Visual communication and COVID-19

A design colleague working with kids in mandatory quarantine asked for suggestions as to ways to gamify the process of giving children coronavirus nasal swab tests, preferably using paper (as it’s disposable). This was my first thought.

If you’d like to use it with kids yourself but don’t draw, download a double-sided printable PDF here.

Then print to both sides of the paper and pop a little hole where the nostril is.

If you use it, let me know how you go.

When the pandemic kicked off, annoyed by the lack of useful government communications, I did a “volunteer”…


What do designers look like to “normal” people, and how does it affect their work’s impact?

“We Got Told To F*** Right Off”

I read David Graeber’s recent piece The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the ‘Brexit Election’,which was not about design thinking. It, nevertheless, brought my thinking around to “approaches to design”, and to the way we communicate about design.

The part of the piece that shot a flare up for me was when he began to discuss the values of the professional/administrative/bureaucratic class of workers vs. that of the “caring classes” (people engaged in service/care work):

Whereas the core value of the caring classes is, precisely, care, the core value of the professional-managerials might best be described as…


A Squishface Studio exhibition of “serious” comics/graphics

Riso print tests of Ben Hutchings’ piece “Infectious”

Justify my love

The time is long past that “comics” as an art/writing/communication medium needs to be justified artistically or compared to others.

Which is better, poetry or paintings?

Which is for “smart” people, film or books?

Stupid, right?

Yet, this recent tweet from Leela Corman:

“Comics aren’t literature” is a bad-faith argument that indicates lack of experience beyond corporate comics. I thought comics academia had gotten past their unfortunate focus on superhero product. Don’t @ me if this you, I mean it.

So — from this we learn that I am wrong. Comics obviously does need to be justified, even to so-called…


On October 6 I’m running a pretty exciting design event in Melbourne called xDiscipline. The idea is: hear from and work with our special guests — Dr. Steven Curry, Tanja Kovac and Geoff Paine — with the goal of learning how their disciplines can inform your own.

In the lead-up I’m doing interviews with our guests to give you a sense of who they are and what we might be doing on the day.

Last week I spoke with science communicator/actor Geoff Paine. Here’s some questions with activist, lawyer and political consultant Tanja Kovac…

A cartoon image of Tanja Kovac
A cartoon image of Tanja Kovac

xDiscipline is a design event focusing…


On October 6 I’m running a pretty exciting design event in Melbourne called xDiscipline. The idea is: hear from and work with our special guests — philosopher/ethicist Dr. Steven Curry, political consultant/activist Tanja Kovac and actor/science communicator Geoff Paine — with the goal of learning how their disciplines can inform your own.

In the lead-up I’m doing some short interviews with our guests to give you a sense of who they are and what we might be discussing on the day.

Here’s the first, with Geoff Paine.

1. xDiscipline is a design event focusing on the things we can learn…


And why did I decide to put on my own “design” event?

xDiscipline: a practical problem-solving conference
xDiscipline: a practical problem-solving conference
Well, for a start, I think everybody should try holding their own design conference.

In 2017 I was privileged enough to deliver a talk at UX Australia with my colleague Luke Watson. It was about our experience design work in IAG’s Digital Labs division.

We ended this talk by stressing the need for diversity in design teams.

“A team of designers, even exciting innovative designers — you can become homogenous in the same way that a “business” team can. It’s, I don’t think, any different. You just need to be aware.”


In human-centred design we learn from individuals through observation or interviews. We’re often told to “let go of your biases”, but what does that mean in practice?

Our team is interviewing about ten people today. My interviewing partner and I will tackle three of these interviews together. We’re trying to learn about how communities can be supported to prepare for disasters.

The subject of our first interview, “Donna”, sits down, having been ushered in by a colleague. A middle-aged lady, she’s a recent convert to the smartphone. She laughs. “It hasn’t got buttons!”

My first impression is of someone you’d wait behind at the IGA while she talks the ear off the counter-boy. She reminds me of my family.

Donna tells us she loves where she’s living…


Things I tell people when they ask me about visualisation work

I’ve been asked for advice on sketchnoting/visual scribing lately so I thought I’d roll what I often tell people into a post.

Illustrations are from a scribe I did for the Natural Capital Summit in Brisbane (part of Climate Week QLD last week), thanks to the teams at ClimateWorks Australia and Collabforge.

Trying scribing

When I was getting started doing this work, Gavin Blake suggested I get a little whiteboard and practice on TED talks. This is good advice, as TED talks are short, honed to within an inch of their lives, and hew to a pretty standard format where the point…


What do illustrators in Australia want from a peak body?

Above: Jase Harper‘s arm working on comics

The Australian Cartoonists Association goes back to the 1920s. It began as a series of artist balls, became a social club and venue for life model sketching, went into hibernation, then rejuvenated and became a national professional association in the ‘80s.

When I was elected Deputy President I wanted to better understand where the ACA sits in Australia’s wider cartooning/comics/illustration industry, so I designed a survey asking questions about the work of cartoonists today.

What sort of work do we do? Who pays for it? What do we want from a cartooning organisation? What IS cartooning in 2019?

David Blumenstein

David works in service/strategic design: experienceillustration.com. He draws comics at Squishface Studio: squishfacestudio.com. Other stuff: nakedfella.com.

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