This Used To Be The Future

First published here 

here we go, c’mon

I press the button on the coffee machine. Two pods.

The business editor on the BBC Breakfast News is now standing. She used to sit on a barstool. They introduced full bleed pictures as backdrops with a little bit of blurring bottom right. It might be quite nice to blur the whole picture? Or would that look weird? They blurred out Watson’s and Holmes’s face in turn in a drunken scene last night on Sherlock. So maybe not a good look for the BBC News.

Someone is pulling a bin up the lane. Monday is bin day. A car drives past. It’s still dark. Big shadows of the bin and puller are projected onto the wall of the thatched house. Massive shadows. All moving and overlapping. A bit like that famous shadow scene in Murnau’s Nosferatu. Only with. Erm. Bins.

The woman with the wet hair on the bus is putting her seatbelt on. She has that blue Cath Kidston bag with white dots. Same one. Every day.

Train. Interesting how everyone reads the same stuff. Free newspapers they’ve been given. Well actually not all people. But quite a few. We seem to be happy to let ourselves be dictated by someone else’s choice. I quite like to put the TV on sometimes and just watch whatever is on. All this interactiveness and digital choice is exhausting. It’s nice to let yourself be sucked into dross sometimes. Sometimes.


Why is everything a hack now? Isn’t hacking just making things, being inventive? Why is this a thing? Do we need a label for making things? Maybe we do so we feel we have permission to do something that otherwise won’t immediately be recognisable as real work.



do it
do it
do it

First we had microsites then Facebook pages and now it’s suggestive hashtags in ads. In a way I preferred the microsites (yes I said microsites) – at least there was some time and love spent on them. Crafting. Filming. Animating. Now a hashtag is just a link to words. It’s more real and immediate, but maybe also less interesting?

This train is now ready to depart. Please stand clear of the doors.

I see a pretty, meandering country lane.  The scene is spoilt by a white van parked under a tree. Or is it spoilt? Maybe the van is what makes the picture interesting? Just like I always find myself drawn to the washed up rubbish on a beach, it’s always more interesting I think in any type of work, be it a painting, a photo or a design to corrupt the beauty a little with something that sticks out. Something that tweaks normality a little. Could that be the key to creating fresh work? A tweaking of the everyday? New work. We are all after it all the time. And truly new work can be made.

If it’s made now, even if it’s based on an old idea, whatever you are making will be new because it is something made now and it will be different because YOU are making it. Everything you do is new. It’s not true that everything has been done before. NOTHING has been done before the way you are doing it.

There’s a danger that nothing actually gets made anymore because it’s not new enough. Make it anyway. It will be good. It will be different. It will be new.

It happens so often that fresh, sad, silly, surprising, different, crazy, risky, stupid, ideas get killed by a technicality or a clever fact before they even are allowed to live and develop and exist. Facts kill ideas.

Things only exist if they exist.

There is a peculiar light this morning. It’s been raining really hard and the clouds are still there but moving really fast. Trying to clear themselves away. From somewhere the sunlight is hitting the lawns and this combination of Turner sky and Gursky land looks really beautiful.

I have to concentrate hard to see all the black barnacle like satellite dishes sucked to the walls on the rows and rows of houses. Once you’ve seen them you can’t unsee them. Odd growth on brick. Everywhere. Bringing distraction and desire.


pump up the volume

Isn’t it strange that we put the crackling of a vinyl record onto a streaming sound file? That we use 70s filters to make our photos less perfect? We seem to have a craving for imperfection in our auto-tuned lives. Perfection is boring.

A big murder of crows is swarming around leafless trees to make their nests. What’s that Tom Waits track with the crows barking in the background. I think it’s on The Black Rider album (Flash Pan Hunter/Intro – looked it up). I wonder if anyone will ever persuade him to use his music in advertising. I hope not. Bob Greenberg told me a story (he tells very many brilliant stories) about people having their voice trademarked (this story might not be true, who knows, does it matter?). He is somehow involved in that. Tom Waits is one of the people that have had their voice copyrighted. In a way his voice is his biggest asset. Very clever. Also a little creepy. Especially if you think that a person’s voice is protected after their death. But it makes total sense. Actors can be recreated visually to star in films. So I’m sure there will be / is technology to create an artificial voice that sounds exactly like someone. Combine that with the advance of robot technology and we are one step closer to eternal life (death).


pump up the volume

Yo hobo humpin slobo babe…
Placebo Innovation. What a great summation of making us feel better by
tinkering around and actually not doing anything.  (From Benjamin
Bratton’s brilliant anti TED – TED talk[1]).

A sea of people waiting at Kings Cross looking up at the departure board. I’m in it. We are all dressed in black. Everyone has chosen to do so. Why is that? Is it the easier choice? I silently applaud the few red coats, the occasional flash of purple or yellow. Hat. Scarf. This is the second decade of the 21st century. Isn’t this supposed to be the future? With silver and gold metallic clothing? No one is hovering. No one is teleporting. Shame really.


What has happened to the great promise of clever, behaviourally driven online advertising? Amazon reminds me that I have just put a camera on my wish list in every single banner on every single web page I go to. Yes I know. Thank you Amazon. I’m not a goldfish.


dance dance

I’m reading Max Ernst whilst listening to Metallica. Make of that what you will.
A text conversation with Graham Wood
GW: Natively online digital innovations
FH: 360 Integrations
GW: 720 destruction
FH: Level 42
GW: Shalamar

Remember 360° advertising? Or integrated advertising I think it was called then. It used to be the future.  What happened? I would love to see design and
advertising come together again as friends. Possibly even coming from the same place. Would that be too difficult? It’s not that long ago that designers made advertising and advertising creatives designed. It’s curious that in a time of supposed convergence disciplines drift further apart. A sea of specialists and no generalist in sight. Could we describe someone as a generalist and not mean it as an insult?

There is a wonderful short essay in Brian Eno’s book “A Year With Swollen Appendices” about pretention and how children learn through pretending to be something/someone they are not. For kids it’s normal to pretend. Why is it that pretention is such a dismissive word? Pretenders are those who at least have a go at something. Try something out and learn you pretentious generalist!


I was recently at a talk by Danny Boyle (about his film Trance) where he passionately spoke about the time when he made Shallow Grave and how his innocence and the fact that he was pretending to be a director made it so much better a film (and how he misses that ignorance now.) The beauty of ignorance.

Technology presents endless options. Make decisions and keep it simple. Try this for a change: Make something, anything and see if it leads to an idea. It’s the opposite process to having an idea first and then spending ages trying to make it. Be receptive, trusting and allow yourself to be vulnerable to your own ideas.

Are we all feasting on the same all you can eat creative buffet? What happens if no one actually creates anything anymore? What if we have hashtagged the fuck out of every last single ounce of existing creative work?

Mephistoles said:
Ich sag es dir: ein Kerl, der spekuliert,
Ist wie ein Tier, auf dürrer Heide
Von einem bösen Geist im Kreis herumgeführt,
Und ringsumher liegt schöne grüne Weide.

A chap who speculates – let this be said –
Is very like a beast on moorland dry,
That by some evil spirit round and round is led,
While fair, green pastures round about him lie.

Or in Elvis’ words: A little less conversation, a little more action please!

But, you know, what the fuck do I know?

First published here 


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