BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces

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We’re developing and validating a new course, the BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces, to replace the  BA (Hons) Spatial Design. The new course is due to start at London College of Communication in September 2017 (subject to validation).

Click here for more information about the BA (Hons) Design for Branded Spaces.

 

Inhabiting the Transition Space

We recently ran a project with the 2nd year BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) where, in collaboration with South West Trains in Wimbledon station, students were asked to re-examine the way people inhabit a transition space.

As part of the project, students were introduced to research methods instigated by the Course leader, Valerie Mace. Valerie developed methods and techniques that facilitate the documentation of atmospheric qualities in spaces, the intangible world of sensory perceptions and subjective experiences. The objective was to enable designers to conduct sensory driven transformation into a wide range of spaces. The original research project was published in a paper called ‘Sensing the Urban Interior’ and presented at the [in]arch conference at Universitas Indonesia in Depok (Jakarta) in 2014.

This project started with a question:
How can we regenerate spaces by manipulating their atmospheric qualities?

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The project explored the sensory relationships between the intimate space of the body and the interior of a transition space, the ubiquitous train station. Every morning, Monday to Friday, our cities experience an influx of people commuting towards their center to work and reversing their journey to go back home in the evening. This creates a social phenomenon whereby the experience many people have of the city’s urban interiors is transient. This experience is also impersonal as the design of the spaces that facilitate this daily commute is often constrained to performing specific functions such as moving people from A to B, with limited opportunities for people to interact with their surroundings and even less so with each other. So the train station is an interior commuters experience and inhabit on a daily basis yet very little of the design takes into account the way the space affects people, either psychologically or emotionally. Therefore, the objective of the project was to understand how these environments impact on people’s everyday life by exploring and identifying the processes in which sensory experiences are managed and controlled, in order to develop a human centred phenomenological approach to the design process and in doing so, offer innovative solutions that will alter the way people perceive, experience and inhabit these interiors.

So the project invited students to rethink the relationship between body and space in the context of a transition space, provide sensory driven transformations that alter the atmospheric qualities of the interior in a positive way and create a sense of place, thus making the experience of individual and collective journeys a more enjoyable one.

The brief
We used Wimbledon train station as the project site. Students were divided in small study groups and assigned to a specific schedule of visits agreed by the station management. Upon arrival, students met with staff to be briefed on health and safety requirements. Wimbledon station is a small but essential commuting zone in South-West London, with trains to Clapham Junction, Waterloo and London Bridge. It also offers direct access to the London Underground District Line. The interior of the station is designed for a very specific purpose, that of moving between platforms and entry/exit points, waiting for and boarding trains. The singularity of the interior means that people experience enforced boredom and are made to wait for trains in environmentally uncomfortable conditions. Spaces selected for the project are the main ticket hall and platform 9.

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The task was to redesign the space or elements of the space (an intervention) to change and enhance people’s perceptions and experience of the station and of commuting, without obstructing the interior’s primary function and the constrains associated with safety and security within the station’s interior and platforms. For example, staff needs to retain total visibility from one end of the platform to the other and at peak times, the station accommodates a large volume of people moving in different directions. Students also needed to observe South West Trains branding requirements, such as their colour range.

As part of this project students were required to document existing spatial atmospheric conditions within the station in order to establish a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that will become the basis for a sensory design intervention. By using the site for primary research, they were able to explore ways to make people feel more positive about their experience and provide opportunities for them to engage with their surroundings. They could, for example, choose to soften the experience through a series of subtle changes, address the issue of waiting and the negative affect of delays, or aim to provide a friendlier environment. Whichever their approach, they needed to keep people moving at all times (no bottlenecks or overcrowding in any single area) and observe safety issues. In other words, this wasn’t a decorating exercise and students needed to provide a solution that considers all aspects of the site.

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The project was structured into 4 stages:

Stage 1: Discover – Students were required to use phenomenological led design research methods to reveal existing spatial atmospheric conditions through the documentation of the interior architecture, materials and their relationships, actual and perceived temperature, objects, movement and time, thresholds and transitions, scale and distances in relation to the body, the light and corresponding shadows.

Stage 2: Define – Students were required to map, analyse and visualise existing spatial atmospheric conditions to understand how the design of the space affects people within it. Then they were able to propose a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that formed the basis of the development of design solutions.

Stage 3: Develop – Students generated design proposals using their research, analysis and initial design developments. They visualised and communicated their design proposals through drawings, prototypes and storyboards. They were encouraged to develop their own interpretation of what the design intervention could be although they were required to integrate at least one sensory attribute within its design that wasn’t visual. So the design would be something people can sense and experience in more ways than by just looking at it. It could also be in one place or made of a series of related elements across the site. The proposed design needed to alter the way people feel about being in the station and provide opportunities for alternative behavioural and emotional situations.

Stage 4: Deliver – Students were required to fully map, visualise and realise their design proposal for the project. As well as mapping drawings and diagrams depicting the changes in spatial atmospheric conditions, they needed to demonstrate the positive effect of the changes on behaviour and emotions, and evaluate how their design created a sense of place.

Site-sensory-transformations

At the end of this stage students showcased their work to a review panel while some of the presentations were filmed and included in a short film of the project.

Clerkenwell Design Week

Last week our “Science without Borders” exchange students from Brazil went to explore what was on offer at ‘Clerkenwell Design Week’. As always there were so many design events and happenings, it proved difficult to know where to start….. So we started in the obvious place – registration at the Farmiloes Building. As well as hosting the latest designs from the furniture and lighting industry, the top floor of the building hosted a series of design ‘conversations’ throughout the three days with speakers from across the design industry sharing their thoughts on current spatial design issues.

See below for some our student highlights of the show

“Beaux is a company who has brought us this innovative material. The panels are constructed in modules and almost any kind of shape and colours can be made. It is a simple idea: it’s a type of hay mixed with powdered concrete and water. The proportions of materials is shown in the picture.”

IMG_20150519_150755471[1]

“With very basic and simple materials it’s possible to achieve beautiful and creative patterns. This is not the only innovation, there is also in the fire retardant feature, given by the concrete’s inherent properties, and then main characteristic promoted by the company was the soundproof qualities of the panels”

IMG_20150519_150742271_HDR[1]

“The interesting thing about TedWood was their stand. They actually brought their own workstations to the fair. With their tools on hand they gave us the feeling of passion for handmade furniture and how careful they are when making their products. It also gave us a sense of being closer to them, a more intimate feeling, in contrast with some other stands focusing on the luxury sector. Of course, it doesn’t mean they were much cheaper than these. Their products were simple and elegant, mainly with raw materials and this characteristic was well explored with their finishing of the furniture pieces”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Ted Wood's 'workshop'

Ted Wood’s ‘workshop’

“The whole Clerkenwell area was full of design works on the streets and even in the smallest passageways, so on every corner you could discover something unexpected, new and beautiful….”

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

An unexpected find....

An unexpected find….

GX Glass installation by Cousins and Cousins

GX Glass installation on St Johns Square by Cousins and Cousins

Interactive writing walls

A series of drawings on the glass developed throughout the three days

“Lighting the way inside and out” was a great talk. The participants were experts on the subject and at the end gave their tips for places in London to visit with particularly beautiful lighting”

Speakers were Terence Woodgate, Carlotta de Bevilacqua (Artemide) and Keith Bradshaw Principal at Speirs + Major. The discussion focussed on interior, exterior and sculptural lighting, asking how it affects the way we perceive spaces. All speakers highlighted ‘short laser’ as being an exciting new technological development, to follow on from LED

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

Marble light by Terence Woodgate

Solid Carrara marble light by Terence Woodgate  – LED lamps enable a gentle glow

“Prooff are a company focused on workstations for the modern world. They believe that concentration and “isolation” also helps with creativity and efficiency. The workstations are very different from each other and always with a very ergonomic design, thinking deeply about the relationship between the worker’s body and the furniture.

This, for example, is a booth where the user will be standing up in an acoustic “cabin”. In this cabin, he would be able to not be visually and sonorously distracted and can, for example, talk on the phone without distracting his colleagues.”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Proof sound booth

Proof 009 standalone

Summer project installations

Year 1 students on the BA Spatial Design have just completed their first project, a collaborative design for an installation based on the synthesis of primary research and drawings done over the summer. Students worked in small teams of 3 or 4 to design, make and install their creation, working only with paper and cardboard. We also asked them to select a suitable location within the LCC campus so as to strengthen the connection between the site and the design. This short and exciting project was fun and the outcomes were very successfully implemented and presented by teams, with a wide range of creative outputs, forms and surfaces manipulations, and inspired methods of making it happen. Original productions included the manipulation of natural and artificial light, shadows, surface texture and patterns, 3D form, storytelling and metaphors, interaction and communication, layers, growth, colour and beauty.  A fantastic first 2 weeks and contribution from everyone on the course.

Interior design drawing education in the digital age

Interior design drawing education in the digital age by Valerie Mace 
I originally presented this short paper at a Spatial Communication programme symposium at London College of Communication

Design process visuals

Example of mixed media spatial design development visualisation. From left to right: sketch drawing, CAD, card model, digital visual, hand drawing with collage. 

Over the last 20 years, the advent of personal computers and the development of CAD software have precipitated a polarisation of skills in architectural and interior design drawing and visualisation. It could even be alleged that it created two distinct camps, those against and those in favour of using computers.

In this paper I briefly underline the fundamentals of design drawings and visualisation as well as the role of sketching in the digital age from a students centred perspective. I also reason that a rise in computer use doesn’t automatically lead to a drop in design quality and that the ideal outcome is for both methods to coexist alongside each other.
In the advent of computers, students learnt to draw 2D and 3D projections as well as measured perspective in order to communicate their design intent. These drawings were an art form in their own right and took considerable time and effort to perfect.

Being able to draw however doesn’t make an architect or designer. In the early 1900’s principles of draftmanship came under attack from architects such as John Ruskin and William Morris. They argued that architecture was too often judged on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design.

Today similar claims are being made in the educational debate between hand drawing and digital drawing where, in the words of Davis Clews, ‘one form of production, say manual, is placed in opposition to another, say digital’1.

When computers entered the scene, they were bulky unsightly boxes with complex and awkward design software to match. It isn’t difficult to see why initially only the most enthusiastic found any interest in their use as design and visualisation tools. However, with more advanced developments in computer systems and a rise in affordable yet sophisticated design software, computers began to take over.

In architecture software such as Autocad lead the way. The technical nature of orthogonal projections and the level of precision required was consistent with computer technology and today all architects and working drawings are produced using some form of CAD software. So far so good although as a result, students often perceive CAD as an essential skill towards employability, to the detriment of sketching and drawing.

This notion snowballs into the field of 3D visualisation where the polarisation of skills becomes more endemic. Students, dazzled by the prospects offered by the software and their new found skills, often discard drawing and sketching as an irrelevant and tedious process and hide a lack of design acumen behind a false sense of achievement offered by computer visuals.

So making a parallel with John Ruskin and William Morris, the drawback of using computers is that students may only judge their work on the quality of the drawing, not the merit of the design. The problem is compounded by the fact that as with drawing, digital visualisation requires considerable time and effort to perfect so early outcomes are often clumsy and fail to impress anyone but the student.

Sketching on the other hand is quick, informal and looked upon by the majority of teachers and practitioners as an integral part of the design process. It is the universal language of design development and no self-respecting architect or designer would be seen leaving the comfort of their studio without a notebook and pencil. Failing that they could always rely on the availability of a trustee napkin.

Sketching is perceived as critical because it enables students to learn about the world around them, taking time to observe and reflect. It also enables them to visually articulate their ideas, to themselves and others. Sketches don’t have to be works of art but to convey ideas and provide a platform to focus the design and develop sound concepts.

Losing the ability to sketch produces, according to Peter Eisenman, passive architects (and designers). Such passive attitudes concede to the software considerable ownership of the design process and design intent, with obvious adverse consequences to the development of emerging designers. In my experience, it isn’t uncommon for students to abandon an idea simply because they didn’t know how to draw it digitally. Those who rely too much on computers for their design concepts and don’t possess sufficient knowledge of the software limit themselves to what they can draw, leading to weak and inappropriate design solutions.

It doesn’t mean that computers shouldn’t be part of design education. Many design software are now industry standard and when used effectively, they do provide considerable advantages. They offer substantial prospects for exploration and experimentation in a virtual world. They facilitate seamless workflows and make the revision process easier and faster. They can replicate realistic lighting conditions and textures. In some cases they can even test structures and weather conditions. Without computers and software some of the more innovative architecture and design to emerge in the last 10 to 15 years wouldn’t exist.

CAD software can also be used as design development tools to test and experiment in the same way as traditional model making does. They can be used to produce quick floor plans or perspectives to work as underlay for sketches or even presentation drawings, facilitating the design process. In addition, software manufacturers have developed more intuitive processes and enable users to emulate a variety of sketch styles, aiming to bridge the gap between the flexibility of work in progress and the rigid nature of the outcome often associated with digital drawing.

However, no matter how sophisticated the software, a computer is a machine and a machine can only do what we tell it to do. So although initially the issue may have been with the machine and its limitations, as it becomes more advanced, it is shifting towards users and their limitations. As I previously commented upon, a machine is only as good as its user.

Which is why learning how to visualise creative ideas should still be at the heart of design education and sketching instrumental to the design process. To enable students to develop critical design visualisation skills and gain confidence in their ability as designers while computer visualisation software will enable them to push the boundaries of 3D exploration.

Drawing and computers are therefore not mutually exclusive. They complement each other, they are integral to the design process and indispensable constituents of the designer’s tool kit. Each have their own strengths. Used together and appropriately they are a catalyst for strong design solutions and visual outcomes with soul and personality.

References

Porter T. (1997) The architect’s eye, Taylor & Francis

Eisenman P. & Spiller N. (2008) Have computers damaged architects’ design quality? [Last visited 29 December 2012]

Visual. Report on the 2nd Art Design Media Subject Centre Annual Forum (2007) <http://adm-hea.brighton.ac.uk/library/files/resources/visual-pdf.pdf> [Last visited 29 December 2012]

Valerie Mace’s thoughts on BA Spatial Design

Valerie Mace wrote an interesting blog post about BA Spatial Design. Here is an extract below:

In recent years I have found it increasingly difficult to define myself as an interior designer simply because the nature of my work is so much more complex and ‘undisciplinary’. I can say with certainty that I work with spaces but projects (and clients) today demand highly sophisticated creative practices which straddle ground and relationships between interiors, surfaces, products, graphics, architecture, environment, art, communication, technology and psychology. We are talking about spaces designed for people with all the wonderful complexities that it entails. I believe working in design has never been more exciting.

So this is what I’m experiencing as a practitioner but what about people who are about to embark on a career in design? I’m fortunate as a university lecturer to be working within the dynamic and innovative Spatial Communication programme at London College of Communication. We have been given the opportunity to redesign our portfolio and provide our students with an advanced learning programme that addresses the intricacies of today’s design industries in a stimulating and inspiring style.

read more here: http://www.valeriemace.co.uk/blog0/spatial-design