In a plain little nutshell, Design-Ah is a Japanese educational kid's television series about design, shown on NHK.

Don't let the fact that it is targeted at kids put you off.

It is the most unpatronising, buoyant and refreshing programme that I have watched on design for a loooooooong time.

Each fast moving rhythmic 14 minute-ish episode is packed with visually pleasing, interesting, inspiring and thought provoking concepts set against quirky sounds. It was made to educate kids. It's educating me!  It's easy to watch (even if you don't understand Japanese) and encourages a second look at the kind of everyday objects that I've been banging on about lately! 

I'm a big fan.

Their website is equally awesome. It's currently my favourite place to get lost and find myself up to my neck in inspiration.
Loaded with clips to tease you into re-thinking things from the more obvious - "why didn't I think of it that way before" conjectures to the more; "Wow, Just WOW" moments. The latest clip on their website is a gem and you bet I got my compass out to give it a go | Watch it here |

I watch episodes on YouTube with my 2 year old. Not sure how much he understands - he likes the sounds mostly.  I'd like to think that by gently introducing him to concepts of design - we might encourage analytical thinking and also encourage him to question and appreciate his surroundings too.

If you are not familiar with Japanese TV, you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed at how fast moving each episode is. My advice is to just give in to it and go with the flow!

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Who Designed That?

The world is a funny place We throw around words like 'designer' so free and easily that we gloss over the fact that nearly EVERYTHING has been designed on some level. Even the humble things that we either use so habitually, or are so used to owning have been designed by someone. 

As important as these objects are to us,  we've grown so accustomed to them that we begin to take their design attributes for granted. In fact, we may not even see them as examples of design. After all, a lot of these ordinary everyday items were designed 'egolessly', for pure functionality, stripped of their designers personal expression and without obvious branding they have a way of seamlessly permeating our lifestyle. Consequently, our familiarity of their design shifts from visual appreciation to simply experiencing their design.

Image credit

This is so interesting to me and it stokes my enthusiasm for the kind of anonymous design I've been harping on about HERE

Perhaps this is part of the reason I've gotten into the habit of questioning the things I own and use everyday. I am always interested in the story behind the things I own. Even the everyday mundane things have taught me new things.

Slowly, I've begun to realise that by taking the time to learn about and consider the design attributes and thinking behind the things I own, I've in turn, begun to appreciate them far more. And of course this has a knock-on effect that encourages good mindful living kinda thinking.

Who said material possessions can't inspire a less materialistic lifestyle?

Anyway! If you get what I'm saying then you might just like THIS brilliant collection of articles for the New York Times that is both satisfying and piquing my curiousity.  Highly recommended for the design curious or fans of obscure random info, too

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| STREETS | Even More Shop Fronts

I've been sloppy at sharing my shop front finds. Meanwhile, the dedicated file on my cloud is getting chubbier by the day.

I like my shop fronts local. Proper local. The ones with that 'I've seen it all' look in their windows. The ones that have seen a generation turn in to another. 

They are the everyday familiars for us in Britain. From corner shop convenience to corner niche specialist. They've been serving the community before we rolled in....

These are the understated. The corner shops, chip shops, grocers, tinkers, launderettes. Nourishing, filling and dealing with the dirty washing of a generation. Behind each of these doors is a familiar face, a family story and a connection that cannot be found within the sterile aisles of the 'big chains'.

These are the places that the mass marketing giants might like us to forget and in turn see us relent to their ample shelve laden with the stuff that they dictate we should have. Fooling us into believing that we are spoiled for choice. Blinding us with convenience and special offers while they dissolve our High Streets into a bland branded, copied from a template and pasted to our streets.

Catch up with my previous shop fronts here.

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| Thoughts | Time Always Wins

Being bombarded with the type of busy-ness that numbs the soul and makes us think that we cannot make time to have some time to enjoy the quiet details of life is as glorified as it is overrated. 

Racing against time to get everything done, is in fact running a race that can never be won. Time always wins.

So I take it slow and watch how I go. 
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| Photo Diary | Chilling with Jellyfish

I am of the opinion that jellyfish are wonderful company to keep. Just be sure to ensure that there are inches of glass between you and their hypnotic vicious tentacles. 

I had the pleasure of loitering wide-eyed and gobsmacked in their rather sophisticated lair that can be found within the aquarium in Enoshima, Japan. Here, blooms of jellyfish  waltz with ethereal delicacy in a darkened room. Their glazed enclosures, emanate sheer luminous fluctuations that lull some, curiously, mainly men, to sleep.  

Were it not for the intermittent snores of dozing fellows in the dimness, I felt like I were surrounded with true magic.  And in this world where we demand explanations for everything (our have it imposed upon us like it or not), I was happy to not read any of the scientific commentary for these jellyfish. I decided to believe in magic.

P.S. The aquarium in Enoshima is generally of the international tourist radar. It is however, a popular date location for Japanese. For year's I've wanted to visit for a Japanese style date with Hiro. We made it! Finally, though our date did include our son who seemed thoroughly entranced - when he was awake, at least. 

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| Home | Cliptomania

There is a clip for most things in life and I seem to have most of them in my clip, (formerly biscuit) tin.

I use them for everything and anything -  from keeping papers together, laundry, keeping slippery clothes on hangers, sewing projects, keeping curtains closed, closing up opened food packets, keeping cables in place, guiding plants, hanging silly things from anywhere possible to amuse my son......

My favourite ones are the aluminium clips. They are a great example of the kind of anonymous design that I mentioned HERE. They are made in Japan, lightweight, don't rust and infinitely useful. I got mine from Labour and Wait.  I also like the stainless steel wire clip hooks from Muji. It's a hook aaaaand a clip! Oh and the rubber tipped heavy duty swivel one from Commes des Garcon's Good Design Shop in Omotesando.

Useful Links (unsponsored and unaffiliated)

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| Plants | Good Leaf Wish List

If you visited our home, you would probably tell me that the very last thing that we need is another plant. You would be oh-so-right; but for the fact that I got this idea stuck in my head. More of a grand plan than just an idea actually. I want a jungle in our home. Yep! Our very own Jungle. Therefore, just a few more would be marvellous!

Here are a few that I am currently looking out for via some of my favourite plant loving Instagrammers:

Alocasia 'Stingray'
Leaves that end with a flourish that makes them resembles sting rays. And look at those stems.

Alocasia Zebrina

I know! Another Alocasia? Yes! Can't get enough of those beautiful stems. Alocasia's can be a bit fussy but they are worth it.

Anthurium Crystallinum
Bold and vivid with strange flowers. Every serious jungle needs one. 

Euphorbia Lactea Variegata "white ghost".

Finding one is not my main obstacle with this one. Affording one is the issue - I saw one for £400 the other day. I want one - but free. Please? Anyone? Oh never mind.

Aglaonima Pictum Tricolor

Looks like someone's been at it with a paintbrush no? I love it. Matches a pair of trainers I have tucked away somewhere.

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The Beauty of Anonymous Design: Hidden Forms

I am so annoyed with myself for not buying a copy of Hidden Forms when I had a chance. Trust it to have gone out of print in English since. I am so ANNOYED. I often search for it. I keep my eyes peeled in every second-hand bookshop that I visit. I even hope that a digital copy might be available soon. Sadly, miserably, nothing's come up at a non "I saw you coming/rip off price" appeared.

Hidden Forms is a collaboration between Franco Clivio (director industrial design at Zurich University of the Arts), Hans Hansen (photographer) and Pierre Mendell (graphic designer). The book documents Clivio's collection of ordinary, everyday, practical, often unregarded objects collected over many years. Presented in perfect flat-lays, thoughtfully curated groups of items are accompanied by Clivio's explanations of their personal significance to him as well as some learned commentary on the manufacturing or design processes behind a selection of items. Pictures from the book can be viewed HERE

Until the day I have a copy of the book to gaze over at my leisure, I enjoy looking at Clivio's collection on the MUDAC website.

Photo credit: MUDAC

Photo credit: MUDAC

Photo credit: MUDAC

Photo credit: MUDAC

Photo credit: MUDAC

Sulky laments aside, my failure to find a copy of Hidden Forms has put me on the path (via Google) to an aspect of design that I find fascinating. Clivio finds considered design and innovative thinking in the  'unremarkable, everyday things' that he has amassed over the years. His appreciation of anonymously designed objects has struck a chord with me piqued my curiosity enough for me to embark on a little study of my own. I hope to explore this field more in the near future on the blog.

I like Clivio's insistence that holding something in your own hand, feeling its weight and literally getting to grips with its workings is vital to any understanding of design. This hands-on way of thinking reminds me of Yanagi Sori's design principles and I feel that in this 'everything online age' it's never been more relevant or important get back to a more analogue approach to life and design.

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| Photo Diary | That Otherworldly Beach

Every now and then, we take our kid, grab our bags and bundle into my sister and her fiancé's car. We zoom, zoom, zoom with tunes banging, sister singing, kid wriggling and the boys map reading, towards the sea. 

The English coastline is sprinkled with seaside towns and beaches each one of them distinctive in personality. 

Dungeness is probably my favourite beach we've visited yet. Layers of salty air, wind ravaged and shingle beaten splintered wood, rusty rail tracks and sun-bleached nylon nets exhale a haunting otherworldliness that I wish I could bottle and take home to serve up on one of those particularly oppressive London living days that we all get here.

Dungeness is a shingle beach that sprawls out from the looming shadows of the nearby nuclear power station. Even though we often hear the word 'bleak' used to describe the landscape of Dungeness, it is not a word that we would use ourselves. Windswept, stark, remote, fascinating, beautiful, strange, haunting, dramatic, melancholic and otherworldly are words that better match the Dungeness that we experienced.

I would like to see the sun rise and set over the expansive horizon. I want to hear what  the power station does to the sounds that travel across the shingles. How does the wind move across the landscape? Does is rush or does it dance? I will only ever know, If I stay a little longer, next time we visit. I've even found a marvellous place to stay! The Pobble House will do very nicely.

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| Hidden London | Tile Style

Tiles don't fly into my mind when I think of London in the same way that they do when I think of Lisbon or Porto. But now and again, life has a funny way of twisting and spinning a coincidence my way that ends up challenging my set views. This is exactly what happened a little while ago when I found myself a little lost in the sinewy alleys near Blackfriars. A few miseducated turns later, I found myself on a small street aligned with tiles panels of stunning geometrical grace.

After doing a bit of Googling and Insta-searching, I discovered a bit about the tiles' origins but noticed that they don't seem as well known as I feel they ought to be. Their location probably keeps them a hidden/secret London gem but such amazing work deserves a much bigger audience. So, if you fancy taking a look for yourself,  let your map guide you into the winding alleys of Blackfriars to Waithman Street, to be exact.

There are 23 panels consisting of about 18,000 ceramic tiles (source), all the work of Rupert Spira. They are the artist's only commission in England to date and they were hand made by him in 1992. Standing there, all alone in the street (it must be one of the loneliest thoroughfares in the City) and staring at their Escher-like patterns in their gloriously complex glazes was quite mesmerising as the 3 dimensional effect seems to awaken and do trippy things to my eyes.  
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