A random collection of things that inspire, interest and trouble me
from the world of design, politics, art and culture.

Going to war with a pencil*

Posted: October 31st, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, art, protest | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Browsing through the images of the recent Climate Camp action at Ratcliffe-on-Soar I spied the shot below of an artist recording the event.


This got me thinking about the tradition of the war artist and whether activist circles have their own, respected artists who are documenting the war for the environment.

Of course there are many photographic records of war and protest but according to Kenneth Clarke (the chair of the War Artists Advisory Committee in Britain in the early part of the twentieth century), photography is unable to interpret the full scale of conflict: “the camera cannot interpret, and a war so epic in its scope by land, sea and air, and so detailed and complex in its mechanism, requires interpreting as well as recording’. I don’t entirely agree with this statement. For me reportage photography interprets through the act of selection by the photographer. What they choose to shoot and publish surely represents an act of interpretation.

The tradition of the war artist was born of various western governments’ desire for civilians to have a better understanding of war. My own understanding of war artist schemes is that because of the involvement of the government, the legitimacy of the art must be questioned from a propaganda perspective. Surely governments would only allow certain images to be seen by the public? An essay by Roger Tolson from the Imperial War Museum reflects on this situation. He says that artists were given freedom to choose what they recorded. I wonder though whether all of these works were shown to the public at the time, especially those that showed the true horror of war.

I am now on the hunt for more protest drawings, or field sketches if you will. I would love to see imagery that captures the immediacy and passion of the protest. I’ll post anything I find.

My friend and artist Deborah Kelly introduced me to Andrea Bowers who has drawn images of civil disobedience such as the one below which shows a group of women protesting at a nuclear power plant in California in the 80s. This drawing, however, appears to be drawn from a photograph rather than en plein air.


Andrea Bowers. Diabloblockade, Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, Abalone Alliance, 1981, 2003.


Although it doesn’t really fit the theme of art created at the time of war, this is so poignant that it is worthwhile including. Kseniya Simonova is an artist who won Ukraine’s version of America’s Got Talent. Simonova uses sand and a lightbox to paint interpret Germany’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine in WWII. If you haven’t watched this, I sincerely implore you to do so.


* Quote from Richard Johnson who recently spent two months in Kandahar with Canadian troops sketching and writing. You can read and see his sketches on the blog Postings from Kandahar.

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: typography | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

hese ‘Daily Drop Caps‘ by illustrator Jessica Hische are tops. Although now I will have to add some lorem ipsum to fill out the paragraph as it’s far too early to write intelligent content. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec mauris lorem, luctus nec imperdiet a, porttitor eget erat. Quisque suscipit congue neque id adipiscing. Vivamus ornare nisl id lacus egestas quis varius dolor vehicula. Cras ac lacus in massa sagittis sollicitudin quis in lorem. Aliquam et diam ac massa convallis tincidunt.

The Bigger Picture

Posted: October 27th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, environment, events, food, future | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I was lucky enough to attend the morning sessions of The Bigger Picture Festival of Interdependence in London over the weekend. Unfortunately we couldn’t get back in for the afternoon sessions as the queue for the event was, by this time, around the block. A great pity, but at least that meant that other people got to see it, not just the early birds like us!


The queue

The festival was put on (for free) by the New Economics Foundation. The festival was part conference, part workshop, part skill-share, and part exhibition all devoted to exploring the future of sustainability.

NEF’s choice of venue was inspired. Bargehouse is an 4-storey, gritty old warehouse space at the OXO Tower on the south side of the river. It was so lovely to be inside such a ‘human’ building instead of the usual polished concrete conference venue. It lent a really DIY activist vibe to the day.

I saw three talks. The first was a presentation from three speakers on the topic of food security and was introduced by NEF’s Andrew Simms. Of note was Tim Lang questioning what a sustainable diet looks like and how this fits in with our desire for a healthy diet. Lang asked can we have both? Lang says that it’s a fantasy that we have the right to choose what we eat, especially when it involves unsustainable transport and production processes (strawberries in winter, tropical fruit in the UK, etc).

Lang also introduced the audience to a new word deracination, which means lacking roots, to describe how the west has become so urbanized that we have lost touch with how to independently sustain ourselves through growing our own food. Another new term of Lang’s was the BINGO, that is a business that creates an NGO (non-government organisation).

Lang kept talking about a book by Tim Jackson called Prosperity without Growth that I will have to try and find at a library.


Tim Lang

Next up was the very interesting Professor Richard Wilkinson from Nottingham University talking about inequality. I could have listened to more of what he had to say, but unfortunately his presentation was brief. He showed by way of data graphics how countries that have a larger gap between the rich and  poor have more social problems than countries where there is a more equality. Loss of trust, increased crime, and larger incarceration levels are some of the indicators of an unhappy and unequal society.

Wilkinson says that without trust a community loses the social cohesion that is fundamental to solving the problems of climate change. For, if we have no trust and no empathy for our fellow citizens, why would we bother doing something for them? The UK and Australia are at the top of the unequal scale so we have the most work to do in order to bring back the common good and stand any chance of solving the problem of climate change.

The last talk I saw was a discussion about the value of storytelling. My favourite speaker from this session was Lucy Neil, a theatre producer and an initiator of the Transition Town Tooting project. Neil told the story of her great great aunt Mary Neil. Mary started the Espérance Club in the late nineteenth-century for poor girls from the dressmaking trade. At the club she taught traditional English dances such as Morris dancing which were popular at the time. The girls were then able to travel throughout England teaching these dances and thereby earn a new income. Mary Neil saw dancing as an inclusive rather than exclusive past time. Lucy quoted her great great (and wise) aunt to finish the talk: “isolation is death, only in union is there life”, a great mantra for a sustainable future.

More photos on Flickr


Lucy Neil

Upcycle Christmas!

Posted: October 26th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I am taking part in Folksy’s Upcycle Christmas project which will raise money for Sue Ryder Care, a charity devoted to helping those with end-of-life or long-term care needs. The project involves 200 participants who will find something from the Sue Ryder charity stores and ‘upcycle’ it into something new which can be sold at auction. All proceeds will go to Sue Ryder Care.

Today I visited my local Sue Ryder store and bought a fabulous 80s tartan jacket from Jaeger. It is 100% wool and feels lovely on the skin. Think it will become a more cropped jacket. Something with some lovely draping. Stay tuned for updates.


Olympic icons

Posted: October 19th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: icon design | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

For a year before the Sydney 2000 Olympics I was the lead designer on the Olympics newspaper project for John Fairfax Publications. I designed templates, worked out all the fine details of the type, and liaised with all the senior editorial staff to make sure it all happened on time. This was when I worked for de Luxe & Associates.

One of the parts of the job that I enjoyed the most was commissioning and art directing the icon set. I decided early on that the official Sydney 2000 Olympic icons were not appropriate for the design I was intending for Fairfax. Simon Harris was the illustrator and he did a smashing job. If you would like to see some of the pages from the newspaper, head over to my folio site.


This is just to weigh in on the blog wave of this week – that the London 2012 Olympic icons have been released. You can read a post at We Made This all about them. They have been designed by design company Someone. I prefer the outlined “dynamic” ones to the silhouette ones. What about you?

Behaviour change through "fun theory"

Posted: October 16th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A competition from Volkswagen is asking people to think of ways to induce behaviour change through fun, they call it Fun Theory. You may have already seen the video of how music made taking the stairs more fun than riding the escalator:


Or perhaps you have seen this one, the world’s deepest bin which encouraged people to place their rubbish in the bin:


The results of the competition will of course be used by Volkswagen in some kind of marketing, but if the competition encourages “behaviour change for the better” then perhaps it’s worth signing away your creative rights. The competition ends on November 15. Anyone can enter it seems, although the site is based in Sweden.

I read some behaviour change theory for my dissertation. Many researchers believe that first you must change attitude and then behaviour change is more likely to follow. I hope that these fun projects go a little of the way to altering some people’s attitudes to waste and to energy use.

Blog Action Day '09

Posted: October 15th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: Uncategorized, food, living local | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

This post is part of Blog Action Day ’09 which hopes to raise the awareness of climate change in the lead up to Cophenhagen.

Rather than talk about the science of climate change (of which I know very little), or the doom and gloom of our current wasteful and energy-rich behaviour (of which I unfortunately know a lot) I am instead going to focus on the local. Think of it as a return to the “think global act local” mantra of the early years of the environmental debate (oh how I wish that we had begun acting then).

I have been following the wonderful progress of the Transition movement since I moved to England last September. People involved in Transition Culture educate themselves in ways to improve the local community now, and well into the future. Transition groups across the country are working out ways to embrace sustainable farming, transport, energy sourcing, and financial practices as a way to move beyond peak oil and into a carbon-free future. Transition Culture has seen the birth of Transition Town Totnes as well as the Brixton Pound which I have posted about before.

I like what Transition Culture is bringing to the table, but at present I am not really able to contribute in a large-scale way to helping develop any initiatives. I do hope that will change. What I do want to do is to live more locally.

In November we will be moving to London and I am excited to read about many local initiatives in areas that we are thinking of living. Locally organic grown food has many obvious benefits like less carbon released through food miles and having no pesticides in your food, but it is also wonderful for the community. I have met some friendly local people here in Reading at the True Food Co-op and I am sure that it is the same throughout the local food community. If you haven’t tried it, go do it! (those in Australia should check out the Live Local Challenge)


Plums picked from a tree in my back garden

Here are some of the London food groups I have found just today:

Growing Communities is in Hackney and delivers organic vegetables to local homes and sells them at local farmers’ markets. They also have their own market garden which you can volunteer at and hold a fantastic sounding food swap event where local people can swap some of their homegrown produce (and get rid of the excess courgettes from their allotment!).

There are of course the Borough Markets for generally delicious food, but produce from the Islington Farmers’ Markets (held every Sunday) are certified by FARMA (National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association) as being grown in a defined local area by the farmer themselves. If you’d like to find a real farmers’ market in your area, head to Farmers’ Market.net.

Anyone living in the borough of Islington and who wants to grow and distribute their food should investigate Edible Islington, set up by the Council and managed by the Capital Growth folks. The Council are providing financial aid to anyone who wishes to set up a community food growing project in the area.

And what should you be buying now from your local farmers’ market? Fresh herbs, peas, broad beans, carrots, courgettes, patty pan squash, runner beans, all sorts of tomatoes, red/black/white currants, gooseberries, red, white and black cherries, raspberries, Discovery apples, new season Bramleys, sweet corn, puff ball mushrooms, cherry plums, marrows. Thanks to London Farmers’ Markets for that info.

Shipping News

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: environment, infographics, mapping | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Where does our stuff come from and what impact does that have on the planet? This is the basic premise to a new open source project called Sourcemap which allows users to trace the supply chain for all the products (and their components) they use in their daily lives. It’s worth watching this video to see how it works:


You can search for the components that go to make up certain products, locate their manufacturing point, and then add them to a map which visualises the entire supply chain of that product. The ‘receipt’ summarises the carbon emissions and energy used in manufacture and transport of the product from initial source to final destination. Each component description can also include photos, videos and text.


This is a dynamic project which is in complete contrast to the rather static project being conducted by the BBC on their news site. Called The Box, it involves the BBC tracking a container around the world for a year with updates on a live map as well as videos and photos posted by the BBC and by readers (photo below from Alastair Blackwood).


What makes Sourcemap a better project, in my opinion, is that it is based on open source data collection and collaboration. Some may see the source material as less trustworthy than that from the BBC, but I think despite this it is a much more successful use of online media. It’s collaborative aspect is just the thing that the big media giants are hopelessly behind in harnessing.

Sourcemap also allows users to create their own travel maps, which would be just the thing if you were like Ed Gillespie from Futerra. In 2007 he and his partner travelled the world without flying and instead savouring the benefits of slow travel. You can read about it on their blog.

Thanks to Visual Complexity for the initial tip off on Sourcemap.

Letterpress cards (check) job hunting (check) good jobs around (no)

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: Musings on employment | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As mentioned previously I have been letterpress printing (or rather embossing) my own business cards. I produced them an the Albion Press at the University of Reading using no ink, no electricity, and with offcut paper. A truly environmentally friendly job.

People seem to love them when I hand them out, but unfortunately there just doesn’t seem to be many jobs around in the sustainable/social-design/info design world. I have loads of experience, but only want to work for a company with rock-solid ethics. Why are they so hard to find?

You can view a slightly larger image of this here on my portfolio site.

business card

travelling, walking, moving about

Posted: October 13th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, travel | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

With some reluctance I have recently endured an Easyjet flight. I wanted to take the train but on my student budget I was unable to afford the extra £400 to travel in a slightly more sustainable manner. Fortunately in December I will be able to redeem my climate sins as I will be taking the slow way to Berlin by train, stopping in at Paris and Cologne on the way. I have of course recently confessed my environmental sins to Futerra at their confessional booth at the wonderful Greengaged event.

Contemplating the state of cheap flights and their effect on the planet was easy to do whilst sitting in the airport lounge watching the thousands of weekend tourists getting anxious. I had to wonder, do they really think that this is worth it? Do they really appreciate what they are experiencing or is it just another chance to tick off a box? For example I overheard a woman on the plane talking about her trip to the Netherlands and she couldn’t even remember the name of town that she visited!

So what is the future of travel? A recent partnership between the excellent Forum for the Future and some big names in travel has produced a report called Tourism 2023. The report proposes that a low carbon future will demand a different sort of traveller: one who takes the slow road, travelling for a longer period every couple of years rather than each weekend. Anna Simpson (who neatly summarises the report here) sees that this type of travel is both more rewarding for the traveller and for the place to which they travel, citing examples of the ‘one-day tourists who rip through the city [Venice] without so much as a gondola ride or a plate of zucchini’.

But didn’t we all used to do ‘slow travel’? I for one planned my first trip overseas in 1996 for at least four years and after that month away I couldn’t afford to travel for at least another three years. My longest trip abroad was a year in South America, but many people just cannot afford to take this length of time off work now. Employers are rarely willing to allow an employee to take even a four week block of holidays, and so the culture of mini-breaks is encouraged. Perhaps it’s time to start putting pressure on the employers to revise their policies regarding holiday time.