This semester, I have tried to build on the direction of my Final Bachelor Project. I wanted to develop my Socio Cultural Awareness competency the most, through working with different cultures in different contexts. The design research project allowed me to do a lot of development in the Design & Research Processes Competency
The Constructive Design Research module helped me to gain an understanding of what design research actually entails by going through a small research iteration in a group. I got to test this understanding in the Intercultural Markers in the Design Process module, where I used cooking as an analogy for design research. By taking on different roles in the kitchen, different perspectives of design research were explored. Working together with different cultures set up the final module for me, where I went to Taicang, China, for a workshop collaboration between Eindhoven University of Technology and Jiangnan University. This module was about building installations that promote social interaction in public spaces. Working together with Chinese students, I gained fresh perspectives and insights on the design process. These skills were all useful in my own project, where I explored how a space can bring together different users in a context, allowing them to shape the space and reflect on their own personality and social connections.
P R E S E N T
nicky liebregts / 2015
By building a working interactive light and sound installation, I feel like I have developed my skills in this competency. With helpful advice of a fellow student, I managed to do all the electronics and programming through communication of Arduino and Processing creating a functional working end result.
User Focus and Perspective
Through the Design for Social Interaction in Public Spaces, I learned to approach idea generation from a different perspective. Instead of placing a problem or question at the heart of a products design, the installation we placed a ´drama´ at the heart, an interesting situation between users in one context that can be translated to an installation in another context, to create empathy and understanding for the situation through using it. Even in collaboration with design students in completely different societal and cultural backgrounds, it is still possible to find something that resonated with all of us, where we felt empathy for each other, and through this understanding could make our team´s installation more powerful. It was like finding the fuel for our work and it gave us a lot of energy to build our installation around. It was something we could fall back on when we were unsure of where to go. I feel like I can use this approach in my future designs. It means you have to travel to a vulnerable place emotionally, but I think it can make a product more stronger, and more rooted in who I am as a designer.
My project brought users together through co-creation, and I learned how a product can become a tool for reflecting on relationships between users. Through a phenomenology approach, I had to study the way users interact with my prototype and each other. I want to leave more space for co-experience in my future products, perhaps taking a step back for a longer time in the perspective of an observer.
By exploring different roles in the cooking process during the Intercultural Markers in the Design Process module, I practiced the roles of designers in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives. I saw how different roles can bring different data and values to light in a design process, and became more aware of my own roles in the design process and where I have the opportunity to switch between them to enrich my own understanding of users and relationships between users and their environment.
Socio Cultural Awareness
Through the craft stories project, I researched how techniques and approaches towards making in history can still have a relevant role today. New technology can be used to enhance traditional crafting techniques, where biometric data could reveal parts of our personalities as a tool in the expression and reflection on self through making.
Through the intercultural Markers module, I found food and cooking as a common grounds between cultures. Different societal and cultural backgrounds could than be explored from different perspectives. Ways dishes are served and conserved, all have their background in history, be it through food shortage or family values. I feel like I can use such common grounds in the future to explore societal and cultural backgrounds of my users. Going to China for the workshop had me emerge myself in a completely different world. I experienced first hand what this strange culture really was and through my own doubts and questions was able to explore my own values and how my culture influences me as a designer.
I did not really think about this at first, but now I can see a lot of opportunities for designers to help overcome the problems the Chinese might face in their own social development. Perhaps this outside perspective works both ways, as I am sure Chinese designers would have a completely new take on the social issues we face in our own society.
I will try and place myself in auto ethnographic situations like this in the future. As a designer, If feel like I can gain lots of insights from this first person perspective as opposed to only observation from a distance.
Teamwork & communication.
This semester, I presented the work of one of the modules during the Dutch Design week. Going from a module result to the actual presentation took a lot of practical thinking. The presentation is almost like a design process in itself, where you have to consider spatial compositions, what you want to communicate, how you will do this, involved professionals, availabilities of materials and budgets. I feel more ready now to do such a presentation in the future when it comes to communicating my designs to experts and professionals in the outside world.
In the Design for Social Interaction in Public spaces I worked together in a team of Chinese students. Without a proper common language to communicate in, our own communication dynamic emerged through a mix of drawing and translating with the help of one of the students. Showing and sharing our previous work before we started on our project for this workshop proved to be vital; we knew exactly what each others strengths and weaknesses were, making it easier to divide tasks. Because of the language barrier, it is easy to oversee these strengths. It was very inspiring to see how even with normal communication being so obscured, we all felt balanced in our roles and managed to get a lot of work done
Design & Research Processes
To start of my Masters, I did a design research project this semester. I got to experience firsthand what it actually means to do research. Through a pragmatic approach of thinking through making, I aimed to gather knowledge by doing first, than evaluating. This continuous iterative cycle resulted in a lot of physical model work done, but sometimes had me lost in the abstract level of what I was actually researching. I realized this semester how I should connect concrete findings on an abstract level to previous research work.
In the Constructive Design Research module, I explored different approaches towards design research, and tried to gain an understanding of what it means to do research. By going through a small research iteration in a Field approach, I felt more prepared in going into my own research project. There I also opted to use an open ended approach. Going through the whole research cycle revealed the gaps and obstacles I have to overcome and be careful of. It was easy for me to get lost in broadness, adding a lot of research themes to my process by accident, but gaining depth in only some areas because of it. Now that I am more aware of this, I feel ready to take on possible new design research projects, steering my process towards more relevant and narrow niches of knowledge.
Self-directed & Continuous learning
I experimented with a different mindset towards my design process this semester. By thinking through making, doing first and then reflecting, I reversed the order of my normal approach. It allowed me to do lots of small practical steps towards a bigger goal than I would normally have reached. I should reflect more consistently on these small iterations, in order to keep track of my progress. Perhaps I can compile these small reflections through video, and use it as a documenting tool for my designs.
In several occasions this semester, my research methods were qualitative. By doing a lot of affinity diagramming, I learned how clustering data can bring out the interesting topics behind the pool of observations after data collecting. I feel like I still need to practice more in the descriptions of these clusters, and how I can communicate their underlying values.