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Give a beep


Our creative director Alistair recently signed up to take part in London Cycling Campaign’s interesting Give a *beep* initiative.

LCC have teamed up with the Swedish company Hövding (who make the airbags for cyclists) to create the initiative.

The project uses flic buttons: wireless smart buttons which hook up to iOS or Android devices. You can assign up to three different actions to the button at any given time (using a single click, a double click, or by holding the button down) via the flic app available on the App store, or on Google Play. Those actions could be setting off an alarm on your phone so that you can find it when it’s lost, triggering the camera on your phone, or playing some music. Some of those actions are pre-designed by developers such as Spotify or Google, but you can set up your own too using IFTTT (If this, then that).

Here’s the button Alistair was sent:


For the Give a *beep* initiative, 500 of the flic buttons were given out free to cyclists in London (you can still buy your own from the flic shop though). Those cyclists were asked to assign the Give a *beep* action to their buttons via the app, and to then stick them on their bikes. Here’s Alistair’s in place:


The idea is that cyclists press the buttons, or *beep*, when ‘they’re cycling and feel at risk; whether from high traffic speeds or volume, or a poorly designed road layout.’

The locations of those beeps are then logged, slowly building up a map of the danger spots throughout London where cyclists regularly feel most at risk. Here’s how the map of the centre of town looks after the initiative has been running for just a couple of days:


You can also set the button to send an email to the mayor’s office, though Alistair didn’t do that, feeling just a tad hesitant about giving up control of his email account to an app.

It’s a great use of location based data, and the button is a dead smart way of allowing that data to be recorded really simply while on the move. We’ve been wondering if there might be further uses for the same tech / cycle combo – perhaps logging potholes in winter? Or perhaps in a positive way, recording places where cyclists feel particularly safe, where new cycling infrastructure has really helped?

August? It’s over…


– Ring, ring, ring –

Hey August.

Hmm? Yeah, I’m good.

Yeah, that’s … look, I think we need to talk.

Um, well, yup, it is serious.

Well, it’s … it’s just not working for me.

What d’you mean ‘what’? All of it!


When this began, I thought it was really going to be something special you know? I had such high hopes. I genuinely thought we might go somewhere you know. But you promised so much, all those weekends away, days lying in the park, and God I wish I’d listened to my mates, but that’s…

What? Oh, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t…

They just said you might go this way, that you had ‘form’…

Look, that’s not really the point is it?

Just listen will you?

I’m talking about us. About now. And this just isn’t working for me. I’m done. I can’t stick around in this… this miserable gloom.

No, I know there’s a only a few days left. But that’s hardly a reason to draw this out is it?

What? Does it matter? Well, yeah, if you really need to know, there is…

You don’t know them.

You don’t.

Bloody hell. Look, okay, you might have met them a few times. But only ever very briefly. It really isn’t…


Okay, okay, whatever. It’s September okay?


You there?

Well, why d’you think? Surely it’s obvious. You’ve just been.… such a disappointment. And September has always been there for me.

I know. Of course I remember that you introduced us. Of course.

Well yeah.

I know. But maybe expecting a little less is more realistic. At least I’m not gonna be let down. Not again.



Oh come on. I gave you so many second chances.

Look, we’re done okay. That’s it.

I don’t know. Next year sometime I guess. I’ll just have to see how I’m feeling.

No. Don’t text.

Yeah. Me too, August. Me too.

Milk Tooth Chocolate

We’ve been busy lately on a variety of projects for the Ministry of Stories and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, and this is the first to hit the shelves: Milk Tooth Chocolate – a smooth milk chocolate with utterly delicious chunks of delicately roasted milk teeth.

It is of course ethically sourced: “Our chocolate is made with only the finest quality molars, gathered by our skilled team of tooth fairies – and children are always paid a fair price for their teeth.”

It’s truly delicious (with an uncanny similarity to milk chocolate with hazelnut pieces).

And, there’s an added bonus – the inside of the wrapper has the beginnings of a short story by Francesca Simon (author of the Horrid Henry books). The story is about the tooth fairy, who is bored and fed up. Francesca has asked for any budding young writers amongst the shop’s customers to help finish the story for her – with the best results being published on the Ministry of Stories website.

As with all Hoxton Street Monster Supplies stuff, the profits from the sale of the bars support free writing workshops for children and young people in east London. You can order them from the website – and with Christmas looming, they make fantastic Secret Santa gifts, or stocking fillers.

The bar is produced by the lovely people at the rather brilliant Divine Chocolate – the only Fairtrade chocolate company 45% owned by farmers.

Packaging design and copywriting are by We Made This.

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis

Sebastião Salgado’s incredible new show, Genesis, opened recently at the Natural History Museum, and we went along over the weekend to take a look.

The exhibition is the result of eight years work, during which Salgado travelled the globe, seeking out examples of the unspoiled and the untouched – ‘my wish was to do a homage to the planet’. His travels, which began on the Galápagos Islands, took him through over thirty countries, from the arctic to the antarctic, from desert to jungle. Not bad for a man approaching his 70th birthday.

Salgado has previously done two major photographic projects – Workers (1993) which looked at manual labourers across the planet, and Migrations (2000) which studied the movements of peoples, driven by disaster, hunger, war and other pressures. With Genesis, his focus is much more on nature – landscapes and animals. People aren’t entirely absent though – he visited a variety of indigenous tribes, including the Omo Valley tribes in Ethiopia, the Zo’é in Brazil, and the Nenets of Siberia.

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum is the global premiere for the project (though individual stories from it have been serialised over the past eight years in magazines around the world), and the decision to hold it there adds a particular, and necessary, accent to the work.

In seeking to present the world in an untouched state (you’d be hard pressed to date any of these pictures to a particular century, let alone decade), Salgado is obviously hoping to show where we’ve come from, and how much we risk to lose. Framing the exhibition within the Natural History Museum helps to make this explicit in a way which it wouldn’t if the show was hosted in a more traditional gallery space.

Salgado is sometimes criticised for making his images too beautiful – that as a documentary photographer, he gives us too much art. But that seems to suggest that an image that communicates something powerful, that tells a particular story, can’t also be beautiful.

And this is a show that is wondrously beautiful. Shot after shot (and there are two hundred or so of them here) is breathtakingly stunning.

These thumbnails don’t even begin to do justice to the prints themselves – so make sure you get along to the exhibition if you can. (It will be travelling the globe in the coming years if you’re not in London.You can find the itinerary here.)

There is a book of course, published by Taschen.

And being Taschen, it’s also available in their oversized Sumo format as a two-volume limited edition, which comes with its own wooden stand designed by Tadao Ando. Here’s a shot of Salgado having a flip through a copy:

And if it feels like there’s a slight discrepancy between publishing a 704pp hardback book with a spread of almost a metre and being concerned for the world’s untouched spaces?

Well then it’s perhaps good to know that Salgado and his wife Lélia (curator of the Genesis show) have worked for two decades on the restoration of part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, hoping to plant a million and a half trees before they’re done.

7 years old

The We Made This blog is seven years old today.

As a seven year old , we can be expected to “enjoy sharing knowledge with others… display a longer attention span… frequently ask adults and peers questions to satisfy their need to know”.

And also be able to “roll after landing from a jump” and “travel in rhythm to music”.

So, seems like there’s lots to look forward to in the coming year.

We can also be expected “to pout a lot” though.

Apologies in advance for that.


She showed you how to tie your shoes. She showed you how to do your teeth. How to do your times tables. How to iron a shirt. She held your hand when you were feeling scared, and she mopped your brow when you were feeling ill. She listened to you, she laughed with you. She fed you, encouraged you, hugged you and held you.

Maybe send her a card?

Mother’s Day is Sunday 10 March (in the UK) – so how about you grab one of our Mummy! cards from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies? Beautifully printed from woodblock letters by the folks at New North Press, profits from the cards go to support the Ministry of Stories.

Towards a new iconography


Wikipedia’s great isn’t it?

How many of its articles do you think you’ve looked at on it this year? 50? 100? More perhaps?

Wikipedia runs no advertising, and receives no government funds. As its founder Jimmy Wales has said “When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but decided to do something different. Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn’t belong here.”

Since its foundation, it has expanded massively. It’s the 5th most used site on the planet, with 23 million articles, more than 4.1 million of them in English (Wikipedia is available in 285 languages, the largest being English, then German, French, Dutch and Italian).

The site is currently doing a donation drive. (As it says on their homepage, if everyone who saw the request for donations on their homepage gave the price of a cup of coffee, their fundraiser would be done within an hour.)

Anyone (barring places where it’s censored) can find a vast depth of information, entirely for free. It’s a staggering, glowing example of how volunteers can work together using the internet for the betterment of society.

We reckon that’s worth the price of a cup of coffee.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies: now online

Ever since it opened its doors a year ago, customers have been clamouring for an online store for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. And now, thanks to the brilliant work of a team of hugely talented volunteers, the online shop is alive.

And just in time, as we’ve recently created a whole new range of products for the shop*:

These tins of fear are perfect as a top-up for any monster who’s not feeling quite as scary as they should. As well as a batch of fear, each tin also contains an exclusive short story by a top children’s author, so they make rather good presents for kids.

The Night Sweats features a tale by Andy Stanton; The Chills a story by Jeremy Strong; Alarm has a story by Meg Rosoff; the Night Terrors tale is by Eoin Colfer; and Creeping Dread features a story by Charlie Higson.

The boxes of Cubed Earwax are ‘A true delight at any monster’s table’; but we’re more partial to the bars of Impacted Earwax.

The shop is also selling these jars of Daylight – perfect for vampires suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You simply leave them out in the light during the day, and as soon as dusk falls, they light up. They also come in a Moonlight version for werewolves who don’t want to wait around all month for a full moon:

And just in case you have a really sweet tooth (or fang) there are a couple of new jars of sweets:

You can also pick up some of the original range of products, including T-shirts, Zombie Fresh Mints, Fang Floss, and of course, some of the books written by the kids at the Ministry of Stories, including the new Awfully Bad Guide to Monster Housekeeping.

The site was designed by Gavin and Jason Fox, built by Simon Pearson, project managed by Chris Meachin, user experienced by Mike Towber; and art directed by We Made This.

*Not all the products are available from the online store; and shipping is only available for UK addresses at the time of writing.

Max Fraser on Freedom

~ While Alistair is away cycling the length of Great Britain, we’ve invited twenty disgustingly talented people to each write a post for our blog. Today’s post is from the mighty fine Max Fraser: design author, journalist and curator. ~

I’m writing this post only a few days after completing a new book and sending it to the printer. Without going into too much detail, the publication is most certainly a celebration of visual culture with a particular focus on contemporary product, interiors and architecture. [Max is being very coy here – it’s the 2012 edition of the brilliant London Design Guide – an essential guide to the London design scene – Alistair]

Assessing manmade environments is at the very core of what I do professionally and is inevitably part of my life when I’m ‘off-duty’ too.

Sitting here, enjoying my first day off for as long as I can remember, my desire to write about even more visual culture is rather unappealing. I hope you understand. Instead, I’d prefer to turn my attentions to the great cycling feat that Alistair is enduring and which he is only days away from completing.

Looking at the map of his route, I feel envious as to the wonderful freedom he must be enjoying. And it is freedom on many different levels: freedom of the open road; freedom from familiar daily routine; freedom to become lost in thought; and, yes, freedom from visual culture.

The latter, of course, is not strictly true. Alistair will have experienced an eye-opening snapshot of British life, in itself a maelstrom of visual culture which he is not purposefully seeking out but is experiencing as part of his route through the everyday fabric of this country. Along his journey from A to B, he cannot avoid signs of progression as well as neglect – everything from the traditional to the modern, the quaint and the brash, the beautiful and the ugly. The excitement is derived from not knowing which order they will come in.

Indeed, this visual stimuli is exactly the refreshing influence that everyone needs from time to time. Removing yourself from the world of ‘considered’ culture to one of ‘real’ life is the most valuable collateral for anyone contributing to our complex layering of society. Such a journey as Alistair’s provides a healthy dose of relevance and context which he can use, consciously or not, in his ongoing contribution to our visual culture.

The best inspiration can be found when you’re not looking for it, a belief close to the practice of the late graphic designer Alan Fletcher. As Alistair is tearing through the British countryside, Fletcher’s exhibition is on show at the cultural hotspot of Kemistry Gallery in London, titled The Art of Looking Sideways.

I am quite sure that the legendary Fletcher would approve of Alistair’s bicycle adventure although, for your own safety Alistair, keep at least one eye on the road!


~ Alistair is raising money for Cancer Research UK during his ride – please wander over to his Just Giving page and donate a little cash. ~