The major charrette required us to seek new, meaningful ways to provide care and support for people who are currently homeless or recently arrived refugees in and around Brisbane. The strategy should promote their rights and wellbeing, and recognise difference, creating connections, and cultivate respect.
After a two hour consultation comprised mostly of individual members proposing ideas and building on each others comments backed by minimal research and brainstorming, our team developed a preliminary solution. Our initial idea was to target the homeless population of Brisbane by creating a workshop style service. The service would entail a group of expert volunteers speaking with homeless individuals to initiate connections and encourage participation. These homeless people would then attend workshops held by the volunteers who would teach skills relevant to their field of expertise (e.g. music, crafts, writing etc.). After a period of three months homeless individuals would then organise their own workshops to share their acquired skills with fellow homeless comrades and the general public in their own locality. In this way, difference in talent would be recognised and connections created between the homeless and the general public, silencing stereotypes and empowering the homeless.
When this solution was proposed to our tutor, it was made clear that this design was impractical and unoriginal. The question was asked “Who would actually volunteer for something like this? Why?” to which we had no response. She proceeded to compare our idea to other existing projects such as Homeless Link’s workshop for homeless youth. With a simple google search we soon found our idea was already existent in more elaborate forms such as Jubilee’s Groupon Grassroots Campaign (Groupon Grassroots, 2012). Back to the drawing board…
Tomorrow we will meet again to reconsider our design choices and re-evaluate our current idea. I hope to implement some ideation techniques such as TILMAG, a HIT matrix and SCAMPER to assist us in this regard. It is crucial that we research existing services before proposing a solution to avoid unoriginality. Once our concept is agreed and refinement begins we will be able to divide and conquer.
Groupon Grassroots. (2012, September 26). Skill-Building Workshops for Homeless and Low-Income Women. Retrieved May 09, 2017, from https://grassroots.groupon.com/2012/09/22/skill-building-workshops-for-homeless-and-low-income-women/
Keeping true to the saying ‘practice makes perfect’, this week’s studio was a practice-run for our final assessment piece – the major charrette. This minor charrette required us to create an innovative concept to meaningfully engage people in sharing stories, create its brand, manifestations and experiences, and plan a campaign for promotion.
In a group of five young males, we began by deconstructing the brief and identifying keywords including storytelling, diversity, city and experience. We then proceeded to ideate possible solutions. It quickly became clear that, in sincere longing to develop the most effective solution, each idea that was proposed was swiftly shut down by another member of the team by identifying its flaws. This was, in fact, counterproductive. Many ideas were proposed over an hour long period, with no consensus or direction established. Thankfully, we received guidance from our tutors who suggested we identify a common goal.
After a quick consultation, we concluded that our goal was to “share stories in a way that eliminates prejudice and breaks barriers, giving each story a sense of value”. A broad aim, responding to which would be difficult. We attempted to use ideation techniques to bring together our thoughts such as brainstorming based on the key words, branching into different areas.
From this process we developed the concept of “Cultural Cocktails”. Cultural cocktails was to take place over a one week period in the Botanical Gardens. Stalls would be set across the gardens at which individuals are offered free drinks on the basis that they come with a friend, acquaintance or stranger and share their stories with each other. Each cup served would feature a short question on the side, becoming the catalyst for conversation. In this way, two individuals can share their stories in a one on one, non-judgmental environment which naturally creates a sense of value between the pair. Banners would feature around the gardens to promote the week-long event. The hashtag #culturalcocktail would soon catch on, spreading awareness. Cultures would mix together, creating a cocktail of experiences and stories.
Upon presentation, it was clear that a number of considerations were lacking in our solution. Our design did not tend to a particular demographic. As we were trying to design for everyone, we realistically designed for no one. We could have easily developed a tangible prototype to display in addition to our slideshow. At points, it was evident that our idea was not coherent and as a team we had not established unity of vision. We had not considered the environmental implications of distributing cups and the practicality of the design (would people actually engage with this and share with each other?). Another consideration may have been how the natural environment of the gardens could add to the sensorial experience. The time we had to present was not used very effectively as we were speaking directly from the slides rather than elaborating and prodding deeper. The project would not have a lasting impact, so considering the longevity of the design would have proved useful.
Defining the target demographic would have narrowed our solution to be more realistic. Some of missing elements could have been addressed had we utilised the ideation techniques at our disposal such as SCAMPER, general morphological analysis and TILMAG (see previous blog post). Had we all been genuinely invested in our design and consequently excited to present, our pitch may have been more enticing. By using tables, diagrams and visuals in our presentation we would have not only been more engaging but more informative. The possibilities available with digital media could only have added to the impact of the project and developing mock-ups would not have been difficult.
Reflecting afterward, I personally felt that two factors heavily influenced our performance in the charrette: group dynamics and understanding. From the beginning, each individual felt their proposition was the best solution, leaving no room for critical evaluation and progress. If each were to take a step back and thoroughly consider the needs of the target demographic and the possibilities from a proposed design, we would have spent more time developing one average idea into a better one, rather than merging together many average ideas to create one average solution.
Our understanding of the task was limited, as we each had little practical experience to drawn on and generally similar upbringing. It was also apparent that we all had different approaches to the task and did not clearly understand how to implement ideation techniques to advance our design. I found myself having to bring the group together at various points, preventing conflict and realigning our focus.
In a number of situations I have found it difficult to collaborate with groups as a result of clashing personalities. It may be that my role in these situations is to create an appropriate atmosphere for consultation by posing questions. Collaboration is essential for a group to respond to any design problem.
The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.
– Thomas Stallkamp
Going forward, I will take time to familiarise myself with classmates and design techniques in order to prepare adequately for the major charrette. As they say, practice makes perfect.
The studio activity for week five was designed as an opportunity to practice responding to a design brief and learning to collaborate with class mates within a short time frame. The design brief was:
In teams of four or five, come up with an idea for a “food box” that can be sold and/or consumed in the Cultural Precinct, which includes the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Museum – South Bank, Queensland, Performing Arts Centre and Queensland Theatre Company. The “box” is targeted at the visitors of the Cultural Precinct, and thus must embody the unique image and experience of “Brisbane” while also making the Cultural Precinct more attractive to the visitors. (Choi, 2017)
To begin this process, teams used ideation techniques suggested in the earlier lecture. These included TILMAG, SCAMPER, general morphological analysis and other strategies which allowed ideas to be transformed into reality. Each of these techniques serves a specific purpose. TILMAG, as most techniques, begins by defining the problem. In this case, the design brief succinctly does so. Once the problem is defined, ideal solution elements (ISE) are identified, which are then used to construct a matrix. ISEs relative to the food box may have fallen into categories such as shape, size, contents and purpose. Connecting 2 or more of the ISE’s then provides associations that are then transferred back to the problem to provide possible solutions (Mycoted).
SCAMPER is the acronym for the words substitute, combine, adapt, modify, purpose, eliminate and reverse. Using this mnemonic guide, the existing product can be improved (MindTools, 2017). These steps would be applicable to the food box:
What materials or resources can be substituted to improve the food box
What would happen if you combined the current box with another idea, to create something new?
What if one combined purposes or objectives?
How could this product be adapted different settings?
What else exists? Can this be used to adapt the product?
How could the shape, look, or feel of the box be modified?
What could be added?
What could be emphasised or highlighted to create more value?
Can the box be used for other purposes?
Who else could use it?
Can it serve another purpose once its lifecycle is over?
What features, parts, or rules could be eliminated?
How could the box be simplified?
What would happen if the process was reversed?
What would the reverse (opposite) of this solution be?
This series of questions derived from SCAMPER clearly refines the initial solution.
Using the identified ISEs in combination with SCAMPER as a blueprint, teams began building tangible prototypes. Using office basic supplies, each group proceeded to piece together a prototype. Minor discrepancies in each design became apparent, demonstrating how prototyping creates the foundation for thorough analysis and future refinement. This real-world testing is indispensable in the design process and often leads back to further ideation and research. For this process to flow, however, each team member must strive to collaborate.
Crucial to the success of any collaborative design is group dynamics. Studies show that for a team to be successful they require team cohesion which can be seen in two aspects: task cohesion and social cohesion. Task Cohesion refers to the degree to which members of a group work together to achieve common goals (IDFPA, 2013). Social Cohesion reflects the degree to which members of a team are united and personally ‘in tune’ with each other. Each contributes to developing cohesion within a group which allows it to operate more effectively.
It was clear that because many members of the class had not developed strong friendships beyond the class environment, social cohesion was lacking. Hence, although many intelligent designers were attempting to respond to the question, unfamiliarity with each other’s personalities and approaches it was difficult to produce the best possible solution.
This is an aspect of design I personally wish to reflect on and improve. It is vital that I, as an individual, strive to create meaningful connections with those I am (or may be) working alongside to ensure the work we produce is quality.
At the beginning of this unit, we attempted to define design, concluding that design is not an ends in itself but the very process of creating a solution. Design implies an innovative process that creatively produces visual communication and products with the intent to create structure in everyday living. Reflecting on the last three months, I can observe how the theory I have gradually come to understand within this unit has changed the way I perceive the field as a whole. Initially, I had a very narrow perception of design, seeing it only as visual communication and tangible products. I now observe my surroundings daily and strive to analyse the designer’s intent. “How did they do that? How did they make that person behave in that way? Is that what they intended? Why?” These are among the questions I find myself pondering when I observe other’s interactions with their surroundings. I think I have learnt that design is not merely a profession or skill; design is a way of seeing; a way of interacting with the world. It is a way of life (University of Illinois at Chicago).
Design is about progress. It is the conceptualization and creation of new things: ideas, interactions, information, objects, typefaces, books, posters, products, places, signs, systems, services, furniture, websites, and more.
– (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Personally, I feel I have progressed a great deal as a designer by engaging so often with the design process at various stages within this unit. By defining problems, performing background research, ideating solutions and developing prototypes I have developed a more thorough understanding of the implications of a given design and the process of arriving at a satisfactory solution. Although frustrating at times, I tried to align myself with ‘the seven stages of design’. I soon came to realise that my first idea was never my best idea.
I have also realised that I need to review the way I interact with other people. Collaboration is such a crucial part of design, and if I am to limit myself by disregarding other people’s perceptions and contributions to design I am missing valuable opportunities. For a successful collaboration it is important to be flexible with the ownership of ideas (Salonen). Collaboration adds complexity to a design. This collaboration can be viewed along two spectrums; hierarchical to flat and closed to open. This creates a quadrant based on the aspects of governance and the openness of the collaboration in the design process (Salonen).
Each of these parameters can be visualised as seen below
I would like to strive to create an open and flat environment where each participant feels empowered to contribute to the process out of their own volition and other members respect their contribution as an equal. This is something I will bear in mind in future collaborative environments.
In order to further improve as a designer I will breakdown each design I encounter into the seven stages of design to ensure I produce the most effective solution possible. I am also planning on engaging in design projects beyond the university environment, namely the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh in the Logan community, marking 200 years since he came and proclaimed His message to unite all mankind. In His Writings, Bahá’u’lláh outlined a framework for the development of a global civilization which takes into account both the spiritual and material dimensions of human life (Bahai.org, 2017). This is a unique opportunity in which Baha’i’s and their friends will celebrate across the globe. I hope to take this chance to reach out to fellow aspiring and established designers to enrich the celebration in our local community and potentially implement something in multiple communities of Brisbane. I hope to utilise new technologies and strategies to broaden my vision and change the social norms surrounding celebration established in our modern day society.