Robin Howie

Fieldnotes: Week 423

This weeks main focus has been on the Lumière project, we had a site visit on Monday to meet the team and catch up on development and now we’re working on the launch campaign — meaning we are just a couple of weeks away from completing this project.

We’re starting to reach out to a few people about Lunar… we are looking for individuals, organisations and spaces that may be interested in bringing this project to life with us. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and we have been designing experiences to engage the public in the wonder of the moon and its transformational properties. Get in touch if you want to hear more about what we are working on.

Kiosk. This project is a marathon but we’re getting into our pace for the final couple of miles. This week has been spent mostly on designing assets for video prototypes.

Some sad news this week too. After last weeks wobble, the Polymath project is no more. This project shoots straight up into my top five biggest ‘Ones that got away’… Genuinely this project had the potential to be incredible. It’s a really odd turn of events that led to the project being scrapped however we left on great terms with the client and stopping the project wasn’t a reflection of any of our work. Here’s hoping the dust will settle and the client will be back in touch to pick up where we left off in the near future.

Without Polymath on the slate we do have space for new business. If you are looking for a design studio to help you explore uncharted territories get in touch!

In case your wondering… Here are my top projects ‘that got away’.

(Criteria: we’ve had plenty of fingers burned and near misses over the years but these projects are ones that got cancelled for reasons out of our control… projects we were incredibly proud of and hoped to become mini landmarks in FF’s journey).

No. 4 The studio‘s first major international project... we designed the branding for Dubai Design Week... the first major design fair in the middle east... We got all the way to guidelines and the project was pulled so they could work with a local agency.

No. 3 The time we worked on immersive experiences for Tate Modern to coincide with a programme of events... never happened unfortunately.

No. 2 Polymath

No. 1 We designed the graphics for Team GB’s cycling squads helmets. I worked on this project for over a year ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games... the project was cancelled a month before the Olympics because of a sponsor upset. That one hurt.

Funnily enough (not really) No.1 and No.3 where the founding projects of the studio!

Thought starter of the week.

We (as in us human folk) are obsessed with finding life on mars. And we are also obsessed with putting life on mars… i.e. getting humans to visit and perhaps even colonise Mars.

Before we put humans on Mars is it not likely we will put AI on the red planet to test the environment and prepare for human arrival? … What are the implications of the first intelligence from Earth to visit Mars to actually be Artificial Intelligence? What responsibility will that bot bear to set a precedent for Earthlings colonising Mars?

Friday links

This ace article on hypocognition got us thinking about known unknowns and how we approach known unknowns in our design practice.

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

This is one pretty impressive light painting rig:

Karishma over at Somerset House told me about this lovely project by sound artist Nick Ryan and Cath La Couteur — Project Adrift.

I especially love Nick’s ‘Machine 9’ instrument:

'Machine 9' is a handcrafted electromechanical sound instrument that tracks the positions of 27,000 pieces of space junk, transforming them into sound, in real time, as they pass overhead.

Finally, this instagram account tracks the changes from script to final film… say good-bye to the next hour of your life.

See you next week.

Robin Howie

Fieldnotes: Week 422

This week was a bit of a forest fire... some rapid destruction that will eventually make way for new growth. One of those weeks that when you’re in it it feels like big setback after big setback — however at the end of the week I’m preferring to remain optimistic.

A quick project update...

Lumière took some lovely small steps forwards, slowly progressing along nicely. Looking forward to a site recce next week.

Polymath took a bit of a hit... our work so far has been incredibly adventurous (well I think so anyway) and this week we saw the client have what we hope is only a short wobble in confidence... I’m sincerely hoping we can get back to exploring some brave territories together really soon. There is so so much potential in this project, fingers crossed!

We had feedback from the client team on Canopy. I guess the headline is back to the drawing board but great to know the work was well received... just we’ve gone to far, to ambitious to fit the marketplace. Thanks to Sinead for the massive help on this. I’m sure we’ll smash it in the next round.

Kiosk has been going through leaps and bounds over the last three weeks. Seb has been jumping between paper model-making and AR prototyping, it is so exciting to see something turn from a sketch into something tangible… although I’m not sure you can call AR tangible?... exciting to see all the same. Over this last week I’ve had Seb mostly developing the app designs into a video prototype (btw Principle has been a revelation — thanks for the recommendation Ivo).

Overall Kiosk is really taking shape and I can see a dot on the horizon where we will soon be able to share the project with the world. Although ‘soon’ is a bit of a loose concept with our own R&D projects, this one has been on and off for five or so years. Note to self… there is no way this project can not get completed this year.

Lunar — another victim of natural selection this week... this is a project we hope to see surface in July 2020. We kicked off the project last year with a sprint that delivered a whopping 20 concepts... Earlier this year we developed four of these concepts to be higher in resolution... midweek one of those concepts came to a natural end this week... it was a location specific project where we were approaching the owner of the location as a project partner... unfortunately the partner passed on the project and it kind of fell apart without the location. I’m thinking about sharing this concept next week though… it’s a banger of an idea and I don’t think we get to show how we work in the experiential space enough.

Finally; we’ve been piloting the first of a few social experiments for Sjú this week... testing our art direction, story and tone of voice work for the startup... really fantastic to hear the first of a few social experiments has already generated Sjú’s first sales.


We said fairwell to Seb who finished up his months internship. I hope he’ll be back in the future though.

Looking ahead.

I’ve been invited to give a couple of talks at Chelsea Art School… mega excited about this. The first one in October will expand on my thoughts of Design as a role of citizenship.

Thought starter of the week:

I don’t know what the state of cultural exchange is like in the school system these days. I find it hard to imagine that penpals are still a thing? foreign exchange programmes if I remember correctly are pretty expensive to participate in — so not very inclusive ... Every time I pass a little phone hut like the one below their signs make me think what really is the barrier to rethink cultural exchange for schools. With international sim cards you buy hundreds of minutes cheaply.... and we live in a world of videocalls and livestreams...

Obviously you can’t really substitute for being on the ground and immersing in a place but surely there is still value in an exchange of correspondence. What really are the barriers to communicating with people from different parts of the world to complement learning development?

Friday Links:

A herd of cows catch a criminal:

Shout out to Neef @ Adventure for reccomending this great book.

Treepedia from MIT.

Treepedia measures the canopy cover in cities. Rather than count the individual number of trees, we’ve developed a scaleable and universally applicable method by analyzing the amount of green perceived while walking down the street. The visualization maps street-level perception only, so your favorite parks aren't included!

Really lovely, and potentially mega helpful in planning The Nest Project.

The union of concerned photographers: Link.

Finally I did’t catch the whole show but here’s the fantastic Haiyan on the Big Life Fix... great work... be warned it will tug at your heart strings and motivation to make more meaningful work.

Shout out to Matt Webb, his post on the history of weeknotes got me thinking about how much I used to love reading lots of studio‘s regular weeknotes. I thought why not just jump in, maybe others will follow suit... this has been a delight to write so see you next week!

Cover image: Forest Fire by Cameron Strandberg

Robin Howie

New Work: Cautionary Tales’ title sequence

Our talented friends Us have made their first short film and it's brilliant! Not only are we super proud of them but also delighted to have designed the films title sequence. You can see a snippet of the titles in the teaser above.

The film is called ‘Cautionary Tales’ and will be doing the rounds at film festivals over the next six months with a first stop at the Foyle Film Festival in Londonderry.

Update: See the entire project here.