Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Photography that will make you look twice...

Just as I was browsing the internet researching things for my project I came across some cool stuff..thought I'd share!
The first guy I came across, Steven J Backman, creates sculptures from one single toothpick, a straight edges razor blade and glue. His interest first began in elementary school where he made a science project of DNA molecules from toothpicks and beans. When attending San Francisco State University in the autumn 1984, Steven later received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Industrial Arts, he decided to design a San Francisco cable car for an art project using toothpicks and glue. This was one way in which he knew how to show his appreciation for these mobile historical landmarks. Shortly after, Steven established his toothpick art business names "Landmarks of San Francisco," which he still presently operates.

Steven's motto, "The Essence of Patience," truly exemplifies his drive and determination towards creating unique and unforgettable one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Steven feels that making these sculptures is as relaxing as lying on a secluded island at peace with himself and his surroundings. He is truly a perfectionist at heart and takes much pride in this toothpick sculptures.

Take a look, pretty impressive stuff...
I wonder how many skelfs he's given himself?
transamerica pyramid
white house
golden gate bridge
meydan grandstand
brooklyn bridge
eiffel towers
burj khalifa
empire state building

The other photographs I have no particular comment on other than that they amused me greatly! These beautiful little creations are by a French artist, Vicent Bousserez.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Step out into the cyber world...

Inspired.. is the word I would use to describe how I felt after todays lecture. Lauren Currie (@redjotter), a previous product design and Mdes student of DOJ was giving a talk on all she does and how she got to where she is today - her main field now being service design. It was the first time in a while I felt genuinely excited about design, and was reminded of why I am doing the course I am, as I can can get as passion and excited about the things I do and I love to see and hear of just how others can get thrilled and stimulated by similar things. To see that brightness and buzz in the eyes of someone else made her talk all the more engaging. It's also nice to hear how much someone else was once in our shoes, yet showed us what you can achieve through hard work if we want something bad enough. Obviously there are difficult times, but she really convinced us of how much being a part of the cyber world - whether its Twitter, Flickr, Blogging, Skype - you can really make yourself known!
red balloons - one of Lauren's consistent objects
A huge worry for us undergrads in the design field is when we graduate, how to best get into a job. The sooner we realise it's not just going to get handed to us the better. We have to get involved now. The more we can get experience now, get in touch with designers, companies, previous students like Lauren today, and do this through these online tools is how we are going to get noticed. Have confidence. Don't be scared. As Nike say, JUST DO IT. Put yourself out there. What's the worst that can happen? I myself need to take this on board... One thing she stressed was keeping yourself consistent, e.g using the same photo or strap line for all your accounts on every online tool you use so you are more likely to get noticed and you will become more readily recognisable to possible employers. This is something I need to think about more for myself over the next little while.

A huge part of all this I feel is definitely personality though, Lauren had such an infectious, vibrant, driven personality that made myself, and by the sounds of it quite a few others, listen intently the entire time. You could see the genuine enthusiasm and passion she had for design, and more specifically in her field of service. She admitted she had no social life because of it, and just now that's a consequence and price she's willing to pay but in my mind, from what I heard today, she has worked so hard and deserves every bit of attention and focus she gets.
It's been on my mind for a while now to get experience of some kind, now it's more a cause of where and when rather than if!

Assignment 2 - What Images Mean

2A: Rhetoric of the image.

So after reading Barthes essay, I have to say I didn't get a lot out of it. I think I got the main points but putting it into my own words to try and understand in my language, what was it saying to me? After looking at a few summaries online and speaking to a friend who studied media at school, I think now I have a little better insight.

I was introduced to a new word through this assignment: polysemy. This simply means 'a diversity of meanings.' Whenever we look at an image we all interpret images and graphics differently, because a lot of the time the images are open to that. This can be on purpose, 'make of it what you want' kind of feel, however you can narrow this down so that you 'anchor' if you like the person to think down a certain path to interpret the image in the way intended. This can be through using text.

Basically there are 3 types of messages from which people can interpret images.
   - Non encoded iconic (denoted/literal)
   - Encoded iconic message (connoted/symbolic)
   - Linguistic message (text)

When looking at an image, for example this one:

The non encoded iconic message would be literally what you see. So the image of the tomato represents a tomato, the image of the mushroom is literally the mushroom etc. So here Barthes explains that the signifier and the signified are therefore the same - this is a message without a code.

The encoded message. There are four symbolic signs that can be identified from the non linguistic part of the image (everything apart from the text) and compose the symbolic message and connoted image.
    -the half opened bag signifies the recent return from the market where the items were purchased. 
    -tomatoes and peppers signify Italy.
    -the collection of objects signifies a total culinary service.
    -the overall composition is reminiscent of, and consequently signifies, the notion of still life.

The linguistic message (text)
He sees two kinds of linguistic messages at work.
A denoted message comprising of the caption and the labels on the produce and
a connoted message - the word 'Panzini' connotes Italy and its' culture.

All images are polysemous - they imply a 'floating chain' of signifieds. Everyone creating images develops techniques to fix the floating chain of signifieds in such a way as to combat the terror of uncertain signs. The linguistic message serves as one of these techniques. The text helps us to focus our attention in terms of identification and interpretation. The text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image, causing them to avoid some and to receive others. Anchorage is the most frequently used function of the linguistic message, commonly found in newspaper photographs and advertisements.

In cartoons and comic strips, the text (a small part of dialogue) and image stand in a complementary relationship. Relay text is very important in film, where dialogue serves not just simply to help interpret but to advance the action by setting out meanings that are not found in the image alone.
The two functions of the linguistic message can co-exist in the iconic messages.

We went on the recommended website and selected 3 random images. This is ours -

From this we created a short questionnaire to give out to our random participants for this experiment. It included 'name' 'age' 'occupation' at the top and 'what do these images mean to you' three times, one for each image. and then the final question 'can you arrange these images into a particular order to produce story. and we gave these to the participants with the 3 images at random.

The responses were really interesting. I asked people of the student age group, one was a geography student. They were concerned with the global warming aspect, the fire representing the warmth heating up our planet, affecting our animals (represented in the ducks) and instead of doing something about it we're stuck in our own continuous routine of life represented in the final image of (what she thought to be) the staircase.
The story we went for was pretty similar perhaps even more simplistic, another participant talked about the snowy/icy cold climate in the duck image, the spiral walkway represents the seasonal cycle onto the next image which is the fire, showing the warmer climate.summer months.

This is the fourth image we later added in because we felt beforehand that people weren't understanding the seasonal side of it and focusing too literally. So we thought this image fitted in nicely. So right enough they immediately got the seasonal side of things.
We then added the word 'cycle' to the spiral walkway so they understood how we were wanting that image to symbolize and be interpreted as. So eventually they understood where we were going with our story. Some people were quicker at picking up, other took all the helpful hints needed.
This has definitely helped me understand polysemy more. I now can see that unless we fix that chain of signifiers, anyone could potentially think of anything. This was seen in the variety of stories we got back from 2C. So unless images use linguistic messages and techniques like anchorage to help sometimes in likes of advertising etc, images can have numerous interpretations - and this may or may not be an advantage - depending on the company advert.

When thinking of my particular area of interest to do with this word polysemy. I find it quite interesting as its made me think of the way I design. I design most things for a reason, a purpose, I have a story or a meaning for using that chosen shape for the walls, or that material on the floor. It can quite often symbolise something for me. However is that the way everyone else sees it? Should I be making this clear? Or is it better just to take the freedom to design whatever just because it looks good, without a particular reason or meaning. And then I if they get the chance to hear well all the better!
But definitely in future, I think I might question my designing steps a little more, why am I doing this? Perhaps I might leave it as an ambiguous thing, that could be the whole point!
I do feel that as an interior designer, we that we can create different atmospheres and how a person feels within a space based on lighting, colours, materials, heights of walls, widths of a space etc. Creating these different environments based on what is required for the specific purpose/a person's needs is perhaps another explanation of the term polysemy...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

New project: EcoOffice

The new project we have been assigned for this semester is to design, in a specific set building, offices for the organisation SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency). The brief is to design this building for roughly 34 staff working: 24 office workers, CEO's office, 4 general manger's offices, it should also include reception and waiting area, cafeteria, library, meeting rooms (small and large) storage areas, and perhaps a quiet area/lab work.
So I was just thinking the same as what you may have been there - that is a lot of designing, never mind stairs, corridors, lifts and general void areas all in the time given! However I was also very excited to start such a big project. So far I have done research into general office designs and the requirements therein. Also looking at sustainable design and offices. I have also seen the importance within the design for natural air and light to be a big part. This is another area of research for me at the minute, natural ventilation systems and how they work. We are not to change the exterior brick work but can add in windows wherever, fitting along with the beams all ready there. I have come across quite a lot of new materials which has given me ideas of bringing nature inside. One idea that is lingering in my head is to somehow bring the outside in. Scotland's beautiful scenery and landscapes into this very building for inspiration for the workers. These people are keen environmentalists, and what better than to have nature around them within the office space to soak in everyday? Whether this is just to look at, or to perhaps smell and hear as well? I've been looking at Scotland's nature/countryside/natural landmarks and perhaps I'll get inspiration from that to help come up with a design.
Here are some interesting ideas I have come across which I may well include in my design...
Terramac an environmentally friendly, biodegradable spun fabric which works as a planter box of sorts, allowing you to lay it down and grow mosses and small plants indoors as a living carpet. Terramac, which is intended for indoor use, would undoubtedly make for a beautiful interior flooring scheme in a foyer or living room.

   - Different collections of architectural glass, each with its own style. One particular style is called Sutra. Sutra is the most organic, incorporating leaves, flowers, and twigs into transparent inner layer of the thick glass slab. The inlaid materials are prepared and laminated without heat in order to prevent deterioration and fading. The glass itself holds up to cleaning, sun exposure and other elements much better than the acrylics and resin that re often used to seal organic material into a transparent casing.

Just a couple of days ago we went to go and visit the site which is a building currently used by DC painter and decorators in Dundee to store equipment. We were privileged enough to get to see inside the building and be very snap happy with the cameras to capture and soak in as much of it as we could as that may very well be our only opportunity to see inside. The thing that astonished most of us, was how terrifyingly small the building actually was for our intentions! However I guess this is very much the challenge to design the space in the best possible way, so bring it on!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Assignment 1 - Snooping

This assignment was by far my favourite yet. As soon as I started to read Snoop I knew it was my kind of book, maybe this is because I am interested in the psychology of it all and I would admit I am a semi curious/nosey person...
Firstly for this assignment, myself and an assigned partner who I did not know, were told to exchange photos. I sent my person photos of myself growing up, and she sent me photos of her room and personal space.
I printed them out and annotated round them, pointing out interesting things such as, what her interests were, what she liked wearing, where she shopped, what she read, listened to...etc etc.
I found this very interesting as I found myself being very analytical and finding reasons for everything she had. It was amazing what you could find out. By zooming in on the photos on the computer i was able to read some of the posters on her wall and look them up to see what they were all about. But then questions followed, for example, say it was a Bibio poster. I soon found out this was a music producer, but did she like the music they produced or perhaps more the graphic on the poster (being a graphic student) that she liked having on her wall to look at/someone she admired?
Some of the photos which I annotated:

It was amazing to read what she found out from my photos, I had not sent them to her in any particular order but she had grouped them together herself for what seemed appropriate. E.g. the ones I was active in/doing similar activities. Or the ones where I was with family. And the 2 that included dolphins (I had not even realised I had included 2 with dolphins!) But because of this she could tell dolphins were my favourite animal and she also thought I'd maybe sponsored one - which I had done until very recently! Which completely blew me away! She could tell that I'm very much a family and genuinely happy person. One picture showed me receiving an award at school so from that she presumed that I care about my studies and take pride in achieving prizes for the work I've put in. She also thought this may have been for a specific discipline that I excelled in, which was correct, for me it was art. This also showed to her that I was a focused individual and take academic work seriously, which I do. In the picture there is also another student in the corner not wearing a blazer, and from that she correctly assumed that I was perhaps a Prefect or Head Girl, and I was both Deputy Head Girl/Senior Prefect.
There were a couple of things that weren't as accurate, but still good presumptions. For example, I'm on a trampoline in 2 of the photos so she thought perhaps I did that sport quite a lot and was maybe on the University club, but I'm not. Also a few of the photos feature me wearing aviator sunglasses, as she said it does reflect me enjoying summer. However she maybe thought this was an example of my overall fashion taste, which I think it might be. But when she gave her example, about me liking classic Chanel quilted bags rather than a brand new design never seen before, she herself thought she was maybe going off on a tangent. This is a point where I feel I've learnt a little more about myself. It's interesting to see what comes across from a few photos to someone else, but this is where I am a little mixed in my taste/fashion. I like a little bit of both worlds. Which is why it wasn't easy to guess it right. But she did very well!
Her overall impression of me was "that you’re a fun-loving family orientated individual who likes to get involved in different activities.  Enjoying University as you did well in academic studies in High School and seem to strive for achievement."

In a way it felt weird 'snooping' around someone's else private space who I didn't know at all! But I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it and found it interesting. Just picking out all the different objects and stuff around her room I was able to scratch the surface of her personality. I could see from photos that her room was quite messy, however because of posters on her wall that were spaced out evenly etc, and that she had design magazines together and a diary that she was still quite an organised person with uni and meeting deadlines and arrangements in her personal life as well. Which she confirmed was correct!

It didn't really bother me having someone look at pictures of me, I was just more curious to see what they would make of me from these pictures, especially when some were quite a few years old! Over the years I've obviously changed a bit but it's amazing to see that it all pieces together like a jigsaw to make up me the person I am today, and from a few pictures, she was able to describe me really well!

I have learnt a lot from this assignment, it had been very useful as well. Looking at people's things you can tell a lot about their personality, which I feel will be beneficial later in life especially as a designer and planning to design someone's room which will perhaps reflect their personality. Looking at the Johari Window as well helped explain to me, both me and my partners findings. It's an interesting way of categorising the research under 4 separate titles. Through this task and in further design research I think its important that you still have to respect peoples privacy and not be too quick to judge. You should always ask permission to use the information that the other person gives you, and make sure your findings stay private unless they tell you otherwise. And also use the information given for the purpose intended and not for other use. For example before I posted any photos that my partner sent me I asked her if I could, as it is her private space still and she may not feel comfortable with that, although I did tell her it wasn't the direct photos she sent me it was just to show the annotation part.