Category Archives: Thinking

Too Abstract?

I absolutely loved this description of creativity in design by Anne Quinto for Quartz “A designer’s creativity is always directed—the quest is to materialize elegant ideas to beautiful forms.” An interesting read.

There’s drama behind every designed object. Design is the animating force behind brands, buildings and interfaces, and so an engrossing series that explains to a general audience what actually goes on behind the scenes was long overdue. Many designers hoped that Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design (released Feb. 10) would do for design what…

via Netflix’s new design series spreads the wrong idea about design — Quartz

Design Thinking Explained

A great, simple way to define Design Thinking – thank you to Service Design Network for the great find.

Look Around: Thoughts on Mr Turk’s proposal

“Look up”. A motto I rather liked whilst watching a video written, performed and directed by Gary Turk. What I found more interesting though was the rather emotional and divided responses that the video generated. Over the last few days the video was shared several times on my Facebook page, posted from various originating sites, yet each time the reactions of viewers seemed fired with power of the nine realms of hell (if you believe in those things). On the one side Turk’s supporters and on the other technology’s storm troopers. Some agreed with the video’s message to ‘put down’ technology and engage in more meaningful human interaction while some criticized the video’s ‘one sided’ view, highlighting the numerous benefits of technology and bearing witness to how technology makes their lives better. From the ample responses and comments I have come to the following conclusion… that maybe it isn’t about looking up, that instead, people should be encouraged to ‘looking around’ more.

For example, after watching the video, when one leaves a powerful messages regarding the evils of technology and how we should all refrain from living through our displays, one should possible not leave that message on a social media site (technology), uploaded from ones smart phone (technology) and enter into a long debate with other viewers, again, using said social media site and smart phone. Would your real support for these ideas not compel you to switch off immediately and go for a walk? This contradiction, I think, may be born out of our desire to be heard and comment. Technology has allowed us to have an almost global voice through social media, blogs and other interactive platforms.

From this comment you may assume I support the pro-technology side, however I have my own reservations. I’m privileged enough to spend most of my days with design students, by also required to make sense of their writing and presentations which seem to move further and further away from the English language – as I understand it. Many ascribe the (de) evolution of language on instant messaging, word processing software and social media. Fabio Massimo Zanzotto and Marco Pennacchiotti (2012) in their article Language evolution in social media: a preliminary study noted that:

 Today we are leaving a new “Social Media” revolution, that is once again, and with a faster pace, changing many languages. Social media such as forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and MSN Messenger, allow people to write their stories and ideas and share them with the Internet community. From a linguistic perspective, this is a much bigger and radical innovation than the Web itself. Indeed, the introduction of the Web in the early 90ies allowed people to read content from different sources, such as media organizations and companies. Most of the information flow was therefore one-way, with people acting as readers. On the contrary, Social media allows a two-way communication. Common people become content producer and, ultimately, language creators.

I’m not sure how I feel about technology enabling language support but I do use the smiley face with vigour. It is important to ‘look around’, to listen to other opinions, explore different avenues and ultimately make a decision. Turk’s idea of ‘looking up’ seems to imply a definite decision, a move away from the over use of technology or an embrace of this practice. For me, ‘looking around’ proposes an honest and personal evaluation of ones context and a decision based on personal reflection. How much is too much? Can one person ever decide for another? We view the use of technology through our own understanding and our own experiences. My main problem is passwords; I sometimes think all the complexity in the universe has been concentrated in a small room of merciless people creating password requirements and protocols. On a good day I remember my first meeting and to have breakfast, memorising rows or numbers, letters, special characters and other bits haunt my existence. Technology does offer me a solution – applications like Authy and Google Authenticator will send special codes to my phone instead of me having to remember a password! Fantastic, however, there is no single authentication programme used universally. So, I may have to resort to having number of apps doing the same thing. I’m sure the more technological orientated people in the world can offer a plethora of solutions to my problem, but in truth, I have never asked. I have simply looked around and weighed up the situation… the benefit of remembering my passwords allows me to be my own banker, my own travel agent, my own long distance communication provider and my own alarm. One day, when I decide the situation does not weigh up in my favour I may change my mind.

I hope though that when I reach that point I will simple get up and take a walk, instead of Tweeting about annoyed I am. I believe that when we look around we will find that there is a space in the sun for the acolytes of technology as well as the naysayers, and all of us in between 🙂

How to build your creative confidence

Is your school or workplace divided into “creatives” versus practical people? Yet surely, David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create… (From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.)

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Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving

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Written by Jon Kolko from AC4D this book is available to read for free online or can by purchased.  Inspirational, with a clear focus and easy to read style. As described by the authors:

This book was started with the intent of changing design and social entrepreneurship education. As these disciplines converge, it becomes evident that existing pedagogy doesn’t support either students or practicioners attempting to design for impact. This text is a reaction to that convergence, and will ideally be used by various students, educators, and practitioners

To enjoy this great read, click here.

If you haven’t read this, do so in 2014.

I sometimes think our world has become to big. We are surrounded by millions of objects and messages, all screaming for our attention, to be used or to be purchased. I’m a packaging junkie. It isn’t a wonderful thing to admit but if a design spends enough time on the packaging of an object – tasteful colours, appropriate imagery, decently kerned copy and, of course, some textured element – there is a very good chance that I will buy that product. I realised that what draws me to great packaging is the detail and visual story telling. Someone sat and made directed and contextually relevant decisions to create something beautiful with a devastatingly low survival rate (let’s face it, how many of us keep packaging). The human consideration in packaging,  as with product and services, is something that makes me feel connected to the process of production. At the same time it reminds me of how wasteful our world is. The need to feel connected is becoming shockingly more difficult in our world. Books, like great packaging,  make me incredibly happy. When I read a great book about designers or design I feel connected to their process and views. Great authors help one make sense of the world by offering alternative views,  personal interpretation and case based evidence. There are so many amazing books out there on the topics of design and design for development that I often feel sad, as I know I will never be able to fully explore them all. So, in order to simplify things a bit I offer you my top 5 book to read in the new year. Some new, some old, some about philosophy, some about practice but all iconic. They tell the story of creative innovation and design, the need to be connected and the need to really see the world around us…

1. Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand (1947).  This book, published over 50 years ago, captures the philosophy and views of the icon designer Paul Rand. I fell in love with Rand’s Swiss Style of typography. The book explores his views on functionality and aesthetic, and documents his views on design which can clearly be seen in his later designs such as the IBM logo.

2. Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change by Victor Papanek (first published in 1971). Today this book is on the compulsory reading list for my Industrial Design students, and many more I am sure. They usually end up discussing how such a powerful piece of work is still relevant today, even more so maybe. With the provocative start of the book stating: “There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few”, the book strips away the covers of consumerism and irresponsible production to reveal Papanek’s views on a more sustainable future. Revolutionary then, necessary now and key to our future.

3. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman (first published 1988). In this book Norman explores the functional requirements of products and adds a new dimension to J.J. Gibson‘s term affordances. He also explored the term ‘user centred design’ and the importance of putting users at the very centre of the design and conceptualisation process.

4. No Logo by Naomi Klein (first published 1999). This book will change the way you look at your world. I find it hard to believe that it has been than 15 years since this book was published. Klein takes a hard look at the second economic depression (which we have all felt in some way since the publication of the book). The power of capitalism and the ultimate cost is explored. The 2010 special publication is also amazing and well with the read.

5. The Language of Things by Deyan Sudjic (2009). Sudjic, the director of the Design Museum in London, explores our world and the human desire to fill their world with objects. He reflects on a world ‘drawing in objects’. Witty, humorous and sometimes personal Sudjic exploration of this topic is unmissable.

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Jacque Fresco on Larry King WTVJ Miami 1974

I keep coming back to this interview… 1974. Fresco talks about a marriage of science, design and technology to solve complex social and environmental problems. Watching this interview reminds me of the genius of Fresco, and at the same time I am frustrated that we still struggle with many problems highlighted in the interview, nearly 40 years later. A bit of a long interview but well worth the watch!

“What is happening to man is, that his technological society, the newer value systems that dominate our times, that are pressing onward, are leaving behind hundreds of thousands of people who cannot make the transition.”

“The future can not be stopped by anyone.”

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What is the connection between Social Networks and Being Lonely?

Ah, that amazing moment when great animation meets a great idea. I’ve been inspired by the work of Shimi Cohen
for a while. He is mainly a motion. animation and  graphic design (for his website and portfolio, click here) In his final project for Shenkar College of Engineering and Design he designed, scripted and produced this piece called “The Innovation of Loneliness”. As our digital personas becomes a greater force in our sense of self and reality questions of authenticity and social cohesion needs to be addressed. The animation drowns from work by Sherry Turkle presented at TED talk.


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HELTASA Conference: Great Resources for Teaching and Learning

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The annual HELTASA conference kicked off today and I have to say the sessions I attended were excellent. HELTASA, the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa, is a professional association for educators and other significant role-players in the tertiary sector. The 2013 conference is themed

Higher Education in a shifting landscape: emergence, fragmentation and convergence

The role of technology, paradigm shifts in higher education and the relationship between higher and basic education were explored in sessions attended. One of the great things about conferences is the collecting a range of useful and exciting resources. Here are a few mentioned today – the presenter who mentioned them is indicated in brackets.

Oasis for Learning {} A great resource for research practice, research writing, writing inspiration and teaching and learning. (Professor Gina Wisker. Professor of Higher Education & Contemporary Literature, Head of Centre for Learning and Teaching)

NMC Horizon Report {} Identifies and describes new technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education. (Professor Grainne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation, Director of Institute of Learning Innovation) 

 The MATEL report on key Technologies for educational change {} (Professor Grainne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation, Director of Institute of Learning Innovation)
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Beyond the Service Journey: How Improvisation Can Enable Better Services and Better Service Designers


A great read from authors, Roger Manix and Lara Penin

What is improvisation? And how can it enhance the service design process? Through a system of exercises, we will describe how to infuse a sense of play in the classroom, in the context of a service design-related course. These exercises shed light on how people (service users, providers, citizens) are connecting (and disconnecting) from one another. Service design insists upon a holistic approach towards the human experience and builds upon human interactions. Its processes, therefore, should reflect this integrated view by working across disciplines.

For the full article visit the Service Design Network



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