opportunity for new projects
RSA design programme is being developed to achieve the following specific aims:
- To encourage an understanding of design’s wider social role and responsibility
- To set design projects within a context
- To facilitate and encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations
-To encourage creative and unexpected responses
The two projects that have potential for working on will be
Inclusive Worlds – deadline 5 March 2004
Voting by Design – deadline 12 Feb 2004
It may be worthwhile considering undertaking one of these as another project to be attempted for my MA.
M vs C taskforce #3
The designers and I are concerned about the Open Consultation process, where potentially, the entire memebers may attend. This Open Consultation process was more a requirement from the Committee of Managers, in the true process of transparency and democracy of their culture and community. However, as ‘Designs by committee’ doesn’t work (”A camel is a horse designed by committee”), I am planning on making this process an informative forum, rather than a determinative one. The worst case scenario would be for the members to vote, an outcome which achieves very little and has no integrity to the ‘vote’ apart from a subjective one. What we also want to avoid is getting the audience to approve the designs, as this is not their role or the place to do so either. So, what I propose is for this forum to be used for the designers to present the designs to the audience and for them to ask questions. An outline of the process taken place, and the role of the taskforce group should also be explained as well. Feedback will also be welcomed, allowing the audience and designer to engage in a dialogue to appriciate and ellaborate on the positives, and investigate the negative and potential aspects of the designs attempted. The designers/myself would document this process and take on board the comments that were made. Depending on how many are attending, a chairperson (either V or myself) will keep the questions and discussions moving. If in the case of the attendance being relatively small (group of 10 or less), we could use the opportunity to have a more in-depth critique session.
Observations of the day:
The open consultation attendee consisted mostly of the taskforce members and committee of managers, with two other people ‘cold’ from other areas. Due to lateness, we started off later, and the entire consultation took till 12pm. Each person spoke with the help of the 6 hats, and notes were taken by A, the designer.
(-ve): It was again, an exhausting process for everyone involved. The room was windowless with most of the space taken up by the table, and the atmosphere wasn’t condusive for an energetic dynamic discussion and there was an overall pessimistic negativity that gripped the group.
As most of the people present were those who are familiar with the process and designs as well, if felt we were covering old ground again, or the purpose of this process had been wasted. The 6 hats process took a very long time, and even though the intention was to allocate equal opinions and objective comments, it was taxing to get through, and killed the organic flow of a conversation to take place.
There were a few people who’s personality contributed to the negativity, especially a lady who came to the meeting 1 hour later than scheduled, and kept repeating how much she didn’t like the things she saw. Her lateness contributed to lack of momentum, repetition, and was a disruptive element rather than constructive one.
Due to the exhaustive process, the designs discussed at the end didn’t receive equal amounts of positive feedback, when that particular design did get positive response from the taskforce group. The overall response of the day’s session had a negative impact on the designers, who felt their design skills were undermined and questioned, and at a cost to them personally. They found it difficult to keep the passion and momentum up behind this process, or even to continue.
(+ve): All participants were informed on the designs, and everyone equally participated and had an opportunity to comment, so it was a very democratic process. In terms of the purpose of the forum, it was satisfactory from the oranisation’s perspecive, meeting their requirement of being inclusive. After the meeting, a few people mentioned that the forum gave them a chance to comment freely without feeling too worried about modifying their criticisms infront of the designers. The Ed de Bono method was acknowledged as a good way to manage feedback, and they were encouraged to use it more for other purposes in their meetings.
Irrespective of the negativity, the actual comments noted as strengths and potentials were positive and constructive, and the opinions were well thought out and considered. The participants left feeling positive of the next stage to come.
GRC form 10.2003
GRC form Oct 2003 (final)
M vs C taskforce #2
Purpose of the 2nd consultation was to get directed feedback from the group on the designs attempted. L, St, Su and M participated in this process and we went over what we covered last time. I also showed examples of design that had branding applied, the logo, colour used in various visual materials, imagery and style etc., and talked about these other areas that reinforces an identity apart from the logo.
Then we re-capped the adjective list of the visual personality of the organisaion. I then showed the rough sketches that the designers started off with. I felt this an important process to show as an educative element, where intangible values turn into tangible designs. There were sheets and sheets of drawings, some on notepads, some in large sketchbooks attempted in charcoal, ink and pencil, all stemming from the ideas we gave in the form of adjectives. They could clearly see the ideas emerging and evolving, and spotted potentials amongst them as well. Then some more ‘formal’ visuals were then presented, grouped around ‘concepts’. It included the logo and letterform and its application on a poster/letterhead/business card. This also strengthened the context in which the logos will be viewed and used in, and it gave extra material to then start discussing the designs and making some consensus of which designs was strongest. There were two designs that stood out the most that they thought had the most potential. Once they reached this point of making certain decisions, I brought the designers in. This was because they felt that they missed out on the emphasis, nuance and experience of human-ness last time by not being involved with the consultation meeting previously. The adjective list I compiled was rather detached and cold, and they thought the tangible experience of hearing and seeing first hand would be benefitial to them at this stage.
However, my concerns in having the designers there was I wanted to avoid the group being inhibited by speaking their minds and saying their opinions truthfully, by considering the designer’s feelings. I also wanted to avoid the designers subliminally convincing the audience in the option they might personally favour, or state their opinion knowing the conversation they’ve had with the managers.
So in the true process of transparency, I insisted on doing the whole workshop without the designers as planned, get the feedback and any gut reactions from the group first, and then invite the designers to join us, for the group to see me feeding back their feedback to the designers. Not only does this illustrate the process further for them, but also, as I am being the ’spokesperson’ for their feedback and talking on their behalf, they may not feel so bad about the criticism they’ve made (as it ceases to be personal), and they could join in and add things to what I say quite organically, giving the designer the direct tangible response they wanted. I engineered this slightly as well, asking the ones who’ve made the suggestions etc. to explain it more if need be, and after a while, it became a very natural vocalising process for everyone.
(-ve): Beginning part, jumped in too much, should’ve re-introduced ourselves again and do another ice-breaker. Poor assumption on my part that they would know and click right into it straight away. Even though they gave permission last time, should also have asked for permission to record this session too, out of courtesy.
Not everyone turned up on time, and not everyone came. It will be vital to find out why (maybe ask V and provide a evaluation sheet?). Perhaps fatigue, not enough sense of teamwork?
L was slightly dismayed that the inclusion of the ‘Arches’ weren’t mentioned in the summary of last taskforce workshop. I have probably omitted this as it wasn’t felt to be important by the group, but L personally felt that it was, and by the omission, she may have flet ignored, and had to make the point even stronger this time. L having been present at the CCM meeting, changed the dynamic of the group. Her involvement prior to this workshop naturally made her refer back to the conversation taken place before, thereby disempowering the process and purpose of this group. I sensed that some were a bit annoyed about this fact that our opinions may not be as important as the CM group, and her strong insistence on a particular design also was problematic, using the conversation in the CM group to reinforcing her point of view.
I also sensed fatigue from the group – this session seemed a lot more arduous and intense than the one before. ‘Its not the easiest of process’ – St. Su, in particular forgot her glasses and couldn’t participate fully as she could have.
(+ve): Momentum was maintained throughout the session, and they were really excited seeing the sketches and designs in progress.
‘Interesting seeing how it works’ – St
There was a sense of ownership and having taken part in this process. I also think they appreciated seeing how design process takes place, acknowledging the numerous options and explorations the designer had made from the list of adjectives they worked on last. I found their responses very articulate, interpretive and had no problem in understanding the ideas, associations, meaphors and symbolism. This was a credit to the designs not being intellectual but direct and immediate.
L in particular was aware of personal subjective judgements she was making, and though we recognised that personal judgements still exists, the group endevoured to connect the design ideas back to the original list of adjectives, using that like a tick box, to evaluate the designs. In context of ‘personal judgements’, comments were also made to differring levels of relationship with the organisation that people have or differring levels of awareness. St’s participation was greately informed by his background in marketing, but his level of involvement was minimal, compared to L.
Su was frustrated by the limits to how much a logo could say about an organisation, as it is largely based on interpretation or assumptions of the visual mark. This was a good point, which we further discussed in terms of the application and ‘branding’ of the organisation through other devices of interior visual displays and signages.
The designers were empowered getting the direct feedback and seeing how enthusiastic everyone was. Body language communicated a lot about how the group were passionate about this project and in the way they considered and articulated their opinions. It was a very positive experience for all of the participants.
Design for Good
Tomoko – student’s work tackled the issue of Racism in Australia, drawing on the history of immigrants in Australia. However, instead of stating the current issue as a problem, her communication design was based on celebrating multiculturalism by producing a menu for an inflight dinner that might be served on a Qnatas domestic flight. The meals are intended to contain different global foods, with the menu explaining the origins, history and uniqueness of each dish. This concept of linking ‘food being enjoyed by all’ to celebrating diversity, is a strong message, simple, inclusive and fun. For her example, she used Roasted tomato salad from Italy, Galactbouriko – custard filled Greek dessert, Vietnmaese spring roll, Spicy chicken with special fried rice, 100% Australian orange juice, and a napkin with an Aboriginal print.
Explicit + Instrumental
When carrying out the explicit consideration for audience-inclusive process, the roles become a bit blurry and may enter in slippery domains. For instance, if there was a confilct of interest with the client, and what would happen then? Would it be the designer’s duty to argue on behalf of the audience, and how much of that would be taken into account by the client?
This is extracted from:
Users’ Creative Responses and Designers’ Roles
Kin Wai Michael Siu
Design Issues Vol 19, #2 Spring 2003
“An example is the footbridges in Hong Kong which were designed only for pedestrian traffic. However, the fact is many of these bridges have been redefined as social gathering places by housewives, as resting places by older people, as business places by hawkers, as playgrounds by skateboarders, as a scribble-canvas by youngsters, as homes by beggars, and so on. All of these people produce and redefine the meanings and functions of the foot bridges when they use them. Some people do not even care about their original predetermined/assigned meanings and funct ions, and in some cases, such as when salesmen set up temporary booths on the bridges to promote their products, their new defined meanings and functions go against the original intentions of the designers.
Based on these two recognitions, there are two alternatives which designers should seriously consider: (a) allowing more ‘gaps’ for users to fill in, and (b) encourage user-participation in developing designs. Allowing more gaps means that designs should offer more flexibility, and encourage users to modify them. For instance, in designing a community park, or public space furniture, the design with the highest degree of userfitness is the one which allows and encourages residents to voice their preferences, and to make modifications to fit their community and individual needs. However, even providing more gaps for users to fill still puts them in a somewhat passive role, since the degree of user influence still depends on the designers’ decision and providence. How then should the design process change to become more userautonomous?
Among the various design approaches and processes, ‘user participation’ (also known as ‘participatory design’) is one of the best. As its name suggests, user participation allows users to engage in the design decision-making process. This opportunity to participate not only results in better user-fit solutions, but also an increased sense of having influenced the design decision-making process, as well as an increased awareness of the consequences of the decision made. This is not very obvious if the design is just a product for a small number of people in a particular group or social class. However, it is very significant if the design involves a more diverse and greater number of users. Moreover, in some designs related to the public interest, such as the design of a playground or a set of street furniture for a public housing complex, user participation also promotes a sense of community by bringing together people who share common goals. To designers, participatory design provides more relevant and up-to-date information. Creating a methodological framework enables the use of rational decisionmaking methods without affecting the creative process. In short, user-participatory design means different things to different users, and even to the same users, depending on the issue, its timing, and the environment (physical, cultural, social, political, and also religious) in which it takes place.
According to Henry Sanoff, we can categorize user participation in seven major forms: representation, questionnaires, regionalism, dialogue, alternative, co-decision, and self-decision. Representation is a form of design in which the designer represents the anonymous user through a personal and subjective interpretation of the user’s situation. The use of questionnaires consists of the statistical gathering of a user group’s requirements, and is an indirect form of participation by an anonymous group of people. Distinct from questionnaires, regionalism considers the specific cultural heritage within a geographically limited area, such that this form of participation directs itself towards the symbolic qualities of a group of users (for instance, a specific community). Dialogue (also called consultation) is based on the concept of using users’ knowledge as a source of information, and asking users to comment on the designer’s proposal while the design is in progress. It can be considered as a form of two-way communication between user and designer.
Most of the time, in this form of participation, the designer reserves the right to make the final decisions. The alternative is a form of participation that goes a step further in involving the user in the design process with the designers. It is based on a process whereby users are given the choice of several alternatives within a fixed set of boundaries. Co-decision is a method of participation that involves participation in a balanced decision-making situation. It involves the population from the beginning of the design process, and aims at the direct and active participation by users. As its name indicates, self-decision is when a decision is made by the users themselves. Obviously, if a design with a high degree of userfitness is desired, co-decision and self-decision should be the forms of user participation most often used by designers.
Third, a high degree of user participation does not imply that designers do not need to do anything or should be ignored. In fact, this misconception also is one of the reasons why so many designers still expect to retain the exclusive right to make decisions. On the contrary, in user-participation design, designers should adopt two important roles actively. The first is as coordinators, gathering together different interested groups and professionals, and then as facilitators, assisting users in participating, modifying, experiencing, creating, producing, and actualizing the design. We should note that advocating increased user participation, as well as considering users’ responses, does not intend to disregard design and the professional role and responsibility of designers. In fact, users (especially those with little education) generally are passive when it comes to voicing their opinions at the outset, cannot be relied upon to initiate and coordinate any movement to improve the designs that affect their lives. Therefore, designers should work closely with the various interested and potentially impacted groups (users and professionals such as social workers, landscape architects, and product engineers), and facilitate a supportive environment for working together. During the participation process, designers should give users the opportunity to (a) identify their needs and preferences, (b) set goals, (c) voice their ideas and opinions, (d) make decisions, (e) be involved in the implementation (if possible), (f) evaluate the outcomes, and (g) set up a mechanism to follow up on post -occupancy conditions.
The second role of designers is to explore the diverse backgrounds, beliefs, needs, wants, preferences, and satisfactions of people, since this kind of feedback can help them to better understand users and, in turn, enhance their participation. Designers can no longer hide themselves in studios. They need to conduct more empirical research. For instance, it is impossible to understand users’ responses to a living environment simply by conversing with them in an office. Even users themselves often do not know how to articulate their dynamic, temporal, and subjective feelings on a designed object, and the needs, hopes, and fantasies of their everyday lives. Therefore, besides reviewing documents and talking with users, understanding users’ responses in a design environment also should be based on in-depth observations and an analysis of the users environment. Users and their behaviors are the long-term products of their evolution and culture.
The designer’s job no longer is to produce finished and unchangeable solutions, but to develop solutions from cont inuous two-way communication with those who will use his or her work. The energy and imagination of the designer should be directed towards raising users’ level of awareness about design choices. This means that the final design should arise from the exchanges between designers and users: (a) the designers provide opinions, professional advice, and discuss the consequences of various alternatives, and (b) users give their opinions, and contribute their practical experience.
In summary, this paper attempts to show that user-oriented design is successful only when designers do not think of themselves as the only experts, and when they do not impose their mandatory designs on others. They should respect the value of users’ input to the design process. The main concern of designers should be what actually happens when someone uses their design, for that is the ultimate measure of every design’s worth.
Talk from Industrial Design students on Participatory Design
Group of 5 students (2nd years!) presented their group project on participatory design. They sent out 200 brochures around their neighbourhood to get a response from a household they could do the project with, and they got 2 replies back (apparently it was exactly a textbook statistic). They wanted to avoid using extended friends and families (previous years have worked with this model, and they found it limiting or peppered with biases) and the response they got was from a couple who were totally blind, keen to participate and take part in making their life better. Cont…
News on last night about a Social responsibility rating system of companies on corporate governance, environmental impact, social impact and workplace practices, and their ratings now published for 2003.
Is the climate changing for shareholders to value the company’s practice as well as the returns on their shares? How much impact does this have on the stockexchange? Where is the survey for highlighting consumer conscience? Do people really care, or what difference does it make?
Question: Is it about the students, or is it about me?
On reflecting on the projects set to the students and evaluating the outcome, I have discovered that I was evaluating how much THEY have learnt, and perhaps little on what I had discovered. And perhaps this is a natural occurrence – I as a lecturer, would set a task that has specific objectives and outcomes. Discoveries and learning is more for students, and perhaps not as much on my part. Or perhaps the learning part would be how I talk about things that would enhance their learning, about the ‘real world’ through ‘real’ experiences, how I might challenge myself with assumptions I have made when guiding or evaluating their work etc. Even though I still insist that my research has direct relevance to my teaching, I now see the point of what Lisa was trying to make all along – that by doing external projects myself would be more beneficial in informing my teaching practice, than the projects I set to the students. Perhaps the value of learning from my teaching practice may only remain within the teaching practice too, and not go beyond relating to my practice…?