The Big Idea: National Saturday Club

Support the UK’s next creative generation

This is a guest blog from the team at National Saturday Club. They’re looking for Fellows in the design, architecture and engineering industries who may be able to offer masterclasses, visits or creative career guidance, as well as Fellows who can introduce young people to their cultural institutions.

The National Art & Design Saturday Club provides young people aged 14-16 with the unique opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university for free. Now in its sixth year, the Saturday Club runs in 41 locations across the UK, in colleges, universities and at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Read more

Pioneering social innovation in Malaysia

Genovasi Malaysia logoThis blog was originally posted on the news page of the RSA Student Design Awards website on 4th August 2014.

I am pleased to announce that nine emerging Malaysian innovators have won in the inaugural RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards, winning a range of prizes worth a total of RM260,000. In addition, the winners all receive admission into Genovasi’s Innovation Ambassador Development Programme, complementary RSA Fellowship for a year, providing the students with access to the RSA’s Catalyst Fund and Skills Bank to further develop their projects.

The RSA Student Design Awards team partnered with Genovasi, a transformative learning institution focused on cultivating innovation skills in young people to develop and deliver the RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards, which launching in September 2013. Genovasi offers a human-centred learning experience to learn and use innovation for social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development for future transferable skills to face challenges in life. The RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards focused on three project briefs for this pilot year: Active Citizens, Encouraging Social Entrepreneurship, and Citizenship and Communication in a Digital Age.

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Pupil Design Awards: The Winners!

pupil design awards_blog

“His enthusiasm is infectious and his motivation is undeniable. He has worked extremely hard to solve his chosen design problem and has produced a plausible design and concept.  He has worked well with his partner and shown a range of communication skills. Ilyas has developed a confident ability to present and hook the audience or potential buyer with conviction.  Above all I genuinely believe he has thoroughly enjoyed participating and being given an opportunity and chance to shine.”

If you’re a close follower of the RSA twitter account, you will have seen #PowertoCreate splashed all over your news feed this week, thanks to Matthew Taylor’s annual lecture and an ARC Directors Lunch time event.

They have been introducing us to the RSA’s new worldview: “The RSA believes that all should have the freedom and power to turn their ideas into reality”, and if the above quote isn’t an example of the Power to Create in action, I don’t know what is.

These words were written by D&T teacher, Miss Vesey, about Ilyas Mohammed, a year 10 student at Holyhead School in Birmingham, and the first ever winner of the RSA Pupil Design Awards’ Progress Prize.

Inspired by 90 hugely successful years of the RSA Student Design Awards, the programme’s baby sister, the Pupil Design Awards, has just celebrated its first birthday. The pilot project, which we ran across 3 of our RSA Academies, came to an end earlier this week with 20 finalists joining us at 8 John Adam Street for a day of presentations to our esteemed judging panel, a University tour and, most importantly, the handing out of the awards. Read more

Inspire + Innovate: Celebrating the next generation of designers

1. Jony Ive resized

Sir Jonathan Ive RDI

‘This promises to be a life changing experience for you’  - Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple and Royal Designer for Industry.

Last month we celebrated  two impressive feats: the 90th anniversary of the RSA Student Design Awards (SDA), and the achievements of the 18 outstanding winning projects from this year’s competition, at our ‘Inspire + Innovate’ event, a memorable evening that recognised the power and necessity of design thinking in a rapidly changing world. Read more

What does a neuroscientist eat for breakfast?

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society, Recovery 

In its quest for a more ‘circular economy’, the RSA Great Recovery is focusing on the links between design, materials and waste. Last week, I visited the Science Museum’s new installation on rubbish.

The bowels of the Science Museum are perhaps an appropriate space for an exhibition about waste. You can smell it even before you reach the entrance to the Rubbish Collection. The odour has been somewhat deodorised for public consumption, but the unmistakeable whiff of putrefying food, stale coffee and plasticisers reaches into the stairwell above.

Needless to say it is this ‘pong’ that seems to prevent some visitors from venturing down into the strip-lit atrium, where volunteers in boiler suits and gloves are tipping bags of rubbish onto a row of white tables.

The Rubbish Collection is a project by artist Joshua Sofaer which hopes to change people’s attitudes towards waste by bringing them into close proximity with it. Once an object is brought into a museum, says Sofaer, it is usually imbued with a certain value and afforded a kind of reverence. Not so once it turns to waste, and he is on a mission to involve the public in documenting and examining the museum’s discards over a period of 30 days. Read more

GraphicDesign& Everything: graphic design and the wider world

June 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Design and Society 

In 2011, graphic designer Lucienne Roberts (RSA Fellow and founder of studio LucienneRoberts+, London) and design educator Rebecca Wright (Programme Director, Graphic Communication Design, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) launched GraphicDesign&, a pioneering publishing house that publishes books and papers, hosts events and uses its online presence to explore the symbiotic nature of graphic design practice. Their first title, Page 1:
Great Expectations, was a GraphicDesign& Literature title. Their latest book, Golden Meaning, is a GraphicDesign& Mathematics title and has just been released.

The RSA Student Design Awards set out to demonstrate the societal benefits of applying design thinking in the wider world, so there is no better place than this to explain more about our venture GraphicDesign&. As a young student, I referenced the RSA in developing my ideas about the responsibilities inherent in graphic design. Existing only in dialogue with everything – and therefore everybody – else, it seemed to me to be a highly egalitarian form of visual art. Rebecca now cites the Awards as playing a critical role in helping her students consider graphic design’s interconnectedness more broadly still. But despite inroads, we have both been frustrated that the interdependent nature of our profession is generally not made explicit and it is this that prompted us to launch GraphicDesign&.

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Reflections on the RSA Student Design Awards (and not taking anything as a given)

June 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society 

Work is the road to the unification of the self. So wrote Richard Sennett, one of the world’s leading sociologists.

It sounds glib, but the sentiment is near universal. Whether you are a call-centre worker, corner shop owner, graphic designer or plumber, we are all deeply affected by the things we make and the places in which we work (though we may not always be conscious of this). It is through work that we have the opportunity to realise our talents, express ourselves, connect with friends and partners, grow as individuals and find some kind of meaning in a world that is often devoid of it. Needless to say, it is also where we can earn enough to support a decent livelihood.

Yet in spite of its significance, good work is still a distant prospect for many. Survey after survey shows that barely a third of employees feel engaged in what they do, with many ‘checking out’ mentally before they arrive at work. Last year the anthropologist David Graeber went so far as to write an essay about the proliferation of ‘bullshit jobs’ – forms of employment that he argues exist for no ostensible reason. Even those in more meaningful positions have come under strain, with real wages falling and pensions being squeezed. Add to this the impact of new technologies – which can disrupt work as much as enhance it – and the picture you get is of a workforce that is far from realising its potential.

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Massimo Vignelli: farewell to a master of everyday life

May 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society 

“I was always seeking to affect the lives of millions of people – not through politics or entertainment but through design. I strive to raise the bar, taking the common place and improving it”.

These words express the lifelong zeal and commitment to design by Massimo Vignelli, one of the worlds’ most talented and prolific designers who died this week aged 83. Read more

2014 RSA Student Design Award Winners

Today is a big day.

Nine months ago on September 1st 2013, we launched our eight RSA Student Design Award briefs for the year and thousands of students across the UK, Europe and Asia began applying their design skills to a range of social, economic and environmental issues such as improving hygiene in low-income areas, managing water in urban areas, addressing changing work patterns, and many more. Over 600 students sent their work into the RSA and our judges began the arduous task of reviewing and scrutinising the work, looking for key insights and clever design thinking. Those 600+ entries became a short-list of around 80 and today, after interviews with all short-listed entrants, I am pleased to present the 18 winning projects and the designers behind them.

Today’s impressive list of emerging designers and innovators – some working in collaborative teams and some working individually – represent the best of what happens when good ideas meet good design (and good briefs too, I think!).

This year’s winners include proposals for new packaging made from beeswax, an alarm clock app to improve well-being amongst 18-25 year olds, an affordable sanitary towel for schoolgirls in low-income areas, and a frugally-designed hygiene pack for use in refugee camps. Read more

The Power to Create Computer Games, Fun Buses, Hoodies… anything you like really!

May 15, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Design and Society 

Earlier this week I spent the morning at the Ipsley CE RSA Academy, a middle school in the West Midlands. I was working with a group of year 8 students (aged 12 & 13) on their Pupil Design Award project entries.

One of the first conversations I had with a student went something a little like this:

Me: So, how’s your project coming along?
Him: Shrugs, and looks like a) he would rather be anywhere else in the world and b) I am a boring old woman. He is only 13 – I try not to take it personally…
Me: What’s wrong? Why aren’t you enjoying the project?
Him: I’m not interested in it. Long, dramatic pause… I’m not interested in ANYTHING.
Me: You must be interested in SOMETHING. What’s your favourite thing?
Him: Computer games
Me: Great! So why don’t you design a computer game? Read more

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  • About Design and Society

    For 250 years the RSA has vigorously supported good design, encouraging invention and enterprise for the common good. In the 20th century this support was directed at championing good professional design and excellence in undergraduate design education. We are now exploring how else - above and beyond the impact of professional excellence - society can benefit from design.
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    Nat Hunter is a co-director of design. She trained in Psychology and Interaction Design and ran her own design agency for 14 years before coming to the RSA. Her interests lie in the power of design to agitate, inspire and change.

    Sophie Thomas is co-director of design. She has been working in the fields of sustainable design and material process for over 15 years, which has fuelled her curiosity about why things are the way they are. She wants improvement and knows that good design thinking is key. Follow @tmsophie

    Melanie Andrews is the Manager of the Royal Designers for Industry, a multidisciplinary group of designers appointed ‘RDI’ by the RSA for sustained excellence and significant benefit to society. She develops initiatives with them that add value to the RSA Academies, ARC projects, and runs their annual Summer School for creative thinkers. Follow @Melanie_Andrews

    Sevra Davis trained as an architect and urban designer and worked in both of these roles prior to coming to the RSA. She currently runs the national RSA Student Design Awards programme, thinking up design challenges for students that will address pressing social issues.

    Rebecca Ford is Assistant Manager of the RSA Student Design Awards, an annual competition for students to develop design-led solutions to big social challenges in the UK and beyond. She's also a trustee of youth arts organisation Phakama and co-founder of Digital Disruption, a project that empowers young people to engage critically with the Internet. Follow @RebeccaPFord

    @RSADesignAwards

    Hilary Chittenden is Design Assistant, working across a range of projects including the Great Recovery, FutureMakers and the Pupil Design Awards. A trained graphic and communications designer, Hilary also has a strong interest in design education. She founded and runs social enterprise Celebrate My Library in 2012. Follow @HilaryChitty

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