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!
- Op-art and kinetic art: colours and shapes to create optical illusions.
- Fashion: we needed to know what’s already out there.
- 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.
- Materials: soft, light, flexible and stretchy to allow movement.
- 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.
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.
To consider and control both environmental and social aspects at the moment of designing can be a very hard job, but here are my top design products to inspire you:
1. Reducing the amount of different materials used makes the product easier to recycle. This lamp uses only cork and metal, no screws nor glue.
2. Using locally sourced materials reduces the negative environmental impact caused by transport and boosts local economies, usually improving social development. These containers were made in Mexico using the fiber of an edible fruit that grows from a vine that grows in the area.
3. Considering standardised measures of materials can generate less waste. This desk was designed using one sheet of plywood with very little wasted.
4. Making use of recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials will reduce the environmental impact. This water container is made of recycled paper, which is easier to recycle than plastic.
5. Painting a material usually complicates the recycling process. It’s nice to take advantage of the natural appearance of materials. This cube toy was designed taking advantage the natural beauty of the material.
6. Looking after fair trade conditions will promote that products are developed in an environment that ensures decent working conditions and fair remuneration for workers. This means that a socially responsible product will improve the overall quality of life of the people involved with it. These baskets were made by indigenous people of the Philippines using traditional basket weaving techniques, with local materials upcycling old plastic containers. This project was made to boost this certain community.
7. Designing for disassembly will help the people in charge of recycling the product making all parts easy to pull apart. This can be achieved by avoiding the use of adhesives to bond materials of different types. Mechanical joints are always better, like this wooden stool that uses no glue and no screws, it structures it self by the way it was designed.
8. Giving a second function to a product causes the product to extend its use stage. This bottle cap doesn’t have to go in the garbage. It can be a toy instead.
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: http://www.designsojourn.com/rethinking-the-hairdryer/
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.