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Laborotorio Espresso

29th January 2017

93 West Nile Street
Glasgow
G1 2SH

This weeks breakfast takes place just a short stroll down Great Western Road from my flat. The Mad Platter is decorated with a creative and quirky style to brighten up ay grey morning in Glasgow. The menu is equally creative; applying whimsical twists to classic comfort dishes. Friendly staff and a faultless playlist tie the whole package together, making it one of my favourite stops along Great Western.

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A Digital Dilemma

No topics had really jumped out at me this week and for whatever reason internal discussions with myself had been less frequent than usual. I decided for a change I would read through the Sunday paper - The Times on this occasion - and see if there were any broad discussion topics that I could possibly relate to either my studies or an aspect of the design world. Fortunately, I got more than I bargained for when I identified a link between a few articles and the paper itself actually became a character in the discussion.

I found that a couple of articles were concerned with either an area where technology had replaced something within our society or instances where people were voicing their love of using older methods as an alternative to new technologies. This made me reconsider a dilemma that I had been confronted with on numerous occasions. Although I am happy to embrace technological advancements and feel that it is in the designer’s interest to utilise the changing world around him. There are times when I feel slightly old fashioned, when I find it difficult to allow new technologies to replace objects that I value so highly. But the dilemma arises when I see opportunities where I could vastly reduce the waste that I produce by replacing disposable objects with their digital equivalent.

The first article that brought this topic to my attention was actually to do with Glasgow - as were a surprising number of articles in this addition of The Times. The headline ‘Glasgow subway to swap tickets for app payments’ caught my eye. With the mysterious renovation works that have been taking place on Glasgow’s subway system over the past few years, I was excited by the arrival of a change that I could actually interact with and experience an improved subway journey. Sadly on this occasion the technological advancement appears that it will not result in a more pleasurable experience but instead, one that involves more hassle. The article described the fundamentals of the new system where Glaswegians will have to download an app (only available for Android), top up the app with credit and access the app and download a ticket, every time they want to ride the subway. This may work out for regular travellers, but I can’t see the advantage for less frequent travellers carrying out these tasks instead of getting a physical ticket. Why can’t they just start using contactless payment like London? On this occasion it looks like an opportunity for the app development company to make money, not to mention the additional possibility of advertising within the app - think “Ride the Subway to Glasgow’s Style Mile to pick up these amazing deals”.

The second article that caught my eye, ‘Kodak-loving hipsters return to the darkroom age’ talks not about the arrival of new technology, but instead, a revived demand for the old. Specifically Ektachrome film - made famous through it’s use on National Geographic front covers as well as the quick and easy development of colour photos that it allowed. The revival of Ektachrome film is for the most part being driven by a younger, creative crowd, discovering the authenticity of film. We are constantly seeing smartphone hardware make incremental developments to out do its competitors, but not doing anything drastically different. To this young crowd, Ektachrome film is a brand new product.

The newspaper itself has its place in this argument as well when compared with its now widely preferred online counterpart. To me a newspaper provides a much more pleasing experience to navigate through. Whenever I read news articles online I am sceptical every time I see a hyperlink or related story; fearing that I will end up in an eternal cyclone of related content. What the newspaper does is invite me to explore my way through it without worrying about it engulfing hours of my time. The fact that it has a physical limit and you can feel that someone has carefully chosen the content that goes into it relieves me of any scepticism.

Unfortunately my love of the newspaper is questioned when I feel the weight of it in my hand. The Times, being an especially large broadsheet forces me to realise how much paper I could have saved by reading the equivalent publication on an iPad. The Times has a daily circulation of 446,164 and this issue (disregarding weekend supplements) consists of 127 pages - truly astronomically quantities of paper go into printing this paper every day!

When I think about objects in my life where digital equivalents are available, the first that comes to mind has to be my sketchpad. Where we now find a range of graphics tablets and drawing apps available for domestic tablets, I still cannot see past the raw tactility of sketching on paper. I think an iPad Pro would be brilliant for breaking down the barrier that is sometimes present when using Photoshop or Illustrator on my laptop and the Apple Pencil is definitely an achievement in design. However, apps like Sketchbook or Artage, just don't deliver the right experience for creative sketching - there is something strange about the ability to undo actions that doesn’t allow a drawing to develop in the same way. But what about the waste? Just in writing this piece I have used two A4 sheets and I used another 6 this morning doing other work!

The other object in my life that I don’t feel like I could exchange is the notepad in my back pocket. Having a physical notepad jogs my memory every time I use it and every time I flick through the pages I revisit ideas and view them in a different light to when I initially wrote them down. There is just a different level of freedom to it and when it is a medium for expressing creativity, you can’t allow software to put any restrictions upon you.

I think the conclusion that I have come to is that if you are diminishing an aesthetic experience by introducing technology then it is a bad thing, but if it makes your life easier then it is perfectly acceptable. An example in my life that supports this is the arrival of Apple Pay. It hasn’t removed any experiences from my life (apart from the rather crude one of feeling the texture of money) but it has removed the need for me to carry my wallet on me at all times, which has been advantageous when I remember I need to pick something up when I’m out for a run or cycle.

I would love to say that writing this piece has made me have an epiphany and I now want to eliminate paper from my life, but I think that with the current work I have to undertake I cannot make this shift. Perhaps I’ll look into instances where I can cut down the use of paper, but there is something about the ability to be so careless with it - albeit irresponsible - that I feel allows it to facilitate such creativity.

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Laborotorio Espresso

For what I intended to be a quick stop before heading to Art School, I found myself sitting at my comfy window seat for over an hour - watching passers by strolling through Glasgow. My coffee was as faultless as ever and I was able to fill my stomach with one last Croissant, after last weeks break to the Alps. Finding myself here again with an equally large paper to spend another slow Sunday will always be a welcome event.

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Copyright © Duncan Pattullo 2017