Outside The Box – Prototype

Here at Proboscis, we’ve just recently finished a prototype of “Outside The Box”, created by Many Tang.  The project was conceived back in September, spurred by the Love Outdoor Play campaign, and we’ve been constructing and tinkering with it since. Last week blazed past in a frenzy of activity, with everyone pitching in to get a working set finished. On Saturday, Alice took a set to “Re-Thinking Space”, a day-long discussion in Nottingham organised by Learning Space, to play around with.

A set of  27 Storycubes to inspire children’s play, indoors or out, alone or with others, this cube of cubes has 3 layers of games which can be used in endless variations. We’re currently thinking about different ways to play, and producing an eBook of game suggestions, so we’ll soon be having fun testing them on ourselves and with kids. See more photos here.

inspiration making

Sneaky peek at Mandy’s desk

While Mandy was out at lunch Alice and I pounced on the StoryCube puzzle she’s working on because, well, because it looks gorgeous! Pencil sketches of farmyard animals, sea creatures, flowers, kittens, insects and snakes are scattered across a set of nine cubes and lie on a background of  shades of blue. The sketches cross over from one side of the cube to another but change as you rotate the cube so that viewing different sides give the sketches a fantastical feel where kittens have flowers for feet and cows have snakes instead of mouths.

The nine cubes are intended as a puzzle with the goal being to match up all of the sketches of one type across all nine cubes. Sounds simple doesn’t it.. well, Alice and I didn’t manage it in the time Mandy was out for lunch!

ps. I also have to say good-bye today. This will be my last regular post for the bookleteer blog because I begin a full-time research position on Monday. I’ve been working with Proboscis on and off for the past five years and it’s been an incredible journey. I can’t thank Giles and Alice enough for the opportunities I’ve had while I’ve been here – and especially for giving me the chance to meet and work with all the fabulous talented people who’ve been in the studio over that time. Good luck with everything, folks!

residencies sharing

Words as Texture

One of my favourite sets of Story Cubes is the Pharmaceutical Cubes created by Kenneth Goldsmith in 2008.

Inspired and intrigued by the extensive warnings and disclaimers that accompany advertisements of pharmaceutical drugs, he found that these documents sometimes covered 43 pages or almost 7000 words. Kenneth took six of these documents and re-formatted them for the Story Cubes. Fitting all of the text on one cube meant that the font had to be reduced to 1-point. When justified and coloured the result is a set of unreadable Story Cubes created entirely out of words.

Describing the ideas behind the cubes and their construction Kenneth writes:

“I have often talked about how today in writing, quantity has trumped quality; it is the writer’s job to manage the amount of available language. In sculpting these documents, I found my perfect material. Squeezed into 1-point type, then justified, I created columns of unreadable texts: words as texture. When folded into cubes, these warnings – secretly embedded into the pills we take – are reconstituted into three-dimensional forms, creating a new type of placebo.”

I love the idea of words as texture or words as material. It places writing firmly in the realm of craft and making, reminding us that through the length and flow of the text writers are shaping books as much as any designer. For example, these images by Dave McKean would probably look quite different with more or less text on the page. It’s also a reminder that when I’m thinking about the form of the eBook and Story Cubes with projects such as pop-up eBooks and cube cameras I shouldn’t forget about words entirely..

Read more by Kenneth Goldsmith about his inspiration and download the Story Cubes at

And now I’m off on holiday for a few days and Hazem is going to be writing for the bookleteer blog while I’m gone. I think I’ll let him introduce himself.. Enjoy!

examples inspiration making

James Bridle: Bookcubes and bookleteer API

A set of Bookcubes generated using the bookleteer API

James Bridle of was one of the participants at the Pitch Up and Publish: Augmented Reading a couple of weeks ago, and he talked a little about the idea of books as symbols and the related BookCube project he’d done using the bookleteer API.

Here, I’ll just give a summary of the project. James has written a post on describing the project which I really recommend you to read because it’s seriously interesting and covers more topics than I describe here…

James started with the idea that the lifespan of a book looks something like the drawing in the image above. There is a short period of the book-as-object acting as it’s own advertisement, then a period of time where you are reading the book and taking in the content, then during the final, and longest, amount of time the book-as-object acts as a souvenir of the reading period.

James has already begun to address the idea of digital souvenirs for eBooks with his bkkeepr project and with the bookleteer API he extended this to create automatically generated Bookcubes. These cubes display the information collected by bkkeepr and includes an image of the book cover. Over time James imagines the Bookcubes to build up on your shelf as a visible and tangible souvenir of your eBook reading. For bookleteer, this is an interesting tangent – instead of being an object to read it becomes an object that marks the fact that reading has taken place – and the content becomes separated from the form.


Evil Mad Scientists: Paper Circuits

In my search for augmented cubes I came across these LED-lit origami cube by the Evil Mad Scientists. They are made from a single sheet of paper folded to make a cube with an LED and battery inside. The components are your basic LED Throwie however the way the cube folds calls for what the scientists call ‘3-D circuitry’.

For this, the scientists mark the circuit on the paper with a pencil then attach aluminium foil to either freezer paper (Do we even have this in the UK?) or a laser-printed image of the circuit. Once you’ve attached the foil to the paper using the heat of an iron, you fold the cube, insert the LED and battery and Bob’s your uncle!

The cut-out aluminium foil and the laser-printed image of the circuit

I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to try this out, and I’m certain that it’s a more challenging process than the very detailed instructions suggest, but I love the idea of combining this with the bookleteer eBooks and Story Cubes. I can imagine an eBook where the pages consist of circuit diagrams that the reader prints out and completes by ironing on aluminium foil. Of course, that would probably mean the reader putting as much work into making the book as the author..

Attaching the foil to the image of the circuit


Miguel Mora: Flat Futures

In my quest for innovative cubes I came across the disposable Paper Alarm Clock by Miguel Mora a graduate from the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art. This project is one of a series by Miguel called Flat Futures which investigates the future of paper in the electronic age. Miguel describes the question behind Flat Futures in this way:

“We live in a ‘paper’ culture. Our everyday life is linked to paper objects, but we have always been led towards a paperless future. What if we could ‘enhance’ paper instead of getting rid of it?”

Miguel sees a future in which electronics – processors, batteries and displays – are printed onto flat and flexible surfaces rather than contained inside them and asks how will this change our relationship to these objects.

In the Paper Alarm Clock project Miguel explores these questions by creating an alarm clock out of a sheet of paper that would be screwed up to stop it ringing. The paper could then be straightened out and the alarm clock is ready for the next day.

Considering Flat Futures in relation to the networked system and shareable objects of bookleteer makes these questions even more complex, interesting and relevant. Currently bookleteer allows electronic files to be shared between people who can then print out those files and transform these printed sheets of paper into tangible objects – eBooks and Story Cubes. Flat Futures allows us to imagine a future in which these shareable tangible objects contain electronic components, in which you might email an alarm clock and download a table lamp.