Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dissertation Beginnings

A few weeks into the start of this semester we were encouraged to start thinking about dissertation topics. At that point we were in the middle of our Narrative project in the studio/workshop. I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative project as the topic I chose (OCD) really interested me and kept me motivated. It seemed logical to use this as a starting point for dissertation thinking. During the Narrative project I thought a lot about the senses and what our senses need, what looks pleasing to the eye, what feels good to touch, and possibly even what smells or sounds nice. This initially lead me to consider how our mental health could be improved through our senses. Sensory therapy.
Up until VERY recently I was still going along this therapy and mental health route, however, it's taken a little turn in a new direction. I am now looking at perception and the senses. How our senses and brain work and how they can trick us. Sensory deprivation and synesthesia are important areas which I am looking into. I would also like to do some research into how people with disabilities use their senses and perhaps rely on alternative senses. It's a large and fascinating subject area which I am enjoying learning more about.
To begin with I have looked at many books on perception and the senses and also some on particular senses. Below are two analyses of a couple of very useful books which I think will com in handy.

Introduction to Psychology: Atkinson and Hilgard

Atkinson and Hilgard’s ‘Introduction to Psychology covers all the major areas of psychology from psychological development to language and thought. It examines the theories, research and ideas that support the subject. Due to the large scale of the book I have focused my attention on two chapters in particular: Sensory Processes and Perception.

The chapter, Sensory Processes, talks about which aspects of the environmental information register with our senses and which do not. While the chapter, Perception, addresses what the use of perception is. It is made clear that there is a definite link between the two chapters.

The book consistently relates its concepts to everyday life and draws its information from a wide range of research. There is an emphasis on vision and its ability to obtain information that is at a distance. Vision is discussed at length giving detailed information about seeing patterns, colours and light.
Other senses such as smell and hearing are also looked into in detail. Taste, pressure, temperature and pain are also touched on. There are cutting edge research sections in each chapter. One of great interest is entitled, ‘Where in the Brain Are Illusions?’ by Scott Murray, University of Washington. This looks at how we perceive object size and how our visual system has evolved to interpret a three-dimensional world.

The chapter ‘Perception’ almost carries on from the previous as it tackles how sensory information is processed and used and how organisms process and organise incoming sensory information. The subject of vision is carried through to this chapter and developed. It argues that humans need a constantly updated image fed to their brain in order to perceive, behave and make decisions. Moving on from the previous chapters explanation of how vision works we begin to look at how the information our eyes gather is processed.
We then take a look at attention in vision and hearing. Our senses are constantly bombarded with information and only a tiny amount is relevant. This suggests that the brain must have some sort of screening process.
Localization is a subject I had never really thought of before but is fascinating in its disguised simplicity. This is the need to know where objects are in our environment which involves separating the objects from one one another and from the background. This then allows the perceptual system to to determine the position of the objects in a three-dimensional world.
The cutting edge research section of this chapter talks about diverting attention from burns pain. It is thought that pain perception has a strong psychological component. This section explored what would happen to a patient’s brain when they experienced virtual reality analgesia.

Due to this being a textbook it is a little dry and the language is complex, however, looking at it selectively it is possible to pick out a variety of very useful information. Each chapter ends with a summary of the main points. Diagrams, case studies and examples make this compicated subject far easier to grasp.

Friedrikson, B, Loftus, G, Nolen-Hoeksema, S, Wagenaar, W, Atkinson & Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology 15th Edition, (2009) Italy, Canale

The Man Who Tasted Shapes: Richard E. Cytowic, M.D.

Cytowic’s ‘The Man Who Tasted Shapes’ explores a deeper reality which he believes exists in all of us. Cytowic gives details of two cases of synesthesia and discusses some of the consequences. Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are merged so that the detection of each is mismatched.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Cytowic describes his chance encounter during a dinner party on with the "Man Who Tasted Shapes." Cytowic describes how his host reported that "There aren't enough points on the chicken!" and how this chance comment led to Cytowic's investigations into the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia. The central theme throughout the book is what, if any, relation synesthesia has with normal brain function and what we can learn from it. It allows us to understand something of normal sensory function.

Cytowic’s interest does not begin and end with the brains of synesthetes. He believes that the solution to the medical mystery of synesthesia has complex implications for all of us. And so two main questions are brought forward: What is the nature of synesthesia? and What is its value? He aims to explain not its meaning for the people who have it but the meaning of synesthesia for those of us whom it does not directly affect.

This acts not only as a sort of biography of the man who tasted shapes but as a double biography. Not only do we learn about the two cases neurologically, and about their synesthesia, we are also drawn into an intellectual autobiography of Cytowic. We learn about his thought processes and hi persistence in uncovering the story and the condition over a long period.

In order to explore the biological starting point of synesthesia, Cytowic describes experiments in which he tested how synesthesia was reduced by a daily routine of stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine and depressants such as alcohol. In more intensive investigations of the effects of different psychoactive substances, Cytowic discovered that stimulants, including a dose of amphetamine decreased the strength of synesthesia, while amyl nitrite increased the strength of synesthesia. For example, one subject reported that mint feels like a cool glass column, but that amyl nitrite led him to feel as if he were placing his hand among many glass columns.
In later chapters, Cytowic reported on his efforts to make synesthesia more widely known, on the experiences of many other synesthetes who have contacted him, and how synesthesia affects their lives.
In the second part of the book, entitled "Essays on the Primacy of Emotion" Cytowic presents a number of his reflections on what the phenomenon of synesthesia means for traditional neuroscientific and neurological practice, how irregular findings can lead to major scientific discoveries, and the role that emotion plays in our understanding of the world around us.

Cytowic, R, E, The Man Who Tasted Shapes (2001) New York, MIT Press

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Dissertation Beginnings

Having a meeting during the reading week proved difficult, however, the dissertation workshop gave us ample opportunity to share ideas and thoughts.

My previous studio project, The Narrative Project, helped me to identify some interests which I may want to take further. I chose to look at OCD, a mental disorder which causes people to experience intrusive obsessive thoughts and compulsive tendencies. I chose to make a therapeutic piece which played with the ideas of order, disorder and ritual. I really enjoyed this topic and want to take it further but perhaps branching off into other mental illnesses. I'm planning to try to get to grips with a little psychology in order to get my head around it all.

Here is my initial mindmap which I hope to add to as I discover more.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Evol discovery

I just discovered Evol, a Berlin based street artist that transforms boring urban surfaces into miniature architectural surfaces. Using pasted paper Evol transforms electricity boxes and other geometric structures. Here are a few images...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Permaculture and design

Permaculture and design

Mairi Johnstone

Jewellery and Metalwork

Definition of Permaculture:

Permaculture is an innovative way of creating sustainable ways of living. The word 'permaculture' comes from 'permanent agriculture' and 'permanent culture'. This is an integrated system of design, that includes not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture and ecology, but also economic systems, land access ideas and legal systems for businesses and comm


It is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Unlike other modern agricultural systems, permaculture is based on ecology - the study of interrelationships and interdependence of living things and their environment. Permanent agriculture is understood as agriculture that can be sustained indefinitely.

It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their own food, energy, shelter, and all other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Alternative currencies and trading systems support community agriculture. Community governance is also an aspect of permaculture which is vitally important but generally remains unseen as it is cooperative system. Mollison (1988) believes that without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from tightly packed urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to whole regions.

Brief History of Permaculture:

Modern permaculture can be traced back to the 1970s and the work of Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren but in some respects it is not a new thing. The idea of agricultural systems that can be put into practice for an unlimited time, in a sustainable way, has been around for thousands of years, it was the new interlocking pattern or plan, which combined animal and social systems which was different.

The modern permaculture movement came about when Holmgren was writing a thesis about developing an interdisciplinary earth science (permaculture), while working together with Mollison who was directing his research. Mollison added to Holmgren's thesis and they produced a book, ‘Permaculture One’. This was in response to soil, water and air pollution by industrial and agricultural systems; loss of plant and animal species; reduction of natural non-renewable resources; and a crippling economic system. From the book came a series of lectures and workshops. It was January 1981 before the concept of permaculture was fully formed and suitable to be taught as an applied design system. The intent is that, by training individuals in a basic set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements, ones that reduce society's dependance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison (1988) identified as, fundamentally and systematically destroying our ecosystems. As this idea was tried and tested it became apparent that people could make a living from products which came from these new environments.

This was not the initial aim of permaculture, which attempts first of all to stabilise and care for the land, then to serve household, regional and local needs, and only following that, to produce a surplus for sale or exchange. Permaculture has n

ow developed a large international following. The "permaculture community" continues to expand on original ideas. Permaculture has developed from its Australian origins into an international movement. English permaculture teacher Patrick Whitefield, suggests that there are now two strands of permaculture: Original and Design permaculture. Original permaculture attempts to closely recreate nature by developing edible ecosystems which closely resemble their wild counterparts. Design permaculture takes the working connections at use in an ecosystem and uses them as its basis. The result may not look as natural but still respects ecology principals. Through close observation of natural energies and flow patterns efficient design systems can be developed. This has become known as Natural Systems Design.

Principles of permaculture

Relevance of Permaculture to design:

Modern permaculture relies upon designing an agricultural or living space to take into account the natural needs, outputs and consequences of all the elements within the surrounding system. Elements are assembled to create a combined effort where the products of one element feed or improve nearby elements ending in a natural interaction and very little waste. The end result is a system that produces large quantities of food with minimal input or impact to the environment. The methods used can change and are taken from well studied and accepted practices including land management, organic farming, agroforestry, sustainable forestry and horticulture. These methods are not restricted to agriculture, many practical solutions have been developed for the built environment. Highly efficient sustainable buildings can be made using timber frames or straw bales for example. Architects and builders are now being encouraged to use sustainable materials such as these and to incorporate solar, hydro and wind power.

Permaculture aims to also encourage the community to live full lives and is not necessarily as restrictive as it may seem. A sustainable environment requires creative and vibrant people to develop new skills and ideas. Their specially designed education system encourages the development of intellect, artistic and practical skills based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori.

A good design helps to make the best use of the available resources and create a more productive system, that meets more of the community’s need and creates less pollution. According to Morrow (1993) permaculture design skills include observation, deduction, analysis, mapping, pattern reading and experience. All of which are skills required universally by designers be it an architect, a toy maker or a town planner. Designers have a responsibility for the effects of the products they design, and need to think about their potential impact on the environment, designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to respect the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability.

Designers in all fields are becoming increasingly more aware of how what they do can effect the environment. The website, Lovely as a tree, claims to be, the website that tells you everything you need to know to be a more environmentally aware graphic designer. From choosing recycled or more sustainably sourced paper to choosing a greener printer. There are lots of little changes designers can make to reduce their design footprint. Unfortunately, the jewellery industry also has a long and ugly history of environmental destruction, human rights abuse, and issues with fair trade. More recently, however, jewelers in particular are trying to put an end to their old ways by making small changes to the way they work believing that jewellery should not come at the cost of the environment. By recycling and being more careful with metal, disposing of chemicals safely and in some cases, finding ways to avoid using damaging chemicals. By taking a little time to consider the basic permaculture design skills and going back to basics all designers can help towards the future of our planet.


Principles of Permaculture:

What is Permaculture? Hobbs, J.

Mollison, B. (1988) Permaculture A designers’ Manual. Australia: Tagari Publications

Morrow, R. (1993) Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture. Australia: Kangaroo Press

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Permaculture Mind Map

Design Studies 2nd Meeting

During our second meeting we decided to share the research we'd found so far by creating a sort of joint mind-map. Once we had all added our information to the mind-map we all tried to chip-in where possible with other peoples topics just to perhaps add a different slant on things. Also Fiona and myself had opted to change our topics and so took the opportunity to update the rest of the group. Fiona changed to Branding and Design and I changed to Permaculture and Design.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

My Obsessive Compulsive Brief

Our first brief for 3rd year is to design a narrative brooch. We were given a list of possible topics which we could choose from if we wanted to. I found having a list of topics helped me to think faster and probably deeper than usual. I initially chose to base my design on superstitions, thinking of charms and thinking back to the myths and legends associated with certain stones from our stone setting brief last year. I developed a mind map which eventually led me down an unexpected path.
I started thinking about superstitious rituals and in turn, obsessive compulsive disorder. I've been looking at common repetitive, counting behaviour. My aim is to somehow describe, in a narrative form, the way someone suffering from this problem tries to cope and to perhaps design an almost therapeutic piece of jewellery.

Design Studies

During our first Design Studies lecture we were split into study support groups, mixing with other disciplines. It's interesting to meet people from subjects which otherwise you'd be unlikely to come across. In our group of eight we had two from Textiles, two from IED, two from IMD, one from Product Design and myself from Jewellery.
We were given a list of topics ranging from Crime and Design to Celebrity and Design. In our first brief meeting we decided a time and place for our next meeting during which we would decide on a topic for each person. We met on Thursday lunchtime in the Duncan of Jordanstone cantina. The topics we chose are to be individually researched and written up as a report to form our own Wikipedia. Luckily when we met on Thursday we had all decided on different topics:

Claire chose Consumer culture and design
Kitty chose Crime and design
Andrew chose Digital Economy and design
Mhairi chose Ethical labour and design
Fiona chose Interactivity and design
Thomas chose Social Networking and design
Justin chose User centred design and design

And I opted for Gender and design. I thought this would be a refreshing subject to look into but it is still relevant to jewellery design as jewellery is rarely a unisex thing. Once we've written our wikipedia entries we will read each others and leave constructive comments and feedback.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Elisa Strozyk

Elisa Stroyzk creates these amazing pieces that blur the boundaries between furniture and textiles and make you think about the different characteristics of a material. A flexible surface is created by applying laser-cut, wooden pieces to a flexible backing material. I LOVE these. Her website has even more amazing things.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Assignment 5, Activity 5A

Throughout Design Studies we have focused on using a variety of research methods to help us question how we process information, and as a result, the ways it can be manipulated and translated into assisting us in our own specific discipline. Semester one focused on secondary techniques; using research carried out by others to forward the analysis of our chosen subjects; and semester exposed us to a selection of primary research methods, to give us the experience of doing the initial research for ourselves, and the benefits gained from the process. We were encouraged to think like designers, by looking at things in a totally new light and embracing these alternative research methods to enable us to engage new ideas and concepts. To expand our thinking.

Having spent last semester developing an unusual obsession with subways, the idea of revisiting the subject was not too painful. The subject of crime was my original starting point, I discussed the “Broken Windows” theory as talked about in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell (p141) which, in very simple terms, suggested that if a window is broken and not repaired, people passing by will decide that no one cares and that no one is managing the area. Soon, more windows will be broke

n, and the feeling of chaos and mayhem grows. Especially in a city, comparatively small problems like graffiti or public disorder are the equivalent of broken windows, a temptation to more serious crime. The atmosphere created in a confined and isolated space, such as an underground station, dictates a passengers feeling of safety and in turn, their likelihood of being a returning customer.

In order to research the pros and cons of subway atmosphere last semester, I spent a great deal of time, through books and internet sites, researching the most famous subway stations of the world and how they function at present. I did the same to get a better idea of how atmosphere can be affected by architecture. This topic grew arms and legs as many factors play a part in creating the atmosphere in a space.

Having previously been anti-mind-mapping, I reluctantly completed one on this topic as part of an assignment in semester one. Annoyingly, I found the mind-map extremely useful as a way of documenting and organising my thoughts.

This threw up many issues and ideas surrounding subway atmosphere. In order to take this research further it is now clear, having completed this semesters assignments, that primary research techniques are key to discovering the public’s needs. The underground system is of course a public transport service and so who better to look to to answer the question, “how do we improve the atmosphere in our underground stations?” than the public?

Most subway systems tend to be filthy and rather dull aesthetically. But there are cities that explicitly foster arts and good architecture in subways. Works of art or sophisticated architecture can be inspiring and thought-provoking for daily commuters as well as an attraction for visitors. Distinctive colour schemes and works of art help passengers for orientation. Furthermore, there is evidence that vandalism diminishes in appealing stations because works of art and good designs are widely respected.

Observation would be my key form of primary research here. So much can be discovered just by watching people, but not just watching aimlessly, by really observing their body language and behaviour and in this case their movement patterns, speed of movement, interaction, age, sex etc... Gathering this information to discover the patterns of behaviour would be invaluable to ascertain how the public use stations. The present design and decoration of each station would have to be considered as these factors would effect their behaviour. Observation would highlight the problems and possible good points of the existing stations. To develop the data gathered from such observations, an experiment could be arranged to temporarily alter the atmosphere of the station, for example, the lighting could be changed or a variety of music played to see if behaviour changes. In the London Underground was said to play fast marching music during the morning rush, and calm relaxing music in the evening rush - the first to get people moving, the second to calm them down.

A series of focus groups of regular commuters, combined with a small visual experiment could prove useful as an insight into what commuters would like to see happen to their stations. I this think would prove more effective than interviewing individual commuters as a discussion tends to throw up more interesting results and the idea of trying to get a commuter to stop and answer questions fills me with fear! Various stations around the world have instigated innovations in an attempt to improve their commuters daily experience, such as Moscow Metro’s mobile art exhibition. Perhaps a discussion surrounding the various innovations around the worlds subways would show up a particular favourite, an area which needs improving and possibly a solution. Involving regular commuters who can take the time to converse with other commuters should throw up the real problems they experience daily and what they would like to see done about it.

Our underground stations are ever changing and improving, with the addition of interactive technology as one example. TFL (Transport for London) will be investing capital into the renovation of the Underground network in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. In a private venture, CBS Outdoor (a leading outdoor advertising company) are investing £72 million over the next two and a half years to improve every single advertising site on the Underground including installation over 2000 digital sites. These days advertising seems to be playing a huge part in creating a stations atmosphere, keeping things interesting and stimulating. So with all this money flying around to invest in this country’s largest underground system lets hope that they have used their primary research to talk to the public, the people who will be using this service. Here is an example of some advertising in a Tokyo subway tunnel. This particular technology, brought to my attention by Jonathan Baldwin, uses the old-fashioned zoetrope device as its inspiration. A zoetrope is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures.


Bennet, D, (2004), Metro the story of the underground railway, London, Octopus Publishing

Gladwell, M, (2000), The Tipping Point, Great Britain, Abacus

Lepori, R, and Franck, K, (2007), Architecture from the Inside Out, Great Britain, Wiley-Academy

Preston, J, (2004), Interior Atmosphere, London, Artmedia Press

Assignment 5, Activity 5B

In order to demonstrate how the skills we have learnt in Design Studies can be applied to the discipline of Jewellery and Metalwork, we were asked to review and rethink a studio brief we tackled this year. Then by applying the primary and secondary research methods learnt this year during my Design Studies, discuss how these techniques could be utilised during the research and design process if I were to approach this brief again.

Our studio briefs have been wonderfully diverse this year. We began the year with the vessel project which asked us to design and make some form of container. The second brief was the wire project which was to be influenced by the work of an artist or sculptor whom you found inspiring. The third studio brief was the catwalk project where we were asked to design and make a extravagant, colourful, piece based on a culture or time period. It had to be effective on a catwalk as a fashion statement. The project brief I would like to reconsider in connection to the secondary research methods we have developed, however, is the project we are working on at present, Stone Setting. This project did not simply require us to learn a selection of new jewellery skills, it also encouraged us to research into the ideas of myth, legend, superstition and religion which surround semi-precious stones.

At the beginning of any new design brief I have always applied secondary research skills, however, possibly not in the organised manner to which we have been introduced by Design Studies, more in my own mish-mashed style. To begin the stone setting brief for instance, I started off scouring the library with a clear idea of what I was looking for but as always, other books caught my eye and I was drawn towards them. My next step is always to conduct the same sort of search but online. To get a an overview of the subject I began with a general look at gemstones, then going on to look at their hardness, how they are formed, the different types of cuts and settings. Having now looked into and practiced Primary Research methods, I believe that interviewing a jeweller who uses stone setting widely throughout their work or possibly interviewing a stone-setter would have given me more of an insight into the various settings, their pros and cons and any hints and tips which only come with years of experience.

Having gathered a wealth of general gemstone knowledge I then moved on to researching their individual symbolism throughout the ages and the ways gemstones and jewellery have been used. I found some of the myths and legends surrounding the stones fascinating but found that, after doing all my research and telling people what I had discovered, they had heard other variations which could have been added to my bank of knowledge had I shared my findings earlier. Luckily by this stage I had not decided firmly on which myth to go with and so I went with my three or four options and basically had an informal brainstorming session with some friends. I tend to do this at some stage during every project as I find it invaluable in the design process. It is too easy to become blinkered to other views and to become fixated on one design without trying out any alternatives. Other people see things differently and can input observations and ideas which would never have occurred to me, they can broaden your thought process.

The primary and secondary research methods I have developed this year in design studies will, without doubt be even more useful when it comes to designing for the public in the form of commissions. Here it would be imperative to use various primary and secondary research techniques. For example if a client commissions me to make an item of jewellery I think a combination of interview, observation and experiment would hopefully give me a real insight into exactly what they are looking for. Initially, I would conduct an interview to ascertain the basic requirements and get a feeling for what the client is looking for. A good line of communication is essential to keep your client updated and to make sure you are both on the same page.

Sometimes when designing for a particular person it can be hard to get to the bottom of what they are really like just by asking them a series of questions no-matter how well thought out and planned your questions are. In this case I believe observational skills are invaluable. We use observation almost without thinking from the moment we first see someone, this can be a dangerous thing which can easily cause you to jump to conclusions but if used properly can be incredibly useful. As with interviews, people can portray themselves in a particular way by means of dress, hairstyle etc when in-fact this is not reflecting their true personality. I would observe their body language, dress sense and their reaction to certain questions I ask. All of these would help me gather a better picture of what they might really be looking for. I would also conduct a sort of experiment by showing them examples of my previous work and gauge their reactions to the pictures or items I show them. Paying particular attention to the items of jewellery that they find the most attractive and enquiring after what exactly they like and dislike about them.

Without really realising it, I believe I was already using these highly beneficial research techniques, introduced to us this semester to aid me with my research and design processes. This series of assignments has been beneficial as they have made me far more aware of the techniques and how I use them within my discipline. I may have been already using these skills, however, I was doing so without thoroughly thinking about what I was doing and so was not using them to their full potential. Books and internet are not the be-all and end-all, talking to people and observing their behaviour holds a wealth of knowledge which I think I was previously missing. I will carry on using this approach but in a a far more conscious manner as I believe it will contribute to me producing work with a far deeper personal meaning.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Adapting a Brief

Our last lecture of the year focused mainly on how we classify people and how this affects our design process. A brief has to be adapted to suit the client or be aimed at a particular type of consumer. To practice getting used to this we were asked to look back at a brief from the past year and think about how we would change it to cater for a certain type of person.

I chose to rethink our Catwalk Project - Design and make an extravagant and unusual piece of catwalk jewellery. Taking inspiration from a culture or a period of time. The design should adorn the body in an unusual way. Originally I designed a 1920's inspired headpiece.

When designing for someone who would fit into the traditionalist category - averse to risk, guided by the traditional behaviours and values, quiet and reserved, hanging back and blending in with the crowd - I would stick with a headpiece but scale it down and soften it a little to make it more of a fascinator.

To satisfy an innovator - self-confident risk-takers, seeking new and different things, setting their own targets to achieve - I would go in completely the other direction towards Lady Gaga's world! I would make it bigger and bolder using unusual materials to make it as eye catching and unique as possible.

I think with the free reign and wide open briefs we are lucky to have during our projects we sometimes forget that it is necessary to tailor a brief to a particular person, with certain tastes and requirements. These classifications, however, are still very broad and as we've discovered during the past few assignments, everyone is different and we need to be more aware of this. As Jonathan says, "Everyone has a story and if you don't know it you can't design for it."

What objects do people treasure the most and why?

Recently, in our Design Studies Seminars, conversation has kept coming back to the question of whether mass produced jewellery can be worth as much to a person as a piece of handmade jewellery. In order to research this a little (and to complete assignment 4) I chose to interview a small selection of people using the subject, "What objects do people treasure the most and why?" in the hope that some jewellery would crop up among the results.

I basically asked the same few simple questions using a semi-structured approach depending on the answers. I avoided closed questions (my extensive sales assistant training finally paid off!) as "yes" or "no" weren't very helpful in this exercise.

These are the main questions I asked although they were adapted slightly each time:

1. What would be your most treasured possession?
2. What makes it so valuable to you?
3. Does the item have any monetary value?
4. Was this item inherited?
5. Do you keep this item for it's memories?
6. Where do you keep this item?

I interviewed four people ranging in age from teenager to middle-aged. I didn't realise how personal this subject and the questions I was asking were until I looked at the results and realised how enlightening they were about that persons sentimentality and feelings.
To begin with, everyone had a treasured possession and didn't have to think twice about what it was. In three of the four cases the possession was an item of jewellery (as I'd suspected!) and in the third it was a baby book containing, among other things, a lock of babies hair.
One of the pieces of jewellery had been inherited, had been passed down through the family and obviously had some monetary value as it was rather old and of good quality. It held many memories and provided a feeling of family closeness even when miles away. This particular gentleman chose to wear this ring all the time seeing no point in keeping it in a drawer gathering dust when he could wear it day-to-day and he can look down at it whenever he needed any comfort.
The third item of jewellery had been given to her by her parents on her 21st birthday (quite a few years ago!) but this item was considered too valuable to wear and lay safely in it's box. She doubted whether it was worth a great deal but couldn't have cared less.
The third piece of jewellery was a friendship necklace that a young girl had received from her best friend. It was clearly worth very little money but it meant so much to this girl that it was never off her neck as it was a constant reminder of their bond.
Speaking to these people it became clear that the monetary value of something was worthless to them. The memories they contained or the people that had given it to them or what it symbolised was far more important.
As a jeweller this was a very satisfying exercise as I believe that jewellery should be something treasured. Not necessarily because it's worth a lot of money or because it's pretty or in fashion but because it holds other meanings brought by the giver or the receiver. Earlier I was unsure whether whether mass-produced jewellery could have as much value as a handmade piece, I'm now sure that it can.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


David Gallaugher's grass-lined wheel. He and three other Canadian architecture students built it to make a social statement - we need more green space. Their contraption is a way to "take the park with you". I love this but I do see some problems.....!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Reflecting on My Safari

Looking back at our safari assignment I realise how many day-to-day things just wash over me. We become so used to seeing and doing certain things that we don't realise they're even happening. I think I approached the assignment with a slightly too general view. By focusing on particular people and exactly what they're doing and why they're doing it would probably bring more interesting and enlightening results.

In regard to how this assignment could relate to jewellery design, I feel after attending our seminar I'm far more aware of how personal a piece of jewellery can be. I see now that you really need to look closely at a person to begin to understand them and to know what they are ultimately looking for you to produce for them.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Nature's Call

I just saw these on the news and thought they were great. The brand new Dobbies in Aberdeen features unusual men’s urinals in the shape of flowers, designed by San Francisco-based artist Clark Sorensen, and called Nature’s Call. Male customers can choose between an orchid, an arum lily or a pitcher plant.

Design Safari and the Discovery of Coffee

This assignment focused on observing people and their behaviour in public spaces. Two of us coffee virgins decided to have a wee rest and a go at getting addicted to the brown liquid in Costa on a Tuesday around 4pm.

We queued up and ordered our Mochas (easing into the coffee) just like everyone else and then chose our seats carefully to obtain an ideal spying position. I can't say that we were blown away with hectic activity, Costa was pretty quiet but this allowed us to inspect the clientele more closely.

Costa in the Overgate is a sort of semicircular, sunken pit at one end of the shopping centre (arguably the busiest area of the centre). There are three entrances and exits to the Costa pit meaning that people can move around very freely. We sat with our backs to one of the pit walls, facing the counter as you can see in the photo above.

99% of customers knew exactly what they were doing when they entered the pit. They clearly had their own routes from their chosen entrance around the tables to the counter. People went directly to the cake cabinet and immediately looked up at the board which listed drinks and prices. An orderly queue would then form behind this person. Each person forced to stop in-front of the enticing cakes to look at the board. The clever positioning of the board and cakes worked. Around 95% of people purchased a cake with their drink (we were well behaved and resisted). It was almost as if they felt obliged to take a cake after standing in-front of them. Most of the customers were clearly seasoned Costa users as they knew the system. They switched to Costa mode and went through the motions, arriving at the till with their money out ready and waiting. In stark contrast, the workers behind the counter were constantly hectic despite the small number of customers.

Even though there were very few customers, there was still a broad selection of ages and sexes. Most customers were sitting in same sex pairs. There was no sign of snobbery with a full range of classes.

Everyone was very relaxed, sitting having finished their drinks, just chatting. Most people seemed to only be having on drink and sitting for a long time after finishing. Nobody seemed to be looking around they were all deep in conversation. Even two people sitting with notepads and cameras staring at everyone raised any sort of alarm.

Choosing a seat proved very important. The centre seats were largely avoided with people opting to sit around the edge of the pit even if it meant having to move dirty cups and plates. Surprisingly, the few people who were sitting alone did choose to sit towards the middle of the seating area. These lone customers sat day-dreaming not looking around them at all.

There was very little interaction between customer and worker resulting in very swift service. We counted a substantial number of takeaways. Looking around us we found that most people were drinking coffee in some shape or form while only children were drinking juice or hot chocolate.

We only had one definite "new to Costa" couple but they very quickly worked out the simple system and in the end were behaving just like everyone else.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Random Images

The first challenge in this assignment was selecting RANDOM images. It was very tempting to choose particular images for various reasons. Anyway here are my extremely random images -

The next challenge was to find a selection of helpful people to think up stories which would link these images together.

Here are the results -

  • A baby goat (kid) was found in the Empire State Building by a police dog. The police dog wrapped the kid up in a sock to keep it warm.
Ishbel Johnstone 56yr old Learning Support Teacher

  • Charity makes handmade socks to sell to business people in the Empire State Building to raise money for poor abandoned animals.
Lorna Campbell 23yr old Receptionist

  • Evil corporation, based in the Empire State Building, kidnap (geddit?!) goats to use their wool to produce luxury socks (101 Dalmatians style). Local hero, Boxer dog Sam, saves the goats.
Victor Johnstone 59yr old English Teacher

  • Evil duo, Cecil the goat and Salvester the Boxer dog, break into the Empire State Building in the dead of night to steal floor tiles to sell to some Croatian bandits. They use socks as balaclavas!
Andrew Rankin 22yr old Finance and Business Student

In an attempt to get everyone to come to the same conclusion I added a fourth image -

I'm hoping it's obvious that I was trying to get people to form a similar story to the evil corporation stealing goats to makes socks but I'm not holding my breath as nobody else did!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Consumption of Design

The object of this assignment was to tackle the question, how the idea of the consumption of design to create a sense of identity affects you. Consumption has become the leading tool through which individuals establish their identities. Originally, identities were passed down through the generations in the form of status and class. Whereas now it tends to be the goods that you possess and have on show which define you even if just momentarily. Unfortunately our Western culture tends to focus strongly on having things, wanting things and owning things when in-fact being is far more important. Surely a person who has no possessions still has an identity?

To look into this idea of consumption and identity I obtained some photographs of a relative's kitchen. They were specifically told not to tidy up and for their kitchen to "act natural"! Even though I obviously knew this person I tried to look at the photos as if they were of a complete strangers kitchen. Surprisingly I found this easy to do and feel that I probably know a lot more about the person just by taking a little time to really take in the details of their tastes and habits.

This is the messiest part of the kitchen! I'm sensing an obsessively tidy person.

In speaking to others about their experiences of tackling this task I can understand why some people felt the need to be a little restrained and perhaps politer than they really wanted to be. Jumping to conclusions about a stranger's life, however educated your guesses are is a scary prospect. I feel like I can have a bit more of a free reign to say whatever I like as we're related, they have to forgive me eventually!

Even from this tiny snap-shot various things are clear. This is a woman's kitchen, it's clean and there's no sign of take-away containers or Super Noodle pots. Already a colour theme is emerging, patches of a sort of duck-egg blue are lurking. Everything looks shiny and new but not too showy, suggesting the person is reasonably well-off and takes care of things.

Again, very clean and neat and tidy. If I was in any doubt I'm now certain this is a woman's kitchen with fresh herbs and a recently used iron. I think this person also likes to bake judging by the cake-stand and the loaf-tins in the earlier photo.

This shows a more playful side. This person is also an animal lover. Although the magnets are colourful and perhaps slightly childish they are still obsessively placed which just screams "perfectionist!".

Overall, this kitchen looks very modern and sophisticated, however, there are lots of hints to the owners true personality in the form of splashes of colour and comical items. I think this person might like to come across as very grown-up and refined when in-fact they might actually have a silly sense of humour and be quietly fun-loving.

This photo suggests that the person has a creative side and is interested in crafts, hand-made things. They possibly enjoy travelling judging by the small Spanish looking town-scape. Again, animals, colour and playful objects feature heavily. The lack of clutter and modern, minimalist backs up my previous points.