Lauren Currie

I had a really inspirational lecture last friday from Lauren Currie aka Redjotter, a masters graduate from DJCAD.  She was telling us about her company, current projects and encouraging us to build up our online networks. I was surprised to find out that her company Snook are set up in one of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) buildings in Glasgow. I recognized the building on Hill Street when she showed us a slide of it. Lauren mentioned that they get this space for free because they do work for the GSA.

This was one of many revelations that really made me think about the business side of what I am studying. Getting your studio space for free is a huge deal! Especially in exchange for work which you can put in your portfolio. Opportunities like this are what everybody wants but think it’s down to luck. Lauren made us see that it’s not – it’s down to you. Put yourself out there, use online networks such as twitter and skype to talk to connect yourself with the people who are able to give you these opportunities. Then – catch their eye. Comment on things you find interesting, your own ideas and projects even just ask them a question or comment on their ideas. This will get you noticed by them and indeed other people. You can then link up to other platforms such as a flickr site or a blog, this allows people to explore your work and see what your all about. Suddenly you’re generating traffic for your sites and connecting with people.

A tip Lauren gave us for all of this connecting was to keep things consistent – use the same profile image, the same username and email address. These small details may seem irrelevant but they actually are vital ingredients of creating an online persona. For example, Lauren uses the username ‘redjotter’ together with a picture of her hand writing with a pen, she has her lovely red nail varnish on as well. It is actually this red nail varnish that had gotten her recognized a few times at various networking events. She said it’s about essentially creating a brand for yourself.

This is something that I had actually already been doing (kind of) without realizing it. For example I carried the ‘toomanyballoons’ persona from my online portfolio through to my blog and indeed my twitter. Laurens advice though has made me realize that I need to ‘belt and brace’ this up a bit though. My head was buzzing on the train home that night with ways which I can do this – see below!

Hopefully making these little changes will make me more consistent and professional looking. So that when they go from my portfolio to my flickr to my blog it’s clear that they are all tangents of ‘toomanyballoons’. Making them appear in unison and maybe making them all link up more will show that each platform is a relevant part of me that’s worth looking at. Underneath all of the profile images and usernames though I need to still be substantial and I need to still be me. Lauren told us:

“we had to believe in ourselves because, if we don’t, how can we expect other people to?”.

This was a brilliant piece of advice and made me realized the importance of having some confidence in my work and myself. I am a student, I will make many, many mistakes and people will see them on blog but they will also be able to see how I learn from them. One thing that helps you to believe in yourself is believing in what you do. I got into design because of publishing (I love books) I wanted to design the layouts for magazines and leaflets and things that were doing some good – telling people thing’s that would help them. Ever since I started here at Duncan of Jordanstone I have realized that I can do SO much more than that! Instead of designing the leaflet that would help them – I can actually help them! How? By designing. I don’t need to pigeonhole myself into being a graphic designer, I can just be a designer. I can apply the processes I use to anything – it’s my ‘design head’ that can help, my ability to visualize. The processes I learn such as researching, coming up with ideas, sketching things, communicating messages and prototyping are things which can be applied to lot’s more than just a nicely kerned Helvetica logo. It’s called ‘design thinking’ as Tim Brown would describe it, I’ve been reading his book ‘Change by Design’ for the past few weeks. He mentioned something I have been considering a lot with my current Oxfam project:

“In Nairobi he observed that people in poor countries who have been thrust into the global economy do not need money as much so much as the means to earn money”

They key word is observed, the researcher in question, Martin Fisher, actually went to Nairobi and observed the native people. He spoke to them, he found out that they didn’t necessarily need old clothes, they needed a road, a road which would connect them up with more people to buy and sell with.

Isn’t that brilliant! We can designing solutions. This realization I’ve been enjoying the past few months is partly why I get so over-excited when I hear about the wonderful new world of Service Design. That’s what Lauren does. Her company Snook (set up with GSA masters graduate Sarah Drummond) are part of this very exciting new world. She told us how they often take to the streets of Glasgow with some tea and biscuits and chat to the actual people who will be using the particular service. She stressed the importance of talking to them normally, in plain English. Doing this gives you insights you would not get anywhere else. She mentioned that this is where empathy comes in (something I touched on earlier this year in my post about evangelists). Empathy in design allows you to appreciate a problem which you can hopefully then use your ‘design thinking’ and visualizing skills to solve. Lauren mentioned that it was her friends experience with talking to the police after a burglary that lead to mypolice.

This fantastic service is now a real thing, it allows members of the public to post comments to the police on a website. These comments will be answered by the police, the real police! How cool is that! If you ever had a bad or good experience with the police you could post it on the website and get some feedback. It lets people give the feedback or get the reassurance they might otherwise be put of getting. It also allows the police to get the tips they need to improve their service. Basically, it breaks the barriers of communication.

Isn’t that what graphic design is all about? Communicating a message?

Maybe this link is why I am so intrigued by service design. Rather than communicating a message, service design looks for the gaps in the communication itself. Rather than designing the website or support group where terminally ill patients can get some advice; service design looks at the best way to connect people with the website or the group in the first place. They can’t do any good if no one knows they exist or how to get to them? What if it wasn’t a website, what if it was the exit sign in a burning building and nobody could see it?

Thinking about all these, sometimes vital, communications makes me really excited about my course. I need to I WILL start observing communication a lot more, looking at it from these different perspectives.

For now I can concentrate on finding and filling gaps in my own projects. I can start making and testing prototypes of my work. I had a recent talk from Jamie Bryan, a head games designer from Tiger Games. He told us that they received a lot of complaints about an iphone app being really rubbish value. It turned out that people didn’t realize they had to swipe the screen to get to the next page… A simple arrow would have solved this, one little arrow would have filled the ‘gap’ in communication. This is an easy mistake for designers make – you don’t (can’t) see it from your audiences persecutive. It’s also easy to solve – make and test prototypes with the people your designing for. Doing this will hopefully help me become a better designer that can, one day, do some good.

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