Too efficient?

Having a keen interest in car design I’ve long been interested in the effect the search for aerodynamic efficiency has had on their appearance.

In the post war years cars were styled by designers who didn’t have the benefit of wind tunnels to help them see how their cars actually behaved at high speed, so they took inspiration from the aircraft industry and sculpted shapes that looked sleek and fast.

This approach gave us some of the most beautiful cars ever made such as the Jaguar E-Type (designed by ex-aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer) and Lamborghini Muira, cars that looked amazing but turned out to be not particularly aerodynamic or in the case of the Muira, not stable at all at high speed. But they did look incredible.

Now though with the benefits of computer aided design and full sized wind tunnels, car designers can do remarkable things to manipulate the way air travels over and through a car. In sports car design the quest is for low drag as well as high downforce to press the car more firmly to the road as this improves grip and allows higher cornering speeds to be achieved.

High downforce is usually obtained by having a big wing hanging off the back of the car but although that creates plenty of downforce it acts like a bit like a parachute at high speed and substantially reduces high speed efficiency.

The brand new McLaren 720S is right at the forefront of aerodynamic efficiency. It carefully manages airflow through the car and it has a big wing at the back that rises up when it’s needed and drops back down when it’s not. Unusually it channels air through the headlights, along the side of the car and up over the doors into the engine. Very impressive but it’s created possibly the ugliest headlight design of any recent sports car and one that’s proving to be extremely controversial.


You can’t argue with the wind tunnel results but is this taking things a bit too far? In my opinion it’s ruined the style of an otherwise stunning looking car, easily the most impressive looking McLaren since the F1 and in my opinion way out in front of what Ferrari and Porsche are doing at the moment. But I just can’t get past those headlights.

I spent less than 5 minutes in Photoshop and blocked the air intakes and I have to say I think it improves the look enormously. A couple of percent less efficient at the limit maybe, but a lot more pleasing on the eye the other 99.99% of the time… I think it’s a compromise worth making.

See the huge improvement in the strength of your car over the last 20 years

I’ve been interested in car design for as long as I can remember and, as if I had nothing better to do, was watching the EuroNCAP crash test of the new Land Rover Discovery.

If anyone doubts just how well designed modern cars are watch the film and then, if you’re not of a nervous disposition, watch this film of some tests that didn’t go so well.

Through clever design and careful material choices the Land Rover manages to absorb most of the energy of the collision through its front crumple zones. It does this so successfully that not only can you open the front doors after the collision, but they are completely unmarked.

The second link posted above shows just how much progress has been made in recent years. The 1991 Ford Sierra (31 seconds in) crumples like an empty beer can. I had one back in the day and always thought of it as a sturdy, safe car. Thankfully I never had to put it to the test.

Some cars you would have thought would have done well like the 1997 Mercedes C-Class (5m 35s) aren’t too clever at all. However the true shocker of the bunch has to be the 1986 VW Santana. People generally consider German cars to be well engineered but this crash test is almost insanely bad (9m 17s). It’s hard to believe just how horrific this is, especially bearing in mind this was a large and heavy car.

However, most of the car models on the film are reaching the end of their lives and thankfully, as they gradually disappear from our roads, they are being replaced by much safer, better designed vehicles. The progress designers have made over the last few years has been nothing less than extraordinary.

Before the EuroNCAP crash tests were introduced 23,000 people every year were killed in car accidents in the UK and that’s now been reduced to 8,500, even though there are a lot more cars on the road.

In the Dock…

Almost every time I see someone using a Mac, the Dock is usually set at the bottom of the page and the icons are almost always HUGE.

The Dock has been around so long it’s something I hardly ever think about but it’s very configurable and can be fine tuned in loads of ways. You can put the icons for often used folders into it too which saves time accessing regularly used files.

Here an interesting article covering some of the many things the Dock can do. And please, make your Dock icons smaller, you’ll enjoy the extra screen space…

The importance of good typography

oscarsEverything that Benjamin Bannister says here is bang on. I thought the same the second I saw the card being shown to the camera.

As usual the organisation itself feels that it must take top billing so the Oscars brand is the first thing the reader sees and is the biggest thing on the page. Why?

People read from the top down so a card like this is a very simple thing to lay out. The award category should be the first thing you see when you open the envelope so that you are 100% sure you’ve been given the right one. It might sound obvious given what happened but if I was standing there in front of billion people and I’ve just been handed a blank envelope by a complete stranger I would want an obvious visual cue that I’ve got the right bit of paper in my hands as I nervously prepare to read it out.

The name to be read out should be extremely obvious with the supporting information under it in small type (it’s only incidental and will not be read out so there’s no need to have it even as large as Benjamin Bannister has illustrated above).

Bad typography is everywhere in corporate communications and big companies are every bit as guilty as small ones. Some of the Powerpoint presentations I’ve come across would almost make your eyes water. They are often badly organised with no thought whatsoever given to the importance of individual items on the page, how the information flows, how readable the information is (small text set over busy images seems to be a particular favourite) or how appropriate the font choice is for the target market.

It might sound like the kind of moan you would expect someone with an interest in design to come out with but it’s really not difficult to organise information in a logical and readable way and it can really make a difference in how effectively you put your message across. It just takes a few moments to think about the key points you’re trying to make, what’s important and what’s less important. And you don’t need to have any design skill at all. The massive hoo-ha at the Oscars wouldn’t have happened if someone paid a little bit more attention…

Is there a future in UK heavy industry?

Just heard a discussion on Radio Scotland regarding the sad closure of the steel plants in Motherwell and Cambuslang. An American from the University of Strathclyde made the point that these industries are dead and we should let them close, leaving them to the Chinese and Indians. This is crazy. As a country we need to hold on to our critical industries.

We need quality steel for the oil industry and, as offshore renewables have the potential to become a major UK industry, our use of steel is not likely to reduce. We’re making more cars in this country than ever before, many of which require special high strength steels. Chinese steels are of such low quality that the oil and gas industry can’t use them.

When we lose our ability to make our own steel we will never get it back and will rely on foreign imports from that point on.

One reason why the Chinese can undercut the Europeans is that they don’t have the same environmental restrictions as we do. In short their steel is filthy and is causing huge environmental damage to the steelmaking areas of China. We are allowing them to kill our domestic industries by dumping millions of tonnes of low quality steel, the production of which has had a horrific effect on the environment. It’s hardly a fair fight is it?

One guy on Radio Scotland made a great point that in the 1970’s when Rolls Royce went bust, rather than close the factories, the Government stepped in and financed them until they finished the development of their new jet engine family. This became a massive success and as a result we still have aero industry in this country with tens of thousands of highly paid jobs and Rolls Royce is a word leader the world in the production of modern jet engines.

Seeing the bigger picture is what Government is supposed to do. Finland, Italy and France still have huge shipbuilding industries because they invested in new technology and that investment has been paid back many times over.

Heavy industry is not industry of the past. It has a future in the rest of the world, why not here?

New website for Gift Voucher Solutions

Gift Voucher Solutions offer restaurants and hotels a simple and commission free way to sell gift vouchers to their customers directly on their website. The system is easy to install and users get the money into their accounts instantly without paying commission.

As well as building the website, JMD developed new branding which has been taken through to their stationery, promotion materials and social marketing channels, as well as their customer facing portal.

See the website here –

Phone and laptop battery myths explained

What to know more about how to take care of your phone and laptop batteries? Interesting story on lifehacker about modern battery technology. It’s good to know that leaving your phone charging overnight isn’t (contrary to popular opinion) doing it any damage.


New website for Award Winning Lanarkshire Garden Centre


Gouldings Garden Centre in the Clyde Valley has just won the titles of Best Indoor Retailer in Scotland and Best Outdoor Retailer in Scotland at the recent GCA Awards in Dundee. They also came runner up in the Best Garden Centre in Scotland category.

JMD have just built them  a brand new website, have a look here.

What’s best: Windows 10 or Apple OS X El Capitan?

Apple and Microsoft both have fresh new operating systems to plug and the age old question of what’s best rears it’s head again. Here are a couple of reviews taken from both sides of the divide:
MacWorld Review
Windows Central Review

Unsurprisingly, longtime Mac and PC users have their favourites (as can be read on the reviews above) and now that I’ve tested both I’m still firmly in the Mac camp.

Windows 10 does look like a great upgrade but my Windows 10 installation has ground my laptop almost to a halt and needs to be reinstalled which is never a good sign. However the reason I got to thinking of this was dealing with a customer today who was using Windows 8.

Talking over the phone I asked him to go to his website webmail. It’s just a simple matter of typing /webmail at the end of your website address in the address bar at the top of your browser and should take no more than two seconds.

However Microsoft in its wisdom has chosen to hide the address bar for some inexcusable reason. The chap I was talking to was not particularly technically minded and what followed was an incredibly frustrating episode which should have never happened (there’s no easy way to get round this as something like a webmail entry page is not indexed by Google so you can’t just type it into a Google search). Why hide the address bar in a browser? Why?

Until Microsoft stops doing really dumb stuff like this I don’t think any fair minded person who has used both platforms can really say they are ahead of Apple for most people.

El Capitan is a solid upgrade. It looks pretty much the same but there are useful tweaks everywhere. It seems to be a bit snappier too which is always welcome. I can’t see me ditching the Mac for my main workstation any time soon.

Starfish Construction website

Starfish-WebsiteI’ve just built a website for Starfish Construction.

Based in New Stevenson, near Motherwell, Starfish are specialists in building cladding solutions.

See the website here.