Design Archive

Apple’s Glowy Computer Patent

Apple Glowing Computer Patent Illustration

Now, I’m a big fan of Apple products, but filing a patent application (2008) for a computer with a coloured bulb inside it might be pushing your luck. Also, with design supremo Jonathan Ive on their team, it seems a little strange that the patent illustrations seem to have been drawn by a five year old.

The Poppy: Design of Remembrance


November is a month now associated with the Poppy, a symbol of remembrance and appreciation of the sacrifices made by past generations, and in the last few years, our own contemporaries. A classic and simple design, the Poppy as a logo is instantly recognisable, as well as a way people can display their own appreciation of this military sacrifice for our own freedoms. The Poppy Appeal has successfully used this flower as an effective iconic design of simple poignancy.

Amidst the carnage and devastation of the battlefields of the First World War, the poppy flower was seen growing amongst no man’s land, and carved such an impression on the mind of a serving doctor, John McCrae, he wrote the famous poem: “In Flanders’ fields, the poppies blow…”. This poem inspired an American War secretary, Moina Michael, to start selling poppies, the proceeds going to the ex-Service community. And thus the Poppy Appeal charity through the British Legion was born.

The first Poppy Day was in 1921, and has remained a tradition every November since. In 1922, Major George Howson, founder of the the Disabled Society (established to help disabled ex-Service men and women from the First World War), suggested to the Legion that members of the Disabled Society could make the artificial poppies sold for the charity. Subsequently, the original artificial poppy was designed so that disabled workers could manufacture it with ease, especially so that it could be made by a worker with only one hand.

The simple design was, therefore, mostly born from a necessity of easy assembly. As with a lot of great iconic logos, less is more. The blood red is striking, and yet the Poppy’s soft edges portray a powerful message of beauty amongst the destruction – of life amongst the dead. And lest we forget.

The Nonic Pint Glass

Nonic Pint Glass

At a time when the UK Government is commissioning a new plastic pint glass design, it’s worth highlighting the brilliant simplicity of the standard pint glass.

The nonic (“no nick”) pint glass was designed in the 1960s, with a multi-purpose bulge just below the rim. The bulge:

  • Adds strength to the glass.
  • Allows the glass to be stacked without sticking together, and potentially shattering when pulled apart.
  • Prevents the glass from slipping from the hand when condensation forms on the outside.

Importantly, the bulge added these benefits without detracting from the taste: something that the new design is unlikely to do.

Gardens for Small Spaces – Reinventing the Terrarium


Although it is arguable whether they were ever really ‘in’, the terrarium is making a resurgence. Not only does it seem to have situated itself in the same quasi-hipster cool category as knitting (think stich ‘n bitch) and dissenting cross stich patterns, it can also be ever so practical for people living in big cities with limited outdoor space. Also important, people are starting to make really cool and beautiful terrariums.

A terrarium is traditionally a glass container that is completely enclosed (like an old preserve jar), which is built to act like a mini-greenhouse. A drainage system is installed at the bottom of the jar in the form of gravel or rocks, that is covered in some rich soil where small succulents are planted, along with other more decorative elements like moss or little figurines (such as the one above, which is from Doodlebirdie’s Etsy shop). Basically, the terrarium creates a perfectly climatised little home for small plants – all you need to do is add water once in awhile.

Although some sites date the terrarium back to ancient Greece, most agree that it was a UK-based invention:

In 1831, when British surgeon Nathaniel Ward picked a fern, stuck it in a bottle and forgot about it. Several months later, the fern was thriving and grass had sprouted in the enclosed container – without any cultivation or watering from Ward. Twenty years later, Ward’s enclosed biosphere was put on display at the 1851 World’s Fair in London, and so-called Wardian cases became a fad. The inspiration for the Victorians may still be what draws us to terrariums today. (source)

There are lots of online tutorials for making your own terrarium if you are so inclined. In the meantime, here are some beautiful examples for inspiration:


Above Image and Terrarium by Litill.


Above terrariums by Matteo Cibic.

Header Image: Gnome Wash Day Moss Terrarium Globe by Doodlebirdie.

The Father of User-Centered Design: “The Measure of Man”

The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design

The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design is the most incredible book. Written by celebrated industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, the book was first published in 1959, and is now available as the politically correct The Measure of Man and Woman. The tri-fold pocketed second edition you see above (with contents below) was published in 1967.

The Measure of Man: Anthropomorphic Charts

The book contains 32 black and white anthropometric charts on heavy card, which describe every detail of how the human body functions – from movement to growth – covering both sexes and different body types.

Life-size human charts

Two life-size human figure charts are included (one male, one female, white on blue); I’ve shown one above with a CD for scale. These would look great on the wall of any modern design or usability agency.

Reaction Times

Human Versus Machine

My favourite part is also the least exciting aspect of the package (in terms of physical format): the tables of data in the 20 page book. That sounds like a fairly thin book, but it’s packed with incredible data and insight into human-focused design. These don’t just cover typical ‘ergonomic’ topics, but also more modern subjects that include the accuracy and function of displays.

It’s not the kind of book you can sit down and read on the train, but it’s a breath of fresh air to read something so well researched, and full of quality data, with none of the filler so-typical of modern books.