18th December 2016
5 Eton Lane
Stopping off at PEÑA for a quick take-away breakfast this morning as I set off on my journey home for Christmas. Tucked away, along a small lane beside the University, the laid back Mediterranean vibes make it easy to forget that you’re just five minutes from the library. Visited frequently for study breaks during revision, they always deliver delicious coffee, exotic sandwiches and a welcoming smile from the staff.
With deadlines out of the way and exams finished up, I thought it appropriate to use this weeks post as an opportunity to reflect upon the year - taking a step back and identifying the key points that shaped the year.
One of the most important factors throughout the year has been this blog itself. It has really helped me refine my opinions and form new ones as a result. Setting myself the goal of publishing a blog every Sunday has also pushed me creatively - regular enough to keep me in a routine but with enough time in between to let the areas of discussion come to me naturally and allow my thoughts to develop. Not constraining myself to a specific theme by using the blog as a platform to talk about products, the design industry and the occasional mini-reflection, has allowed the process to feel very natural and consistently posting has really helped me structure my time. Initially beginning as an assignment for our course, it has become something that I thoroughly enjoy and hope to continue into the future.
Something that I couldn’t avoid throughout the year and couldn't have possibly succeeded without! Throughout my design journal this semester I talked about the ‘Manufacturing Journey’ at numerous points, taking my bike from place to place across Glasgow - speaking with fabricators, artists and suppliers - and making discoveries along the way. The most important aspect of this process was feeding off the expertise and experience from each source and adopting the simple tagline “Is there anyone else you can recommend”. The truly amazing nature of the design process that allows us to discover completely new areas and then allow these to build the story behind the final product is to me what really makes design so special.
Throughout the year I spoke a lot about my experiences with different people along the way but one that really stood out was the journey I took to craft the hollow Marble cubes for my project. The two sculptors I worked with - Tom Allan and Alasdair Thompson - really enhanced my passion for the project. Hearing their stories, sharing in their expertise and getting the chance to physically experiment with the material - I simultaneously fell in love with the process and the Marble.
The need to deliver a finished product this semester forced my understanding of the design process to grow into new areas. Carrying this project through numerous iterations - coming up against countless problems and finding solutions - constantly reminded me of a Steve Jobs quote I heard a little over a year ago.
“Stress arises from spending hours on something you hate.
Passion arises from spending hours on something you love.”
The opportunity that this project provided - to fully realise an initial vision; taking it beyond the prototyping stage - allowed this passion to develop, somewhat uncontrollably. Although I enjoyed this, it did alert me to the fact that throughout the process it becomes increasingly important to apply a relatively rigorous approach to bringing yourself back to Earth, by realigning the vision and evaluating project deadlines.
I ended my design journal with the line “Don’t prepare for the unexpected, prepare for the unimaginable” which I feel sums up my project well for a number of reasons, both good and bad. Working with numerous fabricators, there was inevitably going to be instances where the project didn't run smoothly, but I didn't have an appreciation of the level of specification detail required in order to achieve a quality finished product. I have been shown just how easy it would be to compromise upon quality in order to meet delivery deadlines and why we see this in so many products. But also how opposing this by making that final adjustment, carrying out one more test or applying one more stage of finishing to a piece can reveal the magic behind a product. Although sometimes unwelcome, the idea of ‘unimaginable’ can also be an advantageous aspect of the design process. Alterations that occur throughout, that couldn’t be foreseen, give the product a feeling of authenticity - not simply an idea that has been given tactility but something that has grown and developed organically within it’s environment.
Spending time over the summer developing this website and applying for internship opportunities throughout this year has really forced me to analyse how I portray myself to the wider world - I noticed that as a designer I was subconsciously applying the design process to myself. By developing design skills, am I simultaneously developing life skills? The ability to analyse problems, develop solutions in innovative ways and most importantly develop the ability to accept failure and use it as a tool to re-structure an approach. The limitless power that the designer has to not just work with what exists but create completely new components in our ever-changing world allows us to approach problems with optimism. To not be disheartened by the way things are, but instead know that there is always a new solution that just hasn’t been discovered yet.
I have been very in tune with my learning this semester and I think using this time over the Christmas break to do exactly as described - take a look at last few months and realise what can be done differently next year will really help me further refine my process and develop myself. Hopefully continuing the weekly blog will give a summarised portrayal of this development and act as a tool for a similar process further down the line.
With a cosy pairing of porridge and coffee to keep me warm on my walk to the train station and a bag of PEÑA’s coffee beans to remind me of Glasgow while I’m home, it feels quite poetic as I have the time to think back over all the places I have visited this year. The reflective nature of this post pairs well with the long stroll to the train station as I am reminded of Glasgow’s beauty and how it has played just as vital a role in shaping me as my course has. As much as I am excited for what the following year will bring from an academic perspective I am equally excited to discover more hidden spots throughout Glasgow and delve into more delicious breakfasts.