Service Innovation

Last week I went along to a talk by Lucy Kimbell organised by Prof Teal Triggs at London College of Communication. This event was designed for PhD design-led research students and touched upon the social aspects of service innovation. The concept of 'Design Thinking' has become heavily adopted within big corporations and organisations to pitch creative strategies as a vehicle to implement new concepts, products and services. Through application design thinking works alongside non designers who are invited to participate within the design process. Design then becomes a portable practice and new thinking is approached through action. But what does this actually mean?

This was Lucy's starting point and she took us on a journey over the next 90 mins to scope the landscape and introduce us to her own perspective. As a PhD student, designer and researcher I have used 'Design Thinking' as my starting point to address new projects and expand upon co-design - I really connected to this presentation and left feeling very inspired.

This talk made us question:

What do designers do? How is it different and how can we describe it? If this role is about agency and participation the role changes and how do we manage this process? Is there something distinctive about having a design trained background? Do we need to go back to studios / education to explore what we are teaching designers to apply?

How does design change when applied within a larger organisation?

Who are the publics / who are you designing for?When we invite others to participate within the design process we refer to them as the 'end user' but how does this sample group represent the majority?

If design is about participation and adopting a people centred ethos its a social practice. This shifts beyond visualising solutions and moves towards giving things shape, form and meaning. Lucy highlighted that the reflective conversation with the materials can create a dialogue with stuff. I found think point really relevant especially within a fashion and textile design domain - the tangible and material form is central to the process and this becomes an interface to engage people. (images from one of my test session's / workshops)

Prototype Session DRESS UP/DOWNload

I liked her reference to prototypes and provotypes - something I have been exploring. Instead of mocking up a concept or solution - can we create something more controversial that provokes conversation and triggers an emotional response. Could this be more effective - if something is finished and refined its difficult to provoke conversation. Therefore, if something is incomplete or designed to make a bold statement maybe people would feel less intimidated?

There was lots of discussion about beauty, aesthetics and moving from visualisation towards stuff. Lucy highlighted that this is what designers are skilled and good at therefore this is an asset and should not be removed from the process.

There were references to Christopher Alexander "giving shape and form" and Thomas Binder"boundary objects". Boundary objects become an interface to connect people and mediate action. They become learning devises to facilitate learning. When working with non designers managing expectation is a key aspect and I thought these points were key to the process. Another reference to Graham Harman who talks about the role of objects and how they can be used to connect people.

Big thank you to Lucy for sharing her thoughts and vast experience. And thank you to Prof Teal Trigg's for organising this event.

TFRC: Perspectives on Future Sustainable Design

Last week Textile Futures Research Centre hosted an event titled 'Perspectives on Future Sustainable Design' at Central Saint Martins.

This event began with a keynote lecture from Dr Jonathan Chapman, followed by presentations from Carole Collet, Rebecca Earley and closed with a PhD finishers platform which I participated in alongside Kate Goldsworthy and Aurelie Mosse.

Dr Chapman's keynote was titled "Re-thinking Good Design in an Unsustainable Way" and started by highlighting why designers as beautifully positioned to champion sustainability. This keynote was packed with points which really made me stop and think

Good design is the ecology of doing and sustainability should be open for everyone to engage with. How can we make solutions accessible and encourage people to engage with them?

When exploring the broad terrain of sustainability confusion is good

"To be confused is to be combing things that were previously separate. To 'confuse' literally means, to 'pair together'; a melting pot of ideas, paradigms to world views." Hawkins (2011)

How can we be the change we want to see in the world and how does this all piece together? How can one individual connected to few inspire new action? Chapman went on to express that people are drawn to optimism and concrete solutions; they are not at all to pessimism, fuzziness and scare mongering.  Therefore solutions need to be pitched in an exciting, positive way to invite people to participate and become involved.

I loved the pace and tone of this lecture - it really made me reflect and think about my own work and I felt we were taken on a journey through some of the complexity surrounding sustainability. I've simplified some of the points which I related to but the full podcast will be available to download via TFRC soon.

This was followed by Becky Earley who introduced TED's TEN which is a toolbox for designers

1. Design to Minimise Waste

2. Design for Recycling / Upcycling

3. Design to Reduce Chemical Impacts

4. Design to Reduce Energy and Water Use

5. Design the Explores Clean / Better Technologies

6. Design that looks at Models from Nature & History

7. Design for Ethical Production

8. Design to Replace the Need to Consume

9. Design to Dematerialise and Develop Systems & Services

10. Design Activism

The TED team have curated the TEN into a collection of method cards which can be used to support interactive workshop sessions, seminars and consultancy packages with large fashion brands. This presentation illustrated each category with a collection of beautiful case studies to showcase how they can be adapted or built upon to inspire new working models for fashion & textile design.

This part of the seminar concluded with Carole Collet offering insight into the future of textiles. This future thinking approach took us on a journey of scientific wonder and combined beautiful images, prototypes to illustrations and possibilities which became very thought provoking. A connection to science and nature was made to identify sources of inspiration for designing textiles such a bio lace to explore new manufacturing processes which are engineered and constructed within a lab rather than an assembly line.

This was action packed and a huge thank you to the speakers and TFRC for putting this together. Some podcasts should be available for download shortly via TFRC connections and Shirahime have a fantastic write up.

I will complete another post on the PhD platform shortly.

2012: New Year, projects, talks & workshops

Happy New Year! Well on reflection 2011 was a busy time - I put into practice some of the learning which evolved throughout my PhD research and began to share the findings with others. Through conferences, showcase events and workshops. This led to new collaborations and meeting a collection of really inspiring people who helped me to push my thinking forward.

Now in the final stages of writing and reflection - I hope to share my finished PhD research this year. I am working on the finished thesis at present and will explore some creative options of showcasing the practical work developed.

Alongside my writing, I with be designing and delivering some presentations and workshops early this year. I will share this further as it develops.

I look forward to 2012 and wonder what new friends, learning and discovery it will bring!

Talks and Presentations @DJCAD

Image Credit: Jame Thoms 2011 (


Last week I was invited to talk to both Masters and Undergraduate students at Duncan of Jordanstone, College of Art & Design. My brief was to talk about my journey from textile design through to my PhD and beyond. It was a great opportunity to talk with and meet new design students beginning their own journey's and also provided me with time to pause and reflect on my own experiences.

Throughout my design education I have undertaken a range of different projects, worked to various design briefs, modules and deadlines. I think the safe and supported environment of University enables you to follow your passion's and take time to shape and define yourself to grow into the type of designer you want to become.

For me, this has been a slow process. My journey wasn't mapped out from the outset and I have really latched onto what I loved and was passionate about first and identified the opportunity space second. Within the current educational and economic climate, it's a tough time for design students who face a period of uncertainty but creativity challenges crisis and I do believe design can play a positive and pivotal role.

I tried to reflect upon my own challenges and stumbling blocks and also look at the positive outcomes I have achieved to offer some advice. Both presentations can be viewed here and here. I've listed advice below.


1. be positive and believe in your ideas, thoughts and most importantly yourself

2. connect, collaborate and converse - your peers, lecturers and staff at university are full of knowledge and good advice and this is one of the most valuable resource which you won't always have access to. You don't need to be great at everything - but identify your strengths and weaknesses and then you can collaborate to share skills and resources.

3. record everything and keep it visual - I've build up an archive of resources, tools and techniques over the years and it's difficult to manages and some important data can become lost or forgotten. Digital media tools can be used to manage data and also creative techniques such as sketch notes can capture key points ( the image above is from a talented Mdes Dundee student Jamie who uses this method brilliantly - visit his blog!)

4. communication is imporant - anyone can have good ideas but it's how you demonstrate them that will set you apart from the crowd. It can be scary but you need to master the craft of standing up and talking about your work. Think about your elevator pitch - if you had only 2 minutes to explain what you do - what would you say? You can be creative and use props to support conversation - I use power point and design visual slides to narrate my story. But, using photos, mood boards, sketchbooks, prototypes etc as visual props can be used to enhance conversation - making ideas tangible is a great asset.

5. stay connected - don't work in isolation and be open about your process and progress... social media is a free medium which can be used to profile your practice and connect to others with similar interests.

6. context is key - whatever your interests and focus they need to have purpose and function - who are you designing for? Go out and find your people - those working in a way which inspires you and with experience in your field. Conferences, symposiums, exhibitions etc can be a good opportunity space to talk to people.

7. believe in yourself - have confidence in your ideas and share your energy and enthusiasm. This is infectious and will inspire others :-)

That's quiet general advice - but your time at art school flies by before you know it. Johanna Basford wrote a great post recently about 50 things she wishes she has known in art school. Within fashion and textiles, I think forming or joining a collective is also a great way to work and Im friends with Bricolage, Puff and Flock and POSTextiles.

There were also great talks from Lindsey McIntosh, Lauren Currie and Fan Xia . All reflecting on their design studies and presenting a range of methods and tools to support design-led practice.