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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#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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#17 Tabitha Pope – Participatory Architecture – Show notes

Tabitha Pope is an architect and lecturer, with a specialism temporary structures and participatory architecture and a passion for work that sits at the boundary of art and architecture. In this episode, produced in support of International Women’s Day, my colleague Lucy Barber interview Tabitha about:

  • What is participatory design and what benefits does it offer us in the climate emergency.
  • Challenging power in order to make architecture a more inclusive space for all under-represented groups, not just women.
  • How her practice of carpentry allows her to intervene in the design process in a different way.
  • Establishing a nature connection to help designers and citizens alike tackle the biodiversity crisis.
  • Stepping into a space of vulnerability in design in order to do things differently.
  • Creating spaces for joy and encounter to tackle loneliness and build resilience in communities.

Listen on Apple Podcasts , Sticher or by download here.

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#16 Bengt Cousins-Jenvey – How to save a million tonnes of carbon – shownotes

Bengt Cousins-Jenvey podcast - how to save a million tonnes of carbon

Bengt is a consultant and ‘re-designer’, working in sustainability and circular design in the built environment. This year we are working together to create training in response to the climate emergency. In this interview I ask Bengt about his big question: what single thing can you do to save a million tonnes of carbon. Exploring this question we get into:

  • High-level strategies for accounting for carbon that help avoid getting stuck in the detail.
  • Using culture-change models to guide organisations as they respond to declaring a climate emergency.
  • Thinking frameworks that help consultants engage with the businesses they are supporting.

Listen on Apple Podcasts , Sticher or by download here

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#15 Show-notes – Oliver Broadbent interview by Alexie Sommer – Creativity, climate and clowning

Photograph shows Oliver Broadbent leading a swing dance lesson at Pete the Monkey Festival with the Mudflappers.Image used to create link between teaching swing dancing and creativity training for engineers

I spend most of my time designing creativity training for engineers. In this episode we flip the format. Alexie Sommer, Independent Design and Communication Director and collaborator on many of my projects interviews me about why I set up Eiffel Over and Constructivist Ltd, and what our plans are for designing creativity training for engineers in 2020. We get into:

  • Techniques for teaching creativity
  • Our programme of training support people tackling the climate emergency
  • And what engineers might learn from clowns.

Listen on Apple Podcasts , Sticher or by download here

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From Dminor to F#minor – new adventues in chord transitions

My Dad and I talk about chords. How would you get from one key in a piece of music to another? To onlookers, it might seem as though we are playing a game of Mornington Crescent. But it makes sense to us.

This evening I put on the second movement of Ravel’s String Quartet in F, which I love. It’s a plucky effervesecent number, with a soaring, bowed second phrase in a completely different key. I sat down at the piano to work it out. The first section is in D minor, and the second part is in F# minor. The common note that allows the connection is A. But in all my years hammering things out on the piano I have never noticed this as a possible transition, in any key.

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