Harry Potter and the wand of bad analogies: Why J.K. Rowling’s work doesn’t support the NRA or gun nuts of any kind

Mic Wright tackles the right-wing assertion that wands in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world are the equivalent of guns in the world we live in. Yes, seriously…

Happy Potter movie poster

This is an essay about Harry Potter. It’s also an essay about idiots. Finally, it’s an essay about analogies, metaphors, the weight that these rhetorical tools can carry and the point at which they break.

Of course, you can easily argued that while the Harry Potter series, both in print and onscreen, is replete with references, allegories and lifts from other sources, its is, fundamentally, simply a set of astronomically successful young adult novels.

But Harry Potter has transcended that to become one of those cultural signifiers that is dragooned into the service of arguments that seem far from the world of wizards, witches and witchcraft, arguments that might previously have been handled without recourse to such bluntly used analogy and metaphor. However, as with the catalyst for this essay – an opinion piece in The National Review – the Harry Potter series rarely escapes being used as an analogy in the culture war debates that ricochet across Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis.

Heather Wilhelm, whose editors frame her arguments with the headline ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Balderdash’, is aggrieved by other journalists and writers reaching for Harry Potter as an inspiration for the gun control campaign which has been energised by the impressive students of Parkland.

The lede of Wilhelm’s piece splutters with mock incredulity:

“Eleven-year-old wizards with lethally dangerous wands, battling a coverup government agency: Did we even read the same books?”

The set up here is, of course, one where the notably left-wing (if centrist) J.K. Rowling has her work decontextualised as a pro-gun, libertarian rant – less J. K. Rowling and more J.K. Ayn Rand.

Reports from the BBC and CNN alongside opinion pieces in the New York Times triggered – a word I am using with as many layers of irony applied as possible – Wilhelm to write her piece, angered as she is by the notion that Potter “[motivated and mobilised] its legion of fans… to fight against the second item in the American Bill of Rights.”

And then we’re off to the races with Wilhelm’s argument built on this analogy – the wands of the Harry Potter universe are basically guns and, therefore, its fans who crave gun control in this, the real world, are stupid because they enjoy a fictional work where almost everyone in the magical world brandishes an object with the power to kill.

This is, of course, as dodgy as an out-of-date batch of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, because you can’t make a direct correlation between the way wands work in the fictional world of Hogwarts and the effect of an AR-15 or any other high-powered firearm in this, the actual real world we live in.

Wilhelm crows that:

“It’s worth remembering that Hogwarts, as an entity, was armed to the freaking teeth.”

That’s a fair point but, if the next conclusion from this utterly idiotic comparison of a fictional wizard school with arming teachers and, presumably, students in real world schools, is to suggest that guns would keep the student body safer, that’s moronic. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Hogwarts would fail any kind of reasonable inspection by an education regulator. It employs unqualified, cruel and dangerous staff alongside its many fine educators.
  • During the Battle of Hogwarts, having an armed student body alongside armed teachers does not prevent large number of Hogwarts students from perishing.
  • Wands, unlike guns, are multi-functional devices – as capable of creation as destruction. They are also, unlike guns, registered to their owner and equipped with enchantments that allow the spells their owners recently cast to be studied.
  • Children – such as those studying at Hogwarts – are forbidden to use magic outside of the school until they reach the age of 17. There are strict laws to prevent breaches of this.
  • Beyond the age-restrictions, using the so-called Unforgivable Curses is a punishable by death and that’s not limited to the killing curse, it also covers the torture curse.
  • Magic spells, like bullets, bounce around in an unpredictable way.
  • Using wands – or even more dangerous weapons like the Dementors – does not prevent attackers, in this case the Death-eaters, from entering Hogwarts, as individuals, in small groups and finally as a whole army.
  • In the world of Harry Potter – as Wilhelm herself references in her mess of an article – a disarming spell is commonly used (“Expelliarmus!”), something for which we have no 100% effective analogue in the real world.

To support her utterly ridiculous arguments, Wilhelm quotes another moronic piece by Alex Griswold, published on the Washington Free Beacon. In it, Griswold asserts that:

“Every wizard is armed at eleven, taught to use dangerous spells, and released into a society where everyone’s packing heat and concealed carry is the norm. It’s an inspiring example the United States should strive towards. But the reader slowly discovers there is wand control in the Harry Potter universe, and that it’s racist, corrupt and selectively enforced.”

Let’s break this down:

The pervasive availability of dark magic in the Harry Potter world has led to at least two dictators that we know of – Grindelwald and Voldemort – whose rise has not been stopped by the availability of wands among the general wizard population.

Second, as I noted earlier, wands are not ‘heat’. Their use as lethal weapons is highly regulated and the killing curse is “unforgivable”.

Yes, there is racism, corruption and privilege in the Harry Potter world, they are issues which Rowling covers and deliberately introduces – however clumsily on occasions – because she clearly sees those as failures that the wizarding world needs to address. But ‘wand control’ is not the cause of these issues.

Wilhelm also lumps Harry Potter in with Animal Farm and 1984 as a kind of libertarian fable, warning against state power and suggests that the Parkland students are “[interpreting] them as an endorsement of that very thing.”

Well, no. That’s, again, foolish. What the Parkland students see in Harry Potter is a tale of students standing against a murderous ideology that sees them as dispensable. The NRA may not enjoy being compared to death-eaters but if the dark robe fits.

And as for turning Harry Potter into a clarion call to destroy government, that is stripping what is, after all, essentially a children’s story, of its nuance.

Rowling constantly illustrates that the Ministry of Magic doesn’t take the return of Voldemort seriously and that it has become a corrupt and crisis-wracked institution but she also shows that there are plenty of good people working for overall social good, from Mr Weasley to the wider Order of the Phoenix and even Dumbledore, whose strategies and plans often lead to terrible outcomes.

The Ministry, as led by corrupt or incompetent figures like Fudge, is sort of akin to the current Iranian regime – if we must insist on reaching for real world analogues for a fictional book about wizards – with hardline traditionalists in conflict with reformers. It’s also – at a push – possibly analogous to the incompetent but consistently cruel authoritarianism of the Trump administration.

I’d rather we stopped press-ganging Harry Potter into service as a platform for discussing genuine and serious political issues but if we’re going to, can we at least make the comparisons rigorous?

On even the most basic level of critical analysis, J.K. Rowling’s books and the film series they inspired do not support the rhetoric of America’s gun crazy right wingers.

And if the books have inspired the Parkland students to fight back against a political climate where the lives of their friends are acceptable collateral damage in return for stopping gun control, that’s rather a wonderful thing. J.K. Rowling should be proud of that.

Afraid your product is boring? It’s not and a good blog can help you prove that…

SaaS companies can struggle with communicating in an entertaining and informative way about their products. Rosanna Elliott explains why well written blog posts are an invaluable resource when looking to expand your reach and increase leads…

woman pretending to fall asleep

She probably went to drama school for this

We’ve worked with SaaS companies and we get it, sometimes you’re extremely proud of your product but it’s difficult to make it seem interesting to the uninitiated.

It’s not that your product is actually boring. It’s probably awesome, but SaaS products can struggle to speak for themselves.

A company blog is a great way to articulate your vision and the benefits of the product, getting people as excited about it as you are.

It can’t be any old blog though so here are a few pointers you need to bear in mind if your efforts are going to make a positive impact on your reach:

Here’s 3 ways to make sure your blog does the job:

1. Write about things people actually want to read about

So you’re blogging to extol the virtues of your product. That means every blog post you write should be hyper-focused on the intimate technical detail of your software, right?

Wrong. There’s a better model than going in with specificity and potentially alienating your audiences. If you pitch your posts to a wider crowd by starting off with a concept that strikes a chord, is relevant to current events, or otherwise piques interest you can bring in the details of your product effectively.

It’s not a trick to capture an unwilling audience, it’s a way to help your readers realize the wider relevance and benefits of your solution without a hard sell.

2. Ensure the tone is accessible

lecturer in front of blackboard

A blog post shouldn’t feel like a lecture

A blog post is not a academic paper or a technical manual. The tone should reflect this. I’m not saying that everything you write has to be trendy, dynamic, and wryly funny, but you should at least write in a clear, punchy, and engaging style.

You’ll lose a lot of readers off the bat if you fail to make your writing understandable and digestible.

Along these lines, don’t be afraid of writing about what might seem obvious to you as a SaaS expert.

You aren’t writing for the inner circle usually, in fact it’s often the case that your product users see value in your software and sell it to executives and budgetholders.

Make sure you format your blog posts in a readable way. No one likes to trawl through reams of unbroken text with no salient subheadings or illustrative images.

3. Post regularly

person looking at wrist watch

Anyone else still struggle to tell the time without the numbers?

Once your blog has a readership you don’t want to lose it by only posting sporadically. To make a significant impact, you need to be posting about 3–4 times a month; roughly once a week.

You might struggle to come up with new ideas at first, but once you get into the swing of things you’ll realize there’s always a jumping off point in tech news, current events, or product updates.

It’s simple, posting regularly makes sure that your audience stays engaged with your brand. The more write, the better (making sure you’re quality is consistent, of course). If you write it, they will come.

If you’re looking for people to really deliver on what a competent blog programme can promise, then get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks. We can help.

Growth hacking? We do it but we don’t call it that — here’s why

The Means Co-Founder and CEO, Mic Wright, takes a look at one of the most annoying buzz phrases in marketing and explains why you should be using all the tools available to you without talking like a tool at the same time…

three shovels digging soil

Growth hacking. Ninja. CEO mindset. Startup grind. The hustle — that thing you can’t knock, because Jay-Z said so. There’s a huge issue in startup culture — we don’t use the s-word to describe ourselves by the way — with terms invented to make basic things that every business should do sound cool.

The one I want to hack apart today is ‘growth hacking’. It’s become a really popular term over the past 10 years or so but it’s really just a clumsy re-badging of some evergreen concepts, painted over with a patina of guff about how ‘the internet has changed everything, my dudes.’ Well, it has but basic human desires remain pretty constant — food, drink, sex, companionship, status, money.

Here’s what extremely reliable internet encyclopaedia and home of irrational pedants, Wikipedia, has to say about ‘growth hacking’:

“Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels, product development, sales segments, and other areas of the business to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.[1] Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social media, viral marketing or targeted advertising…”

Okay, look, I know you want to seem special and cool but every smart person trying to increase leads, sales or attention for a business uses these techniques now. Harnessing them doesn’t make you a ninja or a growth hacker, it puts you right in the centre of how business works.

ninja clip art

That sword looks like it could hack growth for days

Huge advertising businesses like WPP use all those tools. Just because you — like us — are working out of a small office or from a few desks in a shared space doesn’t make these techniques super-punk somehow.

We work with clients every day to harness limited resources and use them to increase sales, reach and leads. That’s fundamental to what we do. But is it ‘growth hacking’? No. Because we care about words and the way people use them. Hacking is a term that has a rich entomology.

Being a hacker involves something more than using tools to a high level or exploiting the underlying structures of systems. Applying the techniques of viral marketing is not ‘hacking’. It is just working within the limits of the system. Growth hacking is not hacking in any meaningful sense and most people who purport to do it will charge you a lot for doing very little.

hooded figure

If this is you thinking about marketing, then you’re probably doing it wrong

We call ourselves a creative agency rather than growth hackers or a marketing agency or any number of other labels for a specific reason.

I came up with the kernel of the idea for The Means because I believe our team is fundamentally creative and that’s how we solve problems for our clients — with creativity. It is not about unlocking some Konami Code for marketing, product development or producing words, pictures and video. No. It’s about being creative. And, honestly, you cannot hack that.

Do you have a problem that seems intractable? A business challenge that is breaking your brain? Contact us today and find out how we can help: @readthemeans on Twitter | hello@themeans.rockshttps://themeans.rocks

Content isn’t king, it’s a peasant: Why the c-word is a terrible label for creative work

There’s a lot of nonsense words thrown around in marketing. Rosanna Elliott argues that the term content falls into that category…

Bunch of content right here. Turnipy content.

Content. It’s everywhere. But here at The Means, we aren’t content to call our work content (yep someone actually paid me to write that). I know, I know, it seems like I take issue with everything these days, what with my very recent post on why we don’t like the s-word, but consider this:

  1. I definitely do, but that’s okay because pedantry is fun
  2. There is actually a really compelling case for scrutinising the way we’re using language

So content is clearly in our bad books. The question is why? I’ll answer that question with a question: ‘What is content?’

I’ll give you a picture break to let you think about it.

A visual representation of how I must sound so far

Ok, times up. What is content? If you said either:

A.) the things that are held or included in something

B.) the material dealt with in a speech, literary work, etc. as distinct from its form or style


C.) information made available by a website or other electronic medium

Then congratulations, you’re a pro at googling the definitions of words. Sidenote: If you said that content is a warm fuzzy feeling, then….alright good one. Most importantly though hopefully you’ve noticed something.

That thing is that the word content is vague, impersonal, and indistinct.

 We don’t produce content like some sort of monstrous automated and soulless machine.

Would you want this thing writing your blog posts?

What we actually do is write articles, novels and poetry, devise and produce videos, plan events, design images, create marketing campaigns, and much more.

We put a lot into the things we create, and it’s sort of disheartening for the work we make to end up as this amorphous and throw away beast that is “content”. It’s like saying Mozart made noise.

When you come to us looking for material that will improve your brand communication, we won’t give you the sloppy promise of “content”, we’ll give you precisely what you want. Whether that’s a comprehensive social media programme, a series of blog posts, or a dynamic event.

If you have the project, we have the means to deliver it. We guarantee you’ll be content with the results. Get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks and tell us exactly what you want.

Events don’t have to be eventful: how to avoid your message getting lost in the crowd

Just because a lot of people show up to your event, it doesn’t mean it was a success. There are more important things to consider than getting people through the door…

The Invisible Persons Support Group had a record turnout this month

Festivals are fun; lights, music, thousands of people sharing an experience. But you’re not a rockstar (at least not yet), so why are you trying to fill that conference hall with people that are uninterested in your machine-learning cloud-based smoothie maker?

Don’t let your voice disappear in the rafters. It’s better to deliver your message to people that really want to listen in an environment that they’re comfortable in. Even if that means no RFID-blocking business cards. These people will become your best ambassadors and will be singing your praises for months to come.

When the atmosphere is this good they’d probably actually listen to a keynote

All anyone wanted to talk about last year was a guy named Alexander Hamilton and as far as i can tell he hasn’t done much since the 1800s. In all seriousness Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical masterpiece was everywhere, but mostly because practically no-one could get a ticket and the only thing that will make people talk about your event more than going to it, is not.

Scarcity drives interest, this has been proven time and time again with jewellery, technology and supercars. Why should an experience be any different?

Look at that face, he doesn’t even care they’re in the nosebleed seats

I’m not a student anymore, I don’t seek out large crowds of strangers to spend my weekends with. Instead I’ll invite a few friends over, have some drinks maybe even play a game or two.

Bottom line? I much prefer having a small group of people that I can interact with on a meaningful level, and events don’t have to be any different.

Just because a convention or a huge expensive event looks pretty and provides lots of fodder for your upcoming powerpoint presentation, doesn’t mean it was worth it.

You need think about what your audience will say about the brand. Will they even remember your name?

Having grand plans is all well and good but often these plans need to be scaled back at the last minute to avoid going over budget. At The Means Agency, we prefer to focus on making sure that the scale of an event is right for the intended audience. Tailor-made always fits better than off the shelf.

Let us be your tailors and create a bespoke event for you. Contact us at events@themeans.rocks. We’re sure we can get the fit just right!

The man don’t give a Zuck: Why Facebook’s crisis PR is absolute 💩

In the heart of a scandal that cuts to the very heart of what Facebook does and means in the world, the company is absolutely failing to respond effectively. Mic Wright, co-founder and CEO of the Means Agency, looks at why and what you should do…

Facebook should be used to bad press. The company was formed out of a spiral of negativity at Harvard after Mark Zuckerberg stole pictures that didn’t belong to him to create Facemash, a way of rating fellow students’ attractiveness.

There’s a lot of (Facebook) blue water between that incarnation of Zuck and today’s pseudo-statesman who spent last year on what looked to almost everyone like an exploratory tour of the US states ahead of some future run for the Presidency.

But if Zuck 2024 is ever going to come to pass, the Facebook founder and the many tentacled social media monster that he leads will need to seriously improve their crisis PR.

Right now, a coalition of The Guardian, Channel 4 News and the New York Times is busting open the way Cambridge Analytica weaponised Facebook data for Steve Bannon and, ultimately, the Trump campaign. And Facebook are…

…absolutely screwing up. When Facebook were called to testify before Congress about the election and Russian ad spending, Zuckerberg himself did not appear, sending top lieutenants instead. Now, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal is bubbling over and he’s been silent.

Some Facebook execs have made statements… on Twitter, which have subsequently been deleted. Facebook itself threatened The Guardian with legal action before its story was published and have also tried to pressure Channel 4.

Zuckerberg has yet to publish one of his now infamous personal Facebook posts about the issue, despite committing himself to fixing the company this year (as if that wasn’t already his responsibility as the CEO of a public company). And the whistleblower behind the story? His Facebook and Instagram accounts have been suspended. Nice work, Facebook.

For a company as large and influential as Facebook to be so cack-handed about public relations and handling reputational crises is shocking. This is the product of an arrogant culture, one where Facebook believes it is doing good in the world and those who disagree are simply misguided or worse enemies to be repelled and destroyed.

In a crisis, your company needs to be:

  • As transparent as legally possible
  • Consistent in your communications across channels
  • Willing to put up senior executives who are solid media performers
  • Ready to show how you will prevent a repeat of the bad behaviour / failure / problem that is at the heart of the scandal.

You cannot go to ground. You cannot be aggressive and overly defensive. Optics matter. Attacking whistleblowers or claiming, as Facebook has, that something is not a breach because you want to argue about semantics is an extremely bad idea.

Most storms can be weathered in business but deception and dissembling almost always result in legal, business and reputational consequences.

Hey, Zuck! We’d happily give you some advice… for a small fee. For anyone looking for an agency that can help with media, creative and product development projects, we’re worth a look. If you’ve got the problem, we have the means to fix it.

Drop us a line at hello@themeans.rocks

Don’t call this a startup… Why we hate the s-word.

Startup culture can be a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t quite apply to us. Rosanna Elliott explains why we’ve come to realise that we’re something else entirely.

“To do: get an office so we can stop living in a coffee shop”

I get it. The term “startup” is appealing. It feels young, it feels ambitious. When you’re involved in a startup it feels like someone might make a movie about you someday. I’d imagine it would be something Cannes Festival appropriate, a business thriller that would grip you from start to finish. Don’t even try to pretend you haven’t fantasised about who you’d cast to play yourself and all of your colleagues, and of course all your choices were way more attractive than the real thing, that’s just how showbiz works!

If you enjoy referring to your new business a startup, then you go Glen Coco. We don’t feel like it fits us though.

Why? Because we aren’t really just starting out. Think of Cannes again; we aren’t like those under the radar actors, sick of playing “man in the cafe 1” or “woman waiting for a bus”. We aren’t waiting for our big break so much, we’ve seen our fair share of meaty roles. It’s more that we want to direct the movie now as well as acting in it.

We have quite a few years experience between the five of us

The Means Agency has, in total, 30 combined years of practice, one diploma, four degrees (six if you count Masters), over fifteen years experience of national and international press, over 10,000 articles under our belt, 5,000 hours of video recorded and a wealth of contacts across several industries including publishing, technology, and the music industry.

This is exactly wherein the problem lies, the term “startup” implies we’re starting from scratch. We aren’t. Instead we’re building on a pretty formidable foundation of industry experience.

We aren’t starting something, but we are being ambitious by taking a step in a new direction with our careers.

Yes, our agency is a new business but we aren’t new to the game.

You’ll never catch us pulling this face, we know exactly what we’re doing

There are some obvious advantages to flying the startup flag of course, the potential to attract investors, the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning on the job, the thrill of breaking new ground.We certainly aren’t here to put down startup culture. It can be a brilliant thing, and we strongly believe that the bright young things deserve all the success in the world.

All we’re suggesting is that while all startups are new, not all new businesses necessarily fit the startup stereotype.

We’ve been doing this for far too long to claim we’re newcomers to the industry.

If we were to do so it would be like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Eddie Redmayne, and Tom Holland forming a collective and calling it The New Actors Guild For Unknown Talent. We don’t mean to brag, it’s just that we have no intention of being disingenuous about the levels of experience in our team. This isn’t our first rodeo!

If you want us to take a starring role in delivering top quality creative work for your business, then drop us a message on hello@themeans.rocks. We can’t wait to show you what we can do.

What is punk rock? And can you run a punk rock agency? Maybe…

When punk is on every t-shirt and decades after it was the pulse of popular culture, what does it even mean? And can we make a business that channels that mentality while also being good for clients? The Means co-founder and CEO Mic Wright wonders…

Almost everyone owns a Ramones shirt now. You don’t have to have listened to the band. Even anarchist punk collective Crass’ logo has found its way onto mass produced high street t-shirts. The Fall’s ‘Touch Sensitive’ was the soundtrack for a Ford advert. “Are you a touch sensitive, buy a new Escort.”

But none of that matters. You can be as ‘pure’ as Fugazi or as commercially minded as Fall Out Boy and still come from the heritage, heart and headspace of punk rock. It’s a broad church with a delightfully desecrated altar. And for me, punk rock saved my life. Over and over.

Punk is more than a music. It’s a mentality. It’s not a mohican or a busted leather jacket. The clothes are just signifiers and sign posts.

The Cramps were as punk as The Talking Heads. Nirvana was as punk as The Replacements as punk as The Runaways – who were as manufactured a band as The Spice Girls. The way you get to a punk rock mindset doesn’t really matter. It’s how you apply it.

I believe in a punk rock mindset – build your own community, build your own opportunities, owe very few people anything, be willing to break the system if the system isn’t willing to help you.

Punk rock to me is Fugazi capping ticket prices for shows. Punk rock is Kurt Cobain decrying homophobia in the liner notes of a major label record. Punk rock to me is freedom.

Can a company be punk rock? I don’t know. I suppose. Discord Records, the company founded by Ian MacKaye and others, certainly is. You can sell things and maintain principles. It just isn’t easy.

Record labels have an easier time being punk. The same goes for photographer’s collectives or theatre groups. The Means has a foot in the world of music – we have a international DJ among our clients – but we’re also a little agency that works with big companies.

We have some rules:

No pharma, no Saudi Arabian firms, no contracts with the Department of Work and Pensions, no partnerships with the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph.

That might sound idiotic – surely we need the cash, right? But when we sell our souls, we won’t get them back.

Want to work with us? Get in touch:

@readthemeans | hello@themeans.rocks

I use the NME: Reflections of a teenage music mag obsessive on the NME’s dreaded demise

The NME finally got the bullet that has been in the chamber for years. Digital expansion? It’s online irrelevance for a brand that still meant a lot of former teenage music mag obsessive (and CEO of The Means), Mic Wright. Here he explains why…

I was an odd kid. I’m an odd adult. These things tend to follow on like that. And one of my oddities was a desire to buy copies old music magazines. I had stacks of Sounds – dead before I had my musical awakening – and Melody Maker from the late-70s through to when it closed, I had NME from its various golden eras and I was a voracious reader of the then-living Select magazine. I bought the weird new titles and the obscure mags about music that I wasn’t even sure I’d like.

Eventually, in my third job, I became Front Section Editor at Q Magazine. I lasted 9 months as a full-time music journalist, broken by repeated redesigns and an office that was in free fall. But the brief period I had allowed me to commission names that had been legends to me in print – Sylvia Paterson, Johnny ‘Johnny Cigarettes’ Sharp, David Quantick, Mat Snow… the list could be very long.

I was sometimes more excited about meeting these writers than I was the stars we were writing about. I loved the music press that had been in its pomp when I was too young to realise.

Yeah, I got into Nirvana when I was still a pre-teen, just before Kurt killed himself but I couldn’t be a real fan. I bought Colombia on vinyl from Norwich HMV but wasn’t old enough to see Oasis live, let alone hitchhike to Knebworth a few years later. I loved the Shine compilations that were cheap and accessible, colliding all the Britpop bands together. I obsessed over Wake up, Boo! and now I’m friends with Martin Carr on Twitter as if that’s somehow a normal thing.

Why all this odd and scattershot nostalgia splurge?

Because they shot and killed NME today.

Yeah, they talk about digital expansion but the death of the print version is the death of a dozen eras of music journalism.

They gutted it first of course. They fucked that horse until it could no longer stand let alone neigh.

By the end, the NME was a skeleton. A brand extension. A place to extol the rock and roll benefits of certain hair care brands.

I knew NME, sir and you are no NME.

So raise a glass to the ghost of the British music press. And buy a copy of Q sometime, because its one of the last mainstream spots for interesting writing, led by an NME veteran who still gives a shit.

Beyond that, hunt out the small music magazines still wedded to print and actually obsessing over great songs.

And visit Drowned In Sound and The Quietus and MusicOMH and a tonne of other websites that have the passion to keep going but need the traffic and support to pay their way.

I won’t mourn NME today. I’ll feel sorry for the freelancers who have been fucked over and the staff who saw the ship sank. But NME’s pulse grew almost imperceptibly faint more than a decade ago.

Want to be more creative with brand than NME’s owners were? Talk to us – if you have the project, we have the means to help you. Hello@themeans.rocks@ReadTheMeans

Urinals and user experience: What toilets teach you about UX, UI and bad design

Design isn’t a piece of piss and looking at what goes wrong with toilet facilities is a good way of changing your thinking about UI and UX. Mic Wright, Co-Founder and CEO of The Means, explains how…

The inspiration for this piece was simple:

In the toilets on the ground floor of the Topman/Topshop store in Oxford Street, one of the biggest retail spaces in the UK, there are two urinals. These urinals are so close together that only one can be used at any one time. ‘So what?’, you’ll probably say. But there’s some interesting issues in this one design decision.

The too-closely arranged urinals have clearly been placed to fulfil the minimum possible criteria but that doesn’t work.

Men try to avoid standing directly next to someone when they are at a urinal. Also, men with physically larger frames simple couldn’t use these urinals – its a literal impossibility.

So, the one cubicle in the toilets becomes a de-facto urinal.

This situation is not an issue when the toilets are not busy but when they are, there are larger queues because of the lack of facilities, distorted usage patterns and poor layout – the urinals are also jammed between the cubicle wall and where the door swings inwards.

The design lesson here? Working to what you consider to be the minimum acceptable tolerances will lead to a poor and partial user experience.

The shittest thing about most public toilets isn’t shit

This situation – toilet facilities designed in clumsy and extremely half-hearted ways – is extremely common. It’s partially a product of architects treating toilets as an annoying requirement that must be filled rather than an opportunity to improve the experience for people using their buildings.

Public toilets have become very scarce in the United Kingdom for various reasons, from the decline of public spaces – stolen by corporate interests – to council cuts to government failure to address problem drug and alcohol use. That state of affairs means toilets in commercial premises are more used and more under pressure than they were in the past.

That means the user experience requirements placed upon toilet facilities have changed.

Another issue is that architects and building planners work on the assumption that footprint can be reduced by cutting the number of cubicles in toilet facilities for male-identified people. But that’s a mistake because it ignores the use cases of trans people, disabled people and people with medical conditions that mean they require a cubicle.

That’s the last design lesson in this post: Design to fulfil the actual use cases people have rather than what you assume they will be.

Don’t think I was taking the piss with this post. The Means is a creative agency and we are flush with ideas for improving product design and communicating better with clients. If you’d like to talk to us about a project, tweet us @ReadTheMeans or email hello@themeans.rocks. We’d be delighted to chat to you.