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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RSA Fellows and RSA Academies collaborate: the Weston Beamor jewellery design project

July 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog from Chris Smith, Maths, Science and Technology Lead Practitioner, STEM and IBCC Coordinator at RSA Academy in Tipton.  Chris explains how RSA Academy in Tipton have played a key role in the success of this inter-school competition. 

The winning team from Broadway School with the judges and their teachers

The winning team from Broadway School with the judges and their teachers

 

Back in January 2013 a number of RSA Fellows met at Weston Beamor in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter to look at how 3D printing is being used by Weston Beamor in the production of their jewellery products.  They wanted to find a vehicle to promote this new technology and extend its use in schools, after numerous meetings it was decided that RSA Academy in Tipton would coordinate a jewellery design competition for the RSA Family of Academies and those looking to become part of the RSA Family.

Whitley Academy, Arrow Vale RSA Academy, RSA Academy and Broadway School were invited to the launch on 21 January 2014 at the RSA Academy.  The brief was to design a lapel pin/badge suitable for the Principals of the RSA Academies to wear – therefore it had to be suitable for both men and women to wear.

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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

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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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

Thinking beyond the classroom

Some good news for a Friday morning: Despite our Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Pupil Design Awards pilot falling just short of target (we had £8,000+ pledged), our Academies have agreed to support this pilot project using their own resources, meaning we are able to go ahead! We have begun working with teachers to transform three RSA Student Design Award briefs, and work with pupils will begin in April.

Mollie Courtenay, who was shortlisted for the RSA Student Design Awards in 2013, is one of our alumni who is keen to get involved. Mollie studied graphic design at Kingston University and graduated with a first in 2013. She has recently taken the new position of Junior Designer in the Design Council Challenges team who use design to tackle big social issues, working on a variety of projects including the Knee High Design Challenge. Here she reflects on her own experience of the RSA Student Design Awards, and why introducing social design thinking into schools will inspire pupils to think beyond the classroom…

EXIF_IMGMollie carrying out testing and reseach for her RSA Student Design Award ‘Social Insurance’ shortlisted entry

“Yes Miss! I believe introducing the RSA Pupil Design Awards to schools would offer a practical method of inspiring pupils to think beyond the classroom. How incredible would it be if young people began to build and use their skills and imagination to tackle real social issues?

My personal reflection of school, is that it could often make me feel like one of many others; year by year I was in the same class, in the same uniform, answering the same exam questions. Even when it came to Design and Technology, the end product was always prescribed; each of us designing perfume packaging or a place mat.

The Pupil Design Award project briefs would offer an opportunity for pupils to embark on an individual journey, to create a project that provides unique insight, and to design an innovative solution to a challenging question. There is no single correct answer with these briefs, which is often why they exist and why they are so exciting.

I took on a RSA Student Design Awards brief at University, as I was motivated by the realness of the issue I was designing for (encouraging safer driving among young drivers). At one point I remember I had covered a whole wall in my flat with my research. When my flatmate got home, he looked at me as if to say- ‘er, are you alright..?’ I was great – I had found something that I was interested in, and discovered the issue I wanted to solve through design.

I am currently working on a project that focuses on the development of children in their early years, up to the age of five. When working in this environment you can’t think about design in a way that produces shiny, perfect and one off things.

One of the most important factors when designing for society is to really understand the issue or problem you are trying to solve, whilst building empathy for people and situations you are working with. It is unlikely that this can be done without spending time with people where they are. This means getting out and about, learning from many sources, observing, monitoring, questioning, recording and interpreting. Having an agenda and going out to fulfill it.

Giving pupils an opportunity to take responsibility for their own project is a fantastic way of encouraging individuality and creativity. Unlike some school subjects, these design projects allow for mistakes; and that’s where the really interesting learning happens. It’s so important to continually look back and challenge your own thinking and not rely on your own assumptions.

I am super excited for the launch of this project and hope that schools can see the value in adding it to their existing curriculum.”

If, like Mollie, you want to get involved in the Pupil Design Awards, there are plenty of ways to do so!

  • Become a mentor or judge   We are looking for a handful of designers to help mentor the pupils through the briefs. 
  • Donate a prize  This could be an industry placement or some design-related goodies – we’re open to suggestions! 
  • Help take the project UK-wide    We are already looking for other schools and especially sponsors to take this project beyond our Academies.

If you would like to get involved, or receive project updates, please get in touch – hilary.chittenden@rsa.org.uk

The (em)Power(ment) to (Co-)Create

February 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society 

Take a look around you. Wherever you are there will almost certainly be something that has been designed. The buying and selling of these objects, the way they are made and the people and raw materials that are involved in the making build economies and develop societies. The design industry is a key part of this loop. With around 11% of the UK workforce in our sector, we play a key role in the economy and account for 7% of GVA, with a third of this coming from consumer-related spending (ref).

The designer’s role of adding value to products is fundamental to the markets. But sadly this industry, like many others, is only slowly waking up to some of the negative impacts of this system: the over extraction of resources, the exploitation of workforces and growing toxic waste streams. The staggering fact is that, according to EU research, 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are decided during the design stage. Ultimately our decisions at the very beginning stages on material specification or assembly process will be instrumental in determining the product’s lifetime in use and method of disposal (whether re-use, recycling or landfill), but our industry seems to have very little understanding of this. Why is this so?

To understand the challenges around system change you need to go right back to the beginning. Everything around you once had a written brief given to the design team to tell them what they needed to consider. These design briefs could include quite specific instructions which, in summary, might say: ‘We want a kettle design that is weighted so it can be held comfortably by an elderly arthritic person; is able to boil two cups of water in less than twenty seconds; uses minimum metal in the moulding; and retails at £12.99’. Or, it may say something about the aesthetic outcome: ‘We need a 50 page full colour report that makes our company look youthful and innovative’. However, you can absolutely guarantee that a brief will not include phrases like: ‘This product is required to be designed for a second life’, ‘must be able to have all its raw materials fully recoverable to their maximum value’, or ‘must not in any way be diverted to landfill in the first 5 years of its life’.

Imagine if it did. Consider how different our products would look, how differently we would use them, and how much easier it would be to recapture the materials. It would radically change the way our products were made. It would require a lot more collaboration and knowledge transfer around the extended supply chain, with those that see the problems at the end of life (ie waste disposal or materials recovery experts) telling those that potentially build in those problems at the beginning (ie designers) what they are experiencing. Design would not be so focused on the initial sell but would extend its vision far into a product’s potential second or third ‘life’, or even towards a ‘circular system’ of continuous re-use. To get to this point, the whole process of design, manufacture, recovery and ultimately re-manufacture would need a complete re-think.

Over the last 18 months The Great Recovery project at the RSA has been investigating the role of design in the ‘circular economy’. We have been building networks and using the creativity of the design industry to help understand why current design does not include ‘closed loop’ principles (where product ingredients can be recovered back into raw materials through re-use, industrial symbiosis and recycling). Our programme of public workshops and networking events set in the industrial landscapes of recovery and recycling facilities, disused tin mines, and materials research labs worked with people across all sectors mapped in our circular network model. Print

Participants went through a process based on the design principles of ‘Tear Down’ – where you literally pull products off the recycling pile and take them apart to understand how they are currently designed, manufactured and recovered/disposed, and then ‘Design Up’ – a process of rebuilding and redesigning the products around the four design models for circularity mapped by the programme: longevity, leasing/service, re-use in manufacture and material recovery. TGR_diagram_redraw_130425

This first phase of work supported the competition calls from the Technology Strategy Board on ‘New Designs for a Circular Economy’. These calls invested up to £1.25m into a range of feasibility studies proposed by business-led groups that included collaborative design partners.

The lessons that came out of these initial investigations underlined some key issues:

(i) the role of design is crucial to circularity but very few designers understand or think about what happens to the products and services they design at the end of their life;

(ii) new business models are needed to support the circular economy;

(iii) the ability to track and trace materials is key to reverse engineering our manufacturing processes and closing the loop;

(iv) smarter logistics are required based on better information;
(v) building new partnerships around the supply chain and knowledge networks is critical.

The inaugural Resource show sees the launch of The Great Recovery’s next phase of work in a two-year programme of work that will bring together materials science innovators, design experts and end-of-life specialists to explore the interrelationships and key levers in the manufacturing process. In a series of investigatory workshops we will be seeking further understanding around the challenges and obstacles faced by businesses and members of the circular network when considering the shift towards circularity. We need the problem holders, ideas creators and collaborators to get involved and share their resource knowledge.

In a move to nurture disruptive thinking across the network, The Great Recovery plans to develop short-term immersive design residencies that can set up inside recovery facilities around the UK. These design teams will be there to observe and experience the complexity of recovery systems, to help inform new thinking around current waste streams and new product designs. We will also be growing our network of pioneering professionals and circular economy stakeholders, developing thought leadership, influencing policy and nurturing disruptive thinking to fast-track innovation. By their nature, many of these activities will be highly creative and we are looking for interested recovery facilities, designers, materials experts and other stakeholders who want to participate.

3D Printing and its Impact on Society

January 23, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

A few weeks ago I blogged about the social impact of mass ownership of drones.  Another area of technology that will be in homes and workplaces across the country in the not too distant future is 3D printers.  While the price used to be prohibitive, it is now dropping fast as their popularity rises.  I have a friend who bought a 3D printer for under a £1,000, though it can only print in white plastic, which is rather limiting once you get over the novelty.

3D printing is already in use widely for businesses and the RSA has been helping to set up hubs for designers, some of which will contain 3D printers.  Even ASDA has got in on the trend.

3D printer in action

3D printer in action

Home 3D printing will work in the following way: you need a collar for your dog, so you go online to one of the websites which has ready designed objects and choose a dog collar you like.  You personalise it, perhaps choosing the colour, putting your dog’s name on it and making it a bit larger because you’ve been overfeeding him.  Then you purchase the tailored design and it is downloaded to your printer on your kitchen table (via your computer) which immediately prints it out, ready to use.

Not all objects will be printable, there will be size limitations and complex objects like smart phones will be beyond home printers.  However, given that it is possible to already print in a huge variety of materials from glucose (i.e. sugar) to ceramic, including combining different materials in one object, the majority of everyday items will be printable.

What does mass 3D printer ownership mean for society?

While cheap 3D printers will bring huge changes in many areas, not least manufacturing, I’m focusing here on the relatively under discussed topic of the societal impact of mass 3D printer ownership.

3D printing hit the headlines last year with the printing of a working gun and will continue to make it increasingly difficult to stop the distribution of illegal objects.  It’s far easier to find and confiscate a physical object than a computer file.  When that file is finally turned into a physical object it only needs to happen immediately before it is used.  The game of cat-and-mouse between law enforcement and criminals will move further online.

It’s far easier to find and confiscate a physical object than a computer file.

Personal interaction will reduce, with fewer of those incidental chats and conversations that are so important in building strong communities.   I live in a town so when I go to my local high street I often bump into people I know. Using 3D printing I won’t be bumping into anyone.

Another implication is that it will take ‘mass personalisation’ to new levels.  This is where companies are able to personalise things for people without the huge cost of human intervention to do so, like the dog collar example above.  Indeed this will probably be the norm, turning us all into creatives, all able to personalise jewellery, watches, clothes, food, cutlery and so on before we buy.

This will put out of business organisations that don’t adapt to the world of mass personalisation, while also continuing the trend of the UK becoming a nation of small businesses as it reduces design and prototype costs, increases the ease of servicing customers and allows manufacturing to take place in a home office.

Personal interaction will reduce, with fewer of those incidental chats and conversations that are so important in building strong communities

Finally it will have a large positive effect on the environment.  Place of manufacture has become disassociated from place of consumption.  Planes, ships and trucks transport millions of goods around the world every day at huge environment cost.  If the two are brought together this would significantly reduce the environmental damage of goods transportation.

3D printing brings many benefits, along with some headline grabbing challenges.  What will probably fly under the radar, but is of significant concern and shared with mass drone ownership, is the gradual erosion of social interaction, accidental meetings and community cohesion.  One technological advance doesn’t cause a noticeable difference but a variety of them that are happening at the moment are adding up to significantly more atomised communities.  While Local Authorities already take steps to build community cohesion, they are fighting against the tide, and more needs to be done.

Universal 3D printer ownership won’t happen yet.  Few would put up with the white plastic spoons, cups, plates and other objects that are slowly taking over my friend’s house as he prints out what he needs, but it won’t be far off.

Oliver Reichardt is Director of Fellowship at the RSA, you can follow him @OliverReichardt

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