Sites, scents and a sense of self

Looking back at Spring School 2017

GSA Highlands & Islands recently hosted the annual Spring School at the Creative Campus.

The seasonal schools for postgraduate research students – Winter, Spring and Autumn – are an important part of our innovative modes of distributed delivery.

InDI’s Master of Research and PhD students make up the Creative Campus Cohort. Students with shared interests work together to evolve Design Innovation methodologies.

Spring School is designed as an opportunity to not only bring the cohort together and build the relationship of the group but to deliver the skills required to be a world class researcher.

This year’s programme included a range of workshops aimed at developing critical writing and research skills. Students engaged in activities based around crystallising their research processes, articulating their own position within their context of inquiry, and reflecting on the multisensory elements of the methods and approaches that they are developing and applying.

A workshop ‘Artefacts, Sites and Processes’, hosted by Dr Frances Robertson and Mairi Mackenzie, involved object-orientated exercises, including a ‘smell walk’, a sense-driven journey around the Altyre Campus. Each student was also asked to communicate our practices and research contexts through the analysis of everyday objects. 

pots spring school

Objects chosen by the Spring School students to represent their practice. Image credit: Rhona McNicol

Stationary spring school

Objects chosen by the Spring School students to represent their practice. Image credit: Zoe Prosser

Here PhD student Anna Spencer reflects on her experience of the event.

There is a different quality to the cohort schools – being surrounded by a local community to that of being surrounded by your academic peers. This is the fifth school I have attended and I think I am now learning how to navigate them and make the most of the experience.

“Spring School 2017 had a clear developmental arc with specific moments of challenge and input along the way which demonstrated a depth of consideration to the cohorts’ current positions. In particular, the pairing of M.Res. students with PhD students in line with areas of common interest was really rewarding and offers a good precedent for how overlapping cohorts can interact over time with students clustering around shared themes.

“The emphasis of the week was to develop confidence in our sense of self – our practice, our position in the research and how we present this through our writing. Through contemplating site and scent we creatively explored the world views and assumptions we bring to our research. In order to better understand what is right in front of you, it must be viewed indirectly. It can be really liberating to look at your current research and practice through an entirely new lens.”

To read more about Anna’s work and the rest of the PhD students, see our PhD student page. More information about the M.Res. students is available here.

And you can also read about our programme of Seasonal Schools.

Lorianna Smell walk

Lorianna Paradise explores Altyre Estate during the Artefacts, Sites and Processes workshop. Image credit: Rhona McNicol


Life at the Creative Campus: the teaching studio

An insight into learning and teaching on our MDES programmes

It was always part of the plan for the Creative Campus in the Highlands and Islands to bring postgraduate students to the region for Design Innovation programmes.

There are currently three Master of Design Innovation programmes based in the north: Transformation Design, Collaborative Creativity, and Interaction Design. Information on the courses and how to apply is available via the links.

A small group of students are pioneering the MDES Design Innovation at the Creative Campus during this first year: an exciting time for all involved.

But the location offers unique opportunities for the group.

MDES teaching studio

One of our MDES students Poopak with tutor George Jaramillo in the Forres studio. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Studio lead for this session is Leigh-Anne Hepburn, a Research Fellow who works with the Experience Labs. Here she tells the InDI blog about some of the students’ recent activities.

“Our Forres-based students attended Winter School 2017 in January, working alongside their Glasgow counterparts for the first time. This was a great chance for them to meet others going through the same experience.

“After this busy two-week event, they went straight into their Stage 2 group project and were tasked with writing a brief. This is a critical design skill and offered a unique opportunity for them to shape the direction of their study.

“Under the theme, Innovation from Tradition, the group considered the individual concepts developed during Winter School – of transient communities and the role of third sector volunteering – and worked to develop a shared direction.

Student presenting to group

MDES student Yara presenting her team’s project at Winter School 2017. Image credit: Paul Campbell

“This is essentially a live project and the students are encouraged to go out and actively engage with local stakeholders. Luckily the people of Moray are very receptive to the musings of MDES students!

“As an international group, they were particularly interested in exploring the refugee experience of moving to Forres and the potential role volunteering could play in supporting community integration. After identifying key stakeholders, the students build a strong connection with partner organisations during their field research.

“When you are working with participants who are enthusiastic about design – and who can see the real potential for change it offers – you want to deliver the best possible outcome and create some value in return. Our students had the chance to do this when they ran their first co-design workshop, ‘Designing your volunteer experience’ last month. Created in partnership with tsiMORAY for the organisations’s conference for the third sector, Join the Dots, the workshop was attended by more than 20 people. Delivering a participatory workshop is an exciting and immersive experience and our students were delighted that it went so well.

Scenario tool

One of the scenario tools created by the MDES students for the workshop. Image credit: Leigh-Anne Hepburn

“Every rich story and anecdote gathered during field research offers new insight and it’s tempting to keep listening instead of moving towards designing solutions. This is especially true of the fast-paced 12 week project that the students have embarked on. However, after this intense period of research, our students have begun to identify the key insights and are designing some exciting final concepts.

“In the middle of all this, we travelled to Glasgow to join the wider MDES student and staff cohort for interim reviews. These presentations give students an opportunity to share the journey of their project and emerging design concepts, receiving some essential critical feedback and peer review in return.

“And in addition to the studio project, the students have also begun working on their specialisms, with expert input from teaching staff across GSA. It’s a real team effort.”

Recruitment is ongoing for our MDES programmes starting in September 2017 in Forres and Glasgow – and there are funded places available. Click here to find out more on the GSA’s website.

Also, the GSA and Digital Health & Care Institute are offering a limited number of funded places on the Master of Research programme to students exploring health-related topics. Find out more on the GSA’s website.

MDES students conference workshop

MDES students who led the workshop at the tsiMoray conference. Image credit: Leigh-Anne Hepburn

*Featured image by Paul Campbell

Helping you keep well at work

Take part in an Experience Lab

We  are offering a second chance to take part in an Experience Labs project about wellbeing in the workplace.

The Glimpse project investigates ways for people can improve their health through gentle exercise carried out at work.

Taking part in a lab is a great way to help GSA researchers explore a health related challenge that can help people in the future. It also gives you the opportunity to meet our team and find out more about our work.

The Experience Labs are part of the Digital Health & Care Institute, one of Scotland’s Innovation Centres, funded by the Scottish Funding Council.

Lego desk

The team has organised a special collaborative design workshop in Glasgow on Tuesday 28 March, which is open to people with experience of desk-based working. This is the second workshop of the project after a successful session last month.

The partner on the project is Justin Eade, of Glimpse Ltd. Justin is a Workplace Wellbeing Consultant with more than 20 years experience. He hopes that the research will develop ideas for a digital application to counter the effects of sedentary work.

Dr Jay Bradley and Dr Michael Johnson explain more about what the session involves:

“At the first workshop, the participants explored the key issues around wellbeing and exercise within the workplace; the opportunities that exist for exercising at work and the activities they could incorporate into their working day. We now have an understanding of how people might feel about movement for wellbeing in the workplace and what exercises and situations would be preferable for challenging sedentary behaviour.

Dr Jay Bradley speaking at a lab

Dr Jay Bradley leads an Experience Lab. Image credit: Louise Mather

“The second workshop will build on the outcomes of the first. Participants will take part in co-designed prototype development. We will explore ways for people to learn and sustain movement exercises and routines at work.

“All information provided will remain confidential.”

The lab will take place at House for an Art Lover, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, on Tuesday March 28, from 11am-3pm.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided and reasonable travel expenses will also be paid.

To take part or to for more information, contact Dr Jay Bradley, [email protected] or Dr Michael Johnson, [email protected]

Meet our new Master of Research students

New additions to our Creative Campus cohort

InDI recently welcomed a new group of students onto our Master of Research programme.

They follow in the footsteps of the first four students from 2016. The five-strong group are all multidisciplinary creative practitioners, based in Moray at the Creative Campus and in Cowal.

The group is supported and funded by the Creative Futures Partnership (CFP). This is a pioneering venture between The Glasgow School of Art and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It has been established to deliver transformational benefits for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The MRES journey started at Winter School 2017 in January, when students met some of the outgoing MRES group and the current PhD candidates.

The new MRESs took part in a range of research, training workshops and masterclasses to prepare them for their year of study.

They are part of the Creative Campus cohort, along with the three Creative Campus PhDs. Each research project is individually led but exists within the network of other researchers. Together they are pioneering academic research through a practice-based cohort at the campus distributed throughout the Highlands and Islands. The cohort also take part in Autumn and Spring School each year.

InDI is also currently recruiting for the next intake of MRES students. You can find out more about the programmes available on the GSA’s website.

Inquiries should be made to Dr Lynn-Sayers McHattie at [email protected]


Meet the students

Hannah ClinchHannah Clinch

Since graduating The Glasgow School of Art in 1999 with a BA in Textile Design, Hannah has worked at the intersection of design and enterprise, providing tailored support to a range of SMEs, social enterprises and creative initiatives operating in a community context. Hannah has collaborated with a broad range of partners to develop multidisciplinary projects.

Read more about Hannah’s work here.

Rhona McNicolRhona McNicol

With a degree in Product Design, Rhona considers herself a designer with an accelerative interest in design for social environments. Working within the Highlands and Island landscape, her current work focuses on rural sheep farming and crofting in Scotland.

Read more about Rhona’s work here.


Lorianna ParadiseLorianna Paradise

Lorianna navigates the ever-accumulating totality of everything all at once through the lens of an artist embodying the concept of living as form. An ecologically minded holistic approach to all lifestyle practices informs and broadens the scope of her work.

Read more about Lorianna’s work here.

Zoe ProsserZoë Prosser

Zoë is a Glaswegian designer with a degree in Product Design. In response to emerging socio-economic movements she attempts to instigate social innovation on a local level by applying design practices with a grassroots approach. She has applied this style of working to the phenomena of community landownership in Scotland by co-design to encourage democratic participation and decision-making.

Read more about Zoë’s work here.


Sophia SheppardSophia Sheppard

Sophia has a background in Communication Design, with a particular interest in film. Her current research explores the way that film might be used in a dialogue to reflect and build on individual and shared narratives in rural Scottish communities. Her work is rooted in an underlying awareness of how people have been separated from their histories and an interest in documenting and discussing how aspects of the past may positively influence the future.

Read more about Sophia’s work here.