That’s it. The end of teaching time for the semester, for the year. This is bananas.
I got some really good feedback on my SDC project today – I was told that I was very high on the list of people to be entered into the competition, and that I’d produced the best set of presentation boards that Andy had ever seen from me. This was all really great to hear – I feel like the start of this year was really slow for me, and I really didn’t enjoy myself or my projects much, and the SDC project really opened me up and turned things around a bit. I got a bit of constructive criticism, and Andy said that the digitally printed and hand-finished sample I included on my presentation board was much better and more engaging that the plain hand printed one. I agree with him and explained that I’d had many grand plans for my digital prints, but was unable to carry through with them because the prints took for ever to come back. I’d really like to continue to work on my extra fabric samples, but our access to the workshop has been closed off so that the fourth years have enough space and time to work on their final pieces, so I think (depending on time) that I’ll do a bit more paper work and create an extra presentation board with some alternative designs and colour options just in paper.
We’ve had our last Design and the Market session, and now have to produce a 2000 word personal enterprise proposal. We’ve worked through NESTA’s creative enterprise toolkit and had some absolutely fantastic talks from some incredible speakers (Patricia van den Akker came to speak to us and I’ve never taken so many notes so quickly – 6 sides of A4, plus some sneaky phone photos of her slides so I can come back to them later!). My only problem is that throughout the workshops I haven’t really had a solid business idea – I want to design and make things for sure, but I haven’t had that spark of an idea that has ignited a passion in me. I really want to focus on personal branding, because I feel that where ever I end up going after uni (working for a design company, working freelance alongside having a “real” job, or going into business for myself) this would be very beneficial to me. I’ve mentioned in posts before about how I want to “discover who I am” and I feel that identifying my values and passions using the NESTA worksheets has really helped with that, and I’m sure that expanding this idea into my fourth year report will set me up really well. I just have no idea how to go about doing it. I feel a bit like I’ve floated through the workshops without a solid idea and now that I don’t want to write a business plan I’m a bit lost.
Last week us Design and the Marketers worked on more NESTA worksheets. We worked on defining our ideal customers, our target market. This is a really difficult job, because it can be tough to visualise another person’s life, and to do this exercise you have to really delve into what makes your customer who they are: what they like, what annoys them, what they read, what hobbies they have, how much money they have, what they feel is important in life, who their friends are. As a designer empathy is incredibly important, you have to understand people and how they work. I kind of filled my worksheet out while thinking of an idealised version of me, or who I want to be when I grow up, which probably made things a little easier for me than if I were aiming toward an ideal customer of middle-aged me or something. I think this is a really useful exercise, and one it would be worth redoing properly once I have a better idea of what I want to do with my life – it gives a good base idea of where to aim your work (what magazines or blogs do these people read, how do they shop?) and helps to develop your sense of empathy.
We completed a worksheet on blueprint modelling, which helps you to visualise how your business will function and describe how business will be done. You list all the things you have to do to make your business work and split them into three stages: engagement, development, and delivery. Each of these stages has things going on “backstage” (things like research and development), and “onstage” (things like networking and showing off prototypes). This process of putting actions under the appropriate headings helps you to map out all the steps you need to take to deliver your product or service in a linear way. I think this exercise would have been easier for me if I’d had a more solid business idea to work with.
We also looked at relationship modelling – mapping out all the people involved in your business, and the relationships between them and yourself. For example, I will be the designer or the “generator” of the ideas, a textile digital printing company might be the “realiser” of my ideas – they take my designs and make them into fabric for me to work with (sewing machine suppliers and maintenance companies, and haberdasheries would also count as realisers), online and brick-and-mortar shops and boutiques are “distributors”, the people who deliver, sell, and market the product, and finally (of course) you have your customers. I found that this exercise really opened my eyes to just how many people are involved in a business. “I’ll start selling textile accessories that I make” all of a sudden turns into “I’ll have to develop relationships with x number of companies”, which I had never even considered before!
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!
Yesterday morning saw the culmination of a few weeks’ work in my Design in the Market module – a group presentation on a designer of our choice. As a group, consisting of myself, Jennifer, Lesley, and Rebecca, we eventually decided on Samantha McEwen, the girl behind fashion label Isolated Heroes. Part of our research for this presentation was to contact and interview our designer, and Sam invited us to do so at her studio space in Wasps Studios in Meadow Mills, Dundee. Sam was really welcoming and friendly throughout our interview, and we were left with pages of notes and lots to think about in putting together our presentation. For other classes most of us have had to create PowerPoint presentations before, so we decided this time to use Prezi for a bit of a change; luckily for presentation-phobic me, Jennifer and Rebecca put together a really solid presentation that flowed really well, and after a bit of rearranging and rewriting we were ready to present.
I’ve never been the most confident with regards to speaking to people, especially to groups of people in an actual lecture theatre, especially when my grades are reliant on it. Despite all this, I think our presentation went really well and I’m really happy about it.
From speaking to Sam and listening to other groups’ presentations, it’s obvious that all these successful designers and businesses began with a very solid idea, a passion for something very specific, and a real drive to do exactly what they wanted to do. This is reinforcing my thoughts from my previous post: that I have to work hard on developing my brand and finding my passion. Wish me luck!
I have recently begun a new module at uni called Design & the Market, which aims to “introduce students to enterprise culture and terminology and to place the practice of design within a business context.” It all sounds very clever and like a bit of hard work, but so far our lectures have been pretty interesting. We’ve been told some really interesting things about how the world of work and design is progressing. It’s a scary thought, really, that in a year and a half I’ll be finished with uni and in the real, grown-up world. One of the things that has stuck with me from the first DitM lecture is the saying “make a job, don’t take a job”. It’s going to be down to us to create our own futures, our own careers; the top ten jobs that will be in demand in 2015 didn’t even exist in 2005!
I would really like to use this module to work on personal branding as this isn’t really something I’ve thought about. Last year I learned a bit about branding and identity, and we were shown some tools to help us to define ourselves and our target market, and I’m really looking forward to figuring out who I am.