Design in service of cultural heritage
Welcome. We're in London and our current research thinking is about deliberate notes to the future, objects as receptacles and prompts, and delicately networked metadata. We do R&D with clients, and for ourselves.
Work With Us
We love meeting museum, archive and library professionals, and especially working to make your lives easier through smart design. Good, Form & Spectacle is available for a few different kinds of work: data strategy, exploration design, software engineering, and product development.
We offer services like making functional prototypes very quickly, helping you see your own data in a new way, collaboratively scoping things, and reporting on something you're interested in. Our clients include:
- Open Climate Fix NEW
Designing new user interfaces for watching solar photovoltaic (PV) outputs "for the next few hours", called nowcasting. If solar PV can be anticipated more accurately, we can use less fossil fuels.
- Flickr NEW
I was asked by Flickr's new owners to return to figure out how to revitalize the Flickr Commons program, which I invented and launched back in 2008. I've written a research report and laid out a strategy for 2021-2023 to do it. "insightful and generous" ∞
- The National Archives (UK)
Fast design splat to help generate ideas for interface concepts around Topics, Creators, Subjects and other aggregate views not present in the current Discovery interface. Written up on the Work Diary. "We will definitely be taking these ideas further" - Jo Pugh
- IIIF Consortium
Made the complicated world of huge-scale delivery of digital objects more legible to people who aren't programmers. The result of this user research, information architecture, and copywriting is a new website, going live soon. We'll update with a link to more info about the work then.
- The National Heritage Community Fund
I was brought in to help build out the prototype digital infrastructure to gather work-in-progress content from the 52 projects supported by the TNLCF's Emerging Futures Fund.
Installed for two weeks in the M+ Labs, we built a new spelunker to visualise the collection and usage rights for new staff to the organisation, written up on Medium: Part 1 - Digging into Data + Part 2 - Navigating Contemporary Copyright.
- Wikimedia Foundation
Researched and presented on the Commons platform state of play, with a focus on the new user experience, encouraging more institutional participation, and the Structured Data Commons initiative. Read How could Wikimedia Commons be improved? A conversation with designer George Oates.
The Museum of Modern Art commissioned us to make a spelunker for their unique exhibition history data. It became an exploration of institutional dynamics, and not art. There's a Work Diary entry, too.
- British Museum
Built a responsive collection explorer for the stunning Waddesdon Bequest. (We like to call it our Tiny Spelunker.)
- Wellcome Library
- Het Nieuwe Instituut
For the fourth instalment of New Archive Interpretations, HNI commissioned George Oates to analyse the challenges of current born digital archiving practice. This mostly resulted in writing: Part I, Part II, and an interview with curator Annet Dekker.
Helped realign strategic goals towards local history gathering, which included scoping new interaction models and data design
- Tech for Good
Played a "critical friend" and facilitator at a two-day workshop for Comic Relief
- Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Researched and wrote a report on SBT image supply and licensing workflow in the global context
- The Postal Museum
Our first on-site physical interactive piece, we built a touch table to explore the museum's fantastic archival photography, philately, and graphic design collections. Read the Work Diary entry.
On-Site Installation of Our Team
As our workload allows, we enjoy being thrown into an existing working team for a period of time where we can contribute constructively on-site. We generally charge time and materials for this kind of engagement, unless there’s a very specifically scoped piece of work to get done. A friend described this type of work as a "small, smart bomb squad" which we quite like.
- What's In The Library? at Wellcome Library in London. "Fascinating and very clever." ∞ July-August 2015
- Inside a New Museum at M+ Museum in Hong Kong. "Great work. Love the woodchipper!" ∞ April 2019
Research & Development
There's a hum of R&D at Good, Form & Spectacle. We want our R&D to strengthen our client work, and vice versa. Keep an eye on work results on our Work Diary blog.
- Have a play with Netflix-O-Matic (now archived in the Wayback Machine). It's a fun toy we made to help you discover movies you didn't know you wanted to watch. October 2014
- The V&A Spelunker was our first public lo-fi collection explorer. January 2015
- The Small Museum, is on a slow simmer. It's intended as an ersatz museum we can use to fully explore every element of small museums, and importantly, what sorts of tools they might need. We're up to V4, looking for a small shopfront in London now. ongoing
- Our first product R&D was Museum in a Box, which spun out of a day experimenting with IoT at The Small Museum in March 2015. We continue to explore ideas around content vs collection and the networked object in this fun prototype. We've now launched it as a separate company, Museum in a Box Ltd, and are making bespoke commissions for The British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution amongst others. March 2015 - ongoing
- The British Museum is the first public museum in the world. Independent of the museum, we made an online explorer called Two Way Street to help you fossick about unattended in its truly global collection. Sadly, we can no longer justify the expense of keeping it online, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, you can still experience twoway.st somewhat."twoway.st is an *unsolicited interface* - provocative and powerful new methodology" ∞ April 2015
We are always interested in applied research, so if you’re trying to find a way to develop a concept or build a quick prototype, we can probably help you. We normally charge time and materials for this sort of work, and we favour projects that may be useful to the broader community.
If you're looking for help with a project, please get in touch.
We're also using a newsletter thingy called TinyLetter to send out infrequent* email updates.
* When we say infrequent, it's likely you'll have forgotten signing up before you get the next one.
A Fun Side Project
Did you know most of the original Grimms tales had no female characters at all? We've self-published a book of reshaped fairy tales called If Only The Grimms Had Known Alice, to see what it feels like when soldiers are women, kings are queens, and it's daughters who leave home to seek their fortunes.
George Oates, Director
glo @ gfns.uk | @ukglo
George has been working online since 1996. She's a designer, producer, maker; part of the founding team at Flickr, doing interface/copy/system design; invented Flickr Commons, director/designer of Open Library at Internet Archive; art director at Stamen. Now, Good, Form & Spectacle.
George's particular skills lie in designing interfaces people don't have to think about, quickly understanding complex systems, remembering the humans, challenging status quo by asking why a lot, and making people feel comfortable with and excited about change.
She grew up in Adelaide, Australia, and —like many other Arts students—fell onto the internet in the mid-90s, and has deftly made things up since then. With an abiding interest in humanity and culture, she's finally managed to steer her career in that direction after years of learning.
George has spoken internationally about her work since 2005 - see upcoming appearances - and serves on the British Library Labs advisory board, and is a former research associate of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
She is also CEO and Founder of Museum in a Box, an edtech product company making a new play on the old idea of museum handling collections, exploring how simple tech and replica objects can radically increase access to cultural holdings, and encourage actual dialogue around them.
Bill Sherman, Board Member Director of The Warburg Institute | @billsherman_
Bill Sherman recently joined The Warburg Institute as its Director. Previous to that, he was Director of Research and Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he lead the development of a V&A Research Institute. He moved to the V&A from the University of York, where he was Director of the Centre for Renaissance & Early Modern Studies. He works on the ways in which objects come down to us from the past, what they pick up along the way, and how they speak across time and space. He is best known for his work on marginalia and has published widely on the history of reading and the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
Eliza Gregory, Advisor
Artist | @elizagregory | elizagregory.com
Eliza Gregory is an artist and educator. Her work illuminates diverse experiences in a given community using images, relationships, interactions, interviews, events and many other media. Trained as a fine art photographer, a creative writer and a social practice artist, Eliza lives and works in San Francisco.
Frankie Roberto, Collaborator
Creative technologist | @frankieroberto
Kate Elswit, Advisor
Reader in Theatre and Performance, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London | kateelswit.org
Kate is an academic, curator, and dancer, and likes when those jobs get mixed-up together. Her books are about the strange things spectators claimed to see while watching dance during the Weimar Republic (Oxford University Press, 2014), as well as the interdependence between theatre and dance (forthcoming 2017), and she has also published widely on exile and migration, bodies in technology and medicine, digital humanities, archives and reenactment, interdisciplinary performance, infrastructures of circulation, and modernism in and beyond Europe. Her recent performance collaborations have been seen in the US, UK, Sweden, Austria, India, and Singapore.
Phil Gyford, Collaborator
Creative technologist | @philgyford
For most of the 21st century Phil has been working freelance, designing and building websites and prototypes for companies such as the BBC, Channel 4, Google, MoMA, the British Museum (Waddesdon Bequest) and many more (often with G,F&S).
Rebekah Ford, Collaborator
UX, Designer, Artist | @rebekahford
Rebekah is a veteran UX specialist and web developer. She joined the crew to work on the iiif.io website redesign, focussing on user research and interviews.
Tom Armitage, Collaborator
Technologist & Designer | @infovore
Tom is a technologist, designer and writer. He makes things, often on the Internet, out of code and words. He helped build Two Way Street, for example.
Tom Stuart, Collaborator
Engineer | @tomstuart
Tom is a proper computer programmer specialising in Computer Science, programming, software engineering, Ruby on Rails, OCaml, Java. He helped on the Wellcome What's In The Library? project, for example.
Good, Form & Spectacle aims to establish a multi-disciplinary community of international thinkers, researchers, craftspeople and other practitioners to explore new intellectual territory in the fields of culture, society, art and technology exchange for fun, stimulation, and, well, PROFIT! Research, noodling and experimentation are at the heart of our practice, and many diverse opinions make for better thinking.
So far, we've hosted:
- Thalia Nielson, a Masters of Museum Studies graduate from Dublin
- Eliza Gregory, a social practice artist from San Francisco
- Charlie Cattel-Killick, a sustainable product design student from Cornwall
- Imogen Piper, a Goldsmiths University of London design student
- Michał Moskal, a tinkerer from Microsoft Research
- Rosalind Parker, a PhD researcher studying religiosity in public space, scenography, and urban ecology
- Madeleine Goodall, a Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies masters student at the University of East Anglia
- Kate Chan, a Goldsmiths University of London design student
- Laura Kate Gibson, a PhD candidate in Digital Humanities at King's College London
- James Delbourgo, Associate Professor: History of Science and Atlantic World at Rutgers
- Michelle Wong, a Goldsmiths University of London design student
If you'd like to explore a research question with us, please get in touch. Terms of a research residency can be negotiated, and we may be able to provide some in-kind support if the timing is right.
© 2014-2022 • Good, Form & Spectacle Ltd. is registered in England. Company Number: 09431632.