The time has come for me to choose my topic for my fourth year Product Design honours project. I began by defining my passions within the subject.
Over the two years I’ve developed a fascination with how we as humans define our identity. In the past it was all about metaphysical things such as community, achievement, tradition and making yet today we are manipulated by large corporations through very clever campaigns to define ourselves through the brands which we consume.
I want to design for cause not symptom – for the motivations underpinning our waste culture.
I began by expanding on all the issues which interest me and looking at different people who solve these issues in different ways. Such as the permaculture movement encouraging people to value and respect nature once again; the writing of Jonathan Chapman which explores why our relationships with products deteriorate with time; and the impact of social groups such as Skill Share Dundee who teach people to value themselves through teaching them to make things.
I narrowed it down to three possible projects for our first day back in class last week
- A project teaching people about their relationship with nature through beekeeping
- A project on what boat building could teach us about product design
- And a project about creating value in the products we own
I spoke to my tutor Graham Pullin about the possibility of doing a speculative design – not an outright solution to a problem but something which raises questions and starts conversation. I feel that speculative design could be an interesting method for me to communicate to people deep issues of identity yet his reply was don’t do speculative design for the sake of it, there’s nothing innovative about doing it in itself. He said that it could be a valid means to explore a topic but really it’s all about material execution.
I did this diagram whilst thinking about what it is to do a speculative design. There’s no point in doing a piece of art (as my building a boat project could be), that wouldn’t fit into the very user based structure of my fourth year and would therefore be a waste of resources. Ideally, I would solve quite a specific problem defined by some or all of the issues I am interested in. This solution could, however, open up discussion afterwards.
Next Steps I need to solidify my concept. After speaking to my tutor Chris Lim he explained that I have a very clear idea of the values behind my design practice but not much idea of how to execute that in a product. He also explained that I don’t need to develop one solution instantly, I could develop a number of solutions this semester – perhaps material explorations of Jonathan Chapman’s thinking on emotionally durable design. He explained that I could do some really valuable user research with these objects and then take that onto the second semester of my fourth year to develop one final concept to show at Degree Show.