Reflection on Subject and Field

This year has been full of exciting experiences, learning new skills and making new friends. It started very challenging since the first term of subject and it got even more with field, which I enjoyed to bits. For field I chose the chair project ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably’, for the first term, and ‘Mind Your Own Business’ for the second. As it appears, and I can confirm, I chose the most demanding once, but considering the amount of things I’ve learned, I would chose them over and over again. The chair projects was was a group of two one, making sure that each one had either a product designer or a maker. The difficulty about it was that my partner didn’t show up, besides a couple of times, and I ended up completing it on my own. At first I was almost sure I wouldn’t make it but instead it turned out that all the hard work of the last year had showed its results. And with even harder work I completed some other tutorials and workshops to have the necessary skills to get the job done. I enjoyed both the manuality in dealing with materials and the digital process in making a ready CNC-able file to cut all the pieces needed.

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The business project, on the other side, was a group of five one, each one of us motivated to take the most of the experience and to come up with a successful idea. For the practical part of the project I could apply what previously learned with chair, but the skills I have acquired are mainly theoretical. I worked well and productively in the group, where I found my natural place as Deputy Leader, acting as a binding force between the team members and establishing a common language whilst ensuring that the team was well tuned. This was really important to understand myself better, putting to focus my strengths and weaknesses. Setting up a business from scratch was also important since I’m planning in doing a business plan as my final Dissertation. I tried to take the most of both projects and I think my marks and feedback reflect that. Besides all, it was a true honour to work with Richard Morris who I didn’t know in the beginning but ended up to admire.

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In the beginning I didn’t really know how this could directly relate to my subject, but as a matter of fact I ended up doing an LED Wallcovering that reflected most of the skills I acquired during field. Everything just naturally fit in place and I’m very happy with my journey so far. Without realising I found myself being both a textile and a maker, with the eager to do not only digital patterns but also useful objects that I can apply my designs to. Field has opened me a huge horizon of possibilities that I intend to use by gathering more knowledge and doing more workshops over the summer. I intend to further develop methods to combine textiles, digital and the making and I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t be here with this mind set and experience if it wasn’t for this amazing idea of field.

MYOB – Final Reflection

I was very happy that I had the chance to choose my own team even if I didn’t really know them very well. We chose each other based on ambition, hard work and a strong consideration that a mixed discipline group would add the necessary skills for an outcome that could reach our individual expectations. We ended up with a group of perfectionists and while we thought at the beginning that it was exclusively a good thing, it actually made us extend the time we were supposed to have to decide for a product to make. The other five groups had already formed an idea supporting it with sketches or prototypes while we weren’t still all agreeing on the category. From the first minutes, indeed, it was all about sharing ideas upon ideas but we were often falling into our own dreams instead of realising immediately the importance of compromising between perfect and the reality of a such a short time. I think this was a very important first lesson for each one of us.

Everybody proved to be passionate and motivated for the project, at least until we chose the product to make. The group’s decisions didn’t really align with our graphic designer’s taste and sadly she started to detach from the continuous brainstorming we had to face each day. Her initiative started to come less regarding both the product as the work she was supposed to deliver even though personally she proved to be until that point, a valuable addition to the group.

Even if a bit worried to be too much behind, we managed to catch up very quickly while constantly brainstorming and problem solving in person and through the group chat. There has been a continuous contact between the team members almost 24 h a day and none of us has ever missed a lesson. We shared common values and vision and this led us to quickly agree on the materials, while it took us longer to agree on the design.

Based on the variety of skills each one of us had it was quite simple to divide the roles. The last one we assigned was the Team Leaders’ since we almost all seemed fit for it. In the end it was assigned to a product designer, Paul, who already had some ground experience in production which helped us to better organise our work. Dan’s commitment to the project was exemplary while Maite’s personality kept a light and fun environment overall.

Without initially assigning it, I found my natural place as Deputy Leader acting as a binding force between the team members and establishing a common language whilst ensuring that the team was well tuned. While in the AYSC project I discovered to have practical skills I didn’t know about, MYOB made me more aware about myself by putting me in a situation where I had to face my inner strengths and limitations, in an actual work environment, where I had to deal with different people to reach the same goal. My desire is to have my own business one day and besides the practical skills and mindfulness acquired mostly with the business plan, an important part for me was to understand what my role is in a group. I found myself as being able to settle a common ground for team members to better communicate and also my weaknesses regarding some decision making that I need to improve and/or delegate if I want to set up my own business and lead others. I also had an another important confirmation regarding me as a Designer. Since the first year’s field project I started to act more like a Maker rather then a Textiles and started to have the first confirmation during the chair projects while with MYOB I have no doubts anymore. I see my potential pushing the limits every time I have to design and make a product, as does my confidence.

Overall I had a great experience and I enjoyed working with each one of my team members. Despite initial delays and stressful moments, every detail came together eventually and we’re proud to be the group that sold the most and also to continue doing so.

Product:

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Packaging:

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Photo Book:

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MYOB – Week five – Presales and Sales

In order to better prepare for the sales day we decided to do a pre-sales even though we were not sure until the last moment if we were going to make. Eventually everything went for the best. I already did a couple of markets with the Centre of Entrepreneurship and considered the Business School to be the best location. In fact in this day we made enough money to repay back our seed fund of 100£.

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Business and Management building Pre-sale event
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Business and Management building Pre-sale event

This day was important to understand a series of facts from the organisation, the layout, the response of the customer to our customisation option and price, storage, inventory and most of all the number of sales to be able to anticipate if and how many products we would have to produce more. We found out that the price was matching the questionnaire results and people were willing to pay the price we were asking and most of all that they preferred to mix and mach the different woods to the different colour of plexi. For the sales day, and due to a different location and layout of the store, we also gave it more identity by placing a pattern of our logo on the background and used same shape pieces of fabric on the table. The collaboration with the other team, we had to share our space with for the official sales day, gave a professional and balanced look of the store and both of our range of colours matched perfectly with the wood the store was made of.

Preparation of the shop:

 

Final Layout of the Shop:

MYOB – Weeks three and four – Product Production and Packaging

This was definitely the part we were all looking for, besides the graphic designer who has already been focusing exclusively on her part of the business development, while all the rest were constantly collaborating to mach every aspect of the product, from the construction to the packaging.

After the first foam models it was important to understand the various difficulties we would encounter using the actual materials of the final product. It took us some days to figure out all details in a continuous brainstorming and constructive environment. By mid of the first week planned for the production, and once we understood timing and pricing, dimensions of our product, dimensions of materials and capacity of the machines we were ready to organise the various workshops we needed to involve in completing our work.

 

Work in progress
Wood cutting, Laser cutting and Stitching

 

Sanding and gluing by hand the individual modules using an environmental friendly glue:

 

During the production we also realised that we would end up with plexi off cuts so we decided to use them to make coasters for cups or candles using the hexagon shape from the inside of the modules as base and the smaller round parts of the stick as legs.

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Base of the final product and coastes made of off cuts

 

The packaging was designed based on the final dimensions of the product. Big enough to fit the complete desk organiser made of 5 modules but small enough to be easily reused as lunch bag, tablet or notebook holder etc. .

Packaging
Packaging process and final product

MYOB – Week Two – Product Design and Branding

Communication within the group went really well, we just tend to loose each other in endless improving whatever little detail of our main or potential side products without actually going forward with the overall idea. At this moment we began to understand the importance of the roles, since they were still merging together in all of us. Mostly of the Team Leader’s role, that the group needed to break the complexity of our thinking and assign the tasks based on our skills, which Paul fulfilled successfully. We started talking each one of us from his own skills’ point of view and we began a more productive collaboration.

After gathering enough information about the product over the past weekend and considered the keywords that formed our product’s features I started listing them and the Elevator Pitch just formed it self naturally at my first attempt. I’m not very comfortable speaking in front of people so I thought it would be somebody else to do the talking but I think after all the various presentations during the year, and the couple of test in the elevator, I felt totally comfortable in speaking and for me it was reaching a milestone.

At this point we had a description of our product: Our Company focuses on redesigning the classic desk organiser by using detachable modules made from reclaimed materials. a Modular, Vertical, Versatile Desk Organiser made of Reclaimed Materials. And some important key words: Detachable, Modular, Versatile and Minimalist.

At this point we knew we were going to use wood as main material but we also wanted it to be catchy and original so we decided to combine it with plexiglass. Plexi, as not many people know, is a sustainable and long lasting material commonly used in furniture and also in our University.

Initial designs for the desk organiser:

Playing with our key words we came up with the most appropriate name we could find for the Company: Duplexity. It ndicates, by definition, two identical working units, operating together or independently. For us was indicating the two materials: wood and plexi, with plexi being a part of the name, and also different functions since the design of our desk organiser can be used both vertically or by detaching the modules, horizontally. While the logo had been designed to mach the shape of the product. Same for business cards and tags, to keep an overall identical look.

Duplexity tags business cards and logo

We had a little hint for our slogan 🙂 which fitted perfectly with the overall brand identity and product which we also decided to print on our packaging:

‘A Place for everything and everything in its place’ – Benjamin Franklin

The next Step was to Contact the Charity Shops we knew were dealing with wood and we found some friendly people that helped us gather some initial scraps of ex furniture that they could not be fixed for resale and therefore they would have been thrown away.

The design part of the product took us most of the time and it required a team effort in the problem solving of an infinite numbers of details. Sometimes it seamed we were making one step ahead and two behind. We had to find the right compromise between aesthetics, functionality and a machine friendly design. Also not to be too complex and be able to make enough products to make profit, besides the 100£ seed fund we would have to return in the end, in the range of prices that our potential client would be willing to spend for it. We considered CNC machining both in the soft modelling room and the FabLab, each one with their pro and cons, but due to different types of technicalities we finally opted to cut the individual pieces by hand and that resulted in a more efficient idea also because we suddenly felt more independent.

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40cm X 50cm wood block (cut and glued) for CNC

In parallel with the product we had to consider the packaging and for it to be in line with our values. This is the reason we immediately discarded a paper based packaging, box or bag, plastic bags and instead we considered something that could be useful and reusable. Cotton bags appeared to be the perfect solution so we went for it right away. They are quite expensive to buy ready made but on the other hand making them is time consuming. We considered costs and timing involved and finally opted to make them, considering that we had a group of 5 where 3 people were enough for the manufacture, 1 for the website and branding and 1, me, for uniforms and packaging.

First bag prototypes:

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First kitchen paper bag prototype
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First fabric bag prototype

 

For the Uniforms we opted for digital stitching because considered more environmental friendly than screen printing where there is always waste in using colours and pastes to mix and wash them.

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Digital Stitching for Duplexity Uniforms

 

 

MYOB – Week One – Group formation and Product choice

As AYSC for the first term, MYOB was my first choice for the second term. Richard’s presentation of the field project was, once again, energetic and motivational and got me really enthusiastic from day one. Up until the star though, I was worried about the group I would end up in considering my previous project where I worked alone for the most part but in this case I was more worried about having to eventually redo other people’s work if they would not care to do it at their best. And here Richard surprised us all making us choose who we wanted to work with. It only took my group a few minutes to come together because some of us recognised each other from the chair project. It was quite funny because we remembered seeing each other every day, so we trusted we would be committed to our work, but since we never had a free moment to talk before, this was the first time that we introduced ourselves and finally learned each other’s names. The second thing that united us was the desire of having a mixed group with different skills and not just sticking with people we already knew, which it would have mostly been from our own class. This is how we ended up being two Product Designer (Dan & Paul), a Textiles (me), A Graphic Designer (Ally) and our latest addition, a Maker (Maite, Richard’s second surprise 🙂 ).

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Duplexity team at its best, February 2018

The first days were mostly about getting to know each other, partly as individuals but mostly as a group. Identifying our values was an important first step in understanding our mind set toward the goal we were pursuing but it also said much about our personalities. It was interesting to see how all of us chose Honesty in each ones top five values and all with different interpretations. Honesty towards reliable source of materials for the product, as a communication to the customer about the process and materials etc. while I chose it as an interpersonal value between the team members since I consider sincere and direct communication to be healthy and constructive. A critic is always welcomed where accompanied by valid arguments while withholding a contrasting opinion can easily lead to a negative atmosphere and potentially tear the group apart. We then immediately agreed on the other three values: Product Value, Product Life Cycle and Quality.

Our brainstorming and active communication started right away and we were full of ideas since the beginning. The more we talked, the bigger the list to chose from so after two long days spent analysing and improving every single idea that crossed our minds, we ended up presenting a category of a product we had no idea how it was going to look like while the other teams had already a whatever prototype or drawing about theirs. This was the first moment I/we understood that we were a group of strong personalities where we had to give it all in a conversation to convince the others that our idea was somehow worth taking into more consideration. We came across key chains, key holders, fancy coasters, we discussed a good couple of hours about glasses and how they could look like, wooden shot glasses with holder… to name a few. We decided to do each one a list of 5 favourite ideas, as we did with the values, and the desk organiser came out in each one. The second step was then to come up with a design idea and here the group had also different ones. As a response to this I decided to gather two pictures from everybody, put them in a questionnaire and go around the school asking staff and students some basic question as which one they preferred and why, colours and costs etc. I was happy to observe that for the best or for the worst (we’ll see it in the end) my idea of a vertical modular organiser encountered 13 preferences out of the 15.

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Then our Graphic Designer Ally made an online version to reach more people at once and gather more effective result.

Even though animated, the group’s communication was always respectful and we all gave each other space to talk freely. This is where I understood that we have the potential to be a great team.

 

AYSC – The Toolbox Chair

This was the project I selected as first choice so I was really happy when I found out I was assigned to it. Richard’s introduction to the project has been so energetic and motivational that I started it enthusiastically.

I wish I could talk about what it was like to work every day as a team, with a partner from a different discipline, but I only saw mine enough to explain him the concept of a chair that in the meantime had already taken shape and to finish assemble it. I did observe, though, other groups’ interactions with one another. Some made me understand I was’t the only one to work on my own while others had a constructive way to communicate. This was enough to give me different perspectives in approaching my designs and to feel I was a part of a larger team.

Even in very busy moments, the tutors, technicians and Fab Lab, took the necessary time to make me understand a concept or find a practical way to develop my ideas both technically and aesthetically. This was crucial to help me go through the project even without a partner to confront my ideas with, that could have helped me fill the gaps I lacked for not having somebody’s practical experience in the actual making a functional product. Being a textiles student I thought my contribution would be helping with the development of the concept and design of the chair based on the ‘client’s’ preferences. That I would help select the secondary materials and make the chair more comfortable by designing a matching pillow and focusing on potential embellishments. I imagined that my laser cutting knowledge could come in handy, but I definitely expected to be the less experienced.

Time flew by really fast and without realising, by the end of the fourth week, I was already assisting at the CNC machine cutting the pieces of my chair and I remember praying the Lord that they would all fit together.

CNC chair

What I didn’t expect, with my biggest surprise and satisfaction, was to hear that I was actually the only person who had prepared the Illustrator file right, from the start, ready to be cut. Well, that was the moment I realised I wasn’t among the last ones after all. AYSC has given me the chance to apply the skills developed as a surface pattern designer, in the product designer’s field, by integrating them with others such as the perspective drawing, ergonomics and anthropometrics and learn to use many of their workshop’s tools. I gained confidence in my self and the way I approach tasks that are not directly connected to my personal experience. And I can affirm now that, for better or for worse and with all the fine details I still have to learn, I know how to design from scratch, a functional concept chair.

The Toolbox Chair:

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It was a hard job. The project required a daily commitment and had a demanding Leader that always expected the best. This pushed me a step forward every time. I went through doubts and days of Nurofen and I wish I had more time to dedicate it or less overlapping time with the essay. The end result though was full of satisfaction and I enjoyed it to bits.