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

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