This past year has been a very long one, with many lessons learnt. As I approach my final hand-in, I can truthfully say this had been my most fulfilling project to date. It has been an opportunity to explore a subject very close to heart and has helped me understand where my strengths and passions lie. More importantly, it has made me realise where I want to- and don’t want to be in the future.
Nine months ago, I started my final year studying Product Design with a blurry idea of what direction I would be interested in pursuing. Having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Design Ethics module and Lighting Project, I realised the values I hold as a designer are very much sustainable design orientated. Having recognise this upon starting fourth year, I knew I wanted to create something that would reflect the ideas of sustainability- but I wasn’t entirely sure what.
Design by not designing
My path from idea to final concept was far from a straight line. In fact, sometimes it felt like I was travelling my journey backwards. This year, I’ve came to realise this is very much the fun and at times- frustrating part of the design process. For me, a big part of my initial design phase was actually learning about the unknown unknown. More specifically, it was about learning and exploring the social, economic and ecological issues surrounding urban farming. Once I had this understanding, I was able to look more closely at technologies like hydroponics and aquaponics- which I previously hadn’t even heard of.
Thinking through making
Something I really struggled with this past year, is making decisions. There were times I focused too much on the end goal, so much so that I was scared of doing the wrong thing. Despite having spent semester one deeply immersed in research, I came back from the Christmas break feeling pretty lost. I found it difficult to translate my research to concept generation. Admittedly, I spent a while hiding behind my laptop screen waiting for answers to appear. The main turning point for my project was after my Mark I presentation, where my lecturer Chris and mentor Fraser prescribed me to sometime in the workshop. Having been out of the workshop for a while, I spent a few days making basic shapes and revisiting some of the skills I had learnt over the past four years. Within a matter of days in the workshop, I achieved more than what I’d gained from sitting lost behind my laptop screen. Only once I began the process of making, did I start to generate ideas. For me, this is a lesson I will value forever and it has totally shaped how I work as a designer. I’ve came to realise that making helps me to generate ideas, identify and solve problems and think about design as whole. But fundamentally, making is what I enjoy most.
Benefits of sharing
Another key thing I’ve learnt this past year, is the value of sharing. I’ve always been pretty critical of what I post on social media, so I found the concept of sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world of blogging a little scary. Although, once I pushed myself to blog regularly, I actually found blogging quite therapeutic; helping me to frame my ideas and record my progress. Traditionally, I usually do this in my sketchbooks, but I often wonder if I were to show them to a complete stranger- would they be able to make any sense from it? I feel blogging has helped me to communicate this in a more presentable manner. It has also reminded me to constantly question how my work is perceived by other people; encouraging me to justify and direct my work using perspectives beyond my own. I also recognise how blogging is a great opportunity to network with people, whom otherwise I wouldn’t have the chance to. Funnily enough, one of the key points of my project came about as a result of my blog- my meeting with Urban Farming Co. Up until this point, ‘growing food’ was the general consensus of my project. My meeting with Jason Morenkeji provided my project with much needed context and direction. At this point, I decided I was designing a lifestyle product and not for yield.
Looking at the work I have to show at degree show and new designers, I am happy say I have project that encompasses who I am as a designer. For me, this year has been a year of constant development and refining, encouraging me to think past student life and consider where I would like to see myself in the future. I think the passion I have re-discovered this year for making, reflects what I want to do most in my career. Inspired by traditional craft and the principles of sustainability, I hope to find opportunity of work within a company sharing similar design values. Surprisingly, after nine months of working on this project, I’m not quite finished with it. For now, I am really enjoying working on this project and I feel there is much room for product development- in terms of scalability. In fact, I hope to develop it with other designers or companies with similar values or that are working within the urban farming community. Having said that, part of me also feel I’m not quite at the end of my design school experience. These last few months have helped me to do a lot of figuring out, in terms of who, what and where I want to be in the future. I feel that now I have this sussed, I could use a postgraduate degree to develop my skill set and explore how I can apply my interests and design values in the work place.