Saint Peter’s Borough

Daniel SharpeFlag, Project

In order to kick-start my new flag for Peterborough project I thought it would be best to share a little bit of information with you about my hometown, so that as I develop my ideas, those that are not familiar with the city will have at least a little grounding.

Peterborough is a relatively small city of just over 190,000 inhabitants at the last count. Sitting in the most north-western corner of East Anglia within the county of Cambridgeshire, the city shares its borders with the counties of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland. It sits on the River Nene, one of the longest rivers in England and on the edge of The Fens (historically a marshy expanse of land, what with the aid of an expansive drainage network is some of the most fertile agricultural land in the UK) meaning that Peterborough is a very, very flat city.

There has been some sort of a population in the area for centuries, with Longthorpe Tower dating back to the 14th century. Despite a long history, there aren’t actually many legends or tales connected to the city. Apart from loose ties to Hereward the Wake and royalty around the time of Henry VIII, stories involving Peterborough are few and far between.

Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough Cathedral by me

By far and away the most impressive building in the city is the cathedral, named after Saint Peter (as is the city itself), architecturally it is a hugely significant norman cathedral and call me biased but I think it has one of the most impressive west face of any British church. This video shows you a bit more of the building and includes some quite strange shots and EPIC music.

I more recent history, Peterborough was at the heart of the UK’s brick production in the early 1900s, as well as having sugar and engine producing industries based there. However these industries dwindled and local employment nowadays is largely in the service industry. Due to its proximity and fast road and rail connections to London, it has become somewhat of a commuter town. In recent years, there has been a push locally to make Peterborough the ‘UK’s Environment Capital’ at least that’s what the signs that welcome you to the city say.

Image from Woodford Recycling

Image from Woodford Recycling

As an honest appraisal, Peterborough is a city with a quite pretty, although quite small city centre, which like most places is getting surrounded by more and more generic housing estates (but now that I think of it, it’s probably quite fitting considering it was the largest producer of generic bricks for so many years). Realistically it is never going to be one of the most desirable places to live in the country, but nor will it be one of the least (and actually due to the large amount of public green space it is probably one of the better places for a young families). However it does have an image problem, there is very little lure for new people to move to the city and of residence already there, very few of them are proud Peterborians. I believe this is down to a few factors:

Proximity to London: this means a lot of the people that do move to Peterborough are commuters so aren’t necessarily invested in the local community.

Geographically in no-man’s land: not really the Midlands, not really East Anglia not part of the Fens there is a bit of an geographic identity crisis.

Lack of further education: meaning bright young minds need to leave to go to university and once you’ve left you don’t necessarily want to come back.

Anyway my opinions aside, while having a flag probably isn’t the solution, perhaps creating an a icon that local people can identify with could help foster a little more pride for the area and maybe create a greater sense of community, which eventually could lead to it becoming one of the most desirable places to live. Well at least that’s what I can hope for.

What’s in a flag

Daniel SharpeFlag, Project, Share, Video

I am a huge fan of flags, I love how the majority of them are constructed from the same basic of colours and shapes. Yet with only slight variations the results are drastically different. Results which not only create a symbol for the country, but quite often symbolise something of the country (I hope that sentence makes sense). This can often regionalise a flag, so for example you can easily recognise a flag from Scandinavian due to the presence of the Nordic Cross, or a West African nation because of the choice of colour. Obviously prior knowledge is often required to understand the choice of symbolism, but the symbol it creates can be something that people want to identify with.

Croatian Flag

The Croatian flag with its coat of arms in the centre and three bands of colour representing its three kingdoms.

So it was no surprise that when I finally got around to catching up on some TED Talks I really enjoyed Roman Mars’s talk ‘Why city flags may be the worst designed thing you’ve never noticed’. Which I’d recommend watching whether you’re into flags or not, because the principles he describes are relevant to any designer, plus it’s quite entertaining.

[ted id=2253]

My plan is to accept Roman’s challenge and try and design my home city of Peterborough, UK a city flag (not Peterborough in Canada, which actually has an awesome one). As to the best of my knowledge and with a little research doesn’t already have a city flag. The aim is to make regular blog posts as I develop my research and ideas and hopefully create something relevant to the city that also complies with the 5 basic principles of flag design.

Four things that helped me complete

Daniel SharpeContent

Over a year and a half after tearing down my old site, I’ve finally launched my new one. I’d like to say I’d been beavering away that whole time, but in all honesty it was only after over a year of inaction I realised that time had rolled by far too suddenly and I had very little to show for it. So I committed to putting more effort in until I was able to launch. And now that I have, I thought I’d share a few of the more important (post-rationalised) steps I took that helped my go live.

Complete Work

Number one: Set myself a deadline

This was the single largest factor in pushing me forward. I wasn’t very specific, but by setting the vague deadline of ‘having something live, sometime before the end of January’, I was forced to stick to my next three steps.

Number two: Find a place to work

Working from my room was nice in theory. I’d have all my creature comforts; like a kettle in the kitchen for regular teas, my bed to feel relaxed on and my Netflix account for power-breaks. However they we not conducive to production. Basically they were too large a distraction. I’d make a cup of tea then grab a biscuit, decide I couldn’t work while eating, navigate over to Netflix and before you know I’d have watch four hours of films. I found that leaving the house and working at the British Library really helped. I tried a few other places, like cafes and . . . well actually only different cafes, but found; the noise; the constant turn around of patrons; the way coffee shops like to cramp in the tables and chairs; and the fact I was surrounded by noisy people eating a slurping away, mere inches from my computer and little much. Issues I couldn’t level at the British Library. Away from my distractions I found I worked harder and not only that, felt that as I’d made the effort to go there I had to make it worth my while, which lead into number three on my list.

Number three: Dedicate time to work

Sure grabbing an hour here and there to finish the small things wasn’t a problem, but it wasn’t enough to do meaningful development, especially with those hour fragments being separated by days and weeks. Having found a place I actually enjoyed working, and with it being halfway across London, I starting dedicating small chunks of my weekend to working there. Vowing only to leave the building when I felt I’d made a big enough dent in my to-do-list, I was mentally drained or just plain hungry. However I often found that I would reach one of these points and still want to carry on.

Number four: Reach a solution and run with it

Far too often when I was working in fits and starts, I would semi-develop an idea, or half photograph a project. Then, when I came back to it, decide I no longer liked. Rip it up, then start again. Only once I started dedicating meaningful time on development I actually started completing my ideas, and surprise surprise, when they were finished I actually quite liked them. If I still liked it when I next came back to it, I’d implemented it.

So those are four of the biggest things that help me finish up, and hopefully it’s made a decent proper opening post. I promise all my ensuing ones won’t be step-by-step/self-help style blogs.

The great thing about my decision to include a blog, is my work isn’t over, because now I not only need to think of a subject that people want to read my spout off about, but I need to continue dedicating time to write one on a fairly consistent basis. Ideas? Anyone?

Hello world!

Daniel SharpeContent

I know what you’re thinking, ‘yay another automated blog welcome post’. Well you’re wrong. I actually wrote this one myself, hence probable use of improper grammar and a liberal smattering of spelling mistakes. Anyway, long story short I am going to try and be blogging more, but I want to narrow down exactly I think people would actually want to have read my opinion on. I other words, stay tune/visiting and hopefully I’ll have something more impressive to say.