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Supporting legendary punk artists and bands has became a tradition of our studios in Asia and this year we are sponsoring the 40th Anniversary World Tour of The Professionals. Former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook accompanied by Chris McCormack, Tom Spencer and Toshi will be playing in Hong Kong on the 10th December at Grappa’s Cellar.

Originally born in 1979, the British punk band split up after three years and decided to get back together in 2015. Two years later, they produced the critically-acclaimed ‘What In The World’ album which also features several special guests, such as Marco Pirroni (Adam and The Ants), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Mick Jones (The Clash), Duff McKagan (Guns n Roses), Phil Collen (Def Leppard) and of course, Steve Jones.

Event on a glimpse:
When: 10th December 2018
Where: Grappa’s Cellar, Jardine House Connaught Road, Hong Kong.
Price: Advance ticket – $360. At the door – $400

For more details about this event and registration, visit Ticket Flap


Consumer, market and design insights sit at the very heart of design and strategy, but how can you get the best out of these vital nuggets of information? How do you make them inviting and accessible for people to digest, liberating them from the depths of the server and to the heights of engagement?

While a lot of emphasis is placed on the set up of research, conducting good research and of course analysing and translating it; here at PDD we focus on communication as well as content, from snappy PowerPoints to short movies. We took some time out recently to explore alternative methods of communicating research insights, with the aim of creating a new tool that would both inform and inspire through a more immersive experience.

Above image credit: PDD Interactive Trends Map
Featured image credit: Intersection Consulting sourced from Flickr Creative Coms

Click here to see how our researchers and designers have translated their ideas and explorations into an Interactive Trends Map. For this Beta version we used the industry sector of ‘beauty’ to help illustrate our new communication tool.

Explore our Beauty Trends Map to see how culture impacts approaches to beauty around the world. From ‘Nip-tuck norm’ in Latin America to Western cosmetics brands tapping into the lucrative China market; you can discover some of the major happenings in the world of beauty and personal care through a series of regional insights, micro trends, global influences and product examples.

Creating this got us thinking about the key points for ‘information liberation’; we have compiled a list of the top 5 take outs for stripping back, layering up and engaging your audience from busy executives to information hungry designers…

  1. Distil, distil, distil – if you think it’s too much information, it probably is! Get to the essence of the insight and avoid wrapping it up in over-elaborate narratives.
  2. Avoid layout repetition – strike a balance between consistency and variation, create points of interaction for a more immersive experience.
  3. Layer information – think of the different audiences and their needs. From top level overviews for time starved executives, to content rich and inspiring information for designers and development teams.
  4. Make it visual – use images, product examples and info graphics to illustrate data and insights, a welcome break from text heavy information.
  5. Make it a tool – rather than just an information download. Consider how your audience will use it, workshop with it, extract content for their own presentations.

If you would like to know more about our Interactive Trends Map, or other capabilities at PDD please get in touch with us at:

t: +44 (0)20 8735 1111

Graffiti and street art of a city reflects people, place, culture, society, politics and much much more. Our PDD pop-up at LDF this year was in East London, nestled in the heart of creative and sometimes controversial artistic expression. As part of our exhibition we explored graffiti around the world, understanding how the social and cultural context of each place is reflected in, and sometimes influences, the surround street art.

Here’s a low down of some of the most awe inspiring from our very own East London…

Alpha bold > unapologetic use of bold colours and typography stretches across buildings creating a burst of colour and geometry. Palettes play between harmony and contrast creating different dimensions and new interpretations depending on viewing angle and proximity.

Technique > truly amazing for technique over scale, it’s hard to imagine where the start and end points are! The contouring effect created through layering and line continuation of spray paint creates a unique style, far removed from the usual perception of ‘quick and dirty graffiti‘. On closer look the detail reveals a true understanding and control of the medium.

Texture > the surface of this brick wall has been plastered and then chipped away to create a portrait with real depth. The image feels like it has become embedded into the very fabric of the building, giving a sense of harmony with its surroundings. Natural colours of the weathered plaster and brick showing through makes its presence feel forgiving rather than intrusive.

Added dimension > seemingly inaccessible space become the canvas for street art. Security bars unintentionally form part of the overall picture, creating an added dimension and contrast between the cold hard uniformity of the bars and the colourful, multi-dynamic expression of the artist.

Animal macabre > perhaps some of the more ‘intriguing and intricate’ (for me!) came in the form of these scaled up, slight macabre animals which haunted abandoned buildings and lurked down alley ways. Devoid of colour, these monotone creations have a real intensity which seemed to reflect a darker side of their surrounds, fascinating yet slightly eerie!

Mash-up > a melting pot of culture and expression is played out on the streets of East London. Cut, past (and re-paste) of collage style art work dominated one alley way in Shoreditch. Individual pieces become layered as space for expression is gained and then lost forming bizarre mash-ups of colour, texture, pattern and style – peeled, pasted and reworked.

08_Graffiti on ISSUU

The above brochure includes six posters from our pop-up space during London Design Festival. It shows some key insights of how context impacts artists and writers across five cities spanning from US, Latin America, Europe and Asia. We hope you enjoy them! Do get in touch if you have any questions or feedback, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

“Drink some coffee and hammer up some drywall!” That’s what we did on the day before we opened up our pop-up space (three times bigger than last year!) to welcome visitors at the London Design Festival 2013.

Featured and above image credits: PDD

Highlight 1  – Eye-catching window: Curious already?

Image credit: PDD

I can’t forget about our first visitor early on Monday morning when we were setting up for Tuesday opening day; curious, he came up to the window seemingly exploring our question, ‘How does culture impact design?’

Highlight 2 – Interactive Map: Just click!

Image credit: PDD

Showcasing alternative ways to present and package design research, our designers and researcher at PDD created the Interactive Beauty Map.

Highlight 3 – Wall of culture: How do you think culture impacts design?

Image credit: PDD

A space for our visitors to share their thoughts on culture in design.

Highlight 4 – Graffiti and culture: A tour around the world!

Image credit: PDD

A whistle-stop tour around the globe, taking a look at how culture impacts graffiti and street art in different regions.

Highlight 5 – HCD taster workshop: Where ideas fizzle and pop!

Image credit: PDD

Technique sharing and idea generation in the HCD workshop.

Highlight 6 – Drinks reception: Coming together for design!

Image credit: PDD

Just in case you missed out on our PDD pop-up, you can sign up for  Newsletters where you can find more in depth insights.

Please feel free to play and share our ‘PDD Highlights at London Design Festival 2013’ video below:PDD Highlights at London Design Festival 2013 from PDD on Vimeo.

PDD Highlights at London Design Festival 2013 from PDD on Vimeo.

PDD Highlights at London Design Festival 2013 from PDD on Vimeo.

09_PDD in context

Our technical intern Paul Scopes got an amazing chance to travel to China with a project and work directly with the manufacturers. In this post Paul talks about his experiences of Hong Kong, working with Chinese workers and some of the lessons he learnt along the way.

After a year of working on a project as a PDD intern, I was given the opportunity to go to China with the project manager to oversee the first stages of production and work with the client on site. As well as appreciating the cultural differences on arrival, I was able to experience several days in a Chinese factory and gain a real insight into how products are manufactured in the world today.

About a month ago, the project manager approached me and explained that there was a possibility of embarking on a trip to China to help prepare a product for production. I was delighted with the opportunity provided by PDD, and looked forward to seeing the final stages of the project that I had worked on finally come together!

After a 12-hour flight and severe jet lag, I arrived in Hong Kong for a day of sight-seeing with our supplier – a great way to settle in and absorb the culture before starting work. The first thing I noticed about Hong Kong was the sheer amount of people – absolutely everywhere. I had known to expect a crowded city, but this was unlike anything I had seen before. It was also hard to miss the fact that all the streets were lying in the shadows of the enormous high-rise buildings above them. Looking around I had to admit, I was impressed.

On my first working day in China we drove from Hong Kong to a factory near Shenzhen. This was relatively small by Chinese standards, only employing about 100 people, certainly nothing in comparison to other huge industrial complexes that we passed on the way, which employ 1000’s of people who both work and live on site. This seemed to be a common occurrence amongst the Chinese working population.

During the project I was working with a small number of employees, overseeing them while they assembled the product. At first I found it difficult to communicate because their knowledge of English was limited and my knowledge of Chinese is non-existent. However I overcame this obstacle by first demonstrating the build procedure, and then relying on hand signals to show where it needed to be repeated when my manager was busy on other tasks. This method was effective and the product quickly took shape over the next few days. The Chinese workers were very enthusiastic and once they understood the product, they could assemble it to a high quality in a very short space of time.

The experience of working with the Chinese workers was an invaluable one. Firstly, by being on location at the factory every day I quickly came to understand its strengths as well as its limitations. This enabled me to assess what parts of our project could and couldn’t be done on-site, which in turn prevented me from wasting time making certain requests and allowed me to make the most of what we had to work with.

During the time I spent in China I think my communication skills improved dramatically – both in the way I learnt to speak to the workers there and in how best to go about further email communication with them back here in London. I understand now just how important it is to ensure my message spans the language barrier clearly and the work will be done correctly and to a high quality.

The opportunity to get a first-hand look at the manufacturing of a project I’d been working on has really been an eye-opener and I feel a lot more confident in the knowledge of the manufacturing processes, while I continue to work here at PDD.

Overall I found that my trip to China, although busy, was very interesting and I enjoyed the challenges presented to me. It has made me appreciate the scale of manufacturing in China and the possibilities that come with it, from the tiny street-side micro-manufacturing industries that may only contain a single milling machine to the huge manufacturing sites where employees live and work on-site. I can’t wait to re-visit China for another project or stage of work!


After a lovely day at the seaside our Engineering Design Consultant Georgina talks about the thrill of Ben Ainslie’s final race and her realisation of the power these games have had to bring people together.

Despite being a little way from London, the quintessential British seaside town of Weymouth is the perfect choice for the Olympic sailing venue. Tacky seaside charm complete with donkey rides, Punch and Judy shows and a carousel, all set against a majestic Georgian terraced esplanade along the bay. The hill next to Nothe Fort provided a natural tiered seating area for viewing the Olympic sailing. People filled the green area with rugs, flags and anticipation as they peered on the open water in front of them.

Olympic sailing is a tactical sport. It comprises of a series of races where you gain points for your position in each race (1st place = 1 point, 2nd = 2, etc). The final race has double points and the total score for the whole series dictates your Olympic position. Because of this, races are more often about which boat beats which, rather than whether you come first or not.

Sailors will research the weather and tide patterns for an upcoming race area in order to understand the best part of the course to sail in. Right of way rules can be used to force your opponent off-course or into bad wind. Sailors can also position themselves to disturb the air for the next boat making it is less efficient. On top of this, the sailor will constantly be tuning their boat, making adjustments to the centre of gravity, sail settings and drag depending on the wind speed and direction, and also the tide and sea state. Putting all of these things together makes sailing an incredibly technical and tactical sport, which was very exciting to watch at Olympic standard.

The range of Olympic boats each has a slightly different skill to them.

Left to right: Windsurfer, Laser Radial (women’s single-handed), Laser (Men’s single handed), Finn (men’s single-handed, heavyweight), 470 (2-handed, crew on trapeze), 49ers (2-handed, high performance with crew and helm on trapeze), Elliot 6 (3-handed, women’s match racing), Star (2-handed).

On the day we went it was Ben Ainslie’s final race in the Finn Class. I won’t repeat the coverage of this race except to say it was very exciting to watch and huge congratulations to the most successful Olympic sailor in history! I feel very privileged to have watched him in his last Olympic contest. He lived up to every expectation.

After the races we made our way back to Weymouth harbour. The atmosphere that met us was one of celebration and good spirits. Bands played and inside and outside the numerous pubs inspiring impromptu dancing and flag waving from people of many different nationalities. As we sat on the harbour wall eating our fish and chips I thought, this is what the Olympics are all about; the opportunity to put the world’s worries and conflicts aside for a few weeks and celebrate the skill of the people within them.

Following a recent business trip to the wonderful city of Sao Paulo, my colleague (Alex Crook– Human Sciences Consultant) and I decided that we wanted to pull together our top 10 most interesting facts, observations and insights. The following article gives you a flavour of some of our favourite things. Enjoy!

1. Be prepared for some serious neck-sercise, Sao Paulo is one tall metropolis in the true sense of the word. Think New York with chaos, grime and a sprinkle of samba, and you’re there. It’s a city of immense proportions, the biggest in the southern hemisphere and more helicopters and private jets than any other city in the world. You’ll quickly get used to the constant buzz of private choppers overhead delivering one of the city’s fat cats to his private helipad. It’s said to be popular to help avoid the huge traffic jams but also the possibility of muggings or even kidnap. Yikes!

2. One million Pizzas a day are eaten throughout the city. This is probably thanks to the mass of Italians who migrated to Sao Paulo in the 1890’s, when they made up half the city’s population. Mama Mia!

4. Boom-ing Economy – Brazil recently overtook the UK as the 6th largest economy, and we can understand why.  We saw a lot of pay-per-month deals and offers of credit. Let Greece, Italy and Spain be a warning to you Brazil. Spend wisely!

5. Six million cars worth of traffic jams, not a bicycle in sight, and massive hills, loads of them. I’m not sure Boris bikes would be such a hit in Sao Paulo and you better get used to the view of tail lights!

6. Japan – Sao Paulo has the biggest Japanese population outside of Japan. There are around 665,000 people of Japanese descent. We saw some cool old Japanese ladies preparing to dance,  check  this out!

7. Tattoo Central – Brazilian creativity extends to body art. They are everywhere you look and take on a really illustrative, graphical and cartoon like style. They seem particularly popular on the shins and calves. No…….I wasn’t tempted, although you can see my colleague went for a double ribbon combo below ! (he he only kidding)

8. Nespresso – I’m sure George Clooney doesn’t have to queue for his Nespresso, but the people in Sao Paulo certainly do. On a Saturday afternoon in a wealthy shopping district we saw this huge queue of Paulistanos looking for their  next  hit of caffeine.

9. Santa in Sao Paulo – Santa was a very busy man this year in Brazil, he was everywhere you looked. Poor fella must have been roasting in that suit with 28 degree heat.

10. Caipirinha’s are very very tasty! Click on the link below if you’d like to  make your own .

Have you been to Sao Paulo or Brazil? What are your thoughts? Are there any insights or observations that you saw, and we haven’t mentioned? Does this reflect consumer patterns in the other emerging markets?

We’d love to hear from you.


PDD Designer, Researcher and unofficial in-house Visual Ethnographer, James Steiner, recently went to Japan working on a project for one of our Asian clients. In what will be a three piece blog series, we will look a bit closer at some of the cultural distinctions that are manifested in the everyday design of Japan.

Unlike most European countries, the colour pink in Japan is popular with both sexes. This trans-gender (and age) role is also found in the frequent use of ‘cuties’. Whether in airport logos, cuddly toys in vending machines or on various foods packaging, small characters demonstrate the so-called ‘kawaisa’ of the Japanese culture (‘Kawaii’ is Japanese for ‘cuteness’ or ‘lovability’).

Known as a harmony-loving society, Hello Kitty or Pikachu from Pokémon-type mascots also seem to highlight the Japanese obsession with the young, innocent and many things trans-gender. Quickly becoming a popular national brand feature, the kawaisa-inspired maid cafés, Takashi Murakami’s cartoon art and pink panty shops have become a natural element of the everyday.

One of the first things (together with the disenfectiom mat from the last post) to greet you upon arrival in Tokyo’s airport is this little bear. As even some politicians begin to create their own cuties, the airport mascot further underlines the fact that these characters are for all ages and social groups.

The Rilakkuma character below is one of Japan’s most popular mascots. As a combination of the Japanese pronunciation of the word relax and the word for bear, Rilakkuma is apparently fond of sleeping, watching television, listening to music and, as in this instance, drinking hot chocolate!

A lot of the mascots are also available to buy as teddy bears. The Rilakkuma above is sold many places, but for foreigners it can be slightly difficult to tell apart from the hundreds of cuties that you see on sale all over Tokyo. This one below is both a purse and a teddy bear.

The last photo pictures one of the (in)famous Japanese panty shops. Worryingly Lolitaesque, the young girl fascination is often portrayed with a certain innocence and cuteness of childhood nostalgia, using cuties and the colour pink to catch people’s attention.


PDD Designer, Researcher and unofficial in-house Visual Ethnographer, James Steiner, recently went to Japan working on a project for one of our Asian clients. In what will be a three piece blog series, we will look a bit closer at some of the cultural distinctions that are manifested in the everyday design of Japan.

In our post last week, we talked about Japan as the world’s efficiency powerhouse. This can easily be reflected in its approach to cleanliness as well. Cleanliness transcends hygiene here. Religiously, it is for most people either associated with morality (Buddhism) or purity (Shintoism). In other words, cleanliness is as much a part of the Japanese respect of the environment and personal well-being as it is about their spotless trousers, clean streets and sanitary precautions.

As shown in the top picture, it is not an unusual sight to see pavements being cleaned manually. What the picture also highlights, however, is the personal aspect of cleanliness, namely the worker’s hygiene mask (mostly used to protect others from people’s own bacteria). From the arrival hall in the airport to the city’s many ATMs, the endless attention to banishing bacteria is visible everywhere.

The ‘disinfection’ door mat below is one of the first things you will see in Japan when arriving at the airport. With designated disinfection and health rooms in the arrival area, Japan immediately comes across as a hygiene- and cleanliness-centred society.

Japan pt 2 Cleanliness disenfection

Japan pt 2 Cleanliness Disenfection 2


The picture below shows one of the city’s traffic inspectors. Besides from being very polite and effective, it is worthwhile noticing his white gloves. Like with many things in Japan, the colour white is often used to give the impression of things being new, sterile, pure and clean.

Japan pt 2 Cleanliness Officer white gloves

The prevalence of white seat covers that can be seen around the city, especially in the form of lace, functions as a protection for surfaces and a visual reassurance of cleanliness.

Japan pt 2 Cleanliness Lace cover

Another example shows that even Tokyo’s parking meters can be given a sense of purity and cleanliness with the use of white. Unlike the greasy and vandalised parking meter of London, this one almost has a ‘friendly face’ to it.

Japan pt 2 Cleanliness Parking Meter

All photos ©James Steiner, PDD Group Ltd.

Buenos Aires is not really a place I thought I would ever go to. In fact, before going to BA the furthest I’d ever been from our beloved little island (the UK if you were wondering..) was to Israel when I was a young and fearless exchange student a good 10 years ago now. So when I (along with the rest of the team) arrived in BA I really had no idea what to expect, I’d heard stories and read-up as much as possible, beyond a reputation for fine meats and wines and of course, leather.

With Argentina being classed as one of the Dow Jones (arguably generous list of) 35 global emerging markets; I was intrigued to find such a contrast between wealth and working-class living. For example, the mega-expensive Galereas Pacifico, a shopping mall  housing  a number of luxury brand stores (local and Western) was located just off Florida Street – a touristy stretch where the pavement is lined with locals selling hand-made and hand-crafted souvenirs more culturally synonymous with Argentina.

Obviously, connectivity is a huge global story, which Argentina isn’t missing out on. So I found it particularly interesting that street signs are sponsored by larger corporations like American Express, but mostly,  communication  service companies like Claro, Nokia and Sony-Ericsson.

Sony Ericsson and Nokia handsets are never far away from consumer mind-set thanks to strategically placed advertising points (Vimeo too are capitalising on this method of marketing, though in a more unofficial way!).

The emerging middle-class in Argentina will be looking towards the West and the booming luxe-economy in Brazil for inspiration  on how to spend their higher personal disposable incomes. It was refreshing to find amongst the more consumerist luxury-type stores a new concept store hoping to tap into the wealthier, more design focused Buenos Aires clientele.

Located in Palermo, Pehache has only been open for 10 months and is gaining notoriety for becoming comparable to 10 Corso Como in Milan, Colette in Paris and Dover Street Market in London.

Pehache sells a balanced mixture of home wears, soft furnishings, clothing, jewellery and beautiful bits and bobs. Their un-intimidating, relaxed visual merchandising left me feeling comfortable, as if it was my own home (in a perfect world!).

There were too many great things to choose from, but with a suitcase limit I came away with a one-off cushion and a traditionally decadent guest book .

It is great to already see how the emerging markets are making their own rules in terms of their approach to luxury, and I will be excited to see how the West will become influenced by these powerful markets in terms of authenticity, cultural nods and wealth display through their product and experience design.

All in all, I found Buenos Aires to be a mixed bag of surprises; this European-inspired city definitely holds its own in the culture stakes.


Last week saw the 50th anniversary of the opening of the notorious Grade II listed Park Hill flats, located high in the sky over Sheffield hilly landscape.

Described as the ‘walkway in the sky’ the Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith, 2 mile long designed structure has gained notoriety through its stark, huge aesthetic, being influenced by Le Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation in Marseille, France.

Park Hill was jubilantly completed in 1961 – and was seen by locals as a great alternative  to the Victorian cramped, anti-social back-to-back housing that was in its place before. Park Hill’s inhabitants were carefully re-homed with their neighbours, with terraces and walkways being named after their former streets names to keep a homely community feel.

By the 1980’s Park Hill had gained notoriety as a bad area, with locals blaming neighbouring Sheffield Wards  as instigators of the crimes that were tarnishing the area. Like many other apartment blocks built in the 1960’s, the apartments themselves were also falling into a state of disrepair, and Park Hill was losing the lustre is once beamed across the city in the early 1960’s.

The building carried on moving further into decline up until 2004, Urban Splash and Sheffield City Council took on the behemoth task transforming Park Hill into an attractive, inclusive and affordable housing option for Sheffield’s community.

Urban Splash has just announced that the first phase of work on the transformation has been completed, and on October 8th a portion of the available spaces will be available to buy.

The designers and architects on-hand have worked hard not to compromise the impact of the exterior, whilst updating and simplifying internal logistics and injecting a good dose of contemporary modernism into the flats’ interior design.

So far, there has been a strong emphasis on concrete, celebrating the exterior of the structure whilst still being innovative in their approach.

The one and two-bedroom apartments will be available to buy from £90,000 and a portion of the apartments will be used as social housing.

For more images please see here

I‘ve got a thing for gritty art. Twisted metal, raw edges, recycled flotsam, retrieved jetsam, rough textures, rude colours and crude material-all tied together with a quirky sense of humour. I’ll blame my 15 years living in the Steel City, Pittsburgh, on this predilection, but more on that in some future post.

Whilst in Buenos Aires for business, Maeve, Rosie and I had the pleasure of perusing the pinnacle of gritty art when we met Carlos Regazzoni, a railway artist who turned an eerily desolate railway yard into his studio, exhibition area, and part-time taverna, El Gato Viejo (the old cat).

The taxi dropped us off on a muddy, littered side street.

A crocodile hinted at what lay ahead.

We walked quietly in the approaching dusk, eventually greeted by this reassuring sign.

And later by a Petrosauros.

Constructed from rusty metal, ancient typewriters and derelict adding machines.

Inside the shed/warehouse/studio/tavern, we encountered horses…

And reclining robots…

Whilst drinking a beer in the tavern, the pungent smell of rabbit and thyme stew permeated the cavernous, dimly-lit dining area.

We asked for a receipt (un  ticket ), a request which Carlos laughed at, but seeing the seriousness in our eyes, he begrudgingly scribbled…

Although we were there ridiculously early by Argentinian standards (6pm), as they don’t start serving dinner until 9pm, I was tempted to return later. The small stage promised live music, the rough wood floor, dancing. I could imagine a rowdy, good-natured atmosphere, filled with artists, bohemians, disaffected youth, and unsuspecting tourists.

Well worth a visit, when you find yourself in Buenos Aires.

El Gato Viejo is situated at Av. del Libertador 405, near Retiro station.

Links of interest:

Carlos’s website:

Nice article in the Argentina Independent online magazine about the authentic bohemian vibe on Thursday nights (live music night) at El Gato Viejo “‘Noche de Emergentes’ at El Gato Viejo”:

Interview with Carlos:

Blog post, “Argentine Railway Artist, CARLOS REGAZZONI”:

At some point we’ve all been there, noticing the accumulation of a number of similar items and wondering ‘is this enough to be a collection yet?’ After this realisation, there is one of two ways to go: 1) become dedicated to the cause or 2) to realise the dangerous ground being tread upon, resolving to limit the acquisition of anymore similar items.

Through living in a society that has taught us the mantra, ‘knowledge is power’ it seems that acquiring ‘stuff’ is supported by this fact. Proposed library closures have created a powerful furore amongst British citizens, with activists boycotting local library services, and creating their own ad-hoc local libraries in redundant phone boxes.

‘CD tower’ by Claire Titley, copyright  Flickr, Soap Collection c/o Another Magazine copyright  unknown

Initially the formalised process of collecting responsibly helped create and document our own history, with zoologists travelling the world looking for evidence of the past and Roman and Egyptian historical figures compiling our first libraries.

Souvenirs, nostalgic symbols of the past take up space in our shoe boxes, drawers of miscellaneous items, handbags and even pockets. Visually, collections are a feast for the eyes, with concentrated amount of detail and colour holding aesthetic allure.  Nostalgic ephemera holds such evocative power that it naturally collects up, until enough is enough and boxes of memories are filtered down.

The trouble with collecting is space. Our lives are cluttered and are busier than ever with more working hours, social commitments and other duties being prioritised. So for those with larger collections factoring space, logistical organisation and ultimately, a rental premium for the keeping of a said collection are increasing anchoring factors.

Another consideration, post collection digitisation (for example, records being converted to Mp3 via USB connections, CD’s being burnt, found pictures being scanned etc.) what will be the end-point for these material objects? In our love, nurturing and dedication to our collections, will the medium collection of Nike trainers end up in a library, or inevitably, much to our guilt end up in a landfill?

Kish’s trainer collection, copyright Patricia Niven

For now, we’ll keep on going, with some of the keener PDD collections of choice being Bakelite egg cups, X-Files collectors cards, classic design chairs (even in storage!) and coins.

The weathered old man approached me in one of the impossibly difficult to find grocery shops in Havana. Though he spoke no English, he communicated through body language and fierce pointing that he had a small, hungry baby at home and that I should buy him the outrageously priced powdered milk. Fortunately a friend had warned me of this “baby hungry needs milk” hustle. He said that the scammer, usually a woman, with babe in arms, approaches you and begs for the powdered milk. After you buy the milk, she sells it back to the store and keeps 80% of the proceeds, as the shop owner and scammer are in cahoots and price the milk artificially high. Interestingly, my friend had warned me about popularity of this scam in India. It seems to have crossed borders, and genders, and made it to small Caribbean island where many inhabitants depend on tourists for their livelihood.

I wonder whether the common scams in Cuba will likewise make their way to India?

In Cuba, the first hustler my travelling companion and I encountered intercepted us outside our pre-booked casa particular (bed and breakfast), explained that he was the owner’s son and had been sent to apologise that the casa was full, but that he was take us to another. He earned his keep as he carried our luggage through the hilly, hot cobbled streets of Trinidad de Cuba for half and hour (see photo) and we learned a lesson a few days later when we found out that he was not the son of the owner of the original casa, but a jinetero (literally, “jockey”, figuratively tout or hustler), hired to bring customers to other casa owners.

What would be great is a tool that tracks the origin and spread of such scams across the globe, like Rhiza Labs Flu Tracker.

And it could be combined with a  mobile  app that lets people contribute their own experiences, similar to the City of Boston’s Citizen’s Connect App  which lets people Geotag and report potholes, graffiti and other issues.

Anyone up to the challenge?


Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum on the world’s biggest tourist scams.

Top 10 tourist scams.

Search results of “travel scams” on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums.

Lonely Planet, 10 common travel scams in Thailand.

India Mike’s site on scams and annoyances in India.

Rick Steve’s tourist scams in Europe.

Rick Steve’s tourist scams 2005.

Bangkok scams

The China Primer.