Archive for the ‘design’ category


Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

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Posted in business, culture, design, media, publishing, Sweden, typography, UK | No Comments »


Better a Tesla Model 3 than another truck

15.04.2022


 
I know Tesla gets a lot of flak on social media. Some by me. But I still remember the plucky firm in the 2000s, Martin Eberhard and his stated commitment to transparency, and Lucire’s recognition of the firm by calling the Tesla Roadster its Car to Be Seen in. And while the Roadster didn’t have the range in real terms, and looked too much like a Lotus Elise for one to charge 911 money, it kicked things all off for Tesla.

When I see a Model 3 on the street, and there are an awful lot of them, I think, ‘At least it isn’t another SUV.’ It may be the car to move the trend on, away from the behemoths. Bring on small frontal areas and slippery shapes, which is where we should have been heading anyway. Unlike most people, especially those who bought SUVs, trucks, UVs and crossovers and actually didn’t need them—thereby becoming the second biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the last decade—I’ve thought petrol was expensive for a long, long time. Even if you have an electrified SUV, you’re still using more energy because of basic science about how air travels over an object.

In 1974, the Volkswagen Golf represented a new era, looking bold and sensible during the fuel crisis. The Tesla Model 3, especially the better-made Chinese imports, feels, trend-wise, like a modern, far more expensive equivalent.

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Posted in cars, design, interests, USA | 4 Comments »


Vivaldi 5.2’s bugs: time to go back to Opera GX?

08.04.2022


Above: Vivaldi appears for less than a second; each entry then disappears. One of the bugs from last night.
 
Vivaldi updated last night, and nearly instantly shut down.

Sadly, there’s a bug which shuts the program down the moment you hit a form field (filed with them, and they are working on it), and I found that ZIP archives would not download properly. Getting rid of a Spotify tab somehow got me around the first bug, but I know others have not been so lucky.

In the meantime, I discovered downgrading did not work—Vivaldi wouldn’t even start—while upgrading back to 5.2 didn’t solve that problem. I’d see Vivaldis in the task manager for a second but they’d then vanish.

Removing the sessions from the default folder helped me start the program again, but I lost my tabs; fortunately I was able to restore those, in order to duplicate each and every one on my old browser, Opera GX.

I had duplicated tabs onto other browsers reasonably regularly, and I could have retrieved a fairly recent set from my laptop, but it’s always good to have the latest.

Right now I’m deciding whether to stick with Vivaldi while its techs work on the problems, or return to a stable Opera GX, which I last used as my regular browser briefly in 2020.

The type display is still really good, without my needing to add code to get the browser working with MacType.

However, I like Vivaldi and what they stand for, which is why I stuck with it for so long. According to this blog, I’ve been using it reasonably faithfully since September 2017. And I have become very used to it over any other Chromium-based browser.
 
Some of you may have noticed that this website is finally on https, years after that became the norm. There was one line in the code that wasn’t pointing at the correct stylesheet when this blog loaded using SSL. That was finally remedied yesterday (I hard-coded the stylesheet link into the header PHP file). I’m no expert on such matters but it’s now loading a certificate I got at Let’s Encrypt, and it seems to be working.

One of the changes in the stylesheet that controls the indents and the paragraph spacing does mean some of the line spacing in earlier posts is now off. This happened on the Lucire website, too, but it was one of those things I had to do to make posts going forward look a bit better.

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Posted in design, interests, internet, technology, typography | No Comments »


March 2022 gallery

28.03.2022

Now we are on the new server, here are March 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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Posted in cars, culture, design, France, gallery, humour, marketing, media, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


The new Autocade is coming soon

17.03.2022

At just past its 14th birthday, Autocade will return on a new server, with a new Mediawiki installation.
   Because Mediawiki got rid of the stats with v. 1.25, sadly they weren’t imported into the new version that we’re running. We’re going to start the count from 0, though of course right before the changeover I’ll take note of where we got to.
   For those sick of me commemorating every millionth page view, you might get your wish, because of the extra arithmetic that’s going to be involved.
   I’d like to thank my friend for doing all this work anonymously behind the scenes. Unlike 2000, websites are far more complex things, and just customizing the look took me a few days. You can imagine how much more complex it was to import a PHP database and hooking up the site to Plesk.
   What we have is an Autocade that looks familiar—like Lucire’s website redesign last year I tried to keep everything as close as possible—but there are minor tweaks that go with the newer software.
   Certain pages did not make the transition, namely the ‘About’ and community portal, so these had to be added manually from the original. But as far as I can tell, all the cars are there, and that’s the reason that almost all of you visit. You can see how it all works very soon.
 
I imagine this blog will be next—and then I will likely get back to updating it at the usual pace. Though as my experience with social media demonstrates, it’s remarkably easy to break a habit!

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Posted in cars, design, internet, media, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Where democratizing technology got the better of us

13.02.2022

From the start, I’ve been a supporter of the democratization of design. Everyone has the right to access it, because fundamentally good design is something that makes the world a better place. A lot of websites are founded on this, such as Shopify, which has enough flexibility to give most of the stores we visit a unique look. Wordpress’s templates are generally good lookers that take into account the latest trends. There’s an entire industry out there making templates and skins. And, it has to be said, most social media have reasonably good looking interfaces, so people can feel a sense of pride after they’ve posted that they’ve shared text or a photo that has been presented well.
   It’s quite perplexing when you confront some other facts. People will judge the credibility of a website by how good it looks (among other criteria). People can also become addicted to social media, and they’re designed to be addictive. And as design democratizes, it’s only natural that the less educated (and I don’t necessarily mean in a formal sense), those who are not trained to discern fact from fiction, will have access to the same technology and present their work as capably and as attractively as anyone else.
   It would be wrong to deny this, just as it would be wrong to deny access to technology or good design because we disagreed with someone’s political views or their beliefs, even ones we might find distasteful. The key must be to bring social awareness and education up to a point that there’s no appeal to engage in behaviour that’s harmful to society at large. By all means, be individual, and question. We should have ways in which this can be done meaningfully—one might argue this is done in the corridors of power, as anyone in a good, functioning democracy can stand for office. But in countries with low trust in institutions, or those infected by forces that want to send nations into corporatist fascism, there has to be something that balances the wild west of the online world, one that has marched so far one way without the structures to support it. We have, in effect, let the technology get the better of us. There is no agreed forum online where tempers can be abated, and because we have encouraged such individualist expression, it is doubtful whether some egos can take it. We have fooled ourselves into thinking our own selfies on social media have the same value as a photo taken by the press for a publication. As such, fewer can lead, because no one wants to play second fiddle.
   These are confusing times, though the key must be education. It is often the answer. Keeping education up with the technology so our young people can see and understand the forces at play. Give them a sense of which corporations are wielding too much influence. Teach them how to discern a legitimate story from a fictionalized one. Teach them how the economy really works—not just the theory but how the theory has been hijacked.
   This can’t wait till university: it has to be taught as early as possible. If today’s kids are bringing their devices to school, then it’s never too early to make them aware of how some online content is questionable. Tell them just why social media are addictive and why they can’t open accounts on the big sites till they’re 13. In fact, tell them how the social media companies’ bosses actually don’t let their own kids use the services, because deep down they know they’re bad for them.
   If they know from a young age why some things are harmful—in the same way we were told that cigarettes were, or to say no to drugs—then hopefully they can steer clear of calls on social networks funded by parties who seek to divide us for their own gain.

There’ll be a delay in having a gallery on this blog this month as a dear friend is helping me migrate our sites off an old AWS instance. He doesn’t wish to be named. But I am deeply thankful to him.
   The data have already been shifted off this server. At this rate I will have to repost this on the new box once the domain is set up. Reposting a gallery might just be a bit tricky, so there mightn’t be one for February 2022, depending on when my friend can get to this domain.

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Posted in culture, design, internet, marketing, media, politics, publishing, social responsibility, technology | No Comments »


Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

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Posted in business, China, culture, design, globalization, interests, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


When Here WeGo still sends you to the wrong location six years on

10.01.2022

Six years ago, I reported this error in Here Maps (a.k.a. Here WeGo), both via the official channels and to a software engineer I knew working there.
   It’s still there. There aren’t two Wharekauhau Country Estates (this is the route between them, to highlight just how wrong it is; the westerly one is correct).

   They’ve since been in touch via Twitter and I’ve re-sent them all the information, including:

Trust me, I went to this one and wound up the drive to some random farm with no one around, and had to back my car down a muddy trail with immense difficulty as there was nowhere to U-turn.

   This only came up because Here Maps tried to take me to New World Foxton recently, and I decided to look back.
   If I followed their guidance, I would have to drive through the war memorial.


   Don’t get me wrong. I really like Here Maps and the latest UI is fantastic. It’s no worse than its competitors in accuracy terms. Google has sent me to plenty of wrong places when I was still using their site for things. It’s just annoying when the official channels, reporting bugs the way they suggest, clearly don’t work. Hopefully if anyone’s planning their journeys to the above places, they’ll be able to see this post!

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Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »


Lucire’s Twitter account is back

17.12.2021

I can’t yet reveal why, but I’ve come across the work of Hong Kong-trained and based designer Caroline Li, and it’s really good. She’s done a lot of book covers, and I know first-hand how hard it is to have a small canvas to work from. Maybe I’m just used to magazines. Check out her work here.

After nearly two months, Lucire’s Twitter account has been restored.
   Earlier in the week, they had requested—again—that I upload my ID to prove that I was who I said I was, despite this having been done countless times already in the past two months.
   Today, I received another ‘it appears that this issue may have been resolved.’ I had my doubts and was about to send them a reply giving them a piece of my mind, but I checked, and sure enough, Lucire’s account was back.
   I don’t know if my letter to Twitter New Zealand Ltd.’s directors, via their lawyers, did the trick, or whether my private information finally reached someone literate with reasonable intelligence.
   I gave the lawyers till today (the 17th) to respond, though the timing of the resolution could be a coincidence.
   It showed just how terrible Twitter’s systems have been and how right I was to call the entire process farcical.
   To think that Facebook did better when Lucire’s Instagram was deactivated, and we were only out for a week. And I have had plenty to say about Facebook over the years, as you all know.
   It’s a shame that we never got to play with Zoho Social’s premium version trial with all our social media accounts intact. I just hope that now that we’ve reactivated all our gadgets (IFTTT, Dlvr.it, etc.), that they work as they once did. (As they certainly didn’t when we used our temporary @luciremagazine account on Twitter.)

When I was waiting for my new phone to arrive, I didn’t know what all the DHL status updates meant. I looked online to see if I could get a clue as to how long each stage took, especially the “last mile” delivery. There were very few screenshots or public traces. Here’s the trace from my package in case it helps someone else the same boat. (Vivaldi put the DHL website header near the bottom when I made the screenshot.)

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Posted in business, China, design, Hong Kong, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »