Dissertation Progress

With one week to go until the dissertation progress deadline, I must admit I am stressed. Working on subject and constellation side by side, on who projects which demand so much time and are so essential to do brilliantly, I am feeling the pressure. It’s not like we haven’t had to balance multiple projects before. Ian spoke last year about how second and third year were all about balancing spinning plates, so we are used to this by now, but everything feels so much more heavily weighted this year.

My dissertation is progressing, but very slowly. I know that I keep reading and reading as a way of avoiding writing – this is technically not procrastination but it is beginning to feel like it. Tactical procrastination maybe! As I am writing I feel that I am almost getting lost in my argument. I am well aware from my feedback from my dissertation proposal last year that everything I write needs to be backed up with fact and evidence and theory and I think I am scared to get too deep into a paragraph to then find out I need to remove it and start again because there is not enough theory to back it up. I am passionate about what I am talking about, but that isn’t enough. I could have a passion filled rant on my blog about why women are not appropriately represented in the media, but backing up everything I say with fact and including theories is a whole other story.

I am going to go back to writing and hopefully get another 1,000 words done today. I want to submit chapters of argument for Ashley to give me feedback on – I know I can and I enjoy writing literature reviews so I don’t think I will have too much problem with that. Back to it then!


DFR: My Idea

Families are at the heart of this project and so we aim to create work which encourages the strengthening of family relationships. Isolation and loneliness are common amongst older residents of independent living associations like Derwen, and so the frequent visitation of family can considerably improve the overall quality of life, by tackling these issues. The most important thing to say/show is care, compassion and consideration for both the families and their older relatives. We hope to show understanding of different age related conditions and recognition of the identity and individuality of the residents. It is important to demonstrate the importance of interaction between different generations and to close the intergenerational gap by helping different ages to learn from each other.

I have been looking at the recent public art display put up around Cardiff in support of Ty Hafan. This project comes in the form of Snowdogs assembled around Cardiff featuring all sorts of different themes, patterns and colours. They have been created by designers, artists, schools, sponsors and partners of the charity, and more. There are similar public art exhibitions going on in Birmingham and Bristol, all for similar causes to raise money and awareness for local charities.

In a presentation from a Derwen representative, it was clear there is an issue with a lack of benches and rest stops between the residental homes and the new Hub build. These places are also situated on a hill; a difficult journey for those with reduced mobility.

Taking all of this into account, I decided that my project would involve adding to the area a number of benches along the journey from the top of the hill down to the Hub. Families of residents can ‘sponsor a bench’ and decorate it however they wish with the help of a team of local designers and artists. The idea is that when walking to the Hub, residents can see the brightly coloured benches ahead of them, knowing the distance they have to walk before they can have a break. On each bench will be a QR code and hashtag to work with an interactive app, where, if scanned, users can unlock the ‘story’ of each family and how their made their individual bench.

For the remainder of this project, I will be working on designing the look of the app and a physical map directing users to all of the benches.

On Friday, we had a workshop with Neil looking at ‘taking the red pill’ with our ideas AKA, pushing our ideas outside the realms of the ordinary and making them extra ordinary. Angelo spoke to us about splitting our design process into three sections – awareness, use and sharing. Awareness is about making people aware of what it is you are actually doing, and how you can use design to get the word out there into the world to the right people. Use is the actual event, or the actual thing you want people to see and do. Sharing is what comes afterwards – how people share your idea and interact with it and other people. This is perhaps where the digital element could become more evident, as social media is such a great tool for spreading messages quickly. I am currently working on first of all coming up with a memorable and effective name for this project and then looking at how I can promote it to families. I am keen to work on the app as I think it is perfect for this project, the client seemed very keen on it, and I do not yet have an app in my portfolio.

Dissertation Tutorial

This morning I had an individual tutorial with Ashley in the heart space. In general, I currently feel very okay with my dissertation. I know what I need to do and I know how to do it now. The only real stress I have at this stage is that I know how heavily this one section is weighted, and I desperately want it to be brilliant so that I can have the grade I want overall. I am trying not to let this creep up in my mind yet though, as I realise I need to write it first!!! I am aiming to give Ashley quite a large chunk of writing to read on the formative deadline at the end of October, and so hopefully I will have even greater direction of what I can change and improve after that.

Writing an introduction and chapter headings in June, before finishing second year was definitely a great thing for Ashley to have asked us to do. It has given me so much clarity with my own ideas and has helped me to stay on topics throughout my research and writing. Having categories, though only a rough idea has allowed me to split research into groups of where they will be relevant to the overall dissertation. I am hoping this will help the overall narrative of the argument to flow better.

After my meeting I headed over to the library to see what other books I could find. I have taken out a few and so hopefully I can gather up some more strong quotes before I properly dive in to writing.

DFR: Initial Ideas

Over these first two weeks of third year I have written pages and pages of notes on workshops, lectures and tutorials, trying to absorb as much as I can about this project and the vast background behind it. Ahead of a tutorial this morning, I thought it a good idea to condense my ideas into initial ideas to explore as promising propositions for our client presentation on Thursday.

  1. To engage families in visiting the Gaer complex I think we need to give them something to do; a pull to visit and spend their time there. For this, I could design an interactive games room fully decorated with wall stickers and murals, photographs and boards that could be drawn and painted on with interactive brain training games for all ages.
  2. There is a lack of benches and rest areas on the journey from the Gaer to the Hub new build. Benches/a sheltered area could be put into place every 100 yards or so, brightly decorated by different local artists, designers and perhaps contributed to by the school near by. The vibrance of these would be visible from a far, working for both younger members of the family and the older residents. From each rest area, the next would be in sight, making the journey much more manageable for all mobility capabilities. Each bench could include a portion of a story of Newport’s history – you have to read the extracts on every bench along the journey to complete the story. These could be change seasonally to ensure people return. A hashtag could be used on each bench to unlock more detail on a corresponding app, photos of each beautiful bench could be posted on social media also to attract attention to the area.
  3. Change4Life – a family based NHS project to make families more active. Inspired by this, a similar app could work here – games and activities for family members. The activities would aim to improve physical and mental abilities. You log which family members are playing – different points for different people – perhaps more points for older people? Families can compete within the Gaer – older people can do activities without family and family without older person but more points if they do it together.
  4. An interactive wildlife garden with activities. Pond dipping, fish feeding, bird watching and feeding, animal bingo etc.

Following the meeting with Wendy, I feel more positive about my ideas. I presented ideas 2 and 3, both of which Wendy thought were good initial ideas to develop. For the bench idea, I need to consider the fact that whatever is put on the benches, whether that be a story or game, it works both going towards the Hub and away from it. There should also be some sort of visual story to encourage the visitors to complete the journey and create anticipation for the next bench. For the app, Wendy suggested I choose one traditional game and develop it into the app as a case study, and success story before developing further games and ideas.

DFR: Mini Meltdown No. 1

I am at a point in my research and ideation where I feel a bit stuck and so I thought I’d just note it here rather than staring at my laptop screen.

I am finding my brief really challenging. I chose it for reasons I have expressed in recent blog posts, thinking designing for families of Derwen residents would be a great thing to do, producing something which I could feel the benefits of as the grandchild of someone with dementia. I also thought it may be easier to empathise with families than with the older residents themselves, as in theory, families are closer to my age and, perhaps, mind set than those 55+. However, now I come to forming ideas I am really struggling. How can I encourage families to visit their older family members? If they are not already doing this out of love, or if their lives are incredibly busy, or if they have other higher priority issues in their lives, how can I persuade them that making time to visit family at Gaer would be a great usage of their time? I realise that precisely what I have just described is my challenge, but I am feeling very stuck on how to achieve this at this moment in time.

I have been researching and researching everything from designing for dementia and age related conditions, to different types of care home including Derwen, to the history of Newport and design projects aimed at families across the board. I almost wish I had chosen the project which involved designing for older people, as I feel I have more ideas for this category from my research of this category. In reality, designing for families is not addressing one generation, but potentially three or four. Hm.

Tomorrow we have a tutorial regarding our research and our updated creative briefs. With each tutorial and workshop session I do feel more clear about what I am doing, but I really need to just spend time surrounded by my research and generate viable ideas. Client meeting on Thursday. Omg.

DFR: Creative Brief & Skyping our Mentor

Wednesday was the submission date for creative briefs which we have been working on for a few days now. Following a tutorial with Wendy, I felt much more clear about how to effectively complete my creative brief. Some major questions, with my answers are as follows:

What’s the big picture?

Families are at the heart of our project and we aim to create work which encourages the strengthening of family relationships. Isolation and loneliness is common amongst older residents of independent living associations such as Derwen, and so the frequent visitation of family can considerably improve the overall quality of life, by tackling these issues.

What opportunities or problems jump out at you?

This project will give both myself and the older residents the opportunity to see the world differently by creating situations for intergenerational conversation and bonding. I am grateful for this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of age related issues and conditions as my own family adapt to similar circumstances in our own lives with grandparents. I hope that I can create work which will improve the self-worth of the target audience by allowing them to make more memories.

Some problems I may encounter include budget and time, as with any other project. Specific to this project, the residents’ willingness to cooperate and my own perceptions and experiences of the older generation may pose an issue. I will consistently aim to avoid stereotypes and seek professional advice from the client where required.

What’s going on elsewhere that might influence your ideas?

My own personal experiences of caring for my grandmother with dementia will influence my ideas, as this brief will allow me to consider what my own family are missing that I could create to benefit other families in similar situations. The news has some influence over almost everything, and so I will be paying attention to anything relevant in the news or on television over the course of this project. I should also consider my own hobbies and social life as an influence for the things I may encourage for families to do with their older relatives.

Objective. What is the goal of the campaign?

The primary objective of this project is to encourage families to spend more quality time with their older relatives in independent living residences, as this can massively positively effect their lives. I would like to encourage my target audience to remember the person their older relative has always been and still is, and the role that they have played in their family in the past, if not still now. I hope to help families to realise that time with their relatives is precious and can be a great joy even in times of strain and change.

My objectives for addressing the bigger picture are as follows:

  1. Research themes of this project and organise into categories.
  2. Produce sketch visualisations of ideas
  3. Refine ideas responding to feedback and awareness of use experience
  4. Present propositions to clients in a professional manner

Target audience: who are we talking to?

My project will be aimed at families of older residents. It should appeal to all three generations (grandchild, parent, grandparent), thought the main audience is the middle generation; those responsible for making the plans and arranging visits, driving to the residence and caring for the older relative.

It is also important to acknowledge the older residents as active members of the society and appeal to them – some may be desperate for their family to visit and feel lonely and isolated often, while others may be more reluctant for their family to visit, enjoying the peace of the independent living or not wanting to be a bother. Of course there are millions of alternatives in between these examples but these are a few at opposite ends of the scale.

What’s the most important thing to say or show?

For me, the most important thing to say/show is care, compassion and consideration for both the families and their older relatives. I hope to show understanding of different age related conditions and recognition of the identity and individuality of the residents. It is important to me to demonstrate the importance of interaction between different generations and to somewhat close the intergenerational gap by helping different ages to learn from each other.

What are the most compelling reasons to believe, to try, to buy in?

This project holds a number of emotional ties which I believe will recognisable to many families. These include physical and spiritual distance from family members and the desire to reconnect, the ability to maximise independence and therefore positively impact active ageing by staying in good mental and physical health by learning new skills and meeting new people. As mentioned in Amanda’s presentation, many older people miss the person people used to see when they looked at them, and the respect they used to have (for example, one resident commented that when they were last in a hospital they were called ‘doctor’). The opportunity to assert their identity and regain their individuality will be a compelling emotional reason. One of the biggest issues for the older generation is loneliness and isolation from other generations and also from other people of the same age. This project aims to reduce this, which I think will be a draw.

On Thursday we arranged a Skype call with our mentor, Mia to properly introduce ourselves and discuss the beginning of our project. It was great to speak to her and she seemed really interested in the project and eager to mentor us along the way. Mia works long hours in London and so we unfortunately won’t be able to meet her, however we will keep in contact via Slack and Skype. Mia uses Slack at work and suggested it as a usual platform to keep each other updated on this project. We explained our brief to her in more detail and asked if she would like to see our creative briefs which we submitted on Wednesday. She is keen to see these and so when we have sussed out Slack, we will post them onto there for her to read.

DFR: Mia Tivey and Marco Polo

Our mentor for this project is past Cardiff Met student, Mia Tivey. Mia is an illustrator working at Marco Polo in London with a first class honours degree from Cardiff Metropolitan University in Graphic Communication. Her work is vibrant and colourful and I look forward to hopefully being able to show her some of my work and and having her on our team!

Marco Polo Learning is a digital startup who make apps and other digital content for children age 3-7. On their website, some of the things they care about include ‘the natural world’, ‘content that matters’ and ‘social responsibility’ – they all sound like pretty great values to me!

On the Marco Polo website, they have a quote from Einstein which got me thinking:

“I am neither clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.” 

Curiosity to any degree does not die with age – everyone of all ages is curious about something or everything. In order to appeal to family members of all ages in my design work, I believe I need to find a common interest, something which sparks a movement in everyone of all ages. This shared spark creates a bond between people, and hopefully, can bring them back closer together.