Bright & Matt
Matthew Solle: design and writing


After much talking, much thinking, and not a small amount of procrastination, I am calling an end to my design event organising. It’s been nigh on five years of stuff, some years almost relentlessly, others a bit more staccato. There’s even, like last year, been almost a theme. A whole strategy had formed around future possibilities but it never got out of the blocks. Sometimes it is just best to stop, especially when you aren’t even convinced you would attend your own event.

My favourite evenings

London IA:

February 2012 with Jeff Gothelf

December 2011 with Joe Muggs and Jim Kosem

October 2011 with Ben Bashford and Jonty Sharples

April 2011 with Michael Blastland and Chris Heathcote

January 2011 with Jason Mesut and Mark Plant

November 2009 Max Gadney, Richard Sedley, Jason Mesut, Oliver Reichenstein (special mention to Martin Belam’s efforts to video Max and managing to host Oliver’s talk on Skype over a 3G dongle in a basement)

This is LDNIA:

April 2013 with Rev Dan Catt and Matt Ward

Special mentions have to go to Joe Muggs and Matthew De Abaitua for talks that went beyond a slidedeck. A privilege.

And the posters I like

London IA:

November 2010

February 2011

October 2011

November 2011

April 2012

May 2012

This is LDNIA

August 2013

November 2013

Also a thank you to all the people who have been a big support, providing either money or space: Raj Panjwani, Sense Loft, Nick Cochrane, Zebra People, Jonty Sharples, Albion London

and so mind the doors, mind the doors, mind the doors (maybe I’ll start organising gigs again).

Start up education (or education as start up)

Below is something I wrote for the Do Lectures blog last year. Since then they’ve overhauled it and the post seems not to have made the cut. So I’m going to republish here with a few extra notes and updates from the last year.

Since I started writing below, the one thing that has appealed to me is the balancing of technology (invariably screens, variable sizes) with non-technology (invariably reading of books, paper bound or writing with pencil or pen). This balancing (particularly technology) factors both engagement and interaction and subjugation. It’s about the child and their concept of needs not our concept of our children’s needs. Education and learning shouldn’t be an assault on our children. Their upbringing and lives is not a bar to be continually raised.

Getting a balance right is invariably a balance when there is more than one guardian involved. Always the danger of one pulling too hard in the direction of most resistance. Resistance achieves little in learning unless the child has chosen to pull purposefully, with conviction and an aim. One person’s too much is another’s too little and scales rarely balance. We seek to achieve something different, something new and behold right before us raw achievement.


These are changing times. Everywhere you go there are active pockets of home (un)schooling. People are taking real responsibility for their children’s growth and lives and education. Placing it firmly on their own doorsteps. Looking it straight in the eye. Getting to know what is going on and getting to know their children. Experiencing the immediate results – and the problems. It is far from easy, it is really hard. And you will often want to give in, just give up. Some days you will think that you have made a really bad decision and believe they really would just be better off (back – if you took them out in the first place) in the education system.

There are many definitions of what it means to take the education of your child seriously and many, many expected outcomes. With that in mind we have decided to play with the definition of ‘start up’ and ’education’ and what they are and what they can be when brought together.

Whether the education of a child can truly be referred to as a ’start up’ is probably beside the point. A child’s education should never just be a business, but that doesn’t mean that approaches and ideas can not be borrowed in a pursuit of growth, development and success. As Paul Graham has written, the only essential aspect of a startup is growth.

How it starts: taking a child out of mainstream education, getting them started, unschooling them, letting them feel ready, prepared, excited – a sort of Sprint 0 while they get out of old bad habits and get excited for learning growth, their potential, their own interests – what really interests them as drivers of their schooling.

This idea of start up education is fast moving and fast growing. Constantly offering opportunities to investigate different approaches and understanding of what children’s learning actually is and could be. Learning is remembering what you are interested in combined with turning everything into a learning system and opportunity.

What holds this approach together are ideas, lots of ideas, and the sharing of ideas. Everything is about ideas. The ideas become the rules and the ideas become the framework.

Everything has to start somewhere. A good place to start is with talking. Talking is a foundation to just about everything else. Young children’s talking and conversation skills are rarely seen as something that requires nurturing or developing beyond answering questions or replying to direction or requests. Being able to speak out loud with confidence and assurance and to make yourself understood is something that doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of people. So, why do we leave it so late (or if ever) to work on this vital attribute? If the issue is addressed when children are young, I’m sure it would be far more straightforward to assist them with ordering their thoughts clearly and for them to become far more confident and assured orators.

This start up approach doesn’t necessarily have to be repetition and practice practice practice learning but inquisitiveness first then practice. Better for the child to be practicing the thing that they have discovered by way of an inquisitive mind and that they are interested in than working at something they are not. Outside a traditional system it is much easier to think for yourself. You can use systems but you aren’t in the system.

Often the idea of (un)schooling seems to crumble in front of you – to barely exist at all. When you are pushing against accepted norms (children go to school) a gnawing doubt will always be ready to start whispering in your ear. Your confidence questioned. A ship adrift.

Anyway, more to come on this. Biggest challenge of my life.


We all do things. Different things. And we all think about them differently. To some of us they are work, to some of us they are play. Some of us do great things, some of us do less than great things and some of us do crap things (and we usually know it). Some of the things some of us do are played out for all to see and many of us think very highly of many of these things. Often the people doing these things are very happy and don’t actually think that the things they are doing is actually anything but their life (life’s work?) and their calling. They know it is bloody hard work but they don’t necessarily think of it as a job or going to work.

Their whole identity pretty much goes into their work. For example, outside of work they might read books or write essays but when at work they will read the very same books and write the very same essays. In this way the jobs become us, we envelop them until only ourselves are left, strong, resilient and brilliant. For someone else to do our work would require so much resource, so much complexity, so much analysis of everything that collectively makes up what we do and who we are that replacement is nigh on impossible. For now we are future proofed.

Those of us whose whole lives do not go into our jobs have a different story to tell.

//somewhere in england

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