critical thinking

Fresh insight

I spent this morning exploring the ethnographic insights from first year students. After their introduction to ethnography last week, the class were asked to capture an insight over the weekend. After much discussion, Giorgio and I decided upon the best two entries. This entry is from Design Studies student Gavin Borthwick. This photograph is impressive, the lighting has a remarkable effect.14698176_7c44839711

Gavin chose to look at the unusual tradition of using old newspaper as a wrapping/ packaging for chip shop foods.

"To notice something infront of your eyes is a process that can be processed in a very short period of time. Before your mind can begin analyzing information, it searches for anything that stands out or seems a little more unusual than anything else. In my case, the newspaper clipping used for the packaging for a deep fried food seems almost ridiculous. When the object or thought is identified, the unusualness of the item is emphasised until it cannot be taken to any further stage. As the newspaper is and has always been designed to present news and information to the reader, the connection between news and food is non existent. Although people may identify that they are recycling their paper goods and 'saving the trees', their is no reason to combine the overall idea together."

This entry is from Design Studies student Douglas Wood. His insight concerned the traditional cooking pot. This conveys excellent use of text and imagery to vividly describe a product adaptation.


"Not only a utensil for suitably cooking foodstuffs in but when next to a sink, a useful place to store cutlery waiting to be washed or if the pot is clean, a place to store clean cutlery needing to be dried and/or put away. One of the main reasons why the pot is used is because there is a lack of storage space in the kitchen area for the individual to put their cutlery and other utensils. This does however make more sense than leaving forks and knives etc lying about were someone could injure themselves. Some other uses for the pot (not shown) include a helmet or hat and a low value drum (both of these are mainly practiced by children)."

* All the photos of the Design studies class are published with the consent of the pupils concerned.

I am encouraging the students to use this space to have a conversation about the work above.

Consider this:

The application of critical thinking?

The portrayal of the 'moment of noticing'?

The impact of photography?

The approach used to describe the insight?

How the two pieces of work differ?

Do you have a favourite?

Introducing Ethnography

Today I spent the morning introducing the first year product and media designers to Ethnography.We sent them off on a 'quick and dirty' task for thirty minutes to take a photograph or make a sketch of an observation. dsc01698

The key focus of today was the notion that observation sharpens our minds and lets us see what is happening; but it is the interpretation of the insight that is most important!


This exercise was designed to encourage the students to be 'visual listeners' and think critically. The students have to produce a photograph and insight over the weekend; the best one will be posted on this blog!


Critical Thinking

I learned about 'Contextual Review' is all about exploring your field and placing it in the context of history and the present. Jeanette Paul spoke about 'key words'. The words that you would use in an abstract  or a piece of writing etc. I think the way people 'tag' on blogs must train your mind to recognise key words quicker?

Critical thinking is a skill. It is an important asset to a designers skill-set and this is what I will be trying to get across to the first year design students. I learned today that the term has been around for a long time - with Francis Bacon quoting:

“For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture.”  in 1605

To learn more visit the Critical Thinking website. I recommend this little (20 page pocket size) book to anyone who would like to learn more about the subject:

I have been asked to create a visual representation of my design process. I don't think my process is ever the same...sometimes I'm thinking, sometimes I'm making, sometimes I am in-between...