feedback / contact us

Swimming Against the Stream

upstream fish design 1.

upstream fish design 2.

upstream fish design 3.

by Rupert Bassett

John's original design brief was to produce graphic imagery which would convey the idea of "swimming against the stream", a strong metaphor for his campaigning lifestyle. In addition to this, as he communicates using many different forms of media, I was looking to create a flexible graphic system which could be applied quickly and consistently across multiple formats.

The Generic Form

After some study of streaming water and the mechanics of fish propulsion, I found an answer to the brief in the similarity of the forms involved in "swimming against the stream". Wave patterns, scale textures, shoal paths and river flows all employ the same sweeping curves.

The solution was to create a single generic graphic form, from which all other graphic imagery required could be built by the simple process of repetition. The generic form was constructed using two dynamic sweeping curves, giving an apparently organic and naturalistic shape, without closely representing any specific identifiable aquatic lifeform.


The most effective orientation for the generic form is moving "upstream", emphasised by a background pattern generated by the repetition of the form which moves "downstream". The background employs a diagonal repeat in the direction of the "head" of the form which emphasises the movement. More naturalistic patterns can be created by the deletion of a random number of shapes from the regular pattern. Colour transparency adds depth to the background.

The curves of the generic form were very carefully located within a grid structure of regular squares. This grid structure is an essential device to facilitate the regular repetition of the generic form in the creation of graphic imagery, and for the integration of other design elements. Any typographic or photographic forms can be sized and positioned according to the dimensions of the grid.

by Lynne Elvins

From a production point of view, there are aspects of this website that are particularly suited to John's approach and others that have been incorporated as part of good website design practice.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Two aspects that were used specifically for John were the Welcome page and the blog. I am cautious about incorporating 'add-ons' into websites as there is often an over-expectation about what the technology will deliver. On-line discussion areas and blogs are notorious for becoming out-dated after the initial novelty wears off (a recent survey found 66% of blogs had not been updated in two months). However, as a prolific writer, John's personal thought-streams are very well suited to being captured in this way.

Equally, 'welcome pages' are normally to be avoided as they just present a page-barrier between the visitor and the information they want to get at as quickly as possible. But as this site is personal rather than corporate, the welcome page offers an appropriate 'pause' before revealing the various paths on offer. John recently mentioned that his daughter Hania thought the site looked like an art gallery, which is praise indeed, and hopefully means an overall aim of creating a 'reflective space' was achieved.

Access for All

Other aspects of the site that are incorporated in line with good practice are predominantly based on the accessibility of the information within the pages. John states in the timeline section that 'access' is one of the seven key issues for future debate and for me, access to the internet is a significant social inclusion matter. However, this is not just about access to computers or telephone lines, but also whether website design allows people with disabilities to get at the information even if they use speech software or devices other than a standard keyboard and mouse.

Incorporating these social issues into website design is just one of a whole range of approaches within the wider sustainable design field. The impact for this website is that the pages have been produced without tables, there is no text locked within images or 'flash', each image has a 'description tag', we have used 'web-safe' colours and you won't find any links that say 'click here'.

However, if you discover something that we haven't covered, or a technical glitch that is hindering your visit, please let me know.