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!