Saturday, 30 October 2010

Keeping an Open Mind

In yesterdays Design Studies lecture we were told women can’t count! Well, Jonathon Baldwin said they can’t count as well as men. As a woman I was appalled and thought, “what about Carol Vorderman?” I don’t think she would have been happy with that statement. So to put this to the test we were asked to watch a video and count how many times the team in the white t-shirts pass the ball to each other. I was determined to get this right and beat the boys, so I got into the counting zone! Below I’ve posted the link to this video so you can try it, see if you can count. Please don’t read on until you’ve watched the video.

I can count because the count taught me!

So did you get it right? Did you see the gorilla? When Jonathon asked us this I was so confused, what gorilla?! He then played it back to us and I couldn’t believe I had missed something so obvious. He told us women couldn’t count just to get us focused and it worked. I was so focused I missed a dancing gorilla in the middle of the screen. The gorilla was all black the same colour as the other team and as I was only interested in those wearing white I filtered it out.

This is an important lesson not to be too focused on one thing as you will close off other opportunities that may be important. I can relate to this. Sometimes when I am trying to come up with a design idea I find it difficult, I can only thing of a couple of things and can’t get passed them. It’s only when I relax and go back to doing more research that everything becomes clear and my design ideas improve. When you are too focused you don’t help yourself in work and in your everyday life, you need to take the time to lift your head up and look around. This is also why unlucky people are always unlucky. They are too closed off and pessimistic that they don’t recognise or see when a good opportunity comes along.

So the moral of the story is, be positive, be alert and keep an open mind. That way hopefully the amazing opportunities this world has to offer won’t pass you by.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Furniture Project

In the studio at the moment we are just starting a new project on furniture design. It's early stages but we've been given our brief and split into groups. Our brief is to design and make a piece of furniture or object reflecting contemporary culture and domestic life. I'm currently trying to emerge myself in research, looking at different types of furniture, styles, uses and designs.

I'm a big fan of the television programme 'Mad Men' which is about an advertising agency on Madison Avenue, in New York in the 1960s. I love the style from the early 60s and find the furniture attractive. The main thing I like when I look at some of the furniture from the 60s is the legs on the tables or chairs. I like that the legs taper slightly as they reach the ground. I also like the sharp edges they used.

When I was researching today I came across 'Pinch'. ‘Pinch’ specialises in furniture design and is based in the U.K. Their style reminded me a little of the furniture I see when I watch 'Mad Men'. One of my favourite pieces was the desk pictured below. The smoothness of the wood and the touch of green they've added appeals to me.

Something else that I’ve come across and find interesting is this cocktail table by ‘Twig’. Different shaped wooden sticks have been bonded together with resin to make this glossy table. I love the pattern it makes for the table top.

Well the research continues! I’ll post an update of how the project is progressing in a few weeks.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Tipping Point

‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell was a book brought to my attention by my Design Studies module. In the book Gladwell suggests everything has a tipping point a moment where something turns into an epidemic.

He goes on to explain the three rules of an epidemic; The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context.

The Law of the Few suggests that there are three types of people who contribute to the tipping point; Connectors, Salesmen and Mavens. These are the three types of people you want to know if you’re trying to launch a new product or want something to take off. Connectors are the people who know lots of people and keep in touch with them. Salesmen are naturally charismatic and are very persuasive. Last but not least are Mavens those people who can remember how much they paid for that sandwich two weeks ago down to the last pence! Mavens go out of their way to tell people about bargains and amazing places they have been.

The Stickiness Factor explains how to make something memorable. Making something memorable will make it more popular, therefore keeping an epidemic going. Gladwell discusses Sesame Street and Blues Clues in this chapter, showing how a television programme can educate children and make what they’ve heard stick.

The Power of Context part one and part two are probably my favourite two chapters just because I found it really interesting that the size of a group can make or break a situation. Or that by changing someone’s perceptions of the world around them can make them a good guy or a bad guy.

It’s a very interesting book and Malcolm Gladwell relates his message with; incidents that have happened, television programmes and advertising campaigns, which makes it easy to follow. I have spoken about it so much that most of my family are waiting to borrow it. It’s quite funny it’s almost like I’ve created a mini epidemic with ‘The Tipping Point’ book at home.

Our first assignment for Design Studies was to create a mind map on the book ‘The Tipping Point’.

We also had to take a specific theme from the book and create another mind map. The theme I chose was the rise and fall of New York City crime, this is from chapter four ‘The Power of Context Part one’. I chose this theme as I found it fascinating that the environment around you can affect how you behave and the type of person you are. I thought it was incredible how New York managed to decrease their crime rate simply by cleaning up the city.

Below is a bibliography with the sources used in my second mind map.

Gotez, B. (1984) Subway Vigilante

Gotez shot four men on the subway after they told him to hand over $5. He said in a telephone call to his neighbour “In a situation, like this you’re in a combat situation.”

Bratton, W. (1998) The Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic. New York: Random House

Bratton explains what he saw in the subways of New York. The turnstiles were purposely jammed so he had to enter through a slam gate where a “scruffy looking character” demanded tokens from the riders. Meanwhile another man was trying to suck jammed coins out of the slots. He shows that the power of context does affect everyone even those who want to pay their way, as Bratton himself had no option but to use the slam gate.

Wilson, James, Q. and Kelling, G. (1982) Broken Windows.
Boston: The Atlantic Monthly.

Wilson and Kelling argue that crime is the result of disorder. People who commit crimes will see a rundown area and assume that it will be easier to commit crimes there as they will think no one in that area cares. This links with Gladwell’s theory ‘The Power of Context’ the worse an environment the worse people will act. As New York City became dedicated to its cleanup crime fell.

Gunn, D. (1984) Subway Director

Gunn believed graffiti was symbolic of the systems collapse. To create a better New York with higher morale and rebuild the subway system you had to get rid of the graffiti first. This shows he was a believer in the ‘Broken Windows Theory’ as well.

Zimbardo, P. (1992) The Stanford Prison Experiment. Stanford University.

Zimbardo and his colleagues picked 21 healthy men to take part in their experiment. Half of these men became prison guards they were given uniforms and told to keep order. The other half was the prisoners who were kept in cells and stripped of their identities. The guards fell became strict and as the experiment progressed became sadistic. The experiment had to be called off after six days the intended time was two weeks. This experiment shows that ordinarily calm, pleasant people can change depending on their surroundings or circumstances.

Hartshorne, H and May, M.A. (1928) Studies in the Nature of Character.
New York: Macmillan

Hartshorne and May tested eleven thousand school children between the ages of eight and nine. They did this over several months giving them different types of tests designed to measure honesty. They found that it depends on the situation whether someone will cheat or not.

Darley, J and Batson, D. “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behaviour.
Princeton University: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Darley and Batson asked a group of seminarians to prepare a talk on a biblical theme then walk to a nearby building to present it. On their way they will come across a man slumped in an alley. The experiment is to see who will help him. The experiment was varied as some students were sent on their way they were told that they were late. Others were told they still had time. The words you’re late affected most judgements. Those who may have ordinarily helped were uncompassionate and walked by, showing that the situation can change your character and how you react.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Campaign for Wool

The other day some yellow sheep on the Design Studies Blog caught my eye. The yellow sheep were outside the store ‘Selfridges’ and were part of one of the many events happening in England to promote The Campaign for Wool.

The Campaign for Wool was set up by the Prince of Wales in January 2010 to support sheep farming and promote the wonderful properties of wool. It is to encourage people to choose wool as it is a sustainable product that can care for the environment. It also offers many benefits to fashion, the built environment and interiors.

I didn’t realise the type of benefits wool had, especially when using it for interiors. It is now definitely a product I will consider using in future projects. Some of these benefits are as follows:

Flame retardant. As wool has a high nitrogen content and is high in moisture it can naturally resist fire up to 600 degrees and meets fire regulation standards without the use of additional treatments.

Strong, resilient and durable therefore it will have a longer lifespan than other products and will not need to be replaced often.

Insulator. This will lower heating bills. Also wool acclimatises a room so it will never be too hot or too cold.

Non- absorbent to spills. As it doesn’t absorb liquids quickly it allows time to clean up stains before they are permanent. I’m sure mothers around the world are now wishing they had a wool carpet!

Absorbs sound. This will reduce room to room noise and the transmission of echo.

Absorbs humidity and airborne toxins. A cleaner indoor environment will be created. Wool will also reduce floating dust which would be a blessing to allergy sufferers.

Did I mention it’s soft? This makes it a perfect material for a comfortable home.

For more information on The Campaign for Wool you can visit their website;

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Our first project of second year Interior and Environmental Design was a group project called ‘Juteopolis’. The brief was to design an exciting contemporary exhibition on the theme of the jute industry in Dundee.

This was the first time we have had to work in teams on a project. It was quite difficult and I know a few groups didn’t find it enjoyable. I think I was quite lucky with the group of people I was working with. Although we had different opinions on certain ideas we managed to resolve our differences and have put together a final design that I am sure we are all pleased with. The main thing I found difficult about working in a group was trying to express initial ideas or understand an idea that someone else had in their head. However I think by communicating through sketches does help this situation.

The group members, Fawn, Cara and myself at Verdant Works, Esther (back left) is not in our group but "Hello Esther!"

To research exhibition design we went to look at the McManus gallery which is local to us and we also looked at other architects and companies who specialise in this area. One of my favourite exhibition designs was by Casson Mann entitled, ‘Great Expectations’. I have taken an extract from their website which explains a little about it:

Great Expectations
Grand Central Station, New York, October 2001
The Design Council asked us to create a major new exhibition for the UkwithNY festival, which was to raise the profile of British products and services. The venue was Grand Central Station; a place people hurry through. We wanted to stop them in their tracks. We developed the idea of a banquet around an illuminated 50 metre long table, suggesting and encouraging conversation and dialogue.

I think the concept is very clever and I love the venue. Also I like the glowing light and the beautiful chandeliers. I think it looks like a really interesting exhibition the way the objects are displayed. This was one of our main sources of inspiration.

Our final design is based on the Past, Present and Future of Jute. Our exhibition shows a distillation process of how to make bio-diesel fuel from the jute plant and other possible ways that jute may be used in the future. We encourage people who come to the exhibition to take some jute away with them and make something to contribute to our exhibition, so with their work it is always changing.

Our exhibition space is dimly lit with the main lighting over the objects which are displayed in bell jars. We put the objects in the bell jars to make them look like specimens in jars - like they have in science labs - linking with the futuristic part of our theme. We have also used LED pressure sensitive tiles on the floor. Our messages and images from the past are on some of these tiles. We wanted the viewer to interact with the space and as the past is usually buried we wanted them to uncover it. By stepping on the correct tiles the viewer will find information about the past.

We tried to use sustainable materials in our design. For our main wall we have used raw oak from a local timber yard in Aberfeldy, cutting down on transportation. The bell jars we are using are recycled and the table in the centre of the room which displays the main objects is made of sandglass.

Another part of our project was to create an emotive object on the same theme, for Louise Ritchie. Our object came from thinking about the Dundee workers in the jute mills and how they came together to make the jute industry stronger and stronger. This links with the jute itself. The jute is weak in its raw form as individual strands but as it is processed and tightly woven it becomes strong.

The project ‘Juteopolis’ is now coming to an end. I just need to have a run through of what I’m going to say before the presentation tomorrow. Eek! Fingers crossed it all goes well.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Recycling in Seattle.

Recently at university we watched the video "Story of Stuff" by Annie Leonard. It was about how much stuff we buy and how much we waste and how this cycle of buying and wasting is affecting our planet. This got me thinking about how much I recycle and how we all can be encouraged to do more?
I recycle the basics and by basics I mean my empty water bottles and wine bottles. To be honest I'm not even sure what's supposed to go in that little green box they gave us. I'm sure there are a lot of people like me who don't really know what to do when it comes to recycling. It's not just good enough to tell someone to recycle, I think we all need to be taught to recycle or at least be made aware of what and how to recycle. Maybe the U.K. should try encouraging people more and taking a few pointers from Seattle.

Seattle was voted the most "green" city in the U.S. by the Natural Resources Defence Council. It's the greenest city for a number of reasons; it uses hydroelectric power for about 90% of its electrical demands, it has a successful car pool system and has comprehensive recycling and sustainable resource use practices. But why does recycling in Seattle work?
Well they have informative posters which make it clear what to recycle where.

They are also told to, "Keep Recycling Out of Garbage." and "Keep Garbage out of Recycling." If they don't keep the garbage out of the recycling residents will get a warning and if it is excessively contaminated with garbage it won't be picked up. If they don't keep the recycling out of the garbage and garbage containers contain more than 10% of recyclables then it will not be emptied and they will be left instructions to remove the recyclables before the next collection. If the instructions aren't followed they will be charged!

Maybe the U.K. needs a more active system like this one. I suppose it is kind of threatening people to recycle or pay up but maybe people will respond better to that than nothing at all. I guess we should be prepared because sooner or later we are all going to have to pay the price.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

It all makes sense now...

Every Friday morning I have a 'Design Studies' lecture. Last Friday Jonathan Baldwin was telling us that a lot of our communication is redundant. We add words and phrases that are not necessary. We do this out of habit and to try to ensure we don't offend or our message is not misinterpreted.

He then went on to say that in China the more direct you are the more it shows you are on the same level as the person you are talking to. So if you wanted to annoy someone in China or act superior the more words you use the better, the opposite for us here in the U.K.

This lecture made me think of when I was in Hong Kong a few years ago. I remember thinking that the shop assistants were very rude, now I realise (or I'm hoping) it was just because that's how they communicate.

My boyfriend was born in Northern Ireland and brought up there but his parents are from Hong Kong. Every time he goes home to visit he asks me, "Am I fat? My mum just told me I'm fat." But now I can tell him your mum's not being rude she's being polite... and you're not fat! I'm not sure he'll believe me though.

Monday, 4 October 2010

V&A at Dundee.

The six shortlisted designs for this project are now on display in the University of Abertay library in Dundee.

I went along last week to take a look. I was really impressed by all six designs even although a couple may not have been to my taste. You can clearly see the hard work that went into the designs through the impressive models on display, as well as the detailed presentation boards.

I had a couple of favourites at the exhibition; Snohetta's design and the design by the architecture firm REX.

I quite liked REX's design as it stood out from the others; it reminded me of a giant jewel or crystal that had suddenly emerged by the Tay. This would certainly make an impact on the city of Dundee's skyline! However I am unsure if this would appeal to the majority of people in Dundee.

I also liked Snohetta's design, for the opposite reason, it blended in. This design sits on the river and is said to "engage with the light of the river, the dynamic of the river and with the energy of the river." Instead of standing out in an obvious way I think it would add to the waterfront enhancing it with its sleek and subtle design. I love the way the exterior shimmers with the waters reflection.

Probably my least favourite design was the design by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. I'm not really sure why I just found it a bit dull and it reminded me a little of a block of flats...

I'm now looking forward to seeing the design that will be chosen in the end. Any thoughts, what's your favourite or least favourite design?

The V&A at Dundee, let's hope they make it happen!