Reflecting on the Group Website

Towards the start of the project I set up a website and content pages for the group. I said I would be happy to upload the content and organise it, as long as it would be sent to me by each of our agreed deadlines, with the text in word documents, already spell check and edited, and with images attached to an email. As weeks progressed and deadlines continued to be missed, I made it clear that I would not still be able to update and upload all the content on the site myself. It didn't occur to me until the day before our hand-in, when content was being uploaded to the site by each of us individually, that content would be "thrown up" without a care or thought. Things like introducing content on the site "Here is a layout sketch" or narrating the journey: and then we did this"... At this stage in the process I feel exasperated with this module and now that we are functioning better as a group I'm reluctant to go back and again ask for more. It feels as though our group has all checked out of this project and want (or need) to move on and put it behind us.

My understanding is that this website should to be a professional site for our company and as such should be well organised and represent our design studio aesthetically and in tone of voice. I had expected that it might be necessary to tweak the website visually in places, for example, realigning text or images, but I didn't expect there to be a problem with the written content. In hindsight, this might have been avoided if I had explained that we needed to ensure the has a single tone of voice and that it should be written in a professional tone. I'm unsure if this is something I understand from being employed to do this, or from working on my own websites or if it was explained to us in one of the lectures about the module. Either way, I assumed this would be common practice, but maybe I have the wrong end of the stick. Again I find myself in a situation where I either accept the content the way it is, or spend time amending it myself. I sent a quick message in our group chat to say why I think the content would be better if it was updated slightly and have given an example. I will do any quick amends if I have time but will not shoulder the responsibility to change it all myself. 

 

I would have liked to retype the website copy so it sounds a little more cohesive and as though one person/company wrote it, but also to make it read more like a company site. For example I would change the above section to read more like the following:

Layout Plans for the DOYYEC
The proposed layout for the DOYYEC uses a combination of Orangebox furniture and custom designed pods to create zones spaces tailored to different business types. Designed based on feedback from both the Enterprise team and companies using the DOYYEC, the space features a small pod for one-to-one meetings and a larger pod for group meetings, presentations and collaborations.

I don't feel particularly proud of our website, nor would I want use it as an example of my ability in any way shape or form. This really saddens me, especially as the whole module and process has been tiresome and overly time-consuming, it feels more than disappointing to have nothing (I would want) to show for it.

Reflections on the Module and Brief

I struggle to pinpoint what I have gained from this module. It feels like it took away more than it gave. My honest reflection on the brief is that is would be better placed in the Degree course where the assumed opportunities of work experience, winning a competition and working with people might be more appealing. I'm opposed to speculative work company competition that exploits designers, giving them access to designs and insights without paying for the masses of talent that gets put before them. Or the old line of "it will be great experience" or " great exposure". This Orangebox brief felt a little too close to this way of working for my liking. I can see the benefit to the University and I can see the benefit to Orangebox but I am not convinced of the benefit to the students.

It was difficult for each of us to find a purpose or role because, aside from Graphic Design, there were not any obvious jobs for each of us to do. Our Photographer could (and did) take photographs of spaces and furniture which looked great and made the presentation look better than it would have. These photography skills were not something that served as a tool for helping us fulfil Orangebox's brief of designing a space but his perspective of how lighting could be controlled added an element of research which most likely wouldn't have been considered without him. Our fashion student struggled to find an area of interest or any link between her specialism and the brief. Not, knowing her subject well, the only suggestion I could offer was that her eye for design in general, patterns, shapes and fabrics could be something that she will pick up on more than the rest of us. I do feel it was possible to get more stuck in and enthusiastic about the task. I would have preferred if the reservations and disappointments about the job in hand could have been accepted at the start and a decision to give it 100% agreed by all, but this was not the case. I think that some of the other groups doing the same brief showed it could be done. 

I realise my reflections and account of this module are very frank and quite negative but this was not reflected in my communication and or interactions with the group. This is partly why this blog is so honest. I had to be helpful and patient, when I often didn't have much patience left, this is where I can speak without offending or upsetting anyone. As we came to the final weeks, we had become a lot more familiar with each other and able to speak quite openly and had begun working well together. 

Final Presentation

Much improved, felt like more of a group effort

No practice run but it felt ok.

Happy with feedback about improvement of slides. How it could have been better

Following feedback about the amount of text on our slides the first time around, I recreated the template in Powerpoint, increasing the font sizes on the page and setting up 4 example slides for the different types of content that we have, for example quotes, text and image, image only...

In the first presentation we did have a lot of text which was read from the screen. In honesty, the presentation would not have gone as smoothly as it did otherwise. However for our final presentation it was important to improve the slides based on the feedback we received. A benefit to using Powerpoint was supposed to be the ability to see our notes on during the presentation and also that we could use a clicker to move from slide to slide without needing to ask or gesture to someone to keep pressing "next" for us. Unfortunately this didn't work on the day but we managed to workaround it by each clicking the butter to move on after we finished talking. 

After telling my group-mates that I was not prepared to pull everything together myself, if the presentation or any other part of the project was not completed, we agreed on what tasks we would complete and this was mostly done. I did have to reset some of the headings but as a whole this worked well.

DOYYEC SURVEY

I created a survey which was sent to past and current EPY students along with anyone in the Enterprise team's database of businesses linked to the DOYYEC. I thought it was important for the survey to be anonymous so people can respond honestly. As an Enterprise Placement Year (EPY) student, you are required to spend a minimum amount of hours in the DOYYEC. It might have been helpful if I had asked about this in the survey, in an attempt to learn whether or not people would come in to work in the DOYYEC if this was not mandatory. My goal was to keep the survey are short and straight forward as possible. It was also important to ignore what I already thought I knew about the needs of businesses occupying the space and instead carry out research to learn and observe. 

During one of the BBC workshops about conducting research one of the presenters told us about a the importance of not only taking onboard what participants say, but also what they do and how they interact and engage with things. The example she gave was a lady testing an app and it's functions. During the observations and testing the lady was adamant that she doesn't ever swipe to the bottom of pages. In actual fact the those observing her watch her swipe to the bottom of each page. This came to mind when I looked at the results of the survey and noticed the lack of responses from businesses in the creative sector and in trying to find creatives in the DOYYEC to speak to. They were never there. This in itself could be a convincing argument for the need to improve the space to make it more appealing for this sector. However without hearing this from people, it remains an assumption. It could also be down to the fact that creatives like to work in their own comfort zone, and even with the amenities imaginable in place, perhaps it still will not be enticing enough. I wanted to find more conclusive evidence to support our theory that Enterprise centre needed to be remodelled and nail down what exactly that should entail.

 

Analysing the Results

I pulled out a few key issues to focus on as we move forward in looking at how to redesign the available space. 

The following responses are all from different users/businesses who use the DOYYEC space.

What would you like to improve in the DOYYEC if you could (there are no limitations, no budgets...)?

Ability to have open yet closed off office space per company

The whole atmosphere of the DOYYEC is isolationist

The whole kitchen/ reception area is so small and unwelcoming I can barely swing a cat, never mind welcome a client or try and open a conversation in

More Mac Computers!!

A lockable storage cupboard for everyone

I have to carry all my work too and from the DOYYEC each working day, its not convenient

An option of different workspaces, like larger desks for designer makers who need to put packs together but have a computer in the way

Storage facilities, studio space rather than desks for designer makers.

Better sound proofing for the pods, I can't hear all the time, but sometimes I can hear people in there.

Modular desk facilities & privacy dividers.

In order to carry out your work, what do you need in the DOYYEC (equipment, tools, types of space...)?

Private area for calls

MAC, Phone, private area for calls, collective area for group meetings, wall space for ideas generation.

Lockable draws are a necessity

A large table for working on projects

Just my laptop, a printer and myself

Conference Room with projector and laptop plugin.

Anything missing:

Small cabinet for storing office document

Creative team spaces, the current space is a little small

Larger desks for working on

 

These answers provided some insight, however the people who have engaged with the survey and who were present to speak to on visits to the DOYYEC, are people who as a whole, are already being catered to. They have the most of what they need in order to carry out a days work in the DOYYEC already. Desks, internet, computers... The people who are not showing up and engaging are the creatives, those businesses who are in higher number than

The Surface Design Show

Notes on the Surface Design Show:

I made quick notes of companies and materials which may be useful for us to include in the design and or manufacturing of our new DOYYEC space. Key things I was looking out for are acoustic value, tactility, effects on the body, recyleable or renewable materials...

Learning to Let Go and Deligate

While working in this group, it  became apparent that we didn't all share the same work ethic, not did we have the same goal for the outcome of this project and maybe even the Masters as a whole. In passing one person asked if we were in agreement that we are aiming for a C. Another agreed while the remaining three of us seemed to share a degree of shock and or dismay. Before then I hadn't thought about what our goal academically would be or should be as a group. It hadn't crossed my mind that someone would want anything less than a top mark and to do their very best, whatever that looks like within a set of circumstances. I completely understand how life can get in the way and that other commitments can sometime throw a spanner in the works but I still think  you should go down fighting. One of my main worries with group work has always been the fact that I can't  be as flexible at the drop of a hat as someone else might be because I have to make sure I have childcare and plan my time in advance. I was worried that this might cause a problem for other people. I'm also quite accustomed to working at antisocial times of the day to get things done either late at night or early in the morning, which I know doesn't work for everyone. In all my worrying about how I might be the weak link, I didn't stop to think that I would be the annoying person harping on about meeting up and getting work done in time. 

I guess the real problem for me is that I like to have control over what I am doing and how my life is going. This Masters was a choice between returning to work and having the security of a salary and taking an extra year to work on my design style, and ultimately my design business. At the end of the year I intend to be in a better position than I was at the start of the course. I don't like my future depending on other people. That being said, my aims and goals for this year are just that: mine. 

We had a conversation on the topic of the MA, why we decided to do and what we each wanted to learn or gain if anything. It was interesting to try and understand where everyone is coming from and what they are hoping for. This included, wanting to work in industry, remaining self employed, it being a good option since they didn't find a job, learning new skills. One common feeling was that this brief didn't seem helpful. I completely understand this view, especially having done the Enterprise Placement Year which involved running a business, attending workshops and lectures on all aspects of running and growing a business. The only area I felt this module adds that was missing, is having to work with people collaboratively. However for me personally, this isn't something I needed or wanted more experience in, I have done it in the past and continue to do it on a daily or at least a weekly basis. In these cases,  I have almost always worked with people who are driven and want to do well. Again, this is why I found it so mind boggling to be in a situation where that wasn't  the case for everyone in this group. 

I have to learn to let go a little more. I like to solve problems and find solutions but this can be a problem. Whenever I see a piece of work, I see what's great but I also see where something could be improved, tweaked or repurposed. I think this comes from having to check designs and copy before they go to print, or reading an email for a colleague to check that the tone won't be taken the wrong way when it is emailed out to stores. I'm hardwired to find faults, with the aim to make something better. This links to my often crippling problem with perfectionism. I'm very critical, both positively and negatively. I find it difficult to leave things unfinished or not looking as good as I think it could be. That being said I often have time restraints and may have to make a call, spend time on the content or on the presentation. I have to find the right balance and accept the outcome. That works when it's just me, but when I'm working with other people, I am really bad letting go. I often end up just doing something myself because it isn't being done well. I need to stop this. 

I think the best way for me to move forward with the group without becoming increasingly frustrated will be to delegate and try not to be too precious about things. I will try to take a step back.

 

Presentation at Orangebox

From the outside looking in, I believe our Orangebox presentation seemed to go quite well. We managed to cover most of our points, the slides were well organised and professionally put together, though they could have been better, I didn't feel embarrassed to show them to the company or our tutor. I made sure the design was created using a grid system and that the headings and text aligned properly, so they don't jump around or look messy as we click through the sides. This is something that has been stressed to us (graphic design students) in our other module.

I was relieved to get through the presentation. All the frustrations of the night before were no longer at the forefront of my mind. We had managed to present a relatively cohesive and informative pitch, without looking like we had thrown it all together last minute. 

Since we had not practiced our pitch, presenting or even run through what we would say or key points, the only way to ensure we didn't have moments were someone was trying to explain a slide they knew nothing about was for each of us to talk about what we had looked into or been told about previously.  This resulted in myself and one other in the team doing the majority of the talking and answering all the questions at the end.  The immediate feedback we received was that the talking was very one-sided, because of how we had stood with two people on one side of the screen and two on the other side (one if the team was not present).

It was suggested that if we had stood so that one of the two main speakers had been on each side of the screen it would not have felt so imbalanced. I can agree with this feedback but at the same time, it felt like a blow because the only reason we were talking more was because we were the only ones who were able to. Though it's not the case, it felt like a virtual marking down for being one of the people who carried out the research and worked when others decided not to. It would have been easy to allow the two who didn't contribute much to the content to stumble through the pitch or allow it to be shown how little they contributed but that would not have been good for the group or our reputation. Similarly, I could have left the presentation in a state and incomplete. One of the comments was "this isn't being marked...". I found this approach to the presentation really frustrating. Marked or not, we were still going to be standing in front of a company and I wanted their first impression of us to be positive. I didn't feel comfortable being a part of something shoddy. To me this is a real business opportunity, we are not students, we are entrepreneurs and should care about the way we are presenting ourselves. There is always a chance that I may down the line want to reach out to this company in the future or there could be a situation where I am interacting with someone they know. It's a small world and sometimes the decision to work with someone is based on more than just skills and achievements. I have found that in many cases, who you know and connect with plays a major role in opportunities that do or do not become available. This is why I stayed up all night to finish the presentation, long after everyone had gone to bed. 

Why I love to hate Graphic Design

I have a love hate relationship with Graphic Design. I have a degree in the subject but my focus has never purely been on graphic design or the key principles and rules involved. My passion lies in surface pattern design and illustration. Where graphic design aims to solve a design problem, I like to make things look appealing through colour, pattern and feeling. Graphic design theory and principals underpin the work I do in other areas and gives me a solid foundation to build on. I don't consider myself a Graphic Designer but I do know how to be one. When I receive files that are poorly laid out and or use unsuitable fonts or font sizes, I realise that I do know graphic design and I feel a need to try and fix it. Our group for this project consists of 3 graphic designers, a photographer (now studying Digital Media) and a fashion student. The designers amongst us were taught the importance of layout and typography, we are also being strongly encouraged to work with a grid and are told that we need to work in Indesign for presentations. Knowing that two people in our group may not know how to use this program, with three of us who do, it should not have been a problem. I created a template for our presentation with guides, fonts and examples in place. This was accompanied by instructions on how to use the template. We were all supposed to put our research into slides so that they could be collated and put in the correct order for our pitch. For the two who don't use Indesign I saved the below jpg files to use as guides to line up text in Powerpoint which would be copy and pasted into the main document later.

Getting content or files became a chore to say the least and what was sent was shoddy. I don't know if this was because they were rushed, lack of skill, because they didn't care or because they knew I would fix it. This is why I "hate" Graphic Design. Once you know about it, you cannot ignore it. It's as though learning about Graphic Design give you a new pair of glasses or a special prescription.

This poster comes to mind:

Created by Shahir Zag

Created by Shahir Zag

Attempting to Adjust to the Needs of the Group

A member of our group said it was hard to find things in our group chat. We do have a Trello account set up to share files, images, links, notes etc, however, this is not being used. I can understand why, it is an unfamiliar platform, even though it is straight forward to use. I created a private Facebook group as an alterntive. It is possible to upload documents or create them directly in the group so it is possible to tag individuals and also track edits to the original. This seemed to make organising the group a lot more efficient and streamlined. 

Above is an example of a document I created in the Facebook group. 

Frustrations with Gaining Insights

I  had a hard time gaining the promised information we needed from the Enterprise team as a basis of our investigations and proposals. 

Going into this "Live Brief", designing specifically for the DOYYEC, we were aware that the main group of people who needed the most drastic changes implementing were creatives. We also knew that the majority of businesses associated with the enterprise team are creatives and designer makers. Given the level of enthusiasm that was expressed when we asked permission to work at trying to improve the space, the knowledge by all concerned that this project was also a graded aspect of our group's MA work, I was a little disappointed that it became difficult to get any useful information from the team. 

Going into the first pitch at Orange Box's showroom, we still had not received an indication as to the types of businesses using/with access to the DOYYEC, a point that was picked up on at the end of our pitch. We were told to really focus on finding out who uses the space and what they need. Following the first pitch, I again tried to get information about the split of businesses and enquired about trying to get in touch with some EPY businesses from the creative sector since we are lacking in insights in this area. Though I can appreciate this task does not take priority for the Enterprise Team, it was frustrating to receive unhelpful responses which didn't attempt to offer any alternative solutions. None the less I responded politely and remained professional. 

 

 

Motivation: Live Brief

It is hard to stay motivated when it feels you are the only person willing to spend time on the project. I completely understand and agree with the general group feeling that the brief could have been far more relevant (at first glance seemed to be) and the goal of teaching us or giving us experience in the commercial and or entrepreneurial manner could have been achieved more effectively another way. This is something that none of us can change, so our options are to make the best of a less than ideal situation or… I don’t have an alternative.

Finding a way to connect with the brief/project as group was the first issue I hoped we could work around. When discussing the 3 types of spaces Orangebox are interested in seeing ideas for, we discussed the postgraduate suite and the Duke of York Young Entrepreneurs Centre (DOYYEC) where three members of the group (one photographer and two designers) worked during an Enterprise Placement Year. I thought working on a space that is nearby, quite large and that some of us have used personally, would help to make the project more relevant and engaging. I also knew that the Enterprise team were also conscious that space doesn’t function particularly well for creatives and suggested we try to make this a live brief. I thought this might help to keep us focused since we would need to work within the boundaries of what the businesses within the DOYYEC and the Enterprise team need, as well as what is achievable in the physical space. This seemed to give us a solid foundation to work from and we had a some positive talks about what we might like to change or add. 

First Thoughts on the Module & Brief

One of the main driving forces and reason’s I wanted to do an MA was to have the chance to hone my personal practice, find my design groove, position and commercial identity. I wanted to keep up the momentum created during my Enterprise Placement Year.  Selecting the commercial brief as a first choice option seemed like a no-brainer and I was cautiously optimist in the possibility of a fun challenge.

I didn’t come to a Ma level course to gain work experience or an insight into the importance of working with others. I work collectively on work projects outside of university with one person who is in Slovenia and the other who is in America. This poses challenges in communication, time zones, staying on the same page and being motivated but we make it work. The point being, I don't feel this is a gap I need to fill at this stage. I was saddened and quite nervous at the prospect of spending this chunk of time focused on a project offering little correlation to my FMP, chosen specialism or interests. The small glimmer of hope I held on to was the opportunity to get to know a local business, who’s furniture, patterned chairs, in particular, I really liked. As always, I try to think if there is any circumstance that this company might be a useful contact or connection in my current projects or maybe in the future.

After speaking with the team at the Huddersfield Orangebox office, I found some interest in the fabrics they use, the criteria they have for it and the manufacturers they use. I was disappointed to learn that the surface pattern designs are not designed by Orange box but are instead purchased by other manufacturers. On the other hand, I banked this information and made a mental note to try and find out where they source their designs and see if there are particular shows or design studios they purchase from as this could be helpful for me next term and good to know for my FMP.

I considered searching for a link between biophilic design and patterns as a way of trying to find a link to my interests so I can get more excited about the research and project. However this felt a lot like putting the cart before the horse, as we needed to first decide on what type of space we would design/redesign and identify what problem we were solving. I didn’t want to get stuck on the idea of creating pretty patterns and looking a furnishings and fabrics just to please myself, without their being an identified need first.

Organisation and sharing in our Group

Following a group video between members of Penagon, it became apparent that we needed a more efficient way to gather and share information between us. I have used Trello before to communicate with people overseas and arrange a trade show, so I suggested we give it a try. 

I created virtual boards for the main areas where we can focus our design, to begin with, along with a deadlines board. To make it easier to navigate, I've designed some covers for each board and used this as a way to play around with logo and branding ideas for the website, looking ways to use a pentagon shape in a more interesting way.

trello

I have become the group coordinator, arranging meetings, mini-deadlines and sending reminders. This week, we are each looking for reports and insights which can aid us in making initial decisions about what we might want to consider or include in our designs. The deadline I have given for submitting this Monday next week.

For our website, we also need to publish our group thought on the brief. Gemma will collate our individual opinions and type them as a general group conclusion.   

Visit to Orange Box Showroom/Office

We had our first visit to Orangebox's showroom and it was lovely. We were welcomed into this beautifully light and open space, offered drinks and told to make ourselves at home. The workshop showcases various shapes and sizes of pods, tables, workstations and seating. 

The Flowers

I really liked the fabric flowers on display and asked about them. It turns out these flowers are the first tasks that new machinists need to learn to make in order to show they have learned the skills to make the furniture.

I wanted to get an idea of how the company works with their clients, what process they go through typically when designing and building a space as well as the cost. I had the chance to ask them and have chat about the business.  I was shocked to to find out that a small cubed pod costs £7000!  I'm glad I god to speak with them and find out more about each of their roles and what they do within the company. It was really nice to hear how Orangebox partner with other companies and work with them to benefit them both. One of the suppliers of their wood was small when they first worked with Orangebox and as a result of their relationship with the company, had to expand. 

When asking about the pods I learned that they are not sound proof - the walls would have to be really thick to make this possible,  but they do change the acoustics and minimise the sound that is overheard. I thought this was important to note.

The fabrics used on the seating and furniture are bought in from other companies,  Orangebox don't design them. They do design the chairs (framework), tables, pods and other furniture. The pods are designed in the Huddersfield office, the chairs are done in the office down South.

Orangebox are looking at ways of making more of the outside of the pods, not just the inside. In the presentation they showed us a reference image that had shelving and a desk attached to the outside. This is a great idea and could be implemented in so many way.

Another new planned focus for Orangebox is the design of pods that can go outside. They have interest from America and as they have the weather for, many are enquiring about using pods outdoors, so this is another thing we could consider encorporating into our design.

4 Levels of Open Plan (slide from presentation):

Shows how the use of phychological cues can be employed to determine how people interact with or approach a space without the need for signs and or rules. For example

I got to look at and feel some of the fabric samples. They are a lot thicker than I would have expected and feel courser than what I am used to. If I didn't know, I would have assumed the materials were for flooring. However when you feel them once they have been upholstered they don't feel out of place or uncomfortable. 

I learned that the materials have  10 year warrantee and that companies usually refresh or change their office spaces every 5-7 years.  

Another interesting bit of information I learned was that anything that is not fitted is not classed as a fixture and so company can claim back VAT on these items. So it will be a good idea to try and keep things mobile and moveable where possible and where appropriate. 

All in all the visit was quite informative and made me feel positive about the prospect of working with the company and coming up with ideas for our design proposal. It was definitely beneficial to see the office spaces and their furniture in person. To feel, move and even work on it the various working setups was the best way to see what we were all drawn to, how we people interacted with it and to get a sense of the scale too. 

Naming our Design Collective

As a starting point for coming up with an initial name for our design collective, I had a quick brainstorm around the idea of coming together, 5 members of the group with 5 areas of specialism.

This lead to:

Pentagon

Link

Converge

W I P (work in progress)

Polygon

Pentangle

As a group, we decided t go with Pentagon: 5 individual sides, 5 points of view. The name also has the potential to work well from a graphics and branding point of view.