Tag Archive | lecture

Design thinking.

I really enjoyed hearing from Dougie Kinnear (a recent DJCAD jewellery and metalwork graduate who is currently in the Masters programme) on Friday, in our Change by Design lecture. I saw Dougie’s work at DJCAD’s last degree show, and it was great to actually hear him talk about it, and about himself. I really appreciated what he said about being very blinkered in his approach to his course – he was very focussed on jewellery, and making, so much so that he felt his design studies lectures were a bit pointless, or at least he found it difficult to apply them to his specialism and way of working. He said he felt like the lectures were designed to turn him into a product designer, which I suppose is understandable.

I have really enjoyed Change by Design so far, and I have enjoyed having the opportunity to step away from sketchbooks and textiles, and to think differently. I sometimes do find it a bit difficult, though, to relate these “think big” lectures to myself  – when you spend the majority of your week with your nose in a sketchbook, concentrating on just drawing or making things that look pretty, sometimes that message can get lost. I think so, anyway!

I really enjoyed Mike Press’s lecture, I think, because of this. He spoke about Josiah Wedgwood who, it turns out, was an incredibly influential man, not just when it comes to pottery, but also in terms of mass production, industrialisation, transport innovation, and the abolition of slavery! “He just wanted to make cups and saucers,” Mike told us, but rather than just “being a potter”, Wedgwood worked to change many areas of society. In order to just make cups and saucers, he had to create a way to mass produce them efficiently, introducing “division of labour” into his factories, and building a village for his workers. He had to find an efficient way to transport his raw materials and finished goods, so he became influential in the building of the Trent & Mersey canal. I think it’s safe to say that Josiah Wedgwood had his “design thinking” hat on!

Words to live by: Stay hungry, stay foolish; don’t be a horse, be a sponge; put the “ing” in “thing”!

Service design.

I’ve heard whispers of the name RedJotter through the grapevine for a while now, but have only really been aware of it in the same way I’m aware of, say, The Wire – something I’ve heard the basic premise of, something that’s meant to be really good, but something that I’ve largely ignored because it’s not what I’m traditionally interested in. The Wire is a really good gritty crime drama. RedJotter is a service designer. Oh, okay.

RedJotter is Lauren Currie, co-founder of Snook, a social innovation and service design outfit based in Glasgow, and a bit of a powerhouse. She came to speak to us Change by Design students on Friday, and held a workshop where we worked in teams to brainstorm, journey map, and design a solution (a service) for a problem. Each team was asked to pick a time when we’d experienced bad service design, and eleven out of twelve teams picked dealing with SAAS. The twelfth team picked public transport.

Brainstorming, journey mapping.

Brainstorming, journey mapping.

My team decided, through brainstorming and journey mapping (mapping the touch-points of a journey – your SAAS awards letter, the phone, being on hold, speaking to someone, etc.) that a lot of peoples’ frustrations came from the call centre way of working (many had tried email, and never even been answered!) – you wait for ages to speak to someone, have to “Press 1 if… Press 2 if…”, and often have to be passed from one member of staff to another. One of our team had received several letters containing wrong information and had to make several phone calls, each time having to explain herself many times and each time speaking to someone different. We decided that each university, or at least each university town, should have its own SAAS branch or office, where you could visit on a certain day or at a certain time designated to your course or where in the alphabet your name falls, and where you have one adviser to help you throughout your whole SAAS experience, so there would be no risk of miscommunication between staff, and fewer “lost” files.



Paper prototyping.

Paper prototyping our feedback system.

I found Friday’s lecture and workshop really interesting and really enjoyable. I found Lauren’s passion and confidence really inspiring – it’s difficult to imagine that she was once me, just a second year design student who hadn’t found “her thing” yet.

I had never thought much about service design before. I imagined it was just the domain of suited-up bigwigs, who decide how their companies should be run. I still find it a little bit difficult to connect everything Lauren spoke about to myself, I suppose, like I said, because I haven’t really found “my thing” yet. Even so, I really enjoyed the whole day, and I look forward to seeing how far RedJotter and Snook will go!

Assignment 2, part 1.

Last Friday as part of Change by Design we were split into teams of around five people and introduced to the concept of brainstorming as a way to come up with ideas, names, solutions, designs, anything. We were encouraged to brainstorm in two different ways – either by every team member writing ideas on Post-Its and shouting out their ideas, or by having one team member nominated as a scribe to write down all the ideas of the other team members. I think I preferred the Post-It method – everybody is allowed the same level of input, and hearing other peoples’ ideas shouted out often inspires new ideas to pop into your head.

Today I met with my team to work on the 2nd Change by Design assignment. For this assignment, each team was given a brief at random from the RSA’s Student Design Awards. We got brief 8 – The Good Journey (PDF). “Make people look forward to their daily commute.” is the theme to work to.

We did a bit of brainstorming about what makes peoples’ daily commutes so stressful, and among such suggestions as uneven pavements, pavement hoggers, and drivers who don’t indicate, we settled on looking at road rage in more detail. I don’t think people would mind quite so much the daily car journeys if only there were ways to instantly relieve your stress or anger whilst you were still experiencing it.


Brainstorming journeys and why they're stressful.

We then brainstormed to try to find the reasons why people get road rage, and to find solutions for it, coming up with things like in-car punching bags, squeezy stress balls installed in every car, and just having a chauffeur so that you don’t have to do any of the driving yourself. I, personally, like my suggestion of inventing mass transit tubes like in Futurama! We plan to meet up again soon to complete the assignment, discuss in more detail our ideas (I hope to come up with more – maybe over the next few days when I’m in the car I’ll think of something, because I get road rage even as a passenger!), and settle on one final solution to the ubiquitous road rage problem.

More brainstorming.

Brainstorming road rage.

More mind mapping.

Mind mapping The Good Journey.

Although I was a bit dubious about being placed in a team with people I don’t know, I realise now that it can actually be very beneficial. It’s very refreshing to speak to people from different disciplines, who are interested in completely different subjects to me, and who will probably take away from this exercise some vastly different opinions and ideas to the ones I do.

Assignment 1: Mapping Meaning

As part of my Change by Design module, I have read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, a book that looks at epidemics of social behavior. I’ve always been a bit of a reader. I absorbed books as a child, and amassed a gigantic collection of Point Horror novels! Although I mainly stick to fiction (Harry Potter, the Sookie Stackhouse novels – my tastes haven’t really changed since I was about twelve, to be honest, but I have done most of the classics and must-reads too!) I rather enjoyed The Tipping Point. I did find the book to be a bit repetitive, but I suppose that’s part of what it takes to make information “sticky”! To complete Assignment 1 of Change by Design I produced an overview of the book as a mind map, and then chose one chapter to look at more closely. It might take another read for me to really get my head around the whole book, because I found that when mind mapping I got a bit mixed up with which chapter was which, and what information came from where.

The Tipping Point mind map.

An overview mind map of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

The chapter I chose to look at in more depth was The Power of Context (Part Two), which is concerned with “the magic number one hundred and fifty”. After a bit of Googling for past students’ blogs I think this might be a bit of an unpopular choice! I chose this chapter because I am quite interested in psychology, and I found the concept that we have a finite capacity for close relationships quite fascinating! I’d never really thought about it before. I was already familiar with Miller’s The Magical Number Seven, but had only ever thought about it in the context of “chunks of information”, sequences of numbers or letters, etc. Dunbar argues that humans evolved bigger brains (with bigger neocortices) in order to better deal with larger social groups. I had never really thought about the brain power associated with having friends before, but it really can be an exhausting exercise – if I think of my closest friends, I can name their partners, many of their family members, a number of their other friends from work or college or university, and who of all of these people is having drama with whom!

I became really interested in the idea of “transactive memory”, where a lot of our information isn’t actually stored in our brains, but elsewhere. If, for example, you had to name the capital city of Bhutan, you probably don’t have that particular piece of information memorised, but you do know that if you look in an atlas (or in one of those fancy notebooks with a list of countries and capitals and a conversion chart on the inside cover, or on the internet) you’ll easily find it. I especially liked the part of the chapter that talks about how couples and families store their information with each other – I go to my boyfriend if I need computer help, for example, or if I need to find out where someplace is, because he’s good at that. I tend to be the one to remember if we have to be somewhere, or things like important dates. That all sounds a bit stereotypical, I think, but there we go!

The Power of Context (Part Two)

My mind map of The Power of Context (Part Two): The Magic Number One Hundred and Fifty

As part of this assignment, I have also produced an annotated bibliography of my chosen chapter in the Harvard referencing style:

Miller, G. A., 1956. The Magical Number Seven. Psychological Review, 63 (2), pp. 81-97.

Here Miller says that the human mind’s working (or short-term) memory has a capacity of about seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information. Gladwell references Miller to illustrate the channel capacity concept, that humans can only handle taking in and differentiating between so many snippets of information at once.

Buys, C. J. & Larson, K. L., 1979. Human Sympathy Groups. Psychology Reports, 45 (2), pp. 547-553.
Washburn, S. L. & Moore, R., 1973. Ape into Man. Boston: Little, Brown.

These two references talk about human capacity for relationships and group size. People generally only hold about 12 to 15 people close to heart; caring deeply about people can be exhausting and requires a lot of time investment.

Dunbar, R. I. M., 1992. Neocortex Size as a Constraint on Group Size in Primates. Journal of Human Evolution, 20, pp. 469-493.
Dunbar, R. I. M., 1996. Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Dunbar argues that in primates (monkeys, chimps, baboons, humans)  group size, the capacity for close relationships, is directly related to the size of the neocortex area of the brain. He has studied many hunter-gatherer tribes for which there is documented history, and found that their group sizes tend to average just below the magic number of one hundred and fifty.

Wegner, D., 1987. Transactive Memory: A Contemporary Analysis of the Group Mind. In: Mullen, B. & Goethals, G. eds.Theories of Group Behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag, pp. 200-201.
Wegner, D., 1991. Transactive Memory in Close Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (6), pp. 923-929.

Wegner describes “transactive memory”, where much of what we remember is not stored in our brain, but outside it; our information tends not to be memorised, but stored elsewhere – in phone books, diaries, atlases, or with our partners, children, or siblings. We then simply memorise what kind of information is stored where, so that we can easily access it when needed.

Week one (and a half)!

I have been a (direct entry) 2nd year textiles student at DJCAD for a week and a half, and so far I have survived. This is somewhat of an achievement, as I generally expect myself not to be able to do anything ever.

During my first week and a half, I have mostly been able to find my way around the labyrinthine DJCAD buildings and campus, spent a small fortune in the art shop (hello new pens, pencils, paint, oil pastels, paper, sketchbooks, padlocks, linseed oil, and other assorted art goodies!), been on two drawing trips (first to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and second to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow), and created a blog (hello!) as part of one of my modules.

I have also remembered how awful I am at time management, and how much I hate the beginnings of projects, and how you should never look at other peoples’ sketchbooks because you’ll always feel a bit inferior.

After a whole summer of not really drawing much at all, I found it a bit difficult to get back into the swing of things. I enjoyed our drawing days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, although I spent a lot of time in the RBGE feeling like I was in peoples’ way – it was difficult to stand and draw, but you couldn’t really spread yourself out and get comfortable in the glass houses, because of the narrow little winding paths, and I absolutely hate feeling like I’m in the way or like I’m stopping people from being able to get their money’s worth from their (albeit free) visit!  I did take a huge number of photographs though, which I think will come in handy.  I think mostly it was beneficial to go somewhere new, somewhere I’d never been before, and see new things, and I also found it really interesting to see what my classmates were drawn to and how they work. I’m a bit of a people watcher!

Floating Heads

Floating Heads. Eerie and kind of captivating!

I really enjoyed visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, home of Salvador Dali’s controversial Christ of Saint John of the Cross. It’s huge – I somehow managed to walk around the same area twice in a circle and not even realise! My favourite was probably the room with the animals (the elephant is called Sir Roger, and the baby elephant is called Kelvin!), but a close second was the room with all the pearls and the video of the last full-time pearl hunter in the country, and the room with all the armour.  After visiting Kelvingrove, and because my favourite part of visiting the RBGE was inspecting tree bark, I’ve decided that for my Material Matters project I’m going to investigate “protective layers” and “natural armour” as part of our “natural pattern” brief.


I know that grey squirrels are the bad ones, but this guy was a cutie!


I can't get enough of the macro function!

I found our first Change by Design lecture really interesting, and it seems like this is going to be a really good module to work on, although I do have a bit of anxiety at the prospect of working in groups with people I don’t know!  Of course, these things are never as difficult as I expect them to be, and I imagine most people feel the same about it anyway.

We met our lecturer Jonathan, Kate Pickering of Vanilla Ink (of whom I’m already a bit of a fangirl and Twitter-stalkerer), and Jo Montgomery of Little Riot. After learning a bit about the module and what it entails (including a farcical two-and-a-half minutes where three classes worth of students had to seat ourselves in alphabetical order) we were given a wee talk by Jo, who introduced us to her project, Pillow Talk, which aims to connect long-distance lovers in a way that isn’t keyboard- and screen-based (“Screens are rubbish!”). I really enjoyed listening to Jo talk about her project, which she is obviously very passionate about, and I think I appreciated her talk even more because I had seen her degree show project and found it really cool to see how far she’s come in such a short time.

Lastly, I really appreciated our introduction to the photography studio, because I’ve never really properly understood all that technical stuff. I had kind of grasped the basics of ISO and shutter speed and aperture and stuff, but now I’m definitely inspired to step out of ‘auto’ on my camera settings!