Monday, 4 October 2010

New Blog!

I have moved my blog to Wordpress this year the link is..

I will still be keeping this blog up and running though.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Research Proposal


Assignment 5

Throughout semester 1 I investigated into the subject of advertising and social networking, using secondary research to support my views and allowing me to evidently verify my opinions. Books such as Emotional Design, Norman, D, and a journal article, Reaching Generation Next, Sylavain, L, were successful in my research however in order to proceed further with the investigation I had to have primary sourced research to create stronger evidence for this subject.

After studying different techniques of primary research I was able to assess the topic and allow myself to take my research further. Visual experiments, observation and interviewing all present valid choices for research approaches into the topic of advertising and social networking and taking my previous results of these methods I was able to determine which suited specific areas of the subject.

I previously undertook an investigation into the question of whether buyers are knowledgeable about what they are buying. I theorised that to determine this answer, the question of where the information was obtained from was most important, believing that advertisement was an essential source of knowledge. I proceeded with the investigation supported by interviews undertaken by a sales adviser (18-24), ‘shopaholic’ (45-55), ‘non- shopaholic’ (18-24) and a couple living together (45-60). The results from this research, however broad, would be a primary source in the investigation of advertisement; showing a brief demographic for products and the affects advertisement had on the consumers. However in order to achieve a more successful result, a different and wider variety of subjects could be carefully interviewed, taking into account the way the questions are phrased. People generally do not always like to openly admit that they are influenced by advertisements so in order to get an honest answer I would have to ask them to account situations and let them tell a story that may present evidence to support my theory. Learning from the last interviews, avoiding ‘closed’ questions prevented dead ends in the conversation and allowed the interviewee to feel more at ease. In addition to the nature of the questions, an opening ‘visual’ question seemed very effective in allowing the subject to relax and feel more open to answer further questions.

The topic of interviewing would not need to be limited to just advertisement, the social networking aspect of the subject has still to be covered and integrating the two topics into the same interview would allow further support for the subject. Interviewing people that use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis would be classed as good subjects; the results, if successful would show how subjective the users are to the advertising integrated into the sites. Creating a control for the interviews such as comparing the results to a group of people who don’t use social networking sites would bring a better balance to the research. Learning from the results between the ‘shopaholic’ and the ‘non-shopaholic’ interview proved that in some cases opposite personas do not always produce opposite results.

Whilst exploring examples of advertisement within social networking site, I came across many successful campaigns that integrated these two sources allowing them to effectively sell their product. This process works on any level of consumerism, and most importantly as a designer selling yourself and your practice follows the same nature. My interest fell primarily on the work of Johanna Basford due to the level of design that was put into this advertising network strategy. Incorporating her own designs and work (that she wishes to be known for) into the world of social networking presented an interactive source of advertising; allowing her brand to ‘stick’ in people’s mind without harassing the networking users. As in the article from the journal, ‘Applied Arts’ (Sylvain 2008, Reaching Generation Next) says, “That community has a fortress around it. And so, it’s getting harder and harder to find a way to get through. The people are there to socialise, not to be sold to. If we’re too aggressive, they’ll find somewhere else to go.”(Tony Chapman, CEO, Capital C, p.40). Basford has successfully infiltrated the social network of Twitter in a fun and interactive way that most of the users will hardly notice that they are participating in an act of advertisement. Therefore arranging an interview with Johanna Basford would get a designer’s view on the subject of social networking being used as a canvas for advertising.

As well as interviewing techniques there is also the method of observation that would use primary research to support the subject. A previous investigation involving observation as a source of research, primarily took the role of observing people, however it would work just as well by observing a social networking site. Instead of watching the mannerisms of people in say a shopping centre an observation of the process people undertake to involve themselves in the ritual of networking would class as supporting evidence. Breaking down the process right from the very beginning such as how to log on to the site, the first thing people appear to do once on the site, the patterns that emerge through the communication between fellow networkers and so on would allow, if thoroughly executed, a deeper understanding of the behaviour conducted buy the users. These results in turn could propose new methods of advertising techniques, filling niches that have been unturned and enabling the full potential of the social networking strengthening sites.

With social networking sites many word of mouth epidemics are started but aren’t necessarily based on advertisements. This is the case of the colour status that spread across the pages of Facebook. The colour represented the colour of bra a female was wearing at the time they updated their status, raising awareness of breast cancer. However it is suggested that the initiation of this viral trend wasn’t started by a breast cancer awareness foundation, instead by a regular user of the networking site. Malorie Lucich a Facebook spokeswomen said “What is particularly unique about this grass-roots campaign is that it seems to have been started by a user or group of users, as opposed to an official entity, and spread virally throughout Facebook,” (Jan 2010, This type of evidence could support a cause for an experiment that involved the use of epidemics to spread advertisements. The experiment could initially be based on a simple idea like the example above, and by conducting a trial to produce a viral trend within the networking site would allow me to obtain results based on the complexity of the task. Whether the idea became a successful trend or not would depend on the techniques used in the experiment to make it into a craze.

These proposed research techniques would work with each other to support the views presented in the previous report on Advertising and Networking in Design, offering it primary research strengthening the subject in question.

These research techniques that I have investigated in the past year will allow me to tackle design briefs differently from now on so that I can gain the full potential from my designs. Thinking about previous studio briefs I can easily see how these methods would have benefited the outcome of my projects an example being the furniture project. The brief required us to work as a group to design and create a working piece of furniture out of specified amounts of oak and laminated plywood. My group found the subversion of use an interesting topic to base our design on, the idea that people used their furniture for things other than its original function was an appealing and an ironic fact that we wanted to incorporate into our own design.

Our initial research included looking up books in the library that had examples of furniture design developed with an idea similar to ours. Books such as 1000 Chairs, (Fiell, Charlotte, 1997) were examples of our visual research; also design websites were a well used source in finding examples of furniture design that influenced us one of which was However this method limited mostly to just a visual example of design rather than the thought process behind it, as our design was also based on psychology I think it would have been necessary to research outside our discipline. Making use of the library cross-search resource would have allowed us to research deeper into the topic of subversion; by simply searching for both psychology and furniture design the results would have produced journals and books that had already researched into this subject. Using this method would have perhaps made our development process more structured and productive allowing for a more knowledgeable outcome.

As well as the designer research we decided to obtain primary research to help influence our design, it was important for us to find out exactly how people used their furniture as it was a key aspect in our design. We created a Facebook survey that asked people to tell us of how they used their furniture the ‘wrong’ way. This process allowed us to acquire first hand experiences that strengthened our design features as we based a lot of the design on the responses we received from the survey. The only negative effect of this survey was that it was a case of one question, one answer per person so the results were briefer than they could have been. An interviewing technique would assist this research allowing for a more in depth description of their use of furniture. Learning from the previous interviews shows that sometimes you can achieve a more honest answer from an indirect question than direct question so the results could be strengthened, reinforcing our design characteristics.

As a piece of furniture is an interactive piece of design it is important to know how a person would react to the final design however if the results of this were not desired then success of the design would be weak. To prevent this outcome an experiment could have been implemented to try and foresee the final result. If simple prototypes are designed in order to get a feel for the design, an analysis of the design so far can commence and troubled features in the design can be resolved. For this analysis to succeed an observation of how people interact with the prototype would have to occur thus allowing us to find out whether our design features are seen the same way to a person outside our design group. If the reaction isn’t the desired result then, because the design was only a prototype, there is room for error and it can then be altered.

Another use of an observation technique that would add to research for this project would take a simpler role however would produce good evidence to support the design process. The way that people sat on their seats was also another aspect that influenced our design, even though we did ask people how they did this it wasn’t the most effective result as many people subconsciously position them on seat a certain ways. In order to capture this aspect of habit we must observe people in a natural environment in which sitting is a key activity. The library or any location that fits this description would be acceptable and would allow us to have a more reliable account of how people interact with a seat. The analysis of the comfort and problems that people face whilst sitting for a long time could determine design features that we could have incorporated into our design altering the ‘failed’ elements of the chairs we had observed people on.

These methods of primary and secondary research would have unquestionably helped with our design process, opening our designer minds up to explore the psychology side of the project. If I was to take one thing away from this year it would definitely be that as designers we do have to be so much more open minded about our design process and think outside of the box to allow us to reach our full potential. Perhaps if we had used these techniques in this project a completely different outcome would have resulted, I’m sure for the better. However this just leaves me to think about how to use these processes further in third year as the dissertation process approaches. Knowing now that having primary research as evidence for your theories only strengthens your views and in turn presents you with better results in your designs; basing your designs purely on someone else’s results limits your own outcomes and your design do not reach their full potential. I now understand why research is just as important as the design and will continue to utilise this information in projects to come.


Basford, J, (12.11.09) Twitter Picture, Available: (23.11.09)

Dunn, C (03.17.08) Hanger Chair + Inflatable Table = Small Space Fun, Available: (06.11.09)

Fiell, Charlotte J. 1997. 1000 Chairs. Koln: Benedict Taschen

Gladwell, M. 2005. The Tipping Point. New York London: Time Warner Audio Books: Hachette Audio

Hough, A, (9.1.10) Facebook 'bra colour' status update craze 'raising breast cancer awareness'. Avaliable: (28.3.10)

Lyttle, K, (9.1.10). What’s your colour? Available: (28.3.10)

Norman, D. 2004. Emotional Design. New York: Basic Books

Sichi, F, (2.12.09) Advertising and Networking in Design, Available: (27.3.10)

Sichi, F, (26.03.10) Evolution of Twitter Picture, Available: (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (26.03.10) How Knowledgeable are shoppers about what they are buying?, Available: (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (11.03.10) London Underground and it’s Population, Available: (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (23.11.09) Social Networking, Available: (28.3.10)

Sylavain, L. 2008. Reaching Generation Next. Applied Arts. 23,2 (Apr) 40-53.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Evolution of the Twitter Picture


She's done it again. Moving up with the loyal help of Twitter.

Johanna Basford as been commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to design the cover of their 2010 programme. It's thanks to how successful her original Twitter Picture was, and just how interactive it became with her general public. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has obviously realised the potential in Johanna through design and networking to advertise the event. Allowing audience participating once again increases the interest in the event and shares the same ideas as the event, like giving everyone an opportunity.
The theme is, 'What is the most unusual thing you'd like to see at the Fringe?' already crazy suggestions are being tweeted right now as the deadline for suggestions runs from 10am on the 25th to 10pm on the 26th of March. Not only can the audience participate in suggestions but they can watch live as the masterpiece takes form. Right now as I type Johanna is drawing a penguin listening to music while shooting a bazooka! She has already drawn a rubber duck parachuting towards a tiny paddling pool, a barrel of laughs and many more weird and wonderful suggestions.
Check her out and suggests something crazy before time runs out!

Look out for the baboon playing a piano with his feet... or a rhino doing ballet and wearing a tutu... fingers crossed!

How knowledgeable are shoppers about what they are buying?


Assignment 4

How knowledgeable are shoppers about what they are buying?

Taking this question and expanding on it led me to realise that it related a lot to my previous semester work; thinking about where they got there knowledge seemed to be the most important because not only was it knowledge, it was also influence. If you received advice or information from an advertisement then you are really being influenced by that advertisement. It works the same way with friends they suggest something, share their knowledge and in turn are influencing you in your choice. After mind mapping and brainstorming I wanted to focus primarily on the source of the knowledge shoppers obtained. In doing this it would allow me ‘rate’ how knowledgeable a shopper is from their source, however depending on a shopper’s opinion of a source means that what some may class as a valuable informer could be inadequate to someone else. By selecting a different variation of interviewees I would be able to study these diverse opinions to help answer the initial question.

Mind mapping allowed me to broaden my mind and think of different sources of knowledge that a shopper would have access too. Peers, advertising and staff seemed to be the most obvious, so I thought it only evident that I interviewed a sales adviser, a primary source of knowledge. Peers being friends, partners even enemies must heavily influence people with their knowledge of what’s good or not, but some people are affected more than others. I wanted to investigate this factor further by interviewing a couple to get the male and female perspective of whether they know more than their better half. Finally I wanted to interview someone who classed themselves as a shopaholic and someone who didn’t allowing me to compare their knowledge of shopping, ironically enough the shopaholic was female.

The sales adviser I interviewed worked in a well known clothing shop, so this interview not only covered the knowledge of consumers but also the taste of consumers. The knowledge was taste, what was in or not and who decided this, it related a lot to the lecture we had on the matter of taste. I believed that a lot of people obtained their knowledge of taste from the staff in shops and wanted to investigate this further. I didn’t want the subject to feel like they were interviewing for another job, I wanted their honest opinion, however starting off with the interview I did find this hard to achieve. Perhaps my question was too rigid and didn’t allow the subject to feel at ease so I introduced a visual question. Showing the sales adviser a number of pictures of well known celebrities and asking her to pick out the celebrity she thought was the most fashionable, I then asked her why she thought that, hoping that I would get a lead on where she learned that knowledge. Explaining that it was Pixie Lott because she wore the ‘in’ style at the moment and it was a style that she herself would wear. She told me that she had seen this particular picture of Pixie Lott in a magazine before where it had been talking about the best dressed celebrities, from her answer it was fair to assume that she based her knowledge on the magazine article. Hopefully after that question she felt more relaxed and the questions next did not seem as tense.

I then wanted to learn about her process of advice, how the customers obtained her knowledge, I asked her to tell me about the last sale that involved a customer asking for her advice. She explained that the customer required shoes to go with a dress she had purchased recently, this told me that the customer may have approached her due to the customer’s lack of knowledge and the assumption that the sales advisers would have that information needed. She filled me in with the process she took with the customer, showing her variations of shoes that she believed would be appropriate for the dress, suggestion alternative styles and colours, showing the customers examples of the same outfit in the store to validate her opinion and also suggesting added accessories that went with the outfit. This showed how willing the sales adviser was to share her knowledge with the customer not only did she share the required information but she offered additional advice; perhaps this was a sales tactic to guarantee the sale. I then followed up a question of how the customer reacted to such advice, whether she took it or not. I found out that the customer asked for the opinion of the sales adviser between two of the shoes she had seen and in the end the sales adviser technically made the choice for the customer who happily bought the pair the sales adviser had picked.

This made me think that staff knowledge seemed to be ranked pretty high with the customers allowing me to assume the buyers tend to get a lot of their knowledge from the staff that they buy things from. However this does not also suggest that they have more knowledge than those who don’t ask for advice, so I though I should ask what type of people tend to ask for your advice and who don’t. I got a shaky result but none the less there was evidence that a lot of the time people who (in the opinion of the sales adviser) look like they are wearing the most fashionable outfit don’t tend to approach them, assuming that they already have the knowledge needed to obtain a fashionable outfit. I asked her to describe what the women looked like from the previous question and I got a very descriptive answer as I found out in a previous lecture that females do tend to be more expressive when answering questions. She pointed out that the women wasn’t particularly up-to-date with her current outfit, she got the impression that she didn’t really know what suited her but none the less still managed to put together something that wasn’t hideous. So it wasn’t that those who asked for advice were clueless but it was more that they need that extra knowledge to complete their outfit.

These previous questions allowed me to target where the customers got their knowledge but not where the sales adviser got hers so I ask her; where is it that you find out what is good or not, what is in or isn’t? I first got a professional answer stating that her knowledge came from the managers who told her that this was fashion, that there was a certain zone in the shop that was known as zone A, the new in style high street fashion section, I assumed that this was the knowledge that she based her advice on when speaking to the customers. So I then asked out with her job what else helped her in advising the customers. Magazines then became apparent, advertisement, but also other clothes shops, what she seen in them classed as a source of knowledge for her. So it seemed that even though her knowledge was sought after by customers it was not necessarily ‘her’ knowledge but decided by her managers, by advertisement, and then by those who decided this for the managers.

When interviewing the couple separately I again referred to pictures in the first question to allow them to feel at ease. I instantly found evidence that a lot of the reasons why the man bought the products were because his wife told him so. So he therefore got a lot of his knowledge from his wife. Asking them to choose which of the following items they would buy ahead of the others allowed me to compare there answers against each other and also to find out why they would choose such item. Like I mentioned before the husband’s reason was that his wife had told him to always get this product (when referencing to the non-bio washing powder) yet his wife went into a lot more detail of why she had choose this product; it had been recommended by someone she knew, in particular her mother, she had to learn to trust the brand, and also she bought it out of a successful experience from her previous use of it.

It became apparent that recommendations were held in high regard when it came to knowledge of what the couple was buying. The wife told me of how she bought the dog Pedigree Chum not just because the dog likes it but because it came recommended by the top breeders. Also a colleague recommended a recipe with certain ingredients she had never used before she then took it on board and cooked it not long after. The husband pointed out that if he was unsure of what product to buy then he would ask for a recommendation from a friend of family member before approaching a retailer.

Experience of the product also seemed to play a big part in the knowledge the buyer had of it; it seemed apparent that the couple both relied on its success rate the first time using it. It would give them the knowledge they needed about how good the product was and reinsure them that the product would perform the same time and time again. They both claimed that this was the reason why they bought the same brands each time needed the product.

When trying to find out what influenced them in their decisions to buy certain product I managed to get what seemed to be an honest answer from my questions. The husband instantly said his wife (with a ‘isn’t it obvious’ smile) and the wife to also claimed that her family, the children mostly, were the drive behind the reasons for a lot of her purchases. It was similar to the case with the sales adviser how she got her knowledge from the managers but the managers had to get their information from someone, so who did the children get there information from? I asked the husband about the last well known brand he bought and by chance it was a pair of Nike trainers for his son; he didn’t make the choice of the brand it was his son’s choice. I asked him why his son wanted and how his son found out about the trainers to try and determine where his son was getting the information from - it had to go with his full Nike outfit! It was simple advertised on his son’s sporting heroes that told him this, so to his son that meant to be like his hero he must wear Nike, therefore advertisement was the source of his son’s knowledge in the product. The husband also told me of how he seen an Air Flow fishing fly line in a respected fishing magazine the ad was so convincing (as he had never tried the product before) that he bought the fishing line from the knowledge he had gained from the article.

Advertisement seemed to influence their decisions as well however bad advertisement was just as strong. If the packaging didn’t look as good as the leading brands then to them it meant it was low quality. When asking them about which chocolate brand they were most likely not to buy both husband and wife stated that in would be the Asda Smartprice because of these reasons. They were reading the aesthetics of the product as knowledge of the product- it didn’t look good so it would be good. Over all both of them were getting their knowledge from recommendations, advertisements and experience, however whether that information was good or not was based on how the product performed once they had tried it out.

I then interviewed two people, one claiming to be a shopaholic and the other a non-shopaholic. Again starting the interview with a visual question regarding who they considered to be a fashionable celebrity allowing them to feel at ease. Out of the shown celebrities they both classed Cheryl Cole to be the ‘most fashionable’ however the non-shopaholic (who happened to be male) found it harder to make his decision. They both gained this knowledge of ‘fashionable’ from magazines and T.V, however claimed that it was also ‘their sort of style’ and a matter of taste had to be considered. Compared to the couple, when asking these subjects about what their latest purchase of a named brand was, they talked more about clothes rather than shopping items. This may have been down to the pictures that I showed them at the begin of the interview – fashion against household items – and also that the non-shopaholic was between 18-24 and the shopaholic relates herself to clothes as that is her weakness in purchasing.

They both told me about items they had bought for themselves and although claiming to be different people were answering the questions similarly. Each found themselves finding items they liked in advertisements on TV and magazines, also having high regard for recommendation from people they knew and again experience was a main factor that built their knowledge up about the products they bought.

The difference between the two was that the shopaholic was more susceptible to the aesthetics of the products; she read the look of the product as a description of the product’s quality. If it looked appealing then she would get positive knowledge from the visual image that it would perform well. Compared to the non-shopaholic, she also never wrote herself a list before going shopping always allowing herself to obtain knowledge from the advertisements, promotions, and shop displays and perhaps not always acquiring the right information.

Investigating the source of people’s knowledge allowed me in this assignment to process how reliable he information is about the products we buy. It is fair to assume from the evidence that recommendations are classed as a reliable source of knowledge; people must be trusting in order to believe in a product without having tried it first. There is only so much that a salesman or women can tell a potential consumer and many people do not always class their opinion in the highest degree. However in the case of the sales adviser their opinion mattered a lot to the customer, their expertise were valued in the decision making factor and a customer would feel more knowledgeable after the sale. The problem with recommendations is that the source of the information is not always obvious; who told that person about the product and that person before? That is were the experience of the product seems to be the most reliable, it’s the primary source that allows the consumer honest feedback from there own use of the product, they can base their judgment on the success of the product. Wherever the knowledge is obtained there is still the issue of how good that knowledge is, whether one shopper is more knowledgeable than the other. Nevertheless it is all based on taste, what’s one man’s lose is another man’s gain.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Designing for the Whole Picture


Just the other week I noticed a design issue appearing in my work that reminded me of an example a guest lecture, David Townson, told us in the 'Service design in Practice' lecture just a few weeks ago.

He told us of how he had visited Manchester on a horrible wet and gloomy day, everyone had their umbrellas up and as soon as he had reached the fancy hotel he noticed a design that apparently seemed to solve a problem he didn't even know he had. It was a contraption that's allowed him to bag is soaking wet umbrella avoiding any drip-age through the lovely hotel. However this design was not thought through entirely, ok the designer may have solved the so called problem of dripping umbrellas but unfortunately he was going to have to use the umbrella again and there was no available disposal area. The is typical case of a designer trying to hard to design for a problem solving so instead makes an unnecessary point of a problem and doesn't follow it through the whole way.

In the restaurant that I work in I came across an example just like this. We have a red theme in the restaurant, red aprons, red ties and red candles. Usually we would have normal, plain candles in a container lined with red film that allowed the candle to glow red. However this film was apparently too fiddly so the manager (who thought this was a great idea) decided to buy red glass candles instead to 'save' the hassle. However he did not think until the problem came about that these candles would eventually need disposed of once used and unfortunately there is only clear, brown and green glass disposal bins! Now we have a lovely collection of used red candle glasses.

The London Underground and it's Population


Assignment 3

NOTE TO READER, unfortunately my camera was recently stolen along with the photographs for this assignment so thankfully Rachel Laing has kindly gave me a copy of her own photographs allowing me to illustrate my observations.

For design, observation plays a big part in your research process. It creates an opportunity to study the effects of objects, services or places allowing you to uncover design problems that you in turn can solve from your primary research. For this assignment we were to undertake some observation of our own to allow us to study they way people react to certain rules and how they react in different situations. As I have just recently been to London I took the opportunity to study the ideal location; The London Underground.

The London Underground is certainly no stranger to crowds; the direct Londoners, the hesitant newcomers and the excited tourists all taking part in the underground experience. So many people using this service everyday entails a great need for security especially since the 7/7 devastation and everyone whether local or not must follow a set of rules. These rules aren’t all plastered on the wall for all to read; they can take the form of technology, custom and sometimes it’s just a case of ‘following like sheep’.

There was a process to riding on the tube; your bought a ticket, went through the barrier, took the elevator or escalator underground, waited on a train, got on the train, waited for your stop and got off the train, back up the escalator, back through the ticket barriers and back out into the ‘fresh air’ of London. However within this process there was mannerisms and etiquette that certain people followed and others took time to catch on to.

As a group of students mostly from Scotland I would class our group between the hesitant newcomers and the excited tourists; it was all very new for some, not an everyday experience. Russell Square became our common ground, it’s where we started and ended our days. So it began…

Buying tickets eventually became like second nature to us as we got used to the process. What I noticed was that some people would double check their journey on the handy little underground maps first before queuing for their ticket; seemed a sensible start but it amazed me how many people got to the ticket machine and stared at it bemused. They were given the option of different zones and being new to the experience were not sure of what to select. This is where the first unwritten rule appears; these people did not initially turn and ask the next person for advice, they simple fussed about for a bit (holding everyone up) eventually giving up and apprehensively asking someone to help. The unsocialable rule had come to order. On the other hand the Londoners were pros, they’re process was instinctive, in and gone before any of us had figured out our zones.

Following the ticket success, you just had to make sure you had it ready to put through the machines; it was common sense really to make sure you didn’t hold up everyone waiting to get through. It was then the race to the first elevator. I have to give credit to efficiency of the elevator but for some reason everyone treated it as the last ever lift of the day. It was a guessing game of which lift would arrive first making sure you were in the optimum position to get there first. As soon as one appeared people would push through just to guarantee their place on it, even though in about a minute or so the next elevator would be waiting and willing. It was helpful that the lift took the form of a one way system allowing people to enter one way and leave in the opposite, it did it’s best to control the situation. It was a different story on the other side of the elevator doors though; awkward silence. People tended to fidget and avoid eye contact; there were a lot of eyes darting about the lift not really knowing where to look. Conversation was limited and if someone spoke louder than a whisper they were sure to get a few funny looks. That however ended as soon as the lift doors opened and the race was on again!

As the escalator took us down further there was no clearer rule than to KEEP TO THR RIGHT, standing on the left side of the elevator was unheard of and occasionally when a newcomer forgot this rule they’d be sure to remember it when a Londoner comes charging down adamant that he’ll be late for his train. The funny thing was that most of the time you’d meet the same person down at the platform waiting for the same train as you. However sometimes you could hear the train approaching the platform as you were on your way down and again everyone acted like it was the last train of the day. There were occasions when half our group would reach the bottom before us, see the train and tell us to ‘hurry up we’ll miss it!’ when the next train was literally a minute away. There was a real sense of urgency at this stage and it wasn’t just the newcomers that presented themselves this way, even those who knew the next train was a minute away still felt the need to rush about. Especially getting on the train was a race, once those doors had opened it was a case of if you weren’t first you were last. People would be so desperate to get on they would risk the doors closing on them!

Once again we got to the unsocialable rule. Ipods in, newspapers out, eyes locked on the adverts above. You’d catch a few eyes staring at certain people but quickly look away to avoid getting caught. The underground does present a big violation to people’s personal space, everyone is so crammed in but they do their best at shielding themselves and their belongings. Conversation between strangers is rare and limited, we usual conversed in our own groups in hushed tones but on one occasion I reacted typically to a stranger talking to me on the tube. I was instantly defensive, he only apologised because he thought he was in the way but I hadn’t heard him right. I assumed he was asking me to move so that he could get off at the next stop so I set him straight telling him I was getting off at the next stop too. Realising the innocence in the brief conversation I considered what the man must have thought about me – an angry Scot perhaps. In my own experience I reacted defensively because of the abnormal communication but while observing everyone else it didn’t surprise me that this response was instinctive. Talking to a stranger broke the unsociable rule so irregular activity brought on this defensive nature in me.

Whilst waiting on my stop I was able to observe the body language and flow of passengers on the train. Whenever there were available seats the Londoners were sure to get there first due to their direct nature, however newcomers were always hesitant and unsure whether they had a right to sit down before others. Yet you always saw those in the crowds crammed at the door ready to pounce on the next available seat. As the seats filled up an invisible barrier seemed to be created between the door area and the area between the seats. No one really stood beside anyone who sat, and after observing this pattern I came to the conclusion that they avoided this because it presented an awkward position regarding eyelevel. Also the potential to intrude personal space even further in case they fell onto someone’s lap became apparent.

Another issue that surrounded the activity of the underground was the safety of the passengers. Considering the terrorist attack on the underground very little police were present during the time I spent on the tube. I was wondering whether this was a tactic that prevented panic or worry from the public or whether an increase in their presence would reinsure people of their safety. As Russell Square station became an everyday location, travelling through different stations allowed us to see the difference in design between them. What struck me the most was when I got off at Westminster station and how an over whelming sense of safety came over me. The location of this station was obviously the reason behind the security of the design, its industrial look and strength in the structure reassured you that it was a safe place. Even the platform had reinforced security, a glass barrier was constructed between the platform and the rail only opening it's doors once the train had arrived. It wasn’t until a few days into the trip that I realised the 7/7 bombing in London actually took place between Russell Square and Kings Cross. A small indication of this was presented as a plaque in the entrance to the station, perhaps this was another form of keeping the panic and worry of the public and a minimum.

Overall the experience was a learning curve, I found it easier to adapt than others because I had experienced a smaller version of the London Underground; the Clockwork Orange in Glasgow. Allowing myself to look further at the affects of processes and designs made me realise the potential this sort of research can do to improve on you own designs and concepts. Just noticing the mannerisms of the public or the target audience you are design for makes you a better designer, thus allowing you to interact with the design potential rather than taking a back seat on design just assuming the reactions you want.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Eco Build London


Eco Deco: Sustainable Interior Design. Eco Chic by Elisabeth Buecher and Aurelie Mosse from Puff & Flock

Puff & Flock are a recently formed textile company that took part in Eco interior seminar at the Eco Build. They create both products to buy but also conceptual design, one of which interested me the most. The quirky collection called 'My shower curtain is a green warrior' by Elisabeth Buecher, consists of a range of shower curtains that focus on the issue of excessive water consumption and its effect on the environment. The shower curtain 'Trap' inflates around the person in the shower after 4 minutes of being in the shower preventing the user from continuing showering, reducing their water usage. The collection intends to trigger discussions regarding water consumption and provoke thought into the environmental issue.

'Trap' by Elisabeth Beucher

'Trap' by Elisabeth Beucher
'Spike' by Elisabeth Beucher

Eco Build London


On Tuesday 2nd March Eco-build took place in London, Earls Court for sustainable design, construction and the built environment. A group of our IEDers took a trip down to attend it on the Tuesday and Wednesday collecting information to help us with our current sustainable renovation project. The first day was spent taking time talking to companies selling the products and designs that they believed were sustainable or Eco. They were very encouraging and enthusiastic talking to students, many of them felt that we were the ones that benefited more from this information as it's easy to teach us the 'Eco' way rather than change everyone elses usual 'un-Eco' approach.
However on the second day we attended a lecture that spoke about a different approach to sustainable living;

Cradle to Cradle: Re-thinking the Way we Make Things by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart.

In this lecture it was clear that Barungart didn't agree with the world aiming to be carbon-neutral instead he believes that being carbon- positive is the best way to go. A tree is not carbon neutral, it's carbon positive taking in the excess co2 in the atmosphere, to be carbon neutral means you must not exist, it is impossible. Just thinking about it stops you from being carbon neutral! Braungart talked about some amusing ways of reducing your carbon emissions such as drinking still water rather than sparkling water, it's proven that wearing a tie reduces your emissions and even taking the elevator rather than the stairs can!

Braungart talked about how at the Eco Build event many of the displays, flooring and materials used to create the exhibitions were filled with chemicals and were un-ecofriendly, it seemed ironic that the carpets used at a sustainable event were designed cheap, to look good with a short life span the opposite of the Eco Build's vision.

Braungart believes the concept of Eco-Effectiveness is the way forward rather than Eco-Efficiency. Eco-Efficiency means doing the right thing where as Eco-Effectiveness means doing things right. Embracing this concepts allows us to think about transforming our footprint into a source that supports the environment allowing it to rely on the footprint rather than trying to reduce our footprint. In order to adopt this method a we must be positive driven rather than blame driven, celebrate our footprints to succeed in reaching a beneficial impact.
It was a though provoking lecture that helped me realise the alternatives to designing sustainably, how instead trying to fix our mistakes we should embrace what we have done and improve our processes. It's a process allowing us to move forward rather than dwell in our past. Eventually designing sustainably wont be a requirement we need to fit into our products and designs but instead will be subconscious and automatic. It will come naturally.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sustainability in Buildings


As part of our current project we have been asked to remodel and upcycle a current building situated on Seafield Road in Dundee. The brief stating that the client (whom we have met and discussed her requirements) will both live and work in the newly designed building. She works as a book conservator so we have to take into account her workspace and requirements for both living and working. However the main issue in our brief is that the building's refurbishment must be part of an environmental design as part of our Reuse, Reduce and Recycle theme.

Since the issue of environmental design is so broad and seemingly infinite we were given the opportunity to hear guest speaker Richard Atkins, an environmental architect, speak to us about the company he works for and their projects. It gave us a much more understanding of the effort and thought that goes into making a building sustainably but also an insight into how much technology is being developed to allow us as designers to be able to move forward and design for the environment.

Atkins made a point that carbon emissions only accounts for a small fraction of the sustainability issue and that when designing a building you have to think beyond that target. Settings targets for the building to be non-PVC, non-OPC, carbon neutral, autonomous, low toxic, low embodied energy material and the overall footprint of the design and it's process is just a start to completing a successfully sustainably build.

Atkins went into detail about a project in Edinburgh, Norton Park, which related alot to our current project as he undertook the refurbishment of an old Victorian school. They managed to incorporate many environmental measures into the design such as:

Increased insulation levels
Secondary double glazing
High efficiency lighting
Low toxicity paints
Modulated boilers
Solar slate systems....

... and many more.

Not only did he explain the environmental elements of the build for reuse of the building but he talked about how it would even be sustainable when the building was not needed. Everything in the building was easy to unassemble and available to reuse and recycle. This allowed us to think about the bigger picture that even though you may design for a specific purpose and time, this will eventually run it's course and to allow your 'sustainable' design to be worth the effort you must think beyond it's life time.

The Disneyfication of Culture Continued


Mickey Mouse Monopoly

These links are to a documentary on Disneyfication of our culture including both arguments to the views on whether Disney is responsible for enforcing a specific childhood culture or if they are just creative and lovable entertainment. They introduce a good topic for discussion covering influences and power of large corporation companies and their objectives.

The Disneyfication of Culture

I myself am a huge fan of Disney, as many will know due to my vast collection of DVDs. The fairytale worlds and romanticised stories give you that warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction; at least they do for me. But being honest it’s never crossed my mind while watching either Snow White or Cinderella that Disney’s message is underlining sexism, undermining women’s independence or enforcing women’s NEED for a man. It was always just a feel good film for me!

However there is never a missed opportunity to analyse and Disney has been scrutinized extensively. The fairytale stories all follow a similar pattern; there’s a beautiful girl who falls in love with a hansom boy, there’s a bit of drama, but the prince saves the day and they live happily ever after! It’s romantic and fantasy driven, always with a happy ending (it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t). On the other hand some analyse and instead come to the conclusion; there’s a leading girl who has to be small waisted and big breasted in order to be beautiful; she’s portrayed as vulnerable and in need of a man - anything but independent. They see this portrayal as an immoral message to Disney’s audience of young children that this is the status quo of our culture, that for girls to have the fantasy of falling in love and living happily ever after they must be submissive and rely on men.

I am not entirely convinced that Disney’s objective is to subliminally push young children towards the idea that everything about our culture is indeed true of this analysis; I find that if you analyse far enough into a topic then you can pull out just about any conclusion that corresponds with your views. Most who agree with these views do not think that it is the cause of domestic incidents or the reason behind girls insecurity but believe that it reinforces these ideology's into our culture.

Perhaps I'm biased because of my love for the Disney films but I find these views a little exaggerated and analysed too much into. Considering all the scrutinizing Disney are the best at what they do, they must be doing something right if every child has been brought up to love and know all the characters and stories that put a smile on their faces even after their childhood is behind them.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Polysemy Images Part 2


Part D

In this part of the assignment I want to pin point on the location of the story, as many people managed to produce a similar story however were not collectively reading the ‘Las Vegas’ theme. Due to culture and upbringing I felt that bringing a photograph in that ensured the location of Las Vegas would convey the story that the night started good ended bad due to a wild night of gambling and drinking. The reason I didn’t chose say a photograph of a wild drunk group of people was because I felt the connotations of Las Vegas may portray that instead.

Jonathan, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“Whilst in Las Vegas for a birthday my luck went down the drain as my land rover got lodged in the sand surrounding the casino.”

My goal was achieved in this analysis as the mention of Las Vegas is clear and the reader has an understanding of Vegas’s culture of gambling. The celebratory signal has been transmitted successfully through the image of the balloons and the message that something went wrong was perceived as an accident with the off- road car.

Kirsty Braes, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“Reminds me of ‘The Hangover’. A trip to Vegas goes wrong and people lose at gambling and their truck ends up in a hole in the desert.”

The correct location is present in this response but also a recurrence of the reference to the film ‘The Hangover’. Reference to this film itself gives connotations of party gone wild, gambling, drinking and ending in trouble. This may have been induced by the added picture of the Las Vegas image however testing this theory on the same person wouldn’t necessarily work as once they have an interpretation of the images that story sticks and is hard to differentiate away from even when another image is taken or added.

Emma Thompson, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“A couple and their friends went to Las Vegas to get married. They spent their hen/stag weekend gambling in the casinos, won a large sum of money. They released the balloons to celebrate their marriage before spending their honeymoon a large sum of money on an adventure packed holiday across the desert.”

The Las Vegas reference is apparent in this response but also a stereotypical trait is suggested in the story – to go off to Vegas and get married. This is the first analysis that covers this type of story rather than it being a birthday celebration. However the connection between the Nevada desert and Vegas has been missed here and instead a conclusion of a holiday away to a different desert has been reached. This is due to the knowledge the reader has – whether they realise this connection or not.

Karen Lyttle, 21, Design Student, Northern Irish
-“I went touring in America where I visited LA, but also went on safari. Our holiday turned into a bit of an adventure as our car got stuck in the sand on safari so my boyfriend took a chance with gambling so we could buy a new one. Thankfully we won!”

Out of all the stories this one does not successfully reach the correct location intended instead LA is suggested. This will be again due to the readers knowledge of the world and culturally upbringing, or perhaps a simple misunderstanding of the location. However the gambling element has been reached and presented in a positive manner as they won rather than losing in the bet.

Callum McBain, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“I went to Las Vegas one weekend to play some poker like in ‘The Hangover’, I began to win and the felt like I was floating but I was too greedy and lost everything, I was sinking in the sand.”

Reference to ‘The Hangover’ and Las Vegas dominate this story, the added image works will for this reader. The take a symbolic message from the image rather than the literal image of the jeep sinking into the sand, it’s more about being in trouble with dept due to gambling.

Lin Ma, 20, Design Student, Chinese
-“Some people drive jeeps to Las Vegas on the road. When they go through the desert they encounter a sandy storm, however they reach Las Vegas and play poker and gamble. Fortunately then won a lot of money celebrating by releasing balloons.

Again this anaylsis plays on the positive side of gambling – winning rather than losing.

Charlotte Matthews, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“I recently came back from a holiday with my husband in Las Vegas, there was good points and bad points to the holiday. The good bit about it was the fact that we won £15000 on the poker game and celebrated with hundreds of balloons and alcohol. However the bad point was our car broke down as we were on our way to the airport. The £15ooo makes up for the hours of waiting for help.

This interpretation points out the correct location, the celebratory theme but runs with it as a positive outcome of gambling. It is varied from the previous story slightly however the cover the same main points.

Part E

Although the second experiment was effectively successfully in clarifying the location there was still a variation in the stories that perhaps would be rectified with the use of a linguistic message. So I conducted a third experiment, testing whether by adding text to one, two then three of the pictures would narrow down the stories to one central interpretation. I wanted the story to still follow the representation of the film ‘The Hangover’ so words that related to partying, drinking and the results of a wild night were going to help the success of the experiment.

The first few people were asked with the added word on the image of the poker chips – DRUNK.

Caroline Martin, 20, Design Student, Scottish.
-“Going out to a party/ night out then getting drunk and playing poker with the night ending badly.”

With the subtraction of the Las Vegas image there is a sense of a clear lack in location definition from the first story. However it is obvious to the reader that the night is defined by alcohol and people will ‘get drunk’.

Charles Stewart, 20, Design Student, Scottish.
-“After a drunken lad’s night of poker, we decided to sell a land rover and tie balloons to it. Before we knew it the car was floating. As the balloons popped we went lower and lower. Suddenly we crashed into sand. Where the hell are we?!”

Again a lack of location in Las Vegas is shown in this analysis, but again the ‘drunken’ aspect is still intact. What I found with this response was that it was very imaginative compared to the rest of the stories. I wondered whether he got the inspiration from the resent Disney film ‘UP’.

Second group of people were shown an additional word on one of the images, the balloon image – PARTY.

Qing Ye, 20, Design Student, Chinese
-“When a person has experienced the modern city life - partying, drunk and dancing, he/she will feel bored. So he will try a different experience like a explorer of try an extreme sport, something crazy!”

The location here is not specified here but does identify with the city which is better than the results from before. This reader must be relating this type of behaviour with the city culture due to their own personal knowledge and views of the city.

Mary McCarthy, 19, Maths Student, Scottish
-“ It's 100 degrees and the race is on, the annual 4x4 desert racing championships! Kirk this year’s favourite to win is geared up in his kitted out jeep. The race starts............. Kirt is the leader...until an unexpected surprise!! His once perfect 4x4 becomes stuck in a sand dune and the newly modified wheels -perfect for gaining speed- aren’t strong enough to work the jeep out. Needless to say Kirt and his crew are last to his humiliation. Then on to the after party....balloons, music and dancing fill the room. This year’s winner has taken centre stage, giving an acceptance speech, not to forget adding the today’s embarrassing event including Kirts 4x4 failure. The laughter becomes louder, the winner seeing the crowd’s reaction grows more and more confident. Looking proud to accept the bottle of very tasteful and expensive champagne, he then shakes with a strong might and pops the bottle open all over Kirt until he is soaked in the wasted alcohol. What started out as an exciting day for Kirt ended in humiliation and embarrassment."

This is an elaborate response to the images with words present on two of them. Again no reference to Las Vegas but also the reference to gambling has also disappeared. The words in this case have not helped but rather prevented the process of elimination.

Finally all three pictures featuring words – DRUNK, PARTY, MORNING AFTER.

Sheonagh Gall, 20, Design Student, Scottish
-“I was so drunk last night at the party that I felt really terrible the morning after. Last week I went to a party, got soooo drunk and ended up at the casino, as usual! The morning after I went out in the car, still drunk and crashed it!”

Analysing this response reveals a positive outcome as each element is present in the story however the location is still an issue and with the added presence of the Las Vegas image I believe this would have been 100% successful.

Stuart Sichi, 13, High School Student, Scottish
-“4 men go to Las Vegas and have a bachelor party. They all get drunk and go spend all there money in a casino. The morning after they find themselves in the middle of no where and cant remember what happened. – ‘The Hangover’

This is the perfect analysis of the images, the location – Las Vegas, the storyline, and the comparison to ‘The Hangover’ are all present. Perhaps my brother and I are on too much of the same wave lengths?


Relating this experiment to Barthes views seems reasonable although in reality does not always work perfectly; there are so many variables involved that change a persons perspective. Gender, religion, nationality, age, occupation and many more that have to be accounted for when carrying out this experiment as basic knowledge of cultures and environment changes when these variables differ.

For my experiment personality was a variable that played a big part in differing the stories. If the reader was more conserved the story would mirror that trait but if a person was eccentric they're story would take a more imaginative form. This created a problem with the process as many different people will read things different even with added information pushing towards a certain conclusion.

However they're was an aspect that I found interested me. It was the comparison of the images to the film 'The Hangover', I found that this finding suggested that the images did not only invoke a story but also memories allowing the reader to compare the film's traits to the messages in the photographs. Each story investigated in this experiment has it's own linking pattern, whether it be linking a characteristic of an activity to a specific location or developing a symbolic message linked to a literal picture. This shows how much more goes into creating a story from images than we actually realise when we do it. It defiantly shows potential in advertising and many other design driven practises.

I felt that perhaps if you wanted to focus the experiment primarily on what messages change the reader's interpretation then selecting subjects whose profiles were similar in some way would allow you to eliminate variables to some extent. However this concept would not work in practice as people are all varied and for good reasons so instead more experimental tests should be done to investigate the variations of human habits and profiles in order to take this concept further.

Polysemy Images


Assignment 2 Part B
A drunken night in Vegas starts out good ends up bad…

That’s the jist of my random images. At first glance I thought my subjects have got a hard time considering these images as one story but after studying them a bit more a basic story emerges that can be varied in many ways. Factoring in a subject’s upbringing, nationality and basic knowledge of culture and habit allows these varied stories to materialize. You read the images from how you know the world – based on your knowledge as an individual.

One of my pictures – the order of images is irrelevant – is a simple image of balloons. Further analysed however they become pink balloons on a sky blue background. Even further they are a large set of pink balloons about to be let off into the summer blue sky, either intentionally or not. However that is one interpretation – my own – and others may read this differently especially when set adjacent to a different image.
To understand this image initially you must have the knowledge of what balloons are, what colour the sky is and to be able to differentiate between colours. This is the un-coded iconic message, the literally meaning of the image as Barthes explains; these messages are what they are they do not offer anymore than that.

The picture of casino chips and a card from a deck again requires basic knowledge of what these objects are and what they are used for. The connection made usually concludes gambling or a poker, a card game of some sort. The connotations of these signs however can read as a representation of Las Vegas, but to acquire this assumption the reader must have a certain knowledge of a culture that associates with gambling and Vegas. Based on a person’s individual culture and upbringing will determine whether these visual signs will be translated as that conclusion.

Out of the three, the image conveying a jeep angled out of a hole in the sand seems to be the most abstract. It is very open to interpretation and without assistance from the other two images the story from this image could be very vast. Again like the other images a basic knowledge to understand the image must be present in the reader; sand – desert, jeep – off road vehicle, stuck in a hole – trouble.

Part C

The first experiment was a sort of pilot to initially test the grounds of what people read the opening images as. I expected a varied response to the photographs but thought that there may well be a reoccurring theme connecting the stories together.

First response;

Rachel Laing, 19, Design Student, Scottish
- “Reminds me of the film ‘The Hangover’. What starts off as a good night out soon turn’s wild, resulting in the car in the sand.”

Connotations of ‘The Hangover’: A story of a group of guys on a stag weekend to Las Vegas, they gamble, get very drunk and end up in a lot of trouble.

I found this analysis very interesting because not only did the images provoke a story but they also stimulated reference to an existing story. They induced memories. Along with suggestion to a film, this analysis becomes quite literal as she described the car being “in the sand” just as the picture literally depicts.

Ross Lesslie, 22, Design Student, Scottish
-“This is about somebody who likes the partying lifestyle. They seem to gamble and spend all of their money on silly things. This then led them to get stuck in a rut. They are struggling to sort out their life and it is like they are stuck in a hole.”

On the other hand this interpretation takes a more symbolic view of the story. Rather than looking at the literal meaning of the car in the hole, he reads it as a metaphor of being “stuck”, at a dead end in life due to their ignorance of gambling. Both this analysis and the first pick up on the partying and gambling portrayed from the images however both pick up on variations at the same time.

Sarah Mettleton, 20, Design Student, Northern Irish
- “It’s summer again and time for a holiday. Our destination – Las Vegas. Sun, sand and casinos. Everyday was spent sunbathing and the nights spent having fun in casinos. We even won a major prize and celebrated with champagne and balloons.”

This was the first response that highlighted an actual location – Las Vegas. In order to relate gambling to Las Vegas a certain knowledge is required (Barthes reference to the third message) about the culture surrounding this location. It so happens Las Vegas is publicly and famously advertised for gambling and casinos so the knowledge required is not uncommon but still is required to come to this conclusion. To add, this analysis is in ‘story-telling’ form differing from the previous two which follow a more analytical form.

Mark Ward, 23, Chef, Scottish
-“One man, went to Las Vegas for his birthday, lost all his money so decided to drive into a ditch in the desert.”

Again this response picked up on the actual location on the story (Las Vegas) and also follows a similar story to Rachel Laing’s analysis. It doesn’t necessarily mention ‘The Hangover’ but follows that story line. Hint of the ‘story-telling’ form.

Alberto Vantool, 42, Business man, Italian
-“A friend’s birthday to Las Vegas goes horribly wrong as a jeep is stole and police chase it into the desert when they seem to get into a bit of trouble.”

This analysis picks up on the celebratory balloons, the location, and the dilemma faced at the end of the story. Although there is no literally reference to the poker chips and gambling, it is assumed that Las Vegas has connotation of this therefore he feels no need to ‘state the obvious’ as he believes this is common knowledge.

Dorothy Sichi, 49, Literacies Tutor, Scottish
-“… couple on a ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday in the Sahara Desert … huge problems with their vehicle … lost control of it in a bid to escape bandits in … the Sahara. …they had taken part in an impromptu game of poker … When they were finally rescued by the police in a high speed chase… the next time they want to celebrate a birthday they will stay at home… have a huge party with all the trimmings in the safety of their hometown!”

This response was the first to take a different (but not completely) direction. Instead of what was seen as the ‘obvious’ choice in location, the Sahara was chosen, perhaps because this person either wasn’t that aware of Vegas or maybe doesn’t approve of Vegas so subconsciously avoided using it in the story. However they do pick up on the birthday element and also the gambling signals nevertheless varied slightly from the other stories.

Albert Sichi, 57, Learning Assistant, Scottish
-“A man went on an adventure after winning an on line poker competition. He bought an expensive off road car and decided to try it “off road”. He travelled to the Sahara desert where he became a cropper. Unfortunately the only way he could be rescued was by balloon.

The only reaction that came to the conclusion of an ‘online’ casino was the last of the stories. What I find quite ironic is that the eldest of the readers was the only one to suggest what is classed as the ‘new, modern, up-to-date’ version of gambling when students apparently are the generation of next!

The Rhetoric of the Image


Analysis of Roland Barthes's 'The Rhetoric of the Image'

After reading this essay a few times I began to understand the views of Barthes; how an image can be as strong a communication as language itself. He argues with those who believe that an image is merely an image and does not convey near enough as much of a strong message as literal language does.

Within his essay he explains that his aim is to find out how the image acquires its meaning and where it concludes and if it does what comes next. Especially with – not restricted too – advertisement images, Barthes points out that the meanings behind these images are not unintentional they’re representational of the message that the advertisement wishes to convey.

Bathes brakes down the message within the image into three different messages; the linguistic, the coded iconic and the non-coded iconic message. The first relates to the literal language of writing, an example used is that of the Panzani brand; the linguistic message is maintained by the caption that is easy to understand as long as you have knowledge of language (basic reading and writing). Also the branded items in the image provide an indication of the companies name; furthermore it provides connotations that depict a theme of Italianicity reinforcing the brands qualities.

Further on in the essay Barthes asks the question, whether the linguistic message, either it be text or a caption, adds to the message of the image valuably or just renders it surplus. It needs to be successfully enough to allow the reader to understand the level of observation that the advertisements wishes to convey but at the same time cannot sound repetitive or slightly patronising. Barthes believes that the linguistic message should ‘guide our interpretation’ of the image.

The second message of the ‘pure image’ is based on your knowledge of culture and habit. You read it as you know. In the Panzani case there are many signs to this message that allow you to decode it such as the image of provisions within a string bag suggests a trip to the market, the fact that they are falling out of the bag creates another sign – where cultural habits play a big part in the connotation – that of providing shopping for oneself rather than stocking up. The image of Panzani brand on many products in the bag also suggests that they can offer everything required to carry out your meal. However without these signs would the image still be read the same way?

The non-coded iconic message – the third – is representational of the ‘real objects’, the literal message. To understand this part of the message the reader of the image must have a basic idea of what the objects are. You must first and foremost know what an image is, concerning the Panzani advertisement the knowledge of what a tomato, pepper and spaghetti is essential. These messages do not offer further meaning, they are what they are. They bring the connotation of the image down to the literal level.

After reading this essay relating this language to our own disciplines begins to look a lot easier, simply within our studio projects or even out with student work and looking at it from a professional angle. Continuing with the current experimental assignment we have that allows us to put this idea into practise, I’ll also consider the opportunities given within my course that will allow me to use this method of language with images to take projects a step further. Just now a simple idea of how to use this knowledge comes to me; by merely selecting images from research that I know will convey and present my message and concept of say any project clearer then presenting information to clients, tutor and peers becomes easier as a more universal knowledge becomes apparent and the intensity of thought is on the same level.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Consumption of Design


Assignment 1

This assignment was for us to investigate further into the theories of consumption within design and to apply this to practice.
Investigating and analysing a subject’s personal environment, possessions and family relationships with the use of photographs allowed us to attempt to find out about the person through their influences, interests and the people around them. Whether they are truly their own person or are subconsciously following ‘the Canon’ was the purpose of the investigation. Also applying our theories to actual evidence introduced us to the practical side of design studies.

I analysed about eight photographs of my subject (Sheonagh Gall) each varying in content such as different family members, different periods in time, various processions allowing me to process what each photograph told me about her.
Initial taking an educated guess as to who the ‘other’ people are in the photos and their relationship to the subject, then putting it together with the surrounding environment and possessions to create a story and understanding of what is happening in the photograph.

The evidence in the resources led me to certain conclusions about my subject’s (Sheonagh’s) influences and relationships. Many of her photos appear to be herself and her brother (or an older male relative; cousin); the fact that she has chosen these certain picture may in itself indicate her influence and relationship to him. In each photo she appears close and comfortable with her ‘brother’; either in an embrace or a friendly activity; a protective side to the brother is quite frequent in the photos indicated with an arm around the subject or positioning himself close to the same level as his sister. Demonstrating that their relationship is strong and that Sheonagh may look up to her brother as he is older and seems to take care of her. One photo of my subject and what seems to be her brother again shows a different side of their relationship but also reinforces the ‘older brother quality’ that shows his influence in his younger sister. It’s a more mischievous scene of the two of them peeking through a hole investigating something unknowing of the presence of a camera. He perhaps investigated first and Sheonagh followed lead, trusting and influenced by him; or perhaps he coxed her in convincing her to look first as she trusted him and looked up to him therefore wanting to impress him.

Another strong male influence appears in a few photos indicating how important this person is to my subject. Firstly appearing in a significant day of the subject’s life; her first day at school perhaps, the photo depicts a scene of an older male figure; father or grandfather, taking Sheonagh by the hand and leading her along a path. I based my analysis on the evidence present in the photo; she is dressed in a school uniform, very young, the male relative is looking down at her making sure that she is ok, perhaps apprehension of going into something new therefore leading me to the conclusion of her first day at school. She looks to him for support and possibly relies on him to lead her in the right direction.
In the other photograph another male figure is present showing a playful side of their relationship. A scene of them playing in the sand or the subject sitting on his knee imitating a pose taken by the male figure; her grandfather, indicates the ‘fun’ side of their relationship; it shows a stronger bond between them reinforcing their closeness. The ‘copy cat’ scene portrays her grandfather’s influence on Sheonagh, how she imitates him. Perhaps this impression still carries on in the present and many of her choices are influenced by him consciously or unconsciously. The beach scene also depicts a trusting side of their relationship as it appears he has buried her up to her neck in sand, there must be a huge element of trust in their relationship to allow him to go through with that task. Again it’s a very playful scene and shows how comfortable she is with him, place her trust in his hands – or rather spade!

Certain elements of this investigation were not as clear as others; favourite people perhaps showed through more than favourite colours. However basing my findings on the evidence I took an educated guess that in most of her photographs as a younger child she appears to wear pink a lot but at looking as she gets older that isn’t the case. As this is based on a guess, coincidence may play a big part in my conclusion so the following part of the assignment, where we meet up with our subject and discuss our finds, is imperative to understanding the task and understanding how people and markets are perceived whether initial research is coherent or irrelevant.

As we discussed our findings certain aspects of my conclusions were coherent with Sheonagh’s personal life. As I noticed indeed her grandfather was a strong figure as she grew up, he was the one who would always play with her, and she would go on holiday with her grandparents. In this case she realised that the picture maybe perceived her being closer to her granddad than her father. In the case of the beach scene where I found that there was a trusting relationship between herself and her granddad, Sheonagh confirmed this but didn’t realise that the pictures showed this much into their relationship. She also reinforced my idea that her brother and she were very close and cuddly as young children, that he was protective and looked out for her. However she elaborated and stated that as they grew older they grew apart but the bond was still there and he would always stay protective.

When my Sheonagh depicted what she found through my photographs I realised more about my mother. There was only one photo of her, this was not because she wasn’t around but rather she was always the one taking the photo, looking after us and organising us. She was very motherly and homely just as Shoenagh perceived. She recognised the closeness between me and my brother and sister especially my sister; from wearing the same clothes and playing together in most of the photos. Shoenagh suggested that our upbringing was very family orientated, she was right. Also many of my photographs were of things we had completed like snowmen or Lego buildings, Sheonagh’s view on this was that my parents were quite proud and wanted to show off our accomplishments, I realised this was true and still is today.

It was interesting to find out how other people perceived me through the memories we store in photographs. Little subtle things that I may have never noticed before are points that people may be able to pin point and look into to find out more about me, as did Sheonagh. Looking into my subjects personal life was hard at first, I perhaps felt apprehensive in case I touched on sensitive issues, but if you be considerate to your subject and deal with your research ethically then you can allow it to go further.

This assignment gave us a more practical take on investigating techniques allowing us to understand a bit more into the reality of research and resources. It’s not always a simple click of a mouse or a search in Google and all your questions are answered, primary research is the fundamental element of your opinions and your discipline; strong views need hard evidence to back it up.