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Earlier this year a group of 3DD third year students applied to join the Design Academy Project. The project ran across four days within Novemeber- a fantastic opportunity to learn, network and present their work on a professional platform. Below is Theresa Kitching’s account of the value of the experience:
On initial application for the Design Academy, I wasn’t fully sure what to expect, and how it would affect my own practice – if it would at all. I was eager to form a connection with the Design Council as they are a well-respected charity which seems to be involved in a broad range of aspects within design. I was also made aware of the collaborative nature of this program, with students from all art & design disciplines being involved.
In the initial day of workshops, we were all placed into groups with one student from each area in the art school. We were introduced to the ‘Design For Care’ brief, with each group being given a societal challenge within the broad field of care in the form of a problem question to solve. My group was given the question ‘How might we support people caring for their loved ones?’ We were then introduced to various methods of research with their own designed frameworks. From this we also learnt of the ‘Double-Diamond’ method of research; involving broadening your research to then narrow your ideas and again broaden the research to come to a more final narrow solution.
We began to understand the value of observational research through public observation (our group were given a betting shop to observe the room and behavior within) also by observation of each other within the group, considering ‘magic’ and ‘miserable’ moments. This in-depth analysis aided our understanding of the importance of observational research, to form a true idea of the audience you are hoping to access.
We all shared ideas through many presentations to the whole class – a valuable tool when improving confidence and professionalism. I found the presentations got easier the more we were instructed to do. We were critical of our own ideas, and those of others, leading to the whole room being collaborative and each of the groups ideas became intertwined through the common issue of ‘Care’.
Each group took on Desk Research and many chose to conduct questionnaires, interviews etc. These honest opinions proved crucial to each group’s direction, as we were all constantly reminded: we are looking for a piece of information that may have been overlooked by others, a stand-out, honest moment of clarity, that would help us identify the root of the problem and the key to solving it. We were informed of the method of ‘Strategic Design’, tackling design problems with confidence through thorough analysis of the audience and what we as makers and designers have to offer to such a problem.
The issues we were all tackling felt personal but also extremely relevant within the national and even international community, we were undertaking big issues, however the Design Council made the students feel comfortable within this, giving us the confidence to become more aware of Social Design as a whole. The concept of not necessarily designing/creating a ‘thing’ but forming a new idea towards how we live our lives and support others.
On the final day, we all travelled to London to present our proposals to a panel of key figures within the ever-expanding Design and Business community. Including representatives from IBM, the Cabinet Office, the Design Council and founder and designer Freddie Yauner, founder of the Shift.MS charity. This was very daunting with ten timed minutes for each presentation and ten timed minutes for questions from the panel. This introduction into such a professional context was extremely useful, and the encouragement from the mentors meant we all explained our ideas with as much confidence as we could muster.
I would highly recommend this program, though it was intense, it was extremely refreshing to be informed of a whole new way of considering design. This would be extremely useful for anyone hoping to make an impact within society through design, whether that be through a product or a service supplied. However, I see this opportunity as useful for all, I now consider research through so many avenues. I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience it all!