Through an eight-month open project many things can be achieved, developed, adapted, learned, etc. It is important to reflect on these aspects at the end of this project as to bring clarity to what I have learned, how I’ve grown and any methods I should bring into the future or leave behind.
Phase 0 was an important starting period to give the students time to bring some definition to their open brief and to consider alternatives. I was able to take a step back and look at my motives not only in design, but in life, and then consider what areas I’d like to explore further or if there were any foreign subjects I’d like to be acquainted with. This gave me the opportunity to make sure my brief for the rest of the year would be engaging, interesting and something that I could learn a lot from. Although I was able to identify many areas, which drove me and had great interest in researching them further, I found it very difficult to narrow down on specific areas in which I could create a brief for myself to solve, due to fear of being pigeon holed into an area that I would regret. To help me narrow down I tried to come up with some ideas of what might be my final product. However, this didn’t help much as I new there was so much work, learning and development to come that my predictions would only be stabs in the dark of what might be the outcome. Eventually I had to just go with the flow and I drafted three briefs for areas, which felt right for me. It was has been comforting to learn, that in the initial stages, feeling and instinct are reliable factors. These three briefs were narrowed down to one at the beginning of Phase 1 and although there was now only one brief it was still very open and it felt very daunting to have such little specification at this stage.
Phase 1 was intended for deep research into narrower aspects of my brief. For the first week or 2 I had no idea what these aspects might be. I began with some very open research into audio recording, as that was the only certain aspect I had at this point. Keeping my initial research very open turned out to be an extremely valuable choice. Thankfully, my first cultural probe returned extremely dense feedback, which I was able to pick apart and analyse for insights. Although this was very interesting I still hadn’t found a path to head down with my brief so I continued to analyse the feedback from my cultural probe further by asking the participants to reflect on their feedback as well. This is when I found a number of insights and ideas that lead to a connection between the notion in my brief, of capturing meaningful audio, and photography. Although I may have taken too much time to narrow down my brief and area for research, I was already very glad that I had held back for so long as I had now found an interesting area that I felt had potential for development. Naturally, areas that I was interested in were all coming together. Audio, photography, perception, time. I think that having so much personal interest may have encouraged me to impose a lot of my own thoughts into the design process as apposed to being fully objective and drawn from primary research. In retrospect this has probably both helped and hindered me in some aspects, but has nonetheless given me the motivation to carry out this project in the way that I did. Through Phase 1 the research I carried out also resulted in a change to my initial aims. I was now going to concentrate on only a recording device instead of a playback device as well. This decision was made on the basis that I would prefer to look deeper into the act of recording audio rather than spread my concentration over multiple objects and functions.
In Phase 2, the last and probably most important phase, in terms of evaluation, it was time to start making what would eventually become the end product of this project. Now that I had an area, or areas, of focus and lots of material for inspiration, I could start experimenting with forms, technology, materials, etc. It was in the first part of Phase 2 that I realised I fond I was of reiterating an idea to slowly develop and refine it. Through over ten models I was able to select the most suitable forms, weights, components, etc and eliminate those that weren’t befitting. I thoroughly enjoyed this slow Darwinian process and I think it’s a method that I will likely use on any future projects. Towards the end of this phase I began to realise that I may have been developing my concept perhaps too slowly and that a lot of decisions were still to be made and problems to be resolved. Decision-making is an area I should have been more cautious about through this project as it has always been something that I have struggled with. Now it was again becoming a problem. However, I took this as an opportunity I forced myself to make the decisions that where necessary even if it unnerved me to make them, at the time. After making the decisions however, there were still a lot of tasks that needed to be completed. And here lay another obstacle. As always, I was spending my time thinking about what my options, planning everything and theorising about all my choices when what was needed was action to get the tasks done. I got to work with making parts, sourcing them and communicating with the people necessary to get what I needed. I now think I am much more able at being active and resourceful.
Many developments have taken place over the last eight months however there are still skills that I wish I had evolved. My electronics abilities still leave a lot to be desired. I don’t think this is down to a lack of knowledge but a lack of activism and a sincere interest in other areas of design. I believe that if I’d put myself in a position to be submerged with electronics and computer coding that I would become adept in these fields quite quickly. After spending a lot of time in the workshop over the last month I have learned a lot more in the way of building and machining and I would like to experience this kind of work more in the future as I know I still have a lot to assimilate. This project has helped me find and define a better idea of what kind of designer I am. I now know that I am very interested in how people interact with form and using similarities to evoke certain responses from users, usually for the purpose of thought. I’ve also learned that detail as a result from research is something that interests me and I look forward to seeing what these passions might bring to my future and what other skills I’ll have the chance to develop.