16 Oct

Mirror conf 2017

I was really lucky to be able to attend this year’s MirrorConf in the beautiful Braga, Portugal.

#mirrorconf 🏟🎭🎟🎤📲⌨💻🖥🎨

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The event was spectacular, and everyone was buzzing with excitement and sugar from the pastries and cakes on offer.

Ready for day 2 of #mirrorconf #braga #theatrocirco

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Adeus Portugal, until next time!

Sad to leave Braga today, it’s been fabulous 🇵🇹

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16 Nov

Ampersand Conf 2015


This year’s Ampersand Conference lived up to the hype. Enthusiasm oozed from every speaker, and flowed into the audience like a Zapfino swash.

The inspiring talks covered everything from legibility and practical issues of font on the web to emotion and stereotypes of certain typefaces.

Ampersand Conf 2015 by Ashley Nye

Marcin Wichary spoke honestly about the experience we all have at some point in design – messy solutions to problems. It’s very relatable in this industry, but he confesses he will be going to design hell for some of the hacks he’s used. The entire audience laughed with him, finding very creative solutions to unexpected issues with medium.

Jen Simmons urged us to break out of the rut web design has fallen into, to stop creating everything to fit inside nice boxes, and use the new technology available to us. CSS shapes, as described in this fantastic article by Sara Soueidan for A List Apart, allows us to mix imagery and content in a more organic and exciting way. Experimental magazine layout has been doing this for years and it’s about time, Jen says, for the web to catch up.

Web layout by Ashley Nye

Lu Yu took us through some very interesting cultural differences and practicalities about designing for a Chinese audience. Green is seen as a negative colour in China, whereas red is lucky and has positive connotations. Also, the layout of a webpage is tricky because the direction of reading varies between the traditional top-down right-to-left columns, and the newer left-to-right in rows. There is also a huge amount of characters, making a selection of fonts, weights and variables loaded to a single page near-impossible. Researching and understanding the environment for which you are designing is crucial, and this was an eye-opening talk.

Matthew Young of Pelican books addressed the issue of e-books trying to imitate printed books, and how the design of new technologies are often based on what has gone before. This is not always beneficial to the user, instead inhibits innovation. Design should be reasoned, and as Jen Simmons pointed out earlier, that reason shouldn’t be because “we’ve always done it this way”.

Sarah Hyndman gave us insight into the wonderful world of typeface psychology and the experiments she conducts. Relating typeface to emotion, feeling and even the senses, Sarah could comfortably predict the ways the audience would interpret different fonts. We played Typeface Tinder, and chose one that we would ‘date’. She also showed us that you could manipulate the perception of sweet and sour based on font. The power of type is truly incredible – and “designers should use this power for good”. Which is lovely to hear. I’m all for ethical design, first and foremost.

This isn’t a complete list of speakers, and there was far more to experience in person. Unfortunately, you really needed to be there to benefit from the enthusiasm and feel truly inspired. Hopefully next year ampersand will be back, bigger and better than ever.

Follow @ampersandconf on Twitter to stay updated, and to view the speakers slides in the coming week.

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12 Sep

dConstruct 2015

“The first guy made me want to build robots. The last guy made me want to change the world.”

Ashley Nye dConstruct 2015

That’s what I said when we left dConstruct 2015, the absolutely amazing conference on designing the future held at the Brighton Dome yesterday. I always come away from Brighton Digital events feeling inspired. Passion, enthusiasm and excitement is contagious, and we’re very lucky to have such a great community of coders, designers, makers, and doers.

I got to listen to a whole bunch of really great people talk about things they love, things I love, raise questions, highlight opportunities and best of all, make me think.

Also I got to play with lasers, a giant 3D pac-man, send a postcard to my future self 5 years from now, try and fail to make an origami llama/unicorn, and meet some really cool minds.


So here’s a brief overview of the talks:

  1. Brian David Johnson made me want to build robots. I want a robot I can teach to walk and wave at me because his robot, Jimmy, was just too exciting for words. He made it clear we can DO this stuff. All of us. Why aren’t we building more robots? Why isn’t that part of arts and crafts time at school? I want it to be right up there with playing in the sand pit, learning the times table, and building a robot. Mine would be called Dawn001, and yes, she would wear a cape because “every robot should have a cape”. And her skill and purpose would be to play frisbee, because everyone needs a cape-wearing, frisbee-playing robot.Dawn001 Ashley Nye robot illustrationThe technology is all there, our imagination is the limit. We just need to “change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in”.
  2. Matt Novak, lover of The Jetsons and the comic Closer than we think! showed us by looking lovingly at past futuristic visions that the future won’t come all at once, and won’t come in the form we imagined.
  3. John Willshire gave an mind-boggling presentation about Metadesign, some really interesting card-sorting style techniques to create rapidly evolving ideas and the advantages of mapping.
  4. Josh Clark showed us why Harry Potter is magical (and even demonstrated some ‘magic’ himself). There is “one goal: the computer disappears into the environment” (Alan Kay) and that is what Clark envisages. A world with a simpler design and a more natural interaction with technology. This would be infinitely more satisfying, more social, and bring us back into the world again. He says we should use “phones to caption our lives rather than frame them”. This is music to my ears. I can’t wait for a world where we can have a conversation in a restaurant again…
  5. Chris Noessel took us through some very BIG problems with the user interfaces in popular sci-fi movies. I laughed, I was entertained, but essentially he’s ruined Iron Man and Star Wars for me. Thanks Chris – the designer in me is enlightened but I still want to believe that Tony Stark is as cool as we are led to believe and not just about to destroy everything around him.
  6. Nick Foster gave a talk on the mundane which was actually very interesting. The word ‘mundane’ used to mean ordinary, normal, even dull to me. Now I realise that ‘mundane’ also denotes ‘of the world’ and that there’s a real benefit to framing your designs in the context of the ordinary world. New products will be placed into an already existing environment. How will it fit in/interact with that? Also, I learnt from Nick the importance of planning for breakages. The thing you design will go wrong. How will you handle that?
  7. Carla Diana showed us some amazing examples of a storybook she designed, with characters that can be 3D printed by the reader. This is just one example of a use for the technology we have to create things to interact with.
  8. Ingrid Burrington made me think. She gave a wonderful talk about resistance, leading onto a whole manner of topics to think about, all framed nicely by the Terminator series.
  9. Dan Hill talked about the major changes taking place because of technology. Technology changes. It changes whole cities, and the way we design. There’s some very interesting developments in the way of transport, in particular train stations and buses driven by demand.
  10. Mark Stevenson spoke passionately about the need to change. There are so many opportunities for change now if only we would do something about it. Everyone needs to listen to this talk. He made me want to change the world. And yes, I’ll offset my carbon emissions because it’s the right thing to do.


You can listen to all the dConstruct talks at http://archive.dconstruct.org.

Thanks to Clearleft for organising such a brilliant event.

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22 Mar

Women’s History Month: Edmonia Lewis

Picture 215

I created this illustration of Edmonia Lewis in celebration of Women’s History Month, in the style of some of her work. Lewis was an African American sculptor specialising in marble portrait busts. She spent the majority of her adult working life in Rome, using the marble to create amazing neoclassical pieces.

Find out more about Edmonia Lewis here.

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17 Mar

She Codes Brighton’s Tech in 10

She Codes Brighton (@SheCodesBtn) put on a brilliant event last night, as part of the Spring Forward celebration of women in digital industries.

There was a fantastic variation of topics by the all-female speakers. The line up included ten minute technical talks on Ruby and Rails, Python and Django, WAI-ARIA, native mobile development, computer forensics, IT in education, Design for Hackers and an introduction to Arduino.

Highlights include:

  • a flip flopping, double splatting Glinda the Good
  • a dabble into real-life CSI
  • colour palettes on LSD
  • a demonstration on how to make Lego even more fun than it already is

Along with the informative and entertaining presentations was an atmosphere She Codes should be proud of. The friendly, supportive and welcoming vibes are exactly the way to encourage more women into programming.

Click here to visit their website and find out more.


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09 Mar

Women’s History Month: Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an American computer scientist, and often celebrated as “The Queen of Code”. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, back in 1944. She developed the first working compiler, as well as working to develop the programming language COBOL.

Grace Hopper by Ashley Nye

She is also often associated with the first use of the term “debugging”, after removing a moth from malfunctioning equipment. She has paved a way for more women in computing, and her name is used as a celebration for women in technology.

“The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is the World’s Largest Gathering of Women Technologists”. – gracehopper.org

There is still a huge gender gap in this field – women account for just 18% of undergraduate degrees awarded for computer science. An interesting article by Selena Larson highlights a few possible reasons for this.

The best way to tackle this problem is education in schools. Getting girls interested in computing can change the way we see this male-dominated industry. There are also more women-orientated coding meet ups, such as She Codes in Brighton. A quick google search reveals more and more of these popping up, a great encouragement for a female in the digital industry!

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04 Mar

Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

March is Women’s History Month.

Rosa Parks by Ashley Nye

© 2015 Ashley Nye

This year will be 60 years since Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger while riding a bus in Alabama. She became an important symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

Directly as a result of her arrest, a boycott was arranged, asking all black people to avoid using the buses in Montgomery.

“The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.” – Rosa Parks

One of the interesting parts of this is the way in which the boycott was arranged. Jo Ann Robinson knew that something had to be done urgently, and mimeographed over 35,000 handbills in one night announcing a bus boycott. The Women’s Political Council distributed these thousands of leaflets, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott went ahead successfully.

Today, we have it much easier; access to quick, creative tools and the most fantastic distribution method imaginable. It will always take courage to speak out against injustice. But if Parks can stay sitting on that bus, facing what she faced. And if Robinson can arrange to spread the word without all the benefit of technology we have now, just think what is possible.

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27 Feb

The big colour debate: gold/white or blue/black?

99% of my Facebook feed last night consisted of arguments about the colour of one (terribly over-exposed photograph of a) dress.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 08.10.02

Personally, I can only see white and gold. I see no black at all. But a little editing shows why people can see it both ways…



On the left, I only see white and gold. On the right, I see black and blue. In the middle, the original, I now see a similarity between both left and right pictures. Basically, it is all about perception – and this is why I find colour so fascinating.

My other half is colour blind. I really enjoy this, and often ask him what colours he sees when I’m working on a project. It’s easy to forget that most people will see a different version to you. How much of this is ‘taste’ and how much is ‘perception’ I have no idea. When deciding on paint colours in B&Q, after much disagreement, my husband jokingly put forth the idea that maybe we both like the same colour, we just see them differently.

This could well be the case. It is not beyond the realms of possibility. Throw into the mix that there are different types of colour blindness and it becomes increasingly impossible to know just what another person sees.



So where does this leave us from a design point-of-view?

Well, you will generally know if you see things differently to everyone else. I will always remember back in art college, an ex-student working as a children’s book illustrator came back to show us his work. He was colour-blind, and his work was extraordinary. It had a palette that was subtle and unique in a way that I would struggle to produce. He had to have some input with his colour choices though, if I remember rightly.

There is, and will always be, a collaborative effort in the best design work. Design is about creating for somebody else, and we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Your preference is just as valid as anybody else’s. Equally, if other folks see black and blue, that’s a consideration you should probably factor in!

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