Robin Howie

Fieldnotes: Week 443

Hello and Happy New Year. Here is the first edition of Fieldnotes in 2019!


This is some serious play. Conduct your own orchestra via your browser. Play here:


One of my favourite charities needs your support. Skateistan is an NGO with the mission of empowering children and youth through skateboarding and education. Skateistan operates in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa.

The True Size

Maps can be beguiling — especially maps that reveal truths. The True Size is a interactive map that reveals the true size of countries using the Mercator projection.

It is hard to represent our spherical world on flat piece of paper. Cartographers use something called a “projection” to morph the globe into 2D map. The most popular of these is the Mercator projection.

Every map projection introduces distortion, and each has its own set of problems. One of the most common criticisms of the Mercator map is that it exaggerates the size of countries nearer the poles (US, Russia, Europe), while downplaying the size of those near the equator (the African Continent). On the Mercator projection Greenland appears to be roughly the same size as Africa. In reality, Greenland is 0.8 million sq. miles and Africa is 11.6 million sq. miles, nearly 14 and a half times larger.

Sip of Hope

Sip of Hope is the world’s first coffee shop where 100% of proceeds supports proactive suicide prevention and mental health education.

What if he falls?

This is a short behind-the-scenes of Free Solo (a documentary following Alex Honnold, as he prepares to climb Yosemite’s 3,200-foot El Capitan wall — without a rope). I haven’t seen Free Solo yet but the BTS offers some interesting analogies for putting together teams on high-risk projects.

Luminist Garden

Semi-conductor reminded us of Folktek’s electroacoustic musical oddities —like the beautifully titled ‘Luminist GardenandResonant Gardenwhich create unusually ethereal relationships between interaction and sound.

Robin Howie

Fieldnotes: Weeks 434–439

We are pretty busy in the studio at the moment developing several projects.

We’re continuing our work with Sjú which is a Swiss startup with an amazing proposition around personalised skincare. So far the brand has soft launched in the UK and we are working really closely with the team on several streams of work… everything from making films, photo shoots, research projects and social media campaigns.

Originally we were brought in to develop the brand strategy as well as shape the startup's storytelling, tone of voice and art-direction… our relationship has grown from there. We’re really enjoying the journey of working with Sjú and at some point in the new year I will share a broader case study. In the meantime here’s a couple of images from some of our work so far.

Another project that is carrying into the new year is Project Flow. Flow is essentially Fieldwork Facility’s contribution to an air quality project underneath the Hammersmith Flyover. We’re progressing towards a March/April install. This week we were expecting a decision on which route to push forwards… in a lovely turn the client surprised us by extending the project and picking two concepts for different sections of the flyover. Here’s a snap of the original site:

A couple of weeks ago IDEO invited me to give a talk about Fieldwork Facility’s work in the public realm… the event was titled ‘Change of (S)pace’. I was presented alongside Anthony from Assemble who talked about the collectives lovely series of projects around the Granby community. Lighting designers Jack Wates and Satu Streatfield (Publica) both gave great talks too. I really enjoyed this talk — hopefully there will be more speaking in the new year.

Friday links…

Here’s a few of the things that have been inspiring us in the studio over the past few weeks:

Emoji tracker

This is real-time emoji use on Twitter. It’s like watching a lightning storm of emotion unfold in your browser. I’m not kidding… the website literally comes with an epilepsy warning.

It’s Twitter account occasionally reads like a long-running beef between emoji’s trying to hit the number one spot.

Die with me app

Bonkers. I love it. It’s a chat app that you can only use when you have less than 5% battery. Their strapline is ‘Die together in a chatroom on your way to offline peace.’ Catchy.

Blade Runner sleep music

Maybe on the way to ‘offline peace’ you’ll take a little sojourn into ‘Blade Runner meditative ambience’.

Yes, that actually is a thing and so far four videos have racked up over 600,000 views from people seeking a beautiful sleep dystopia. You can pick between old or new Blade Runner and with or without city sounds. Niche.

Lubaina Himid at The Guardian

Lubaina Himid’s won the Turner prize last year with artwork accusing the Guardian of racial bias. In an interesting move the paper invited her in for a residency. Here is Lubaina presenting her findings to the editorial team.

iSpy AI

How to recognize fake AI-generated images. Kyle McDonald gives a quick introduction over here.

Traditional block printing in Jaipur:

What a beautiful process…

And then finally let's wrap up with this….

Blue Note album covers

We have some space in the pipeline emerging in January/February, if you’d like to discuss an unusual design challenge please do get in touch.

See you next week.

Robin Howie

Fieldnotes: Week 432

We’ve been on the move a lot this week so I’d like to share with you the podcasts that have been filling the space between my ears with ideas and inspiration.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts … For me, the following can all relate back to design practice in some way or other; they feed and inform an evolving outlook on the world and in turn how to be a better designer in this world. That said… only a couple of them are actually “design podcasts” (phew!). Perhaps a common thread is that they all do a fantastic job at shining a broader lens on creativity and/or culture. I think there is likely to be something for everyone in here. Hope you enjoy…

Still processing.

Consistently excellent. Two New York Times critics (Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris) typically in conversation and dissecting a story from the week… In essence it’s critical thought on pop culture; often through a lens that unpacks the complicated layers of colour and gender around the weeks most interesting stories in pop culture. It sounds high brow but it’s really not… our click bait ecosystem of culture should not be without reflection of what really matters and what needs a little bit more prodding. Recent topics include Beyonce and Jay Z’s music video in the Louvre, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (twenty years on). Spike Lee’s latest film Black KKKlansmann and Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand GOOP. My favourite episode of late was a two-part special where Asian-Americans talk about the racism they experience and how that stacks up against the racism experienced by other people of colour.
Web | Apple podcasts

Song Exploder

Some exploder is such a simple format. Each episode is only around 15 minutes long, the episode takes one musician or band and gets them to take one of their recorded songs and tell its full story… from the kernel of inspiration through to the recording process. Typically you here a song being built track by track. It’s an extraordinary insight into the creative process… If you appreciate play and perseverance in creativity dive right in. The Michael Kiwanuka episode was a recent favourite.
Web | Apple podcasts

The David Chang Show

I’ll be honest, I’ve never eaten his food but I love this chef, I’ll go further… lately I’ve been thinking that if you want a finger on the pulse of culture you’d do better to look away from art and design and look towards the kitchen… Chef’s like David Chang, Rene Redzepi and Alex Atala are a huge inspiration for me… The first few episodes of this podcast follow Dave struggling with the ins and outs as he opens a new restaurant in LA (‘The pre-opening diaries’). It’s a really interesting portrait of a creative bringing a major project into the world, the inspiration, the motivation and what happens along the way… ethics, obstacles, vision and drive. The episode that touched on dealing with critics was especially interesting.
Web | Apple podcasts

The Observatory and The design of business the business of design

Double Whammy! I love these two podcasts, both are created by designers Jessica Helfand and Michael BierutThe Observatory is similar to the Still Processing… observations and thoughts on a story or event from the week just passed, however this time from a design perspective. The business of design the design of business is an extension of Helfand and Bierut’s teaching at Yale… typically a guest joins the two to discuss from an executive level the impact of design on their organisation. If radio was like this I’d give up my television.
The observatory: Web | Apple podcasts
The business of design the design of business:
Web | Apple podcasts


Serial is back with a really interesting third season unpacking the American criminal justice system by spending an entire year at one courthouse in Cleveland. I’m assuming if you haven’t listened to a podcast before you probably did hear the hype around it’s first season… Believe the hype this is a really good production and a great entry point to podcasts. Start at episode one and binge your way through.
Web | Apple podcasts

99% Invisible

Another design related podcast… though not design with a capital D which is entirely welcome. Each episode in one way or another takes an artefact that on the surface seems simple enough but given a closer look unfolds into a microcosm of interesting stories. Recent episodes unpack The Shipping Forecast, How doctors break bad news and post-narco urbanism.
Web | Apple podcasts

This American Life

This American Life is running it’s own race, you really just have to tune in, this is storytelling at its finest. Pick an episode title that takes your fancy and start there.
Web | Apple podcasts

How I built this & The Entrepreneurs

I’m a bit of a sucker for startup stories, whilst this can be a bit formulaic it certainly does a great job at giving a human face to big success stories… memorable episodes are Airbnb, Patagonia, WeWork and Kate Spade… on the startup stories front Monocle 24’s The Entrepreneurs is often good… check out the David Hieatt or Patagonia episodes, both incredibly inspiring.
How I built this: Web | Apple podcasts
The Entrepreneurs:
Web | Apple podcasts

Mothers of Invention

I have just started listening to this one, it’s about women driving powerful solutions around climate change. It is both hilarious and incredibly timely…I imagine it would be easy for a climate change podcast to feel like a soapbox but this is full of real people doing simple things that make impactful waves…from the family who decided in one year they would change their habits to only make one trashcan of rubbish (for the entire year!!!) to the Kenyan Environmental Minister who changed the law to stop plastic bag use and manufacture in the country… (fines starting at $38,000!).
Web | Apple podcasts

The Tipoff

Really ace concept … investigative journalists discuss how they chased a story… there is some great analogous insight into better design research here.
Apple podcasts

On Margins

Essentially this is designer Craig Mod inviting guests to talk about the production and future of books. the Jan Chipchase episode is particularly ace.
Web | Apple podcasts

The Butterfly Effect

Writer Jon Ronson follows the impact of a porn website and the ripples (and shockwaves) it produces across lives across the world.
Web | Apple podcasts

See you next week.