When undertaking the process of constructing a business, a key learning experience was understanding how to get a name out there among the sea of competitors. Starting up a business seemed relatively tricky and resulted in our group thinking of names that would not only represent our brand but, also be memorable with the customers. This was no small task as setting a brand name is almost like leaving footprints in wet concrete. As a group we had to make sure that our product was one that customers wanted, there was no reason behind selling a product without having a target market. Due to our business being based around students, more specifically art students, the idea was to sell unique, high-quality books that could be utilised to hold sketches, notes or any medium involving paper.
Whilst developing our products, there were a variety of instances in which the group had some setbacks, this was mainly in the form of one group member not pulling their weight. This had a big impact on the workload as it meant that we had gone from a team of 4 to that of a 3 which, still had to meet the deadlines. Our group also had to think strategically as we had to schedule our time around that of the services we required for manufacture i.e. screen printing and stitching. To speed up the production process the group had ensured that each individual was working on a product at any given time.
It was during this time that I had realised how product designers work in comparison to other professions. This was in the form of the other group members complaining of the hours we were working which to me, seemed normal. I acknowledge that this situation represented their attitude and not necessarily the attitude of their profession yet had induced thoughts in my mind.
Selling was the main date in our calendar as it was the one chance we had to sell our handcrafted merchandise. Reflecting upon that date, I can mention that unfortunately, it did not go as expected, if the business had sold all stock, each individual would have made around £50 when in reality the profit was half of that. The way in which we presented our brand had a massive impact on the amount of customers that we had. A number of people had complimented our stall yet did not really buy our products. An observation would be that the prices were a bit steep, this proved to be quite an issue and I believe it to be one of the causes for the sales failure.
After the sales event, there was fortune but in the form of experience opposed to money. By spending months creating a brand, I had come to realise the hard work and effort needed to create a successful product. This is important, especially within the product design world as designers undertake these tasks to get their products out there and most importantly – sold.
A practicing product designer knows their target market well; this was one of the objectives of this module. Each group were given a member of staff to design and make a chair for. My client was animation lecturer Owen Stickler, we had 30 minutes to understand what Owen liked and disliked – what did he want incorporated in his chair.
Thankfully we constructed mood boards which really brought forward what we thought Owen would like. The idea of incorporating his love for cooking and fish were a strong point as well as representing his favourite holiday location (San Sebastian). Overall Owen seemed to be a very relaxed person who was easy going and we really wanted to reflect that in the chair. The module was equally about understanding the client as well as looking at other factors that could affect the design. Postural studies were conducted numerously to really get the ergonomics right. It was within these studies that allowed us to develop our understanding of the importance of ergonomics in the long term. We had found a study which mentioned the reclining of the back relieves tension which is why we were looking to design a chaise that not only catered to this study yet, reflected the persona we thought of Owen.
Designs were finalised and it was time to create mock models, initially the chair was quite large however it had to be reconsidered to fit the very specific surface area we were allowed to print within. It was at this point we had quite truly understood the scale difference in the virtual world and that of the physical. We had made slat covers which looked a decent size virtually yet in reality they were smaller than expected. The chair slats were bigger than expected and really showed how making mocks are crucial.
A great jeopardy was presented in the backlog of CNC’s. Our original date to CNC was Friday afternoon yet the actual cutting date was on Tuesday – with the submission 2 days later. This meant we were working overtime to try and get our chair finished for the final presentation. Owens persona was intended to be further represented by custom cushions. The idea was to have a campervan cushion (enjoyed using the car), a basil cushion (favourite smell) with a gradient blue tie dye (referring back to San Sebastian). However, this idea was reluctantly abandoned when realising our situation
The project had ended in a less than ideal manner, our team was the last to get their chair finished and also had a product that was barely functional for the client. This really opened my eyes in terms of the deadlines and their importance. By failing to meet one crucial deadline had not only faltered our chair, but meant that we did not have time to complete any additional tasks. Time management was a factor I felt could have been improved upon, as a group we would not always turn up on time. This is clearly something that is not acceptable within the professional working industry and needs to be improved on.
The overall feeling towards level 5 field is a positive one. There was a pleasant surprise in being able to choose multiple options to study, opposed to sticking to one for the whole year. I believe that allowing students to choose their modules not only tempts them to take risks but broadens their thought process when being presented with a range of problems in different scenarios. There could be a supposition in saying that there should be more options that are students are allowed to take, maybe one for each term? By allowing this will mean that students are able to dabble in different areas to identify what type of designers they are which in turn, aids their growth within the academic environment.
Reflecting on my personal experience, I believe it was one that had manufacturing at its core. Both of the choices had involved a process which involved making products for clients that ranged from designing to refining. This was quite beneficial in learning as these processes will be typically undertaken or at least thought of within the brainstorming of a product designer. It was within these modules that lead to an awareness of other factors within the design industry opposed to something that just looks pretty. This method of thinking undoubtedly had a positive impact on other aspects i.e. the drill project as it allowed for thinking about materials for manufacture in more depth.
It has also enhanced the scope of being a designer due to knowledge acquired from previous modules which in turn, allowed for better decisions. An example is understanding the importance of branding of a product and how to cater it to a particular target market. In other words, the knowledge gained from MYOB was then utilised in creating a concept for the drill in subject. The importance of CAD was also re-iterated from AYSC by designing a product that was edited (for the most part) digitally. I believe this was the key point amongst the rest as there was no or little room for error within subject due to the tight deadlines scheduled. Thankfully working efficiently had also come across from the newly acquired skills which had proven to be a great asset within the very tense submission period.
Field has undoubtedly caused many improvements to the workings of a student. Some of these improvements are clear as day i.e. adopting different working methods to suit the needs of the brief. On the other hand, some are less obvious yet equally appreciated e.g. conducting tasks in a more efficient and direct manner. If field continues to work as it has this year, then I believe it to be a real eye opener and a beneficial module to study in the future.