Saturday, 4 December 2010

Just a few photographs I took on a walk through the forest at Tentsmuir while doing project research. Enjoy.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

“How ethical is your fashion?”

This shocking article covered by BBC journalist Madeleine Holt discusses the burning issue of “how ethical is your fashion?” This question is a raising topic of concern within the textile and fashion industry today. Within the society we live in, it is evident that high street fashion is making a huge impact on the environment. Consumers are so addicted to shopping and having the latest fashion or celebrity trends for as cheap as possible that the issue of how well designed the garment is, where the materials were sourced or how ethical just simply don’t get given a thought the majority of the time.

The key question posed within this report would be how we can help reduce landfill and become more sustainable. It seems that it is a matter of raising awareness and educating people on how buying sustainable and ethically made fashion will reap huge benefits long term. However, in this report Jane Sheperdson reckons there is a gap in the market for quality, beautifully designed pieces that last. (Holt, 2008) If this is true then we as designers need to address this issue before the consumer can make a difference. Madeleine Holt states a few shocking statistics. We are buying around 2m tonnes of clothes every year and nearly 1.5m of this ends up in landfill. This means we are buying a third more clothes than we were a decade ago. (Holt, 2008) Figures such as these back up the seriousness of this argument that sustainability needs to be addressed and quickly.

The conclusions we can draw from this article are that the public needs to buy less and hang on to clothes longer as this will have knock on effects such as less landfill, less pollution and an overall positive effect on the environment. Dr Corner, London College of Fashion states that we need to find the fun in holding onto clothes for longer. She says, “Customise them, exchange them with other people, eventually recycle them into something different. I think it will be much more fulfilling for people in the end than the throwaway frenzy we have now." (Corner, 2008)

If the sustainable, ethical clothing market took off and became available to the public on the high street it is assumed that people will want to support this. We are assuming that the general consumer cares about the environment and ethical issues enough to pay that extra few pounds for something similar they could have purchased in the fast fashion high street for cheaper. Are morals really going to rise above this cheap fashion fetish which has become like an addictive drug to our society? Through this article awareness will be raised of both the social, economic and environmental implications of fast fashion versus the ethical clothing market. This could have the potential to spark and inspire both designers and consumers to take a bigger interest in this subject as a whole. Without raising awareness and education on such a global and important issue nothing will change. We will simply stay stationary with the possibility of slipping backwards but never moving forwards.

M.Holt (7 Feburary 2008), How ethical is your fashion?

‘Cradle to Cradle’

This novel ‘Cradle to Cradle’ written by Michael Braungart and William McDonough focuses on how we can avoid environmental disaster. From reading this book it gives the reader a totally new perspective on the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ which is so commonly used when discussing environmental issues. They challenge us to take a new, innovative approach, to turn your thinking around and instead of focusing on eco-efficiency to apply direct concentration on eco-effectiveness. It discusses many pressing issues which commonly aren’t thought about for example the real implications from recycling.

The key question posed within this book is how it is time for a paradigm shift from trying to make products ‘less bad’ and figure out how to be ‘good’ i.e. minimizing damage isn’t good enough. The authors discuss how up-cycling may be the secret answer to this global problem. We need to rethink our design processes.They discuss how the use of the ‘cradle to grave’ approach to product cycling which many environmentalists are using ends up producing waste and how this needs to transform into the ‘cradle to cradle’ approach which is a natural process. This approach enables the change of one material to enable and nourish another. A good example of this would be how the decomposition of a leaf enables nutrients to be released into the soil resulting in providing more encouragement of growth. This brings ‘cradle to cradle’ to the conclusion that waste simply does not need to exist.

Throughout the book the authors use various diverse examples and key sources to back up their theories and opinions which makes it easier to visualize just how important it is to take this suppressing matter so seriously.

I found the last chapter entitled “Putting Eco-Effectiveness into Practice” the most engaging and informative. We are told in this chapter Albert Einstein cleverly observed that if we are to solve the problems that plague us, our thinking must evolve beyond the level we were using when we created those problems in the first place. (M.Braungart & W.McDonough, 2009) It all seems to come back to being innovative to the highest possible level of our ability and through our creativity constantly challenging our design processes. Braungart and McDonough in this chapter have come up with 5 key methods with are vitally important in relation to putting eco-effectiveness into practice. We as upcoming designers need to address these ideas and take them onboard otherwise eco-efficiency will never fully transform into eco-effectiveness.

One of the main assumptions made by the authors in my opinion is that everyone is willing and ready to truly fight for these issues discussed in this book. They assume that every designer and consumer sees the need and has the desire to come together to combat this environmental problem rather than sit back and watch it slowly perpetuate. If we do take their approach and line of reasoning seriously a huge environmental transformation could potentially be reached which would sustain the precious world we live in today for many future generations. This could also have an enormous effect within design and how innovative we can become. We need to address the other side too, the implications for us if we fail to take the author’s line of reasoning seriously. If we ignore them I think it is pretty clean cut, if we continue using the worlds resources as we are now and wasting too much we are facing an environmental disaster which is mind blowing so much so I feel we could face an end to society concerning the worlds design industry.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Above is the winning design for the V&A competition for Dundee. It was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. It was broadcast on BBC news. Click here to read more about this exciting and innovative project which will further the artistic and design community within Dundee.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I love these paper cut out installations by Bovey Lee, the sheer intricate detail is incredible. They are all made from chinese rice paper. The shadows create an atmospheric mood which I feel adds depth to the installations. Check out her blog here.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The 5 senses.
My new project is based on these words. I have to interrupt any of the 5 senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste in whatever medium or manner I feel inspired to.
I have decided to take the concept of sight and obscure it therefore seeing objects and environments in a different light. I want to explore the natural hidden beauty which the eye normally blanks out.
To do so I took a tripod, a canon 7d camera and went to Tentsmuir where the journey began. Through my motion imagery I aimed to capture the emotions evoked through my personal experience of the journey. I used my friends Vimeo account to upload it. Check out the video below.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Check out this awesome motion video by Thayer Allyson Gowdy and music by Susie Ghahremani. It is a promotional video for the print magazine 'Anthology' and through watching it you gain an insight into the story of the magazine. It is so cute and very inspirational!

Thursday, 7 October 2010



Population and specifically population overshoot are very complex topics which have many contributing factors. A population is the number of inhabitants in a given place and so it is inevitable that it will experience growth and if excessive result in overshooting i.e. overpopulation.

A population grows and declines by a particular combination of births and deaths, growing when births exceed deaths and declining when deaths exceed births. (Sarre and Blunden, 1995) At a closer glance there are many reasons for these changes and many global problems which have resulted from overpopulation, this being when a population becomes so dense it results in environmental depletion, a population crash and a reduction in quality of life.

“We can’t resolve many of our most pressing long-term problems until we reduce human population. Overpopulation is the engine behind global warming, pollution, peak oil, social injustice and poverty, crime, resource wars, biodiversity crash, deforestation and drought -- just to name a few.” (Burr, 2009)

Many scientists and researchers have various opinions on this topic, population overshoot and many questions get posed such as whether it is a cultural problem?

One of the most influential statements on overcrowding was the Reverend Thomas Malthus’ famous essay on the principle of population where he argued that overcrowding was inevitable because population tends to grow geometrically. (Sarre and Blunden, 1995)


Many of the worlds greatest historians agree that changes in population have changed the world and by the end of the 19C observers began to see how fertility, mortality and migration were interconnected. (Connelly, 2008)

One may argue that there are limits to growth. This was a phrase introduced in 1972 by a group entitled ‘the Club of Rome.’ The researchers in this specific group made interesting projections through use of technological advances such as computer modelling of the world system to find that “humans are likely to overshoot the earth/’s resource capacity.” (GeoDZ, n.d.) This projection throws many factors into the equation such as sustainability and designing for the future.

In the past vast measures have had to be taken by governments to attempt to control their countries populations. The key example of this would be China. In 1980, the government introduced a policy that each family was only allowed to have one child. However, shortly after this drastic decision was introduced a shocking discovery was made. By 1990, the Chinese population had overshot by 14 million than “ the government had thought, according to the country’s most comprehensive cenus.” (Long, 1990)

This however is believable and understandable when one takes into account what Connelly, the author of ‘Fatal Misconception: The struggle to control world population’ stated in 2008, that the earth was gaining around 80 million inhabitants every year by the 1980’s. (Connelly, 2008)

The UK’s population particularly in the past century has also varied quite a bit. To begin with a brief statement of fact; in 2004, the UK contained a population exceeding 59.8 million people.

The population in the second half of the 20C began to noticeably age due to many advances made within the medical sector therefore giving a higher survival rate and low birth rates due to an improvement in sex awareness education in schools. This diagram below states that the percentage of the population aged 65 and over has risen from 15 per cent in 1984 to 16 per cent in 2009 equalling an overall increase of 1.7 million people. Furthermore by 2034 it is projected to have reached an impressive 23 per cent. (Office for National Statistics, 2010)

Population by age, UK, 1984, 2009 and 2034

Source: Office for National Statistics, 2010

The rate at which a population grows at can vary immensely and from 1951 to 2001 in the UK, the population grew at a very unsteady pace. As previously mentioned this was mainly due to reasons causing the fertility rates to exceed the mortality figures with an exception in the year 1976. (Jefferies, 2005)


Design is a vital element within society today if we are going to attempt to deal with the global dilemma of population overshoot. Burr states that, “We have overshot the carrying capacity of our planet.” (Burr, 2009)

As designers for this generation and the future we have to be thinking ahead innovatively on how to combat such vast issues and push boundaries. The textile industry needs to accommodate its wide variety of consumers but at a rate which fits in with the worlds resources.

Mass production has become a global trend resulting in well known high street brands such as Primark churning out goods for cheap prices. There is a total of 127 primark stores across the UK and Ireland alone.(Jones,2006)

Is this the answer to providing for the needs of an overshooting population?

Many people would argue that mass production of clothing detracts from the quality of the product and the amount of detail and attention possible. In an article based on research in denim trends in Great Britain entitled ‘Britain’s Bargain Boom’ Nina Jones states,

“High Street stores counter that the same amount of research and development goes into a pair of their jeans and they said they don’t skimp on quality.” (Jones, 2006)

Contradictory to this statement George Wallace, ‘chief executive officer of U.K. retail analyst Management Horizons Europe’ said,

"With the High Street denim brands, there will always be a certain compromise on quality." (Wallace, 2006)

The issue of whether the sheer quantity of the world’s population is being economically friendly is also an upfront topic in the sense of the resources available and what the textile industry needs. Designers strongly need to take this into account as resource depletion seems to be a growing concern which could potentially in extreme circumstances put an end to society and the textile industry due to the complete exhaustion of the worlds ecological resources. How do we then design to combat this suppressing disaster?

With the population continually expanding and therefore the demand for textiles growing it is vital that the textile industry takes the direction of designing with a lower environmental impact.

In a short clip based on technical textiles, Rob Holoway, the sustainable design consultant for Giraffe Innovation states,

“Any designer should be interested in new materials, processes and new opportunities for designing things that people want to buy, something which has a lower environmental impact.”

Technical textiles and sustainability work alongside each other as the theory behind technical textiles is to improve materials and products to deliver better quality and performance to the consumer. This evidently would then provide a garment or product which would last longer. Furthermore, this would have a knock on effect on reducing landfill as a large percentage of the population today throw things away instead of recycling and reusing.

The textile industry has a duty to create an awareness of prominent environmental issues and to design according to these especially if the population is projected to continue to grow and overshoot the worlds carrying capacity. In the short clip on technical textiles previously referenced it is stated that if everyone was to wash at 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees it is estimated that this would save the equivalent of up to the amount of energy used by 2500 villages annually. Furthermore, ‘The Saving Energy Trust’ states that, “Washing at 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees would save the same amount of CO2 as taking 300, 000 cars of road per year.”

This without a doubt would create a significant difference which could have the potential to be a break through for future generations.


BBC, Learning Zone, available [online]: [Accessed:2/10/10]

Burr, C. (2009), Overpopulation is a cultural challenge, available [online]: [Accessed:30/09/10]

Connelly, MJ. (2008), Fatal Misconception: The Struggle To Control World Population, available [online]: [Accessed:2/10/10]

GeoDZ, the earth encyclopedia, available [online]: [Accessed:2/10/10]

Jefferies, J. (2005), The UK Population: past, present and future, available [online]: [Accessed:30/09/10]

Jones, N. (2006), Britain’s Bargain Boom, WWD: Women's Wear Daily, Vol. 191 Issue 112, Special Section p46-46, available [online]: [Accessed:30/09/10]

Long, S. (1990), Chinese Population overshoots government forecasts by 14m, The Guardian [0261-3077] Long yr:1990 pg:10, available [online]: [Accessed:29/09/10]

Office for National Statistics (2010), Ageing, available [online]: [Accessed:30/09/10]

Sarre, P. and Blunden, J. (1995), United States, New York: Oxford University Press Inc., The Open University.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The next stage was to brainstorm around the title I chose which was entitled 'Population Overshoot and Design.' I felt by using the mind map technique I would gain the most benefit as I could clearly see the connections associated between topics and therefore expand my thinking to its full potential. I feel that by completing this mind map it has sparked many interesting topics which connect to how population overshoot and design are linked. It has challenged my thinking as a designer and as a result I am now fired up to go and research fully these issues within our worldwide society.


So third year has begun and so a new semester of design studies is underway. This year the format is different as we are working in groups of eight made up of student designers from various disciplines such as textiles, jewellery, graphics, product design and IED. I think this will work well as we all are acquiring different ways of thinking and so in turn can bounce various ideas of each other and learn from each other.
Assignment one consists of each person taking a topic to research from a list we were given. To give you a flavour of these, the topics my group is researching are; branding, consumer culture, corporate identity, education, mass production, green wash, population overshoot and how these all relate to design . The aim of this research is to create a report which will eventually turn into a wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Reflecting back on the observation task from assignment 3 I have continually since then been highly aware of peoples behaviour and how it is related to design. It is becoming more and more evident to me that the space around the public is the key aspect to how they react which in turn creates an experience. One place with I have noticed a specific pattern in behaviour is in the gym. It seems to be the most naturalistic act to want to get a machine which is as isolated as possible therefore giving you as much personal space as possible. For example if there was a row of cross trainers or rowing machines and someone was already on the end machine it would not be natural to go and use the one right next to it. Could this be due to people having a hierarchy in the space or perhaps specific social groupings?
The flow of people is also another element which has been highlighted in my recent experiences. This generally is to target a specific market and is a design in which to gain money. For example in a supermarket one of the most commonly bought purchases is milk. This however is almost always located near the back of the shop making consumers walk through/past a number of aisles and normally a number of exclusive deals and offers to get to the milk therefore persuading them to purchase far more items than just the milk they went in for.
This idea of the flow of people also has got my thinking about how this crosses thresholds and how certain places attract certain social groups. A key example in direct relation to personal experience for this is in the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee. Starbucks is designed with a glass door, this is inviting but at the same time makes that statement that the consumer has to make that decision as to whether it is somewhere which suits them and forces them to that physical act of entering. Now contrast this to Burger King directly across the corridor. It has an open front with no door at all, a walk in walk out policy. This is going to be more inviting but is also suggestive that is it a quick enter and leave system, not somewhere to sit and mull in. Both places serve a purpose but with very different intentions and it is clear from general observation that the type of people in both locations are very much at opposite ends of the social scales.
All of these examples are just scratching the surface on the critical connections between observation, space and design. This task of observation has taught me to think much deeper and to analyze my thoughts by going that extra step to discover what that link, critical connection between design and a subject is which in a general consensus seems highly complex.

Last semester my chosen topic for research and analysis focused on social behaviour. This stemmed from Malcolm Gladwell’s, ‘broken window theory.’ This theory explored the essence of how areas which would typically be left after incidents such as window breaking or car graffiti lead people to a natural feeling of a lower constraint leading as a result in a higher crime rate. An example of this would be within the New York subs when cars would be disrespected through the act of graffiti and as a result omitted a general consensus of lawlessness. This led my thinking into the field of how social behaviour relates directly to crime and so to grasp the roots I needed to delve into understanding social behaviour on a deeper level. Social behaviour is often something which is very influential on environment, circumstances and also the company you are surrounded by. I discovered through my research that within social behaviour the issue of communication is highly complex and an issue which social behaviour stems itself around especially in relation to crime.

Literature was a key source for my research in semester 1. I researched many books but the main ones where,

"The definitive book of body language" and The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour”.

I read these in order to broaden my knowledge on the complex subject and to find out opinions and information contrasted on various related topics.

If I was to continue research into this chosen topic of discussion I would ideally gather a lot more primary based research and evidence. There are a number of methods I project I could use. By having a diverse range of research methods I feel my analysis would be more thorough and effective. From previous tasks undertaken this semester I have been introduced to a few specific research methods which could be possible starting points if I was to undertake this research project again in the near future.

One of the methods was the use of observation. The aim of this exercise was to observe how people interacted, the study of ethnography, rather than objects, a key aspect in understanding design.

In relation to my chosen topic of discussion I could see very clearly how observation could potentially play a vital and key role within my research. Who could I observe and where? My target audience could vary greatly dependent on the location. For research in social behaviour in direct relation to crime I project I could observe first hand some of the behaviour associated with root factors which can fuel crime related incidents and crime as a whole. One such topic could fundamentally be alcohol consumption and more specifically the study into the psychology of why people drink so much and the effects of this. Potential places I could carry out these observations in would be bars, clubs, in major cities at peak weekend times. By observing the social behaviour of the public in the actual setting where my topical problem stems from will give me first hand experience and a feel of the environment which could be highly beneficial as it would be an experience that I could not source from any other method. It should in theory provide me with a clearer view and could fundamentally give me a more direct approach to my investigation. Furthermore, by conducting this first hand research I can have an assurance that my findings would be accurate and non bias as I wouldn’t be relying on secondary sources which could have a high probability of being prejudice.

There are certain factors I feel I would need to take into consideration in order to make my results valid. Firstly I would need to vary both the time and place in which I would conduct my observations. For instance, I would have to observe in more than one area in a city as one area could be more partial to crime incidents than another. In addition, if I was to take it one step further to assertively affirm validated results I could vary the city rather than just solely the location within a city. Another possibility to ensure the delivery of non bias research could be to get a variety of people to observe as well as myself as everyone has a different manner of thinking and in response would take different things from the environment and behaviour seen.

The subject matters which I would observe would need to be carefully thought about, in the respect of what I wanted to get out of my observations. Would it need to be a cross-section of people or would it be an age group which would be the most liable to commit a crime?

Another key aspect I project I would assess would be whether I could find a pattern or certain structure in the observed behaviour?

In order not to assume results and rely on solely this one method, ethnography, I feel it would be useful to undertake others to feed my research in a fuller manner. The other method taught this semester was that of interviewing. In relation to my chosen topic of discussion I could easily have a variety of subjects which I could interview to get a wide spectrum of results from many angles for example, bar and club owners and staff, the police, taxi drivers and the general public. This again would feed me with ampules of qualitative first hand research. I would write up a pilot interview to conduct before interviewing my real subject matters as this would allow me the most potential to gain the best information through getting my questions exactly spot on.

Finally a method I feel that would be highly useful which was not adapted this semester would be cultural probes. This method unlike observation which says more about what people do focuses on what people feel. It elicits information and helps access that difficult environment and captures more the emotional status. This could be a good variety and slant to approach my research with. Another advantage of culture probes would be that it is a method which is effective over a long time period which could be good for social behaviour and crime. Over the year for instance looking at when the peak times of crime occur and the variations in social behaviour at these times.

In conclusion to all the points outlined above I feel that I only scratched the surface last semester with regards to investigating my preferred topic. I have projected that I could hugely benefit through the use of the method of observation. The only downside I could see with this would be that if the subject matters being observed noticed you, an observer watching them they would probably be inclined to change their behaviour and as a result would disturb the results. However, in saying this I feel it would still be a throughly exciting and potentially successful body of research. The other methods I have mentioned where the act of interviewing and cultural probes. I clearly have a vision of how these two methods put together could have the potential to be fantastic as their qualities complement each other perfectly, and are on similar levels in the respect of gaining primary thoughts and feelings.

For the second part of this assignment the task is to choose a studio brief that I have tackled this year and reflect and discuss like I did in part A on how I could improve my manner of researching if I was to undertake the same assignment again. My chosen brief is going to be my self motivated project in which I was given free rein on a topic. The aim was to embark on a visual, exploratory and explanatory journey to further develop design thinking and production of textile designs. It was also a project in which I would gain experience in proposing and creating a self motivated body of work including a written synopsis.

To begin with the secondary research methods learnt in semester one, I would definitely brainstorm more concisely and thoroughly by possibly using the method of group discussion using post it notes as I think you can gain so much from listening to one another and be inspired by fellow peers. I found this exercise in semester one widened and deepened my thought process of brainstorming. This could have the potential of leading to more exciting and innovative ideas and perceptions. My focus was based upon the ideality of being alone and more directly solitude. I aspired to go on a journey which explored the theme of ‘solitude’ and to pose many questions such as what emotions are evoked from places of solitude? My aim was to make critical connections between the areas of solitude such as mountains, beaches and forests and the nature inhabited there. Furthermore, I intended to explore the emotional response to these places and connections.

The secondary research method, which is a very common but nonetheless extremely effective is research in literature. Reading and finding out facts, articles and documentaries related to a chosen topic. For this studio brief an example of this could be to look into fashion forecasting trends from highly regarded fashion magazines such as ‘Textile View.’ By thoroughly exploring these I feel it would give me a good solid base of what is already out there and give me a general indication of perhaps where the gaps are in the market so this in turn could spark inspiration for colour palettes and themes. Another approach I feel which would make my body of research more concise and comprehensive would be to conduct deeper research into current affairs and issues within society today, so read newspapers, and articles more often and even by listening to radio 4. Also using literature and secondary resources to gain contextual research, and to gain insights into designers and artists working in this field. For this solitude project looking into landscape artists and textile designers who were influenced by nature perhaps, or even designers who look at the emotional response of something as their source of inspiration.

With regards to first hand research methods from semester two, the possibilities are bountiful. Due to my interest into the emotional response to the areas of ‘solitude’ I could easily adopt the skills learnt to further develop my research to the next level. The concept of interviews fits ideally into this scenario. I could conduct them with a wide cross section of people on what their views and perceptions on what solitude is and find out what emotions they feel are evoked personally when they find themselves in these situations. The idea of what qualities makes an area peaceful, is it the naturalistic aspects and why we as human beings are either compelled towards the idea or repelled. There are many more questions which I could use, so to make my interview as successful as possible I would need to conduct a pilot interview to narrow it down and find out what the key elements of information I would want to gain were. Comparing the results would also be very interesting especially to find out the differences in opinions with people who love alone time, and solitude and people who are urban lovers.

Within the interview process I feel I could use the method of visual stimulus. For example, I could present a collection of places and ask them to describe to me what images portray this idea of solitude and how imagining you were in these places makes them feel, again referring back to emotional response. The final method of observation could also play a vital role in research for this brief. I could observe behaviour in the typical areas of solitude such as forests, beaches and mountains and then completely contrast this by observing areas of chaos such as major urban cities.This could make a really interesting find and could develop into rather complex and intriguing design based responsive work. One further idea within the method of observation would be to observe the behaviour in areas of solitude in different cultures opening the body of research within the project up to a new level.

For the interviews I would need to gain consent for my subject matters and within the observation method would need to place myself in an area which would not distract the environment making my results unreliable. By conducting primary research as well as secondary research I feel I would gain a better balance in my body of research and especially of non bias material.

Reflecting back over the last two semesters of design studies I feel I have learnt so many valuable skills which will help equip me and hopefully carry into level three as well as my career in the future. Through practice and use of these research methods I feel more confident that I could tackle many of the global issues and affairs within a brief which as a young designer I feel is an excellent skill to have and to begin to build upon at this early stage of my career. I aim to use many of these techniques in level three and hope that they will become more and more natural to me and become part of my set way of thought process when tackling a studio project brief.


Pease, A and B,(2007), "The definitive book of body language", Manjul Publishing House Pvt Ltd

Philippot, Feldman and Coats, P, R and E, (1999) “The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour”, Cambridge, The Press syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Gladwell, M (2000) "The Tipping Point London":Abacus Little, Brown Book Company

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

My aim while conducting these semi-structured interviews was not to make assumptions and to allow it to naturally flow in order to gain qualitative information. My chosen interview subjects varied in relation to their fields of study and interests which gave me a vast array of answers.
My first interview was conducted on a male medical student. This interview was probably one of the most interesting of my findings. A lot of his emphasis was put onto sentimental and memorial values to things. Personally for him stuff is things/objects which remind you of things which have already happened for example cinema tickets, letters and cards. Things which to the outsiders eye would look like a pile of useless rubbish but to him holds a lot of personal reflection and value.
Likewise my third interview subject also spoke about 'stuff' being belongings which can be both personal and non-personal. Interestingly both of these interviewees are people who tend to hoard and accumulate stuff but for different reasons. The first subject said he collects things for sentimental reasons purely whereas my third subject elaborated further by touching on the collection of things which could have a use later on, and the accumulation of useless things such as scraps, random buttons and tickets. Personally I can relate to this as I hoard everything as I am always certain I will find a use for that small something at some point and therefore cannot justify throwing things out lightly.
On the contrary my other two interview subjects said they would consider 'stuff' as "mess" and "a selection of random objects/things." I would boil this down to their qualities as I got the sense that they both had similar thinking, as in they both like being organised and both have had bad experiences with family members accumulating things which they find unnecessary to keep.

One of the questions I asked as mentioned on an earlier post was "What objects would you consider the top things people collect?" Photographs and clothes were two common objects which consistently came up in all four interviews. However one comment was made about how this would depend on the gender of the collector. Other things I had thought of would be stamps, antiques, magazines and recycling.
The investigation on whether 'hoarding' as some people would put it is derived from someone with a certain personality was an interesting topic of conversation. One response I got was particularly interesting. It was based on the discussion on how certain individuals would tend to live in the past as it were and prefer to stick or cling to past memories or events and as a result would categorize them in potentially being a candidate for accumulating "stuff". This would suggest that pessimistic people, who live for the day and thrive for the future are more likely to not get emotionally attached to things and therefore tend not to keep things. This follows on to a connection I made about how the two interviewees who would consider themselves to not accumulate stuff both mentioned how they do not get easily emotionally attached to material things and therefore are ruthless and have no problem whatsoever throwing things out in order to stay in an organised environment as it would otherwise cause stress and discomfort.

There was a general consensus on the matter of whether accumulating stuff is infinite and that was that it is dependent on who and what they keep. One very interesting point made was that people can accumulate stuff without wanting to, subconsciously for example bank statements and junk mail.
Relate this to my question about whether a profession or field of study assists in having the habit of collecting. People who need to be on the constant look out for certain items to collect seem to do it subconsciously whereas for example one of my subject is an accountancy student who this doesn't apply to and she said it would be a deliberate act.
Comparing my findings concerning how a design students response would differ to a non-design students response is also quite intriguing. One of my interview subjects was a jewellery and metal work student. From analysis of her answers and the overall vibe from the interview I would say that her outlook on 'stuff' would be at the same level on some senses as my non-design related subjects but on the other hand very different. She expressed that she would constantly be on the look out for stones and other resources which would assist in her making a collection. I feel that a design student would have a more expressive wider view on what would be worth keeping in the sense that we as designers look out for inspirational objects and resources constantly which I feel plays a huge role in my accumulation process.
Overall I would say that the main concept I have gathered from this investigation on how people accumulate 'stuff' is that generally it has a sentimental or emotional attachment in some shape or form and personality, qualities also play a huge role in this process. I will leave you with a common phrase which is said often which relates well to this, "to accumulate is to speculate..." Would you agree?

For assignment 4 the task was to choose a question or theme and conduct semi-structured interviews and then analyse my findings in relation to each other. The question I decided to investigate was "How do people accumulate 'stuff'?"
To begin with my first stages were to brainstorm issues around this question to enable myself to come up with a decent amount of directly related questions which would allow the interview to flow and which weren't closed questions. The photo to the right shows my mind map which was my chosen method for this initial research stage.

The questions I came up with and ended up using in my interviews were as follows:
1. What is your definition of "stuff"?
2. What would you say qualifies an object as "stuff"?
3. Would you consider yourself as someone who hoards stuff and why/why not?
4. What objects would you consider the top things people collect?
5. Why do you think people feel the need to collect things?
6. Do you think there is ever an end point to accumulating stuff?
7. Is this quality derived from a certain personality?
8 Does your profession assist in the habit of collecting stuff?
9. Does it require you to be consistently on the look out for things to use in our field of work?
10. Do you think you can inherit the "habit" of collecting?
11. Do any family members accumulate stuff/collect stuff?
12. Would you say it is a deliberate or conscious act?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Self motivated.
This is the next project I have been given. It is the first project I get to come up with and write my own brief. I suppose you could say my initial thoughts and feelings on this was that it is quite daunting, suddenly I can choose whatever topic or issue I want to research and explore. There is so many current issues it is difficult to know where to begin! I need to consider a lot of factors such as my strengths, skills, interests and what the current affairs and issues are to name a few. What do I want to put an emphasis on? What techniques and research methods do I need to improve on? This could be the beginning of a really exciting new direction, I'll keep you updated on my progress but for now its time to brainstorm!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

For my next assignment we were asked to go into the public sphere and blend into the environment and observe. The task was to watch how people went about their business and daily life and to note my observations on their behaviour. My chosen place from the list provided to us was a coffee shop. My chosen location was the Tartan cafe on Perth Road. I went with two other design students on a Saturday late morning so we got the shift over of people from late breakfasts to the busyness hustle and bustle of lunchtime rush. I noticed a lot of people came in and paused for very different periods of time deciding where to sit as it was self service to find a seat creating a more personal choice and relaxed atmosphere. A lot of people if in groups tried the back of the cafe as there are big comfy leather sofas located there. This demonstrates the service design of this cafe as attracting social gatherings to mull over conversation while enjoying the refreshments available. I located myself at the side near the entrance of the cafe where I had a clear view of people entering, leaving, paying. I wanted to blend into the atmosphere so people would act normally and not amend there behaviour as I would suspect people would if they realised someone was watching them. It was really interesting to see the array of emotions conveyed, some people came bouncing in with friends full of joy and laughter while others seemed to be there for more of business type, serious meetings. A stressful vibe was also emitted as consumers rushed in to grab a quick bite to eat and even just had time to grab a takeaway. As the morning progressed I noticed the shift in people as they replaced each other at each table, different conversations and situations arising every time. There was one table in particular which was designed for two people which on entering through the door would appear to be quite tucked away whereas it is actually located quite far out from the wall which I feel would make someone feel rather uncomfortable if by themselves. From personal experience I would always try to tuck myself away and not draw attention. I noticed that nearly every person who was there alone at some point read a newspaper while eating or drinking or waiting to be served. Once someone would get up to go to the toilet for instance or to go and look at the cake stand they would always try and leave a possession, most commonly a coat to mark their territory. However, I also observed that people wouldn't leave anything of value lying about for example their mobile phone, purse or handbag. In the time I was observing there was also quite a lot of children there with parents with nearly a ratio of for every child there was one adult. This could suggest having more control in the public environment. Nearly every child seemed to have their coat off and quite demanding in the respects of needing a lot of attention. The cafe provided the children with colouring in sheets to amuse them which I feel is a good design. Other observations included how well the staff worked as a team and the communications between them. They were all distinguishable as they were all dressed in black and they seemed to integrate really well with the customers. Coffee shops to the consumer, the outside eye can be a relaxed environment in which to contemplate and reflect whereas to the staff member can be the total opposite, a lot of rushing about and stress. While there I did a quick sketch which I have scanned in which you can see that the top of this post. It was drawn from my position at the side of the coffee shop. I have noticed from looking back at it that on entering the cafe you are immediately beside the tray bakes and yummy things which would persuade you that your eyes are bigger than you belly, again a smart design element. Each of the tables were spaced out quite nicely, I didn't feel too isolated or that my privacy was invaded. This also gave the waitresses a comfortable amount of area to walk about and serve people in, I also took a video on my phone while there. Admittedly I felt like a bit of a creep trying to take this video discreetly so no-one would notice as you can hear me say in the video! Overall I enjoyed this assignment as I openly admit I am a natural people watcher and could happily sit for hours watching the world go by with a cup of tea. It truly is amazing what you can pick up on and learn from reading into and observing other peoples behaviour!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

After adding in a fourth image I found that people were still not really getting the same stories and my results were too diverse. One example of this stage of the experiment is:
Female, age 20, Art student
Someone was murdered in the big castle by stabbing them with paperclips and the only thing that witnessed it was the duck.

As you can see this is very far from my chosen target story so I decided to add in text to see if this made any difference. I added in the words "Tourist", "Mote" and "Choked".
This had an immediate impact. Here are some of the results:

Female, age 20, Textiles student
There was a castle with a huge mote surrounding it. The ducks which swam in the mote were poisoned after they ate paperclips which had been thrown into the river by tourists causing the ducks to die.

Female, age 20, Textiles student
There were ducks swimming in the mote surrounding a big castle. The tourists visiting the castle threw paperclips into the mote which the ducks then choked on.

Female, age 19, Graphics student
The duck was swimming in a mote surrounding the castle in the tourist area when it got tangled in paperclips and choked to death covering the mote in blood.

Female, age 19, Graphics student
A duck at a tourist centre in scotland was choked in the mote around the castle by paperclips dumped in the mote.

Having completed this experiment testing the theory of polysemous I would definitely agree that imagery can have multiple meanings and that your perceptions and cultural backgrounds may effect your response to certain types of imagery. From this task I can clearly agree with Barthes about the importance and added value of introducing text into the equation as this swayed my subjects to all think roughly in and around the same area. I would comfortably say that through carrying out this activity it has cleared up some confusion and I now feel that my understanding of this theory is slightly better.

The fourth image...

For my target story I've chosen the story by the male, age 20, medical student about the duck who lived in the pond beside the castle who ate the paperclips which were thrown in by visiting children and as a result the ducks choked died.
For adding in a fourth image I decided an image of blood would be appropriate to suggest the idea of death. By adding this in I hope it will prompt my next selection of people to come up with similar stories.

2c: Talk to people...

So having now showed the images to a random selection group of people these were the stories they came up with.

Male, age:20, Civil engineer student
I went for a picnic with my grandparents at a castle which had a famous rare breed of ducks. While there I fed the ducks and on returning to the car, grandpa had locked the keys in the car so he used a paperclip to pick the lock.

Male, age:20, Medical student
A duck lived beside a castle in his pond but there were little children who threw paperclips into the pond and the duck choked on them.

Female, age 21, Zoology student
Shrek lived in this castle and around this was a mote in which ducks lived in. Due to the alkalinity of the mote water due to the amount of duck excrement it caused Shrek's hair to fall out and his eyes to burn. In return he hand fed them paperclips to kill them.

Female, age 19, Textiles student
There was a little duck who lived in a castle and was always organised and had lots of paperclips.

Female, age 19, Textiles student
There was a big castle which was surrounded by a mote and at the bottom of the mote there was lots of gold and silver paperclips buried. A duck found them and ate some and sold the rest for lots of money.

I think you will agree that all these stories are very random and quite imaginative to say the least! Adding in a fourth image now and choosing a target story should be very interesting :)

My images...

These are the images I am going to use for my experiment. The randomness could be an interesting twist!!

Roland Barthes, "The Rhetoric of the Image."

Having read Roland Barthes' famous essay, "The Rhetoric of the Image" I have to confess that I found it an extremely challenging read which was full of language which was over my head but I will give a stab at relating to you what I have learnt. In this essay he emphasizes his view on advertising, how important it is and what it conveys. He speaks about how different imagery and adverts can read differently to a variety of people as everyone's perceptions are unique according to ones experiences. He uses the example of Italiancity and goes on to explain how the italian citizen from the advert may not realise that it represents "Italy" due to the touristic like symbolism. The essay is spilt up into explaining three messages. The first is the linguistic, fixed message, an image which directly relates to what the image is saying. Secondly, the connotated message, this is when you have the correct knowledge and skills to fully understand and interpret something. Lastly, the denoted message which basically states what it actually is, a raw form.

For this next assignment the task is to choose 3 random images and to test the theory of polysemy which Barthes covers in his essay. Polysemy is having multiple (a diversity of) meanings, all images are polysemous. By taking these images to a selection of people and asking them to observe and interpret a story from these images it should back up what Barthes says about how advertisements portray a lot of information and connotations which can be read by some people but not all and so this highlights the importance of gaining a fixed meaning. I am highly intrigued to see if my experiment will work and whether by slowly adding in other factors such as a fourth image or even text if this will result in people coming up with the same story.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The consumption of design...

After having read chapter 4 of "The Culture of Design" and having a lecture from service designer David Townson this morning it has stirred my thinking onto a deeper level about how being a consumer in this society and more importantly studying textile design within this society is a constant battle. Would you agree if I said that consumption is solely a monetary exchange? That no matter what we do each day even if the task is free, fundamentally someone had to pay for it somewhere along the line. For example if you visit a museum which has free entry you are to a certain extent gaining from this experience but that exhibition, that museum still has a monetary value and has been invested in by someone at point making it connected to consumption. We are living in a consumer driven society which we cannot get away from, even if consciously we don't always realise it. For instance when I consume a product or get my hair cut I don't automatically think about what sector I consumed from, (social,service, etc). It is not in our humanly conscious, we consume in these fields through instinct.

So I pose the question can we survive without being a consumer? How in the past did people survive without being engrossed and obsessed with consumption? I guess we could say at this stage there is a point between existence and now but then we need to recognise that these are miles apart. This could potentially be due to the shift in human behaviour, the sheer amount of manipulation which surrounds us. We cannot today get away from this consumer driven due to the amount of peer pressure and the amount of publicity and advertising. Society is now at the stage of want not need, therefore does this 'want' drive consumerism?

On another level how does this relate to textiles, how can we design if people don't want? As a young designer I would say we are forced into participating in this consumer drive. This makes mixes up a few emotions, I feel that to fight this would be incredible and potentially could be an amazing turn around but it is the fact that it would be such a difficult thing to do. A true passion and drive would need to be evident to hold you as a designer aiming to make a difference firm otherwise in my opinion there are too many stumbling blocks out there. This is a serious issue as the upcoming generation of designers we need to consider and not take it lightly otherwise we will miss our chance however scary it may be.

I suppose it all comes round to identity as well. In the chapter 'The consumption of design' it was stated about how our society being unstable reflects on the relationship of consumption and identity, therefore meaning identities are constantly changing. It goes onto talk about Slater's idea about mass producing and as a result reducing consumption creating 'prosumers'. He talks about consumption as a "private politically passive act which ignores reality that individuals also engage in a public realm with consumption." Basically bringing it back to thinking about the difference between a private and public space.

Finally, the last issue I want to mention is about whether or not we perpetuate consumption? In a sense I feel we do as we are now overproducing to satisfy a consumer driven society not only the thirst. This in turn then raises the issue about obsolescence and sustainability. In the textile field and in particular in the fashion industry. For instance, the trends change every season which drives consumerism. It is a very vicious circle in my opinion and something which is always ongoing and could pose many many questions but the final question I want to leave you with is does textiles perpetuate obsolescence?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Assignment 1

For this assignment the task was to collect photographs of growing up through childhood and then swap them with another student from a different discipline who you don't know very well.
I swapped my photos with Leanne Evans who is studying jewellery and metalwork design. A select few of the photos you can see above.
At first it seemed a rather odd experience to be scrutinizing someone else's childhood in such detail considering I hardly know Leanne and so to be researching and analysing such a personal subject felt quite surreal if you could put it like that.
After Leanne and I had swapped photographs I felt quite overwhelmed with regards to the amount I was given so I tried to narrow it down by being selective but still giving myself a wide range to work with.
From studying the photos, at the beginning I admit I found it a difficult exercise to carry out. As a result I have come to several different conclusions. A solid relationship with her family comes across in many respects within several photos due to the family orientated events such as dinner parties and the garden picnic with her nan. Overall I feel a loving ambience being projected from these images.
In a few of the photos; Leanne's mother is a dominant character and I felt a strong connection from these, possibly as a result of many warm embraces and an all round closeness.
Leanne has two siblings, both a younger brother and sister who feature in quite a few of the images. I gained the sense that Leanne would be relatively protective towards her siblings and I gained this from her caring nature of body language shown.
Her family as a holistic figure seems to have a good, lively sense of community who all enjoy plenty of active fun events and as a result I would say generally have been a heavy influence on her life.
One of the more recent photos of Leanne which I unfortunately was unable to upload showed her and two friends doing a charlies angels reenactment. From this I extracted the idea that Leanne's tastes and interests may be swayed by her peer group due to similar styles of clothing. The photo is lively and bursting with life which suggests the three girls have a really comfortable, close friendship with each other. This could reflect her personality as easy going, quirky and fun loving.
A further subject noted while analysing was that in one particular image Leanne seemed to be colouring in possibly showing an early flare in her creative side which she has clearly ended up pursuing at art college!
As previously mentioned about how family orientated the photos were I feel she has grown up in a stable and well supported background and some factors lead me to believe her family is pretty well off, i.e. not working class, as in lots of the photos the environment seems full of nice toys and furthermore from the decor of the house.
One final observation was that her father only features in a few of the photos so perhaps he was the main photographer in the family!

On meeting up with Leanne to discuss and swap notes I felt slightly nervous about verbally communicating my thoughts and observations about her life and was highly intrigued to see how she had got on with my photos and seeing what she had to say about them. After hearing Leanne's feedback I was pretty pleased with my results as they seemed quite accurate. The only major thing which stood out that I got wrong was that in one of the family dinner party photos I mentioned, I thought was her kitchen seemed to be 1960-1980's themeddue to the green cabinet decor. This in some respects what correct as it was from that time period but it turned out to be her gran's house, not her own.

On listening to what Leanne had to say about my childhood was really interesting. It was an odd feeling hearing about my life through another persons perspective and having the coin flipped by now becoming the research subject. I feel that by completing this task it has taught me some valuable lessons, for example, to be sensitive to the research subject and furthermore to consider carefully all the ethical considerations behind design research. While thinking about the ethical considerations such as gaining permission to use other peoples sources it got me thinking more about how researching into another persons private life was quite a daunting experience as well as a privilege.