design studies

Bright ideas for dark times.

picture-51The Guardian team up with IDEO to tell us why now is the time for innovative thinking and innovation. They have also revamped their website. This collaboration is an invaluable source for the first year Design Studies students! The students are writing an article exploring the role of design and critical thinking in repsonse to what is happening in the news (focusing on the Guardian on particular).

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!


What is design?

The Design Council is asking "What is Design?" [youtube=]

"Service Design relies on input from several design disciplines at once."

This is a true reliance for many disciplines; the boundaries between fields are merging. I wonder why they chose this phrase as the input for Service Design. I liked the use of the word 'seamless' - making experiences flow seamlessly is the ultimate goal for any service.

This simple and effective visual story relates to the workshop I was involved in with under-graduate students. It also asks the key question I chose to entitle the students brief : "Are you ready to change the world?"

Via Kate Andrews.

Keep posted

Back to blogging after an unusual week with no laptop! During some quality family time I happily wrote a letter, received a letter and read a book :) My London adventure was a great success. I was lucky enough to visit the ThinkPublic studio, and I have been invited to spend a month working for the team next April. I cannot wait to be part of such an exciting place; where lots of different people and ideas come together to make a real difference!

I have been invited to be a contributor to the Design Studies blog: a design news blog from the University of Dundee. The main author of this blog is my friend and mentor Jonathan Baldwin, a lecturer in Design,History, Theory and Practice as well as an expert on visual culture and design education.