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  • Design inspiration and ‘ah-ha’ moments

    Simple ideas work best. Think logically and work methodically. We all experience processes and products which can be improved; here’s a great example of considered design:

    When we travel we connect with a product (our passport) this enables us to connect with people (visiting family, friends and business associates). Traditional entry and exit passport stamps are basic shapes, they are functional and simple, but Masahiko Sato’s design of the Japanese entry and exit stamps for Kenya Hara’s 2000 exhibition RE-DESIGN: Daily Products of the 21st Century, explores and re-thinks everyday processes and objects. This rethink puts a smile on the traveller’s face, creating an ‘ah-ha’ moment that is full of goodwill.

    Traditional entry and exit stamps

    ‘10,000 tourists a day begin their first visit to Japan, this simple change could produce 10,000 positive ah-ha’s a day, or 10,000 friendly feelings, borne via this small taste of hospitality’

    Kenya Hara, Designing Design Lars Muller Publishers, 2008

    Masahiko Sato’s improved entry and exit Stamps

  • Collaging Your Ideas

    A great method that will guide you though the design process and help you when collating your design sheets for competition entry is the creation of a collage, which by definition is a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing.

    Collage is a visualisation technique that can help you to determine and express the colour palette of the product, materials, shapes; the context and even your target market as this new universe that you’re creating needs to relate to them.

    How to create a collage

    1. Decide what you want to communicate and brainstorm words that relate to your project. Using abstract concepts at the beginning will help you to broaden your imagination and give you more possibilities.
    2. Search images that relate to those ideas. Use magazines, newspapers, Google, and gather as much content as possible. Analogies from different disciplines are great sources of inspiration.
    3. Select the most relevant images and start playing around. Decide the orientation of the background; consider the size of the images, their separation/integration and structure the composition.
    4. Once the collage meets your expectations paste everything together or if you’ve been working with online images then use Illustrator or Photoshop, as they are great tools to modify the images and make them look exactly how you would like.
    5. The collage summarises the concept you’re working on. So how do you know if it´s right? Show it to your teachers, friends or even to your mum and ask them what they see… if they mention some of the concept you brainstormed, you’re on the right track. You could use some of these collaged visualisations of your ideas as part of your entry sheets if they really help communicate the feel of your product.

    Collages help structuring, developing, analysing and presenting visual issues that are difficult to express in words so if the direction of the project hasn’t been defined or you’re struggling with the user/ colours/ context then doing one is a great way to develop your ideas or a great way to consolidate and express your ideas for your design sheets!

    By Design Expert Andrea Amistadi

  • The Design Process – From Crisis to Creativity

    How to navigate the design process from crisis to creativity, with real world design project experience from Design Industry Expert Andrea Amistadi.

    Andrea explains more:

    Being that this year’s Design Ventura competition relates to the theme of move I want to share a project, which my friend and I worked on while being design students. The assignment was to develop a contemporary dance costume whose shape had to change when being used.

    Where do we start? Research!
    We researched the concept of movement in different disciplines: art, dance, everyday objects and fashion, as we needed to understand how to translate that into a costume. Our first source of inspiration ended up being a Chinese lantern and how its shape and dimension change when you start playing with it.

    Inspiration and ideas!

    1. Op-art and kinetic art: colours and shapes to create optical illusions.
    2. Fashion: we needed to know what’s already out there.
    3. Contemporary dance: we had to understand the body in movement in order to create a costume for it. As a designer, you think about needs.
    4. Materials: soft, light, flexible and stretchy to allow movement.
    5. Colours: bright, they needed to be seen.

    Once we had enough information we created a prototype and tested it. Is it easy to wear? Is it too heavy? Does it actually change its shape? What isn’t working? We had a long process of testing, implementation, evaluation and redesign.

    Four days before our deadline, things weren’t going that well, we received terrible feedback when showing the prototype, it didn´t look good or interesting and it wasn´t working properly either. We were running out of time and freaking out. We started the project having a great idea, but by the end there was tension and we needed to find a quick solution if we wanted to make it work.

    How do you move on from crisis?
    First we needed to identify the problem. We asked for feedback, we went back to our research. We tested some of the solutions and realised that by changing the materials we would gain more flexibility and reduce the weight. So now we needed to refine the design which meant building it from scratch… Ahhhhh!!!!

    We spent the next three days sewing, making the weirdest dance moves, taking pictures, eating loads of crisps, not getting much sleep and also having fun.

    What we learnt from this experience?
    The design process is not a linear path; it’s all about keeping an open mind, finding ways to improve, being critical and researching. You might need to go back to the beginning sometimes to find a solution but that’s the way it works. Be open to opinions, curiosity and experiment. Talk to your team members, teachers and share your ideas with people that are not involved in the project, so you´ll get a fresh perspective. Ideas and solutions come from the most unexpected places, so keep your eyes open.

    So what happened in the end with our contemporary dance costume? Well… it ended up being published in a fashion and arts magazine and also was featured as part of an exhibition showcasing new products and trends of young designers. We were very proud in the end but it is the memory of that very long weekend when everything ‘clicked’ together, working as part of a team and having fun what we still remember the most.

  • Cheap Materials for Clever Design

    When thinking about good design, sometimes the most simple of materials can lead to innovative, cheap, practical or beautiful solutions.

    Paper is a fantastically versatile material; although it seems everyday, designers have elevated the material by using it in new ways. Even just considering different kinds of paper chair, as in this blog post, you can see the myriad different ways a simple material can be manipulated through clever design practice.

    This environmentally friendly chair by Peter Plantan and Nusa Zupanc uses a sandwiching technique, gluing together thousands of pieces of paper to create a dense structurally stable material almost like plywood. through layering and gluing, flimsy newspaper becomes strong enough to sit on. Check out their design blog to find out more about the design and construction process.

    This pop-up chair “Watching You”, designed by Sekita Design Studio, uses thin sheets organised in a waffle form to give it strength. If you push it from the side it will collapse easily and fold away, but when you exert downwards pressure on it by sitting down it should stay standing.

    Christian Feibig’s Polygonal Paper Chair is based on computer rendering of a Chesterfield chair using only polygonal faces. This chair looks beautiful, but do you think it would break if you sat on it?


    This chair designed by Anton Green uses folded paper in triangle shapes to create a really strong and “sittable” chair just from paper. This is an example of how great design can create a beautiful looking and functional product from a simple and inexpensive material.

  • Designer Profile: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

    For our first Designer Profile of 2015 we are looking at our great brief setters for this year Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby.

    The Barber Osgerby partnership was formed while the pair were studying at university and they have been collaborating ever since. Their work shows how simplicity in design and materials can make for a winning product.

    Their award-winning design for the Olympic Torch had to be both beautiful and practical. Not only is it the potent symbol of the Olympic Games, but it also had to be able to stay alight through all kinds of weather conditions.

    Barber & Osgerby curated a Design Museum exhibition call ‘In the Making’ which halted the manufacture of familiar objects to make you stop and think about how they are made, what processed and materials go into making an object and also what waste is created.

    You can also find Barber & Osgerby products in the Design Museum Shop, maybe your Design Ventura idea will on sale next to them.

  • Product of the Week: Air Vase by Torafu

    The Japanese architect and design firm, Torafu, have designed a product at an affordable price yet the unique features it owns has without a doubt gained more value than its selling price of only £11.

    The Air Vase is an easily malleable household item solely made of paper and is designed to be stretched and shaped into a vase, plate or bowl. Furthermore, its thin and flexible material allows it to be folded when not in use. To view the product, select the following link.

    Moreover, Torafu have been well known for producing both exciting and ingenious products through simple design and manufacturing. These designs include a doll’s house within a wooden chair and the Catchbowl.

     However, despite its practicality; Torafu have also designed it to be a different colour on each side of the vase when viewed from different angles. Torafu have undoubtedly proven the beauty that can be presented through the simple and practical household items used on day-to-day bases.

  • How to attract your target audience through design

    Hopefully by now you’re well on your way to developing and refining your chosen ideas. During my school workshops I saw some really good beginnings of drawn and sketched designs. Here is my advice on how to use design to attract your chose target audience; consider this both from your product and a packaging design perspective.

    My two key areas I will talk about here are ‘colour’ and ‘packaging’. I’ve picked a few examples of projects as reference for you. One thing to note on both of these areas is to keep things simple; the more complicated you make the look of your designs and packaging, the less chance your audience is going to want to pick it up in the Design Museum’s shop and, ultimately, buy it.

    There are many ways to use colour in your designs and packaging, so try out plenty of options.

    Colour can be a tricky area for designers as colours can mean different things to different people and not all colours are effective as when you would expect them to be. For example, pink is a colour traditionally known to appeal to a female audience, but take a look at what cycling brand Rapha have done to utilise pink in their packaging, which mainly attempts to appeal to a male audience. The subtle use of the pink makes the products feel premium and looks well designed; not all use of colour has to be bold.

    On the other hand, a bold single colour on your designs and packaging can help your product stand out against others on the shelf. Take a look at how food brand Makers & Merchants brand and package their products; simply just with the use of a bright red colour which is striking and looks appealing.

    By not over complicating your packaging, your audience will quickly and easily be able to see your product and figure out its function.

    When designing your product’s packaging, think about how much packaging is actually needed. You will have spent lots of time designing and refining the actual look of your product, so perhaps minimal packaging could be used to attract your audience in the Design Museum’s shop.

    A few great examples of this are firstly from Mustang jeans, who actually used their jeans as the outer wrapping when a customer ordered a pair from their online shop.

    Secondly, take a look at the Turbo Flyer toy, a wooden snap-out aeroplane toy which is housed in minimal packaging which reflects the design of the product itself.

    By Industry Expert Paul Jenkins

  • Drawing helps you think

    Every designer draws. Getting your ideas down on paper helps you to make sense of your thoughts and create original work. Below are a few tips to help you with your sketches:

    KEEP IT SIMPLE!! Everyone wants to make their work look good but producing a masterpiece at the design stage just wastes time. A quick line drawing should be enough for you to get an idea of what your product does…some of the best designs have literally started on the back of a napkin!

    (Milton Glaser’s sketch and final design for the “”I ‘Heart’ New York”” identity)

    REFINEMENT . The best designs need a lot of refinement- design classic the Dyson Vacuum cleaner was redesigned 5127 times! So draw, draw, draw and draw again until you’re happy with the design of your product. A pencil and paper are a lot cheaper than a prototype!

    (James Dyson’s original Dyson vacuum cleaner)

    COLLECT IDEAS AND SHARE. Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident drawing your ideas. Fashion designer Paul Smith has a great ‘eye’ for fashion but lacks the skill to sketch out his designs. Instead he collects words and patterns to create a ‘mood board’ which shows his designers how he would like his clothes to feel, they then sketch up ideas for him to approve. Partner up with a friend in your group who can help visualise your thoughts.

    (Paul Smith’s notes and designers sketches)

    GOOD DRAWING/BAD DRAWING: Drawing is a safe way to make big mistakes and learn from them. No one is going to die over a bad drawing- so relax and let your mind wander to the craziest of places. And remember, the rubber is there for a reason…

    (Russian designer Nicolai Ladovskii’s design proposal for a block of flats in Moscow)

  • Prototyping – Making Ideas

    Now your team has an idea or even more than one. Time to test your ideas. Get making; prototyping; take your idea from a sketch on a page to something you can hold in your hands. Then you have something to show people – use their comments to help you make your idea stronger. Use anything: paper; cardboard; stick together other objects. Prototyping can be scary at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. And once you do, you will want to prototype every time you design.

    Below are some of great prototypes. Notice none of them are complicated or anything like the finished product.

    Bowtiful bow tie –

    Supersoaker –

    Dyson vacuum cleaner – and


  • What makes a good idea great?

    Enterprising ideas: Simple ideas with big appeal – what makes a good idea great?

    Explaining what makes a good idea great is tricky, first it’s understanding what makes a an idea ‘great’ in the first place.

    Personally, I think it’s an idea which makes you smile, it captures your full attention, you immediately ‘get it’, you value it’s cleverness, usefulness or sheer beauty.

    You don’t have to be an experienced designer to hit upon a great idea, the process gets easier with experience, years of brain training! But with applied dedication, curiosity, perseverance and imagination anyone can come up with that winning idea. It’s all about having an open, enquiring mind. And, the time to properly consider and develop your thinking into strong concepts.

    Remember, everything’s been done before, it’s about learning from what’s been done and making things even better. A completely innovative, fresh new idea will always stand out, that’s what you should strive for.

    To be really ‘great’ the idea really has to answer the brief in the most succinct way, the simpler the better.

  • Why Prototype?

    You have begun to formulate and develop great ideas for unconventional, innovative and eye catching products. You’ve researched your target audience and their wants and needs, you’ve researched the Design Museum shop and your direct competitors. But how do you really make sure your design idea will work when it is produced?

    In order to ensure product designs will be successful, manufacturing needs to be considered right from the first step of the design process. This also means thinking about:

    Materials – what will the product be made of and where do I source these materials?
    Production – how is it made?
    Functionality – will it work in the way I intend it to?
    Aesthetics – will it look the way I want it to?
    Budget – will all of my requirements fit within the Design Ventura product budget?

    A good way to begin exploring the manufacture of your product is to begin prototyping.

    Making mock-up examples of your products early on in your design process will give you an immediate insight into whether your product will work, or if you need to simplify your design, change your material or use a different manufacturing process.

    Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with a great idea, but when it comes to manufacturing, it doesn’t work. Prototyping will give you the chance to look at manufacturing in the early stages of design. If you can identify potential production problems in the prototyping stage, you will have more opportunity to develop your design and solve these issues, ensuring your Design Ventura product is the best it can be!

    Read more about another designer who designs by making here:

    This blog has been illustrated with some examples of prototypes made by Beal High School students during a Design Surgery workshop at the Design Museum with Museum Educator Lea Jagendorf, Design Industry Expert Wyn Griffiths and Business Industry Expert Nada Milanovic.