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Creativity activity: letterscouting

Here’s a simple, fun and effective activity to try if you’re after a quick way to stimulate creativity: letterscouting. You can try this by yourself or in a team, and the results can be really surprising.

All you need is a camera phone. OK, you could use any type of camera, but there’s something about the quick convenience of a camera phone that lends itself to this sort of activity. The point of this activity is not to produce perfect photos but to stimulate creative observation of the world around us and looking/thinking at/of familiar things in new ways.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Set yourself – or your team – a time limit. 5 minutes is plenty.
  2. Roam around and take a photo of something that looks like each letter of your name. So if your name is Ben (like mine), you should end up with 3 photos – one that looks like a B, one that looks like an E, and one an N. Of course you can take photos of letters in signage, graffiti, and so on, but you get extra points (read creative satisfaction) if you can find letters in real-world objects and their placement.
  3. Come back together again and share the results.

You might want to then compile them and put them somewhere to share. They look really cool put together as your name, and even cooler as a group of names. And unless you happen to have a really long name, you may need more than 5 minutes… but the idea is to not look for the perfect photo, just anything that looks reasonably like letters.

I did this activity with my team at Digital Eskimo, at the end of our team meeting, and it was pretty fun. Here’s mine:

A set of photos of real-world objects that go together to make my name, Ben

… and here’s a couple more:

Photos of real-world objects that string together to look like the name STEPHEN

Photos of real-world objects that string together to look like the name YVONNE

So try it! Who knows, maybe we should start a Tumblr blog or Pinterest board for this sort of thing. If you know of one, or want to start one, please let me know.

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New portfolio website

Ben Crothers portfolio website

It’s been ages since I’ve shown anything I’ve been working on. Plus, there’s a growing amount of stuff like sketchnotes, storyboards and bits and pieces that don’t really have a home on this website. So I’ve done up a new portfolio site at

It was also a great opportunity to get my hands dirty with some HTML5/CSS/CSS3/responsive design coding. I’m a big believer in having a decent working knowledge of the platforms, frameworks and code that ultimately bring to life the digital experiences I design, so it made sense for my latest code project to include HTML5 and responsive design.

Take a look, see what you think. I’d also be interested to know what it’s like on your mobile device – feel free to let me know if anything looks kinda wrong…!

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Help yourself and your city with a mobile reporting app

I’m really interested in ways that people can use their mobiles not only for their own communication and information needs, but also to benefit others. And I just came across a brilliant example of that: the City of Boston Citizens Connect App.

This mobile app lets Bostonians log problems like potholes and graffiti with the city, with the aim of contributing to a better city environment. It looks like a really neat robust example of ‘citizen-to-city’ interaction, with community-contributed content used to directly benefit the community.

What’s more, it’s a great extension of the UK’s service in that it works right at the moment when you see the problem (and use your mobile), rather than when you return to wherever your desktop computer is (and probably forget all about the problem you saw).

I wonder what it would take for city councils in Sydney (or anywhere in Australia, really) to take on this? And surely it’s possible for one app to serve all councils, and which localises itself depending on where you are when you open it – one app to rule them all, as it were.

If this catches on as a common mobile behaviour pattern, city councils are going to have a lot of demands — and lovely lovely geo-tagged data — on their hands…

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Mobile website concept for Tourism Australia

This is a mobile/handset interface design concept I created for Tourism Australia.

The brief was to reach potential tourists, mainly in the UK, and lead them on a three-step journey: inspiration, exploration, then conviction to book a holiday… all through the vehicle of shared photos.

The concept trades off the power of shared experiences, and the more luscious the photos — and the more they’re shared — the better.

Single photo, with links for photo information The same single photo, but 'turned around' to display details and calls to action A location screen, with links relating to the location for planning a visit

Single photo, with links for photo information, and forward/next icons

The same single photo, but ‘turned around’ to display details, and calls to action

A location screen, with links relating the location to planning a visit

Photos can be uploaded, downloaded, tagged, and shared. Each photo, as well having social tagging, is tagged with one or more evocative ‘experience’ categories, such as plunge, savour, indulge, and so on. The interface design rationalises away many of the elements that can occupy the space in a regular browser window, yet retains all the elements needed for people to save photos, destinations and itineraries online, moving them towards the point of booking a holiday.

I also packaged these designs into a presentation board, with a storyboard-style sketch to show context, and the progression from a typical rainy London working day to what a sun-soaked holiday in Australia could be like (click for larger version):

Small view - storyboard of iPhone app concept