Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Nike, Hackney and Alec Davis

The Hackney logo on sports and fashion items. From Hackney local government website.
A couple of years ago I was phoned by someone on behalf of Hackney council in North London, wanting to know the role of my father, Alec Davis, in the design of the borough’s logo in the mid-1960s.

It turned out that Nike had borrowed the logo for use on their Hackney Marshes brand worldwide without asking permission. In the end Nike did the decent thing and paid Hackney £300,000, to go towards the development of the borough sports facilities.

Hackney’s report: History of Hackney’s logo. It includes a short interview with me and a photo of Dad and me that I provided:
Alec Davis with Stephen in 1965 when Hackney’s logo was designed.
Guardian article: Nike scores own goal on Hackney Marshes.

BBC: Hackney wins logo row with Nike.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Richard Gregory (1923-2010)

The café wall illusion is an optical illusion first described by Professor Richard Gregory. His colleague observed this effect in the tiles of the wall of a café at the bottom of St Michael’s Hill, Bristol. See Wikipedia article on the illusion

Hard on the death of Jacques Bertin, Richard Gregory’s death on 17th May has just been announced. An esteemed scientist, he had a remarkable ability to make his knowledge accessible, most notably in Eye and Brain: the psychology of seeing, first published in 1966 and passing through five editions, and the Oxford Companion to the Mind, first published in 1987. I found both of these useful together with Illusion in Nature and Art with Ernst Gombrich in 1983 when developing my PhD. And Richard was kind enough to write to me when I questioned him about one of the ideas in his publications.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Millibands' weaknesses

How Edward Miliband voted on key issues since 2001:
  • Voted very strongly for replacing Trident. 
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted very strongly for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.

How David Miliband voted on key issues since 2001:
  • Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
  • Voted strongly for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted strongly for introducing ID cards.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.

And they both have that patronising habit of dropping their Ts to try to make themselves sound like men of the people. How naive do they think we are?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Being and nothingness: Laurie Taylor has a go

Laurie Taylor’s parodic column on the back of Times Higher Education this week highlights events at Middlesex.
Further coverage is at:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Philosophy petition exceeds 10000

At 23:00 today, the petition against the closure of Philosophy at Middlesex was standing at 10437 and the map of signatories looked like this.

Middlesex University closes Philosophy

Middlesex University has announced that it will close its Philosophy intake for students at all levels. This effectively means closing the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy which was the highest achieving subject group within the University in the UK government’s last census of research quality, RAE 2008. The government report said (emphasis added):
The majority of outputs are of at least internationally excellent quality; of these, a significant proportion are of world-leading quality. Of the remainder, most are of internationally recognised quality.
The cohesive and focussed character of the research strategy is outstanding, with the appointment of three new members of staff in the period confirming the distinctive profile. Research student provision and research income and its use are excellent. The three areas of specialisation are well thought out and provide genuine support for the commendably high levels of activity in the unit. The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and associated conferences makes an important contribution to the discipline.
Philosophy at Middlesex made a good showing among the UK’s top-ranked universities, as the University’s website points out.

Campaigners are trying to get the closure plan reversed:

Monday, 29 March 2010

I wish I had known this about drawing

A recent conversation on the JISC Drawing Research list led me to write down what bothered me about the way I was taught drawing at Camberwell School of Art and Crafts (as it then was) in the 1970s.

One particular drawing tutor used to stand behind me and stare morosely at my work. After an interminable wait she would sigh and say, 'That's not very honest, is it?'  I had no idea what she was trying to tell me. I now think I had totally misconceived drawing as being in some way concerned with matching the scene I was observing - and, worst of all, I did not even realise I had this preconception.

Much of the teaching was brilliant, but I wish someone had made a few points clear to me then:

  1. drawing is a form of representation, and no representation matches what it represents: instead it is a transformation.
  2. how the marks on the page relate to what you see, or think you see, is entirely up to you.
  3. many of the marks we make are not direct responses (whatever that means) to experience, but conventionalised and culturally determined; this is not a problem.
  4. what matters is not the relation between the scene and the drawing, but that between the scene, the drawing and the viewer (who may only be the person doing the drawing).
  5. drawing tries to construct something which produces a response in the viewer that is in some way analogous to looking at the scene; in what way it is analogous is again entirely up to the person drawing.

In short, I wish someone had drawn my attention to the 'dominance of making over matching' (Gombrich 1977 Art and Illusion: a study in the psychology of pictorial representation p248) and invited me to rethink what I thought I knew about drawing in light of that idea.

I pursued some of these questions of the relation between the scene, the depiction and the viewer in A Schema for Depiction (2007) In: Van der Waarde, K. and Westendorp, P. (eds.). Visible Language 41(3). Special issue on Visual Metaphors in User Support. 280-300.