Exercise: Giving Instructions

Tea Rules

  1. Feel there is something missing in your life… A soothing, warm, wetness in your mouth that slithers into your throat, enhancing your day. Anticipation of a need for tea that goes superbly with toast, biscuits,  the start, middle or end of a task.
  2. Prepare to make tea by freeing yourself from other obligations.
  3. Check if people near you could have their day enhanced by making tea for them while you’re at it. Never offer coffee but if someone asks for coffee… You’re on your own! We can’t deal with that here but you will have to make it.
  4. Go to the designated tea-making area. Sometimes a kitchen. Sometimes a spare desk or side counter where tea-making facilities are kept without all of the other distractions of a full kitchen
  5. Empty the kettle and refill. On no account try to save energy (and thus the planet) by only using the amount of water that you need… it will just cause problems later. Saving the planet should only be attempted when it won’t compromise tea-making tasks.
  6. Switch on kettle.
  7. Double check that kettle is active. This also saves time later, in the long run. Look for a light or listen closely for initial effects of heating. This sound is distinctive and one can become an expert in detecting it.
  8. You now have about 4 minutes to located mugs and tea bags. If you are making anything others than “Builders’ tea” then the relevant guide should be consulted – other issues will become important such as the presence of cucumber sandwiches, choice of china and silverware, time of day and who’s going to be ‘mother’.
  9. If you have spare time at this point it’s wise to return to your tribe and double-check their uptake on your tea offer. Re-engage the affirmatives by double-checking about sugar needs. Re check those who declined with “are you sure you won’t have one?” – try to be discreet about your offer… It can be embarrassing for someone to change their need to a “yes” at this point.  No one will change their mind to a “no” as this is socially unacceptable, and they know it.
  10. Return to kettle before it has boiled with new higher count. Filling the kettle in step 4 now pays off if you have acquired more uptake.
  11. Arrange mugs and space on surface to maximise pouring speed and eliminate the need to move mugs between pours.
  12. Focus on kettle. Wait for it to boil. You may watch the kettle… The “watched pot never boils” folklore applies metaphorically to everything except a potentially boiling pots which is a literal situation, thus exempt.
  13. At the moment when the kettle switches off fill all of the mugs as quickly as possible. Do not leave room for milk as tea shrinks while brewing. Fact.
  14. Stir the tea.
  15. Stay and attend the brewing tea. On no account should you talk to your tribe once the tea is poured – changes in requirement are not allowed at this point.
  16. After 4 minutes the tea is brewed. Remove the tea bags, add milk and sugar as required by your tribe members (never mind if you’ve forgotten – just do it the way you like it. No one ever complains when someone else makes tea due to a deep seated insecurity that their own tea preference might be the incorrect version)
  17. Deliver tea to tribe or just casually let them know that it’s there, by the kettle, if they want it. They do want it but will always leave 30 to 90 seconds before fetching it. Anyone who leaves over 90 seconds will forget about it completely and probably wanted a coffee anyway. Be tolerant as they are in a difficult situation. Perhaps adjust your approach to them next time by waiting until they are in the toilet, thus omitting them from the tea-run altogether… it’s the kindest way.
  18. Drink tea… Try to be productive – your best decision-making time is during the first 6 minutes of a cup of tea. After 20 mins you may feel the need for a fresh mug of tea.

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Concepts in the description

Tribe: suggests primitive but also can be transferred onto whatever the necessary situation is – home, office, building site, staffroom. Parish might also fit. This can be extended to drive the illustrative mode – it can be used to create a ‘primitive’ environment where tea is being made. Other drivers include… the style used by emergency signs ‘the running man’, assembly point… these are no-nonsense safety instructions which are out of place for tea making but might fit a humorous take where tea is being treated like a life-or-death situation.

Some References

The BBC have a guide for making perfect tea here… http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zsbv9qt But that’s ‘Perfect’ tea for “nutters”… I’m making a guide for “Builders’ Tea”… for the workers!

To get even more Englisher – George Orwell published this http://orwell.ru/library/articles/tea/english/e_tea in the Evening Standard, 12th Jan 1946. Obviously this is a guide to making Orwellian Tea… a cup of completely justified paranoia. Most unbelievable is that he relegates (Black) China tea (my favourite!) to second best after Indian or Ceylon! How very dare he? Do these old-timers no nothing about the future… Orwell certainly got it wrong about 1984, didn’t he?!

Tea Towel: Nothing to do with tea. Unless printed with tea-making instructions.

Idea: Instructions to be put on the side of a mug. Eliminates drawing the mug because I can refer to the real one that’s always present.

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Drawing on the side of the mug refines the instructions down to the size of about a compliment slip (210 x 99mm). I’ve refined the original 19 instructions down to 6 thumbnails above.

Also tried not having boxes – more flowey look.

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Here deciding that I could represent the tea being made as it it could be seen through the side of the mug on which the instructions are drawn.

In this situation some steps might be omitted as they can be perceived from the surrounding context.

Mug designs can be concealed until the mug is hot (from the water inside it) so an extra gimmick could be for the 2nd to last steps to be revealed only after the boiling water is put into the mug.

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Thinking about representation of heat and steam – possibilities of using red and blue to denote hot and water… blue tends to denote cold in water! The actual colour of the tea does not make the most interesting overall colour way.

Many ways to draw steam more or less symbolically.


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Experiments with how stirring looks in a picture.

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Stirring also includes a brewing or steeping idea – here the tea is visibly seeping out of the tea bag into the clear (blue) water.

I wonder what I can do to show the transparent window concept – the idea of looking into the mug. Maybe there should be a window frame of some kind… perhaps people/creatures looking into the window as one gazes into the underwater part of an aquarium?


The figure is a man with a hard hat and a clip board – he’s the foreman making sure that the tea is brewed. This was an excellent opportunity to make an otherwise less interesting part of the picture more interesting. The figure might even acquire a yellow safety fluorescent jacket rather than being in silhouette. The ‘window’ surrounds have riveted corners to be inline with a construction site too. I’m working towards saying ‘Builders’ Tea’ without writing it.

Looking at this mock up it’s clearly not exhaustive in its instructional content. You kind of have to work out what it’s saying and the finished product is not shown, nor are the ingredients and ‘boiling’ water specified very clearly. This doesn’t mean that it fails in its task – it is a more decorative than it is educational and, being intended for the side of a mug, tells us about the user’s general tea-preference perhaps, so it does convey information.

The colours need refining, these are my pencil colours and are limited – perhaps the best idea is to use Photoshop or Illustrator and play a little with the colours – I’m wondering if less real but more decorative colours would work better.

The adding milk and sugar panel is a little unclear still… perhaps the final colour is less necessary? Perhaps I can find a better set of colours that makes this make more sense. The sugar cubes also need texture and tone to be believed.

Another thought is to add a final half space where the figure is sat down, hat off, drinking his builder’s tea.


This design also looks like pictures at an exhibition… perhaps the same images could be framed… more people could be added to look at the pictures and the guy at the end could be the security guard… with a mug of “Security Guard’s Tea”?

I wonder how many jobs I could bend this to fitting…

  • Builder
  • Art gallery security
  • Radioactive power plant version (add the Radiation Warning Symbol) (qv: role of a cup of tea in ‘The China Syndrome’ as a rumble detector)
  • ICI version (tea in vats?)
  • Breaking Bad Version – stretching it a bit as they drank coffee
  • Champs Elyses version… borders become trees, people are French Ladies and Gentlemen out for an evening /  romantic stroll
  • Underground platform – people waiting for a train in front of adverts. End gap is the signalman (with a cup of tea) next to the exit
  • Willy Wonka version… leading the children on their tour. At the end is an Umpa-Lumpa (with a mug of tea)
  • Star Wars version… so many options… probably have to be Hammer Horror stalwart Peter Cushing with the mug of tea… might need to put stars in the water! Could be C3PO.









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