Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Assignment 5A + 5B, The Importance Of Research

The six degrees of separation is an interesting theory Mentioned in the book, the tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell. The theory suggests that everyone on this earth is connected to one another through 6 or less people. I became extremely interested in this topic and through research of my own became increasingly aware of the connections people form and how they are formed. Focusing on the way people connect with each other, how they form connections and identifying the people who connect others together was my main area of interest.

In semester two I investigated how to conduct primary research. I used a variety of different techniques to gather information about people, the way they behave, their cultural differences and how best to get the information you need. I wanted to use one of the skills I had learned in design studies semester two to research the way people connect with each other further.

Assignment one asked me to acquire photographs from a stranger and through deep analysis of those photographs, develop a profile of the person. The experiment was more successful than I had anticipated, as people are relatively easy to read. After a short discussion with the owner of the photographs it became clear that my assumptions had been correct. This is useful to my research because it can help me build a profile of someone and the people they have relationships with before meeting them. Unfortunately it doesn’t give me enough information.

Another way of using primary research to create a profile is using the method we used in assignment two. I chose a selection of 3 photographs and asked different people to create a story including the three images. To try and direct the stories to the same conclusion I added another picture and word. The differences in people’s stories told me a lot about their personality and cultural backgrounds. This was brought up in group discussions. A few classmates had put their pictures forward to exchange students who were from different cultural backgrounds. They seemed to take the pictures a different way and their stories were very different from the others. Using this technique to further add to the profile of a person under investigation would be useful to my research. It would help me develop questions for a possible interview to investigate the way they connect with the people around them. It doesn’t however tell me how they connect with the people around them.

Design Safari is the term used by Chris Downs the founder of Live|Work during a speech he gave at the New Views conference at London College of Communication in June of 2008. It is the observation of others in different situations concentrating on the way people act around each other, the etiquettes of a certain habitat and the way they act towards each other in different situations. By observing others you can make rather big assumptions about the relationships surrounding you. Body language, facial expressions and verbal communication can be read into to identify the different types of relationships surrounding you in any given situation. This is extremely useful to my research for investigating the way people connect with each other. I could get a real sense of someone’s feelings towards another by the way they act around them. Observing from a distance also makes sure I don’t influence any of their behavior, ensuring valid results. The main focus of my research is on the way people connect with others and while this method tells me a lot about the relationships and connections now, it doesn’t necessarily tell me how they formed.

This is where assignment four helps me. Interviewing is a very useful method of primary research. It could give me all the information I need about the people surrounding the subject and the different routs relationships have taken. By using some of the information on profiling gathered from the other research methods I can develop particular questions to ask. This would give me a much more detailed view of how connections have been made amongst people in the group. If I pick my questions carefully I should be able to form a map of the persons different relationships leading to the identification of the connectors within that group.

I would begin by asking them to tell me who the most important people in their lives are. I would then want to know how they got to know one in particular (focusing on a partner or best friend). If there was no one person who connected the two I’d move on until another name was mentioned. Then I’d need to discuss the type of relationship they had with this person and how they knew them. Id repeat this process until I had collected a web of information which made me able to map out the different relationships and identify people with leading roles within the persons life. It would be interesting to know how they felt about those people, if they are still in touch and if they knew how important they are to their friend circle. Are they even aware of the web of relationships that surround them?

Using my skills in primary research gained from design studies assignments in semester two has been extremely useful. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages and can be tailored to fit the specific needs of the investigation. I feel confident in my new skills and will use them in future to expand research for more in depth analysis.

Investigating how I can use my new found knowledge of primary and secondary research to enhance my design process has inspired me to apply the skills to my studio briefs.

In semester one, we were given a brief to design and make a piece of furniture from a set amount of wood. Working in groups we could base our design on what ever we wanted. My group chose to try to design a piece of furniture which would inspire the owner to hold on to it for as long as possible. We wanted to put the love back into furniture. Trying to stop people being so wasteful and throwing out furniture that was still in perfect working order just because it has gone out of fashion was no easy task. We began to investigate the things that people do hold onto for a long time so we could find out why and somehow incorporate it in our design. We soon discovered through interviews that people kept things that had sentimental value to them. The objects didn’t need to be expensive, fashionable or even useful. They just needed to have some sort of memory attached. It was interesting to us that that was enough for someone to see meaning in an object. Although we got a lot of information during our research, we could have got a greater insight by using the techniques for secondary and primary research developed this year in design studies.

Using a mind map would have been a great for getting an idea of all the different areas of furniture design there are. This would have helped us direct our thoughts on a particular piece of furniture we wanted to create, earlier on in the process. This would have given us more time for the construction stage. When working in a group it is difficult to remember everyone’s thoughts on the topic as well as your own. We could have used this same technique to log all our initial ideas and helped link them to each other. This would create a good atmosphere withing the group, having everyone’s ideas taken into consideration.

During the development of our research it would have been helpful to ask others for a selection of photographs of there homes over the years. By analyzing the pictures we could see if they had any objects that appeared frequently. Perhaps some family heir loom that they would never though out because of its sentimental value. We could also see what kind of furniture was important to them. Were they a family that used the kitchen a lot or was the lounge where they used the furniture the most? If we had a specific client this would have been extremely useful.

To asses the different attitudes that people have to furniture we could have used the skills we learned in assessment two of semester two. In this task we used photographs to evoke the subject into sharing the connotations they have of certain objects and places. Had we shown people pictures of old furniture and new we could have gathered information about public attitude. This would have been interesting to see if more people would have gone for a more fashionable piece or a piece of furniture with some history and meaning.

We learned in assignment three how to use the library database and cross search. Cross search has a huge amount of information, containing journals, books and articles on any given subject. By using the database we could have collected a lot more information from people who have investigated the area of sentimentality already. Had we used cross search we could have got a lot more information on the actual construction of a piece of furniture. Being naive we had underestimated how long and difficult the construction process is. We had to work extremely hard to get our piece finished for the deadline because we had used construction methods that were extremely time consuming. Making most of the furniture by hand was not the right decision as our skill let the piece down overall. Had we researched construction methods on the database we wouldn’t have made the initial design as complicated resulting in a much neater result.

Observation would have been an extremely useful primary research technique to use during this project in particular. We could have watched people using their furniture. Did they use a desk as a desk, or were they sitting on it? Is a chair used as a chair or a coat rack? What do different people use the furniture around them as, and was it its intended purpose? By observing the way people interact with furniture we could have designed the ultimate piece of furniture. Something that everyone would have a use for but not necessarily the same use. I think this would have radically changed our idea. Our piece of furniture would have been a lot more ambiguous and had more subtle multifunctional features.

Knowing what people want is extremely important when designing. You can’t design something if you don’t know what you are designing it for. Assignment four introduced us to the art of interviewing. By interviewing the people for whom our design was aimed at we could have developed a more detailed brief. I would have wanted to know what people want from a piece of furniture? And what would make them want to hold on to it longer? Would the price have come into the equation? Or is a sense of ownership the important factor? Does self-assembly make them feel part of the creation process? Knowing all of the above could have had a massive effect on the design of the furniture. Instead of guessing what people want we could have known for certain that what we were designing had purpose.

All in all design studies has proved the importance of good quality research. Secondary and primary research is extremely important in the design process. By using the right methods of research and exploring all ideas through mind maps, interviews, efficient use of resources and experiments designers can explore all aspects of the brief. My next studio brief will come to life through the use of these methods, taking the design process in every direction imaginable.


Baldwin Jonathan, Design Studies Handbook, 2008

Beach Michael, Blog, http://www.surfer056.blogspot.com/ , 2010

Downs Chris, http://www.livework.co.uk/

Gladwell Malcolm, The Tipping Point, Little Brown, 2000

Pachter Marc, The Art Of the Interview, Ted Talks, 2008

Friday, 26 March 2010

Learning To live Sustainably- how can design contribute ?

For most people the word “sustainable” has connotations of hard work, mud huts, low quality, and inferior life styles. It’s disappointing that something so important and influential has been marketed to people in such a way that it provokes a negative reaction. I believe that it is time we changed this distorted attitude and advertised the fact that sustainable design can be modern and inspiring. With the help of designers, reshaping the consumer world may not be as daunting as it first appears.

The problem lies in the attitude towards sustainable design. While a lot of people are happy to embrace change for a better future the simple fact is the consumer shouldn’t have to. Various industries have been producing goods for centuries without a second thought as to their life cycle. The irony of the life cycle of products at the moment is it’s linear—not a cycle at all. This means that products go through a wasteful process from extraction to production, distribution, consumption and finally to landfill or incineration.

Instead of taking resources from the earth, changing them by mixing them with chemicals, which then make the product unable to be reused or be returned to the earth, we should be adopting a “cradle to cradle” method so that everything that is taken from the earth is carefully manufactured so that at the end of its life cycle when it is no longer of use it can naturally biodegrade. In the book Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough and Michael Braungart discuss the possibility of our existence without a destructive presence. Some examples of “cradle to cradle” design are producing thriving businesses such as DESSO, a carpet manufacturer whose product, once used, are able to return its nutrients back to the earth.

Advances in technology have already changed the way we consume, instead of having to leave our homes to buy a product we can look it up on the internet and it can be delivered the next day. Why then can technology not also change the way we produce the things we consume so easily? Until now, perhaps because it has been seen as a cost; today, however, this view is increasingly being challenged. In an article by Reed business Information written by senior editor Kevin Campbell describes businesses that have had a positive reaction from turning their production methods green. Dr Alan Hecht, the director of sustainability at the US Environmental Protection Agency says in The road to sustainability “What I have found, what’s really happening the last five, ten years is that more and more companies are beginning to see sustainability not as a constraint but as a growth”

However it is not all the fault of the producers: we demand goods in massive quantities and at lower costs, but the industry arguably exploits this claiming simply to be responding to consumer demand. In the move towards sustainability, industry should take the lead. After all they do the most harm, and now with the most power they should be the ones to start the ball rolling.

It is understandable that industry is hesitant to adopt such a radical transformation because it is difficult to see the long term gains when very few others have taken the step to a sustainable future. Ray Anderson is the founder of Interface, an influential business in the field of sustainable production. Since 1995 his company has been trying to reduce their ecological footprint and make production sustainable. Their results have been nothing short of inspiring. They have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 82%, fossil fuel consumption by 60% and water usage by 70%, whilst increasing sales by two thirds and doubling their profits. The company intends to be carbon neutral by 2020 by following their plan, “mission zero”. Speaking at the TED 2009 conference, Anderson pointed out the “Business logic of sustainability”. He said “ Mission zero has been incredibly good for business. A better business model, a better way to bigger profits”. In their pursuit of zero waste they have produced a saving of £400,000,000 which more than paid off the original costs for their sustainable transformation. This is clear evidence that industry cannot deny and an extremely strong case for change.

However the process starts with designers. The designers should also be responsible. Everything that is produced by industry has to be designed, and I believe it is my job as a designer to ensure my designs make no negative impact on the Earth. I want to be in the generation of designers that people will look back on and thank for creating the tipping point for sustainable design. My university is extremely aware of the issues surrounding sustainability and makes sure the students are too. My lectures have consistently mentioned the importance of considering sustainability. My most recent project was entirely based around sustainable design. This has been a great influence and has resulted in a great passion for me. I wish I had been made aware of it at an earlier age as bad habits are hard to change.

There’s no reason why the quality of design should be compromised in the quest for sustainability. There are great examples of sustainable design that look modern and fulfill the needs of people today. The Berkshire residence in California is a completely sustainable home that hasn’t had to sacrifice smart modern architecture and luxurious interiors. Sustainable design is opening up new style for interior design, inspiring designs like “brail wall flats” designed by “inhabit living” which are made from 100% bamboo pulp. Bamboo is an extremely renewable source of material; according to research conducted by “green by design” it can grow up to two inches in an hour in the right conditions.

The advances in sustainable design are vast. The inspirational field of biomimicry is great design with great ideas from great sources. Biomimicry is designing by taking inspiration from nature and the way nature has been solving design problems sustainably for millions of years. Designers working in this way have developed self-cleaning surfaces for use on building exteriors inspired by the lotus flower’s ability to clean itself. They are combating disease by creating surfaces based on the design of sharks’ scales, which create an inhabitable surface for bacteria to occupy. It is being used in hospitals and toilets, ultimately saving lives.

I am helping to re-design the world, a revolution bigger than industrialization. The world of sustainable design doesn’t scare me, it inspires and excites me. I look forward to living in a healthy world with you all one day.


Anderson, Ray, “The business logic of sustainability”, Ted talks, 2009

Biomimicry Institute, Website, http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org/case_studies.php

Brown, Rachel, “Taking on the Sustainability Challenge”, May 2009

Campbell, Kevin, The road to sustainability. (cover story),Feb 2008

Gina Pobers-Grey and Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD, Off-Gassing: Indoor Pollutants and Allergies, March 2009

KUEHN ROBERT(Georgsmarienhuette Gmbh, Georgsmarienhuette, Deu) GECK HANS GUENTER(Georgsmarienhuette Gmbh) SCHWERDTFEGER KLAUS(Technische Univ. Clausthal, Clausthal-zellerfeld, Deu), SIJ Int (Iron Steel Inst Jpn) “Continuous Off-gas Measurement and Energy Balance in Electric Arc Steelmaking”, 2005

Re:Modern Sustainable modern living, website, http://www.re-modern.com

McDonough William, Braungart Michael, “Cradle To Cradle”, North Point Press, 2002

Olson A Margot, Ruff Caimen Leigh, “The attitudes of interior design students towards sustainability”, 2009

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Assignment 4 Interviews.

For this assignment I chose the topic of "What object do people treasure most? and why ?". The things I wanted to investigate about this area were if the price of an object would be a factor over the sentimental value of an object and the memories it holds. After a little research into different interview techniques I came across a ted talk by Marc Pachter, "The art Of The Interview" . He interviewed a number of celebrities creating a human portrait of their lives. Through his use of clever questions he managed to dig deeper than any one else ever had. He often used shockingly blunt questions to evoke emotion in his subjects in order to get the information he needed. So I knew I had to chose my questions carefully as I didn't want to suggest to the people was interviewing what I was trying to find out in case it influenced their answers. I asked a selection of six people ranging in age from 18- 28 and I have titled their answers (subject 1-7).

A quick introduction to subjects 1 to 7.
Subject 1 - Male, 22, Student
Subject 2 - Female, 19, Student
Subject 3 - Female, 20, Student
Subject 4 - Male, 23, Phone salesman
Subject 5 - Female,28, Student
Subject 6 - Female,19, Part time shop assistant.
Subject 7 - Male,2o, Student

The first question I asked was to find out if people actually had a treasured object.

"Assuming that all family members and pets are safe, what would you save first if your home was on fire?"

Answers ranged in price and sentimentality which was exactly what I was hoping for.

Subject 1 - Pen Drive
Subject 2 - Photographs
Subject 3 - Laptop
Subject 4 - iPod
Subject 5 - Photographs
Subject 6 - Phone
Subject 7 - Laptop

To find out the reason behind the subjects decision be it sentimental or money based, I asked.

"Why would you save this item in particular?"

Subject 1 - " Because it has my dissertation on it"
Subject 2 - " They are full of memories that I couldn't get back or repeat"
Subject 3 - " It has all my uni work on it and my life"
Subject 4 - "Its small and easy to carry and I could listen to it while I wait for the fire brigade to come and put the fire out."
Subject 5 - " They are irreplaceable and full of memories"
Subject 6 - " Because it has all my numbers stored in it and I could never get them back"
Subject 7 - " Because it is full off photographs and uni work"

I had a few more questions prepared if people had said to me their treasured object was a gift from someone, but no-one's object was.
I found that for most people the price of an object was not the deciding factor in whether it was treasured on not. The more expensive items which at first seemed to be chosen because of price, once explained were for more sentimental reasons. Subject 4 took the questions too literally and thought I was asking what would be the most practical object to save during a fire. Which ended up giving me the wrong information. The questions I asked got me the right information for the rest of the six subjects but I should maybe think of an alternative question for people who might misunderstand the question.

The results from this experiment were interesting, with most people choosing the same or similar objects. If laptops hadn't harnessed the power to host photographs yet then most of the answers to my questions would have been photographs, which seems to be the thing that most people find irreplaceable.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Do we all see the same way?

Ive often wondered if the way I see the world is the same as the way everyone else sees it?. Is the image of red that I have the same as your image?, does velvet feel soft one way and rough the other or is it only me who has had that experience?. This is something I have become extremely interested in, following a podcast I listened to recently called "super recognisers". The podcast discussed prosopagnosia which is the inability to recognise faces. Some cases of this are so severe that sufferers can't even recognise their own reflection. On the other side of the spectrum there are people who are super recognisers. Researchers into this area have discovered that these super recognisers do see the world differently, or at least the world of faces. They somehow see a face in such a way that it is permanently fixed in their memory's. They often claim that they can recognise a person equally as well even if they have aged dramatically since their first meeting. These people prove to us that the world is seen differently through different peoples eyes. Another example of this is colour blindness. We call this a blindness which suggests that these people have something wrong with the way they see, but what if there was nothing wrong with it at all ? What if these people we diagnose with colour blindness simply have a more recognisable difference in the way they see ?. Perhaps their colour wheel has only shifted round slightly where most peoples have flipped equally. This would explain why people would agree that certain colours are similar. Maybe we all like the same colour but because e all see colour differently it appears that we all like different colours.
This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. Recently Ive been trying to relate these things to my studies in design. Ive found that this in particular is extremely relevant. It should transform the way we think about design, the colours we use and the shapes we use. How could we make a product appeal to as many people as possible?. What colour is best to use when trying to attract a particular type of person? what could we do as designers to create a design for people who see differently to view the same way?. This intensifies the importance for knowing your consumer market. It is as important to know who you are designing for as it is to know what you are designing.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Biomimicry: What Could Nature Teach Us

Biomimicry is designing by taking inspiration from nature. Its solving design problems in an environmentally friendly way by looking at the way plants and animals have been designed to do so without even thinking about it. What could nature teach us?

Advances in this field are astonishing. They are designing cars that have anti bump technology based on the behavior abilities of fish. Self-cleaning surfaces mimicking the lotus’ self cleaning leaves. Heating and cooling homes copying the way termites construct their mounds. The ultimate irony lies in the simplicity of it all.

We think that our species is so much more advanced than others yet they are solving more problems in simpler ways whilst having no negative effect on their habitat. Maybe we aren’t so smart after all, maybe they have all had their turn at being “top dog” and now it’s our turn we are ruining everything they have created.

In our modern world our answer to stopping the spread of disease is to kill everything, good and bad with harmful chemicals that have not been tested properly for their long term harmful effects. We now know that these chemicals cause bacteria to evolve and resist treatment. Yet we are still using them. Nature has a more delicate resolution to this problem. Sharklet technologies have designed an innovative surface inspired and developed from the design of sharks scales. They noticed that barnacles and other parasites were rarely found on the bodies of sharks whilst they were extremely common on whales. After investigating the surface of their scales they have developed a surface that acts in a similar way. It creates an environment that is not suitable for bacteria to occupy this new surface is to be used in areas with a high risk of bacterial infection eg. hospitals, public toilets and medical utensils.

I find this type of designing fascinating and it’s reassuring to know that there are institutes dedicated to encouraging the creation of these kinds of products. The Biomimicry Institute was set up in 2005 by Janine Benyus who wrote the book “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature”. There are some more interesting links I have attached to this article about all the good work going on in biomimicry.





Monday, 8 March 2010

Design Safari : Assignment 3

For assignment three we were asked to observe people in different situations, analyze their body language and make general assumptions about them from their appearance. So on the train down to London I observed the other passengers and soon began making my own assumptions of them.

I found myself sitting opposite a couple who had gotten on the train at Aberdeen and were also on their way to london. I knew this because the ticket reserving their seat told me. They sat quite closely and talked comfortably to each-other which gave me the first hint that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They were also around the same age 23? and dressed similarly. The man was dressed in baggy jeans a baseball shirt and a baseball cap which said "Red Socks" he wore thick black rimmed glasses which were all cloudy from fingerprints. His arms were covered in tattoos all based around an egypt theme, with a landscape of the pyramids and twenty or so hieroglyphics running the length of his arm. he also had a pendant with a pyramid on it. This seemed a bit strange but made me think he has some sort of connection to egypt or just really likes it. The girl was dressed in black and had baggy jeans on with a long sleeved black top and a ring with a pentagon on it, which perhaps meant that she was interested in the occult. She had very heavy makeup on which was applied poorly which was maybe due to poor eye sight because she also had thick black rimmed glasses. The amount of makeup she had on made me think she was maybe lacking in confidence and felt the need to hide behind it. They both played computer games throughout the train journey and didn't speak to any of the other passengers. On the girls way back from the toilet I heard her tell the man that she was angry at another passenger for walking in on her as she had the door unlocked because she is claustrophobic. He expressed concern about this and gave her a cuddle which made me sure of my previous assumption that they were a couple. They were stoked up with coffee flasks and a bag of food. The girl who was slightly overweight ate a salad some coconut and had a cup of coffee on the journey, where as the man who was extremely tall and thin ate two chicken and sweet-corn sandwiches a packet of crisps, coconut, a lion bar, toffee popcorn and had a few cups of coffee. The man read a book about wrestling whilst the girl listened to heavy rock music. I didn't manage to get a picture of them unfortunately because it would have been too obvious.

The thing I found most interesting about this couple was how unaware they were of everyone around them. they never once made eye contact with me throughout a 6 hour journey and they never asked for anything from the catering trolly. Perhaps the reason they brought so much food and drinks with them was to avoid any interaction with other people on their travels.