Working notes on feedback as a design tool

This week I ran a workshop with undergraduate students at Imperial College working in design teams at imperial. the aim was to show that it is much easier to give feedback when you a working from a common set of expectations. But this feedback approach can go much further than supporting good team dynamics – itself very important – it can be used as a tool for creative thinking and exploring new ground. Here is a summary of the ten most common points that came up during my conversations with students.

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The left-right game – experiments in navigation, embodiment and control

Yesterday my daughter and I left the house and flipped a coin. Heads for left, tails for right. Right it was, then left, then left again, et cetera. A random journey along the roads, cyclepaths and alleyways of our neighbourhood ensued. It became a fun home-schooling lesson in probability. It revealed to me the habits that stop me from noticing so much of what surrounds me. And it was a fascinating experiment in not having a plan.

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#18 Hazel Hill Wood – Dawn chorus sonic lockdown therapy- show-notes

Black and white image of a tree canopy in winter, looking a bit like a series of river tributaries joining together.

30 minutes of uninterrupted dawn chorus Hazel Hill Wood, recorded at the end of March. Hazel Hill is woodland nature reserve and education centre helping frontline staff develop resilience and wellbeing through connection with nature. While people are prevented from visiting the woods during lockdown, the team are working on ways to bring the wood to them during lockdown. Listening suggestions:

  • Early in the morning
  • Over breakfast
  • In the background while you work
  • To clear your mind at the end of work
  • Late at night as you drift off to sleep
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It’s the invisible ingredients in the design dough that makes it rise

There used to be a sign outside a bakery in London that said something along the lines of, ‘it’s the invisible ingredients – love, care and attention – that make our bread taste so good. This aphorism often comes to mind when I am running sessions on how to interpret a design brief. Understanding the ingredients can really help the design rise.

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Unreliable briefs – finding the deeper design narrative

It is tempting to think of a design brief as wholly reliable, a document that contains all the information necessary to execute the design. But design briefs are rarely as reliable as that. In fact we should expect them to be unreliable to start with. Our job as designers is to make our briefs more reliable. To help, I have been playing with the literature concept of the unreliable narrator to help characterise types of unreliable briefs.

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Imprisoned with the infinite – the philosophical implications of an imaginary visit to Sweden

Yesterday our household returned home from an imaginary holiday. Despite being in lockdown, we realised that we could imagine going on a trip anywhere in the world. Our daughter suggested our Sweden. Too far to easily get to under normal circumstances without flying, with that constraint removed we thought, why not? Now back home, I have been using this visit as an opportunity to explore some philosophical arguments about how we deal with choice and how this affects our creativity.

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A click of the ratchet from physical to virtual

Across all the of the projects I’m involved with we are working out what can go ahead and what must be postponed. A significant factor in whether to proceed is whether the activity can go ahead virtually. While the ability to move online is a blessing for business and job continuity, I think it represents an irriversible step for industry and society away from the phyical to the virtual – a click of the ratchet – that will have long-lasting impacts on our freedom and how we interact with other people.

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The horizon of existence | surveillance capitalism | the return of analogue skills

It’s hard to know where to start. So much has changed in the last fortnight and there is so much that I feel compelled to write about. But now that our house has also become a remote workplace, a homeschool and playground and locus for all entertainment and time-passing activities, it is hard to find the time to write in an ordered way, so I will capture things as they emerge and look to see the patterns over time. I hope you will bear with me, reader. On my mind today:

  • The shrinking horizon of existance
  • Surveillance capitalism and Analogue Skills
  • Everyone is the same distance away
  • Mourning friction
  • A great slowing

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