Making Things Visual
Last week I (Ben Hagenaars) followed a thought provoking lecture by Bas Raijmakers at the FAK in Brussels. He is the co-founder of design research agency STBY in Amsterdam & London. He explained his view on what it means to be doing design research. A very interesting topic considering I started my own PhD in design research this year. I have tried to capture his presentation in some sketch-notes.
Bas started by explaining his background. He did a master in Communication Sciences at the University of Amsterdam where he developed his fascination for how people use media & technology. During his Masters he learned about usability research but wanted to go step further. He wanted to experiment with involving the user in the design and research process. This was the starting point for his PhD at the Royal College of Art in London, where he developed his ‘Design Documentaries’ method. This method took the form of a visual storytelling format that brings the everyday life of people into the design process, allowing it to act as a source of inspiration for designers. This method is often used by his design research firm STBY. For example, in a project commissioned by Panasonic called Living Sustainably, STBY researched how people in the US can live a sustainable lifestyle. This isn’t a question they could answer right away. They first had to understand peoples lifestyles and needs. By creating a series of design documentaries, they were able to create videos that communicated a range of intimate insights into their lives and opinions, telling their stories in a way that could both inform and inspire. STBY helped Panasonic to incorporate these insights into their future concept developments and business model development.
Design documentaries start from the idea that understanding is the first step in creating meaningful solutions that could enrich peoples lifestyles. Also, they make things visual, which helps people to understand. Empathy is an important skill in this context, the ability to put yourself in someone else his or her shoes, which really helps to open up to personal experiences that help you understand that persons needs.
Bas focused on the importance of making things visual for designers and artists in a research context. It is a way to express and share their knowledge. It allows not only peers but also people in other disciplines to interpret this knowledge and create new insights. Making an original contribution to knowledge then creates an ongoing debate that pushes interdisciplinary development forward. Bas pointed out that working in between fields will become increasingly important. Several problems that our society is faced with today, are too complex to be solved within one disciplinary field.
Research through design is a way of creating new meaning by visual storytelling. This vision raises interesting questions about the role of the designer in society. Should designers limit themselves as the makers of objects, or can they also adopt a new role as the makers of meaning? I think, as Liesbeth Huybrechts pointed out in her Thesis, designers can become makers of hybrid things, creating both objects and meaning.
Presentation at RCA’s Method Lab
As Liesbeth already wrote yesterday I gave a presentation at the RCA Method Lab on the ATOM project and more specifically on the participatory design phase we are working on. You can found the presentation at the bottom of the post.
The presentation was followed by some questions of the audience mainly focussing on the reasons why we choose to work with dementia in this project and how the individual needs of persons with dementia can be reflected in this approach. The latter remark is quite relevant: throughout the observations we also noticed that each person goes through in individual traject in their disease and that it is hard to predict how dementia will evolve and whether a certain solution will work for this person. The ATOM project however is exploratory in nature as it tries to experiment with technology (internet of things) that has not been used for these extreme uses. To present several prototypes that show the potential of this technology might proof the potential of the technology.
Methods Lab ‘Ageing in Kensington’
Two Social Spaces researchers and four Media, Arts and Design Faculty students are in London this week to participate in the Royal College of Art Methods Lab ‘Ageing in Kensington’. Tonight we will present our mapping and our Touch of Memory project. A report will follow soon!
Visual Storytelling for Design and Innovation, Bas Raijmakers
On the 3th of May the research group Social Spaces of the Media, Arts and Design Faculty (FAK) invited Bas Raijmakers as a speaker at the yearly lecture series around design and architecture ‘A tot Z lezingen’. In his presentation he explored the use of the exciting method of visual storytelling in design and innovation processes. Raijmakers is convinced that design can play an important role in society and economy, but not via making more and more objects. Designers can engage in making visual scenarios of social situations instead. These can give an inspirational and clear insight in what is already present or missing in these situations. This still allows designers to make objects if they want to, but these artefacts will probably fit the situation better.
CFP: Whose Participation? Spaces of Interaction
Call for papers:
Whose Participation? Spaces of Interaction in Contemporary Art and Architecture
December 16/17, 2011
Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, Switzerland
Organized by the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture
(gta), ETH Zurich