Sunday, December 12, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #13

Final Blog Entry: Likes and Dislikes about Design Research.

Despite how frustrating and difficult group work can be, I appreciated the opportunity to work with strong personalities and am beginning to understand my own strengths and weaknesses within a group dynamic as well as the benefit of having different opinions and perspectives brought to the table. While I didn't always love working in a group, it is a like because it is important and in a way it's like exercising. Sometimes it's hard to motivate yourself to exercise, but in the end you know you'll be stronger for it. Sometimes group work was painful, but I know I'll be a stronger designer/professional because of it.

Another like is the final presentation. It was really fun to have a big night where our work was presented in a professional manner. It added an element of drama to the class that was really enjoyable and it was great to see how hard everyone had worked. Honestly, everyone did such a great job. And having a panel of outside judges was helpful, insightful, and interesting. I do think that those groups who maybe ran over by a minute or two could have been allowed to finish their presentation. This is a learning environment after all, and even if they get penalized in their final grade for running past ten minutes, they should have been allowed to finish presenting to the class something they had been working on all semester. I do understand that in real life you will have time limits and people will not always be so kind about overstepping them, but we are in school and I personally would like to see my classmates work presented to completion.

As far as dislikes go, there's the banality of saying group work can really suck at times, but I felt like for the most part, my group worked well and expediently together. Obviously this class takes up a lot of time but again, that's the nature of the class and it is twice as many credits as our other ones. In general, I don't have any incredibly strong dislikes but something that was definitely not my favorite was this blog. Maybe it's my misconception to think that everyone in the world has a blog so if it is something that you practice in your daily life, it seems redundant to have assigned blogging. It always felt like busy work. What I think would be more interesting is to discuss and provide opportunities about how to take your blog to another level~how to get people outside of the class to take note of what you're saying~how to contribute to already existing blogs/websites on the topics you are exploring~maybe how to get more traffic on your blog. Writing is something I believe most of us are probably pretty good at~taking it to another level and giving it visibility is something I'm sure we could all use advice on. I guess my main point is that this blog felt pretty stagnant particularly when you consider that a lot of the students are probably already fairly savvy when it comes to the world of blogs, websites, twitter, etc. If you are going to maintain the personal blog as part of the class, I think you need to find a more creative ways to take advantage of the medium.

That being said, on my personal blog, which is not particularly unique or extraordinary, I posted a bunch of the TED talks and interesting websites we were exposed to during this class. Thanks so much for those:)

Happy Holidays!
Best, K.

Monday, December 6, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #12

Apprehensions and Concerns about the Final Presentation:

Overall, I think that my group has been pretty strong and I trust in our choice for our presenter and the value of the material that we are presenting.
My obvious concerns are:
1. Will we get asked a question that will completely stump us?
2. Will the audience think that our video is boring?
3. Will our presentation not be clear to those unfamiliar with our topic?
4. Will someone snooze off during our presentation?
5. Will our presenter break his leg the morning of our presentation? (just kidding about that one. you can't be a worry~wart about everything!)

At this point, I think I have few real concerns and apprehensions about tomorrow. What will be will be and you can't control everything. It also eases anxiety that it's for a class and it is ultimately meant to be a learning experience. I'd rather make mistakes here than in a presentation I'm being paid to make.

Brene Brown's discussion of vulnerability was inspiring and extremely applicable to working in a group situation. A lot of hesitation, miscommunication, and bad ideas probably came out of team members not being vulnerable and not being willing to share one's true thoughts during group work. Or be willing to be criticized or told that an idea you have might not be the best or could use some work. I definitely at times would not share my true opinion for one reason or another. Maybe to create less work or to avoid the mental exhaustion of working in a team of strong personalities. But I'm becoming more aware of group dynamics and am now less willing to go along with the flow if I think something could be stronger. I know this class is definitely going to make me a better team member next semester.

Monday, November 29, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #11

Response to Pricing Beauty: Reflections on Aesthetics and Value, an Interview with Virginia Postrel.

For an independent study I pursued in college I read Virginia Postrel's book, Substance of Style. It's something that I should definitely return to and read again because I don't remember much from my first reading, only that she mentioned Starbucks quite a bit, and this article is re-peaking my interest, particularly Postrel's view on value and aesthetics. She claims that aesthetics are a source of value~economic, personal, or cultural and that while aesthetic value might have once been all about status, in our contemporary mass-market fueled world, that idea of status is disappearing and moving horizontally instead of vertically. Aesthetics as a value is reaching a larger population and because there are so many aesthetic choices to be made today, diversity becomes a key factor in self-expression. From the clothes we wear to the coffee we drink, we have multiple options and can form an identity through these consumer choices.

Postrel believes that aesthetics are a source of value, but they are also a source of conflict, which Postrel claims, "is where it leads into politics." Much of Postrel's sense of aesthetics is based in consumerism, and I can't help feeling that she also believes our personal identities are created by consumerism. Yes, we may have a wide variety of choices of items and gadgets and clothing to purchase, but it's a scary (albeit sometimes fairly true) thought that we express who we are through the things we buy.

Our economy is based on consumerism and while we might develop smarter and more clever and more aesthetically pleasing ways of being consumers, I truly hope
our ability to buy interesting products is not what ultimately shapes our sense of identity. If one preached that we should buy more aesthetically pleasing products that we would want to keep for years and years, that would be a different story, but consumerism is an extremely political and charged subject. We are now telling the emerging middle classes in China and India that they should consume like Americans but to what benefit? All I can see is a quicker deadline for the impending doom of our planet. It's one thing to write a book concerning an approach to aesthetics like Lawrence Weschler's book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees about Robert Irwin and his career as an artist; Irwin's value of aesthetics brings an interesting approach to the table, which in a sense is what I think Prostel is getting at. However, when your value of aesthetics is tied into a company like Starbucks, I think you are treading a very thin line between asserting that aesthetics has a strong cultural value and the idea that our cultural identities are merely built on our ability to be great consumers. Ultimately I think Postrel is trying to assert that aesthetics in our society has a permanent value, but her illustrations of this point are at times a bit scary and could be easily misread.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #10

This wasn't my favorite presentation,but it definitely caught my attention because one of the Swedish designers it mentioned created the above image, which is quite amusing. I just thought I'd share:)

The presentation that I enjoyed the most was one entitled "Details" which was presented by Toby Hyam, the Managing Director for Creative Space Management in Leeds, UK.
Hyam professes that "our world is about details and information." The initial image he uses, a photo focusing on the nape of a woman's neck, is the beginning of a series of photographs that on the surface aren't of anything particularly interesting or innovative, but upon further examination, lead the viewer to focus a little more intently, and examine what's happening in the photographs a little deeper, because after all, he is trying to illustrate a "condition" that he has which involves focusing on the details.

Hyam talks about how creative people have an innate ability to focus on the details and it's not about ignoring the larger picture and focusing on the insignificant. It's actually about being able to see something that others would never see ~ never notice ~ never take the time to examine and then capitalize on that ability and put something important out into the world. That is why creative thinking is so vital ~ we think about the details ~ we understand how important they are for innovation and creating novel approaches to situations, small and large.

Perhaps this might not appear relevant on the outset, but a few years ago, living in New York, I had the experience of having bedbugs twice in one summer. I remember the first night I saw one. It was late, 3 am perhaps. I was reading in bed and wearing a new t-shirt that I had bought in an awesome downtown boutique. It was an impulsive and overpriced purchase. The pattern resembled miniature leopard spots but in black and white. The t-shirt, for lack of a better descriptor, was rather "loud" and any small creature could have easily camouflaged itself in the pattern, particularly a creature with chameleon-like capabilities. But I saw it. I saw the bedbug out of the corner of my eye, scuttling through the pattern on my t-shirt. And I freaked out.

Later that summer, having just moved to a new apartment, I came home
around 11pm from spending a weekend in Boston. Even before I entered my room, through the doorway, I saw it again; a sad, desperate, tiny bug hanging out on my bed like it was no big whoop. I freaked out of course and shared a bed with my roommate that night. You ask, what in the world does seeing bedbugs have to do with details? For me, it's reflective of the fact that I am incredibly sensitive to details. When I returned home that night, I immediately noticed the that which was out of the ordinary. A year or two after having bedbugs, I was visiting my cousin in Austin and I pointed out some ants crawling on his bathroom wall. Surprised, he inquired how I could have noticed something so tiny and in my head I thought, "How could you not notice that!?"

I always thought that everyone saw images in clouds. It never occurred to me that there might be people who don't. It never occurred to me that there might be some people who don't notice red ants crawling on their white wall. And it's truly been a recent revelation that there are details I notice very easily that others will never be able to see. The bedbug story is merely to illustrate that I'm always hyper-aware of the details, small and large. The challenge is channeling that ability into creative solutions, particularly in an age that is driven by technology.

Peter Guber pointed out in The Four Truths of the Storyteller, a good storyteller has to appeal to the senses and emotions of the listener. Hyam's "condition" resonated with me on an extremely personal level and therefore I became emotionally invested in what he was saying. It not only applied to my individual experiences and capabilities, but it also connected me to a larger community who also believe they "suffer" from a similar "condition". It's all in the details.

Friday, November 12, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #9

Q: Reaction to Tim Brown's challenge to designers.

When Tim Brown started to talk about his first few jobs as a designer (which I loved by the way...I think it's great to hear about successful people's kind of blah or not very successful moments in life) I thought of my own path towards becoming interested in design, and my first initial interest was created by a love of personal expression through fashion and fashion design.

A lot of my high school experience was pretty boring and I often found myself taking classes that I thought would get me into a good college and not usually the ones that really interested me. I entered college thinking I was going to be an International Relations major, so as you can imagine, my high school class choices had not been particularly exciting. To fuel my creative sensibilities in high school, my outlet became the outfits that I created for school each day.

Luckily, my undergrad experience in New York allowed me a variety of opportunities to be involved in the fashion world. My first was interning at Vogue magazine in the accessories department, which I hated. Then I did a summer program at Parsons in fashion design and I hated that too. I was a bit disheartened because I love textures, fabrics, textiles, the drama of fashion, even the manufacturing of clothes...but I think Tim Brown puts it best with his concept of "small design". I always felt like I was participating in something incredibly trivial. Yes, I love the aesthetics of fashion but when I had the opportunity to work in it, I was always bored and afraid that I would spend my life designing t-shirts. For some people this probably sounds like the greatest job in the world, for me it sounds like creative purgatory.

In the fall of my senior year of college, I interned at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. While there, I had the opportunity to write the press release for an exhibit called, Design for the Other 90%, which explored designs that were being made in and for developing countries. It was a very small task in the scheme of bringing this particular exhibit to fruition, but it felt far more important that anything I had done at Vogue. I really did feel part of something greater than myself. Maybe if the exhibit had been one on lighting or chairs, I wouldn't have felt this way, but this exhibit peaked my interest in how design could fit into a larger picture and create solutions.

I'm not yet sure of how I'll reconcile my love of textiles and fashion with creating systems and solutions as a designer, but my reaction to Tim Brown's challenge is this:

Bring it on.

Monday, November 1, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #8

This infographic comes from
Of course the infographic that appeals to me the most is the one about New York City. I think part of that is having just moved from New York, it is on my mind a lot. Some of the immediate appeal of this visualization was the emotional attachment that I have to this city but then there is also the experience that I have with the action they are visualizing: moving in new york. I'm sure that the same conversation topics apply here in San Francisco because it is an equally expensive city with a high demand for people wanting to live in it. Moving and subsequently real estate become fascinating topics that one brings up at parties and social events because one spends so much time dealing with moving in New York, particularly one in their twenties. It's an easy topic to discuss with others because everyone in New York has had some experience with it and it's a neutral topic like talking about the weather.

Another element of this infographic that is appealing is it reminded me of something that would appear in New York Magazine, which again holds emotional attachment because it is all about New York and in general, is just a great magazine.

However, despite this infographic being initially extremely appealing, it's not particularly easy to read. The graphics go back and forth between percentages and numbers and upon reading the description of the visualization, you understand that it's based on responses to a radio station poll. Without that information though, it's a bit hard to tell where the numbers originated from and why there isn't a consistency between expressing the data in a percentage or actual numbers. At the same time, the absence of uniformity forces you to pay a little bit more attention to the data and because it's not expressing an extremely complicated topic, it's never particularly confusing. It just takes a moment to figure out what information is being expressed. Overall it's really the aesthetics and the topic of this infographic that appeal to me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

CCA DR Blog Post #7

La! Good ideas~I'm not sure that I ever have any of those:)

If I did have one, it would have come about 4-6 hours ago as my best working times are between 1 am - 4 am. As Steven Johnson points out, ideas emerge slowly over time and even though people love to talk about an "Aha!" or "Eureka!" moment, there are really mini "Ahas!" for a while until a strong idea solidifies. For me there is always lots of deliberation, lots of moving into wrong directions and testing out hypotheses until something clear and emergent begins to take shape. Sometimes I have to step back from the situation, do something mindless like watch an episode of a TV Show or simply just lie down on my bed and try to shut out distractions so I can focus on what I'm thinking about. If I fall asleep, I hope that I at least vaguely remember my thought process when I wake.

In a work environment obviously you can't really lie on your bed or watch TV, so previously working as a textile designer, those actions would translate into looking at blogs for inspiration, spending time in fabric stores and the like, or just playing around with fabrics and shapes on my work table (everyone in our studio had a work table where you could play with your designs and ideas). And generally a direction would emerge, perhaps not an "Aha!" direction but certainly a path would begin to show itself. Often in making or designing, you have to play around with several idea and processes before something successful emerges, similar to what Steven Johnson said about there being a sort of process and evolution (no pun intended in reference to Darwin) to your idea(s). I've never had a perfect idea suddenly spring forth from my head. It usually evolves over time, through process and experimentation, and is often informed by my education or areas/ideas that I already find interesting and inspiring. Coming up with a good idea feels like an organic process, almost like tending a garden. You begin with a small seed and you have to cultivate and add nutrients and water to that seed for it to emerge as something lovely and useful.