Tag Archives: What is design?

My new place for me to write

Well I have decided that I need a newer home for my thoughts one that I can fill with all my new ideas and musings, and share with others based around design and what I think has good possibilities is interesting and can house photos of my artwork, creations and designs. So if you have time to stop by have a look.


What makes a designer?

I was asked in my first year as an industrial design student what does a designer do by one of out lectures. It felt like a silly question at the time, as I had signed up for a four year course to learn this yet here I was being asked. It’s interesting how many answers there can be to this, it can be personality traits of strength and weakness, levels of creativity, understanding to how things work and pushing their limits or just practicing a set of chosen methods.

There are no real defining set criteria that we have as we are uniquely different as to how we perceive and visualize things. This is clear from the diversity of students, who all have the motivation and desire to design. We all have unique personalities and with this bring different passions, it’s easy to stay inspired and be creative all we need to do is look what other creative individuals are up to and our minds start to burst with possibilities. Essentially what we choose to specialise in just what we are most passionate about.

I remember back before choosing design when there are so many questions about were subjects and personalities and everything is positioned, like a giant map that design sits in the middle of art and science. It might not seem true at first as they are really different but it seems that a designer easily sits here and in their work you can see the science part coming through or the artist. The Science is the how will it work, what can it be used for, what should it be made from while the artist is more of the human side of how will people use it and the visualisation how will it look. Writing all this down it seems like there are many things going on inside our heads at once, which is true. This is based of an industrial design perspective as we need to factor in many interrelated things thorough our process. It may be slightly different in other design fields.

The one trait which a good designer needs is determination and motivation to work hard. Often a great idea comes at the last minute and can require a lot of intense work in a short period of time. I think all designers are also good dreamers who visualise things that aren’t around them yet, or how their lives and the lives of others could be improved. I don’t think designers ever stop working as projects are always going on inside their heads as well as new ideas, or at least if there is an off switch I haven’t found mine yet.

Another helpful trait but not a necessity is to have an open mind. This helps to overcome problems and to venture into the unknown. It also helps you to appreciate people and their diversity. As there are many different people out there it’s important to understand and have empathy with them, this offers advantages as normally we tend to design things we like ourselves as this is just human nature as we can’t design for someone else if we can’t think like them. There are many experiences that individuals will never encounter and a bit of empathy can help. Though at the same time I find it hugely frustrating when people get it wrong and think how they know what I feel/think when they just have never been in a similar situation and just think they have, therefore understand me.

Understanding our own limitations is a great characteristic as it allows us to seek help and acknowledge that we don’t know all the answers. Knowing to get advices whether it’s from a manufacture, engineer or even a friend can make all the difference. I think at times some of us like to think we can do everything as we are always taking on projects and learning new skills but a good piece of advice and asking the right question can help out like nothing else. I think a highly creative design process is something that can’t be done in isolation and as if it’s going to be different it needs to be multiple influences.

There is a lot more to say about this as designers are hugely diverse and we all think differently as to what makes a good designer and a bad one. There has always been much talk about this at my university as to what sort of skill set is needed to cater for the diversity of students and to build as many skills as possible, what ones can be self taught to a degree or need to worked on continually.

All I know so far is that design is constantly changing, like the world itself so it can only be beneficial if the designer is also constantly changing and hopefully improving. It doesn’t take long to get stuck and find that you are just relying on an old routine and you are going through the passes, but where is the energy and creativity in that?

Where do I want to be?

This isn’t the sort of question that you have about where do you see yourself in 5 years time, what job do you see your self doing and what life goals I want to achieve as lets face it am I the same person I was 5 years ago? No not all I wouldn’t be able to even to begin to describe the changes. I am wanting something shorter term and also more relevant to my values and design sort of like what Mark has written up hear. It sounds so clear and concise two such words that are lacking within my life.

My last post sounded a bit downhearted as at the time I was and still am stressed out and lost as to what I want to achieve now, and when is the right time to start creating something solid so sort of plan. I always fail at them miserably, as who can plan the future?

A great example is last year when I was talking to Malte and I was lost as I had just made the decision to prolong my studies and extra year. He was telling my that life isn’t liner and that in many design schools they seek out older people as they have the capacity and knowledge to implement what they learn as a lot of skills needed just come with age and maturity and some wont even take people under 20.

At the time I though he was just saying stuff to make me feel a bit better and that it was a good decision (It was for me I think that’s when I realised there is such a thing as timing for oneself,) but I think it was much more meaningful. It was more that you can plan out and map out a perfect time for everything but life is unexpected and at times will completely through you off guard and the imperfectness, and challenges of these moments shape you as much as if you where on a linear track.

We can’t plan out everything and more often than not have to take the good with the bad, some situations are no reflection or comparison to how strong an individual is or how intelligent. We can’t time everything or have everything our way, and maybe when we get hold back or down in the end its for the best even if at the time we make not think so.

Sometimes its hard as I feel I am in sort of a transition stage where I only half know what I want from things, so I feel like if you can talk things out it can make things seem clearer or not as bad or long. I have lacked that as  from my family life anything bad is hidden and only the good submerges to the surface. So there is little conversations going on as you can only say so many good things, and it feels like a lie when half of you is hidden. So when ever I have meaningful conversions they are quite rare as there needs to be a certain amount of trust the other person is listing and understanding to what you are saying. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found so many people to talk to at RMIT most likely would have gone insane, who says that I am not any way.

As I only half know who I am myself I am really struggling to find some sort of purpose or reason to get out of bed. I want big things and to feel like I am part of something making changes no matter how small they are.

My design ideologies I would say would follow similar thinks to these points  these are in no relevant order and are no more important than the other they just are:

I value the hand made and well made. This is the choice of materials the quality which something has and the thought given to it. I think its has to do with evoking so many memories or thoughts at once. Everything as a texture or smell to it and I like the contrast between them so it tells a story, I think this only really happens with a combination of materials together. Even if its just fabric and cotton use to stitch it together when its handmade it tells a story.

I value a good form something which evokes a story, a poem and is captured in the head. Its like a brilliant piece of art in 3d, all functions are lost as it something you just gaze at and get lost within.

I value a good drawing as it should bring in ideas from else where and it can be challenged with another drawing. I have a deep love for children’s books as there illustrations tell stories without words this is a good drawing, communicating without words.

I value good research as this can clear away all assumptions and leave you with honest answers.

Finally (well for now anyway as its long past my bedtime) I think that everything we create should be meaningful in some way. I mean meaningful as its for filling an emotional way. Not in a vain emotional way where but a real one where you are most likely to keep the object or cherish memories of it. Or it can be meaningful as its part of a larger system which people rely upon and there is a real purpose behind it. Meaningful objects are much harder to accumulate as they are harder to find.

I am sure I will come back to this as everything is still pretty much unanswered but I need time to think.

Non linear education

Well it seems like reading the post and links up on blackboard are all trying to get us to reflect on our individual experiences, though I am going to take the example of  Design Education: The Clarity of Hindsight as I feel that it talks well about its not just the education set out for you but the opportunities individuals make or take for themselves.

Looking back to first year I had no clue what the course really held ahead for me, I went in unsure if this was the right place for me knowing I wanted to be create and also challenged, and come out the course a stronger and more intelligent person than I went in. I like most had believed I would be designing pretty objects/products when leaving the course, and would choose an area of some kind to specialise in and call my own.

I remember walking into my first studio class and seeing a mass of people crammed into this room and four lectures out the front. There seemed to be about 80 or 90 altogether, and we had all found our seats and then it seemed that a designer had a set of rules to follow which at the time took a little seriously, but now I have found a style/process that works for me. It seems that there where no room for grey leads in our lives and we should all be using A3 pads, carry around A5 sketch book every where (the only piece of advice that was worth keeping from that day) and would need to buy a whole lot of rendering markers.

The last thing from that studio I carry with me until this day is to embrace mistakes and failures. We all make them and will undoubtedly make more learning how to learn from them and relish them is the best thing a creative person can do. Why? It makes you take more risks and leads you out of your comfort zone into the unknown. This is where a designer should operate and work in the unknown as people in the end aren’t going to be predictable. As much as we like to think things are 100% resolved they are not.

This is where new paths are created unless if you are happy to follow some one else’s (Yes this is a safe option you know results and have nothing to loose.) This is the hardest part as it’s a gamble every time as you can loose everything, then have to learn from the mistakes and start again. At the same time nothing is more rewarding than not knowing feeling like you are onto something new and different, looking from a different angle applying something from what you have seen on something else to a new application is a what if approach to everything and anything. It’s also a Pandora’s Box once opened it can’t be closed as there are no answers really only more questions.

I went in with the belief that I knew nothing about design and that I was here to learn everything from the basics right up to the hard technical components and how to get things manufactured, this gave me an open mind that was willing to except a few oddities along the way. After covering the basics in first semester I slowly grew in confidence picturing that I could actually be a designer. (I previously had been told by other design schools that I was so far behind and would find it hard to catch up after seeing my high school work. This had always made me feel like I was behind though in hindsight I was never really at all. We all go in with a different starting point and RMIT knows this and has designed the course to teach you from the basics.)

Not until second semester when I had a little taste at everything I felt this was a path that number one I loved passionately and could easily dedicate my time too, and that I actually could build up skills when needed in a nice training way. (Yes the internet helps a lot with this thanks to heaps of design blogs linking you to CAD tips, drawing, and writing and pretty much anything you want to learn the basics of to practice and gradually master.) In this second semester I met to people that confused my mind so much they seemed to challenge and question every bone in my body, these where Liam and Soumitri one from studio the other design studies. An answer simply wasn’t good enough as there is more than one answer to any question, people have unique characteristics, and behaviors hard to uncover and change. We could no longer assume anything, they also told us they where no longer marking us at all this is left up to ourselves and our peers, and we where to set out a mark at the start of the semester and change it at the end to what we believe is rightfully ours in comparison to everything we have done and achieved.

A good teacher is not only someone who can teach you about what they know but also about what you know but just haven’t uncovered yet. This is with anything as they can slowly teach you skills that you can apply in situations to obtain unknown successful outcomes. You are always growing while learning and there should be times when you feel as if you uncover things that you felt you new all along but had be looking in the wrong spot until a good teach suggests things on the side, helpful feedback and the support that if you end up in the dark they will always be yelling advice to you from the side.

This I believe is self directed learning at its best, as we all have personal goals and motivations and we are all in the same course for the same reason to become a designer, but having someone harp at you for hours about how they work is the right way and everyone does it this way and the more common “right way to do something” isn’t the best way, unless if they share the same experiences and knowledge you can understand why things are done you are just told and never question. Though things date certain information and skills are suited to certain environments and if you are copying methods and skills set out by someone else you are not set up to self learn, critique and discover. There should be no voice that is strong than your own, sure there are many voices to guide it but you should guide them back saying and challenging them why something works and why something does not.

I find listing to other people who have been there and done that valuable as it’s the hindsight that you never get to experience. They know possible problems so you can skip a few steps though this doesn’t mean there isn’t room to test things out and make a few mistakes.

My lower years where all about skill building and I learnt the basics and potential of design and what it can be, I learnt to question resources, agendas my environment, my background and more importantly what do I have to offer. In the upper years the refinements begin using these skills to refine ideas, building upon and expand these skills.

I don’t think that you should ever come away from any project thinking it’s finished as there is more that can be down, the hindsight factor that if you could have gone back and done this differently it would have changed this and made it better should still niggle a bit and list of improvements should come. When we are over satisfied we stop learning as we stop questioning and loose creativity, we loose our own paths we set out.

RMIT methods have set me up to value self learning and education, if I need to learn a new piece of software I know how to do this, write a business plan talk to engineers, manufacture something I know I can take on any project and self learn what’s needed along the way. What stages I need help with or have lack of time to achieve and bring others on board. As all projects that we are going to undertake will be different, as I gain more life experience and my priorities change I will have more to put into my practice I have learnt how to ensure its constantly growing and evolving and how to implement my values in my work. I know how to be idealistic and realistic at the same time, letting my imagination run riot and then tame it back to something tangible, grounded and resolved in a time frame to ensure I am growing as an individual and accepting differences and taking risks.

There are only two paths to follow you can follow in someone else’s footsteps, knowing the route and path ahead, or you can make your own nice and fresh. There are times where you need the safety of a path and times when you need to break it and run free. These other footsteps are imprinted by the traditional people go to school get a job, work your way into a better position and retire. Set paths are if I do this I get this job, others have the ability to make their own jobs not being placed under other titles and categories as they build unique skill sets and no one else can quite do what they do. This is the path I wish to take, where no one else quote does what I can do and I am valued for it.

Self Learning

I have discovered recently that as nice as a really good detailed sketch is, like car drawings and awesome product renderings I am still pleased with drawings like the ones below as they hold lots of character and life to them, they want to share more ideas and communicate differently its lots more playful and conceptual with lots of freedom and openness. I love really nice and detailed drawings too but more for final drawings, when there is less of a need to be creative and thoughtful its more of a refined drawing. At least that’s how they communicate to me.

I think its because in reality I would love to spend about 4 or more hours on each drawing making them look nice, but who would ever pay me for such work? I can understand they work in glamor/hero shots of work as then people will notice, but what is the life span of a sketch that’s tucked away in a book? Who actually goes through them all, yes it works in automotive but they get paid to draw and its what people see, if you sketched cars like this you would be laughed away to get a real perspective, I am talking mostly about products and concepts.

The traditional product styling for me takes away some of the life that lives and breathes within the work, it doesn’t make me want to smile maybe that’s because there is so much out there already and at work I encounter what wont sell and see it sit on the shelves week after week as people know they don’t need it in their homes until the price is so cheap it holds no value at all. Its all uptight rigid and the same I like to see different things and after being exposed to it for so long now I feel immune to the traditional there is no individual voice inside. Of course it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place at all and I still draw like this too but not all the time.

I love products like this (see below) that have so many stories inside them, I am not sure if I am turning into a more minimalistic person where I expect much more with less and am now in the stage where I wish to only surround myself with beautiful things as you slowly evolve and gain different tastes. I have also realised how much clutter I have around me and are constantly running out of room as I hoard away many things with sentimental value that should really just throw out, mostly old presents from when we where younger and a lot of art stuff that I am meaning to pull out and use when I have free time.

It’s something that you don’t want to put away in cupboards and wardrobes but to leave on display to get a little smile or an ahhhh when you walk past. When it reaches the point of living its life out in a wardrobe I think it means there is nothing of value left. Its amazing to see how objects and products work within our lives, for example in our kitchen, as out favourite  cups and glasses are left out for easy use, but of course there are more stashed in cupboards for guests. Our toaster and kettle are always out but the blender, food processor and a few others live in the cupboards.

need to draw more….

I was looking at this bowl, and thought maybe this is sort of what Soumitri is saying… As this is a product but the designers sketches are not in the traditional product style at all. In creating out own  practice I believe we are creating out own language/style which can easily express what is in our head and minds to every one else. I thought this was a great example as he isn’t just seeing one path, and there are examples of famous artworks within the concepts, some with fruit etc. Hopefully this is the thinking Soumitri wants us to share in out folios we are creating that is if I am on the right path at all. As anyone can fluke a nice form after four years of design what gives it life is the story and process behind it, and its reasoning.

A beautiful shot.

What do I want?

I am having one of those realisation moments that comes when you know you are reaching a change in directions up ahead, this is mostly to do with graduating as there is only 2 days left in order to apply to graduate (Today and Tomorrow) so if feels ever so close and achievable, yet so far.

I have a list of things I want to come away with from this design course, and only now does it truly feel like time is running out. I feel as though I am on the right track to achieving the list of my goals written below and I am listening to the advice from Soumitri as to where it’s best to take my project. I know I can easily create a nice design for a drinking fountain, and through its form and material choice deliver a nice outcome but I want my design to deliver something more, to improve and build upon my skills this is where I feel Soumitri has listened to me and is directing myself down a path where the outcome isn’t just so predictable.

Number 1: On my list to finish this course with the skill of knowing and understanding ‘my design practice’ how I think as a person my beliefs where I place myself as a designer , what sort of process do I undertaken within my work and essentially what am I offering. This label designer is something that I now happily label myself as, as I know I have a unique skill set but finding out exactly what are my strengths weaknesses and interests as to where I can start to take my practice and what goals I want to achieve through my work. An understanding of where I can the most satisfaction from my work and what I enjoy the most so I know when I get stuck how to un-stick myself through my working practice.

I love pretty objects, poetry and forms that just are inspiring and achieving though design is a lot more than all of this to me, I have a strong interest in what’s in the background I think this is because it helps to validate my projects and otherwise I end up with a bunch of pretty stuff that I don’t know why its pretty and why it worth anything at all.

Number 2: Understanding my unique skill set: As in first and second year we cover the same classes and sit there developing the same skills, what skills stand out to others and are inspiring and what skills have started to half form that can essentially be built upon and developed when they are needed?

Number 3: A good appreciation of materials and manufacturing processes learnt through developing my final design.

Number 4: Understanding complexities of all parts that make up an entirety of a product, knowing that small changes can make a difference, this is based around the drinking fountain and the taps and faucets as it changes the useability of the whole thing. How all parts function together the additions and subtractions of parts to the design.

Number 5: The confidence to se my self as a skilled designer. Knowing how to talk to manufactures and seek input into my design, where to go for helpful criticism.

Number 6: Able to create books, posters and general information to support my own work.