When We Build
"A couple weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend who brought up a talk by a designer he admired. It was so articulate, moving, and useful that he asked the designer how he pulled it together. The secret? The designer developed and rehearsed it over six months. The talk was Wilson Miner’s “When We Build”, which I’ve included as an example of the power of relentless practice. Every design interview is configured differently—there may be critique, collaboration, or a presentation—so ask what to expect and come outrageously prepared. Put more effort into nailing it than anyone would reasonably expect. When you’re just starting out, that’s the only way to make it look easy." - Allison House
Very inspiring talk by Wilson Miner (designer at Apple, Facebook, Rdio etc.) on the role of an interface designer in the modern world and how parallels can be drawn from how we’ve adapted our world previously to fit technology like cars into our lives. The segment where he talks about screens becoming more and more a part of the way we live is fascinating.
However, my favourite moment in this talk is the story about Robert Irwin’s installation in the MoMA, where he learnt to respond to the environment, rather than use previously successful techniques or as it is stated his “bag of tricks”. There are interesting similarities here to life as a designer in my belief. You may have numerous skills or processes as a designer that you have acquired or developed throughout your career, but there is no guarantee that they will be successful at solving the problem in front of you. You may be an expert at coding a website, but maybe a website or app isn’t the best solution to the problem. Perhaps that new favourite font of yours that cost you more than you like to say simply doesn’t fit into the clients branding. Having the bravery and awareness to explore completely new avenues to solve a design problem is a valuable lesson I have taken from this video and one I hope to return to at the start of every new brief.
Here is footage of the Digital Water Pavilion as first mentioned i the talk I previously posted by Carlo Ratti. It was designed for the Zaragoza Expo 2008. The challenge was to use water - the theme of the Expo - as an architectural element. The walls are composed of digitally controlled water droplets which can generate writing, patterns or access spaces. The result is a space that is interactive and reconfigurable; each wall can potentially become an entrance or exit, while the internal partitions can shift depending on the number of people present. The only material elements are the two boxes and the roof, which is a sort of curtain that can move vertically and flatten to the ground removing the presence of the pavilion entirely.
I remember reading somewhere that sometimes the best solution to a brief is not always a poster, an app or anything typical but rather something far more physical and permanent as long as the purpose is a suitable one. Installations are very often a solution to a brief set by either the government, the council or some other reputable organisation. The entire "IAMSTERDAM" campaign is highlighted by its typographic installation and works on more levels than any other foreseeable type of media output could have. This leads me to think that for a brief as big as reducing environmental impact, it needs a suitably big solution, this potentially taking the form of a large interactive installation that is situated in the centre of a mega-city and allows through its functionality for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle to become part of the furniture of the city along with the installation itself. This seems like a perfectly viable way to initiate behavioural change within a city as not only has it been done to a similar effect with different goals, but also it has the opportunity to excite the population with technological features/advancements very akin to the forward-thinking lifestyle of a city.
The sense of mass participation and flexible data dissemination found in the Digital Water Pavilion is the same sort of thing I’m aiming for with my solution to the Unilever brief. In order to give specific representation to a certain person, building, or business’ information I might have to avoid using water as it seems initially difficult to display coherently. I’m leaning more towards the use of lights at the moment to display information as it seems to be far more part of the communicable language of people living in cities around the world.
It’s finally happened… the Unbrella.
Slightly topical too because of todays weather.
Here is the video of the talk I mentioned in the previous post. I found Carlo Ratti’s analogies about Formula 1 and mega-cities very interesting. He talks about how years ago, all you needed to win a race was a good car and a good driver, however in the modern day there are hundreds of experts analysing information that is fed back through the car into the pit lane. Small technical changes made based on this information is now what makes the difference between winning and being completely out of the race.
The way that we can use technology today to gather data/information about the way we live is fascinating. With people being so constantly connected to the internet through smartphones and other devices it opens up a lot of opportunities for a similar process of data gathering and usage to tackle problems previously thought to be out of reach. Ratti mentioned numerous examples of how this sort of sensing and actuating is already being put to use in cities such as Copenhagen with the Copenhagen Wheel, a project which he led himself.
One specific quote from this talk which I found most interesting was that “…giving cities information is enough to initiate change”. In reference to my brief this pointed me more towards tackling the creative challenge of “Reducing Environmental Impact” because if there is a chance that communicating information could solve this brief, it is then simply a case of how to do so in a unique and memorable way.
Among these 100 urban trends/ideas I found one called “Behavioural Change” which is a direct quote from the brief itself. Within the small paragraph about this urban trend there was a referenced talk “Carlo Ratti: Sanitary cities and the Sense-able city”.
One useful feature of the D&AD briefs is that they provide some insightful inspiration links on each briefs page. My initial research route was to explore these as they are clearly on topic and could spark some interesting thoughts.
Of the four links featured on the site the one I found most useful was the “100 ideas for cities” which is part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. The lab is:
"a mobile laboratory about urban life that began as a co-initiative of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the BMW Group. From 2011 to 2013, the Lab traveled to New York, Berlin, and Mumbai. Part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space, the Lab’s goal has been the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking visions and projects for city life. Through the lens of the themes Confronting Comfort, Making, and Privacy and Public Space, this global project has explored how people relate to cities and public space today.”
This is some great satire with a few valid points about designers designing just for other designers.
D&AD - Unilever
I am currently working on the Unilever brief for the D&AD New Blood awards. I chose this brief as it is very broad and requires a lot of thought and explanation before rushing into a solution. I think it has the scope for a big idea to be put to use and I am tired of thinking small with most briefs I’ve completed recently. Unilever have given me three of their brands and I am to choose one and use them as a catalyst to promote behavioural change within mega-cities.
A mega-city is classed as a city with a population of over 10 million people, so naturally mass participation has to be an integral part of my solution.
A current list of mega-cities (highest population to lowest):
• Mexico City
• Sao Paulo
• New York
• Buenos Aires
• Rio De Janeiro
All of my choices and decisions in this process have to be justified, from my choice of city/cities to my choice of brand, choice of application etc.
The three Unilever brands are:
• Ben and Jerry’s
• PG Tips
DomestosI have quickly crossed Domestos off the list of brands I will use as they represent not typical hygiene, which could have been utilised in a solution, but rather cleansing and a sense of expulsion. I did have an initial idea loosely based around the brand to tackle waste disposal/management but it doesn’t have the potential without dwelling on it too much.
PG Tips is a solid brand to use for this brief. Tea itself (not just PG Tips) is already used on a daily basis by a huge amount of the world’s population and therefore also the population of mega-cities, mass participation would be as simple as including the product. They are however very limited in scope fo which cities their influence will work in. Being quintessentially British they don’t sell their product outside of the UK, although I’m not 100% if that is necessarily an issue at this point. My initial idea using this brand as the catalyst was to solve the Health and Wellbeing issue of workers in mega-cities not getting sufficient break time and ending up being overworked and therefore less happy. In a similar vein to smoking shelters offices and other working environments could incorporate tea shelters, a designated 10-15 minute break at a specific point in the day where staff could enjoy a cup of tea with the same social benefits as smoking has for others. The tea shelter could be more comfortable than its smoking counterpart, making use of a sofa, coffee table and other niceties. You never know maybe smokers may see the light and change their break habits in favour of a warmer and equally social area as it gets colder in the winter.
When it comes to Ben and Jerry’s the product itself is not particularly healthy so it perhaps doesn’t have the same potential for any sort of explicit use in a campaign. However, people do confess to ice-cream being an out-of-the-way, joyful food that they have fond memories of as a child. It is without doubt a part of many cultures throughout the world and has a certain pulling power when it comes to peoples view of it despite the obvious health issues. With packaging and general image Ben and Jerry’s tries its best to give off a positive image, they have a fairtrade association and claim to undertaking a 3-part mission including “Social, Product & Economic” angles. My initial idea for this brand was to involve the children of these mega-cities through the incentive/association of ice cream, to take a d-i-y approach to packaging and challenge them in thinking about what is really needed in terms of waste management. After all, ‘children are the future’ so they say.
I think the most potential lies in the PG Tips brand as there is greater scope for initial ideas but I’ll continue to research and leave my options open for now.
Current Work & Blog Schedule
Here is a list of current, ongoing and future modules of work I will be posting about over the next few days/weeks/months.
The Broughton Trust (ACD1) - Project Completed - Blogged
Saint Helena (ACD2) - Project Completed - Not yet blogged.
Share & Share Alike (Roses Awards) - Project Completed - TBC before Deadline: 14/2/14
Unilever (New Blood Awards) - WIP - University Deadline: - Competition Deadline: 19/3/14
Potential YCN Brief (Student Awards) - Not yet initiated - Competition Deadline: 27/3/14
Web Module (ProCon3) - WIP - Ongoing
Dissertation - WIP - Ongoing
Kabukimono - Self Initiated Project - Ongoing
The Broughton Trust - Presentation Slides 19 & 20
As the 15 minute presentation was drawing to a close we introduced the proposed poster application of the logo. The tagline would be edited to properly suit the theme in question and the appropriated faded imagery would help give a more human appeal to the trust’s advertisements.
After these slides we showed a basic, brief iteration of how their website would look with the new branding compared to how it looks now and showed a very rushed animation of the logo. Then they asked a few questions but those they did ask we had fairly solid responses lined up in regards to explaining certain design choices.
Evaluation of Presentation
This brings a close to my documentation of the presentation/pitch. It’s the second one I have been involved in since last years Carisma brief (also a charitable trust). I feel I have learnt a lot from these experiences and it has given me a lot more confidence when it comes to presenting my ideas. From what I can gather, if you are 100% or even 90% behind your idea and have done plenty of research into every aspect of the brand and its market, there’s not a lot of ways you can go wrong on the day.