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First impressions

Categories: Extra-curricular, Superinterns, Useful/interesting

As it's back-to-school time, we've been thinking about learning here at Supercool HQ.

Whether it's a second-year student on a work-shadowing placement, an intern with us for four months as part of their course or simply someone who's unfamiliar with some of the design terms agencies use but interested to find out what they mean; we like to be useful and help folks learn. It's good for us too as we always learn something new along the way.

We get sent umpteen CVs every month requesting placements, jobs or portfolio surgeries, all of which we respond to – and within our replies we also like to include some helpful feedback when we can. The problem is that this takes time; and much of that time we find ourselves repeating the same or similar advice, which struck us as a bit daft.

The solution? Some sort of repository which houses the most frequently handed-out hints and tips; somewhere useful we can direct people so we don't find ourselves repeating the same or similar things; something that's accessible to not only the people who contact us but others too.

Initially the project was called Hello Folio (named by Sarah Carter) but the Hello Digital festival started up in Birmingham later that year, so we decided the name had better change. And so Yoo-hoo was born; advice on saying hello to design agencies and making a good first impression.

We've had a number of people contribute to Yoo-hoo so far (including design professionals, students and recent graduates) in an attempt to ensure it's as useful, meaningful and relevant as possible to those it's aimed at helping.

Most recently we crowdsourced advice on how best to approach design agencies from a range of local designers and used their feedback to create a top ten of hints and tips.

We hope this is just the beginning for Yoo-hoo and have lots of plans for the site's development; so in actual fact we may not have saved ourselves any time at all. Oops.

Still, the result should be the sort of thing that would've helped us when we were just starting out, so we're sure it'll be useful to upcoming designers – and we can at least feel all warm and fuzzy inside for having done our bit to help.

Folks who've been involved with Yoo-hoo so far: Caroline Archer; Sarah Carter; James Coleman; Keith Dodds; Clare Godson; Kristian Kaupang; Tina Loekke Leth; Ning Liu; John Newbold; Katie Parry; Aliya Tariq.

Type faces

Categories: Extra-curricular, Nice stuff

Possibly a throw-back from being forced to write 'self-initiated briefs' at university, every now and again I like to set myself a small design project.

It feels like a useful and, this sounds cringeworthy but, 'creatively fulfilling' exercise to design things outside of commercial work. Trite but true; and doing things like this helps me access the bit of my brain that does the lateral thinking, allowing me to consider things in a way that I hope adds something to my day-to-day work as well.

Anyway, the latest of these little projects is typography-related, as many of my self-set endeavours tend to be, and is called Type Faces.

Creating pictures from letterforms is hardly a ground-breaking idea (and is in fact fairly common on the interwebs) but I did stick to several specific and rigid constraints to keep things interesting:

  • Each face can only be made from one weight of a single typeface.
  • The face must be up of an anagram of the typeface's name.
  • The only manipulation allowed is alteration of each letter's rotation and/or size.

Although my Helvetica Face ended up a complete disaster (and now resides in an 'In progress' folder until I can bring myself to try again), the other outcomes have so far turned out fairly well and are currently prettifying one of the walls at Supercool HQ.

Yes, they may respectively look like Rolf Harris, a forlorn puppy and some kind of surprised punk, but can you identify the three faces from the three faces?

Fetching facts

Categories: Data design, Useful/interesting

Visualisation of this blog post made using wordle.net

When we decided to revamp our website, the very first consideration was; content. What exactly are we going to populate the site with?

New case studies? Definitely. More about some of our extra-curricular projects? Of course. But also, a better explanation of what it is we do and what it is we care about. And that's where it got tricky.

After countless drafts and redrafts, false starts and random notes, we were left with a load of blurb to explain what Supercool's all about … but in a convoluted, wordy, complicated, no-one's-going-to-read-all-this format.

"How can we use this and have it be useful? Arrrrgh! Oh, hang on; let's make a Wordle. Yay!" is pretty much how it went.

Wordle takes prose and makes it into (usually) pretty word clouds, with the most frequently used words the biggest. A very good way to get a general, digestible overview from lots of wordy, essay-length notes.

There are plenty of excellent information visualisation tools out there, some of our favourites being: Wordle, of course; Spezify, which takes your keyword/s and shows you copy, images and links related to it; Google Charts, which visualises HTML data and makes charts; this nameless thing which visualises the structure of websites … ummm, and there must be loads more. What've I missed?!

Our Supercool Wordle's housed on the About page, and the one pictured here is made from this very blog post. So, hooray for visualised data – oh, and if you like prettified statistics, you'll love Information is Beautiful.