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!
Advertising is serious business. You can’t just show a picture of your product, you have to sell the scene, the lifestyle. Use this deodorant and women will find you irresistible, use this perfume and men will think you’re sexy, feed your kids this juice and they’ll be healthy and happy. Product advertisement is often stuff you can tune out – it’s just the nonsense that pops up in between segments of Criminal Minds. Advertising for causes is a different story though, and is often quite provocative and challenging; check out this collection (from 2010) of extreme ads, notably those from Amnesty International, the RSPCA, RSF, and the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The workshop I took part in this week has worked to make me aware of a lot of advertising tricks – show a happy family to sell your soft drink (healthy, fun), show “the great outdoors” to sell your washing powder (fresh, clean, bright), et cetera.
During the workshop my team was given this image, and asked what we thought about it – what was the feel of the image, what does it portray, what’s the main theme of the image and what props does it use, what might it be advertising? (Okay, we weren’t asked the advertising question, but all of the images used in the workshop were advertisements (with any text and brand logos removed), some more obvious than others.)
What do you think? My quickly-scribbled notes for this image look like this (but in barely-legible handscribbles): sexy knitwear, Armani-ish?, intimate, loving, black & white – romantic, distinguished, elicit, clandestine (we thought these two might be having an extra-marital affair!), mysterious, black/white clothes, opposites attract, and sophisticated. One good key word for this image shouted out by another team was “luxury”.
It’s actually an advertisement for a mink coat. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to guess that, but it probably would have been a while. We were thinking something along the lines of perfumes and chocolates!
We were given the task of hitting the streets and asking Real People (not art/design students) for their thoughts on the picture. It was a bit of a scary thought, approaching people on the street, but I think Kristen, Stephanie, Sheila, and I took it in our strides. Luckily for the rest of us, Sheila had the confidence to do most of the actual people-approaching.
First we asked a porter in the Dundee University Dalhousie building (where the workshop had taken place – start with an easy one!), a 62 year old male, who straight away spotted that it was an ad for a fur coat, which led me to believe he’d done this before! He said that the ad was obviously about the lady, and the man seemed a bit pointless, really. The ad trying to sell “the finer things in life”, and “a man loves a lady who wears a fur coat.” Next we spoke to three male students in their late teens, who noted the feeling of closeness and intimacy in the picture, and they thought it might be advertising perfume or jewellery (the lady’s bracelets in the forefront). They didn’t seem especially surprised when we revealed the purpose of the ad, as they had expected it to be something somewhat luxurious or “high-end”, although I suppose we aren’t really exposed to advertising for furs nowadays. Lastly we spoke to a female student who I thought to be about 20. She thought the image was possibly for a fashion campaign, and noted that it was trying to show love and a caring attitude, like the man really cared for the lady and is “a really nice guy”. She also thought it seemed quite posed, or fake. When we revealed that it was a fur coat ad, she was quite happy to have guessed at fashion campaign.
This was quite a fun exercise in the end, and I wonder what other opinions we’d have gathered if we could have found more people willing to stand in the cold with us for a minute or two. I would have especially liked to hear more female opinions, to get a more balanced view. It seems that in general people are actually quite good at deciphering scenes and images, when we take a few seconds to analyse them. I guess that also means that advertisers have to be quite clever!
Having thought about it a bit, I think people probably would be more likely to buy washing powder with an image depicting freshness, outdoorsiness (totes a word), and “summer breezes”, rather than a picture of some clean clothes, which is quite funny really, since that’s what you’re going to get out of using washing powder. I’m looking forward to learning more about “what images mean” and doing this kind of exercise again to a higher degree in preparation for our next assignment.
It’s print week! I’ve been really looking forward to print week, because I’ve always been fascinated by screen printing and for a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to do it. What we’re doing it quite far removed from what I used to think when I thought of screen printing – there are no pretty pictures printed onto cushion covers here! We’ve had to pick a texture from our sketchbooks to transfer to a screen; brush marks, splash marks, swishy lines – anything that’s come up in our sketchbooks from drawing, mark-making, collage, whatever! I made a screen covered in hand-drawn lines/stripes, based on the same sketchbook page I used as the basis for my mixed media work last week. Making screens is really exciting – you get to use the massive UV light exposure unit, and the pressure hose, and there’s a wee bit of apprehension as to whether it’ll actually turn out properly, or whether it’ll actually make nice prints. As it stands, though, I’m quite happy with my screen!
Our prints, along with teaching us about printing techniques, are an exercise in layering and masking. At first, I was trying to be very considered with my colours and the placements of my screen and paper stencils, but really I think I was just a bit intimidated to try anything “outrageous”. As my confidence has grown a bit with the printing process, I’ve begun to use a lot more, brighter colours, and do a bit more interesting (hopefully!) layering. I’ve decided that, well, what can really go wrong? Print some yellow, red, blue, see what happens. If it really looks awful, either put more on top, or tomorrow we’re learning about using discharge paste to remove the dye from the fabric. And if it’s really, really horrible and unfixable, well it’s only a little piece of silk – you can buy more!
This morning I mixed up a couple of dye pastes, so I’m looking forward to using those tomorrow, and seeing if my calculating and measuring skills are really as reliable as I assumed they were at the time.
Also, this week, I’ve spent over £5 on masking tape. Scandal! Must learn to use the stuff more economically.
This week begins our block of ‘process into practice’, where the whole class is split into three groups, and over three weeks each group alternates a week of knitting, a week of printing, and a week of mixed media. I’ve been knitting. It’s great! It’s frustrating at times, and I kind of feel permanently cross-eyed from concentrating so hard on all those little needles, but it’s fun discovering what the knitting machines can do. From doing a fair bit of hand knitting in my time (my house is packed full of half-knitted things – a shawl, a scarf, mittens, and an octopus, to name a few!) I have a good idea of how the stitches work and things, so I feel like I’ve picked things up relatively easily. Of course, after things went so well the first day I got all cocky, and then on day 2 I dropped approximately a million stitches. So that was good.
From being a hand knitter and crocheter, I’ve been used to measuring yarns in terms of double knit, Aran, lace weight, or wraps-per-inch (where, funnily enough, you measure your yarn based on how many strands fit into an inch) and have never really understood the “2/16” way of labelling yarn. Having spent some time nosing around the yarn store I think I have a better understanding of it, but it still hurts my brain, so here’s a handy blog post I found that explains it. I also have some difficulty in translating my hand knitting know-how into machine knitting, like if I wanted to increase or decrease my number of stitches. Since these are only single-bed machines, we can’t do ribs or anything, just plain stocking stitch, so I’d like to learn about how to use a double-bed machine. I am also very excited to learn about punch cards for making patterns, and I hope we get to experiment with these this year.
Casting on is the easiest thing in the world. After you’ve figured out how to thread up (yarn up?) your machine, stringing the yarn up from the cone through a few wire loops (reminiscent of a bugs’ antennae), you pull forward the needles you want to knit on, and wrap your yarn in a little ‘e’ around each needle. This is called, as you would imagine, the e-wrap technique. Once you’ve done all the needles, you fix the yarn into the knitting machine’s carriage, which is the part you pull across the machine bed, and is the part that does all the hard work.
The knitting part is also pretty easy, actually. You just pull the carriage across the machine bed, and it knits! Magic! The exciting, difficult, frustrating part is when you start manipulating the knitting. You can do pretty much anything you want to, which is bad for me, because I want to try absolutely everything. I know I’m supposed to be sampling to supplement what’s in my sketchbook, but I just want to see what the machine can do. I’ve made eyelets, ladders, tucks, double hems (where you make ‘tunnels’ in your fabric), and added in extra short rows of contrasting colours. It’s been very exciting so far, and hopefully on tomorrow I can concentrate on making one or two finished, well-made, relevant samples for my sketchbook. Hopefully I can also wash and block all my samples, so they stop curling up.
I think I need to learn to calm down a bit – rather than flitting from one technique to another, and getting excited about learning how to use punch cards and double-bed machines and everything I possibly can, I should really just concentrate on properly translating my sketchbook into my samples. It’s fun though.
Unfortunately, it’s dark by the time I get home these days, so I haven’t been able to take any decent daylight-y photos of the samples I’ve done so far. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to lay them out nicely in the knit room and snap a few good shots.
I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.
This week us 2nd year Craft and Design students are being inducted into the world of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I’d used Photoshop a bit before, as part of my Textiles HND at Dundee College, and also at home, but it’s good to pick up some new tips and tricks for image editing and manipulation. It can be difficult to keep up when trying to follow the instructions of someone who really knows what they’re doing, though.
Yesterday I scanned several sketchbook pages, which is quite a feat if you think about the size of an A2 sketchbook compared to the size of an A4 scanner! I spent a while both yesterday and today clicking about, playing with layers and filters and all sorts of technical wizardry, and eventually came up with a couple of pages that I didn’t think were completely awful. I tried to stay away from making too much repeated pattern, as I feel that my sketchbooks are full of that kind of thing, and I wanted to produce something a bit different, and a bit more abstract.
I know I’m probably going to be lynched for saying this, but after two days of working on a Mac, I kind of can’t wait to go home to my trusty Windows machine.
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.
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.
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!