Archive for July, 2009

Continental Drift. The Bauhaus’ legacy

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009


The nice people at Grafik Magazine recently asked me to assemble a critique of a major new show by Germany’s three Bauhaus institutions, at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. The show is a big deal because this is the first time that these three institutions have worked together. Having been located in an erstwhile divided country, it’s taken this long since the fall of the wall for the right occasion to come along, but somehow they’ve managed to find the justification for it, something to do with a ninetieth anniversary I think.

The Bauhaus is also something of big deal itself, having been directly responsible in a large way for modernism, and in a less direct way for much of the poorly considered architecture that sprung up in the fifties and sixties, which is how most people now remember modernism. But to focus on that is to miss the point that many of the preceding century’s problems needed addressing, not least increasing urbanisation, as well as a major rethink of our relationship to industrial processes and industrialisation itself.

But perhaps least considered is the Bauhaus’ impact on the education of artists, designers, architects and other creative professionals. The modern system owes its existence in its entirety to the the Bauhaus’ vorkurz, a new method of study instigated with the Bauhaus’ first students with the intention of creating rounded, well informed and multi-faceted creative professionals. Before this, training happened in one particular discipline by an experienced practitioner, emphasised precedent and the maintenance of tradition. By throwing away this system, the Bauhaus laid the foundations for contemporary art and design practice as an individualistic pursuit, in the western hemisphere at least. The Bauhaus encouraged questioning every aspect of artistic endeavour, from what constitutes a valid subject to appropriate media to whether the art should be made at all. It was instructive for me to learn about the Persian traditions of calligraphy and miniature painting when I was in Iran and India last year. These traditions persist because they still emphasise precedent, where the most important value is in being able to replicate the work of past masters. This insight may go some way to explaining the differences in how we value authorship and original thought, because in part we can thank the Bauhaus for teaching us to examine every principle, every creative motive and weigh it against the problem we’re currently tackling, rather than simply creating a process whereby one solution fits all. This is what creative thinking really means.

My review of ModellBauhaus: A conceptual model at Martin-Gropius-Bau will be in Grafik’s September issue. If you’re in Berlin, you can see the exhibition until October 4. More information here.

Dawn/Brad represent a nation of dog lovers

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Dawn/Brad on the plinth giving out chocs

At 1am on Saturday morning, dressed as Brad – her big ginger dog – Dawn took her place on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square for the Antony Gormley project ‘One and Other’.

Representing Britain as a nation of dog lovers, Dawn donned the outfit and even Brad’s characteristics – wagging her tail and running in her sleep, Brad would be proud! She wasn’t heckled much, probably because she had dog shaped chocs to keep the crowds quiet. If you missed all this, you can watch it again at See more pictures on flickr.

Dawn used this opportunity to raise awareness for the local Derby RSPCA. From August 15th, the local branch will no longer be rehoming dogs but those there will be transferred to nearby RSPCA centres instead. This is medium term due to lack of funds to continue with the dogs’ upkeep, as they need to refurbish the kennels. It’s a real shame as due to the centre’s location they have a really successful rate of rehoming. They are having to make 12 staff there redundant and cut back to 4 to cut running costs with the aim to eventually raise enough money to get dogs back to the centre.

Dawn is just over half way to reaching her target of £500, so to help achieve this, you can donate to JustGiving. It is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with Just Giving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer.

K-Motion Launch

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Katapult have just launched our specialist motion graphics division K-Motion.  As the name suggests, K-Motion is in the business of causing a bit of a kerfuffle.  Specialising in motion graphics we create video content that cuts through for use in Broadcast, Web, POS, Events & Exhibitions, Presentations and anything else that needs impact.

As part of Katapult, K-motion have worked with a wide range of clients across projects of every nature, applying their skills and expertise to deliver engaging and entertaining experiences that leave a lasting impression.

K-Motion is headed by Phil Higgins, and was born from Katapult’s existing expertise in motion graphics which has already headlined many successful client campaigns, including programme titles and idents for the BBC and ESPN Classic through to idents for events and presentations.

The high end content managed flash website allows us to easily keep things up to date whilst delivering a full screen video portal for the viewer.  The website loads a different background every time you visit and if your machine is fast enough then you’ll benefit from full screen video backgrounds.

Have a look, check it out and let us know what you think.

or follow us @

Katapult Quiz Team on BBC Radio Derby

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Katapult are to take part in BBC Radio Derby’s ‘Ed to Head’ competition in the week beginning 27th July.

Ed to Head is hosted by Ed George on BBC Radio Derby’s Afternoon Show. Between 1-2pm every weekday, Ed challenges a team to solve just five questions. According to the BBC Radio Derby site, the quiz ‘will test what you know about what’s around the corner and around the world. And, if you need help – his listeners are there to ask!’

To listen to the Katapult team going ‘Ed to Head’, tune in to Ed George’s Afternoon Show between 1 and 2pm on 27th-31st July. Wish us luck!

BBC Radio Derby

Interflora Mobile Site

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

We’re pleased to learn that Interflora’s m-commerce site – for which we designed the user interface – is now generating around 500 orders per week. Katapult worked closely with development partner Xibis on the project which enables mobile users to complete real-time online card transactions to purchase flowers and gifts via their handsets. The mobile site is a stripped down version of the standard Interflora website, kept simple for mobile users.

Interflora Mobile

Big Cycle Weekend

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The weather didn’t let us down this weekend at the Big Cycle Weekend which promised to be the biggest and best festival of cycling Derby has ever seen. Katapult have worked with Cycle Derby over the last three years with the objective of increasing the number of children cycling to school, which has quadrupled since the start of the campaign.

Derby County manager Nigel Clough and Rammie were there on Sunday morning to open the fourth annual 5 Parks Ride in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support by riding an honorary lap with the first group of riders. The 5 Parks Ride was fully booked with 175 people signed up to take part.

There were loads of activities with a whole host of free, exciting games and entertainment for all the family to enjoy; including bike polo, Bling Ur Bike, a kids comedy show, a Cycle Magic tryout and a BMX Zone.

There were also rickshaw rides around the park courtesy of Derby Rickshaws; Bikeability Level One training, Scootability sessions, maintenance classes and a chance to meet the cycling super heroes Shift and Sprocket.

Ruth with Shift

The flatland BMX and trials displays by Inertia BMX display team including Keelan Phillips the current world number one flatland BMX champion pulled in a large crowd and Dawn Foote our Managing Director got roped into taking part in one of the displays.

Dawn with Inertia

Dawn with InertiaPhotos courtesy of

There will be fantastic prizes for the best blinged bike, exclusive Cycle Derby medals to be won at the Go Ride Games plus the Big Cycle Weekend Challenge competition to win an amazing selection of bike goodies thanks to Derby based Moore Large.

The raffle alone raised over £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support, with prizes including a Haro Intro Lite BMX worth £329.95 and signed Derby County football shirts.

See more Big Cycle Weekend pictures on flickr.

See the motion graphics created to promote ‘The Big Cycle’ weekend, produced by K-Motion the motion graphics division of Katapult.

Fifth Word Theatre Website Live

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Fifth Word Website Live

Fifth Word Theatre’s website has now gone live. Katapult designed and built the website, which has an integrated WordPress blog and message board.

Fifth Word are a Derby based theatre production company, specialising in new theatre with a focus on new, previously unproduced writing and new media technology within a stage context. Parallel to this, the company works extensively in education and community projects, devising workshops and participatory projects, and occasionally in a corporate environment as role-playing and team-building consultants.

The team at Fifth Word wanted a website which would reflect its creative, ambitious, innovative and busy character. In addition, the company wanted to develop its online activity, in particular its audience engagement through social networking.

We are very pleased with the end result and so are the Fifth Word team:

Thank You Card from Fifth Word

Katapult’s 8th Birthday BBQ

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Last night we celebrated Katapult’s 8th birthday (officially 1st July) with a BBQ and beers in the new garden. Spouses, children and Brad the dog turned up to join us basking in the sunshine and munching on burgers – courtesy of Dan and his expert cooking skills. You can find more pictures on flickr.

Check out the kids proving the Picasso quote is so true (see previous ‘Are you Creative? You are Creative‘ post.) The next generation of Katapult designers in training…

New generation of Katapult designers

Katapult team and family

Are you creative? You are creative!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

We could not have asked for better weather for our Marketing Derby Bondholder event in the newly re-landscaped Katapult garden this morning. With the marquee up and the bacon butties going down nicely, we welcomed a host of people from various businesses and organisations across the city.

Wanting to give our audience an insight into some of the creative thinking techniques we employ, we issued a straightforward brief and organised a few activites to get everyone involved. Each group responded brilliantly and rose to the challenge, seemingly inspired by the Katapult team’s donning of glittery head boppers for ’The Martians have landed’, an exercise designed to stimulate a visual response to the brief.

We hope everyone who attended enjoyed their morning with us. We really enjoyed speaking to everyone, giving them an insight into what we do and putting them in touch with their creative side (!). As we did at the event, we’ll leave the final word to Pablo Picasso: ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’

Have a look at more of our pictures on flickr.

Katapult Bondholder Breakfast

Katapult Bondholder Breakfast

Continental Drift

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Hello from Berlin. I’ve been asked by Katapult to bring some international flavour to their blogging, from the city at the centre of Europe and the fringes of mainstream creative activity.

But first, the backstory:

For six years I was Katapult’s senior designer and one of the founding directors, until in December 2007 I left the business, Derby, the East Midlands, England and everything else comfortably familiar behind. 2008 was my year of wandering, when I travelled by train, bus, jeep and anything else on wheels from Europe through the middle east to India and China, returning west through Siberia and Russia. The only plane I used took me from Mumbai to Hong Kong, so my online journal was called Uberlandt. This journey is covered better by that journal, so I won’t go over it again here, other than to explain that on my way home from Moscow late in December I stopped in Berlin for a few days.

Throughout the trip I’d had half an eye looking out for places that might have some relocation potential. At various stages along the way, I’d thought ‘I’ll return here and make a life’. Granada, Istanbul, Delhi, Mumbai and Beijing all made a credible case for a long term relocation, whether for tapas and winding streets, vitality and creativity, or cultural and political collision.

Berlin, which I’d stopped in right at the start of the trip for the film festival in February, was my last port of call. I’d made contacts with various Berlin-linked people as I’d travelled, met a few for coffee, beer or soup, and was snared by the feeling of tangible possibility.

My ability with German goes no further than a low GCSE exam grade but is improving slowly, my network is slightly thin at the moment but grows slightly all the time, and the work is starting to dribble in. A profile article on Hort, the design group modelled along kindergarten principles will be in this month’s Grafik magazine, an event I’m helping to set up on international brand reputation happens this Thursday, and given a favourable wind I’ll travel to Amsterdam the following week to talk about graphics for a conference presentation in Palo Alto, California. Although I don’t think I’ll get to travel to the states myself, unfortunately.

I will be continuing my cotribution to the blog so keep an eye on it for my musings on design, creative enterprise and life in the heart of the continent.