KALINA SURMA MACD FALMOUTH
Design Research Journal
The Boundaries Brief
Out of all the modules explored this term, I believe I will find Boundaries the most challenging. It is most unlike anything I have produced before, as I have no had the chance to involve much critical theory into my practical work within the BA. The outcomes also seem to be the most conceptual, which is something I have generally consciously stayed away from.
That being said, as research and writing make up a very enjoyable part of my process aside from my physical work, this could be a good opportunity to begin to combine the too and get a greater use out of these skills within my portfolio. As I am still unsure what path to take at postgrad, hopefully modules like these will encourage these skills to intersect, giving me greater future perspective.
Workshop with Jack Bardwell
The workshop with Jack Bardwell was a three-day group experience aiming to take inspiration from our immediate surroundings, and subvert the use of everyday university objects and spaces. We began by photographing several staple day-to-day features, such as peers and elders we could learn from, as well as objects and spaces foreign to us. We used these pictuers to create narrative-based inventions, via the 'invention game' which involved two participants; one would try to describe the invention with no prior knowledge and three selected pictures, whilst the other would act as their 'arms' within a suit - a game similar to partnered charades.
This game was my highlight of the experience, as not only was it an incredibly creative way to come up with idea pathways and explore concepts one would otherwise dismiss for being too abstract, but also because it was so much fun. It worked really well as a team-building activity to prepare us for the grouped element of the workshop, which I always personally struggle with.
We then worked together to develop out inventions, ad eventually pitch and choose one to execute in real life. This was the real challenge of this workshop, as at this point we were collectively quite strapped for time, and at times the workload felt unbalanced due to our specialised roles sometimes not being entirely relevant for the entirety of the activity. Our final product, a 'thought chamber' operated by a pull-rope, containing a speaker which spoke collective wisdom gathered from interviews, was definitely not what I had expected to make going into the experience. My group was responsible for gathering interviews, which we decided should focus on advice based on the human experience, no matter how big or small. Admittedly, some of this advice ended up being somewhat goofy, which was not everyone's cup of tea, but I personally liked this approach as I didn't want the whole experience of listening to the interviews to appear too 'fake deep'.
Having struggled to find a focus for the project so far, I decided that I want to do somehting that I will just find fun and exciting. The serious undertone of the Boundaries module is still important for me to capture, however I want my final outcome to be something that is fun and maybe slightly silly to produce. Because of this, I have decided to use Jack's invention game as a thought starting point, and consider ways in which the element of costume and roleplay could impact the functioning of a design studio. I believe this also had real weight in the context of the current state of the design industry, as a lot of self-promotional techniques feel increasingly like playing a character or caricature of yourself, by emboldening your 'trademark' traits - something that I have really struggled with as someone who does not want to focus on a niche and is very broadly interested in just about everything.
Our first piece of critical writing on the course officially begins with the start of this module, as suplementary content drawing from our 'area of praxis'.
Practice, as distinguished from theory
This is probably the bit of the term that I have been most looking forward to, being able to explore a subject through a process that feels incredibly in-depth and intimate. If I was honest, I would have every module have an essay element, as that is when I feel my research can be at its strongest and I can gain fuller comprehension of a subject. I'm sure I would quickly retract this statement once deadline season came around.
So far, I am interested in pursuing something parallel to roleplay and costume, perhaps something relating to how these elemtns intersect in theatre and film.
Choice Architecture Lecture
The term choice architecture is used to represent the practice of presenting choices in different ways so as to impact decision making. It is a commonly used marketing and political strategy, with elements such as nudge theory (altering behaviour in a predictable way without omitting choice) outlining how we are unknowingly manipulated in our day-to-day lives. It sounds pretty ominous, but sometimes it is used in a positive ways, such as in public health campaigns.
This lecture also refreshed the foundations of psychological theories that I first encountered durin my psychology A-Level, such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (pictured right), which depicts human needs for a fulfilling existence, from basics such as food and shelter, to, finally, self-actualisation. I read an interesting paper on fashion which highlighted that self-actualisation is in fact a very modern concept, with the author suggesting that if you were to ask someone living in the Middle Ages about self-actualisation, they would have no idea what you were talking about.
The project has really started to take shape, and I have become truly invested into the research stage - the hurdle I tend to have to get over is choosing a focus, but once I get here, the project process becomes a very enjoyable experience. This week I examined academic texts on clothing and roleplay, as well as having a closer look at the icon of both of those genres, Grayson Perry. Perry has been a long-term inspiration to me, he is one of the key artists that convinced me to pursue my BA studying Illustration, so I am happy to finally spend some dedicated time studying his work ethic and approach further. Something I learned this week which I didn't know before was that Grayson Perry uses his costumes as a research element, as a primary research method to 'harvest' reactions to then use as social commentary within his artwork.
Authorial and Adverserial Design
Authorial design steps outside of the constraints of what design would regularly be regarded as, as the designer is no longer a blank slate, but rather are inherently impacts the work by their personal design perspective. This is something I hadn't been introduced to before, and also something that reframed my perspective of design, as the lack of personal introspective input is always something which made me lean more towards fine art/illustrative approaches instead.
On the other hand, adversarial design raises political issues, pushing into all discplines. Adversarial design naturally concerns inquiry and discussion, and therefore the context of its placement is often public provoking. Agonism is central to this, a condition of productive contestation, aiming to pick holes in what we understand as status quo and accepted.
My deeper investigation stage has taken me down many avenues this week, finalising my project outcome as a Jungian-inspired roleplay based studio aiding its participants in seperating their personal and professional self. To inform this, I have used elements from theory behind costume and workplace design, as well as a focus on Jung's twelve character archetypes, which act as re-appearing roles within story, myth, and society. These involve characters such as the hero and lover, each of which strives for a seperate goal. I identified that these roles are applicable to formalised sub-roles within the studio, even beyond the creative realm, such as accounts managers and brand strategists. At this stage, I have gathered most of data and experimentation I need to execute a final outcome, in the form of a manifesto, which would include studio uniform reflecing the archetypes as well as a set of values and approaches.
This week, my essay subject has been solidified as investigating uniform through a psychological and sociological lens; throughout much of my research, the disciplines of psychology and sociology have overlapped, as uniform has impact both on an individual and group level. Uniform, from my perspective, also encapsulates elements such as sub-culture and costume, making uniform any clothing that positions the wearer within a group. Whilst researching Jung for the core Boundaries brief, I came across the archetype of the persona, which refers to the mask that we wear to present a curated version of ourselves to the external world. This seems to reflect uniform very well, therefore I am centering my approach through a Jungian lens specificially, but also want to dip into other supporting elements of the psychological and sociological fields. I am still very much in the research stage, however I have finally been able to identity a clear outline to pursue.