15 Apr

Appearing soon at …

I’ve had a flurry of invitations to speak in public recently and, as one of my New Years Resolutions was to say ‘yes’ more, I’ve agreed to all of them.

Over the next 2 months I’ll be appearing at the following events – ticket details below, and if you’re already going, do say hi!






April CAKE Morning

  • Date: April 29th 2014
  • Venue:  Digital Humanities Hub, University of Birmingham, Pritchatts Road, Edgbaston, B15 2TT
  • Talk subject: tbc
  • Tickets: free available here
  • Other speakers: tbc

Official Blurb

Given the wide and diverse range of academics, businesses, students and Heritage organisations working collaboratively on the DHD project, we will be hosting free monthly “cake” (Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange) mornings to showcase current developments, discuss funding opportunities and tackle current challenges. Plus – there will be cake!

Personal Aims

I went to CAKE for the first time in March, and found it a really interesting event, although I didn’t stick around to properly meet many new people! Thankfully I’ve been invited to speak at the April event, and will make a concerted effort to mingle, and hopefully attract some collaborations and new projects.

The focus of my presentation will be cultural examples of data visualisation and info-visualisation – with a focus on historical and cultural examples!



Science Capital – Digital World Meeting:Doing Business with Data

Official Blurb

Big data. Open data. The potential for creating innovative businesses seems limitless. Our communities are looking for useful solutions to complex issues such as mass transit flow, better health systems and effective portals that help us work in new ways.

The Digital World speakers will show how big and open data can be used by individuals and by companies looking to grow. The event is open to all: to those who create, visualise and analyse our data universe; to those seeking new business ideas or research; to those who rebel as well as revel in the opportunities big data brings.

Personal Aims

I’m thinking of focusing my talk on past, present and future of data visualisation – harking back to some of the ‘classics’, to what’s being done today and ideas for the future. I’d really like to present an interesting insight into the world of data design – with some historical context, real world examples and advice for companies looking to explore this avenue.

It would also be great to make some new contacts, and there is a chance to network at the event, so I won’t forget to pack my business cards!





Creating Usable Content

  • Date: May 12th 2014
  • Venue: SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
  • Workshop: Creating Infographics (50 minutes repeated 3 times during the day)
  • Tickets:  here
  • Other speakers: Dan Slee (@comms2point0) Steve Davies (@filmcafe_steve) and more tbc

Official Blurb

The way we communicate has changed. How can we improve the way we engage with colleagues, stakeholders and the public?
The Creating Useable Content Learning Event is a day of high-tempo workshops that will equip you with the skills to tell your story in a way that attracts attention and triggers conversations.
During the day you’ll discover the benefit of other people sharing your content and spreading your message for you.
With a practical, hands-on emphasis, each of the five workshops will give you the opportunity to begin creating useable content right there and then!

Personal Aims

This sounds like a great event – delegates will rotate round a series of 50 minute workshops using useful introductory skills like social media management, writing blogs and using photography to promote.

It will be great to develop a quick version of my infographics designing course and, of course, meet lots of new organisations who may benefit from my design services!

10 Apr

Bits and Pieces: design-related podcasts

I’m a big fan of podcasts.I’m only sad that I don’t have more time to listen to them (for example, I can’t listen whilst I’m working, just when I’m at home, travelling or driving). I use the Pocket Casts app on my iPhone, which is a very smart, easy to use app and for the past 6 months I’ve been listening to a lot of design-related podcasts – here are my favourites (in no particular order!)



The Stack

The Stack

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: Studio host, with guests, reports and discussion
  • Tone: informative, intelligent and ever-so-slightly smug. 
  • Usual length: 25 – 40 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

The first of 2 offering from Monocle, publishers of the high-brow monthly magazine. They run a radio station, but the shows are also released as podcasts. This has been a long-time favourite of mine.

Usually presented by Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brulee, its a 30 minute look at the world of magazine publishing. Guests bring along their favourite titles, and discuss design, content and the wider industry.

Section D

Section D

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: studio host and reports from global reporters
  • Tone: dips a toe in the water of every type of design – a good overview
  • Usual length: 60 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

The second podcast from Monocle, this time the design-focused Section D. A recent change of presenter has improved this no end, with a more relaxed style. Covering graphic design, architecture, fashion and everything in between all over the world, it offers an interesting insight into the industry.

99% Invisible

99% Invisible

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: radio programme on a different design related subject each week
  • Tone: highly produced, intelligent with comic asides. 
  • Usual length: around 2o minutes
  • Frequency: weekly

A recent funding push has meant this brilliant radio series is now weekly, maintaining it’s high standards. A high level of production and presenting means recent topics such as “barcodes”, Pizza Hut buildings and number stations, become fascinating subjects.

Data Stories logo

Data Stories

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: 2 hosts + guests
  • Tone: incredibly friendly, passionate and geeky in places 
  • Usual length: 45 – 120 mins
  • Frequency: monthly (not regular)

I adore this podcast because it lands exactly in my wheelhouse – data and design. The hosts, an academic and a professional data designer, clearly enjoy the podcast and create a friendly and warm environment. Both incredibly knowledgable, they bring in big name guests and cover a range of subjects including, recently, data journalism. As I’m not a coder, I am occasionally lost by some of the code-speak, but it’s handled well and moves quickly.

Do listen out for the adorable cross-nationality marathon goodbye session at the end of the podcast!

Design Matters

Design Matters

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: head to head interview
  • Tone: intimate, warm and knowledgable 
  • Usual length: 45 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

This podcast focuses entirely on one subject a week, with an in-depth head to head interview. I’ve found interviews to be interesting and insightful, irrespective of the interviewee, thanks to host bigwig Debbie Milner.

Deeply Graphics Design Cast

The Deeply Graphic Design Podcast

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: 3 hosts, discussion and listener questions
  • Tone: friendly, industry-insight discussions and advice
  • Usual length: 40 – 60 mins
  • Frequency: fortnightly

This is a more serious version of Adventures in Design  – with 3 professional designers discussing a specific graphic or web design issue each episode. The tone is friendly, with no silliness or banter and the issues are handled professionally.


Adventures in Design

Adventures in Design


  • Format: 3 presenters with chat, occasional interviews and Q & A
  • Tone: casual, yet informative with occasional (ok, quite a bit) of swearing
  • Usual length: 1 hr 40 – 2hr
  • Frequency: weekly

When I was working alone at home, this podcast acted as my colleagues, with enough banter and interesting facts and tips to make me feel human again!! It was great to hear 3 guys chatting about every day designer issues and moans, with some smart ideas and advice thrown in.

Recently the podcasts were recorded on the road as the crew took a trip to the Flatpack Festival in Austin, Texas as part of SXSW with some genuinely funny moments!

04 Apr

5 Things I Discovered at Cheltenham Design Festival

Cheltenham Design Festival

Recently I visited the Cheltenham Design Festival as part of my ongoing education into art and design.

The structure of the day meant attendees had to choose between a selection of great workshops and presentations and I found the day incredibly interesting and inspiring.

Here are the top ideas I heard/learnt today:

1. Infographics Are Not Dead

Which is just as well!

I was starting to get a little nervous. Not only has the infographics world been inundated with tacky, cheap and low-value infographics, but this mashup of content and design seems to have very low credibility within the design field. (Is it considered a low-brow artform? Or are graphic designers simply not interested in the presentation of content literally?)

One of the sessions I attended covered viral marketing, newsjacking and how to make your content “stickable” – the session was appropriately called “Super Sticky Snackability” presented by Jon Burkhart from Urgent Genius.

Following the session I asked Jon, as he had briefly touched on the subject, whether the influx of cheap infographics had killed them. Thankfully Jon backed up my feelings, that there will always be a place, but the content has to be strong, but also that interactivity is perhaps a still under-saturated area. He added that it’s very hard to kill something, despite claims to the contrary (TV and print live on, for example despite the death knell!)


2. It’s OK to Have Fun!

(Image: HomeofMetal_Fox_0711 by Guy Evans, on Flickr)


I love what I do, but it’s often easy to get caught up in deadlines, and the process of what you’re doing, and forget all that. So it was great to see how much passion surrounds the design industry, but the subject of having fun was covered heavily by two of the speakers. First, Morag Myerscough (site) (pictured left) during her presentation “Design can create belonging

It’s hard not to be cheered up by her vibrant design work but it was great to sense her genuine passion and joy about her work, and see photographs of her laughing with work colleagues as she actually gets her hands dirty doing the painting work on her huge scale projects.

The second dose of “loving the job” came from Nick Eagleton from The Partners. His background was strongly founded in exploratory arts (including some adventures in taxidermy, wire sculpture and studios within studios) although now he has a more structured branding role. However, his sheer joy at being able to bring his passion for surprise and exploration in design was evident – keep it fun!!

3. Meet Your Audience

Another tip from Nick Eagleton (see previous point).

He explained how he was sent to the Falkland Islands to research the design for a new standards logo for produce from the island. Prior to his trip, the team had developed a series of logos all featuring the penguin, a well-used icon in Falklands merchandise. It appears on mugs, websites, hats and mittens!

However, when Nick arrived in the Falklands and began speaking to the locals, he realised quickly that they all hated the penguins, for the simple fact that they’re noisy and crap everywhere. This was made worse by the fact that cartoon penguins appeared everywhere.

Falkland IslandsInstead, Nick went for a more natural approach, and used the windswept grasses, indigenous to the island, to demonstrate it’s unique weather conditions. Without that trip to the Islands, the logo would have featured a penguin, and not been popular, if it had been taken up at all.

From this, I’m going to endeavour to spend more time getting to know my clients and, if possible, meet in their offices to get a feel for their “brand” and get people more engaged in my work.

Which brings me to …

4. The Ikea Effect

“The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionally high value on products they partially created.[1] The name derives from the Swedish manufacturer and furniture retailer IKEA, which sells many furniture products that require assembly.”

In short, if someone get’s involved and places some input in your project, they’ll think it’s better than it is.

This concept was mentioned during my first session of the day, by Tom Roope from The Rumpus Room

His company focuses largely on crowdsourced material, which is curated and moderated to create interesting pieces of work such as the Lily Allen video – below.

Xbox Lips Lily Allen TV Commercial from FIELD on Vimeo.

This not only makes a catchy video but imagine – every single person who appeared in that video probably shared it with their friends – who most likely shared it themselves!

The hint here is that getting people involved in the process is a sure fire to get them on board. Yet another reason to get out of the office more, and into my clients worlds!

And finally …

5. Collaboration is Good

I must confess, I’m not a natural collaborator. Ask anyone who’s worked with me back in my radio days, and they’ll tell you I’d rather do it myself than delegate or collaborate.

And that still stands for work I can do myself (which is one reason I’ll probably never employ someone to do the same role as me). However, that shouldn’t stop me working with people with different skills.


Morag Myerscough covered this during her presentation – explaining the thinking behind Supergroup ,which sees a collection of designers, with varying skills, pool their resources to work together on projects that they’d be unable to take on alone, due to requirements or sheer size.

It’s a smart move. I’ll be collaborating with some developers over the coming months on the My Route project, and I can certainly see the potential of gathering a stable of techies, developers and perhaps statisticians to boost my business model.

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020