SIX – Minor Charrette Reflection

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.

Brainstorm based on common goal

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.

Prototype: “Look to the left, what do you see? Childhood memory? Share your story…”

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.



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