Design Innovation students return to Moray to present their projects


Businesses and community organisations looking forward to hearing progress after Winter School

The Glasgow School of Art’s Design Innovation Masters students will present their end of semester projects at the GSA’s new Highlands and Islands Creative Campus later this month. The projects address a range of issues relating to Moray businesses and communities.

People from Moray-based organisations will attend the presentations on Tuesday 6th June to give feedback and explore how students’ ideas can be taken forward in the future.

The group of 22 students includes the first cohort to have attended the GSA’s Altyre campus since it opened last year.

Knockando Woolmill project

Student presentation material from Winter School 2017. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Students have addressed the theme of “Innovation from Tradition”, and have worked with a number of businesses and community groups including Knockando Woolmill, Johnstons of Elgin, and tsiMORAY. Students worked in teams to address various areas such as Craft and Making, Spirituality and Belief, Music and the Arts, and Community and the Economy.

They addressed research questions including:

– How can Johnstons of Elgin leverage its history, traditions and assets to generate new value?

– How can volunteering act as a two-way bridge between Syrian New Scots and the Forres community?

The Innovation from Tradition theme was launched during Winter School 2017: the GSA’s pioneering annual teaching event held at the campus.

Student presentations Winter School 2017

Material from the students’ presentation at Winter School 2017. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Students on Design Innovation Masters programmes worked alongside counterparts from Köln International School of Design (KISD) in Germany, and the Royal Academy of Art & Design (KADK) in Denmark, to frame research questions related to the local Moray community.

Through their studio work, students went on to investigate the role of ‘social design’ to engage with people, and the role of designers as innovators in the service of wider society.

Emma Nicolson, Marketing and Merchandising Manager at Knockando Woolmill, said: “It has been great to continue working with the international students and have them trial ideas at the Woolmill. It was interesting to see the interaction of the public with the prototypes they installed, and I am looking forward to seeing their findings in the final presentations.

“It will be exciting to see the full journey the project has taken from the initial research we saw back in January.”

Jackie Maclaren, Operations Manager at tsiMORAY, added: “Having met and worked with students from The Glasgow School of Art over the last few months, staff at tsiMORAY look forward with great interest to the outcomes of their projects. It has been truly refreshing and inspiring to have been involved with their creativity and innovation. We look forward to continued partnership working.”

Amy O’Meara, who is on the Design Innovation and Service Design programme, said: “Winter School was an immersive learning experience, which saw us engaging with various heritage organisations across the Moray region. The relationships we forged with these businesses, such as Knockando Woolmill and Johnstons of Elgin, either led directly to exciting design collaborations or informed how our project took shape throughout the term.

“Innovation from Tradition was the overarching theme that acted as a catalyst to propel our projects forward and also motivate us to extend the limits of our practice. Exploring how traditions could be innovated in the contexts of our projects was challenging but also hugely rewarding, giving meaning to our roles as Design Innovation Masters students.”

GSA Highlands and Islands

GSA Highlands and Islands. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Design Innovation lecturer Dr Brian Dixon commented: “Many of our students have explored aspects of the Scotland’s rich social and cultural heritage that are often taken for granted or overlooked. For example, the production of wool and cashmere, or community volunteering. As the projects have developed, we’ve found that, in many cases, partner organisations have really benefitted from the opportunity to reflect, take stock and recognise the potential of what’s already there.”

And to find out just what happened at Winter School please watch our film. There’s also more information about the two-week event in our collection of blogs.

You can find more information on our pages about the Design Innovation Masters programmes and GSA’s new Highlands and Islands Creative Campus.

 


Bridging the volunteer gap


An update on the Forres students’ project

Our pioneering MDES Design Innovation students in Forres have reached another milestone in their studies – completion and presentation of their Stage 2 project.

This is the project that has its roots in Winter School, when Masters students from GSA worked with local businesses and community organisations.

The students worked to a research question of: “How can volunteering act as a two-way bridge between Syrian New Scots and the Forres community?”. They then engaged in an immersive research and design development phase with local groups. During this time the focus shifted from refugees themselves to volunteering practices in Moray.

You can read about the earlier stages of the project in our previous blog, Life at the Creative Campus: the teaching studio.

During their research activity, the students identified that the number of organisations in Scotland that rely on volunteers has rapidly increased and it is not uncommon for job seekers to find themselves being “voluntold”, i.e. forced to take a volunteering placement in order to receive their benefit package.

MDES volunteering

The Forres MDES students do some volunteering.

The students identified that this is in opposition to the very ethos of volunteering and that having not freely elected to volunteer, voluntolds are difficult to place. This creates challenges across recruitment, engagement and retention.

Addressing the challenge

To address this challenge, the students proposed a series of design concepts before finally refining their idea. Here one of the students, Finn describes their proposal in more detail:

“Bridge was designed to meet the challenges of ‘voluntelling’ as experienced by Scotland’s third sector. 

“Bridge is a service for connecting volunteers and volunteer organisations, through mini-experiences: short taster sessions offered by an organisation. It uses digital moodboards, an emotive collage of volunteer’s skills and interests or of an organisation’s experiences and values, to create an audial and visual profile. This profile can then be used to match or recommend mini-experiences based upon personal preferences, creating the opportunity for people to make an informed choice about which organisations they would like to work with and bringing freedom back to Scotland’s voluntary sector. 

“Volunteers placed within a context that they identify with and enjoy are more likely to make a valuable and sustainable contribution. Similarly, reducing the challenge of recruitment and retention of suitable volunteers could potentially have been both financial and time-saving impacts for organisations. 

“Bridge has an easy-to-use interface and can be downloaded as an app or used at pop-up events. As volunteers build up their portfolio of ‘mini-experiences’, this contributes to their work experience profile and can support them in future job-seeking.”

Communicating a concept is an important design skill and the students worked hard to refine their project into a clear and articulate message that was presented to the wider teaching and academic cohort at GSA’s Creative Campus.

Next steps

It’s now hoped that the idea could be disseminated by Scotland’s Third Sector Interface Network.

In addition, the students have recently submitted their project process journals (PPJs), a reflective record of their individual personal journal through the project for final assessment. The PPJs document the highs and lows of design activity, including any thoughts, ideas and decisions made throughout the 12-week project and are an important part of the learning experience.

The students are now working towards further dissemination of Bridge: first, a group exhibition to be held in Glasgow on May 22 with their MDES counterparts in Glasgow, and a final presentation on June 6 that will welcome the businesses and community organisations back to see the final concepts that have been developed.

To find out more about our MDES programmes, visit our Teaching pages on our website.

MDES student presentation

The MDES students giving their presentation at GSA Highlands and Islands. Image credit: Jane Candlish


Leapfrog at the Creative Campus


Academic writing and tool sharing

InDI was delighted to welcome the Leapfrog project to the Creative Campus at Forres for their Spring event last month.

Leapfrog is a collaboration between ImaginationLancaster at Lancaster University, and The Institute of Design Innovation at The Glasgow School of Art. It is a £1.2 million, three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project, which aims to transform public sector consultation through design.

The project sees close creative collaboration with Highlands and Islands community partners to design and evaluate new approaches for better engagement.

The visit allowed the Leapfrog team to meet members of the Experience Labs and share stories of design research.

Leapfrog research activity

A research activity during the Leapfrog event at GSA Highlands and Islands.

The Experience Labs were developed by the Institute of Design Innovation at The Glasgow School of Art. They are a central element in the Digital Health & Care Institute (DHI), a Scottish Innovation Centre funded by the Scottish Funding Council, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. They offer a safe and creative environment where researchers, businesses, civic partners and service users can collaborate on innovative solutions to the health and care challenges facing Scottish society.

The collaborative event highlighted some of the contrasts between the two, particularly in how they deal with the issue of tools.

Experience Labs researchers create bespoke tools to use in their workshops. These are designed to encourage interaction and help participants share their stories and experiences of a certain subject. Insights provided by the tools are then analysed by design researchers as they progress the project through the design innovation process.

Leapfrog tool sharing

Leapfrog’s Hayley Alter presenting during a tool sharing session with the Experience Labs.

On the other hand, Leapfrog sets out to work with people to design a tool, which is the outcome of the project. The designed tool is then shared publicly so that other communities can adapt it for their own use.

The Leapfrog team also used the trip north to plan their academic output for the next year, including a publishing timetable and draft abstracts.

Members of both teams found the event useful. You can read more in two blogs on the Leapfrog website:

Leapfrog Spring Internal event: the writing activity;
Leapfrog Spring Internal Event: Designing new tools with the Digital Health Institute.

Writing activity

The writing activity.


Winter School 2017: Working with Moray businesses


Sharing our students work

Here the InDI blog showcases two of the student projects started at Winter School 2017. The projects are now ongoing as part of the curriculum within the GSA’s Masters of Design Innovation Programmes.

This year’s theme is Innovation from Tradition, which explores how past tradition can inspire future ways of working, and the role that design can play.

Students will continue their studies and collaborations for the next three months around themes relating to life and work in the Highlands and Islands and Moray.

A student looking at Winter School projects

Contemplating the Winter School 2017 work. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Theme: Community and Economy
Community groups:  tsiMORAY (Third Sector Interface Moray) and FACT (Forres Area Community Trust)

MDES Design Innovation and Citizenship student Juan Pablo Ortiz explains how his group approached this theme:

For the two weeks of the Winter School I was placed in a group with two other students from my specialisation and two students from the Masters in Forres.

The first week was dedicated to understanding what they do and how they work: the varied and complex system of the third sector and its particular activeness and importance in the area.

Having this mapped out, both conceptually and geographically, we identified volunteering and communication as the areas to focus on.

Group of students

MDES Design Innovation and Citizenship student Juan Pablo Ortiz and his group at Winter School 2017. 

During the second week, we defined a question as a starting point for our second stage project:

How could current knowledge transfer systems be transformed for the enablement of more sustainable and inclusive volunteering in Moray?

Over the last two days, we planned and built an exhibition to show our findings. We created a frame with three maps of Moray representing the theme and our findings. The maps covered three aspects related to the theme:

– Individual: represented through a diffused map using tea bags as a metaphor of the individual knowledge that spreads in the right conditions, and the dialogue tool to allow conversations.
– Organisational: represented through a map with strings of different thickness as the links between the organisations, showing also how this covers geographical areas.
– Macro: represented through a map with important fact and key words for the Moray third sector and economy.

Students' teabag installation

The exhibition piece made by Juan’s group. Image credit: Paul Campbell

What I enjoyed the most about the Winter School was how immersive it was in terms of sharing at a global scale (all the visitors and students from other schools) and at a local scale (the organisations we worked with and the places we visited), and see what is being done around this emerging field of design and its potential.

Debbie Herron, of FACT, said: “We were very excited to be invited to be part of the GSA’s Winter School, as it gave us the opportunity to meet those students that are studying locally as well as those from Glasgow.

“The questions asked and the work the students did enabled us to look at our work differently too and it was very interesting to see how things developed over the Winter School.

“We saw how the students all came at the different projects in such creative ways and the final presentations certainly gave us more information about our area and highlighted new ways of consulting and collecting information from our community. I certainly will be using the techniques in the future.”

Theme: Music and the Arts
Business: Knockando Woolmill

Music and The Arts has a rich history in Scotland and hand-made artefacts and song are intrinsically linked to many Scottish traditions. The scope for design opportunities and innovative solutions within this field was obvious in the project context of “Innovation from Tradition”.

Knockando Woolmill students

Students working with Knockando Woolmill getting ready for the presentation. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Students from Service Design worked with Knockando Woolmill. Here, Amy O’Meara shares how their collaboration will inform their future studies relevant to the region.

Through Winter School we worked with Knockando Woolmill, an 18th-century wool and textile mill within the Spey Valley. At the site, we were led on a comprehensive tour and met with some of the staff.

Coming out of the visit, a key insight we noticed was that Knockando functions as both a traditional production site while also being a tourist and heritage attraction, and as such there is a delicate balance within Knockando as a business. Further investigation may also involve what relationship Knockando has within the local community, in terms of engagement with local citizens.

We finished Winter School with a research question that aims to investigate the balance between tourism and production at Knockando. We aim to incorporate our theme of ‘music and the arts’ in terms of craft and production, in order to make it relevant to our them.

Knockando Woolmill spindles

The Knockando Woolmill project. Image credit: Paul Campbell

Emma Nicolson, Marketing and Merchandising Manager from Knockando Woolmill said: “It has been fantastic to work with the international students for their Winter School project, and have them explore the Woolmill site. It was interesting to see their interpretation of the Woolmill through their fresh eyes, and the potential challenges they identified in their exhibition.

“It will be exciting to see how the students expand on their initial research, and what modern design solutions they might suggest for our historical site.”

For more information, check out Knockando’s blog

For more information on Winter School please contact Dr Gordon Hush, [email protected]