Category Archives: reflections

The New Untouchables

First of all, sorry I haven’t blogged in a long long while. I’ve been deep into my thesis work, so I’ve been sparse with my writing. Apologies! However, I did come across a great article in the New York Times that I’d like to share with everyone. It is called The New Untouchables by Thomas L. Friedman. It’s an article about creating new opportunities for oneself during this time of recession. I think one of the major lines that can describe this article is, “those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.”

This also brings to light what our Chairperson Anne Burdick has to say about designers in her article, “Graduate Education: Preparing Designers for Jobs that Don’t Exist (yet)“.

I see the opportunity right now to design a job that doesn’t exist quite yet. As a designer, it is not only up to me to try my best to do well at what I do, but it is also up to me to carve out spaces, or rather, “design” out spaces in the working world that have the potential to do things that existing job positions just don’t do right now. What can my explorations do to enhance my own practice as a design researcher? What am I doing as a designer to advocate for the induction of new creative practices within our culture?

Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Future Creature Presentation

I presented my Future Creature concept to the Illuminations: Lighting class last week. The class is comprised mainly of Product Designers and Environmental Designers. I was able to get a lot of feedback about my project, and I also recruited a few people that offered to help with my thesis! Because this was a lighting class, we focused a lot on how the object could serve other purposes. We also discussed other observations about the behaviors of the object.

Here’s some of the feedback:
– It’s really entertaining and considerations should be made to turn it into a product.
– Color and math games can easily be attached to this object.
– The object seems alive. The smaller light balls seem to have a personality when they roll around together.
– A good starting point to evoke imagination and storytelling (YES! This is what I wanted to hear!)
– Consider other materials – i.e. what if it was softer, what if the outer capsule was made of silicon, what other colors could be used, etc.
– What would it be like if the balls were different sizes too?
– People liked the sound of the clicking tilt switches – it sounded like a very low level of communication between the balls

After the presentations were over, I went home and took some photos of the object in the dark. Enjoy!

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Process!!!

In preparation for my upcoming thesis review, I’ve been mapping out my process, writing down questions, pulling quotes, drawing little diagrams all in the effort to articulate this terms explorations. Where was I and where am I now and what am I aiming to do? What is my own process teaching/informing me?

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Redirect!!

Thesis isn’t just about picking something you like and running with it. It’s not about whittling down your understanding of a proposed topic into a precise outcome. It’s a push and pull. It’s about shifting your perspective from one day to the next. It’s about putting some things on the shelf, about exploring things that are hanging on by a thread, about going backwards, projecting blindly forward, and dancing around a bonfire of ideas until something emerges from the ashes.

There’s that old saying that Mother knows best. Well, Chairperson knows best too. I had a meeting with her a few weeks ago and she threw, what I call, a Golden Wrench into my work. For the last, roughly two and half weeks, I’ve been re-evaluating my explorations in relation to my interests within and beyond this program. I’ve been exploring things in relation to light, natural phenomena and it’s relation to human phenomena. I’ve mapped out past interests in relation to these current explorations, but in the meantime, had put other skill sets and endeavors to the wayside. While in the program, I’ve also been heavily involved in design research methodologies, social issues and design in education. What happened to those areas of interest? I have several answers for this. The point, however, is that I found a way to bring them back into the mix! This has caused me to redirect my focus on my thesis in ways still related to my explorations, but with a stronger emphasis on design research practices in relation to a pro-social agenda. 

While I was exploring light and natural/social phenomena, I was also exploring social structures of neighborhoods and communities. I didn’t post much on this blog about the social aspect of my exploration, but I was researching and examining how my experiments could situate themselves into urban environments, into societies. 

Current Standing:
My thesis project has been shifting towards developing a design-based practice in relation to social issues
. In specifics for this particular project, I am going to use Design Research tactics (both new and old) to understand how we can get youth and educators to think more critically about the future state of their world (“their world” being relative to the activities/workshops within which they will participate).  Through the creative means of a designed probe and workshop/series of workshops in collaboration with youth groups and educators, I will spend the next following weeks exploring ways in which we can get younger minds to spend time understanding the importance of speculation and asking questions. We are often taught to ask, Who, What, Where, When and How; but what about “What If?” 

How can I use the “future” as a jumping off point for this project? What creative and fun ways can we talk about the future? 

Can I start uncovering ways where design-based learning projects become a portal to a global workplace and/or society that values collaboration and creative means of developing ideas? Can the imagination situate itself in intellectual or academic arenas? How can I, as a designer, shape this effectively?

Study Time!

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I took some time to go back through my sketchbook and and past collection of inspiration images to look for patterns and possible leads to new connections. Images of nature, shadows, reflections, stars, ceiling arches, the aurora borealis and deep sea creatures were among the many images. 

These images  led to the discovery of different artists, architects, designers, scientists and theorists who have since influenced my work. Being able to see the scope of sketches and images allowed me to map out my interests as well as see how my work and aesthetics have become more specified over time. The relationship between the images all exist within a pool of thought that correlates to the physical work I’ve been doing. It’s been reassuring and is pushing me to explore my work in more detail. 

A review of my sketches and images have pushed more ideas for the form, the scale and technology within my work. It has also allowed me to ask more questions about the meaning and messages within the several forms I’ve been working on. A larger question that has been generating lately is where media art exists within media design, if at all? This is a challenge I have come across, that I must face as I continue my work.

A Walk Into Nature

I spent about a half hour walking up and down the streets around our studio the other day, observing the foliage that lined the streets. There was a slight bit of wind that would come and go, catching the reeds, causing them to bow and sway as a furry mass. The reed bushes lined the edge of the sidewalk curbs. As cars would drive by, small gusts of wind generated from the passing vehicles would cause the reeds to make the same movements. Whether it was by nature or the movement of man-made objects, the plants moved in the same way.

The past two weeks or so have been a mix of experimentation of materials and circuitry, and contemplation about the context of my work. My work has been nature-inspired, but now I think it’s starting to go further than just being nature-inspired. I believe phenomena that occurs in nature can be used to fuel commentary on man-made impacts on our environment. 

In our society, we are informed of environmental issues by being shown the negative impacts perpetuated by our actions. Through various mediums, we are informed about the detrimental outcomes of our habits of consumption and waste with depictions that are often negative and full of decay. It’s often an ominous the-world-will-come-to-an-end-if-we-don’t-act-now approach. However, what if we were to inform people and bring attention to these people by juxtaposing the information we disseminate? What if we provided visual information about a so-called ominous issue with a beautified display of information – in particular with the affordances of light and nature-inspired objects and spaces?

So, I was thinking about sunsets and how those hazy orange skies we often see at dusk are caused by aerosol particles disseminated by man-made products. My first reaction is to think that these sunsets are beautiful. My later reaction is that they are a dreadful sign of environmental degradation. It is a beautiful decay that is unfortunate, but nonetheless catches our attention enough in a moment of wonderment. 

How is that concept applicable in my own work? With the concepts I have been developing, how can I inform an audience of other environmental issues or natural phenomena in ways that echo these sunsets? One of my aims is to produce a body of work that will be speculative, that will provide information about an issue in a visual and ironic way. These are some of my thoughts for now. I’m currently developing prototypes and sketches where the context matches the visual forms that I’m trying to create. The context and meaning of my work is starting to formulate into something more cohesive and I feel that I’m on the right track for now. There are other larger issues to confront, which I will be trying to cover in the next week or two. As of now, I’m off to go do some making!