Red squiggley lines keeps telling me that “aposematic” isn’t a real word, but it absolutely is; I Googled it just to make sure.
- (of coloration or markings) Serving to warn or repel predators.
- (of an animal) Having such coloration or markings.
This is what I decided to name the collection of textile designs that I produced for the Society of Dyers and Colourists’s live project brief entitled “fashion for the future”. The brief was very open, but we had to work within two constraints: we had to work to a trend forecast from one of the big textile design journals, and we had to strongly consider sustainability or a sense of eco-friendliness in our designs.
The summer 2013 trend “alien paradise” in issue 96 of Textile View really jumped out at me (I’d originally chosen an Art Deco theme, but to be honest I really wasn’t finding it too interesting), saying “This chapter is inspired by the wonderful world of primeval forests and jungles, augmented and enchanted by new technologies. Leaf patterns and the shiny skins of rainforest frogs inspire fabrics and patterns.”
I originally visited Dundee’s botanic gardens to hang around in the hot house and photograph their tropical and carnivorous plants, but found that February isn’t really the ideal time of year for such things. I quickly moved on to looking at rainforest frogs, which I have absolutely fallen in love with. There are so many beautiful pattern and colour variations, and most of the frogs are absolutely tiny and adorable (and poisonous). This area of research obviously lends itself well to the sustainability factor of the brief, so I researched the Amazon rainforest and conservation charities.
I placed my designs into the context of interiors accessories (I do love a good cushion), more specifically kids’ bedroom accessories. I feel that the bright colours and graphic marks I have used would really sit well in a kid’s room, and the subject matter of the prints would help to get the young ‘uns interested in conservation, nature, animals, and travel. I also feel that the handmade element would really add value to my final pieces, and really creates an appreciation in the customer and a bond between them and the finished product, giving a very non-disposable feel to my work.
I hand-printed designs on habotai silk with acid dyes that I mixed myself. I ordered digitally printed silk with my own hand-drawn and Photoshop-coloured-in illustrations of frogs, and my grand plans were to hand print on top with my chosen colours and foil effects, but my prints took over a week to arrive and I received them about three hours before my printing workshop access was stopped, so that’s rather disappointing and I feel as though some of my prints are simply unfinished. However, I am pleased with what I produced in such a short time. I didn’t really know what context I was aiming for when I began printing and chose silk because I felt the delicate, airy, shiny feeling of the fabric was appropriate for my project, and silk really shows colour well; with my context now being kids’ interiors, I wish I had worked with a more durable cotton base fabric.
Here are a few pictures from my sketchbook; there are more (and larger versions) over on Flickr.
And here are my three final presentation boards (A2 in size):
You can’t really tell from the photo, but in between the frogs on the digitally printed fabric I’ve hand-printed lines of gold foil. Also the colours in the photos are a bit off (especially for the context board), but I think it gives a good idea of my project and final designs.
In my Design and the Market module, we’ve recently begun workshops that help us work through NESTA’s creative enterprise toolkit, in order to get us thinking in a creative, entrepreneurial, business-minded, you-can-do-it kind of way. It’s kind of daunting, and I imagine especially so if you don’t even want to start a business, but I appreciate why we’re working through the programme; it’s a business module (obviously) and the aim is to give us a good understanding of business, and how the creative industries work. These are all going to be useful skills, no matter what we end up working as in the future. The toolkit consists of four little booklets which provide you with information on how to shape your creative idea into a viable business, and worksheets to help explore and visualise the key issues behind your idea.
I unfortunately missed the first workshop, which I was actually really looking forward to (I’ve mentioned before how I really want to work on personal branding and developing who I am as a designer and, I suppose, businessperson). The first workshop had the class working on identifying their values. I’ve since completed the worksheet after speaking with a couple of classmates and other people who’ve worked through the toolkit. The worksheet asks you to identify values and place them according to how important they are – always important, sometimes important, rarely important, and never important. In my always important column I had things like fun, passion, communication, Scottish/UK-based, and artisanal/skilled work.
The second exercise was evidence modelling, which is where you succinctly describe your business idea (“Beautiful limited-run handmade printed textile interiors accessories & prints, based in Scotland, and printed fabrics available to buy by-the-metre.”) and describe what impacts your business will have on the world, good and bad. My business will enhance peoples’ home comforts, and revitalise dreary interiors with unique and intriguing pieces to delight and create bonds and memories. It will replace mass-produced interiors accessories; revive the public’s interest in traditional and artisanal skills, and owning items with a back-story; the backlash of my business becoming super-successful is that the market for mass-produced generic interiors accessories will dry up and lots of shops will sadly have to close down, and I will become so successful that I’ll have to employ huge manufacturing factories to keep up with demand, and will eventually lose the quirky, handmade feel of my work.
We were also asked to do fake evidence success, where you imagine a story of success and write or draw it out. This exercise was quite fun – I wrote a short Very Influential Design Blog post about how fantastic my work is, and why everyone should buy the things I make.
Yesterday we worked on a few more worksheets, defining our customers, blueprint modelling, and relationship modelling. I’ll write about this soon – it was a lot to think about!
This is it. Semester 2 of my first year at DJCAD is nearly over. I almost can’t believe it.
The first half of this Border Crossings project asked us to pick an aspect of our identities and use it as inspiration. I had a bit of trouble with this, but eventually settled on traditional crafts, mainly knitting and origami. These are things that I find very therapeutic – I like the repetitive nature of these crafts and I really enjoy that you can follow a set of instructions and come away with one defined outcome. The second part of the project asked us to research an aspect of Slovenian culture to take inspiration from. Živa, a Slovenian student I was grouped with, pointed me in the direction of Idrija lace, which is native to the Idrija region of Slovenia and dates back to the 16th century. The lace is really beautiful, and often full of traditional motifs.
I have found this project very challenging, but nevertheless here’s a wee look at my final presentation boards.
Project 1 and 2:
Feel free to click the images to see them bigger, and please let me know what you think!
I recently headed out for an evening of bingo with Sheila Roussel, Beth Spowart, and Chloe Henderson. Bingo seemed like a good choice to help us complete our new assignment, as we were to go into an environment with which we were unfamiliar. This worked for me because I have no first-hand experience of bingo, and I certainly had a few preconceived notions about what it would be like!
We decided to meet outside at around 7.15, for the 7.30 game. On the walk there I felt quite nervous, and wondered what to expect. I ended up walking behind a couple of older ladies who looked quite dressed up, and I admit they began to annoy me as they walked quite slowly and spread out over the whole pavement so I couldn’t pass, but it turned out that we were all going to the same place. I made it on time, anyway. I was quite surprised that there weren’t any people outside – my past experiences of being near this building mainly entail having to fight my way through a massive crowd of smokers.
Inside, we were greeted by a small number of steps (and a tiny escalator) and a small but efficient help desk. Sheila explained that she had phoned earlier in the day, and that we really had no idea what we were doing. The assistant then began to get us all registered – filling out forms is never fun, and doing it at a desk in an unfamiliar place when you feel very much in the way of ‘the regulars’ is even less so! But after a bit of faffing, all four of us were registered (I found it strange that the form asks whether you’re a smoker or a non-smoker) and the proud new owners of a membership card (printed with our names!), a Mecca dabber, vouchers for online bingo, and a free pass to bring a friend next time. Then we had to buy our books. I was unsure as to what we were actually buying into – the assistant understood that we were new, and recited the basic rules and what our selection of papers actually were, but I didn’t quite catch it all; it was a bit like at the end of TV competitions when a voiceover quickly recites all the terms and conditions.
We made our way to the main hall, through a mini hall full of puggy machines – I found this dark room full of bright flashing lights a bit disorientating! However, it did incite a bit of excitement at the prospect of winning something. The main hall is very big, and at full capacity I imagine it can get very noisy. The seats are arranged in sections and colour coded to make it easier for staff to locate winners. We had to instantly jump into action – almost as soon as we sat down, numbers were being called. And it didn’t stop. Bingo is much more fast-paced than I’d expected.
The hall wasn’t very busy, but there was quite a wide variety of people – I’d mostly expected to see the “little old lady” stereotype, but a decent number of patrons were young people. There were a couple of groups of 20-something friends, and at least two couples who looked to be in their early twenties. I wondered why they were there: had they been introduced by older family members or friends, or (like myself) as part of a project? Was it a common night out for them, and do they like going places or doing things where there’s no time to talk to each other? Were they there in the hopes of winning some money to fund a further night out? It surprised me a little that the younger patrons appeared to be regulars, and that they knew what they were doing and seemed very comfortable in the bingo hall environment. Most people were either alone or sitting in pairs, although there were a few groups of three or four. Many of the regulars appeared to know the staff by name.
I noted a few common behaviours, scanning the room when I felt confident enough to look away from my books. If people were talking, they were doing it in very hushed tones. Was this to do with issues of privacy, or so as not to distract from the caller? Everyone kept their membership cards close to hand, which I think probably enforced everyone’s sense of belonging; I think this also showed that most people expected (at least a little bit) to win, and thought to have their membership card within easy reach so as to get their winnings registered as quickly as possible – of course this is also an issue of politeness, because you don’t want to keep everyone waiting for the rest of the game while you rummage in your handbag! Another common behaviour I noticed here, as well as other public places I’ve been recently (Edinburgh zoo, sandwich shops, cafes, cinemas), is that when you’re looking for a seat, you pick one a good distance away from people who are already seated. It happens on buses, in lecture theatres (no class ever fills the front row first and works its way back – the first people in always seem to choose seats somewhere in the middle, and then people fill in around them), everywhere! This happens all the time (I do it too) and I wonder why. Again, is it privacy or personal space issues, or just not wanting to be “that guy”, the weird one who sits too close to people? In lectures do we not want to look “too eager” or like a “teacher’s pet”? Do we think that sitting in the front row will lead us to be chosen to answer questions, to have to speak up in class, which is something everyone always seems to want to avoid? I also noticed that nobody ever congratulated the winners; in fact, after a cry of “House!” (and what happened to “bingo”?), there were many grumbles and sour looks from other players – mostly those who were alone, players who were in pairs or groups looked to each other for some reassurance and relief from the tension of the moment, and laughed it off together. I didn’t expect bingo to be quite so competitive, and I wondered why winning brought out signs of bitterness in other players. Was it because the people who were there alone were very invested in the game? Were they dependent on winning that £20? Did they feel that they deserved a win, that their luck was due to come in, and did they feel somehow cheated? I mean, once you get quick enough to keep up with the pace, bingo is essentially a game of luck. Perhaps simply the fact that someone was there alone and didn’t have that friendly face sitting across from them led them to internalise and exaggerate the feeling of disappointment that not-winning (I don’t think it’s really “losing” because it’s just chance whether the numbers called are going to be in the right place on your page) brings.
I would never have thought to go to bingo if it hadn’t been for this project; it had never been something I’d thought about – it just isn’t something I’ve really ever been introduced to. I had preconceived notions about what I’d find there, and I was mostly wrong. Bourdieu suggests that people don’t tend to put themselves into situations where they don’t know “the rules” – he writes that middle class people tend to be more confident in approaching cultural institutions (museums and art galleries, for example) than working class people, because they have acquired “conceptual skills and social confidence” through their upbringings; basically, they’ve learned what happens there and how to behave. Without dipping into the “class” issue, I agree with this; I believe there’s a bit more to it than just that, but it certainly plays a large part in why people avoid certain experiences and environments. I felt quite uncomfortable during some parts of this outing, because I just didn’t know what was going on, and what was going to happen next; for example, nobody had thought to explain to us what happens if you win, and during a short conversation amongst ourselves it was mentioned how some of us felt we’d be too nervous to shout out if we won, for fear of drawing attention to ourselves and then not knowing what to do about it. I felt something similar in Paris when I visited the Pompidou centre – I worried that I was going through the galleries “too quickly”, because many people stopped and looked at every piece of art for an extended period of time, and there seemed to be an unspoken rule about viewing every piece, and not just walking past things that didn’t instantly catch your interest.
I met with Sheila for a bit of further discussion about our experience, and I feel that this has really helped me to clarify my thoughts. We talked about what we’d originally thought we were going to see in the bingo hall, and why we’d never thought we would be “bingo people”, and if our attitudes had been changed by our experiences. I definitely found that discussing the assignment with someone after having some time to think about it has helped me better relate my findings to what’s said in Understanding Bourdieu, a text we were given to read to help with our experiment in ethnography. This assignment as a whole has also really helped me to understand what ethnography is and why it’s important – observe people in their natural environment so you can understand how their world works; truly understanding your client base will lead you to design meaningful, helpful, useful products and services. Questionnaires and surveys are all well and good, but what people say isn’t always necessarily what they do; we tend to exaggerate our stories to fit the situation we’re in, for example in a conversation with friends “I walked down the road the wrong way until I noticed the door numbers were counting down instead of up” might turn into “I got so lost, I had no idea where I was.” Observation really is key.
Quotes taken from:
Webb, J., Schirato, T., Danaher, G., 2002. Understanding Bourdieu. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Recently I’ve been doing a bit of research into service design tools. To begin with I considered this just something else we had to look up, but it’s actually been quite interesting. I know. Shocker.
Through the classes I’ve had so far in my university career, I’ve become aware of a couple of service design tools already and to be honest, these are the ones I think I find most relevant to myself at the moment.
Mind mapping is something that I still feel is a bit of a chore – I tend to work by scribbling lists and notes in a disorderly fashion and then going back later and putting them in order, and deciding which items are a priority. But after being encouraged to use them during classes and to complete my design studies assignments, I am starting to understand how mind mapping can be used to quickly and succinctly show the progression and connection of ideas.
Rough prototyping is another design tool that we’ve actually had to use as part of our classes. We used paper prototyping to visualise the design ideas we had during our Change by Design module last semester. I found this really useful, because it gave everyone a physical representation of what we sometimes had trouble expressing in words. It also made our ideas and products seem more real, which I found increased my enthusiasm for the project in general!
Storyboarding is something we did when Lauren Currie of Snook came to speak to my class and run a workshop on service design. Storyboarding is a really useful tool, where you outline your customer’s journey through your service by noting every ‘touch point’ they encounter. A touch point is any point of interaction with your service – seeing an advertisement, making a phone call, opening your office door, reading a letter, etc. Anything. By working through these touch points, you gain a good understanding of your customer’s experience of your service, and can change aspects that cause your customers frustration or make things difficult for them. Lauren also had us make character profiles, which is a neat little tool to give you a better understanding of your customer base.
Sort of an aside to character profiles, we also had a workshop this week on ‘style tribes‘. I’d never heard of this before. A style tribe is basically people who are grouped together according to the way they’re dressed. Not to be confused with subcultures (though some subcultures and style tribes are both), which is a group of people who ascribe to a culture which sets them apart from the larger culture that they belong to, the ‘main’ culture of the time. For example, punk is a subculture which generally holds such values as a non-conformist attitude, a DIY ethic, direct action, and anarchism, to name but a few. Punk is also a style tribe you can be part of for simply aesthetic reasons (mohawks, studs, ripped jeans, safety pins, Doc Martens, etc.), without really investing yourself in the ideologies of the punk subculture.
We did a quick exercise where we had to create our own style tribe, which I found very difficult. Who do I want to design for? Who will be my customers? Being new to the whole thing, I tried to style tribe (it’s a verb, I’m sure) an idealised version of myself, which is also quite difficult, if you think about it. Creative; casual but ‘put together’, basic pieces combined, bright, Converse/sneakers – comfort, professional but approachable; interested in home comforts, days out, tattoos, quirky homewares and jewellery, cats; considers Kirstie Allsopp, Velma Dinkley, and Kaylee from Firefly to be her icons.
Parts B through E of this assignment can be found here.
Polysemy is the idea that things (words, phrases, images, signs) have many meanings. In The Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes details three different types of meanings that can be garnered from images. The first type of message you can get from an image is the linguistic message – the caption or slogan in an advertisement, and the labels of the product advertised. The second type of message is the symbolic one (or the coded iconic image) – a tin of soup, for example, will invariably have lovely bright pictures of whole vegetables on the label, symbolising how ‘fresh’ and healthy it is. The third type of message is the non-symbolic one (or the non-coded iconic image) – the obvious message: you’re selling a tin of soup.
“All images are polysemous; they imply, underlying their signifiers, a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, the reader able to choose some and ignore others.”
Here Barthes is saying that as soon as you see one meaning in an image, you ‘unlock’ many others – an image of a crying person might signify sadness, loss, physical pain, happiness. If you choose one (happiness) you close off the other possibilities but unlock new ones – happiness due to good news, finding something that was lost, ‘happy tears’ at a wedding, etc. Different people often see different meanings, due to differing backgrounds, life experiences, and cultures; adding text to the image fixes the meaning, anchoring the image within the context you choose for it.
The workshop we participated in last week introduced us to this concept, and this week we have performed a little experiment in order to help us understand this whole polysemy thing better. The experiment entailed us picking three random images (or rather, the randomiser at sxc.hu picking for us) and asking members of the public what information they got from the image, what (if anything) the images made them feel, and if they could think of a story that linked the images together. Our results were quite varied – all together we asked 9 people, and heard a number of different stories.
We chose one of the stories we’d gathered to work with further: the three images are part of an ad campaign to promote ecotourism and volunteering. Our next task was to add a fourth image to the set, to see if that would help people see our chosen story more clearly. We found this somewhat effective – the image of people digging, along with that of the women washing clothes in a stream, definitely gave people more of an idea of travelling, working hard, and helping or being charitable. However, there was still some variation in the stories we heard.
We then went back to our original three images, but added the word ‘volunteer’ into the mix. This very quickly led people to understand our story, and most of our participants got it straight away. One female participant said, “Well, this image says ‘volunteer’, so obviously she’s volunteering.” Which, I suppose, is exactly what you want to happen. You wouldn’t be very happy if you were trying to get people to volunteer in Peru but actually your advert inspired everyone to go and book a nice holiday in the south of France. From this result we can definitely see that text fixes a meaning to the images.
I find it really interesting how these randomly chosen images now have a sequence and a story behind them. Now all I can see when I look at them is this imaginary advert!
So what does all this tell us? As a designer, I think it all boils down to the context into which you place your designs. In textiles you have to take into consideration fabric choice, colour, print, stitch structure, construction, and most of all where your design will be seen. Fashion or interiors? If fashion, will your models be in a bright white studio (which might signify “artiness”, high fashion, unaffordable), or a more gritty “street” scene (which might signify wearable, real-life, accessible)? If interiors, what sort of lifestyle do you want to depict? Where do you want your designs to fit in?
Doing this experiment and thinking about Barthes’s explanation in terms more closely related to what I do day-to-day (we’re always being told to think of our designs “in context”) has definitely helped me to understand the concept of polysemy, and the experiment itself certainly made Barthes’s points clearer in my mind, as The Rhetoric of the Image isn’t the easiest read.