Living Experiments #001: Smart Lights – a bright idea in a tussle with muscle memory

I’m a sucker for the smart home…at least the idea of it anyway. Now I have a home of my own (complete with a somewhat under-planned wiring layout) I wondered whether a smart kit could help me solve a couple of sticky switch situations.


Ikea aren’t doing anything groundbreakingly new with the tech and functionality of their Trådfri range of smart bulbs, panels and remote switches…except (and it’s an important except) that they’ve made this category just that little bit more affordable. A dimming kit for £15, a motion sensor and bulb for £25, a cold-warm control kit for £29 and replacement bulbs from £9. And what’s more – you DON’T HAVE TO get a hub/brain, or what’s called a Gateway in Ikea’s range (for £25) to get involved. This range does what Ikea does best – lovely little design interventions made afforable for all. Enough to encourage you to try out a couple of little living experiments…


I went for the cold-warm remote to get me started. A dimmer and temperature change option has eventually settled as a nice addition to my bedroom, helping me dodge the classic cold dash scenario at lights out. It’s pretty easy to get setup (although admittedly I’m syncing one bulb here and not doing anything too complicated). I love it and I use it every single night.

One thing, and it’s a bit of a broken link for all smart home lighting I’m afraid, is the tussle with muscle memory. If you want your bulbs to work with your remote or app – you have to remember to keep your main switches on – and that’s hard when the flick of a wall switch is quite literally hardwired into behaviour when you leave or enter a room. It’s at even greater jeopardy when you live with others too! Maybe that’s the disappointment to the dream – adapter kits really are a bit of a sticking plaster to a pretty archaic infrastructure. Maybe that’s where Ikea could get better, the remote can be magnetically wall mounted if you want…but what if that mount could clip over your existing switches so you can’t accidently switch them on or off?

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(excuse the dodgy GIF – turns out my wordpress stingy-ness doesn’t support video)

Don’t let that disappointment be a turn off though (every pun intended), my solution is to stick the bulb in a lamp instead. Especially good if you happen to have a lamp that’s got one of those silly switches that gets too hot or is inconveniently tucked away.

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OoO: A mini Sag-battical

I’ve been working for a brilliant design consultancy for nearly 8 years.  It’s my first ‘proper proper job’ after graduating. When you’re busy being busy, even on the most interesting and exciting things, you look up and realise it’s been 10 years since you graduated (and 4 years since you last posted anything!). My company are super kind. I’m taking some time off. A little reboot. I’m not taking the whole year that Stefan Sagmeister schedules every 7 years, but what a brilliant, brilliant thing that everyone should do. I’ve posted it before but always worth a re-watch on TED.

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Observation #002: Human code / Digital code

I was looking again at the fascinating image archives of the Wellcome Collection and saw this:

Automated DNA sequencing output - HGP

It’s what DNA sequences look like. It’s the work of the Human Genome Project.

It reminded me how similar digital glitches look:

I wonder if that’s tech trying to show us it’s human side, showing us what it’s made of. Sort of sweet. I like it when tech reveals a human in the machine.

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Reith Lectures 2013: Grayson Perry

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 23.09.49These are brilliant. Accessible, witty, thoughtful and eminently listenable. Perry is a much needed babel fish to the art world’s ‘International Art English’. Listen here while you can.

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Observation #001: Watches

In the early 2000s, the mobile phone removed the watch from the wrists of a generation who became accustomed to using the integrated clock function on their devices instead.

In the mid 2010s tech companies (Sony, Samsung, and much rumoured Nokia and Apple…?) are trying to resurrect a behaviour their devices superseded.

And maybe that’s my problem with smart watches and glasses – they feel a little clunky,  superfluous perhaps – adhoc solutions, uncomfortable attachments. I don’t doubt that digital devices will continue to integrate more seamlessly into our lives and that wearables seem like the logical extension, augmenting the body to enhance, streamline or aggregate experiences, but I wonder whether these devices can convince consumers and can yet resonate with human behaviours.

Just something I noticed and pondered, then stumbled across this, which is a nice perspective by Dan Southern on the subject.

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Icon Rethink

Nice little section of Icon magazine (who’ve made it to 10 this year – which makes me feel old as I remember clamping my hands on the first issue as a wide-eyed undergrad). I like these fantasy briefs as they often rethink a dusty old physical object or system and re-imagine them with digital possibility. It has inspired me to have a think about some of my own.

Some of my favourites:

The Birth Certificate (IWantDesign)

Icon117 Birthcertificate inside1 copy

Funeral Directors (Studio Makgill)

ipad 02 rt

Vehicle Registration Plates (Artworklove)



Receipts (BERG)

Read the full stories at Icon magazine.

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Built for Repair

There’s a bit of a buzz around Nokia’s decision to openly release the Lumia design files for those of us who fancy a tinker (and have a 3D printer) to create our own personalised cases. It’s a nice nod back to the classic Nokia 5100 changeable covers of the 90s.

But what I really like is not necessarily the open invitation to get creative, but the opportunity to fix  broken objects and let them live a little longer. Teenager Engineering were quick off the mark to release the files for replacement parts for their OP-1 users last year. This is smart thinking.


OP-1 Spare parts

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