We are the Product Design class of 2020. Thinking of our time at the Glasgow School of Art, and the way in which it’s been cut short by COVID-19, brings about a mixture of emotions.
Despite the events of the last few months we’ve continued to work individually and collaboratively to bring you a digital event that showcases what we’ve been working hard towards over the past year. Our projects reflect an accumulation of our interests, from reimagining the future of education, celebratory experiences focused on menstruation and menopause, developing societal structures, reducing humanitarian issues like homelessness, moving towards a more sustainable future, to engaging the senses through sound and smell to heighten experiences and improve people’s quality of life, as well as much more. We’ve really covered it all this year!
Our course, titled ‘Product Design’, is far from limited to this meaning and during our journey at GSA we’ve all learnt to shape the essence of design around an inner passion we possess for helping people and creating meaningful and educational experiences that we hope may positively benefit the future. Although the pandemic has already changed the way in which society operates, the aftermath will require people able to look beyond the lines of job disciplines and approach tasks holistically to tackle problems with an open mindedness, crucial in times of uncertainty such as this.
As a cohort, we are ambitious, vibrant, versatile, dynamic and a little bit crazy at times. We explore, observe, take risks, encourage one another to think critically about the world and challenge the way it works. Innovation should not be viewed as a luxury – rather an integral part of everyday life. Our work revolves around collaborative, human-centred and speculative approaches, underpinned by a desire to make purposeful change in a world which seems to need collective support and meaningful design more than ever.
We hope you enjoy the work curated for this digital showcase and would like to invite you to join zoom calls during the week 1st – 5th June to discuss our work and the future of the design industry with the eager and determined class of 2020.
Product Design Programme
Our students work beyond and across traditional disciplinary boundaries and engage with specialist expertise from other domains, such as science, medicine or technology, to create a vision of a better future, born of a critique of the present. They explore complex social, ethical and environmental issues as subjects for design projects, and learn how to apply research
methods and analytical skills adapted from the social sciences in order to ensure their designs respond to the needs of the people who will use and be affected by them. Through a unique combination of studio-based learning and live projects, students acquire a wide range of visualisation, communication and material-making skills that will enable them to bring together user insights, expert input and ethnographic information to drive the design and innovation process.
The B.Des pathway challenges conventional perceptions of Product Design as a discipline born of industrial practices, focusing instead on reimagining experiences and responding to the complexities of modern life. The Master of European Design (MEDes) is a unique pathway created by the Innovation School in partnership with six other eminent European design institutions. The Programme situates the School’s trans-disciplinary approach to product design in an international context, providing an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in different cultures, and experience alternative approaches that will inform their future practice.
B.Des Self-Initiated Project
The culmination of final year and the highpoint of their GSA education: this is where B.Des students make their mark on the world, by defining their own area of intellectual exploration, writing their own brief and delivering a design outcome. Working with a Project Tutor to identify an area of interest, each student develops an appropriate design brief based upon their personal research and resolves this brief, creating a design(ed) experience that creates value and appeal for the intended user(s). Here the students demonstrate that design is as much a political act as it is a problem-solving exercise or aesthetic endeavour. To see students explore the problem of period poverty as an issue affecting half of the nation’s population, or to explore the sensory impact of sound or scent on human experience, is to appreciate that design and innovation are attempts to re-imagine human experience, and not just improve upon existing gadgets or consumer goods.
B.Des Future Experiences Project
Students were asked to consider the changing relationship between Sustainable Development and the Global South. Working with experts from the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network; the project’s partner, and academics at the University of Glasgow, the students explored what might happen in a global landscape ten years from now, where Sustainable Development has evolved to the extent that new forms of work transform how people engage, learn and interact with each other. The showcase curates and displays the diverse range of future products, services and experiences designed by the cohort for the people who might one day live and work within these future contexts. Here the graduates worked with academics and inhabitants of African cities to explore a collaborative approach to the imagining of the future: to utilise the design skills of giving form, of visualising, of making tangible and shareable to something as tricky to describe as the future…
In doing so, they unleashed their own and their collaborators’ imaginations, creating possibilities that challenge our contemporary sense of the possible and the desirable. Should people commodify and sell their own genetic material? Could waste plastic material ever challenge monetary exchange within communities who value quality of life over financial gain, ecology over economics?
Project Partner: Sustainable Futures in Africa https://www.sustainablefuturesinafrica.com
MEDes Thesis Project
The Masters of European Design award culminates in a self-directed study that combines academic research and writing, design practice, user-engagement and creative expression. The MEDes Masters project is a self-initiated project that explores the historical, cultural and critical context of a subject or theme chosen by the student, it is the ultimate educational expression of their personal intellectual interests. Working with both a Project Tutor and an Academic Supervisor (for their thesis) the students demarcate and deliver a design project that synthesises the historical and the contemporary, the practical and the academic, in the form of an extended piece of writing and a series of design explorations, and a resolved outcome.
MEDes Collaborative Futures Project
Conducted in partnership between the Innovation School and Glasgow City Council’s Centre for Civic Innovation (CCI) to explore how data could shape the experiences of Glasgow’s citizens in 2030, and envisage what a well governed city might look like moving forwards. This project has involved the final year Master of European Design (MEDes) students, alongside graduate designers, working with professional designers and data experts from the CCI, and a variety of civic and academic stakeholders. The Collaborative Futures project demonstrates the power of design to critique the present as a way of creating a preferable future, at a time when the very idea of what the future might be is up for debate. The uncertainty of the future, its capacity to surprise and disconcert has been revealed in tragic terms in recent weeks. These two young designers offer a vision in which design is a way of thinking about and working towards a brighter future: one in which the fluctuations in the economy or the ecological consequences of contemporary life are explored and addressed. These very personal projects speak to the experiences of everyone in an era of global pandemic, our dream of a better tomorrow is built upon the work done today.
Project Partner: Centre for Civic Innovation
With thanks to our project partners and contributors
Future Experiences project partner lead, Dr Mia Perry, Co-Director of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network and Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow. Nicol Keith, Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Glasgow and the Institute of Cancer Sciences Director of Research Impact. Brian Proudfoot, Founder and Brand Design Specialist at GOODD Ltd. Santini Basra, Design Strategist, Researcher and Founder of the futures research and design strategy studio Andthen. Collaborative Futures project partner lead, Stevie McGowan, Creative Design Lead at Glasgow City Council, Centre for Civic Innovation.