We’ve long been fans of the Hyper Island way of learning therefore it was a natural step for us to take on someone from their new Manchester based Digital Apprenticeship scheme. That someone is Charles Browne who joined us a few months back
Last week Tom and Ian from our new business team were at the newly opened ‘Connected Digital Economies Catapult Centre’ in London. The space opened in early November and is pitched as ‘a national centre to rapidly advance the UK’s best digital ideas’.
As well as attending a number of the seminars we were also invited to showcase our MiGuide project as part of the launch exhibition within the centre’s ‘Innovator Centre’.
We have some great news to share with the world. magneticNorth have appointed Caroline Sotorrio to the newly created post of Managing Director *sets off glitter cannon*. Caroline, who has been with the business since 2009 and previously led the production team, starts her role with immediate effect.
With over 25 years experience working in the creative industry on both agency and client side, Caroline has a wealth of experience in both traditional and digital design. During her time at magneticNorth Caroline has been responsible for producing high profile projects including the BBC Desert Island Discs archive site, the BBC Radioplayer and our MiGuide digital wayfinding project for the City of Manchester.
Working under Caroline will be Stuart Almond who has joined us as Head of Production.
In a few weeks we’ll be throwing open our studio doors to host a festive movieNight screening of Martin Parr’s ‘Turkey and Tinsel'.
The documentary tells the story of JR Holyhead Travel - a family-run coach company located in the Black Country that has been in business for 25 years. They offer ‘Turkey and Tinsel’ holidays as a way of driving business during the usually quiet pre-Christmas period.
The film sees Martin, the much loved photographer and filmmaker known for capturing the social classes of England, film a group of charming Black Country pensioners on their five-day Christmas break to the Midland Hotel in Weston-super-Mare.
It’s a warm and comical documentary which shows a previously unseen side of the festive season. We can’t wait to wrap ourselves in fairy lights and down mulled wine while we watch it.
We’ve been working with the BBC on their Radioplayer product since 2012 and have recently collaborated with their team to redesign the site. We caught up with one of our Lead Developers, Peter Hough, who has worked on the project since day one.
What was the brief on the latest project and what are the changes that have been made?
Radioplayer allows people to listen to any radio station in the UK using a consistent console design. Within the console is a large area in the middle called the plug-in space this area can be customised by each station. The latest brief was for a redesign of the plug-in space for all BBC stations covering live streams, on demand programmes and clips.
Features in the new design include the following:
Animations - The new design is packed with slick animation effects. The programme information animates in to view and the panels have also been given an overhaul.
Schedule - Programme schedule information has been brought in to the console. This allows you to see what programmes are coming up or easily listen to on demand versions of programmes you have just missed.
Stations - The stations panel allows you to see at a glance all-national stations. You can see what programme is currently live and jump to that station allowing for better station discovery.
Favourites - Using BBC ID you can add programmes to your favourites list. The favourites tab allows this information to be viewed within the console.
Context Panel - The context panel is displayed at the bottom of the console and shows relevant information on what you are currently listening to such as related links, recommended programmes, and now playing information. The context panel expands to give a full view of track artwork and details on tracks recently played. BBC Playlister is integrated throughout these views allowing you to save your favourite tracks.
We get excited about every film we show as part of our movieNight series, however as our office is teeming with Twin Peaks fans there is an extra special buzz about our next movieNight.
This fascinating documentary follows him on a 16-country tour of Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America to spread the word about the individual and global impact of meditation – something he has practised for the last 41 years.
With wit and passion in equal measure, Meditation, Creativity, Peace shows the director’s commitment to Transcendental Meditation as a way of changing the world, starting from within.
The film also offers a rare insight into Lynch’s creative process, through interviews and revealing moments from the tour.
If you’d like to come to the screening on Tuesday 28th October you can register for tickets on the Eventbrite page. Tickets are very limited so be quick!
The Design Manchester Festival (running from 21st -31st October) celebrates creativity, collaboration and inclusivity in the worlds of art, design, illustration, animation and photography.
In addition to our movieNight we are also taking part in another DM14 event, ‘North – The Great Debate’ on Wednesday 29th October. Our CEO Lou Cordwell will be part of the panel where politicians, educators, creatives and entrepreneurs from across the region and the country will tackle the hot topic of design and devolution. The event will be chaired by The Observer's assistant editor Robert Yates and tickets are available on Eventbrite.
This week Caroline and Nathan from the magnetic North team polished their school shoes and headed to Burnage Academy for Boys to host a ‘Digital Day’ session. Run by BIMA, Digital Day or D Day for short, is a series of nationwide events that link digital professionals (that’s us by the way) and young people in schools and colleges.
The session involved Caroline and Nathan giving the Year 10 boys an overview of what it is like to work in the industry and the kind of work we do at mN. Following this was a lively practical session around the theme of connected devices and the Internet of Things.
Working alongside the Head of Technology from the school, Caroline and Nathan helped the boys work up ideas for their own connected device services. There were a whole heap of great ideas including one for connected bins that notify the council when they are full and one for an app that alerts you when your front door is unlocked.
It was great to see the enthusiasm that all the pupils had for the challenge and the team left the school impressed by everything they’d seen on the day.
They also got to have a school dinner without a ladle of lumpy custard in sight. Progress hey?
This week some of the magneticNorth team headed down to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford for the launch of a massive archive project we’ve been working on for the American Air Museum.
Working collaboratively with the team at IWM Duxford we have delivered a large-scale online archive project that, for the first time, starts to build a picture of the experiences of the two million American servicemen who passed through Britain during the Second World War. Nearly 30,000 of whom never returned to their homeland.
During the process of creating the site we’ve been really humbled by the stories that have been surfaced by the data sets we’ve been working with. Amazing tales of cooks and cowboys, fighter aces and fireman – and every job in-between. There are stories of unbelievable bravery and, as you’d expect, tales of real sadness and tragedy.
Now the site is live the hope is that the public will build on the data that has been collated. Creating a digital resource of memories, pictures and information that will live on for many generations to come. Within 24 hours of launch thousands of people had already visited the website and updated information within the site – just the start we’d hoped for.
They came, they saw, they watched him thrust.
We had a packed house for our movieNight screening of the Pulp documentary at Manchester’s Deaf institute last night. It was our biggest event to date and over 150 people watched with delight as we were taken through the journey of the band's final gig in Sheffield. Peppered with great sound bites from the group, commentary from the colourful characters of Sheffield and plenty of gyrating from Jarvis it was a really enjoyable watch. We also discovered that Jarvis once had a Saturday job in a fishmonger. Who knew?
Details of our next movieNight will be released soon, watch our Twitter feed for announcements.
Over the last few months, quite a few of the team at Magnetic North have been to the Digital Revolution exhibition at The Barbican.
The immersive and interactive exhibition brings together a range of artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, musicians and game developers, all pushing the boundaries of their fields using digital media.
It also looks at the developments in the areas of creative coding and DIY culture and the endless creative possibilities offered by things like wearable tech and 3-D printing.
We spent a good few hours wandering around but our collective highlight has to be the historical computing section at the start of the exhibition – Digital Archaeology.
It looks at the history of the digital revolution, with hardware and projects set out in a timeline. We loved seeing work like Chris Milk's "The Wilderness Downtown" for Arcade Fire and Jonathan Harris’s "We Feel Fine" project alongside the things that many of us grew up with, including The Sims, Gameboys and Game & Watch LCD games like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros (which Magnetic North's Head of New Business Tom says he still has a “boat load of”).
It was fascinating seeing all these familiar digital projects elevated into an exhibition environment and getting the chance to explore the links and influences between them.
Another highlight for many of us was the Creative Spaces section. It explores how visual effects have developed from James Cameron’s The Abyss back in the day through to Tim Webber’s Oscar-winning visual voodoo in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. We love to pull things apart and so naturally liked seeing all the elements that made up the final shots.
There is loads to see, touch and play with throughout the exhibition and well worth a visit before it finishes on 14th September.
We are practically beside ourselves with excitement that we have managed to bag a screening of Pulp: a film about Life, Death and Supermarkets aka Pulp the Movie for our next movieNight.
Billed as a music-film like no other – funny, moving, life affirming and (occasionally) bewildering the documentary had its premiere at South By South West Festival earlier this year and has gone on to receive amazing reviews.
Pulp found fame on the world stage in the 1990s and 25 years (and 10 million album sales) later, they return to Sheffield for their last UK concert. The film follows the iconic 90s band on the lead up to this momentous gig.
Set against a backdrop of the city that gave birth to the band, the film sees the members of Pulp share their thoughts on fame, love, mortality - & car maintenance.
Jarvis Cocker talking about changing tyres and fanbelts? We are IN.
We will be holding the movieNight screening of ‘Pulp’ on Wednesday 24th September at The Deaf Institute in Manchester. Space is limited but if you’d like to come along to the screening drop us an email to movienight@thisismN.com and we’ll see if we can get you sorted (for E’s and Wizz – sorry we couldn’t help ourselves).
It feels like there is some sort of meet-up or geek-out going on in Manchester every night of the week. The magnetic North team goes to lots of the events and nights that people put on (as well as hosting our own movieNight) and we thought that it was time that we gave a shout out to one of the meet-ups we’ve been really enjoying recently. Step forward LadiesThatUX.
LadiesThatUX are a friendly and collaborative bunch of women who get together once a month to talk about all things UX and life in general. They are open to anyone (even guys if they really want to go along) who is interested in making the world a better place for users – it doesn’t matter whether or not you have UX in your job title.
Started by Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley in Manchester 12 months ago, they now have ‘chapters’ in over 15 different cities, from Brighton to Barcelona to Boston. And are launching in even more locations over the next few months.
As part of our recent on-demand garden project, Plot, the group held their August gathering there. They had a picnic to celebrate their 1st birthday party and we were so pleased to be able to be part of the celebrations. We got to eat cake while we had some really interesting conversations around everything from specific UX problems through to bigger questions about design techniques and best practices.
It was a properly lovely afternoon with a great turnout (you can read a full review from Lizzie on their blog) and the sun did what it is supposed to do and shone.
The magnetic North team are looking forward to the next meet-up on 17th September, which will bring with it a new format and new location (Whiskey Jar in the Northern Quarter). You can find more details about that meet-up and meet-ups in other cities via their Twitter.
It has been just over a week since we launched Plot - a pilot project that explores the concept of ‘on-demand’ gardens. It launched as part of the urban gardening festival ‘Dig the City’ and we’ll park our usual modesty-motor temporarily and say that people went pretty freaking wild for it!
Today, after weeks of prep we are finally able to introduce our latest project Plot to the world.
Plot, meet the world.
World, meet Plot.
The pilot project explores the idea of ‘on-demand gardens’ - private garden spaces that can be booked by the hour within city centres. It is the first time in the UK that such a garden has been trialled and we are launching it as part of Manchester's urban gardening festival Dig the City. The festival runs from the 2nd-10th August.
Our space is really important to us and the way we work. That includes the outdoor space we have – our balconies. We are up on the fifth floor of an old Victorian mill building in the centre of Manchester and have two balconies that we use as an extension of our studio space.
During the warmer months we eat out there a lot, host meetings outside and they have been the scenes of some serious (tipsy and blindfolded) piñata bashing at parties we’ve had over the years. There were some very incriminating videos of that night we had to destroy but that’s another story.
We’d never grown anything out there until about two years ago, when our studio manager Sarah decided that we needed some green in our lives. She set about cultivating a whole host of plants and flowers including Dahlias, Foxgloves and lots of herbs and berry bushes.
All her efforts mean that we now have a lush and fragrant space…plus most of the ingredients to make Pimms growing within a metre of our desks. Bonus!
During the summer, if you live in a city centre like Manchester it can often be hard to find an outdoor space that you don’t have to jostle with thirty other people to use. Our love of our own balconies and our passion for blending digital and physical environments has actually inspired a new pilot project we are working on.
We’ll be announcing more details about the project, which will launch as part of Manchester’s Urban Gardening Festival ‘Dig the City’ in August, soon.
Last week it was our 14th birthday. To celebrate we did what all teenagers do at that age - we got a bit drunk and sent inappropriate Snapchats to all our friends.
Not really.There was only minimal Snapchatting going on.
We actually all headed out to Slice, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, for pizza and beers. It was very nice indeed.
Morph also kindly delivered us a birthday cake.
As a team we like to get together to celebrate dates that are important to us…and if there is food involved (which there usually is) then even better.
We have brilliant news to share.
mN are one of only seven companies, and the only company in the North, to be appointed to the BBC's new digital design services framework. The news was announced by the BBC's Executive Creative Director Colin Burns via the BBC Internet Blog.
That’s a pretty big deal. In fact it is a huge deal and we are over the proverbial moon. As you can see we even made a fancy drink to celebrate.
This means that alongside the small number of other UK based companies we’ll have the opportunity to work on visual design, interaction design, user experience and other projects across touchpoints including standalone applications, websites and connected TV.
We will be specifically working on projects from BBC Sport and BBC Live. We’ve previously worked with the BBC Sports team on the prestigious redesign of the Sport mobile website and are now chomping at the bit to get started on the new projects they have lined up.
Lou said “We have worked collaboratively with the BBC for over ten years and the mN team are primed and ready to see what BBC Sport and Live projects we’ll have the opportunity to be involved in.”
Adam added "We’re immensely proud to have been awarded a place on the BBC Digital Design Roster. We’re very much looking forward to starting this new phase of our relationship with the BBC and working together to create world-leading digital products and services."
Last week we held our second movieNight at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. About sixty of mN’s nearest and dearest came together to watch ‘Sign Painters’ - a documentary that charts the history of traditional sign painting.
It was full of brilliant characters and gave a real understanding of how the industry boomed and then went into swift decline in the 80s. When it was ‘overrun by the techno-fuelled promise of quicker and cheaper.’
In addition to our clients and friends we sought out and invited the small number of traditional sign painters there are remaining in the region. In fact we commissioned one of them, Jim Medway, to create us a new magneticNorth sign. It is the sign you see in the image above and it’s wonderful. Thanks Jim.
We have collaborated with CBBC to create an interactive experience for the CBBC Live event that takes place in NewcastleGateshead from 29th - 31st May. Using wristbands containing RFID tech, kids will be able to take part in an interactive quiz trail encouraging them to test their CBBC knowledge whilst exploring the whole site.
The event is aimed at children from 6 to 12-years-old and takes place in and around Baltic Square on Gateshead’s famous quayside. The wristband-powered trail created by the team at CBBC and magneticNorth, provides a whole new way of experiencing live events by enabling the CBBC audience a way to get closer to the brands, characters and presenters they love – from Dodge T. Dog to the cast of The Dumping Ground.
At each ‘station’ at the event, kids will be able to check-in using their wristband for a chance to prove their CBBC knowledge. Once questions have been answered across the stations they will be rewarded with a special memento of the day to take home.
As well as using RFID to create the trail, the system that powers the experience uses Raspberry Pi hardware. It has been a brilliant project for us to work on and some of the mN team are up in Gateshead for the next few days seeing it in action. We should have a film of the event in the next few weeks so we’ll share that, along with more details about the project, as soon as we can.
movieNight is back. And he’s badder than ever. Sorry, that is actually a reference to an old Arnie Schwarzenegger film. What we meant to say is our very own series of film screenings ‘movieNight’ is back and better than ever with the next one confirmed to take place on Wednesday 11th June.
We’ll be showing ‘Sign Painters’ – a charming documentary that looks at the history and current revival of traditional sign painting.
The official blurb about the film is below and you can watch the trailer here.
There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. As with many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the techno-fuelled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade.
Like our first movieNight, the event is invite only but we’ll be giving away tickets on Twitter in the next few weeks. If you really, really, really want to come please drop us a line at movieNight@thisismN.com and we’ll see if we can sort you some tickets.
Don’t say we never give you anything!
Eurovision fans hold on to your Union Jack hats! Ahead of this year's competition in Copenhagen, we've been working on a project with the team at BBC Radioplayer that will blow your mind. Please welcome to the stage, 'Radio 2 Eurovision' - a pop-up digital radio service to celebrate this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. This will complement the output on BBC Radio 2 and TV networks BBC One and BBC Three.
'Radio 2 Eurovision' promises to satisfy the needs of even the most enthusiastic Eurovision fans and broadcasting begins via BBC Radioplayer from Thursday 8th May. We've got our fingers crossed that they'll get to celebrate our entry for this year, Molly, winning (or at the very least not getting nil points).
We've been working with the Radioplayer team for sometime now and this project has seen us work with the folks there to give BBC Radioplayer the capability to quickly create pop-up digital services, with 'Radio 2 Eurovision' being the first.
If you haven't already watched Molly perform 'Children of the Universe' then you really should. You're welcome.
Last week saw the official launch of the BBC Radio 3 Proms website which we’ve refreshed for the 2014 season (the team here are all overly excited about the Pet Shop Boys Prom!) and we have some more Proms-related news to share.
We’ve just been told that the 2013 Proms season won the Multiplatform Award at the Listener and Viewer Awards, which were held at as part of the Listener and Viewer Spring Conference the Geological Society in London last week.
The award was given in recognition of the outstanding use made of the three platforms BBC Radio 3, television and the website in broadcasting the 2013 Prom Season.
*Releases party poppers and sprays celebratory silly string*
We’ve been part of the Proms Multiplatform team since 2011 and are so thrilled to see it win this award. Other people and brands to be given accolades at the ceremony included Sir David Attenborough and University Challenge so the Proms were in very good company.
Also, picking up an award at the ceremony was BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific’ who won Best Radio Programme – we actually also designed The Life Scientific 'Science Explorer' for the programme too. It was great to see another BBC brand we've worked with picking up silverware.
All in all a great night for everyone including mN.
We recently had a visit from our friends at CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) who came to mN HQ as part of their Work:Space event for their Annual Conference. The conference focused on the purpose of space and collaboration both in creative arts higher education and in the creative industries and included visits to companies, galleries and studios...which is where we came in!
Exciting news for classical music fans… the programme for the 2014 season of the BBC Proms has been announced, with an eclectic line-up that will bring the best classical music to the widest possible audience.
This year’s festival, which will run from 18th July to 13th September, features debut performances from musicians including the Pet Shop Boys, Paloma Faith and Rufus Wainwright, a War Horse Prom that will include the life-sized puppets from the National Theatre’s stage production and a Mary Poppins sing-along to mark the 50th anniversary of the Disney film.
In the spirit of the Proms’ enduring mission to make the best classical music available to everyone, there will be more Proms content available to listen to online for longer than ever before across desktop, mobile and tablet. The Proms site, re-launched by mN in 2011 and refreshed by us for each season since, is the place to go to explore the 2014 calendar of events, book tickets and catch-up on the broadcast performances.
Why is a thriving digital and creative community vital to creating and maintaining a vibrant, progressive Manchester?
This was the theme for the 'CitySession' event with mN's CEO Lou Cordwell last night. The event was hosted by Martin Bryant Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web and organised by CityCo (the city centre management company who strive to make Manchester a better place to work, visit and live - and whose Board Lou was recently invited to join).
As well as giving an overview of mN's work, past and present, Lou also talked about the company's projects in the 'smart cities' space. Lou and Martin also chatted about the interdependency between creative economies and a city's success as well as the opportunities that 'being a city that is small enough but big enough for excellent collaboration' bring to Manchester.
It was a great evening and we were happy to see so many people come along on the first day back after the Easter break. Thanks again to Martin and to all at CityCo for making the event happen.
Recently, our CEO and founder Lou Cordwell sat down with the team at Prolific North; an online publication who cover the media and creative services sector in the North West, to talk about the lessons learnt over her career for a feature called 'What I've Learnt'. The piece talks about a whole host of things including Lou leaving her role in the advertising world to set up a digital standalone in 2000; "Somebody actually said to me 'isn't it a bit niche?'", winning Kellogg's as their first client; "We had one dial-up laptop and were working from my mum's dining room table", through to the ambitions for the company over the next few years; "It feels like we are just getting going. What I do believe is that if you focus on doing great things for the right reasons with great people, commercial success follows."
You can read the full interview on the Prolific North site.
Last week some of the mN team were lucky enough to be invited to attend the reopening of Manchester’s Central Library. Over the last four years the library; which originally opened in 1934 and has a design loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome, has been closed whilst it underwent a radically transformative multi-million pound renovation.
The results are impressive – it’s an amazing contemporary space for everyone to use and now has 70% of the building open to the public. Previously only 30% could be accessed by members of the community.
The library’s original features including the iconic dome in the Reading Room have been lovingly restored and sit alongside new elements including a Media Lounge full of Macs for people to come and play with, a business library and the interactive Archives+.
Also included within the refurbished library are pieces of work that we were commissioned to design by Manchester City Council. These include a 30ft video wall for the Media Lounge, which will serve up all kinds of information to library visitors from tweets to details about events taking place. The video wall screens are powered by ‘Cord’ the digital screen management system created by mN. Cord was first used in the on-street wayfinding ‘MiGuide’ screens that installed across Manchester City Centre in late 2013 and have helped hundreds of thousands of people find useful location based information around the City.
Cord is also powering wall-mounted screens on each floor of the library and will be used in other formats in the library and beyond over the coming months.
If you get a chance to go and spend time at the library we really recommend you do and tell us what you think at @mNwork.
For us, one of the best things about our first movieNight, which we held last week, was not only having a full house but also having a room full of people who stayed and discussed the issues the film raised once it had finished. In this case - how do you make cities better places to live in?
Ray; head of our mN Cities team had selected the ‘The Human Scale’ – a documentary from Gehl Architects about urban planning and how many modern cities need rethinking to truly consider how people live within them.
There were some fascinating case studies including a look at how New York City reclaimed Times Square for pedestrians and the opportunities and challenges presented to the planning team rebuilding Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake.
The evening, like the film was great, with a broad mix of mN’s ‘nearest and dearest’ in attendance and for us it was exactly what we want our movieNights to be: the chance to show inspiring and thought provoking films which create debate within the audience - all with a liberal sprinkling of beer and sugar laden snacks.
We’ll be announcing details of our next movieNight in the next few weeks, so watch this space if you want to come along.
When the promise of connected TV (or Smart TV) began to capture people’s imagination a few years ago, there was a lot of talk about ‘the battle for the living room’ – who was in the best position to create the killer connected TV platform?
Was it a broadcaster such as Sky or Virgin Media who already delivered their TV services via proprietary set-top boxes? A hardware manufacturer such as Samsung or LG who had started to release ‘Smart TVs’ with platform software built into the TV sets themselves? Could Microsoft Xbox or Sony PlayStation (who already had an impressive install base) reposition their games consoles as entertainment hubs? Or maybe it would be a new player in the market – did Google have an interest in TV? Could Apple do it again and disrupt another market? Or, not forgetting our trusty terrestrial broadcasters, would Project Canvas (or YouView as it later became) prevail?
Our pick ‘n’ mix is packed and the mN studio is getting pretty hyped for our first movieNight this Wednesday – a screening of the documentary ‘The Human Scale’. We are almost at a full house in terms of numbers but wanted to give away the one remaining pair of tickets to you lovely bunch. If you want the pair of tickets just drop us a tweet to @mNwork or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll put all the tweets and emails we get into a hat and pick someone at random by 12pm on Tuesday 18th March. The film starts at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19th March at The Cornerhouse.
"Awesome - like a cross between a library and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I want to live here." was the novel response from an undergraduate on seeing Manchester university's new Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (AGLC) building.
Great news! The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons over at the University of Manchester won a 2014 Guardian University Award. Described as the UK’s first truly digital library, it won the Facilities Project category, which is awarded to a project that has positively enhanced the experiences of students and staff on campus.
From construction onwards mN worked closely with the UoM to explore the integration of digital technologies into the final building design. Using digital touch screens embedded in the AGLC building, we gave students the tools to locate free PC’s, navigate the campus and book out meeting rooms.
The AGLC continues to be an inspiring location with technology weaved into the experience of the building, providing students and staff with useful and accurate information whenever they need it. In its opening month, October 2012, 60,000 visitors passed through the doors of the building, and usage continues to be high with an average of 2,670 visitors per day. We're super proud to have been involved in this incredibly innovative and successful project - congratulations to everyone on the AGLC team!
We've been working with entrepreneur, Stuart Marks, and John Lewis on a new project called 'JLab' - a start-up concept designed to bring dynamic innovators together with one of the UK's most respected retailers. The project's ambition is to seek out ideas that will help to shape the future of retail - so they are particularly interested in ideas around in-store innovation and real-time data projects that will provide customers with a personalised service.
The prizes on offer are really impressive with five companies offered free digs at London's Level 39 incubator space and lots of time with mentors from the team at John Lewis and time with Stuart himself who has a particular passion for investing in companies who deal with 'big data'. One start-up will also be given a sizeable £100,000 investment in return for an equity stake in their company. They may even get to appear in this years John Lewis Christmas advert *this part may not be totally true*.
The site, built by mN, launched last Monday to a pretty impressive media fanfare and is open now for registration.
We love being part of a team that brings an archive together in a new way and for the first time. So we were thrilled, delighted and lots of other adjectives to be appointed by the American Air Museum to work on a huge digital archive project for them.
The American Air Museum (which is part of the Imperial War Museum Duxford) and the mN team will work closely to create a digital record of memories and stories of American Air Forces personnel who served their country in England, from the Second World War to modern day.
The site will largely be based around the Roger Freeman Collection, a compilation of over 15,000 prints and slides which captures the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) both off-duty and in combat situations.
The really lovely thing about the project is that it will surface many never-seen-before images and offer the public a chance to share their own memories too. It may be that relatives see images of their loved ones that they’ve never seen before, or that we hear for the first time about special encounters members of the public had with Air Forces personnel during the Second World War.
With another trip down to IWM Duxford planned for this week, we’ll share more details as the project develops and hope that you’ll get involved if you have any relevant stories to share.
Image: Left to right: Technical Sergeant Lester A Reifeiss (1918–1979) and Sergeant Jasper ‘JD’ Taylor (1920–1976) of the 78th Fighter Group repair a P-47 Thunderbolt at Duxford. Image copyright IWM Roger Freeman Collection.
We've just been appointed by CBeebies (the division of the BBC that encourages 'learning through play in a consistently safe environment for children aged 6 or under') to work on a new project. We can't share any more details at the moment, obviously we will when we can, but it goes without saying we're really excited to be working with such a charming brand. In fact if they let us we'd probably jump up and down on their lovely yellow sofa with excitement.
Like proud pushy parents, we’re thrilled to announce that the first ‘mN movieNight’ will be taking place on Wednesday 19th March. It will be the first in a series of screenings of films and documentaries selected by the mN team that will be hosted at venues across Manchester. The inaugural one, taking place at The Cornerhouse, will be a screening of the ’The Human Scale’ – a fascinating film that looks at the way in which we live in urban areas.
‘50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050 this will increase to 80%. Life in a mega city is both enchanting and problematic. Today we face climate change, loneliness and severe health issues due to our way of life. But why? Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl has studied human behaviour in cities through 40 years. The Human Scale documents how modern cities repel human interaction, and argues that we can build cities in a way which takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account.'
The Human Scale was selected by Ray; head of our Cities team – as a film that he feels reflects mN’s focus on ‘digital cities’ as a core specialism. He’ll be saying a few words at the beginning of the screening about why it was his pick.
For the first movieNight event we’ve decided to just invite mN’s ‘nearest and dearest’ (i.e. people on our Christmas card list) but will absolutely be opening up the invitation list and ticketing to a wider audience for future events. In fact, for those of you who really want to come to the screening we’ll be giving away a few sets of tickets on our Twitter feed over the next few weeks.
Earlier this week, Laura spent the day over at Manchester Digital Talent Day reppin' magneticNorth and chatting with students aspiring to a career in digital. She headed over to the event armed with goodies from our studio - including a huge bowl of sweet treats - and spoke to ambitious designers, developers, marketers who had come from far and wide (everywhere from Lincoln to London) to find out about what it's really like working in the digital industry.
We met some interesting people and we also used it as an opportunity to invite students along to be a part of some user testing sessions that we've be holding in our studio. Win win all round we reckon!
We regularly hold user testing sessions at mN, so if you're keen to get involved or help out then feel free to drop us an email at audience@thisismN.com.
We've long been attendees of FutureEverything and last year our CEO Lou was appointed as Chair of the Festival, which attracts an eclectic mix of speakers and audience from all over the world. Now in its 19th year, FutureEverything brings people together to discover, share and experience new ideas about the future. Pioneering the idea of a ‘festival as laboratory’, it combines innovative art and performance with new technology, insightful discussion and playful social experimentation. The theme for this years festival, which takes place from the 27th March until the 1st April, is 'Tools for Unknown Futures'.
There is loads to look forward to and the team here are particularly looking forward to listening to what Liam Young, the architect who founded the urban futures think tank Tomorrows Thoughts Today has to say. We are also hopefully heading out en-masse to see DARKSIDE - the collaborative duo of electro producer Nicholas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington who are playing at The Ritz.
There's so much on that is worth checking out and if you do come to Manchester for the festival our studio door is always open, so feel free to come and say hi.
This morning Chris Evans and the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show team officially launched '500 Words' - the much loved children's writing competition they've run for the last few years. The competition challenges children under the age of 13 to write a short story in no more than 500 words – with some pretty awesome prizes on offer for winners, including winning their own height in books (Chris said they can wear platforms if they are really teeny) and having a tip top celebrity perform their story to the nation.
We were commissioned by BBC Radio & Music Multiplatform to develop the online submission process for the competition, which last year attracted over 90,000 entries. The system we created is an extension of the submission process we delivered for BBC writersroom and we are hoping it will help them see well over 100,000 entries this year.
We also created an ‘Alphabot’ – a fun random word generator that will stimulate creativity and ward off the dreaded writers’ block as the children are writing their stories. Entries can be submitted anytime from now until the 26th February and Chris Evans said it's the best website he's ever seen. Thanks Christoph!
Put down your whisk and step aside Mary Berry, there are some new 'Master Bakers' in town. Well, kind of.
Inspired by our mutual love of cake, this week we decided to have our very first mN Bake Off. The rules were simple: bake something utterly delicious and bring it in on Monday, for the entire office to gorge on and then rate (or slate).
There were some pretty impressive contenders which included Sanj's Lemon Drizzle Cake, Sam's Oat and Raisin Cookies and Sarah's Carrot Cake.
We were spoilt for choice and after we had each consumed approximately 12,000 calories and reinforced the studio floor we cast our votes.
There was one clear winner. Step forward Producer Joanne. Her seriously tasty Rocky Road and Peanut Butter Squares smashed the competition to pieces and she graciously accepted her prize of a luxury week for two on Necker Island. Sorry, correction – her prize was a cookbook of her choice, which she graciously accepted.
All in all, a great way to start off the week even though the entire team are still on a sugar comedown.
Our clients, BBC Sport (we designed the new BBC Sport mobile site ready for the 2012 Olympics), have just released their data from the Christmas period – which shows some really impressive numbers in terms of mobile usage.
They revealed that almost three-quarters of traffic to the BBC Sport website now comes from mobile and tablet devices.
Bolstered by a football heavy festive period including lots of games on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, the site attracted its highest number of UK daily unique browsers outside of the London 2012 Olympics.
Mobiles contributed over 3 million unique browsers on Boxing Day – breaking the 3m milestone for the first time – before setting a new record on New Year’s Day with 3.1m unique browsers. Tablets also set a record of 1.3m unique browsers on Boxing Day before passing the 1.5m barrier for the first time on New Year’s Day.
Chris Condron, Head of Product for BBC Sport, says: “These figures highlight just how essential hand-held devices have become to our audiences. We’ve seen this trend grow throughout the year, culminating in record figures over the festive period when tablets and mobiles are a popular gift in many homes across the UK. We’ll continue to iterate and improve our digital services throughout a massive year of sport in 2014, making sure people get the best possible experience on any device they want, wherever they want.”
We really agree with Chris' final point about creating the best possible experience on whatever device people want, wherever they want it. It goes without saying that approach is a given in everything we do.
You can read the full piece on the BBC Media Centre.
In 2014 we'll be launching 'mN movieNight' - a regular get together in Manchester where we show inspiring films and documentaries... and eat a tonne of popcorn too!
We thought that Christmas would be a great chance to let all of our nearest and dearest know about our plans for the new year, and so this year our mN Christmas card is – as you can see from the picture – two tickets to a ‘movieNight’ (cleverly disguised as a Christmas (post)card).
Don't worry if you didn't get one (we love you too we promise!) – we'll be sharing more details about how you can get tickets in the new year.
Merry Christmas from all at mN!
We asked the Head of our Digital Media team (Adam) and the Head of our Digital Cities team (Ray) to give us their highlights from the last 12 months and tell us a bit about their thoughts for the new year. Here are their reflections, insights and predictions as we go full steam ahead into 2014...
It's the 2nd December, 2013 and after a scenic trip, I’ve arrived in Scotland’s fourth-largest city, Dundee. Famous for Jute, Jam and Journalism, as I had been forewarned, the city is going through a major re-development. The vast waterfront presently being a construction zone for Dundee’s new Victoria and Albert Museum.
I’m here at the invitation of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design to be a guru for the day. Lending my advice and guidance to students studying Digital Interaction Design and Product Design. After getting over the disappointment that this doesn’t involve ceremonial robes or a badge of honour, I get stuck into meeting the fifteen of the sixty students I’ve been allocated.
For the last few years Chris Evans has run a really popular kids writing competition as part of his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show. '500 Words' challenges children under the age of 13 to write a short story that... you guessed it, is 500 words long. This year’s competition saw over 90,000 entries with kids writing stories about dragons, monsters, wizards and their love of One Direction (we're massive Harry fans obviously).
There are always amazing prizes on offer to the winners which include having celebrities such as Michael Palin and Barney Harwood (Blue Peter presenter and GOD to many children) reading their stories out at Hay Literature Festival and winning their height in books.
Why are we telling you all this? Well, it's because we've just been appointed by the team there to create the online submission system for the 2014 competition which will launch in January.
We'll actually be building on an existing submissions system that we recently created for BBC writersroom. It's a really sweet competition and we're happy to be involved. If you have kids then get them to ready their imaginations and fingers for mid January.
In a day pretty full with talks about high-level top-down approaches to changing cities and the use of data, Ray’s session ‘Smarter Cities: The Virtuous Circle’ was centered around how we need to bring the focus to the actual people within cities, enabling them to make changes and design their cities as they want them to be.
He was on a panel with Jamie Caffrey from IBM, Andy Kerr from Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and our good friend, architect Jim Webster from Haus Collective – with whom we have worked closely on the NOMA project.
We’ve been working with the team at BBC Writers Room on a new online submissions system, which has just gone live on their site. The Writers Room identifies and champions new writing talent and diversity across BBC Drama, Entertainment and Children’s programmes. This basically means they receive an enormous amount of submissions for the varying array of writing opportunities they have across the BBC.
Until now the majority of that work was submitted to them via snail mail aka post. You can imagine how many brown envelopes they received from budding writers every week! Also, how much storage space they needed to keep all the scripts and what a task it was for their team of readers to manage all these submissions manually. They needed a better system and we’ve worked with the lovely team there to design and deliver a sleek new e-submissions offering.
A few weeks ago Gareth and Julien headed to London for the Playful Conference. It's always great to get out the office to feed your brain and Playful continually delivers an impressive line-up of 'brain broadening' speakers.
Gareth did a write up on his GoodWorkSon blog and we’ve reposted it on our site so the entire Universe and beyond can enjoy it as much as we did.
Today the team headed down to Exchange Square in Manchester city centre for the official launch of a digital wayfinding project we’ve been working on with Manchester City Council. In typical Manchester stylee it was raining as one of the ‘MiGuide’ interactive screens were unveiled by Councillor Murphy (Executive Member for Environment for Manchester City Council) but it was thrilling to see members of the public start using them literally the moment he’d cut the virtual ribbon.
The network of MiGuide screens (there are ten across the city centre) offer locals and visitors loads of information about getting around the city and making the most of their visit. We created a digital screen management system (called Cord) which provides location-specific information about everything from events, attractions and nightlife to shopping, food and drink, accommodation and transport. For example if you are hungry and find yourself in St Ann’s Square, you can use the screen there to search through a range of restaurant and café options nearby, with directions, distance and transport details if necessary.
Our Creative Director Adam has been talking about all things UX+D today at the D&AD Creative Brief-In. The event, which ran at 2022NQ as part of Design Manchester 13, allows students to develop techniques on how best to interrogate a brief, identify insights and prototype ideas.
Adam’s presentation was on the theme of radio and aimed at students with an interest in visual and user-experience design. It explored how radio has been re-invented throughout its existence and shared thoughts about how it could be developed in the future. Also speaking words of wisdom at the event was Tom Bradley from BBC Knowledge and Learning.
After their talks, they hosted workshops with the students on current themes, trends and practices to help them develop their responses to the D&AD New Blood Awards briefs. A great day was had by all!
Image from @DandADNewBlood
Lou and Ray spent the day over at the IHBC Digital Heritage event held at 1 Angel Square NOMA, where they gave a talk around the theme of 'digital interpretation' to a conference of people who work in the heritage sector with historic buildings. Their focus was to question how digital is currently being used in interpretation across the culture and heritage sectors.
As part of the presentation they showed many examples of different types of digital interpretation, and suggested that the focus should always be on creating experiences as opposed to what the latest and flashiest tech is.