made me think

Edit 2011: dig

This is Edit for the 10th time around, but the for the first time in the beautiful and mysterious area of Røros. It is an old mining town so the theme of 'Digging' fits very well.

This conference was originally a computer conference for designers and illustrators, it has gradually changed over the years. Today, the conference aims to increase the understanding of visual communications and the role it plays in society. I am excited these guys are keen to explore Service Design at such an event.

Keetra Dean Dixon was first up, she calls herself an Experiential Choreographer and is the brains behind the fabulous hugging wall which I have experienced as a hugger and a huggee. Keetra challenges herself with 'one-a-day' projects which is something I attempted many times at University but never seemed to have the discipline for. I like the idea of pushing yourself to make something in 24hours and then share it. Listening to Keetra reminds me very much of my ambitions when I was at high school - I wanted to design products that would bring surprise and delight to people's everyday. I must be honest and say that now I find this kind of work fairly self-indulgent. But it works and it's beautiful and there will always be a place for it.

Marius Arnesen then talked about his journey of making a documentary about the Norwegian Army in Afghanistan. His talk was mainly made up of film footage and I will be honest and say it was very scary and shook me up a little. I am grateful for his bravery to show such footage to an audience mainly made up of traditional designers.

He talked about the reality of war. The fact is it's not all action - it's 99% eating, sleeping and waiting. I sensed from the audience that the link between this talk and design wasn't clear. For me, the way Marius talked about going into this situation and having to become friends with the soldiers first echoed the way we design. It's about real human to human trust and Maurice's job is to get close to people.

Robert L. Peters shared many quotes that inspire him. One that stuck with me was the fact that 85% of what we know today comes through our eyes. For me, this reinforces the reality that designers see the world differently and can make thoughts, ideas and visions visible. I would have liked to see examples of what Robert has achieved by following quotes such as 'think sideways' and 'aim high' and I must be honest and say that I don't think design is responsible for 'creating the future world our children will live in' . I think design is part of the solution, but many other fields and disciplines have a role to play.

It was then my turn to take to the stage and I have never before received such a spectacular introduction. Check out the video below starring Bård Brænde.

[vimeo w=580&h=435]

I talked about Snook and our vision for transforming the way public services are designed and delivered in Scotland. From conversations I've had with the organisers I know that socially motivated Service Design is very new in Norway . Thank you to everyone who talked to me afterwards and shared their inspirations and ideas with me following my talk.

Thank you to the team at Edit2011 for keeping me cosy and inviting me to part of your event.

Here's tae us; wha's like us?

Andrea Peach, a lecturer and craft historian at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, is writing an academic paper entitled "Contemporary Craft and the Commodification of National Identity in Scotland after 1970". Her research is mostly based on craft and craft policy in the 1970s, but she is trying to draw some contemporary parallels. Andrea was in the audience at my recent keynote at Craft Connected where there was a little burst of chatter in the audience about how creative Scots use their Scottish identity as part of thier brand. James Donald and I were eager to let the audience know that we are both very proud of our roots and see travelling away from home as a great excuse to show off our tartan. This snap ( although slightly resembling a girl band album cover - not intentional ;) below was taken by Adam Lawrence in Berlin and Snook are very proud of it!

"It was also interesting to note at a recent Craftscotland conference, titled Craft Connected that contemporary makers were not ashamed to rely on Scottish tropes to generate interest. James Donald, a weaver and one the makers who will be represented at the Craftscotland launch in America, said that he always wears his kilt when promoting his work abroad, and Lauren Currie, Director of the Scottish service design consultancy Snook , said that she is happy to wear her tartan tights when promoting Scottish design."

Andrea has asked to interview me about the relationship between my work and the notions of 'Scottishness' and frankly I can't wait!

Oh, and here is a translation of the title: "Here's tae us ; wha's like us? dam few - and they're a' deid! " = "Here's to us! Who is as good as us? Damn few and they are all dead"

What are the connections between your roots and your work? and thank you to the beautiful blog that is Scouts Honor for the photograph.

The power of empathy

Three years ago today I was teaching first year design students at The University of Dundee. Those students are now going into fourth year. I am delighted that many of them have kept in touch and one young lady, Fiona Harper, popped into Snook for lunch this week to pick our brains about her dissertation topic: empathy!

Fiona would like to know about he best example of empathy tools you have used or seen? Fiona is keen to talk to non-designers too so all of you reading who work in governments, schools and charities - tell Fi what you think!


My advice to all art school students

All around the UK, Universities are welcoming their first year students through their doors - bright eyed, bushy tailed and facing a lifetime of debt, Mike Press is one of those chaps who sees it has his mission to fill them with passion and self-belief. He asked me to make a little video to give the students one piece of advice. [vimeo w=580&h=435]

Here's what you guys came up with...

What would your advice be?

Dear design students

It's hardly a secret, but there are thousands of design students in the world.  Advice and opportunities are everywhere. Education and learning are very very important to me. I used to think this was because I was a student myself, perhaps a little too close to it all - too tangled up in the education system to understand the bigger picture but now I realise it's much more than that. It's something that I care about very much and believe I can add value to. In the past little while I have spent alot of time with students. I have had incredible conversations and been inspired. I have decided it's time for me to draw some conclusions.

I am getting to explore many of my ideas at Snook through the creation of Matchable; a service that connects design students to the health and well being sector. I do work under the umbrella of The Studio Unbound; an initiative aiming to introduce students, graduates and educators to the creative power of social media. Last but not least, Making Service Sense; a service that makes sense of Service Design for students and educators, has been evolving over the last year.

I want to wrap all this knowledge and these connections up in something - I'm not quite sure what that something is but right now I am toying with the idea of creating an E-Course. This is mainly because many of the students who get in touch with me are dotted all over the world! It's also because I don't have the time or space to connect with all the young people who get in touch with me. I want to fix this.

I am envisioning a 'work at your own pace' e-course. There would be no due dates or expiration times. So I'm putting my idea out there and I would like your feedback. Would you sign up for this course? Would you pay for it? What would you want to learn?  Tell me.

Oh, and here is words of wisdom from Frank Chimero that moved me and I think they will move you too.

Good advice from Hello Jenuine

"Anonymous asked Frank Chimero: What advice would you give to a design student?

Design does not equal client work.

It’s hard to make purple work in a design. The things your teachers tell you in class are not gospel. You will get conflicting information. It means that both are wrong. Or both are true. This never stops. Most decisions are gray, and everything lives on a spectrum of correctness and suitability.

Look people in the eyes when you are talking or listening to them. The best teachers are the ones who treat their classrooms like a workplace, and the worst ones are the ones who treat their classroom like a classroom as we’ve come to expect it. Eat breakfast. Realize that you are learning a trade, so craft matters more than most say. Realize that design is also a liberal art. Quiet is always an option, even if everyone is yelling. Libraries are a good place. The books are free there, and it smells great.

If you can’t draw as well as someone, or use the software as well, or if you do not have as much money to buy supplies, or if you do not have access to the tools they have, beat them by being more thoughtful. Thoughtfulness is free and burns on time and empathy.

The best communicators are gift-givers.

Don’t become dependent on having other people pull it out of you while you’re in school. If you do, you’re hosed once you graduate. Keep two books on your nightstand at all times: one fiction, one non-fiction.

Buy lightly used. Patina is a pretty word, and a beautiful concept.

Develop a point of view. Think about what experiences you have that many others do not. Then, think of what experiences you have that almost everyone else has. Then, mix those two things and try to make someone cry or laugh or feel understood.

Design doesn’t have to sell. Although, that’s usually its job.

Think of every project as an opportunity to learn, but also an opportunity to teach. Univers is a great typeface and white usually works and grids are nice and usually necessary, but they’re not a style. Helvetica is nice too, but it won’t turn water to wine.

Take things away until you cry. Accept most things, and reject most of your initial ideas. Print it out, chop it up, put it back together. When you’re aimlessly pushing things around on a computer screen, print it out and push it around in real space. Change contexts when you’re stuck. Draw wrong-handed and upside down and backwards. Find a good seat outside.

Design is just a language, it’s not a message. If you say “retro” too much you will get hives and maybe die. Learn your design history. Know that design changes when technology changes, and its been that way since the 1400s. Adobe software never stops being frustrating. Learn to write, and not school-style writing. A text editor is a perfectly viable design tool. Graphic design has just as much to do with words as it does with pictures, and a lot of my favorite designers come to design from the world of words instead of the world of pictures.

If you meet a person who cares about the same obscure things you do, hold on to them for dear life. Sympathy is medicine.

Scissors are good, music is better, and mixed drinks with friends are best. Start brave and brash: you can always make things more conservative, but it’s hard to make things more radical. Edit yourself, but let someone else censor you. When you ride the bus, imagine that you are looking at everything from the point of view of someone else on the ride. If you walk, look up on the way there and down on the way back. Aesthetics are fleeting, the only things with longevity are ideas. Read Bringhurst and one of those novels they made you read in high school cover to cover every few years. (Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby.)

Stop trying to be cool: it is stifling.

Most important things happen at a table. Food, friends, discussion, ideas, work, peace talks, and war plans. It is okay to romanticize things a little bit every now and then: it gives you hope.

Everything is interesting to someone. That thing that you think is bad is probably just not for you. Be wary of minimalism as an aesthetic decision without cause. Simple is almost a dirty word now. Almost. Tools don’t matter very much, all you need is a sharp knife, but everyone has their own mise en place. If you need an analogy, use an animal. If you see a ladder in a piece of design or illustration, it means the deadline was short. Red, white, black, and gray always go together. Negative space. Size contrast. Directional contrast. Compositional foundations.

Success is generating an emotion. Failure is a million different things. Second-person writing is usually heavy-handed. All of this is too.

Seeking advice is addicting and can become a proxy for action. Giving it can also be addicting in a potentially pretentious, soul-rotting sort of way, and can replace experimenting because you think you know how things work. Be suspicious of lists, advice, and lists of advice.

Everyone is just making it up as they go along.

This about sums up everything I know."

Should we do this? Together? Tell me what you think...