Will the same happen to the phone symbol, the movie symbol, and the camera symbol? Has it happened already? It would be interesting to carry out an experiment to see if users, particularly younger users, are able to explain just why they know, for example, that the music symbol represents music. Would it be because they recognise it as a musical note from a bar of sheet music?

It would be very interesting to peer into the icons used in the future and see how and if they adapt to a world in which the objects which they once literally represented in order to be understood have now become defunct. I predict that it will be especially poignant with the internet connecting more and more people of different cultures and languages. It does indeed seem that the same digitalization which necessitates pictorial communication is also beginning to change how the meaning is conveyed, moving from symbolic meanings towards more ubiquitous meanings.

With the digital challenge of having different users speaking different languages, it seems that designers will have to increasingly rely on universally understood icons to be understood rather than the perils of specifying a word for each language – it’s much easier to put an icon of a bin than try to translate the word “delete” into every language in the world. Emojis (which are basically a form of icon) are now often used between two people speaking between different languages, as it aids understanding where words fail.

It seems that icons are now having to graduate from being merely decorative accompanying elements into a vital part of communication, and it’ll be interesting to see how they change with the times.


2

Sep

2017

Village Life, Village Drama

2nd September 2017

Living in the village I call my own can sometimes be a little dull, but every now and then a lovely moment arises which makes me appreciate it a little more. The other night we headed out for a stroll over the hills behind my house and stumbled upon a lovely sunset and a group of sheep which decided that I was to be their leader and so began to follow me…

I do love a good sky

I do love a good sky

My new crew

My new crew

Another day I got all Mary Berry and decided to make some buns, but 50 buns later I decided it was time to use the spare cake mix on something else, and so found a couple of small tart tins and made a mini victoria sponge – we even drove out to get some fresh cream for it.

What's this, a cake for ants?!

What is this, a cake for ants?!

It hasn’t all been quite so plain sailing in the village though, as my mother managed to cause chaos by managing to pop one of our car’s tyres on the way home from the shops. This meant that the entire neighbourhood had to listen to the drama unfolding on the street as my mum and sister arrived atop a recovery lorry…

Ellie's having a great time

Ellie’s having a great time

Home in one piece

Home in one piece

Amongst all this I’ve been working hard to get my new website built, and I’m pleased to report that it’s coming along nicely. It’s been a bit of a drag though, there’s papers all over my room full of numbers and calculations and the week has been filled with a lot of swearing at my laptop as CSS declines to behave as predicted…

Calculations for days

Calculations for days

I’ll soon be bringing you some previews of the design, so watch this space! This weekend however is time for a bit of relaxation and maybe a trip to Blackpool to check out the new illuminations. What a childhood throwback!


30

Aug

2017

Burnley Canal Festival

30th August 2017

This weekend me and my dad faced a bit of a conundrum, as the Colne R&B Festival, the Burnley Canal Festival, and the Higham Scarecrow Festival were all happening at the same time. After some very intense discussions, we decided to head down to the Leeds-Liverpool canal which winds through Burnley and check out the festivities there.

Heading down the straight mile

Heading down the straight mile

Flags show us the way

Flags show us the way

A road to nowhere

A road to nowhere

After a wander down the longest piece of straight bearing canal in the world, we turned a corner and began to approach the hub of the Canal Festival, a newly regenerated ex-industrial site called Sandygate.

Looking skyward

Looking skyward

Passing the wharf

Passing the wharf

Approaching the area we came across more and more beautifully made up canal boats, starting as we passed The Inn on the Wharf, a pub by an old loading station along the waterfront.

Dad snaps a photo

Dad snaps a photo

Bunting galore

Bunting galore

A nice little pot

A nice little pot

Unfortunately this was Saturday night, and we’d to be back home before 6:30pm in order to wake my mum up and take her to work for the night, and so we soon made an about turn and wandered back along the banks.

Old mill aesthetic

Old mill aesthetic

A hole in the wall

A hole in the wall

Walking back down the waterside

Walking back down the waterside

On the Sunday we headed back down once again though, as we never really made it to the square where the event was actually taking place. Parking up in an area nearby, we wandered down the hill and over the canal and found ourselves in the heart of the action!

Looking over Burnley

Looking over Burnley

A collapsed roof

A collapsed roof

On our way down we wandered amongst the abandoned buildings and mills of Burnely’s bygone industrial age, but I found beauty in the decay and stopped a while to take some photos.

A window no more

A window no more

Green on green

Green on green

Drunk door

Drunk door

Once I’d bought a bottle of water ready for a day cooking in the sun, I found my dad in his usefully yellow t-shirt and we began to explore the festivities. I enjoyed a spot of line dancing, watched an array of artists make an array of cool crafts things, and even stopped for a while to watch the awesome Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band – their music was infectious!

A cheeky dance

A cheeky dance

Looking over the tents

Looking over the tents

After wandering down to the water and watching people have fun going out for a quick canoe in the canal, me and my dad reconvened and grabbed some bao – Chinese steamed buns filled with fried chicken and succulent pork. Heaven!

Artwork on the water

Artwork on the water

A pop up solar cinema

A pop up solar cinema

After eating the weather was getting decidedly English and a raft of grey clouds seemed to be blowing over, so we headed back to the car and I spent the rest of the evening having a lovely relaxing bath – a rather blissful weekend if ever there was one!

In other news I am progressing quickly with the coding of my new website design, and I’ll be asking people to test it out pretty soon! Get in touch if you’re interested – I am particularly interested in people with non-Android and non-Apple phones. More updates on this soon…


22

Aug

2017

Dad’s Birthday Travels

22nd August 2017

Just this weekend was my dad’s birthday (age withheld), and so we decided to head off out to do a few bits and bobs between my mum having to sleep and work night shifts. First up was a visit to our favourite local chippy for a good old fashioned fish and chips, Grandma Pollard’s in Todmorden.

But wait, a bus?

But wait, a bus?

Just in case having fish and chips couldn’t get any more twee, this chippy has an old bus parked up around the back that you can enjoy your meal on, and so we scrambled aboard and perched on one of the tiny little pews to enjoy the greasy goodness.

The only place to have a chippy

The only place to have a chippy

After this we jumped back in the car and drove up to a spot I haven’t been to for many years, Hollingworth Lake, just over the border in Greater Manchester. We arrived in what felt like the downpour of the century, and so didn’t have the chance to grab an ice cream, opting rather to have a quick nosey before heading back to Burnley. Our trip back was interrupted though by quite an impressive sight – a huge bright double rainbow!

Part of the rainbow

Part of the rainbow

I seem to have managed to miss out the second and slightly more faded rainbow, but if you look in the top left corner of the image below you should be able to just make it out!

Reflected rainbows

Reflected rainbows

After dropping my mum off at work for the night, me and my dad shot over to Yorkshire and enjoyed a lovely evening of tapas and sangría at The Tapas Bar in Todmorden. The quaint little bar served us a variety of delicious food – we both slept well after having filled ourselves up with seafood, chorizo and pinchos!

On Sunday my mum was once again busy sleeping after working through the night, so it was up to me and my dad to get out of the house and do a little something to celebrate. We decided to head for Lytham on the east coast of Lancashire, taking our cameras along to see what we could see and hopefully have an ice cream (I really wanted an ice cream this weekend).

But what's this on the coast?

But what’s this on the coast?

After parking up and wandering to the seafront, we stumbled on a collection of rusty old machinery and boats which had seemingly been abandoned along the banks of the Ribble Estuary. I climbed over the railing along the promenade and headed in to investigate…

Rusting away

Rusting away

An upturned boat

An upturned boat

Sloping into the estuary

Sloping into the estuary

The line of rusty wrecks seemed to span on forever, so I began to wander towards a couple of beached boats closer to the water’s edge. I was soon however slipping all over the shop on the wet mud, and at one point nearly ended up falling on a stranded jellyfish – disaster averted.

This boat has legs

This boat has legs

Another tractor has had its day

Another tractor has had its day

A blue and red tortoise shell

A blue and red tortoise shell

As the rusty collection came to an end, I passed by a good few stricken boats which had long been forgotten about. Ever inquisitive, I stuck my camera in some of the windows and got a little shutter happy.

Through the jaws

Through the jaws

What happened here?

What happened here?

Shortly thereafter I heard some strange engine noises coming from dry land, and so I headed back up the slope to return to the footpath. I found myself suddenly walking through a makeshift car park on a large patch of usually empty grass, and it soon become obvious that we’d stumbled upon some kind of event.

The British bunting was our first clue

The British bunting was our first clue

It soon became apparent that we’d unwittingly come along on the weekend when they were celebrating the Lytham 1940s Wartime festival! The attendees wandering around in period costume gave the game away, but I soon came across a couple of Spitfires which I thought was pretty cool – I recently watched the film Dunkirk and it was quite breathtaking.

 

Spitfires in Lytham

Spitfires in Lytham

After a quick snack by a recreation Soviet army camp, we stuck our noses in the Lifeboat Museum for a quick look around and then headed into the town centre to grab a bite to eat and do a little window shopping.

Nice typography here

Nice typography here

An old lifeboat

An old lifeboat

Full of dried apricots and Pringles, we eventually headed back to the car and I drove us home – 43 miles and I didn’t hit the curb once. Success.

Oh yeah, and because of the long queues due to the big event in Lytham, I didn’t even get my ice cream. Gutted.


16

Aug

2017

Another Day of Summer

16th August 2017

As most of the world knows, Britain’s summer comes in dribs and drabs, and we enjoy sporadic hours of sunlight instead of any solid days or weeks of sun. Rather kindly though, mother nature recently blessed us with a nice warm day and so I took the chance to get out ambling in the countryside which surrounds where I live.

A nice good tree

A nice good tree

We wound up in Hurstwood, a tiny nearby village where one of the buildings dates back to the 1500s. From there we took a hidden path down behind some houses and down to a place where two streams meet, and headed back up towards the road to Yorkshire.

A building from the 1500s

A building from 1579

Butterflies are out in force

Butterflies are out in force

A recovering tree

A recovering tree

Wandering over a hill, we headed back down one of my favourite words to walk down but least favourite to drive down. The winding single-track road connects my village to the linking road between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and it’s pretty much a death trap if you even attempt to navigate it at anything above 15mph! Winding blind corners and a perilously narrow crossing point mean that it’s not one for the faint of heart – but it is pretty.

Somewhere beyond those trees lies Yorkshire

Somewhere beyond those trees lies Yorkshire

Looking down said danger road

Looking down said danger road

This has a Windows XP feel about it

This has a Windows XP feel about it

Just before we arrived back home we came across as a field of horses, and one in particular stood out as particularly enchanting as its white mane caught the setting sun.

Hello there

Hello there

And so concluded another day of rare sun here in Lancashire. It has since returned to the usual programme of grey rainy days, but here’s hoping I can get back out with the camera again sooner rather than later!


7

Aug

2017

Halifax & Hebden Bridge

7th August 2017

After weeks of asking me excitedly if I wanted to accompany him, my dad finally yesterday took me along to see the newly revamped Piece Hall in Halifax, just across the county border in Yorkshire. Before we landed in Halifax though, we first made a stop at the petite little town of Hebden Bridge, which I seem to be frequenting more and more regularly.

Chimneys over Hebden

Chimneys over Hebden

Flowers along the way

Flowers along the way

We descended into a Hebden Bridge which as rife with activity due to an ongoing vintage car show, but we skirted around the crowds to visit the canal and for me to have a mooch around some of my favourite shops.

A back street

A back street

A lovely sign

A lovely sign

We soon stopped for a coffee at a quaint little café along the canal, where we sat outside and took a moment to soak in the atmosphere below a suspiciously greying sky. Needless to say it soon began trying to rain, so we began to wind our way back to the car down the high street.

Street art

Street art

A vintage car by the canal

A vintage car by the canal

A pretty little doorway

A pretty little doorway

After a precarious start after having parked on a very steep hill, we were soon on our way to Halifax to find a space to park up and go an explore the Piece Hall. After a quick burger stop, we made a beeline for it (the last time I visited was a good few years ago) and its transformation was pretty amazing.

The Piece Hall

The Piece Hall

The previously uneven courtyard of paving and grass has been completely replaced by a multi-level granite, with the entirety of the surrounding hall having been completely refurbished. This work has injected a new sense of life into the building which actually dates back to 1779, and it was buzzing with people of all ages whilst we were there.

A clash of styles

A clash of styles

I had a good nosey around all the shops, but there’s still many preparing to open in the near future, so we soon headed out to have a little wander around Halifax city centre. Before heading home we headed to see my grandparents at their house near Bradford, but when we got there they weren’t in, so we made back for home and a relaxing cup of tea to end the day.