We're through creative a branding and digital agency from Macclesfield near Manchester. We've put together this site to create a source of inspiration, we hope you like it.

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

Posted: October 20th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Digital | Comments Off

There's something undeniably compelling about this test footage by VFX artist Dave Fothergill which sees a few hundred CG souls unleashed into the path of a spinning block. Demonstrating the power of Miarmy, some of the runners make it through, but most trip, fall down and, well, wiggle around...

Fothergill is senior VFX artist at CG house RealtimeUK and uploaded the 'crowd dynamics' test clip to Vimeo a few days ago. According to his post, it uses Maya's Miarmy and "shows the new 'servo force' feature which allows struggling animation once the agent has become dynamic".

Miarmy is, as the name suggests, a plugin specifically designed for crowd simulation, AI and "behavioral animation". And Fothergill's clip is full of lovely detail which add to the cruel realism: the way the approaching crowd ready themselves for the run, oblivious to the odds stacked against them and the will of their human overlord, is almost heart-breaking. And check out the fate of the last man to run – classic.

Fothergill's 44-second test was rendered with Arnold.


Will you be getting wood at D&AD next year?

Posted: October 17th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Digital, Graphic Design, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Type / Typography | Comments Off

D&AD has introduced two new pencils to its awards line-up for 2015: wood and graphite. They will replace the old In Book and Nomination designations

D&AD's awards system has always been somewhat confusing for the uninitiated. Whereas other systems stick to gold, silver and bronze, D&AD's silvers were actually yellow and its golds, black.

In addition, work selected for inclusion in the annual (so-called In Book) was itself deemed to be award-winning, as was work which received the further accolade of being nominated for a pencil - whether yellow or black.

In an attempt to make things clearer, for 2015 D&AD is introducing a wood pencill and a graphite one, so if you get in the annual you'll also receive a trophy.

So, just to be clear, In Book is wood, Nominated is graphite, silver is yellow, gold is black and, er, white is white. And the President's Awards is gold. Clear? Well, there isn't a clear... yet.


Your Life On Earth

Posted: October 16th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Advertising, Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

Ever wondered how many times your heart has beaten in your lifetime? Or how much the world's sea level has risen? Now you can find out, thanks to a great interactive data visualisation by Information is Beautiful promoting BBC Earth's new website.

The interactive, which launched today and has already proved popular on Twitter, asks visitors to enter their height, gender and date of birth before presenting them with a dashboard of stats relating to their time on earth.

The first section, How you have changed, lists facts about users’ age on different planets, how many times their heart has beaten and how many generations of family an animal the same age would have had.

The second, How the world has changed, lists environmental changes and events in users’ lifetimes – from solar eclipses to major earthquakes and population increase – while the third reflects on changes humans have made to the world.

In the 25 years since I was born, 232.5 million hectares of forest has been lost and the Antarctic ozone hole has increased by 11 million km², but it’s not all bad - black rhinos were saved from extinction and the global supply of beer per person has increased.



At the bottom of the page, a section titled ‘How the BBC captured it all’ plays a selection of clips from BBC Earth shows past and present, from Planet Earth to Big Cat Diaries.

As well as being fun, easy to use and educational, it’s a clever way of promoting the BBC’s new site and showcasing archived content. The visualisation also makes some serious comments on global warming, endangered species and natural resources.

“Matt Walker [editor for BBC Earth] came up with the concept of doing something looking back in time, and we had the idea of this dashboard style presentation,” explains Duncan Swain, creative partner at Information is Beautiful.

"We really wanted to structure it around three key strands: how humanity has changed, how our world has changed and man's impact on earth, which I think encapsulates [BBC Earth's] content,” he adds.

The interactive took around three months to create, with a team of 12 including developers, researchers and editorial staff. “There was a variety of different components to the process – coming up with the concept itself and what we wanted to portray through the data, followed by the research, which we did in-house, the sketching phase and finally, the design,” says Swain. “Every individual element had to be carefully considered – from the titles of each box to the text that appears when you Tweet it.”

The site contains over 20 visualisations and most have variables - as well as viewing how the population has changed in their lifetime, users can view life expectancy, or see the number of volcanic eruptions instead of earthquakes. They can also choose from a drop down list of planets when checking their space age, or creatures that have been discovered since they were born.



The design of the dashboard reflects BBC Earth’s new branding, which is now more in line with the broadcaster's digital iwonder service, though Swain says some adjustments had to be made as the interactive was built on a different platform.

The most complicated aspect of the process, he says, was clearly communicating complex data without oversimplifying the facts. “We didn’t want to trivialise things, or they could end up just coming out wrong, so you’re walking that tight rope between making it easy to understand whilst still being accurate,” he explains.

“Another challenge was researching historical data – it was quite difficult to get hold of some things, and correlate them with today’s data, making sure all of the calculations and algorithms were correct."

Try the site for yourself here.


Can I get an RT? CR’s most retweeted stories

Posted: October 16th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

CR reached 1m followers on Twitter today, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to look at some of our most retweeted stories and, if you're a CR follower, tell you a bit more about the million-strong gang you're part of. To celebrate, we also have a great CR subscription offer for you...

Thanks to our followers we've just reached a milestone on Twitter – to celebrate that fact we're offering 30% off all subscriptions packages until midnight (GMT) on Friday October 17 – go here for details.

Our very first tweet, sent out on February 23 2009, read "Creative Review's first tweet". We like to think that it was this kind of in-depth yet pithy analysis that helped us on our way to reaching a million followers this morning.

Looking back over our 14,000 or so tweets (exporting data from Twitter Analytics) many of them certainly did OK, plenty did very well, but a select few went RT-crazy.

In fact, two of our most popular tweets ever were sent out within the last couple of months: one linked to a story on the design of Aphex Twin's highly-anticipated new record; the other linked to images of, yes, some radical Norwegian banknote design. A look back at the stats reveals that our followers are interested in a huge range of subjects.

So, where are you from?

Well, according to TweepsMap, 29.1% of our Twitter followers are in the US, 26.3% in the UK, 3.5% from Canada, and 3.2% in India.

Indonesia represents 3% of our Twitter audience. It's a very international crowd with a further 8.7% of followers based in 191 different nations. Listed by city, the top five places are London (6%), New York (3%), LA (2%), Jakarta (2%) and Washington DC (1%).

And what do you like?

The results show that it's as wide a set of subjects as our audience is international – and also reflects the breadth of creativity CR aims to cover.

Using MyTopTweet we can bring up the most retweeted CR tweets of our last 3,200 but, again, exporting from Analytics and reordering the data gives us a better idea of what was popular over the last two years.

Our most retweeted RTs or MTs – i.e. retweets of images tweeted by other people, or links to external sites – include a shot of a Dutch bricklaying machine in action, a Richard Jolley cartoon for Private Eye and the news that twelve of Tom Gauld's Guardian strips are now – or at least were at the time – available as prints.

But looking at the most retweeted tweets that link to our own blog stories, there was a really interseting mix. So, here's the top ten, covering the last two years.

1. We've noticed how images have become key to Twitter over the last few years and this one, which linked to details on our just-published World Cup issue, seemed to sum up the state of the beautiful game:

 

2. One of Twitter's strong points is the ability to get a message out and have it shared by a community with a common bond, even if the news is rather sad:

 

3. Sometimes the subject matter can be a little suprising (here, banknote design) – but when it looks this good, it demonstrates how great work can get people talking about all manner of things:

 

4. No surprises here. Aphex Twin + new album + packaging by the Designers Republic x internet = RTs. A very popular tweet and blog post.

 

5. This one for a homeless charity in London also did well – a clever idea which produced some great artwork:

 

6. And this is powerful stuff, too. Also, the campaign certainly seems to have had an effect, as Lego recently ended its links with Shell:

 

7. This is great as it's our most retweeted tweet which links back to the Feed section of our site. Great creative work from Istanbul:

 

8. Transport for London are a perennial CR Twitter favourite when it comes to communications projects produced for them. Add cycling into the mix and you have yourself a tweet with legs:

 

9. And back to the World Cup. How to design a football kit – keeping to the FIFA rules:

 

10. Our tenth most retweeted tweet was news of Peter Chadwick's launch of his fantastic archive of images of Brutalism:


The above is certainly an eclectic mix – but the link between them all is great creativity.

To say thank you for following us, keep an eye on the blog today for new offers on magazine subscriptions, plus we have a great selection of books from Laurence King up for grabs.

CR is on Twitter at @creativereview.

To celebrate reaching one million followers on Twitter, we're also offering 30% off all subs packages until midnight (GMT) on Friday October 17 – go here for details.


Musician j.viewz’ new site to reveal the making of an album as it happens

Posted: October 14th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Music Video / Film | Comments Off

New York musician j.viewz and digital design agency Hello Monday have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an interactive website that will document the making of a new electronic album as it happens, allowing fans to contribute to tracks and listen to each song as it’s completed.

With just under two days to go, the project has received almost $62,000 in donations from 950 backers, exceeding its target of $60,000. As j.viewz (Jonathan Dagan) demonstrates in a tour of the beta site (below) the project will allow fans to follow the album's progress via a timeline, and view 'the DNA' of the album: audio and video clips and images from recording sessions, meetings and events that influence the development of tracks.

Using existing track Oh Something Quiet, Dagan reveals how a timeline might begin with the idea for a song, then at different points, reveal clips from recording sessions or experiments with vocals and harmonies, as well as the making of the video or album art for that track and incidental events which contributed to its development (Dagan met the visual artist behind the promo for Oh Something's Quiet, for example, after advertising online for a new room mate).

The site will also allow users to download audio samples to remix or use in their own music and upload photos, sounds and art. From time to time, Dagan says he will put out requests for certain sounds or imagery when looking for inspiration, allowing people to contribute to the album, comment as it develops and share content with other users.

 

Dagan says he came up with the idea for the project after completing a song which featured vocals from a singer he’d met on the Subway and was in part inspired by a trip to the South of France.

"I was almost ready to release the song when I thought, 'I can't release it without telling the story [behind it]. It has an artistic value, almost like the song itself," he explains.

Once the website is launched, Dagan will upload tracks in real time, as they are completed, at a rate of around one track per month for ten months. “Usually you finish a song, put it aside and wait for other ones to be completed before you release anything. It almost feels like you’re releasing old material. The concept behind this is to release songs in context - for example, if I make a summer song, I can release it that summer and not two years later," he explains.

 

He also hopes to launch a kind of 'creative toolkit' by uploading samples of beats and music from tracks, as well as unused material from recording sessions. “I might only use ten seconds of a two-hour drum session, but the rest of it is still valuable content, so [with the DNA project] I can share it and let other people do their own thing with it," says Dagan.

"When you make an album, it feels like 80 percent of it sits in a drawer [or on a laptop] and is never seen or heard. Of course, you want to release a crafted, edited version, but with this, I can give those by products [of the album] a little air time, too," he adds.

The DNA Project is one of a number of unusual digital experiments from Dagan, whose rendition of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, played using vegetables which he had turned instruments using a homemade kit which translates electricity signals into keyboard sounds, received over one million views on YouTube alone:

In 2012, the video for the title track from his album Rivers and Homes was nominated for a UK Music Video Award and an MTV O Music Award: after filming a video with Erin Amir and director Shelly Carmel, he printed out every frame and handed the images to fans, who were filmed holding them. Over 200 clips were assembled in a stop motion video and fans could tag themselves online.

He’s also created music using his heart as a metronome and is offering to use Kickstarter backers’ heartbeats in the album (other rewards include CD and vinyl versions of the album and a package containing an item from the making of it, such as an airline ticket, accompanied by a personal letter).

“The vegetables was just a fun experiment and it opened a lot of doors but in general, I want to stay away from anything gimmick-y - there's a fine line between making things interactive and preserving the art," says Dagan.

The site is still in beta testing but Dagan says he hopes to launch it this month and will add new songs at regular intervals until August 2015, when the finished album will be released in digital, CD and vinyl formats.

Promising to deliver a new track roughly every 30 days, and sharing the development of songs in real time is a bold move, but it's a fascinating experiment, and an unusual alternative to releasing clips or finished tracks on Spotify or Soundcloud.

Since Bjork’s pioneering Biophilia app was released in 2010, several artists have experimented with apps and digital projects: Radiohead teamed up with Universal Everything on one which guided viewers through a series of never-ending landscapes, set to music from the song Bloom, while the Roots released a narrative app telling the story of a fictional character on whom their harrowing concept album, undun, was based. Earlier this year The Smiths launched an online timeline, allowing fans to scroll through the band’s history while stopping to listen to tracks along the way.



Most of these projects, however, are designed as visual or narrative accompaniments to finished, edited albums. And while most musicians today regularly post pictures or updates from gigs, tours and recording sessions online, few, if any, have offered an in-depth, real time look at an album's progress, allowing fans to follow the making of it as it happens.

Dagan will still release the album in traditional analogue and digital formats, but the subscription based model encourages fans to regularly check on his progress, while releasing songs individually should help generare fresh excitement for new track.

By offering up sounds and samples for users to play with, the site also encourages interaction between users, creating a sense of community online and providing a kind of creative toolkit for fans and practising musicians.

It wouldn’t work for every artist, but it's a fascinating concept, and it will be interesting to see how the site is used by fans – and how Dagan maintains it – once it’s launched.

See the DNA Project on Kickstarter here.


Design Manchester

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | Author: Rachael Steven | Filed under: Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

Technology Will Save Us Thirsty Plant Kit

The second edition of creative festival Design Manchester begins next week, with a ten day programme of talks, exhibitions and workshops taking place across the city. Here's a look at some of this year's highlights...

The theme for the festival, which coincides with Manchester Science Festival, is 'The Science of Imagination'. Speakers at a one-day conference will discuss the science of ideas and the processes behind their work, while other talks and workshops will explore creative uses of public space, new technologies and innovative materials.

Oh! by Supermundane

The conference takes place on October 24 at Manchester Town Hall and will feature talks from Daniel Hirschman, founding partner of Technology Will Save Us, which makes DIY gadget kits; Ross Phillips, an interaction designer at London agency Dalziel & Pow and Build director Michael C Place in conversation with Design Week editor Angus Montgomery.

Dalziel & Pow's projection mapping installation for Primark's Berlin flagship

Other speakers just confirmed are Rejane Dal Bello, a senior designer at Wolff Olins, graphic artist Rob Lowe (Supermundane) and Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brooks, who will be talking about their publishing business Unit Editions.

Manuals 1 by Unit Editions

Dutch Alzheimer Foundation identity by Rejane Dal Bello (while at Studio Dumbar)

On October 25, Manchester Print Fair will be taking over the People's History Museum with more than 50 stalls selling prints, zines, books, clothing and homeware. Sponsor G.F. Smith will be hosting workshops and demonstrations in screen printing, letterpress and orgami throughout the day. (See the Fair's Facebook page for details of sellers).

Also taking place is The Science of Play, an exhibition and series of talks exploring the meaning and importance of play. Talks will discuss gaming, playful architecture and play as a creative tool and contributors include Fieldwork, OWT Creative, Daren Newman and Helen Musselwhite, who collaborated with designers End of Play on some lovely paper playhouses for a window display at Fred Aldous promoting the event (pic via @designmcr):

Work will be available to buy at the show and online and all profits will be donated to Play360, an organisation which builds playgrounds in the developing world.

Other events include a panel debate on how the creative industries can help boost the North of England's economy, a discussion on how designers and artists can make cities more dynamic and distinctive through installations and public art projects; a 'Take 5' Q&A session with The Chase co-founder Ben Casey and an adidas exhibition featuring 650 pairs of rare and limited edition trainers.

Photographic exhibition 10 x 10 In Process will reveal the making of works featured in 10x10, a collaborative exhibition held in the city last month, which featured works created by ten pairs of creatives inspired by this year's Design Manchester theme.

Textbook studio and illustrator Jane Bower developed a prospectus and laser etched manifestos for a fictional 'School of Imagination' while The Neighbourhood and 24 Design collaborated on The Mind Wave Cave, a light installation controlled by brainwaves:

On October 27, Manchester Metropolitan University is hosting a series of demonstrations and talks about 3D printing, followed by a panel discussion at Manchester School of Art in which artists, scientists and businesses will discuss the future of 3D printing and how it has influenced their field. Events coincide with 3D: Printing the Future, an exhibition taking place at the Museum of Science and Industry as part of the Science Festival.

Design Manchester takes place from October 21 – 30. For more information or to book tickets, see designmcr.com


Comedy and horror characters from A Large Evil Corporation

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Art, Digital, Illustration | Comments Off

CR readers may already be aware of a crop of finely-honed character designs appearing on the Twitter of one @Kibooki who clearly has a penchant for off-beat British comedy legends and American horror films. The designs are in fact all created by A Large Evil Corporation creative director, Seth Watkins, and he talked to us about how he makes them...

Ever since spying a particulary fine rendering of the two main characters from American Werewolf in London (were they toys? It was hard to tell), we've kept an eye on evilcorp.tv's blog and @Kibooki, which is where a host of new character designs have been posted at an alarming rate since August.

Seth Watkins, the man behind the work, is CD of Bath-based design and animation studio A Large Evil Corporation and he explained a bit more about how they're constructed, why he works on certain designs – and Evil's future plans for them.

Creative Review: Can you tell us what exactly we're looking at? While the images look very much like vinyl figures – are they in fact digital renders? How do the character designs fit into the wider work that Evil does?

Seth Watkins: They are purely 3D renders. I didn't make them with intention of hoodwinking anyone into thinking they were actual models, although clearly a lot of people thought they were to start with. A lot of the work at Evil is based on trying to subvert the CG aesthetic that has become so ubiquitous. We are a character animation company – always creating new styles of characters either for a specific brief or as part of our own internal development.

What started the project off? And how are you choosing who (or what) to caricature?

I've never been a great Twitterer but one of the few people I follow is Edgar Wright and I had seen a lot of great Cornetto Trilogy fan art re-tweeted by him. I'm a great fan of Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and with a bit of down time on my hands I thought I'd have a crack at making my own little bit of fan art and see if Edgar would retweet it (I sugared the pill with the promise of the whole trilogy if people liked them).

Well, Edgar loved them and shared them with his followers who were very keen so I fulfilled my promise. From then on a began a campaign of targeting people on Twitter whose work I both admired and thought I could interpret in this style. Then I began to broaden out. The only real criteria is that they must be characters I like and think will translate well in this style.

What software/effects do you use to make them?

The characters are modelled, textured and rendered using Softimage and very basically composited in After Effects.

Comedians seem to be strongly favoured – particularly Vic and Bob – is there a particular reason for this?

I'm a huge Vic and Bob fan and Bob [Mortimer] is very active on Twitter so he was next on my list. The look of the Reeves and Mortimer characters are very distinctive and well conceived visually so they were very easy to interpret. I like doing strong comic characters because they are so well designed and fun to work on.

What's the plan with the designs? A line of actual vinyl figures?

It's generated a lot of interest and we are very keen to develop a line of toys. We are currently investigating manufacturing pipelines as well as licensing procedure and talking to some well established toy companies so there's a very good chance that at least some of these characters will make it onto the shelves. We will also be producing a coffee table book when we have enough characters to fill it!

To keep up to date with Watkins' work, follow updates via @Kibooki and check out evilcorp.tv/evilblog.


hClub 100 announced

Posted: October 9th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Music Video / Film, Photography | Comments Off

Jewellery by Sarah Angold Studio

 

Materials alchemists, designers, artists, dancers and even Sherlock Holmes numbered among this year's hClub 100 list of some of the most inspiring figures in the creative industries

Each year private members' club the Hospital Club invites groups of industry judges, along with the voting public, to nominate inspirational figures across the creative industries, including theatre, TV, advertising, design, fashion and art. This year's group was announced last night.

Kristjana S Williams at last night's hClub 100 event

 

Creative Review was media partner for the Art and Design category where the final ten was as follows:

Ed Atkins, Artist
Hurvin Anderson, Artist
Joe Scotland, Director, Studio Voltaire
Kristjana S Williams, Artist
Laura Pannack, Photographer
Matt Pyke, Artist, Universal Everything
Noma Bar, Designer/Illustrator
Phyllida Barlow, Artist
Tom Evans, Founder, BleepBleeps
Pascal Bronner & Thomas Hillier, Artists, FleaFollyArchitects (people's choice winner, elected by public vote)

 

Photographer Laura Pannack

 

The 100 includes the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba and Benedict Cumberbatch along with musician Jon Hopkins, directors Ben Wheatley and Ringan Ledwidge, producer Juliette Larthe of Pretty Bird, Nils Leonard of Grey, Fi Scott of Make Works, Penny Martin of The Gentlewoman and Syd Lawrence and Tom Gibby of We Make Awesome Shit.

 

 

Also featured is Sarah Angold (above, as chosen in the Fashion category sponsored by CR's sister brand Fashion Monitor) whose studio combines extraordinary jewellery and lighting design with installations for the likes of the Design Museum and Tate Modern.

 

And, with surely one of the most unusual stories of the 100, self-styled Materials Alchemist Lauren Bowker (above) who invented the carbon emission sensing ink PdCl2 while still a teenager, went to study textiles at the RCA and now leads consultancy The Unseen "with material science, knowledge and visions infused by Magick".

The Unseen's projects include materials which change colour in response to their environment such as THEUNSEENAIR, a wind-reactive ink

 

 

 

See the full list of inspiring individuals here

 


CR October iPad edition

Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The October issue of CR - a fashion special - is also available for iPad, where you'll find all the print mag content and monograph plus exclusive additional content in Hi Res, our showcase gallery section, and CRTV, with video profiles of creative people, animations and other moving image work from around the world....


In Features we talk to the founder of clothing brand Folk Cathal McAteer and the brand's regular graphic design collaborators IYA Studio; and new British-made shirt brand Tripl Stitched who work with up and coming illustrators including Jack Cunningham (who created this month's cover). Plus the future of in-store shopping experiences; fashion films; the rise of the Instagram fashion blogger; and why carrier bags are collectors items.

Along with a review of new book Read Me: Ten Lessons for Writing Great Copy; a look at the history of VW ads; and not forgetting our lovely regular columns from Michael Evamy, Daniel Benneworth-Gray and Paul Belford.

In Hi Res you'll find emerging talent from new book Fashion Photography Next; we revisit our favourite illustration commissions for CR's last monograph; Jonny Hannah's illustrated tour of the mysterious Darktown; work photographers navigating the balance between art and commerce in The Art of Fashion Photography; design ephemera of 1980s youth culture from new publication Rave Art; a graphic history of Soviet Space Dogs; Mark Wallinger's London Underground project Labyrinth collected in a new book; and absurdist DIY flyers from illustrator Nathaniel Russell.

CRTV includes profiles on illustrators Wasted Rita and Stanley Chow; a selection of fashion films from White Lodge and Nowness; Blue Zoo's animation The First Murder featuring the voice of Adam Buxton; a behind-the-scene look at Film4's new idents; and new work from stop-motion animation duo Kijek/Adamski.

 

To submit work for consideration for CRTV or Hi Res, please email antonia.wilson@centaur.co.uk

For further info on the CR iPad app or to subscribe, click here.

 


How can creativity improve life for the old?

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: Patrick Burgoyne | Filed under: Advertising, Digital, Graphic Design | Comments Off

Posters presenting views on ageing at the Age of No Retirement conference


Here's the bad news. The UK's population is getting older and we have no coherent strategy to cope with what this means. But what we do know is that we will all be working longer. This will be the age of no retirement.

Now for the good news. Although we as a country (along with most other developed Western economies) are getting older, we are also, on the whole, healthier and fitter. We will all be working longer but work has great benefits that extend beyond the financial. It helps keep us happy and healthy, providing it is the right kind of work and the right amount. This will be the age of no retirement, and that might just be a good thing.

So how can we rethink and redesign our future so that getting old is no longer something to be feared? So that older people are seen as an asset and not a burden? So that our products and services are designed by and for and marketed to the sector of the population with the highest disposable income? So that older people can live as fulfilling, happy and valued lives as the young?

All these themes and more are currently being discussed at a two-day conference in London, The Age of No Retirement. A combination of policy makers, educators, designers, entrepeneurs, carers and all manner of interested others have been wrestling with some of the most crucial issues we face as a society.

As this is Creative Review, let's address just one, crucial question: how can creativity help us to exploit the social and economic opportunities of a society in which the average person now lives longer?

One of the first sessions at The Age of No Retirement explored questions around technology - digital technology in particular - and older people. A great panel including Google head of design (and Britain's oldest ‘Googler') Patrick Collister, Dave Coplin of Microsoft, Gilly Crosby of the Centre for Policy on Ageing and Dave Shepherd, director of Barclays' digital inclusion initiatives wrestled with a variety of topics the first of which was how to get older people online and interacting with digital services in the first place.

Speaking as someone with parents in their 80s I have direct experience of the way in which the ‘digitisation' of so many of our services is already leaving a generation behind. If you're not online, carrying out simple tasks such as renewing a driving licence or booking travel tickets is becoming harder and harder.

Already, there are a large number of groups helping older people to get online - some run by corporates such as Barclays and BT, whose Connected Society head John Perkins was also on the panel. But it remains an enormous challenge, particularly when faced with users who may be scared of either breaking or accidentally downloading the entire internet to their computer, as someone on Perkins' BT course was. How can we design our digital platforms and services to be friendlier and more easy to use for everyone? How can we improve customer service to help people?

There was a realisation that the digital world is still in its infancy. Things don't work as well as they should but, as Patrick Collister pointed out, perhaps we are too demanding. Let's not forget how far we have come. The hope is that eventually this digital technology is a given, that it just works and we get on with using it. But how?

Google and Microsoft, it was pointed out, have overwhelmingly young workforces. How would their products and services change if those creating them were a little older? Why do we fetishise youth so much, particularly in the tech world? How would products such as Facebook change if they were embraced en masse by the over-50s?

 

 

Perhaps these issues will sort themselves out as today's ‘digital natives' get older but we could help right now by discovering some digital ‘heroes' for the over-50s. Collister pointed out that since Geriatric1927 (AKA Peter Oakley) sadly passed away earler this year, the oldest YouTuber is 44. There has to be a great opportunity for older people to use the medium to offer advice and help just as their grandchildren are doing with everything from beauty tips to playing games.

And what about the older consumer who, we are told, has much more disposable income than the youngsters that it seems all our advertising is aimed at. Why are the products aimed at them and their needs so uninspiring? A second session, led by Tom Evans of BleepBleeps, suggested some answers.

 

 

BleepBleeps is a range of connected devices for parents - will we have similar products for the over-50s?

 

Anna James of Spring Chicken was hopeful that what has happened for babies and parents may one day be replicated for their seniors. We now have a huge array of products aimed at parents. Department stores have sections for babies and toddlers where we can buy vastly over-engineered buggies and designer babygrows. Will, say, John Lewis one day have a similar department for seniors, stocked with cool carbon fibre walking sticks and hearing aids that look like jewellery? Or will Ikea have rooms set up for older people featuring furniture designed just for them? Or will the stigma of ageing be too offputting? Perhaps we need a change of nomenclature. As Evans said, if he went to a VC investor and pitched a product aimed at the elderly he'd probably get nowhere. But if he pitched a well-being focussed digital wearable, they'd be all ears.

Events such as the Paralympics and Invictus games have showcased innovative designs to cope with physical impairment; perhaps we could apply the same qualities that imbue a runner's blades with tech-cool to a mobility scooter or stairlift?

 

 

Flexifoot walking stick, availabe via Spring Chicken

 

I think we are some way off. As the panel said, rather like parenthood, it is difficult to care about this stuff until you experience it. But the demographics are with us. Once today's digital natives, with their overwhelming sense of entitlement, their impatience with bad service and bad products and their drive to build something better enter the over-50 age group, it's hard not to imagine that they will demand change.

Patrick Burgoyne, age 48 and a half


The Age of no Retirement continues at The Bargehouse, London SE1. Post-event, a report on the major themes to come of the conference will be produced by the organisers, Commonland and Trading Times