# The Price Of Design

In a recent lecture my tutor talked about the amount of time we spent on our projects and how we can relate them to the ‘real world’. Keeping a project time sheet is one way of doing this as it lets you see how much time you spent working on it. This was a practice that I was encouraged to pick up in college (I went to the Glasgow Metropolitan College before coming to DJCAD). My tutor there told us to note down what time we started working, to the minute, and what time we finished. If we stopped for a break or to chat to someone we had to deduct it from our hours. Keeping track of my time like this soon made me realize just how much time sauntering off for a coffee took… It also encouraged me to work more because I wanted to earn more. Our tutor told us that we were on an imaginary £50 an hour so I often found myself working half of my lunch break to earn another £25!

The novelty of the imaginary wages barely lasted a full project but the practice of the time sheet has stayed with me. I often keep two pages free in my sketchbooks to note down the time I spend working on the project. I also briefly write down what I was doing as well, eg. research, computer. I will admit however that they often flag towards the end and the last few days very rarely get recorded. I am going to put a big sign above my desk though when I get back up to Dundee.  I did this when I was doing my Graded Unit at college because it was part of the brief that we had an accurate time sheet.

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In fact, using my completely complete, accurate Graded Unit time sheet I am going to calculate how much the project would have cost. My tutor at DJCAD gave us a guide for doing this so I’m going to test it out:

7. #### Added to this is 12% for my pension and 20% for insurance and other payments (as I am working freelance) So: £4755.00 + £570.60 + £951.00 = £6276.60

Wow. Firstly I cannot believe how much time I spent on the project! It was a thirty day project so multiplied by twelve this is three hundred and sixty. I spent one hundred and sixty two hours working on it which is forty five percent of my time. At the time, I felt as though my graded unit had taken over my life but that doesn’t actually seem like that much time? Although, I did have two part time weekend jobs so maybe it was!

What surprises me more however is that, multiplying this month long project by eleven (say I had a month’s holidays a year) it comes to £50,105. I only earn £25,000 of this which means that running costs equal the full salary of a freelancer! In fact, I’m forgetting that the running costs would still apply for the twelfth month! This is all of course just speculation but it gives me some idea of the actual cost of design. (I wonder how long I can stay at university?)

# Polysemy

I have been reading Roland Barthes ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ (challenging read!) which has introduced me to the concept of ‘polysemy’. It basically means that an image or indeed word can have many different meanings. See my lovely diagram below.

We did a rough experiment on this idea in a recent seminar. My tutor showed each of us the same image – a dark house with a single light on downstairs – the asked for us to interpret it. John said that perhaps the family were away out and had left the light on to make it look like someone was in (a deterrent to burglars). Lynsey said it looked quite scary and that only one person was in the house. I said that the whole family were sitting together, maybe watching a film or having visitors over. Notice how Lynsey and I had a completely opposite reaction to the picture; I seen it in quite a positive light where as she seen it as a negative, scary image.

Is there a psychological reason we all seen different things from the same image? Possibly. In fact probably. I was wondering if we all maybe relate it to things in our lives – things that are most familiar. For example, is Lynsey part of a big family or even just doesn’t really like being on her own? Is that why she thinks a single light on in a house as being quite lonely therefore, to her, scary? Did I not see this because I am an only child and have indeed lived on my own? I also noticed that Lynsey and I both assumed that someone was in the house – John assumed they were not. We seen the function of the light differently; he seen it as a deterrent, protecting the house; we seen it as a sign that something was going on. Whilst I seen the sign as an amenity however Lynsey seen it as quite chilling.

From a design point of view, in fact maybe even advertising these results create a problem. If the image was being used for an estate agent it might put Lynsey off the house. If it was being used for a horror film poster I wouldn’t be very scared and John would think the scary stuff happens whilst the characters are out.

What if the advertiser of, say the horror film, wanted us to all have the same interpretation?  From what I have understood from Barthes essay, one of the meanings needs to be chosen (meaning A in my diagram). Doing this, will then close off other meanings and open up new ones: creating a “chain of signifiers”. So, choosing the scary meaning and adding text (linguistic message) will fix this chosen image, making it no longer open to such broad interpretation. The word ‘outcast’, for example, would get rid of the ‘family gathering’ view I had. In fact it would maybe get rid of John’s to because it suggests a person being the ‘outcast’…in the house. Adding a colour might also help, if the light were white instead of glowing orange it would come across as more clinical. Does everyone see white as being clinical though?

Anyway, this concept, of polysemy and manipulating images using linguistics as well as iconic symbolism (something else Barthes talks about) is something I feel I am only just touching the surface of! I will be exploring it more tomorrow though as I will be doing a little experiment with a group of friends from uni. I’ll keep you posted with the results and see if I gain any more understanding of this concept.

# Estate Agent Waffle

Just watched Mary Portas: Secret Shopper and I noticed that one of her points was similar to something my lecturer mentioned the other week. It was to do with language and how people use it. For example the waffle the estate agent’s used when describing properties: “it has a prestigious turning”. Er…? Anyway. The point is that often people use words specific to their ‘area of expertise’ as a way of making themselves appear knowledgeable or as a way of judging who they want to talk to.

I remember discussing this point with some of my friends on the way back to the studio. We all agreed that this was a rather risky business – what if you got caught out? In actual fact we were all really apposed to the idea. I am starting to wonder why though, is it an age thing? Have we just had less exposure and experience with trying to impress people? I suppose this is one idea, the only time I’ve ever really had to do this was to get into here, Duncan Of Jordanstone. My two jobs as well, I suppose. The thing is, in all three I had youth on my side – people don’t really expect too much of you in terms of ‘elevated language’ when your a teenager.

I’m not a teenager anymore though am I – I’m twenty – will people soon start to expect longer bigger words from me; more complex and ornate sentences; frilly explanations? Eeek. I hope not, because I don’t really fancy having to ‘elevate’ my language. For one thing: longer words = more text = more ink + more paper —> It’s not “eco-friendly” to be ‘fru fru’

On a more serious note, it’s also not very good for business, as demonstrated by Mary Porta’s and her experiment with the estate agents. If the whole thing proved just one point it was that honesty is indeed the best policy. Once the estate agent’s had clued themselves up on the properties they were able to honestly tell the clients about the properties features. They were able to replace the “prestigious turning” with the imported radiators and natural sunlight let in by the glass brick wall.

This program re-emphasized learning the thing i’ve come to value most about being at Duncan of Jordanstone: research! Do it! Take the time to learn about who you’re working for and what your selling. Otherwise you might miss the little details such as how the glass bricks in the kitchen let in the most beautiful light on a summers day.

# RIP+MIX

Just out of a lecture from Kate Pickering and Fraser Bruce who were telling us about the opportunities that the Duncan Of Jordanstone M(Des) program has to offer. It was really nice to listen to Kates story; how she struggled in the ‘real world’ after her degree and realised just how hard it was to set herself up in business; how she wasn’t initially very good at talking about her work so faced a lot of rejection from craft fares; how she felt she was equipped  to make jewellery but not to actually be a jeweller.

What she was equipped for though was how to be a designer and after returning to DJCAD to do her masters degree she realised what she could do with her designer knowledge. She has worked on projects for Deutsche Telekom and was part of Dr Rosan Chows research into the RIP+Mix method of creating innovative ideas. Using the experience from her masters she is now working on setting up her own ‘Social Enterprise’ business Vanilla Ink. The hope is that it provised the missing link between University and the scary world of industry. It will support jewellery designers (and indeed other designers) by teaching them the skills they need for the business side of making jewellery.

It sounds brilliant, I’ve had a look around the blog for Vanilla Ink (which aims to have a physical space all set up by 2012). I was sitting there at one point thought thinking do they not teach little one year business courses at colleges? BUT what Kate is offering is actually much more refined. It is aimed at craftspeople, particularly jewellers  and as well as providing classes on ‘the business side of things’ it will provide a workshop where they can still make their jewellery. From reading the blog I can see that actually this kind of specialised support is actually something we really need. It has sooo much opportunity for growth as well. Thinking about it from a graphic design point of view she could set up a kind of ‘gumtree’ thing, where any of the jewellers on the course could advertise what they need. For example they would need business cards and websites – they could freelance these out to students like me who over the summer would have plenty time to work for them! It would be a chance for us to get some experience and possibly even money doing something to do with our degree, rather than working in Tesco.

Anyway, back on topic: What is RIP+MIX? Well, when Fraser Bruce first introduced it to use he showed us this video:

Good eh? It was part of a lecture from Professor Lawrence Lessig, who is a Law Professor at Stanford University, he has a blog but I don’t think he uses it very much! I am going to watch the full TED talk he gave, but the basic idea was, he wanted to make it legal to “re-create”. From my understanding of it today, he was talking about taking two things and combining them, using the media technology we have today, to make something new. He wanted this not to be seen as “copyright”. This is kind of how I visualized it:

Existing material *sparks new ideas + gets mixed with technology = new ‘thing’

This is where  RIP+Mix comes in. Fraser Bruce was telling us how the M(Des) team became ‘dj’s’ by looking at say a radio (this was his example), ripping out the “knowledge” (apparently every artefact has knowledge – this was something i’ve been pondering since the lecture and am trying to grasp the concept of. I think he means for example, my phone: what does it do? how does it do it? how do I use it? > we can ask or observe how things work and how people use them to learn about them and apply what we learn about them to other things) Then mixing it with the knowledge we gained from another thing – say a bus stop. This “mixing” will then generate lots of new ideas for products, such as a station that tells you when your bus is near or late or broken down.

That was obviously just an example and by the sounds of the technique will generate lots of crazy ideas. I LOVE crazy ideas though because sometimes within the craziness you find some sense. This RIPing and Mixing is something that I would like to test out for myself, perhaps with my current project on the charity Oxfam. So far we are just doing research but in a couple of weeks time we will find out what we have to design, maybe I could RIP up charity shops and goats? Irrigation systems and Arms campaigns?

# Dearie Me

I spent a good hour emailing people last night for my current Graphics Project – to retell “The Emperors New Clothes” in a visual language. One of my favourite ideas was to hone in on the ‘pride’ and ‘influence’ themes. I thought a good parody for this was cosmetic/plastic surgery and how celebrities have fuelled the industry. At present I am looking at low cost ‘gossip’ magazines and how they obsess over ‘celebrities’  -  what they wear, say and have ‘had done’ in terms of surgery. I wanted to look at subscription packs in particular because they would try to persuade the person why they should buy this magazine. They would try to influence the person to think like they do and believe that they indeed should think this.

So…I emailed lots of magazines, briefly told them what I was doing and asked if they could simply send me a subscription form for their magazine. I am starting to think i perhaps should have pretended I genuinely wanted to subscribe as I have not heard anything back yet…

Anyway, whilst writing the email I started with “Dear” followed by the very formal “Sir/Madame” – all very PC. It occurred to me that in some cases I was emailing a specific person eg. amanda@gossipmag.co.uk.

*Should I write Dear Amanda…? hmm, but I don’t know her…is that okay? am I being too presumptuous? forward?

(I normally wait till the person has replied to me and I know who I am talking to)

Should I just put Dear Madame? hmm, but what if she doesn’t answer her emails, what if someone else handles her press?

Should I be writing Dear at all ? Am I getting all mixed up with the Madame thing when actually I should just be saying hello?

Yes Hello, thats good. Not as informal as the ‘hi’ but not as formal as the ‘Dear’

Wait…would the people at Hello magazine think I was making fun of them?

Should I say nothing and just launch in?

Oh gosh no! That would be awful!

If I did that they know that my head and I are having this ridiculous deliberation and think that I am talking myself out of the principles of letter writing I was taught in school? Would this show that I really am unversed in the procedures of modern letter writing…

Hmm

But this isn’t a letter. It’s an email. Hmm the functions the same though. Isn’t it? Do function and medium correlate in the realms of written communication?

AAAAAHHHHHHHHH. I don’t know what to do.

Hmm. Hmm.

Dear Sir/Madame. Yes. That’s the best. Mrs Curry always said ‘Dear Sir/Madame’ is a faithful first letter’

Yes. That’s it. Done. Dusted.*

This dialogue with myself last night was brought to light again today when I read this article by James Morgan on the BBC website: www.bbc.co.uk/news. Apparently (according to its detractors) ‘Dear’ is on the way out; it’s “too intimate”and “cold’. Intimately cold…theres an oxymoron and a half. Sounds like the character trait of a serial killer. After reading the entire article I am still, in no way, any more certain of my Introduction dilemma. I agree with English teacherKatie Craigs point “address your reader as you would in the context with which you are replacing the e-mail”. For example when I email my friends with the trailer for a new film, I possibly wouldn’t even say hi, I would just say “oh my gosh watch this, we need to go see it”.

So, my email you could say was replacing a letter or actually, now that I think about it, a telephone call. I wouldn’t say “Dear” in phone call, I would say “hello” so I actually should have used “hello”, according to Kate. The article also included suggestions from other people though…

If I were to listen to etiquette teacher, Jean Broke-Smith however, my decision to go with the “Dear” was correct. I do not know the person and so this is me presenting myself to their business. There is however no mention of  ”Sir/Madame” in the entire article so I am still undecidedly confused as to this point. Whilst I agree that it does sound very outdated I cannot shake the fact that I was brought up with it – it’s standard letter writing!

This reminds me of the classic “faithfully/sincerely” rule and Mrs Curry’s ‘faithful first letter’. Maybe I am being too conservative but I like that rule! I like having a standard, acceptable ‘starting point’ which, I can deviate from if I choose to. That’s when judgements come in though isn’t it? Deviations. The manner in which the person deviates e.g saying “Hi” could cause offence to someone such as Jean Broke-Smith. They feel uncomfortable because they only associate the address with say a very close friend. Similar to nicknames I guess you could say. Hey Jeanny…

I guess it all depends on character, how proper and detailed you like to be and how polite you are. The only thing less graceful than an informal address is the correction of it.

Anyway, I am rambling. To sum up: I would very much like there to be an EMAIL RULE OF ADDRESS, if such a thing exists please someone let me know! If not, then I shall perhaps do something about this myself!

# Post Lecture Thoughts…

My ‘Christmas Shopping’ lecture asked us to question the ‘value’ of presents. From a quick ‘put your hands up’ exercise we all noticed that our favorite gifts were not the expensive gifts we had ever had. In fact, most of the things we treasured were actually worth very little. It was the meaning behind them – who bought it, why they bought it etc.

This idea was reinforced when I picked up the metro on the subway in Glasgow. The front page had an open letter written by Sarah Jane Fields to “the man who stole my car on Wednesday”. The point of the letter was that she actually didn’t care too much about her car. What she cared about was that without  the car (and because of the fuss of having it stolen) she was unable to visit her father before he died.

This is where the meaning of ‘meaning’ comes in and as a designer this is something I will need to get to grips with. From this story I can recognize a hierarchy of meaning, or perhaps link is the right word. Her car meant she could visit her father who meant everything to her. The cars function, in the specific situation of her life, at the time (when the man stole it) meant that it actually also meant everything to her. More meaning than usual was reflected onto her car if you like.

This will teach me to not only consider the meaning of whatever I am designing but also the possible meanings which it could have.

(Sarah’s story: www.metro.co.uk

# Pre Lecture Thoughts…

My lecture tomorrow morning (the last one before the holidays) (yippe!) is, very fittingly, about Christmas shopping.

The set of bunk-beds my papa made for my dolls is most definitely up there with my favorite Christmas presents. They were painted blue (my favorite colour at that age) with illustrations of teddy bears on the side. He even made a mini set of ladders! Once I was older he also made me a sledge which secured my place in nearly every single sledge race I ever competed in. One present I cannot leave out was my Little Tikes kitchen because I can vividly remember lining up all of my toys along the living room and making them dinner. I also fed plastic sausages to all the relatives and neighbors who visited that Christmas too. Of the three I would say the kitchen was probably my favorite gift purely because it sparks off the most memories for me.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I can see from the Early Learning Centre and Argos catalogue that they don’t make kitchens like they use to… I also, unfortunately no longer have said kitchen. I still have the bunk-beds and sledge up in the loft however and probably always will.

# THINK BIG

I have been thinking a lot about my recent conundrum: (do I think) That Josiah Wedgewood devalued pottery? (see this post)

Josiah Wedgwood use to work as a ‘thrower’ but an attack of smallpox meant he had to have his leg amputated. This mean’t he couldn’t work the machine he used as a ‘thrower’; he instead got more involved with the craft itself, the designs and the modelling. He started to experiment with clay mixes which made more durable crockery. His Etruria factory had a village attached to it where his workmen could live with their families. His interest in science and technology brought about new production methods as well as glazes which furthered strengthened his pottery.

Let’s also not forget, his interest in selling all this high-tech pottery brought about the construction of the canal system too!

His motivation was to make more money selling pottery that he couldn’t make himself anymore. So he did his research, made some discoveries and employed people to make his super durable, super glazed pottery. He did an awful lot of good for the industry yes, in fact he practically created it. Thats the thing though – HE created it all.

What if…he had applied his discoveries to the craft of pottery rather than to himself. What if he showed the craftsmen how to mix their clay and glaze their pots better. What if he had built the canal system with the intention of letting the potters sell their wares to bigger markets?

He would still have thought BIG but just applied it differently. Applied his ideas to the craft rather than applying the craft to his ideas. His thinking could have strengthened the craft of pottery – rather than (perhaps) diluting it.

# THINK BIG

Design is all about idea’s right…except everyone has different idea’s. Just like everyone has different opinions. I have noticed a connection between three of my recent lectures, which I shall try  to quickly sum up:

Lecture from Mike Press: THINK BIG! Take example from people like Josiah Wedgwood.

(He wanted to sell more pots so he teamed up with the Duke of Bridgewater and James Brindley – so he could build the Trent and Mersey Canal – so he could ship Cornish clay to his Etruria factory – so he could then ship back the finished pots and sell them in lot’s of new places)

Lecture from Hamid van Koten: Craft and Forms of Capital. Industrialisation and Globalisation has devalued crafts.

(With pottery for example, the designers now ‘create’ the design, the potters make it and the shops sell it. This has turned the potter into a manual labourer. This has destroyed the connection the potter had with designing and making his pot. He will no longer have the social experience of bartering with customers and establishing trade relationships.)

Lecture from Hazel White: Make things | Make Sense: Use your skills to design for a purpose - (see this post). I also picked up on her talking about recognising our place in the world and how the values of something changes across the world.

So…what’s my opinion (do I think) That Josiah Wedgwood devalued pottery?

# Value

I had a lecture today from Hazel White who studied Jewellery here at Duncan of Jordanstone and now teaches on the masters program.

masterofdesign.co.uk

One of the first points she made to us was about recognizing where we come from, what our point of view is and how we relate to the rest of the world. The rest of her lecture explained her various research projects and she shared some of the thing’s she had learnt with us. It was her answer to someones question though that really got me thinking. It was about objects and meaning, specifically that a necklace has more sentimental meaning to someone that a VCR. She then commented that a mobile phone for example, for us might mean we can trade over the internet, do our banking etc. For someone in Africa however it means they can trade it.

This point tied in quite nicely with her point at the start about recognizing our place in the world. This is something I would like to think about a bit more – get a bit of perspective about my place and what things mean to me.