THING IS A DIRTY WORD
Private Viewings Thursday 7th & Friday 8th June 2012 6pm - 11pm Public Access Saturday 9th - Saturday 16th June Saturday/Sunday 10am-5pm Mon-Thursday 10am-9pm Friday 10am-7pm Online www.productdesign2012.com @pd2012gsa #pd2012 Address PRODUCT DESIGN Level 3 Skypark 5 45 Finnieston Street Glasgow G3 8JU +44 (0) 141 353 4500
INTRODUCTION Thing is a Dirty Word is a student produced publication that accompanies the 2012 Degree Show of the Product Design department at the Glasgow School of Art. Twenty four graduating students offer reflections on their design practice in an exploration of the relevance and meaning of the word ‘product’ in a digital age and service economy. A foreword by Head of Department, Gordon Hush, guest article from design writer Barbara Eldridge – the inspiration for this publication’s title - and interviews with Glasgow based service designers, Snook and student project clients, Alzheimer’s Scotland provide perspectives on the shifting role of product designers, representative of the progressive nature of the course. Portraits of each graduate, by photographer Ross Fraser McLean, depict the designer ‘on-location’. In a setting pertaining to each individual’s project, the images refer to the immersive, ethnographic, and user-centred nature of the research and design process common to all work displayed in this exhibition.
FOREWORD: Where have all the chairs gone? DR GORDON HUSH JUNE 2012 Just as the industrial revolution gave rise to the mass manufacture of tangible artefacts – from household or consumer goods to heavy engineering, such as the bridges, railway engines or warships that underpinned the British Empire – so the digital revolution of today threatens to miniaturise, mobilise and de-materialise objects through which we construct our experiences of the everyday, the telephone, the TV screen or the NHS. The problem for contemporary society is one of knowledge: if the “things” that make up our world are increasingly smaller in size, freed from particular locations in space or culture and only accessible through screens or touch interfaces (think “apps”), how do we know them, in the carnal sense? How can we be intimate with our devices? And, why would we want to be?
Gordon is Head of Product Design at Glasgow School of Art. Previously he studied Sociology at The University of Glasgow. His focus is the study of consumption and the intersection of social science research and design practice.
Well, one answer might be that our existence is still irredeemably physical. Despite the de-materialisation of the stuff of the world (things getting smaller, more powerful and less immediately tangible), we humans are still rooted in the haptic experience of the everyday, to a sensory engagement with ourselves, others and the products and services we consume. At no point soon is Homo Sapiens going to upload either an individual or group consciousness into the digital ether, despite the prognostications of various futurologists, science fiction writers or crazed techno-futurists. This raises a conundrum. If things are getting further away – as in smaller and less material – by being what Bruno Latour calls “black-boxed” in devices, the operation of which we do not need to understand in order to use, while at the same time becoming more immediate, more proximate, even intimate with our bodies (we are wearing, even embedding, a lot more technology these days, from pacemakers to bionic limbs or “chipping” children and animals to track them using GPS…), how are we to understand our lives? How might we arrive at a set of priorities or requirements as to what we need rather than want? This is neither an arcane discussion nor vague philosophical indulgence. On the contrary, do you need that mobile ‘phone? And, if so, for what? To talk, text or Tweet? To instant message, “FB” or check e-mails for work? Bus or train timetables? Flight numbers? Or just work out an appropriate tip for waiting staff? ‘Phones are now mobile digital devices than can, or very soon will, allow you to monitor your personal health (blood sugar, breathing, pulse, proximity to medical resources etc) – shouldn’t everyone have one? In fact, doesn’t everyone not only need one, patently, but have a right to such a device? Our portable digital devices, let’s use ‘phones or tablets as an example, are becoming gateway devices – they determine our access to information and services that will increasingly shape our experience of the world and our actions within it – from eating certain foods, to flying with specific airlines (check that safety record) or choosing hospitals that specialise in treating particular conditions. So, our physical lives and experiences are going to be shaped by digital devices that allow or
prevent our use of information, goods and services. Into this debate, into the moral and political contestation of rights, access and experiences, steps an unusual figure – the contemporary product designer. The traditional conception of Industrial or Product Design as both intellectual discipline and professional practice no longer holds in the twenty first century. Where once the highest imperative was an innovative or aesthetically pleasing type-form – perhaps, one of the chairs in the title – or even an innovation in production or operation that reduces carbon footprint or material expenditure, so contributing to “sustainability,” was the desired goal, things, and the people who design them, have changed. Product Design today is no longer simply about improving or innovating objects, or making nice things for rich people. Arguably, it is, instead, an intellectual stance, a means of engaging with the world in such a way that our stock of knowledge is increased, our understanding of ourselves and others, and the relationships that we exist within and rely upon are laid bare and re-negotiated. Product Design is a professional practice, an occupation, but it is also a means of exploring and knowing the world, of experimenting with alternative formulations, of creating new possibilities – technological, aesthetic, economic, moral or political. Of course, Product Design is about offering such possibilities, rather than imposing them; it is about formulating moral questions (universal access to health care?) in material terms (what devices are required to facilitate this?). It is a profession best understood as a collaborative practice, both aiding and abetted by a variety of disciplines, discourses and democratic understandings. Democracy is as important to Product Design as it is to Politics, because in its focus upon human beings, or users, and their varied use of or access to information, services and pleasure, the designed products that are offered to the public (artefacts, services or interactions) are one of the most tangible, personal and intimate means we have for shaping our participation in the world and our interaction with others, either as individual or groups. It is this engagement with the world, and the ways in which people and things combine to create our everyday lives, which lies at the heart of Product Design as it is taught and studied at The Glasgow School of Art. That is in this year’s degree show you will see work addressing “energy literacy”, the changing understanding of pregnancy, evolving models of mass media and the dissemination of information, the consequences of the decline of bees, the role of water in the life of the city of Glasgow, economic innovation in the Highlands, the future of space exploration from your garden shed, how Glasgow could host a community of “makers”, or the future of luxury tourism, amongst many others. Indeed, the number and variety of projects on view, the sheer breadth of exploration, experimentation and imaginative engagement with the world and its possible evolution is breathtaking. I think I need a chair…
KYLA MCCALLUM MEDes Product Design
Upon returning to GSA after four years abroad, I was extremely apprehensive about coming back to an environment where words like ideation, user-scenario and co-creation were commonly used. I will never understand why designers use jargon that makes absolutely no sense to anybody out with their circle. To cement my skepticism for the course, the department created a Design Glossary for their website, full of terms intended, “to help both students and design practitioners navigate the increasingly complex vocabulary, diverse practices, approaches and disciplines that constitute design education and the design professions today. “ In my opinion, design is not that complex. Most of the time it just requires common sense and intuition, traits that most people already possess. On the Product Design course at GSA and at the two institutions I studied at during my time abroad, it is apparent that design education is becoming increasingly focused on thinking and less and less about making. I was even reminded this during my first tutorial of the the year: “This is not a making course.” Despite my initial apprehension, I decided to try co-creation and user engagement within my selfinitiated project before writing it off completely. To my surprise, I found the experience enjoyable and highly beneficial. In talking to users and holding a series of events and workshops, I found that the biggest benefit was not getting in the mindset of the user, but getting myself inspired and excited about what I was doing. It is an obvious point to make, but sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer all day tends not to be inspiring, nor motivational at the best of times. In working with people who were involved with my project topic, I was able to become a part of their world and felt privileged to be a part of it. It is sometimes easy to forget the openness and willingness that people have when talking about themselves and their lives. Especially when they don’t know the person they are talking to. Having had glimpses into the lives and perspectives of other people, I see that it can allow a designer to step outside their comfort zone and consequently improve their work. This, I believe, is as simple as it sounds. I don’t think there is a need for complex terminology or confusing explanations as to what is practiced on this course. To me, it is about getting stuck in and involved in your project topic and simplifying what you find in to a desirable design solution.
Location: Yorkhill Hospital
BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
The other night I was having a few drinks with a friend of mine having a chat about my current project, like I regularly do with him. “I always wonder how you can actually manage to always make something. I mean I always enjoy talking about this stuff. It’s always something I find really interesting to talk about. But I could never imagine trying to make something from it, any kind of tangible object.” I thought his comment was relative to what I think a product is. I suppose my work is normally a physical manifestation of the information gathered from talks like this; observations and empathic understanding. In this way, a ‘product’ in my practice is either something that I try to give meaning to for specific individuals or that has a place within a specific experience. What I think is interesting is the connection people can have to an object and through an object. I don’t think a product has to be something designed as a direct solution to a problem. The humble condom for example, is such a product and its sole purpose is to be filled with ejaculate and discarded, but I don’t really want anyone to ejaculate on my work. A condom has little or no meaning to the participants of its use, but this is an object that physically connects two people, invading one body. The only other acts where we’d allow a product inside us is for cleaning and feeding; human essentials needed for survival. I like to work in a way that tries to highlight this significance that an object can have through tangible interaction and experience. I think that the work I’m presenting works together under this theme, and that as a body of work it’s an example of the way I’ve come to be over the past 4 years here. I love ‘things’, so much so that I sometimes work towards finding how a person can be replaced by them. If that stops, then I’ll do something else. I think I was a lot more excited about the prospect of starting art school than I am about beginning a career. I’m just hoping that the fun isn’t ever sucked out of it! Location: By the Clyde
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
During my final year I have focused on designing experiences, such as providing a relaxing moment by the urban river Clyde by designing a public realm of little canopies. The two other projects in the exhibition are solutions for a better experience for customer care employees and for a more engaging and enjoyable way for parents to play with their children. In these projects a product, an object, has been created to change a negative experience in a specific scenario into a positive one in order to encourage people to do something that would be beneficial for themselves, someone else or for society. I find that I can also identify benefits for people other than the users by improving the user experience. The change that design can make in the life of an individual is a great motivation for me. The simpler the solution the smarter the design. This can be seen in my work as I think straight forwardly from identifying a problem to solving it so that it is simple to operate for the user and can potentially make a big difference in the experience if it is used. The compact home office and children’s play projects are both designed for the near future. This research into future technology has sparked an interest in the new possibilities and challenges of future lifestyles. Product styling as a means of communicating the object’s function and target market are also something I could see my work heading towards after graduating as I find the visual language of existing products interesting to analyse. Location: Willowbank Crescent
DOMINIKA SZALA BDes Hons Product Design
The term ‘product’, to me, represents the production of thoughts, as well as my continual growth as an individual and a member of a collective group of designers. The word refers not only to tangible objects, but also the experiences we can design and create. In my personal work, social research is paramount in further developing my design projects. In my Blue Scotland project my ‘product’ was an education package that was intended for teachers, parents and children. The integration of environmentally responsible education aimed to plant a kernel of information into the minds of the young and old, in the hope that this knowledge would grow within them, and through learning, help eradicate the ways in which water is used and abused globally. First and foremost, my interests lie in design innovation and social research, which I hope to further develop and explore in the future of my personal practice. I enjoy starting off with an idea then playing around with it in a variety of ways, seeing where it ends up. As a designer this process is both challenging and extremely rewarding. As my interest in design has grown, I’ve begun to see the world in a different light and frequently ask the questions – “Why are things designed in certain ways? What can I do to help?” I particularly enjoy exploring the interactions between people, products and services and find that the links between these factors are crucial in my design process. Location: Oswald Street
LAURA-EMMA McCABE BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
My main interest in design is how it can be applied to a person’s health condition and the impact it can have on their daily life. A ‘product’ within the context of my work means an opportunity to improve a person’s life. Applying a compassionate understanding when working with a user, I would describe myself as an empathetic designer, my inspiration comes from both a love of people and interactions between people. At the centre of my process are the user’s feelings towards the product and how this will impact their experience. This is motivated by a desire to communicate to my audience an emotional understanding of a person and their condition. I’m interested in how design can impact each user’s situation in a positive way, satisfying their personal requirements. By designing a personalised product in a structured environment such as the medical field, I hope my design outcomes will encourage awareness of the sensitivity that is needed for a person living with a health condition. From bonding with an ill baby to encouraging a medical routine for a young person, I enjoy working with a wide range of users and scenarios, and challenging myself to further understand how a person feels and acts within a situation. My process involves keen observation of people, and allowing users to share their thoughts and feelings, using interviews and methods of expression. My time spent at The Glasgow School of Art has given me the opportunity to define my process and myself as a designer, shaping my portfolio and career aspirations for the future. I have enjoyed working with different organisations and businesses during the course of the programme, and these interactions have broadened my understanding of how creativity can impact business. Working both individually and in groups has developed my skills and confidence in working with people.
Location: Yorkhill Neonatal Unit
My ambition for the future is to apply my design method to expand the effect health design can have on the medical field. I hope to further study health design and take part in projects that offer a close user and designer relationship. I feel design should encourage designers to work with a range of users, and to take the opportunity to collaborate with other creative people and organisations. I believe that innovative design can improve a person’s life, with design we can change the attitude and way we view health.
FLORA ARBUTHNOTT BDes Hons Product Design
I rarely garner a positive response from my fellow peers at the art school when I admit to them that I am studying Product Design. Their usual reaction of caution and confusion evokes a feeling similar to nakedness, and exposes a jaded perception of the ‘designer’ in the eyes of the school’s autonomous creatives. I have sat through countless evenings in the pub with fellow students endeavouring to convert me to the other disciplines that the art school has to offer, but it is exactly this open, interdisciplinary discourse of art and design that has offered me the freedom to question the very value of the profession of Product Design that I have been training for, helping me to consider the social role and responsibility of designers. Established in the early nineteenth century, Product Design or Industrial Design was founded on the model by which raw materials are turned in to consumer products on an industrial scale, enabling users to exchange money for objects that they desire. Fast forward to 2012, after 200 years of this system, we can see a clutter of discarded artefacts that lie forgotten in a storage unit on the outskirts of a city; the chintz curtains, analogue TVs, an old telephone, and a stack of unfashionable dark wooden chairs lie next to a box of dated crockery. The linear systems based on unlimited resources and exponential growth by which these products were formed are fast becoming outdated. With our world population reaching 7 billion on the 31st October 2011, the planet that we live on is suddenly beginning to feel quite small. The peak
Location: Argyll Street Petrol Station in the accessibility of conventional oil in 2006 marked a milestone in the industrialisation of the Earth and as such we are beginning to feel that the abundance of the resources that fuelled this boom in manufacturing is drying up. We are living in an age where our biggest resource is not oil, trees or land anymore but an abundance of people. Over the four years studying Product Design, I have begun to see the role of the designer as a facilitator, practicing a design process by which an outcome is developed that is appropriate to the people who will use it and the environment that it will be placed in to. Through this, the designer has the freedom to move beyond the limits of designing discrete objects to a process that meets the needs of a user in the most appropriate way. For example in my project Myco, I created a framework of events, workshops and video that is used alongside objects to deliver an experience that acknowledges a range of different users who would come in to contact with the service, on various different levels. I do not know what will become of me now that these four years are over,
however I hope to uphold my critical view with regard to design, whether that view is labeled as product design, service design or interaction design. I enjoy the way that design can be used as a versatile tool and can be applied to many different situations beyond the field of design.
MONSTER OR VEGETABLE: WHAT IS A PRODUCT? BARBARA ELDREDGE JUNE 2012
Barbara Eldredge was invited to write for this publication about product design in todays climate. Barbara grew up in museums all over the country, developing a deep love of art, culture, and the stories objects tell. Her MFA thesis in the Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts- “Missing the Modern Gun: Object Ethics in Collections of Design” - researched the place (or rather, absence) of firearms in design collections. “Childs: How will we make it? MacReady: Maybe we shouldn’t.” --dialogue from The Thing, directed by John Carpenter, 1982
Barbara is a Design Writer and recent graduate of D-Crit at School of Visual Arts, New York. Her writing has been published by, amongst others, Metropolis and Core77.
In John Carpenter’s 1982 horror classic The Thing, an isolated team of scientists (one played by a young Kurt Russell) fill their time by conducting experiments, playing chess, and running from a blood-thirsty alien life form recently thawed from the Antarctic ice. The monster has the remarkable ability to transform itself into the physical form of the beings it has killed. But as the scientists struggle to survive, they grow paranoid and begin to turn on one another. One thing is certain: the monster must not reach civilisation, for once it is released into the world, it will multiply until all life is destroyed. However unlikely, I see this film as a parable of the product designer’s plight; the present day, progressively minded maker is terrorised by a proliferation of things. Open any magazine or newspaper and you’ll read that the things we use for transportation are polluting the planet, that the pocket-sized things used to call and text are rendering that communication less intimate, that the manufacture of things produces toxins and inhumane social conditions affecting every corner of the globe, and even the disposal of
How can products be more than objects? things is leading to a crisis of over-full landfills and polluted oceans. Until very recently, one might have said that a product was an industrially produced object, a thing, and the product designer was the rather good-looking, ingenious person who made it. But in the age of virtual interactions, systems, and crafted experiences, attempts to define design may feel like trying to describe a shapeshifting alien that not only changes its own form but forever alters the shape of the society in which it exists. If designed products are things, then they must be the insidious man-made relatives of Carpenter’s parasitic monster. Thing is a dirty word. The next generation of product designers is called to answer a new challenge: How can the forces of design be mustered to conquer this tyranny of things? How can products be more than objects? Through examining the intimate conceptual connections between notions of product, thing, thought, theatre, process, and produce, we might better understand current shifts in design practice— away from decoration or styling and toward the glorious abstractions of interactions, systems, and experiences. From dinner parties about death to mushrooms that decontaminate toxic soil, the most successful new products have an impact that transcends the material sphere. Thing is only one half of the equation. Rather than just making more stuff, emerging product designers harness the power of objects through the creation of thoughtful and deliberate interactions between humans and the material world. They are ambassadors mediating the reconciliation of people with things.
‘Awkward Moments’ from PROJECTFUTURELOVE_ by Sam Dunne “Things have mostly cognitive rather than visual significance … their basic forms and intentions are determined by their position in the sociocultural situation.” -- Esther Pasztory. Thinking With Things (Austin, University of Texas Press: 2005) Product as Thought Though we often consider thought to reside solely in the realm of language, we think no less with objects than we do with words. An exhibition of design is as much a catalogue of identities and experiences as it is a collection of things. Just as John Carpenter’s monstrous Thing assumed the appearance and identity of the people it killed, designed things hold the shape of society inside them, reflecting our values, methods, and rituals.
“The play’s the thing…” --Hamlet, William Shakespeare Product as Theatre In the world of theatre, plays are called “productions” and there are undeniable similarities between the creation of theatrical dramas and designed products. As in theatre, storytelling, ritual, and play are essential aspects of the designers’ craft. Following the narrative of a location-based mystery can foster the amateur detectives’ connection to place. The ritual separation of domestic and professional space can be challenged by the introduction of flexible home workstations. The care of a virtual pet by means of a gestural interface blends the physical and digital realms, questioning distinctions between real and unreal.
Critical design projects are particularly illustrative of the design-as-thought phenomenon and can be used to stimulate contemplation of society’s current values. Growing anxieties about technology-based connectedness and constant accessibility can inspire such future-looking scenarios such as a transportable pod-like hotel room that fosters techno-escapism or the modification of physical possessions to display virtual achievements. Such designs can incite one to examine one’s own need for solitude or the intersections of physical and virtual identity.
Theatre often imposes the unreality of a set and script with the reality of human actors. This revelatory juxtaposition of real and unreal is likewise reflected in design. Maps, those trusted two-dimensional representations of threedimensional space, are fictive constructions that provide real insight. Design shapes our perceptions.
The imminent scarcity of potable water inspires a dystopian future in which the water supply is severely limited and a target for terrorism by contamination. Designs such as a waterharvesting raincoat or a tank of toxin-detecting zebra fish are artefacts that more fully illustrate the implications of this possible future than a science fiction story.
demise is—by design— paired with a social ritual such as a dinner party or comedy show, the fear falls away.
The cultural stigmas associated with death might make one hesitant or even fearful of discussing end of life issues with one’s friends and family. But when information on preparing for one’s
Can tactile cues be translated into the world of online dating?
Material objects often serve as conceptual shorthand. A souvenir of the Eiffel Tower is a physical artefact storing the memory of one’s visit. It is both a symbol and a tool for remembrance. Concepts of identity are even more powerful— the unnecessary gendering of products, for instance, is a prime example of the ways that social identity is embedded within objects.
Like theatre, design provides a stage for the performance of an identity or set of values. One’s clothing, accoutrements, and living space are props that align the user with specific social, economic, or regional groups. But can these visual/tactile cues be translated into the world of online dating? Or how about altering the social appreciation of drinking water? Water tastings that emulate current ritual wine tastings just might fundamentally change the way water is perceived.
“A House is a product, a home is a process.” --Keith Granet, Elle Decor Product as Process As you may have learned in seventh grade algebra, a product is the result of multiplication. Its value lies in the combination of two entities that result in something far greater than either alone or merely added together. Design value is found in this process of multiplication and expansion. The iPhone is not merely a phone, address book, internet browser, and game consul; it is a multi-use platform that exponentially increases the mental and spatial capabilities of its user. The incorporation of information and techniques supplied by the social sciences likewise reflects the nature of product as process. Anthropological observation can inform a designer’s approach to the use of certain environments or manifestations of cultural attitudes. Often, the real outcome of designing a space or tool is the process of re-designing others or ourselves. Prisons are prime examples of design geared toward the reformation and punishment of criminals. Fitness technology like designer Yves Behar’s information tracking UP bracelet is a similar object/process designed for the physical and metal re-design of humans. Who are the people we want to become? Such projects must be approached with sensitivity, empathy, and a critical eye. The current rise in popularity of DIY culture is founded on the idea that there is value in the process of making. This process could be further encouraged and enhanced with the introduction of a platform for sourcing fabrication. The development of “upcycling,” that is, using discarded material to create something of greater value, could be easily encouraged through design. Even such seemingly useless waste as human excrement has the potential to be processed and upcycled into a material for sustainable furniture. Design itself is a process worthy of investigation and improvement. A research unit dedicated to fostering creativity in design is a wonderful example of product as process.
‘Mycelium Sample’ from MYCO by Flora Arbuthnott.
...toxin-sucking mushrooms that decontaminate surrounding soil... “Eat your vegetables.” --Janet R. Eldredge, a.k.a. my Mother Product as Produce The cultivation of produce— those fruits and vegetables that parents are ever-encouraging their children to eat— can serve as a ripe model for the improvement of culture through design. People have a powerful, intimate connection with food and products that nourish human life must be similarly cared for and cultivated. Rather than a world in which we must be ever vigilant against the onslaught of Things, we could live in an ecosystem of designed life forms and living objects. Unused petrol stations could house toxinsucking mushrooms that decontaminate surrounding soil. Lambs could be genetically bred to serve as living dialysis machines. Even now, caregivers use dogs to cultivate emotional health in patients living with dementia and urban farming is a fast-growing trend poised to revolutionize our social relationships with food production and consumption. The designers of today must retain a farmer’s sense of values integration with all aspects of the design and production process. Creators must practice with a keen awareness of the complex material and social ecosystems of life on this planet.
The simple definition of “product” as “man-made thing” undermines the powers of design practice and overlooks the massive shift in design focus, a shift toward greater emphasis on systems, stories, experiences, and interactions. The Thing in John Carpenter’s movie is terrifying because we see ourselves in it. And it consumes us. It changes us. Educating the new generation of designers to see the entire spectrum of what their work can produce has never been more important or more feasible. Designers today have a duty to look beyond the simple idea of product-aswidget, beyond the sale of an item, and into the environmental, social, and economic realms their work impacts. But we the public, the users of design, must help them. For the user generates the cultural field on which the game is played. After all, more than anything else, designers themselves are products of their time.
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
The existing system of ‘products’ and physical objects reassure us we are experiencing reality. If something exists tangibly, if we can touch, hold and viscerally experience it in ‘real time’, we understand it to be real. The objects I have amassed over the course of the year exploit this perception; they authenticate fictional scenarios, groups and individuals through their physicality, function, form and semantic language; all concerns of the traditional ‘product designer’. Each artefact is designed to integrate seamlessly with the real world environment in which it is proposed to reside, covertly evidencing the fantastic through careful consideration of narrative qualities. The resultant objects might be best understood as props rather than products, they function primarily to communicate short stories, and meticulously consider the manner in which these stories are communicated. I chose to frame each of the three pieces of work around groups of enthusiasts, amateurs and obsessives, whose interests exist at the fringes of social normality. Within the design process these fascinating individuals might be considered consultants rather than users, as the value of the work which they facilitate is less to solve a problem or meet a defined need, but to democratise and expose unique behaviours and perceptions to a wider audience. Mine is characteristic of the departmental approach, the
8 Location: The Savoy Centre, Sauchiehall Street
application of a defined design process which places strong emphasis on ethnographic and documentative research techniques, fostering durational dialogue with project stakeholders. Though my practice finds resolution in the creation of physical artefacts, its dominant concern is always reflection and speculation on existing society and subculture, how new objects and their suggested contexts will be understood, received and experienced by those that encounter them. I feel strongly that the designer’s role is not merely to document and facilitate though. Each project explores the scope for interjection of my own obsessions and interests, allowing thematic similarities to emerge across the body of work. As well as my interest in the relationship between reality and fiction, and the possibilities of design informed by arcane behaviours and practices, each project registers a particular affinity to mapping the spatial and social landscape of Glasgow. Resolutions knowingly engage with locations and places in the city that might otherwise go unnoticed, but possess latent potential and qualities of special interest. Equally, obsessive, escapist, male figures are present across the body of work, in celebration of an under-appreciated archetype inherent to the landscape of Glasgow.
BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a very different designer than I thought I would be when I decided to study Product Design four years ago. My aspirations of black turtlenecks and beautiful, functionless objects seem to have become redundant in my current practice. I do not take the term ‘product’ to simply mean objects with purpose, or users to be a mere market audience. To me, ‘product’ covers a range of potential outcomes, both tangible and intangible. Through the effective implementation of objects, services and interactions I hope to create relevant, beneficial and enjoyable experiences for my users.
I was once told never to classify myself as a multidisciplinary designer, as this would be confusing to potential clients. However, I feel all fields of design require a certain amount of multidisciplinary skill. As scenarios change dramatically from project to project, so does the required understanding of the designer. For example, this year I have become a quasi-expert on autism, sewage treatment, deaf people with learning difficulties and dog breeding. In each case gathering enough insight from which to inform my own design process. I feel multidisciplinary practice can unbiasedly differentiate between a holistic range of potential outcomes, that specific design fields tend to neglect. In a scenario were a product designer, and a service designer are both presented with the same problem, the product designer will always defend an object as the best solution, while the service designer will claim a service is the only viable option. My aim is to evaluate what are the most compatible and effective solutions within the users’ context, and not just the concepts that are most obvious to a product designer. My final year has enabled me to demonstrate my approach to multidisciplinary design, with each project having a different outcome: one product, one interaction and one service. These were developed as the most effective solutions for three very different and unique scenarios, rather than for the purposes of my final portfolio. Working with users has been focal to the development of my work. However, as valuable as user input is, it has been equally important to distinguish what they need and what will work, from what they ask for. My next step is to develop my understanding of the business and financial aspects of my design work. I have found that in developing concepts to help people one still has to secure funding for their implementation. I understand that my current design ideals are likely to change over my career and I believe I still have much to learn. I hope to continuously keep developing my design ideologies as I progress from the Glasgow School of Art into the professional design world.
Location: Kelvingrove Park
PHOEBE BATHAM BDes Product Design
In the beginning, I was expecting a Glasgow School of Art course with the title ‘Product Design’ to be more focused on designing and creating beautiful objects; learning the skills and processes needed to manipulate different materials into whatever form you would desire. It became apparent fairly quickly that this was not the case; instead the course was geared towards designing the invisible service systems that snake through our society. I was disappointed, but maybe a little stubborn with my views. After completing third year and a B(Des) degree, I was becoming increasingly more interested in the role that service, interaction and experience design can have in our world and the importance of having an infrastructure within society. This interest was fuelled further after being employed to work as a designer with Dementia Dog, the project that I have presented in the degree show. It has opened my eyes to how service design can be used to really benefit people; I have been lucky enough to witness the student project realised in actuality. Working with the charities involved in this project has influenced my understanding that design can be implemented to help improve their services. Charities are worthy organisations that deserve to receive as much support as possible from other disciplines. Design can play a vital role in any situation, so let’s ensure that it is used in a compassionate way that will result in valid improvements to the quality of life of those who need it most. Although I would still like to pursue the practice of working with various materials to create charming objects, the course has galvanized the role that service design will take in my future creative career.
10 Location: Alzheimer Scotland Office, Oxford Street
CAMERON AYLIFFE BDes Hons Product Design
As I have delved into the course, year-byyear people have asked me, what is ‘product’ design? My answer, like the evolving course I have studied, has also evolved. I find that a lot of the time I spend explaining that it isn’t just about designing a new chair, but rather that there is a complex infrastructure behind the methodologies that make this course a vital element in understanding the future; user, trend, experience, product or service. Whatever the outcome may be, all of this ties into what we as a designer perceive the future to be. The project, as an end result then speaks a language to others to interpret what we are like as a designer. Over the four years I have had the opportunity to work with real clients to; promote new and upcoming products, support and expand the framework for the care of people with dementia and understand the difficulties that a social enterprise has in our economic climate, but understanding all the values that comes with it. These are just some of many that have opened my eyes as a designer, indicating that there is more to explore than just the surface. I have a natural interest in model making and in the past I have tried to incorporate that into my design but as I have developed as a designer so have my outcomes. Especially in the last year of my studies I have found that when looking for a focus in design, it would be around the experience or service side of design. I would like to consider myself as an all round designer but, if I had a theme I would fall into the category of helping people to success rather than profit driven design. Now, as I am leaving university I am ready to be exposed to how the design industry works in comparison and I feel I have a good foot to stand on in starting my career in design.
Location: Glasgow Angling Centre
As a designer you see things that most people never do and there is nothing more satisfying or motivationally driving than having the privilege to say: “I am a part of making something better.”
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
A product can be many things in the world of design. Though the majority of people still conceive a product as being physical, this perception is tipping as service sector organisations, such as banks, begin pushing ‘products’ like loans and savings accounts. A product can now be many things, both tangible and intangible. This change in the public use of terminology will ease the passage of more holistic design practice into the heart of business and institutions. It is this holistic design which is now defining itself. Wriggling free from ‘service design’ is the idea that designers don’t need to define themselves by the most common output of their labours, but should have an open process which is adaptable to produce the best work for a client. Of course the next trick is selling such an open offering to clients. That said, if you were to hash out a scale ranging from industrial to service design, my work would generally come out at the service end of the spectrum. But rather than calling myself a ‘service designer’ I would rather recognise that the challenges which have interested me most, and which I have tended to address, come in the form of social and organisational culture, projects which seem to have favoured a service type offering best.
it as fertile ground for work, but the harder it is to convince the organisation that designers are the people to do it. Two of the behemoths of age old, institutionalised organisations are perhaps Westminster and the British Army. Who can say those institutions are perfect, with all their internal cogs running smoothly and flawlessly? It would seem that hundreds of years of organisational evolution don’t add up when it’s left unchecked. Why, then, aren’t we going to their very cores, wielding our profession and training to drive the institutions which ‘run’ our country forward at the same pace at which the rest of us are moving. We don’t just ‘design’, though that’s what we choose to call it. Think about what we do; every single project needs us to build a new mask, think from a new direction, work with new people and navigate a web of relationships, whilst rationalising it all. Then we design. We’re experts. Design isn’t the illegitimate child of Art and Architecture anymore. We have a deeper place in the world, if we choose to take it. The gates are guarded. But where is the fun, if there isn’t a challenge?
The world of business seems to be in love with ‘innovation’. ‘Innovation’ is, as I discovered during the research for my ‘Mountain Office’ project, a notoriously slippery concept. My explorations led me to believe it can broadly be understood to represent two different, but related, ideas. The creation of a new, previously non-existent concept; or the creation of a new solution to a previously addressed issue. The former is, perhaps, closer to the traditional definition of ‘design’, and so companies are more comfortable accepting external designers into that space. The latter benefits the fresh eyes and honed toolset of a designer, but requires the navigation of a wonderfully tangled web of internal politics simply to start the project. This internal space is where some fascinating and complex work lurks, yet the nature of the space means that getting to it is nigh on impossible. And therein lies the challenge. It seems that the larger, the more ancient, and the more institutionalised the organisation, the more I see
Location: War Memorial, George Square
BDes Product Design firstname.lastname@example.org
I find the value of a product not to be desired for its design, but for how much it adds to a person’s life. I feel that products shouldn’t make a person, but should represent them and bring value to their users, by being part of their routines and personality. A product should intrigue, welcome, and be explored. There is a joyous side to product design; a possibility to explore and question a product. This should be practiced to its full extent. Product design stands on the two pillars of creativity and function. Although the problems and needs of a user come first, creativity can enhance, interpret and communicate in a way that is understandable for many in an interesting way. In my work, I value the playfulness that the design element of a product can bring, something that can start a discussion or provoke emotions. I like to alter physical objects into something unexpected, away from their classical designs. This gives them a deeper meaning to their users. A product has the ability to represent a time and a behaviour, much more than merely trends or fashions. What I am aiming to do is capture people’s relationships to things and how these may change as we move into a time of more awareness of the impact of our consumption.
Location: Office, Skypark
In my future work, I hope to gather more knowledge and inspiration outside of my current covered areas of creativity. I want to get more professional experience and inspiration to further form my own design language, but to continue on the path of industrially oriented design.
INTeRvIeW: SNOOK MAY 2012
The graduates of Product Design are grateful to Snook for the support received as this year’s primary exhibition sponsor. Snook are the Scottish service designers making social change happen in public sector organisations from the police to universities and are winners of the 2012 Young Scot Award for Enterprise. They work with frontline staff to embed service design in their organisation, using service design to make experiences better. Since Snook formed in 2009 they have been leading the provision of service design application to projects in Scotland at a national Level. With their strong roots in Product Design, we spoke to Sarah Drummond and Lauren Currie about their work creating unique products at Snook. PD: What motivated you to form Snook? SD: On a personal level I got frustrated with the lack of user centeredness in the public sector. As an undergraduate at GSA you get the opportunity to go and work with public bodies and I did this again with my Masters. I found it difficult to understand how these public bodies design and deliver services for the public without involving people in their process.
Sarah is Co-Founder & Director of Snook and a graduate of both Product Design and Masters of Design Innovation at Glasgow School of Art.
Lauren is Co-Founder & Director of Snook and a graduate of both Product Design and Masters of Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.
All the products that the world is made up of change our behaviour. The same goes for services. I realised that everything I learnt at GSA could be applied to the way services are designed. Snook comes from really believing my skills could add value to the way services are designed and delivered in the public sector. That’s one of many reasons. What do you think Lauren? LC: Sarah and I were both looking forward to getting jobs at one of the firms that were doing stuff that aligned with us, like The Design Council or IDEO. Personally, the deeper I dug into these organisations and what they were working on there was something that didn’t quite fit for me. A big part of the fit was that me and Sarah were both in Scotland. It’s really cheesy, but when we met our perspective changed and we realised it was possible to find someone else with the same values and ambitions as you. I think when it came to setting up a business, a part of our motivation was to prove that you can do it in Scotland! You can do it when you’re young, female and you’ve never set up a business before. If you’ve got an idea or a vision that you care enough about, anything’s possible. We’re still doing that now. We’re only one wee step along that journey. Our company is now working at a strategic level on system change and design thinking. We were recently flown to China to share our learning with their government and in the last week we have been invited to Australia and Sweden to present our thinking around design in the public sector. We have a core team of seven and a strong network of associates across the UK. PD: A lot of this discussion has centred around Scotland and I think that’s quite pertinent with our graduates about where they will work and base themselves in the future. Why are you based in Glasgow and how has this influenced the work you do?
able to help you make change happen. For us, that’s a big deal. When you look back to times in history like The Enlightenment, people managed to change society and the way that the country was shaped through law and justice. People like David Hume or Adam Smith in ‘Wealth of Nations’ managed to make a difference. From a Scottish context, it happened here and evolved around the globe. If you can focus on a really small place there is an amazing opportunity for scalability. For me, that is changing the world.
Be proud to be a creative
Our work also involves us going out into the community because we believe in working with the front-line. We believe in going out and delivering on the ground as well at a strategic level. Being Scottish really helps when you are embedding yourself in local communities. PD: This publication focuses on the boundaries or the limits of what can be defined as a ‘product’ and the role of design within that. What is Snook’s ‘product’? SD: You know what, I’m just going to go for it. It’s getting stuff done. On our webpage says ‘Service Designers doing Social Change’ and all these things are what we do. We design services. We do social change. We see ways to make this happen. At the heart of all this is just getting stuff done. I can’t stand design when it doesn’t make an impact. We have built a strong business around our expertise in service design and engagement. However, service design was really just the beginning and definitely doesn’t have all the answers! We believe that today’s global, financial and social crises are breeding wicked problems like never before and these challenges demand collaboration, innovation, creativity and new thinking not only in public services but throughout entire systems. LC: We provide organisations with a practical way of ‘doing’ innovation that must happen alongside strategic leadership to enable services to change and transform. SD: We have roots in product design and even though we have a new momentum from winning the award and an unshakable commitment to solving problems that matter, we know we can’t do this alone.
We are not political. We are Scotland enthusiasts. SD: First and foremost there is just a love for this country. It’s patriotism. The second thing is the six degrees of separation rule. They say that you are six steps from The First Minister in Scotland. Everyone is. It’s so small that you will know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone in government, who will be
We are now at the point of growing our team. We are working on our five year business plan and our vision for growth. We make stuff happen and share the vision, the viewpoint and empathy that is at the core of Snook. PD: You have touched on your shared
background in Product Design. How has that influenced your practice? LC: It’s very different for both of us. We’ve both had different experiences. SD: The other day, in a workshop, I was reminded of a second year project; a coat hanger, which was my favourite product I ever designed. It was a great example of the design process for people; the discover, define, develop, deliver ‘Double Diamond’ process. I talked through how I would go about re-designing a coat hanger. So, discovery, I would go out and watch women in shops trying on dresses. Catty, our tutor, told us to go out and find a problem with coat hangers. So, you would go into a shop and see all these women getting annoyed by the little metal bit. So, you had defined the problem. That’s what we do. We go out and talk to communities and organisations, then we define where the painpoints are or where there are opportunities. I also interpreted behaviour. Behaviour is very important. So, in service design we understand people’s behaviour. It’s the same with the coat hanger. When they were holding it up in front of themselves in the mirror I identified the problem. My definition or specification from
START-UP STREET by Snook this was to make something really elegant, a beautiful object that rethought the coat hanger. I didn’t just make one idea, which is what organisations tend to do. I made one hundred just on paper. Then I prototyped and prototyped. I must have been in the workshop for about three weeks solid just making the same thing but slightly different every time. It ended up looking a bit like a medieval torture device, but I love it. It was this object that you could just slightly open up and place on the neck. It was made from wood and lined with vintage wallpaper. It worked and people could use it. The point is that I prototyped and prototyped until I reached the solution. Only by making it real could I understand how it would work. It’s the same for service design. The same principles are there; prototyping, co-creating and thinking through the eyes of a user. I get frustrated at peers saying ‘I don’t know if I’m a product designer or a service designer’. It doesn’t matter. You’re a designer. You’re a visualiser and you’ve got core skills. LC: I was a real geek and a total design book worm. That’s what I really loved - understanding theory and thinking. I think it’s an ideal precursor to moving into service design. There’s lots of debate around ‘Can you study Service
Design?’ and, I do think, you fundamentally cannot study service design at an undergraduate level, because service design is a mag pie discipline - it borrows key elements from lots of fields and you need a core discipline. SD: You’re absolutely right; Product Design is one of the best. It teaches you all the skills. Don’t just think about the obvious routes. Think differently about where you can apply your skills. Every organisation that works with people will benefit from working with a designer. Be confident and realise what you are good at! Take five minutes after your graduate and write down ten things you are really good at. This is what should be in your CV. It’s this realisation of your skills and where they can add value that will enable you to choose a career that will make a difference. You should also think about how to describe what you do without using the word ‘design’. I want you all to believe that you can be who you want to be in Scotland. You just have to be confident in your abilities. LC: Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get where you want to be by ticking all the boxes.
You have to do more - a portfolio and a nice shiny website is not enough. You have to go out and get opportunities. You have to be active and work hard. Stand tall and proud and be the best designer you can be.
Don’t ever apologise for being an art school student
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
What gets the needle flickering on the good-ometer?1 The main points relevant for my personal design directive include wanting to have ‘stuff’, wanting to make ‘stuff’ without feeling guilty about it and being in my element. Ken Robinson argues the importance of finding one’s element, as surely, when one enjoys their profession, they are likely to achieve more and aspire higher.2 On the other hand, one can not help but question his overly optimistic solution of find your element and everything else will fall into place. I would argue that within the context of creative industries, an individual approach and early encouragement in education is not enough. One of the most valuable and satisfying parts of my personal design practice is the understanding of tangible substances; a knowledge that can, in my opinion, only be acquired through manually and repeatedly working with a specific material. Richard Sennett makes a similar point in ‘The Craftsman’.3 Both Robinson and Sennett highlight interesting arguments, however, in order to work towards wanting to make ‘stuff’ without feeling guilty about it and being in my element, I feel I need to consider both theories. This might manifest itself in either a onewoman-design-machine or in the ability to bring together people with detailed knowledge in subjects that my ‘machine’ lacks.
Location: The Lighthouse
Either way, I want to be able keep making ‘stuff’ and keep exploring physical properties of different materials and production methods, as I feel at my utmost best when working with my hands. I want to be able to retain a simple design language that does not feel the need to lift it’s importance by using unnecessary scholarly justification. And, I want to live in an environment where I can be surrounded by ‘good stuff’ and things worth displaying; things that get ‘my needle flickering’.
1. Quote from Nicolas Oddy, Pecha Kucha in the Tramway in October 2011 2. Sir Ken Robinson, The Element 3. Richard Sennet, The Craftsman
LIZZIE BROTHERSTON BDes Hons Product Design
Whenever I am asked what subject I study at Art School I am hindered by the title of the course and the preconceptions that go with it. Product Design conjures up images of chairs, kettles, cars and perfume bottles, but the definition of the word ‘product’ is forever evolving and is no longer confined to the physical. Design begins with a problem and, in a world cluttered with unnecessary objects, the art of the product designer is to decide whether the best solution to a problem has a physical form or not. Throughout my four years at GSA I have come to realise the importance of in-depth research within the design process and the use of this research to create the context for my designed outcomes. Creating these contexts has fuelled my interest in people: the choices they make and the way they interact with each other. These interactions between people can be dramatically altered through the design of experiences and services as well as tangible objects. I have explored many of these forms of design within my time as a student, designing for positive change on both a community and an individual level.
Location: Woodlands Community Garden
I had the opportunity within my third year to study for a semester at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Coming from a human-centred design background into a course with a primarily industrial design focus, I found that this prompted a really exciting form of collaboration and one that I hope will manifest itself within my future design practice. As well as creating solutions to a problem, design can create discussion and stimulate debate through creating projections of a potential future. Design can be used to create the sort of tools Peter Schwartz describes in The Art of the Long View, ‘for understanding the real long-term implications of our choices so that we can make better decisions today.’ This is how I approached my final project of this year, creating a fictional future that I hope will never become reality but is far from unrealistic if we continue to live in the way that we do.
AMY CHLEBOWSKA BDes Hons Product Design
For me ‘product’ principally involves service design that leads to better outcomes in the quality of life for people who are disadvantaged in our society. Over the four years of the degree I have been privileged to enhance the communication of a senior management team in a community care charity, participate in an awareness raising campaign about the likelihood of having dementia in older age and most recently, in designing a tool for primary school children to empathise with their peers who are on the autism spectrum but are educated in the mainstream. That is not to say that I am wholly committed to design for the disadvantages or the vulnerable. In the past year in particular I have become increasingly consumed by ‘being.’ My dissertation focused on the concept of happiness, where it came from, how it affects us and what the future holds for it. In addition to this abstract consideration I produced a whimsical happiness product in the form of an umbrella that interacts with the rain to make people smile on a dull Glasgow day – reframing a potential negative into a positive. When I started the course I was torn at that point between design and primary teaching as a future career. I hope to fuse both worlds by becoming a primary teacher who is able to incorporate the importance of design to our environment in my teaching. The mantra: “Discover, define, develop, deliver” will be integral to every lesson plan I deliver! Design may be the future, but so are our children.
Location: In the Kelvin River
BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
When I went to India, I met a poet. She looked at me and asked: “Why do you design?” I do not remember my answer but I have been thinking a lot about that question ever since. When I started making things, many years ago in Sweden, I wanted to create beautiful things; things that people wanted. But that was a long time ago and, along the way, things have changed. As I started to understand the practice better, my interest in design slowly evolved and, with that, so did my reasons for designing. Design has become the tool with which I make meaning of the world. It allows for me to challenge my understanding of both the present and the future, to investigate the world we live in and the one we are creating. As a designer, I obsess over the details of everyday life. I deconstruct things, question what they really mean and put them together in new ways to see what can happen. By making calculated changes to the equation, I create design interventions that are contextually relevant. I believe that design is just that, a calculated disregard for one or a number of instances in the present. I have ceased to look at a product like a thing; for me a product is no longer an object, such as a phone or a mug. Rather, I try to take a more holistic viewpoint, one where I attempt to build a more nuanced perspective, from which I aim to create the most fitting response to any given situation. This allows me to create more relevant work, both as a researcher with an open mind and as a designer who can focus on more meaningful outcomes.
For me the true reward of design is often the people I meet and the things I learn along the way; it is the feeling of having developed something together with a group of friends and after a lot of hard work being able to stand back, look at each other and say: “We did this”.
NATHAN CLYDSDALE BDes Hons Product Design
A Product, conventionally, is an object. An object, naturally, is tangible. The term ‘Product’, in the context of Design, has transcended conventional connotations. The nature of an object, in our contemporary understanding, is becoming supernatural. Over four years as a student at the Glasgow School of Art, I have come to comprehend Design, beyond mere method in the physical embodiment of inner ideas. Design is a process, organic and controlled. To Design is to respond, in rational or conceptual proposal, to the state of the current and the likelihood of the future. The product of an applied Design process is never necessarily physical. As a student of this course, I have come to appreciate the value of experiences and the importance of services that support and enrich our everyday living. Indeed, the work I have produced over my fourth and final year would seem to give small precedence to sculpted artifacts. This should not translate a disregard for what is material; personally, I place the highest value in real, tangible existence. Present within the work collated for my Degree Show are identifiable themes that wholly define my conscious approach in Design. Central to each project are concepts of mediated communication and interaction between humans. As the evolution of technology unfolds before us, driven by our own relentless innovation, it is inevitable that aspects of living will continue to change. Personally, I do not strive to determine how technology can alter human being; rather how it can conform to our true human nature.
Location: Tenement Close, Partick
I find enjoyment and value in the attached theory of Design, as much as the activity. In practice, Design can expand intelligence, awareness and appreciation for all that the world encapsulates; and, in subsequent reward, positively impact on the attitudes, behaviours and existence of others. I leave this course with the confidence and enthusiasm to reach people, learn and better understand human existence. Beyond these four years, I will forever apply my developed perception; for me, Design is visceral.
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
The distinction of my work as ‘product’ design often feels like a powerful differentiation between other creative practices and my own. For a word tainted by consumerist dialogue to take centre stage in the title of my degree is socially tantamount to a subscription to the Financial Times, especially in todays economic climate. It implies a preoccupation with saleability and profit margins which have had negligible influence over my creative output whilst at art school. Indeed, it was the desire to develop as a creator that lead me to study at a specialist art’s institution and not a fixation with spreadsheets. I still hold this desire today and believe an arts education should be highly explorative and self-directed. However, in many ways my work is influenced by ‘product’. I design work to be consumed by people and my projects this year has focused on the future of two industries in decline - fishing and media. I am highly influenced by the interactions of people with their environment and it is from these observations that I create work to both give form to my understanding and as a means to further observe and understand the reactions of people to these designed artefacts.
Location: The Kent Chip Shop, Finnieston
This continuous process of observing and designing could be seen as a cycle of production. The design outcome is the manifestation of my research - the product of my process. The resultant value of this process is both the nuanced decisions of traditional design concerns such as form and function as well as a developing understanding of human interactions with people, places, objects and systems. I relish creating work which is beautiful but ultimately find my drive and satisfaction from understanding social behaviour. It is this fortunate line which I hope to tread in my career - as both a designer and a researcher.
INTERVIEW: Alzheimer scotland MAY 2012
In 2011 the now graduating BDes Hons students collaborated with Alzheimer Scotland on a live project run by Jeni Lennox. The project aimed to design new products and services for people with dementia and their carers. The project lasted for a month and a lasting relationship was established. Two of the projects have since been taken forward, with many of the others a future possibility. We met with Joyce Gray, the Deputy Director for Alzheimer Scotland to discuss this partnership.
PD: We design and make ‘products’, what would you say Alzheimer Scotland’s ‘product’ is? JG: We have a range of products but they all centre around the needs of people with Dementia, so we have products that would be about early intervention work, post diagnostic work. The majority of the work that we do, the sort of biggest ‘product’ offer that we have, is that we provide support services and interventions for people with dementia living at home. We don’t do any residential support but that is a company decision. So those are the sorts of products that we have. Then we have an external training business and we’re going to have some products designed that may be seen more traditionally as products that we will offer as well as the more intangible stuff which involves the services we have for people.
Joyce is a Deputy Director at Alzheimer Scotland and has over 30 years’ experience in the health and social care sector.
PD: How did the relationship between the Product Design Department and Alzheimer Scotland arise? JG: Through the link with Jeni Lennox (now a consultant for Alzheimer Scotland), who had
an interest in improving products at home for people with dementia. When I started working with her, looking at some of these products, she said why not think about this in the wider sense and maybe look at doing a student project.
solutions and thinking about a more modern way of interfacing with that.
PD: How have you found working with the Art School? Is it perhaps a slightly different working relationship than Alzheimer Scotland is used to?
JG: It was really an eye opener with me when Henry Simmons (Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland) met with the class and he asked how many people had been touched by dementia the number of hands raised was surprising. The spread of people across society that dementia has touched has meant that many people in the project could think of it from a personal experience as well as a design experience.
JC: It has been totally refreshing and inspiring. It has made us think in different ways. As well as the inspirational innovation on how we approach services, there has also been intergenerational work. We tend to recruit in our image, so a lot of our staff are a bit older so therefore looking around innovative technology, more modern solutions to fit how we live now, may not be within our sphere of knowledge that we already have within the organisation. We have a lot of experience with dementia; what dementia is and what people with dementia need but to innovate around how we can deliver these services is, I think, where we have been lacking. What the student project brought was a real fresh approach to looking at traditional support
PD: We found almost everyone in the class had their own experience with dementia.
PD: How do you think your perception of design, and what it’s capable of, has changed since the project? JG: I’ve worked really closely with the students because some of the projects have gone live; Dementia Dog, the conversations around Death and Dying (Dates with Death), both of which we have taken forward and there are others that we’re hoping to work on again in the future so nearly everyone of the projects is going to go live. I think that this is a really amazing achievement because even for the projects we have not reached yet we know that we have ways that we want to incorporate them into our work. Thinking about different approaches as to how we develop things has come from working with Jeni and the students. Being introduced to the double diamond approach, thinking things through to a design solution and having design at the heart of what we do has been quite revolutionary. Also I think traditionally we work quite slowly, we have an idea and then take a lot of time to complete it, whereas when working with the students it’s like lighting a fire under something and letting it go, moving really quickly, and that’s a different way of working for us. The depth of understanding from the students about dementia demonstrated that they really did their research. They looked up about the condition, how it affected people, they thought about the family, everything was thought through even though it was quite a small period of time it was very informed. I felt, they didn’t just scratch the surface but had really looked at the brief and looked at the illness and the areas involved. At first we were just looking at the area of Perth and Kinross, because we were doing development there, but the work that the students did has really translated across the country. We just put it in that area to give it a focus, but it is going to translate on a wider scale because we are going to look at the 1 in 3 Campaign (raising awareness on future statistics for dementia), the cooking class (intergenerational activities), and looking at web based solutions for care, and they have all come from student’s work. PD: Do you think other charities would benefit from similar collaborations with design? Oh absolutely, I can see this working so well! I have worked for other large voluntary organisations round about learning disabilities and carers and you can just see the synergy with this relationship absolutely, no problem. You are always looking for unique ways to work with people to reduce support, that reliance on
DEMENTIA DOG by Flora Arbuthnott, Phoebe Batham, John Flitcroft & Luke McKinney.
staff, so that we can actually look at new ways to support people. It is the same for carers, to free up their time so that they can also have a life as well as caring for people. I can think of many organisations that would be interested. The only downside of this for me was that I would have liked to have you longer, it all happened really quickly so to actually have the project for longer I would have been able to see a bit more of the work because I believe there were lots of other ideas that came out of the project. I would like to have it again every year! I would definitely, if I was ever approached, I would do it again in a moment and would have had it for longer. The experience of it for us, as I described to Jeni recently, was like we were always seen as the ‘experts’ surrounding Dementia and it was really refreshing for us to learn. Rather than us knowing about solutions and how we work with people. It was a really good learning experience for us as an Organisation. Winning the Design Council funding (for the Dementia Dog project), the promotion and the avenues and press that followed is great for us because it can be really hard to get that kind of message out there and I think that has been a real highlight as well. It’s where it has brought us. We would never in a million years have entered in for the Design Council funding if it hadn’t been for the partnership. And we are also going to bid for the most Innovative Partnership in the Dementia Awards, for the partnership between the Glasgow School of Art, Alzheimer Scotland and the Dogs for the Disabled because we think that is worth a bit more exploration. PD: What advice do you have for students interested in this line of design, working with charities and healthcare?
DATES WITH DEATH / THE BETTER END by Philip Blaikie, Lottie Burnley and Fi Scott
JG: I think there is a definite consultancy to be set up, there is a business there waiting to happen surrounding design for human services. The things people are experiencing through the recession right now – the down turn with all the contracts and economy savings, but to do that in a more human way going in and absorbing yourself in an institution and then come out with some unique solutions. That might not be about saving a buck today but more about the long term piece of work because there are a lot of big charities out there facing some really difficult times and I think design could be at the heart of some of the stuff that they’re doing, revolutionising some of the thinking. I think if you can keep a camp in that Art School thinking and not get bogged down in the organisation, because if you come to work in an organisation like this you do get bogged down in how the organisation works and being absorbed in that, the culture can overtake you but if you keep that culture round about you in the freshness and innovation. There is nobody really out there that is coming with any design solution about how charities can deliver services. There are techy people and there are care people but there is something missing.
CARING CLASS by Struan Barr, Lizzie Brotherston, Nathan Clydesdale and Craig Howie
BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Almost) everything in everyday life has been designed, and this limitless potential of application is what is so exciting about practicing Product Design at GSA. Fundamentally, design is about how people experience everyday life; anything it produces is an intervention into that. So it doesn’t matter whether this produces an object, a service, a system, a strategy, an interaction, an image, a film, an exhibition; any combination of these…or something we can’t describe (yet). In fact, I think I’ve attempted all of these and more during my time here! Design then, isn’t so much about the outcome but the way of thinking that exists in producing it. I would say the department actively produces design, as opposed to ‘products’ in a traditional sense of the commercial object, and within this the production process is fascinating. When we understand design not as a noun that describes an outcome -but as a verb that describes the intended action of creating things, we start to understand a bit more of what we do. At its best, the results can improve everyday life, solve problems and create moments of delight for individuals. On the other hand, throughout history, design has destroyed environments; played a key role in war and been the cause of death to millions. When we describe design as action with intent, we should realise this intent is not always positive, or even fully realised. People are unpredictable, so projects released into the world are naturally unpredictable too. In understanding this, my work this year has ensured that design produced is realised in the real world. For example, in Aquaxis, the excitement came from prototyping to test how well the experience actually worked. The best part about Make/Works, was taking a concept out of the studio and starting it up as a business
people would really use. So, it is important to me that ideas are evidenced to the extent of suspending belief as reality. Creating a tangible presence of an idea is something of an art form, so I am fascinated by materials, manufacture and making. The value of this was the subject of my dissertation where I highlighted the link between human head and hand- as Peter Dormer describes tacit knowledge 1. Design then, should be about doing things, not just thinking about them. This resonating idea of design “doing” relates to my final project, the Diamond Research Unit, where I establish that as a wider design community we need to stop justifying how important design is, and get on with producing it (fantastically). As Ralph Caplan comments, “the truth is, designers won’t save the world; but the design process can help make it worth saving. Isn’t that enough?”2 I think he’s right. Design as a process is transferrable to so many other fields, I believe as designers we have a responsibility to constantly question and actively improve our practice. In the future, the way product design has taught me to think, do, and understand will be key to whatever field I practice in. I’d love to develop my work into curation, design criticism or some form of cross-disciplinary practice –but really, design is (still), everything! 1 Dormer, Peter in The Art of the Maker: Skills and its meaning in Art, Craft and Design Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1994 2 Caplan, Ralph in By Design: Why there are no locks on the bathroom doors in the hotel Louis XIV and other object lessons Fairchild Publications, New York, 1982
Location: Wood Workshop, GSA
BDes Hons Product Design e. email@example.com
If Charles Rennie Mackintosh were to study Product Design at GSA he would have failed. Despite his holistic approach he rarely acknowledged the user as part of his process. He designed chairs that were often uncomfortable and fell over. He somewhat lacked in social skills rendering him a terrible communicator, and as a visionary he didn’t take kindly to criticism, resulting in an abscence of iterative process. Design is something that affects everyone in thousands of minute ways on a daily basis. Everything you see, use, hear, touch, has been designed by somebody at some point. The headphones you wear as you walk. The music you listen to. The dog that walks beside you. The park you walk in. The city you traverse. Design is a very broad field that I take great interest in. I specialise in Product Design. Traditionally the explorations of a product designer would always result in the creation of a ‘product’. In a country with a dominant service sector, service design and experience design are becoming a greater part of a designer’s repertoire. In my third year of study I was also exposed to a more traditional product design program by studying at a craft-based school in San Francisco. This allowed me to gain more of a global perspective on perceptions of Product Design. My design practice focuses on identifying the appropriate medium in which to manifest a resolution, wherever it may lie on the productservice spectrum. Studying products, and in many ways the consumption of products is intriguing because it is ever changing. Today’s treasure is tomorrow’s detritus. By exploring the changing landscape in which we are living, I discover how people’s interactions with products and services can affect the way we live our lives and experience the world. The study of behaviour is a fundamental aspect of my practice, and it is this response to human behaviour that unifies my body of work. I seek to understand a user’s daily behaviour and interactions in order to envisage how they would respond to certain interventions. Having spent four years studying a design course led by a Location: The Mackintosh Library, GSA
sociologist, the sociological and anthropological aspects of design have become an entirely integral part of my design process. This year has been an opportunity for me to manifest this in three widely varying projects, exploring perceptions of water as a precious resource, the reality of office workers existing in a virtual office space, and the potential for a person to use one object for the entirety of their life to reflect upon and plan their life. Although this work broaches diverse fields the process that I have used to approach each project has been the same. Design is an everchanging field, no one can tell what we will be designing in ten years time, but it’s certainly an exciting prospect.
BDes Hons Product Design e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Four years ago, when I was applying to universities, I knew that I enjoyed numerous specialisms of design, so I applied to five different design courses across the country. As an opportunity I couldn’t refuse, I accepted my place at the Glasgow School of Art and discovered over time that this course is unique, and was entirely the right choice, because it avoids isolating the students’ education to the assumed, object specific associations of ‘Product Design’. A product, to me, is ‘of something’, as children are a product of their parents and a degree student is a product of education - it is something that occurs through influence. I have applied this methodology to my final year body of work that is predominantly socially conscious, which has enabled me to design for the negative with the intention of instigating the positive. This definition of a product encouraged me to seek opportunities outside of my degree and initiated my acquisition of funding to develop a voluntary project that I continue to manage. The project aims to assist young people with confidence issues by enhancing their self-image as a product of identifying talents they had lost sight of. The changing face of what a product is enables young designers, like ourselves, to seek opportunity and develop an outcome appropriate to the insight rather than the subject and I intend to take my practice of design into the business sector to seek new opportunities in business development.
Location: The Arches
THEO BLACKBURN MEDes Product Design
My approach to design is driven by a fascination for the ways we behave and interact with one another and the world around us. As a service designer, I am motivated by the ways we can find and create added value in everyday experiences, build compelling narratives and work between the tangible and intangible aspects of a service; whether it’s loaning a book from the library, or helping people to better understand their electricity consumption. Having studied across Europe, and worked with brands such as Volkswagen and the Virgin Group, I have collected a wide range of tools and methodologies that he uses to find innovative solutions; working with others to push the boundaries in people’s thoughts and behaviour, and bring insights and ideas to life.
Location: Mitchell Library
THERESE WERLING MEDes Product Design
I find the value of a product not to be desired for its design, but for how much it adds to a personÕs life. I feel that products shouldnÕt make a person, but should represent them and bring value to their users, by being part of their routines and personality. A product should intrigue, welcome, and be explored. There is a joyous side to product design; a possibility to explore and question a product. This should be practiced to its full extent. Product design stands on the two pillars of creativity and function. Although the problems and needs of a user come first, creativity can enhance, interpret and communicate in a way that is understandable for many in an interesting way. In my work, I value the playfulness that the design element of a product can bring, something that can start a discussion or provoke emotions. I like to alter physical objects into something unexpected, away from their classical designs. This gives them a deeper meaning to their users. A product has the ability to represent a time and a behaviour, much more than merely trends or fashions. What I am aiming to do is capture people’s relationships to things and how these may change as we move into a time of more awareness of the impact of our consumption. Location: Bottom of Buchanan Street
In my future work, I hope to gather more knowledge and inspiration outside of my current covered areas of creativity. I want to get more professional experience an
MEDes Product Design e. email@example.com
Can I let you into a secret? I’ve not designed a “product” in years. Admittedly, I signed up to Art School (six flipping years ago!) with dreams of making beautiful design objects. These days, however, my design skills and creativity are much more likely to be involved in the shaping of services and experiences, the creation and strategy of brands or the development of interactions with technology. Far form being what is typically understood as a “product designer”, I would probably better describe myself, in a professional capacity, as something of a design generalist - a creative allrounder if you will. Our course’s fluid definition of what constitutes a “product” has broadened my creative horizons and allowed me to work in fields as divergent as user interface design for the electronics industry, web design and journalism. As a “product” of the Master of European Design route of the course, I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel the world and see design education and practice from many angles.
Location: Top of Buchanan Street
This publication and accompanying exhibition are both produced by the graduating students. We would like to thank everyone involved for making this possible. We are very grateful for all the support we have received in advice, skills, materials and funding.
Dr Gordon Hush, Stuart Bailey, Elio Caccavale, Mil Stricevic and supporting staff at The Glasgow School of Art Jeni Lennox, Don Mcintyre and Tom Warren Barbara Eldredge Joyce Gray of Alzheimer Scotland The Glasgow School of Art Studentsâ€™ Association Sarah Drummond and Lauren Currie of Snook Vanessa Arbuthnott of Vanessa Arbuthnott Fabrics and The Owl Barn Residency Mr A.B. Tunnock of Tunnocks Ross Fraser McLean & Rory Wemyss of Studio RoRo Jenny Elliot of Molson Coors Little Greene Paint ICS Learn A.G. Barr
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