Third Year PDP

Before the separation of BA and BSc students, I felt Constellation was a way to open one’s mind to see the wider world and the people living in it. The first Topic I explored was ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’. The main point that I took from this class was that each individual will never understand the opinion of another individual. This was proven using Toy design, instead of letting adults design them, they allowed children directly. The result was much different to what the adults would have produced, providing evidence for the previous statement.

The following Topic was ‘The Body in Society’. The main things explored was identity and gender. I had never thought of gender such an in-depth way before this Topic. The main argument was that we only see masculine/feminine aesthetic and products as masculine/feminine, due to society conditioning us to believe so. And then later discussed whether these gender boundaries were that have been implemented into society are restricting peoples creativity, happiness. One main debate during this class was whether it is deemed appropriate to allow your child to dress and/or play with toys designed for the opposite sex if they wish to do so. In an attempt to avoid gender restriction some parents decide to bring their children up ‘Gender-neutral’. This is when the children are only allowed to play with toys deemed appropriate for both males and females. Although some believe that not allowing them to do something is restricting in itself.

When we reached second year BA and BSc were separated. Being a BSc student, I finished the first-year constellation and started Mechanical Engineering and Electronics. Although I found Electronics rewarding, I found it very challenging (by far the most challenging part of my degree). In hindsight, I wish I had returned home after every session and revised all work taught in that class. I feel even my skills are not as good as they could be, and would definitely advise future students who lack a background in electronics to read through the lectures beforehand,  pay full attention during, and after each lecture re-do what you have been taught to ensure you fully understand.

Mechanical Engineering was one of the favorite parts of my Product Design Experience, I wish we were taught more of this in the first year. It seemed that that first year for us was designed completely BA based, and included no aspect of BSc, this applies to subject, constellation, and field. Many people in my year struggled to decide whether they were more appropriate for the BA or BSc course, as there was no way of predicting that Bsc entailed. I believe that there should be an incorporation of constellation, electronics, and engineering in the first year to provide a wider understanding of each course. But also, regardless of being BA or BSc, having knowledge of electronics and engineering is essential in regards to creating good design and producing high quality working prototypes. I also think that maybe an exam could be beneficial, this could potentially encourage students to revise the information taught in these classes which would be highly beneficial to us as future designers.

I started off my third-year Technical Report thinking I would be writing about ‘Information, Communication, Technologies’. Over the summer holidays, I realised this topic was much too broad, therefore, I had to narrow down my Topic of choice. It took longer than I would have liked to finalise my decision but I decided to write about ‘Telemedicine’. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about this, although still found the topic too broad, so wanted to discuss Telemedicine in relation to something more specific. I considered on writing about Telmedicine in relation to people who live in rural/secluded areas but instead decided to write my technical report on ‘Telemedicine in relation to seniors living in the UK’.

I discovered that Telemedicine is already of great benefit to elderly people in relation to Telemonitoring so that elderly people can live independently in a safe, non-intrusive way. And it is also being used to help elderly residents emotionally living in nursing homes and suffer from mental diseases such as dementia. Although there was a gap in the market in relation to elderly people and real-time telemedicine. This gap was mainly due to the digital divide in society and the expense of smart devices being too high for many elderly people living in the UK. For the Stage two (the design stage) of my Technical report, I focussed on this gap in the market and applied the design process to produce an appropriate design solution. Due to time constraints, the finalised product idea is not as finished as I would have hoped, although I believe the concept has great potential to help the elderly people in the UK gain easier access to healthcare at a small expense. If I did have more time, I would develop high facsimile models to test the product.

Overall, Constellation/Mechanical Engineering as a whole was an essential part of my journey in becoming a more rounded designer over the past three years. I have gained more practical design skills from subject and field, but constellation has made me aware of the importance of questioning your design thinking. I now always ask myself, ‘why’? Constellation highlighted the importance of understanding that the people I am designing for may not want a product to be the way that I may have assumed that they would have wanted (never make assumptions). Also, I have been more aware that I should consider the social stigma that surrounds certain design aesthetics, for example, do you design a product based around gender constraints, gender neutrality, or attempt to ignore the social boundaries and begin to implement the idea that people can like what they like, regardless of social stigmas applied to certain aesthetics or function.


Constellation Reflective Text

Constellation has widened my mind to things that before I most likely would not have considered whilst designing. Being in interdisciplinary groups has helped broaden my understanding of art and design as a whole, I now realise how my mind works differently in comparison to someone who studies a different disciplinary. In ‘the body in society’ whilst studying the architecture of Bentham’s Panoticon (which was a prison designed in order for the prisoners be seen but not to see from the ‘Peripheric’ building, but for the guard to see but not to be seen from the central tower), we were put into groups of different dispensaries and were asked what the idea of seeing and not being seen reminded us of. Typical of a product designer I thought of CCTV, whereas a fine artist in my group had angels as their first thought.

Both of my lecturers seemed very passionate about what they were teaching which I admired, they also both had a very different style of teaching. My ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lecturer was very good in terms of keeping each lecture’s layout very similar, this made it easy to adjust and prepare for the lectures. Although when given a text to read, we did not read through it as a class, whereas my ‘Body in Society’ lecturer would read out loud and explain complicated terms as they were reading, which was much more effective since we understood more as a class.

A specific theory that stuck out for in constellation was Piaget ‘The Relation between Subject and Object’ which I studied in ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’. Before Piaget’s work, the common assumption in psychology was that children are merely less competent thinkers than adults. Where in reality, children simply think in a different way to adults. Our lecturer then related this to Ikea’s Plush toys which were designed around 10 children’s drawing. The children could justify why they drew their drawings like they did, and this revealed that children do indeed think differently to adults. This raised the question, ‘Can adults Design Toys for Children? I explored this idea of adults designing toys further, I chose to do this because as an adult designer that is very interested in design for children (in the past I have designed baby bags, car seats and high chairs), I thought it could help me understand what is needed to be done in order to design effectively for children.

Another theory that was introduced to me in one of the ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lectures which I found of great interest was Rudolf Arnheim’s theory of ‘Visual Thinking’ which was based around the concept that everyone’s cognitions work differently due to the fact we all experiences things differently due to our five sense. To explain further, nobody will ever be able to see exactly what you see from your perspective. This idea adjusted the way I think about my practice since it is proven that everyone thinks differently regardless of if they are the same age, race or gender, which makes designing for a certain category of people even more difficult.

The final theory I will discuss from one of my ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lectures is Duchamp M’s ‘The Creative Act’, his theory was that a designers ‘intentions’ of a design idea ‘and its realisation’ can be very different, as a designer I can relate to this straight away, for example during my a-levels I had designed and made a baby changing bag for a mum with arthritis, once it had been completed I gave it to my target audience to use for a period of time and then gave them a questionnaire to fill out, and some of their reactions were very unexpected, for example, they said that the pockets which were initially categorised for bottles, they tended to use for storage of toys. I have unintentionally designed for newborns/children a lot during my design education; this year at Cardiff Met I am designing a car seat for a new-born. The reason why ‘The Creative Act’ theory is relevant to this is since it is based on one’s visual, and a child ‘Looks and recognises before it can speak’ (Beger). Therefore, children pay greater attention to the world’s aesthetics. To help differentiate between a child and an adults cognition in regards to ‘visual thinking’ , if you were to show an adult a box, all they would see is a box, but a child could see the potential for things such as a rocket ship or a car.

‘The body in society’ has influenced the way I think about my practice enormously. My practice revolves primarily around designing for people, therefore understanding the way people think about themselves and how others think of them is essential in designing effectively. One lecture we read the text ‘Identity’. I had never realised how complicated the term identity was until this lecture. It was more complex due to the fact that, for example, you may identify someone as a woman, but they may not choose to be identified in that way, they may choose to be identified as a man. And within that identity category of women there are many more categories, although binaries help simplify this, for example, you must identify as; man/woman, black/white.

We also studied ‘Ways of seeing’ by John Berger in ‘The body in society’, Berger discussed how the eating of the apple in Genesis made them aware that nudity brought shame, and most oil painting after had the women being subject and being shown that they are aware of being seen. Being educated about gender in art and design history is of use to me as I can see how things have progressed throughout time. In today’s world mass media not only focuses on the female form but now also the male form is subject to desire. I am now only more curious of what people’s opinion on gender will be in another century’s time.

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The Body in Society- Reading Cyborgs

Some fear things such as cyborgs due to that fact that it challenges the stability of human identity.  This is due to identity depending on the notion of the other, for example; male/female. Since Cyborgs have both human and non human characteristics they are not like us but just like us. Due to the cyborgs dual nature it disrupts the persistent dualism that people recognise, for example, are they human/artificial. Due to cyborgs being different to human kind they represent otherness which arises humans fears and desires. 

The Body in Society- Affordance, Conventions and Design

We were taught about the terms ‘affordance’ and ‘perceived accordance’ in our week 6 lecture. I had heard of these terms before but could not recall what their meanings were so was curious to find out their definitions. To explain simply, affordance is the relationship between a person and an object which results in the way the person naturally interacts with it. This idea  discussed in the article we read ‘Affordances, Conventions and Design’ (Donald A. Norman) ‘When you first see something you have never seen before, how do you know what to do? The answer, I decided, was that the required information was in the world: the appearance of the device could provide the critical clues required for its proper operation.’

Norman then followed with discussing perceived affordance, he claimed ‘I will make a global change, replacing all instances of the word “affordance” with the phrase “perceived affordance”.’ he then continues to define the term- it is more about what actions the user perceives to be possible than what is true.

He later refers both of these terms directly to my disciplinary of product design, showing how relevant both terms are to my chosen subject  ‘In product design, where one deals with real, physical objects, there can be both real and perceived affordances, and the two sets need not be the same.’

Norman then followed to discuss the different kinds of constraints):

  • Physical- When you are limited to what you can do physically with the object.
  • Logical- This is often your natural reaction to things and most people will find that the answers are obvious.
  • Cultural- Cultures have conventions that they follow, and if two cultures follow different conventions, it could lead to confusion.

The Body in Society- Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity

This weeks text ‘Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity’ focussed on the male gender primarily and body modification they go through in order to look desirable, such as ‘working out (at a gym), tattooing, piercing and cosmetic surgery.’ It is mentioned that the male body has become much more prominent in terms of media, where as before it was always females. And since this has happened the male body has been viewed differently, which has put much more pressure on the men in society to look sexually appealing ‘male bodies in idealised and eroticised fashions, coded in ways that give permission for them to be looked at and desired’ (Moore, 1988; Simpson,1994).  They link this back to a text previously discussed in our ‘body in society lectures ‘men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at’ (Berger, 1972, p.47). The male (body) has become an object of the gaze rather than simply the bearer of the look.


The Body in Society- Identity, Cross Gender, Gender Performativity

The first piece of text we read as a class ‘Identity’ explained how identity was hard to define due to the fact that there isn’t  a ‘single over arching definition of what it is. But tends to be known as a combination of ‘sameness’ and ‘differences’ (how our similarities and differences with each other makes us ‘identical’ with ourselves).

It is then further discussed how difficult it is to define people into these identity categories. For example you may identify someone as a woman, but they may not chose to be identified in that way, they may chose to be identified as a man. And within that identity category of a women there are may more categories such as white, black, Christian, Muslim, atheist. Although binaries help simplify this, for example you must identify as; man/woman, black/white.

The next text we discussed fitted in well with the topic discussion, it was ‘Cross gender/ Cross gender’ by Mike Kelley. Out of the whole text read, the abstract below is what stood out for me the most.

‘As in the Cockettes, the Mothers’s version of drag was an incomplete version. But there are differences. The Cockettes, despite the ridiculous nature of their image, have a playful and positive quality that is absent in the Mothers. The Mothers’s use of drag has more in common with the traditional comedic adoption of female garb by the male, and in that sense it is an abject usage. In Western culture, men who dress in female clothes are considered funny, while the opposite is generally not the case. A woman dressed in male clothes has little comedic value. The sexism at the root of this difference is obvious, for why else should the adoption of feminine characteristics by a man be abject’

I found it interesting how the idea of being incomplete in terms of your gender category could be seen as humorous, and the suffering that Trans-gender people must go through, throughout their transition period. Yet Kelley brought up the fact that it is less humorous for a girl to be thought of and dressed like a boy and then explained how this is due to misogyny, as to be female is to be seen as less worth, where as to be male is not to be a joke. I would consider using this idea for my final end of year essay.


The body in society- Bentham’s Panoticon

I enjoyed how the use of Architecture was introduced into this session and found it so interesting how cleverly the ‘Panopticon’ was designed in order to be seen but not to see from the ‘peripheric’ building, but to see but not to be seen from the central town. Allowing the inspector to observe the inmates in each cell of the building at any point from the central tower without being visible.

After we read the text on this Amazing piece of architecture we discussed the links between the idea of the ‘Panopticon’ with things that are now used in today’s society, one example was CCTV. We then discussed how such things are close approaching to breaking ethical boundaries.

Personally, I think observation technology such as these do more good than harm since the increased fear  of being caught committing a crime will in turn reduce rebellion.