I’ve been ill on and off for three months now. It’s not so bad, I’m not completely out of commission, haven’t had to go to A&E. But it’s bad enough.

It has a weird effect. The symptoms aren’t always there, thank goodness. And I’m getting better at handling it when things go south, I’ve learned how to alleviate pain quickly.

The more difficult element to cope with is the psychological brittleness. The feeling that I cannot rely on myself. I’m reluctant to make plans because I’d rather not make them than break them again. That can get pretty isolating.

It’s particularly weird when it comes to work. If I were working as part of a larger team I’d talk to my manager, or HR. But the only people I answer to are my collaborators and clients. They’re very understanding (it helps a *lot* that I don’t work totally solo), but still. It’s a bit of a weird conversation, one I’ve avoided for the most part.

It will probably be another month until things are “settled”. The powers that be are sorting it out, I think. And I’m staying busy. Practically, I don’t want to fall behind. Emotionally, I need the distraction. Distraction from the larger distraction.

Rainbows + Beata Viscera Iridis performed by Musarc at the Royal Academy, May 2018

Musarc performed Rainbows + Beata viscera iridis on the Burlington Gardens staircase at the Royal Academy on Saturday 19 May 2018 as part of the RA’s 250 birthday celebrations.

Rainbows is devised by artist Sarah Kate Wilson, and Beata viscera iridis is a simple arrangement of a medieval conductus by myself and architect Toby O’Connor. This is, I believe, the third staging of these pieces together.

A few of the performances at the RA had a lower key than usual. An interesting register to work with, the energy is very different. The clip here includes the introduction and the beginning of the conductus.

Photo by Justine Trickett. Recording courtesy Sam Belinfante.

Certain quotes lodge themselves in your head. So many of the ones in my head come from the fourth edition of What is a designer by Norman Potter published by Hyphen Press in 2002.

p.23, on design education

The words by which people describe themselves – architect, graphic designer, interior designer, etc. – become curiously more important than the work they actually do. In one respect this is fair, because under modern conditions it may be very difficult to find one word to identify their work, but such words tend to build up irrelevant overtones of meaning which are more useful as a comfort to personal security than as a basis for co-operative enterprise.

p.30, wrapping up his thoughts on design education

All we can do is make good work possible, and be alert to its coming; never fooling ourselves that all good things come easily. To work well is to work with love.

p.57, on recognising the value in nuance

In raising consciousness of these matters, it should be remembered that our civilization sells itself through sensation, preferably with the volume turned up. This is good reason for designers to learn how to speak quietly, and to understand how it is that conversation becomes possible between people and things.

And nearly every point in chapter 18, “Advice for beginners”, and 19, “Questioning design”.

Early last year, Sarah Kate Wilson approached Musarc with a concept for a performance involving coloured mirrors. Around the same time, Toby O’Connor and I were mulling over ways of working with Beata Viscera, a conductus by medieval composer Pérotin. These experiments merged to become Rainbows. In April 2017, Musarc opened and closed the third Do Disturb festival at Palais De Tokyo with Rainbows. Watch a video documenting Musarc’s various PDT performances on musarc.org. Rainbows was performed again as part of MK Gallery’s 2017 CityFest and at Rochester Square’s Open Day on 24 June 2017.

Musarc rehearsing Rainbows

The composite photo above is Musarc rehearsing Rainbows at Central House just before the building was sold by London Met Uni.

Did some research on Chinese web font best practices a while back when working on Memory Machine for Tyler Coburn + Asia Art Archive with Luke Gould. It was an interesting challenge. This was my overall takeaway from the research:

  • Self-hosted fonts are out, the font files are prohibitively enormous due to the number of characters
  • The Great Firewall can cause issues with most font services, so no Google Fonts or Typekit
  • If you need to render a mixture of Latin and Chinese characters and want them to use different fonts, the font stack structure and naming is critical (see article by Kendra Schaefer for more info)
  • Bold and italic should never be used for emphasis on Chinese characters since it distorts their meaning

Read more

The e-newsletters we made for Penguin Classics got a mention in a recent newsletter from The Better Email [✉ ∞]. Made me smile. Here are a few newsletters from the Penguin Random House team that I particularly like.

This idea began as a bit of a joke of course, over whiskey in Nicosia late at night we said “Hey, we should run a book store with this stuff.” And like most things that are worth doing, the jokes are worth following through because they’re fun.

David Reinfurt on the beginnings of Dexter Sinister from his 17 March 2009 talk as part of the Walker’s Insights Design Lecture Series. Quote is a paraphrase, see 33:45 for full comment.