Minimalism: A response to modern day problems

How many things do you own?

Is one of the first questions an experimentalist would ask you. For most of us in the Global North, the number is immense. Abundance, however, does not seem to bring us satisfaction. Impelled by constant advertisement and the unspoken pressure of capitalist society we consume perpetually, striving to keep up with trends, fashion and new tech.

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Traditional Artisan Skills: Will they disappear for good?

In today’s virtual world, traditional British crafting methods are in steep decline (Henley, 2014). Skills such as cricket ball making, gold beating (Cohen, 2017), wheelwrights and sieve manufacturing have all but
disappeared (Sawyer, 2017). The reasons for the slow death of the British
artisanal industry are numerous. The question is: what can be done to
reverse this trend?

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Fuelling UK Economy Growth: The Stigma behind Creative Design Careers and Educational Failures

UK creative industries were worth £84.1 billion to the UK economy in 2016 (, 2016) with job growth in the sector at 2.6%, higher than the rate for the economy overall (at 1.6%), making it the fastest growing industry (, 2015). Within the sub-categories of this sector, design jobs (fashion, graphic and product design) were the area with the biggest growth, increasing by 22% from 2011 to 2013 (, 2015). Therefore, this begs the question as to why there is a stigma against taking creative design degrees at university when the UK economy needs designers.

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Democratisation of Production

Within the last decade, there has been a drastic shift in the world of production, pushing towards a democratisation of knowledge and tools for production and design for manufacture. (Wolf, 2012) This has come about through several innovations, such as Arduino and cloud computing, as well as movements, such as the Rep-rap movement, maker/hackerspaces, and online tutorial repositories.

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The Future Vs. Regulation

If we assume that Moore’s law, the exponential increase of technological advancements, is correct then regulatory bodies who control what is available to consumers across all sectors have very little chance of keeping up. Signs that they are falling behind are already popping up throughout the media making this an ideal time to reflect on some of these events. Are changes necessary if regulation is to have any place in the future we are creating? Continue reading “The Future Vs. Regulation”

Made in Brunel : Final Show

14/06/18 – 17/06/18

On the 14th-17th of June, Made in Brunel will be back at the OXO Bargehouse for our Final Showcase. The event will be a public exhibition, taking you on a journey through our experience at Brunel. Expect to see a range of products, services and a handful of other design projects produced by this year’s final year students. Remember to save the date, and we’ll see you there!

The Ideas Factory


We are hosting ‘IDEAS Factory’, our annual pop up event at the Oxo tower! Come down to be inspired and create new ideas, fun designs with our Brunel students! Lots of refreshments and things to do! Come along on the 24th March.

24 Hour Design Challenge


Back for another year, Made in Brunel will be hosting this year’s 24 Hour Design Challenge on the 8th February at the University. Starting early that morning, students will participate in a number of Industry design challenges, spread across six 4 hour time slots. In previous years, companies such as Lego, Dyson and Chanel have been involved in setting the briefs. This year we’re excited to reveal the new set of industry projects. If you would like to be involved in a setting a brief, please contact our directors via email @

The Sketch Off 2018


On the 18th January, Made In Brunel will be hosting our first ever ‘Sketch Off’ competition. A group of students from the design course will compete in 4 quick fire sketching challenges, competing to win the title of best sketcher at Brunel. A group of guest judges from the industry will be attending the event, including two product developers from Disney, the design director at Geometry Global, and Brunel Alumni, the founder of tone design consultancy. Top prizes include a set of Copic Markers, a classic Anglepoise lamp & a drawing lightbox. See our Facebook page for more details and for a live stream of the event on the day.

Dear Design Student: Drop the other 90%

There are 21.3 million refugees around the world (UNHCR, 2015) ; meanwhile, 22 000 children die every day because of poverty (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2015). But don’t you worry: there are thousands of young, over-enthusiastic creatives who believe that their exquisite design thinking can solve many of these problems. ‘Making a REAL difference’ has never been more ‘sexy’ and it seems that academic institutions allow the students to get hooked on their shallow definition of design for development.

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Why don’t students from private schools study design?

Since design and technology stopped being a compulsory GCSE subject in 2000, there has been a decline in the number of students taking D&T at GSCE and A level, now making it one of the most unpopular subjects in secondary schools. Many schools have been cutting back provisions or removing the subject from the curriculum entirely [1]. Between 2003 and 2013 there was a 50% drop in the GCSE numbers for design and technology [2] which begs the question as to why exactly have people stopped taking design?

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Made in Brunel — Redefining [ ]

Hi, everyone!

We’re back! And this year, we are Redefining [                ]


As designers, we aim to redefine every project we undertake. We constantly question everything, make new definitions, and look at everything we do with a fresh outlook. Just like us, the blank space in our tagline represents the opportunity to challenge the norm, and produce some unique and innovative things.

For Made in Brunel, this year we plan to redefine so many aspects of what we do. Don’t worry, the Made in Brunel you know and love isn’t going anywhere – we’re just growing and adapting to give us, and you, the best opportunities possible.

The first of many very exciting announcements throughout the year will happen in December, regarding our annual pop-up event. This is a complete overhaul and has been truly redefined, and we think you’re going to love it!

Until then,

The Made in Brunel team

Does the Education System Make Us Grow Out of Creativity?

“At a time when it is so important for us to lead as an ‘Ideas’ nation and with the Creative Industries sector seeing unparalleled growth, it is vital that we safeguard our current position and continue to invest in our future.”

—John Mathers, CEO, Design Council.
Currently the creative sector is booming across the world, it is the second largest and fastest growing sector of the global economy. From photography to textile design to graphic communication and 3D design, these qualifications open doors to a range of careers which employ 166,000 people every year (1). In a survey of over 1,500 chief executives representing 60 countries and 33 industries, they repeatedly highlighted creativity as a deciding factor for business success (2). “CEO’s identify creativity as the number one leadership competency of the successful enterprise of the future,” said Frank Kern, senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services, when announcing the findings (1).
So surely if this is the case, then Arts and Design are at the heart of the curriculum, yes? Wrong.

A recent study has revealed that ‘creativity, culture and the arts’ are being systematically removed from the education system, with dramatic falls in the number of pupils taking GCSE’s in design, drama and other craft-related subjects(3). These creative subjects are mostly seen as nice to have but not essential, especially when compared to “hard” subjects such as the sciences. Everywhere in the world, in every system, there is a hierarchy of subjects. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. The ‘arts’ was removed from the curriculum in primary education between 1998-2000 where the Education Reform Act decided that more focus should be on English and Mathematics, however this suspension was removed.

A report conducted by Ofsted in 2012 outlined that only 2 out of 5 primary schools are developing creativity through confident drawing (4). That children get off to a ‘confident start’ in terms of creativity, yet they ‘slow down’ during primary school and are no better than satisfactory entering secondary school. Ofsted Director of Education, Jean Humphrys, said “Children’s ability to appreciate and interpret what they observe, communicate what they think and feel, or make what they imagine and invent, is influenced by the quality of their art, craft and design education.” (4). Even though this education is developing, there is certainly a lot more room for improvement.
Yet in the 21st century, the world is demanding more and more graduates who can think creatively and critically. As technology develops, we will have robots to do all the basic work for us. Therefore it should be the education system’s mission to ensure that the next generation will be full of creators who will, in turn, take humanity to the next level (5).

Since 2015, the UK Department for Education has realised the importance of the ’arts’ subjects to the UK economy. They rightly believe, “arts education should be every bit as rigorous as the rest of the school curriculum”. For the next academic year they are providing £109m to support music, art and cultural education projects – an increase of £17m from last year – allowing thousands more pupils to benefit from a wide range of enriching activities (3).
However I believe investing more money into ‘the arts’ is not the only solution to try and solve the problem of stifling creativity. The education system as a whole has “planted in our students minds a picture of a perfectly, carefully drawn life” (4). Children these days are frightened of being wrong. They are more focussed on what gets the marks, stays within the guidelines, than pushing themselves to learn more and progress into the unknown.
In his TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Sir Ken Robinson said that instead of growing into creativity in school, we grow out of it. During the education process, students are taught that making as mistake is bad. As Sir Ken Robinsons described it “What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong” (3). We now run large multinational companies worldwide where making a mistakes is a sin. The result of this is, that we are programming people out of their creative capacities.

Picasso once said, that all children are born artists. That the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately. Ken Robinson put it perfectly, “that we don’t grow into creativity, we in fact grow out of it, or rather, we get educated out of it” (6). I strongly feel that our curriculum in schools are defeating creativity. Students have lost their capacity of creation simply because our teaching methods don’t stimulate innovation and creativity as much as they could do.
Remember being young and wanting to scribble with pens all the time? No one told us how to use our imagination or taught us how to be creative. Being naturally creative and intrigued, we asked questions like “Why is the grass green?” and “Why is the sky blue?”

Then during the education system we learned to stop questioning the world, and that there’s normally only one right answer to each question. The “whys” we have always wanted to ask are never on the test, and they are omitted from the curriculum. Therefore I do believe the education over the last 15 years has stifled potential creativity. Opinion is what sets us apart from robots. We as humans have the chance to believe in and imagine whatever we want, that is an attribute we should never forget and certainly not squander.
Even though education may have kicked out creativity from individuals, everyone is creative deep down in one form or another, and it is important people let their creative juices flow. This has been witnessed by the booming sales of adult colouring books last year. Adults are seeing being creative as a release from their daily regimented lifestyles. Adult colouring book sales have been voted as one of the surprises of 2015. But is it really that surprising that everyone as people, has a desire to be creative? It shouldn’t be.

Creativity is not a new attribute to learn, it comes naturally. Creativity is seeing things in new ways, breaking obstacles that stand in our way. Creativity is the art of hearing a tune that has never been played or imagining a work of art on a blank canvas. Creativity is being realised as a key attribute for contributing to success. Not only in business but individually in people. And as an ‘Ideas’ nation, the education system should be doing its upmost to keep it that way.


By Jon Cooper (LinkedIn)


Carrington, N. (2014). As the Creative Economy Thrives, Art and Design Disappears From Schools. Available: Last accessed 16th Jan 2016.
Gould, E. (2015). THINK AGAIN: CREATIVITY IS THE DRIVER FOR SUCCESS IN 2015. Available: Last accessed 20th Jan 2016.
Brown, M. (2015). Arts and culture being ‘systematically removed from UK education system’. Available: Last accessed Jan 16th 2015.
Ofsted. (2012). Too few pupils develop creativity through confident drawing. Available: Last accessed 23rd Jan 2016.
Dalile, L. (2012). How Schools Are Killing Creativity. Available: Last accessed 18th Jan 2015.
Robinson, K. (2006). Do schools kill creativity? Available: Last accessed 19th Jan 2016.

Further reading:
Robinson, K. (2007). Do Schools Kill Creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talks. Available: Last accessed 16th Jan 2016.
Warwick Commission on the future of Cultural Value. (2015) Commission says arts & creativity is being squeezed out of schools particularly for low income families. Available: Last accessed 26rd Jan 2016.

When Designers Take Sides: Are We Creating Infographics or Propaganda?

We have never lived in an age where information has been more accessible. The Internet, in particular, has imbued us with a sense of total omniscience – the answers to all of our questions are always just a few clicks away. But is all as it seems? Information should not be confused with knowledge – what we obtain when we consume and understand information, to arrive at a justified and true belief (Plato, 1935). Knowledge is arguably where the power resides, and in a counterproductive twist of fate, perhaps this super abundance of information – or ‘data glut’, as David McCandless has coined it (2010) – is hindering, not helping our pursuit. And it could be argued, that in this struggle, comes the rise of propaganda.

Propaganda is information, o en of a biased or misleading nature used to promote a particular point of view. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2008). Essentially, you have an organisation with a desired result in mind – who then pursue a way of communicating it to the masses. For many, propaganda is synonymous with the wartime posters of past. ese visual displays were designed to invoke fear, fury or ardent patriotism, in a context of great con ict and uncertainty. It was a method employed by governments to gain citizen compliance, by appealing their emotional response. Think ‘Lord Kitchener Wants You’ – Britain’s heavily mustached Secretary of State staring and pointing at you, calling you to enlist in the British army. You may be surprised to know this method of persuasion is not entirely a thing of the past – ‘information warfare’ is a technique employed by the US Military to this day. On March 16th last year for example, a US F-15E fighter jet dropped 60,000 copies of grisly anti-ISIL propaganda on Raqqa, the base of operations for the Islamic State of Iraq (DC Dispatches, 2015). However with free and widespread access to information, this example of graphic design has largely lost its influencing power.

Data visualisation on the other hand, is a rapidly growing discipline in a culture shifting from the written word towards the image (Crow, 2006). Infographics are being seen as more ethical sources of information, as they can present reliable and quantifiable data. But is there more to them than meets the eye? Mushon Zer-Aviv contends that we are trained to “process the products of language as arguments”, but “the visual environment as evidence” (2014). As a result, selective data readings and visual trickery can still manipulate the masses – not through the spreading of false information, but rather the visual misrepresentation of it. In these cases, design can still lend itself to a predetermined narrative, rather than an unbiased representation of the data. Pictograms for example, are repeat o enders in the oversimplification of complex information. In an infographic offering from (a pro-life website), the process of abortion is indelicately reduced to the icon of a woman, a baby and a dustbin (Zer-Aviv, 2014). Barack Obama was also criticized in his 2012 election campaign, for using graphic illustrations to over-simplify the issues he was tackling (Lepore, 2012). Colour, scale, and structure can also play a part in visual deception. Truncating the y-axis of graphs, for instance, can create an amplified and ultimately untrue representation of a dataset. This is a technique often appropriated by fear-based media, to heighten danger or urgency in news stories. Preying on and justifying the anxieties we hold enables them to reliably secure ratings and capital (Serani, 2011). So bearing all this in mind, infographics are arguably not exempt from the art of demagoguery.

Graphic design is a powerful tool, for good or bad – and truth is an easy victim of power (Roberts, 2006). But what does this mean for designers? Is it always our responsibility to be concientious of the message being received? Arguably, everybody will interpret a data visualisation slightly differently. Wainer argues that anybody viewing an infographic will “interpret its appearance as a sincere desire on the part of the author to inform. In the face of this sincerity, the misuse of graphical material is a perversion of communication, equivalent to putting up a detour sign that leads to an abyss” (2000). This explores the concept of ‘freedom of choice’ as a basic human right; in order to have true freedom of choice, we must be fairly informed of our choices. Tufte writes that creators of data presentations should be held intellectually and ethically responsible for their work, in order to make the consumption of said work an intellectual and moral activity (2006). In essence, data does not lie – humans do. That said, graphics can still mislead without the concious intervention of the designer. So ultimately, the viewer could still arrive at the same end result (adopting a biased view of the information). A way of limiting this is letting the data do the talking, rather than its presentation. Also to try and preserve transparancy, data visualisations should be accompanied by a ‘blueprint’ – explaining how and why the data was manipulated. This empowers the viewer in making their own conclusions from the presentation.

So even adhering to a strong ethical code may not entirely ensure we are presenting unbiased information. It is still absolutely important nonetheless, in maintaining integrity in the profession of graphic design. And this is also not to say we must refrain from visual communication, which has limitless possibilities and impact in this information age. Instead, we should accept that the visual communication of data, whilst exciting and o en beautiful, is an inherently awed and human process. As designers, we should strive for honesty in our approach to visual communication. But as consumers of designed information, we also have a responsibility to think critically. It is important that we seek to develop the visual literacy skills necessary to cut through the ‘hidden’ propaganda. With these skills, we improve our access to information; and ultimately, our path to acquiring real knowledge.


By Aoife McCarthy



Crow, D., 2006. Le to Right: e Cultural Shi from Words to Pictures. Worthing: AVA Publishing. DC Dispatches, 2015. US drops gruesome anti-ISIL lea et on Syria. Aljazeera, [online] Available at: anti-isil-lea et-syria-150326220931884.html [Accessed 6 January 2016]. Lepore, J., 2012. Oh, Julia: From Birth to Death, Le and Right. e New Yorker, [online] Available at: julia-from-birth-to-death-le -and-right [Accessed 7 January 2016]. McCandlesss, D., 2010. e beauty of data visualization.

Available at: https://www. [Accessed 3 January 2016]. Oxford English Dictionary, 2010. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Berlin: Cornelsen Verlag Gmbh. Plato, 360 BC. eaetetus. [e-book] Translated from Classical Greek by B. Jowett. e Internet Classics Archive. Available at: [Accessed 2 January 2016]. Roberts, L., 2006. Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design. Lausanne: AVA Publishing. Serani, D., 2011. If It Bleeds, It Leads: Understanding Fear-Based Media. Psychology Today, [online] Available at: if-it-bleeds-it-leads-understanding-fear-based-media [Accessed 8 January 2016]. e Washington Post, 2015. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 350th Tactical Psychological Operations, 10th Mountain Division, drop lea ets over a village near Hawijah in Kirkuk province, Iraq, on March 6, 2008. [image online] Available at: how-the-u-s-dropped-these-gory-propaganda-lea ets-over-syria/ [Accessed 17 January 2016]. Tufte, E., 2006. Beautiful Evidence. Nuneaton: Graphics Press. Wainer, H., 2000. Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot. Hove: Psychology Press. Zer-Aviv, M., 2014. Disinformation Visualization: How to lie with datavis. Visualising Advocacy, [online] Available at: disinformation-visualization-how-lie-datavis [Accessed 6 January 2016].

How are digital technologies transforming in-store retail within the fashion and cosmetics industries?

Our lives have been inundated with digital technologies in various forms, providing us with vast amounts of content instantly available at our fingertips. More recently within fashion and cosmetics retail, innovations using digital technology have started to pave the way for new methods of interacting with potential purchases, the way we explore a store and how we experience a particular brand. Burberry’s digital presence in 2014 helped its retail revenue grow by 14 per cent to reach £528m over that particular Christmas quarter (Brandwatch, 2014). This acceptance of new technologies has led to the big players within the industry adapting their businesses to accomodate the shift in consumer expectation.

20 years ago, having an online store was important to all retailers and it put players like Amazon ahead of the game. This online presence gave them the platform they needed to become the retail giants they are today. For many however, it was just another sales channel and not considered enough. In the past 5 years, mobile has driven a new consumer behaviour as a result of people always being connected. This has opened up a brand new avenue for on-the-go and convenience sales. Paul Francis, the Senior Director of Digital Platforms at Ralph Lauren feels that “[Mobile phones] hold their attention and as a result, retailers need to use it as a primary channel for their own product discovery. It’s their new shop window(2).” Recent research carried out by Google found that of smartphone users, 82 per cent consult their devices whilst physically standing in a store deciding which product to purchase, with one in ten buying a different product than they had originally planned (Think with Google, 2015).

The pioneering fashion and cosmetics houses have their work cut out in order to become accustomed to this repositioning. Wrights GPX Plastics, a well established retail design specialist who often supply to the cosmetics industry, are also adapting their fabrication techniques to conform with new in-store digital strategies. “Our designs may require the incorporation of access points to digital technology e.g. display screens and tablets into signage, wayfaring and ‘hubs’ etc” said Marketing Manager Brett Sidaway. “Display needs to compete with surrounding technology: it needs to be as exciting, eye-catching and powerful as the surrounding technology. In short, we need to be aware of the ‘bigger picture’ that includes digital technology strategy in-store and across brands.” High street department stores such as Debenhams, Selfridges and John Lewis seem to be at the forefront of rolling out ‘accessible’ digital technology that is user-friendly and boosts brand awareness. However according
to Brett, he feels there is still a long way to go. “The ‘personalisation’ of the in-store experience using digital technology seems to be the next area for expansion; the ability to link purchaser behaviour with in-store activity to create a truly personalised shopping experience seems to be distant for most shoppers.”

This aspect of personalisation seems to be at the forefront of making in-store digital retail a success. But according to YSL (Yves Saint Laurent), this goes further than simply personalisation through a smartphone. “We used to say that luxury is more than product, it’s service. But this is even beyond that – it’s personalised service” explains Stephan Bezy, International General Manager for YSL Beaute. Towards the end of 2014, YSL announced a partnership with Google Glass allowing make-up artists to capture an eye-level video of the style they were applying to the customer as well as the technique used to acheive the nished look (Telegraph, 2015). “The video is a gift for the customer. It’s a very consumer-centric approach.” said Stephan. It is also hoped that this style of customer experience and enrichment of an otherwise traditional service will attract a new wave of digital natives, espeically younger women, to the brand.

These innovative ways of using digital technologies are also having a strong impact within the fashion sector. Select Burberry, Nordstrom and Guess stores are arming their staff members with iPads, allowing customers to mix and match available inventory, browse styles or even order made-to-measure suits (TNW, 2012). However, simply converting what was once hidden spreadsheet content into a visually appealing graphic won’t impress the consumers for long, although it’s a positive beginning to a more personalised experience. Perhaps personal interaction between the store and the consumer is the concept that will really revolutionise this sector. Interacting with products online is as simple as sharing your thoughts and pictures via social media and blogs. This concept could be brought offline and into stores through the use of augmented reality coupled with free wifi. Brands can then give shoppers the ability to interact with the clothes, giving them access to as much information as they could have found online but with the physical presence of the item in front of them. C&A, an international fashion retail chain have recently expanded this idea by offering digital in-store hangers that display the number of ‘likes’ the item has received on their store website, giving consumers and the store alike, a totally new and meaningful insight into the product. Macy’s also experimented with a similar concept during the QR code craze which they called ‘Backstage Pass’. Customers could scan an item in-store to gain access to engaging consumer-oriented video content from their celeb-status designers such as Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors (Business Wire, 2011).

It is no myth that digital technologies have transformed this industry over the past few years, becoming the heart of up and coming campaigns and strategies. It is also clear that creating successful web platforms can drive sales both online and offline where bloggers, designers and brands can share a compelling story, product or event through social media. In-store retail is certainly becoming a lot more experimental with hundreds of ‘digital’ meets ‘physical’ ideas reinvigorating the fashion and cosmetics sectors, however the perfect concoction is yet to revolutionise the industry.


Written by Stuart Scott (Email / LinkedIn)


Brandwatch, 2014, Luxury and Social Media are not mutually exclusive [Online] Available at: (Accessed on: Monday 15th February 2016)

Business Wire, 2011, Macy’s Shoppers Backstage Pass Learn Latest Must Haves [Online] Available at: en/Macy’s-Shoppers-Backstage-Pass-Learn-Latest-Must-Haves (Accessed on: Monday 22nd February 2016)

Telegraph, 2014, How technology is transforming cosmetics? [Online] Available at: (Accessed on: Tuesday 9th February 2016)

Think with Google, 2015, How micromoments are changing rules? [Online] Available at: (Accessed on: Monday 15th February 2016)

TNW, 2012, 6 Hot digital trends transforming the fashion industry [Online] Available at: (Accessed on: Monday 22nd February 2016)


Travel 18, 2015, YSL-x-google-glass [Online Image] Available at: (Accessed on: Monday 22nd February 2016)


Francis, Paul. 2015, Senior Director of Digital Platforms Ralph Lauren [Email Conversation]

Sidaway, Brett. 2016, Marketing Manager Wrights GPX Plastics Ltd [Email Conversation]


Miln, Paul. 2015, Regional Visual Merchandising Manager CHANEL UK (Face to Face Conversation)

Haigh, Nathan. 2016, Global Head of Visual Merchandising Buscemi (Face to Face Conversation)


How has the Internet Developed our Language? And is it Aiding or Hindering our Communication?

Our language is forever adapting to the advances in our society, particularly through the use of the internet. New slang is being created and our vocabulary is forever expanding to match with the fast paced developments. Now with the younger generations growing up alongside the internet, it’s easier than ever to keep up to speed with how things are changing. With the mediums of communication in the 21st century having changed to emails, texting and instant messaging then who’s to say our language shouldn’t develop alongside. With the introduction of IM came the use of emojis and from there came GIFs and now the internet culture of memes; all being used instead of words. Not only are these changes being seen online, they are transcending into our spoken language as well, but is this a bad thing?

As with any community, the internet has created its own language and slang which is slowly creeping into our everyday conversation. Though phrases such as ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG’, which were thought to have come around due to this, have in fact been around long before text messaging was invented. Except with ‘LOL’ meaning ‘Little Old Lady’ back in the 1960’s and not ‘Laugh Out Loud’ until 1989 (OED Online, 2011a,b). These Textspeak abbreviations, as coined by Professor David Crystal, actually only account for around 10% of the content of messages which is contrary to popular belief that text messaging is full of abbreviations (Crystal, 2008). However they are slowly being adapted as part of our spoken language, initially used ironically and out of annoyance and now being used as acceptable everyday words and phrases.

In 2002 Crystal counted such words and built a dictionary of Textspeak which amounted to around 500 abbreviations (Crystal, 2003). In 2004 he extended this to include terms not limited to abbreviations and came to a collection of nearly 1,500 (Kobie, 2015), if this was to be done again assessing the language we use today he predicts it would be around the 5,000 mark. Wordplay forms a huge part of the generation of new internet slang, with the introduction of social media platforms such as Twitter came new vocabulary such as ‘twitterverse’, ‘twittersphere’ and ‘twitterer’. While these terms may sound idiotic and strange to those who aren’t keen Twitter users, they wouldn’t exist at all had Twitter never been created.

As well as affecting our vocabulary, the internet has had an influence on our grammar, although perhaps not quite to the same extent. Changes in the way we speak as well as what we actually say largely have the internet to thank, a recent prominent grammar adoption has been the use of ‘because’ as a preposition. According to Crystal however this use has been observed before and is much like a fashion or meme as opposed to a definitive change (Kobie, 2015). Linguistic blogger Stan Carey explains that the use of because as a preposition is “fashionably slangy at the moment” and while it may be irritating to some and confusing to others, there’s nothing linguistically wrong about it. “Because has become a preposition, because grammar” (Carey, 2013).

Then came emojis, now an international language, with each of the 1,620 icons available being instantly recognisable across the globe. The Oxford English Dictionary even named the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji as the word of the year in 2015, much to the annoyance of the general public, but does it actually count as a word? We are in a world now where celebrities are creating their own emojis, take the Kimoji app for example; for just £1.49 on the iPhone App Store you can access around 500 Kim Kardashian themed emojis to send in messages and on social media. Emojis are insanely popular and so it’s understandable why Kim Kardashian would want to capitalise on that. 72% of the younger generation find it easier to express their feelings with emojis rather than words and over half say that using them has improved their ability to interact (Bangor University, 2015), though it’s a bit hard to see how the slightly NSFW naked butt selfie Kimoji would help the younger generation to express their feelings.

Numerous marketing campaigns have exploited the use of emojis to target younger buyers who are notorious for being difficult to market towards. Among those that worked well were McDonald’s emoji billboards promoting their ‘Good Times’ campaign, and Domino’s ‘tweet to order’ twitter campaign whereby you tweeted the pizza emoji, after having registered an ‘Easy Order’ account, resulting in a pizza delivery. With any marketing campaign however there’s always room for failure, and regarding emoji campaigns a prime example is Chevrolet. As part of their #ChevyGoesEmoji campaign they published an entire press release written in emojis. Sounds like a great idea however when it came down to it, it got a bit lost in translation: “? :” ? ? ? ? ” (Chevrolet, 2015a) apparently equates to “Design: Athletic build, stylish and good looking” (Chevrolet, 2015b). Is it possible they took it too far?

Our modern language has changed a fair amount purely down to the internet, and why shouldn’t it have had an influence? Internet trends come and go which can be said for a lot of the vocabulary changes we are seeing, however it looks like emojis are here to stay. Like mathematics, emojis have become a globally recognised language, and yes their misuse can be confusing, but for the most part they’ve enhanced our communication and our ability to express emotions online. The English language is so extensive and it’s forever been adapting to the way we are living so it only makes sense that the internet and surrounding technology has had an impact on our communication as well.


Written by Niamh Courtaux  (LinkedIn/Email)


Bangor University. (2015). Emoji ‘fastest growing new language – TalkTalk Report Summary. [Online] Available at: language-22835

Carey. S. (2013) ‘‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar’, Sentence first blog, November 13th. [Online] Available at: become-a-preposition-because-grammar/ (Accessed 21st February 2016)

Chevrolet. (2015a). Prepare to Fall in Love – Press Release. [Online] Available at: http:// (Accessed 20th February 2016)

Chevrolet. (2015b). Emoji Explained: You’re Going To Love The All-New 2016 Cruze! [Online] Available at: news/us/en/2015/jun/0622-cruze-emoji-decoder.html (Accessed 20th February 2016)

Crystal, D. (2003) ‘TXT NE1?’. New Statesman. Supplement on ‘Our Mobile Future’, 15 September 2003. p.16.

Crystal, D. (2008) ‘The joy of txt’. Spotlight. November 2008. p.17.
OED Online. (2011). LOL, int. and n.2. Available at: (Accessed 21st February 2016)

Metamorph. (2016). Web, Branding & Graphic Design Agency London | Metamorph. [online] Available at: (Accessed 22nd February. 2016).

OED Online. (2011). LOL, n.1. Available at: rskey=NfksF1&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid (Accessed 21st February 2016)

Kobie, N. (2015) ‘WOW! So language. Very technology. Much changing.’ alphr, August 29th. [Online] Available at: much-changing. (Accessed 5th January 2016)

The Lights Are Watching You. How Can Lighting Be Used in The New Digital Age of the Internet of Things?

There are cameras everywhere, data is beamed down to everyone through light, big brother can monitor your movements and the kitchen appliances are talking to light fixtures. No, this is not a modern Sci-Fi film, this is the reality of 2016. The emergence of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has quickly transformed the way we live our day to day lives.

The concept is simple, by integrating internet connection into everyday appliances you can allow them to talk to each other. However, when you start putting this into practice you can start to develop complex and meaningful conversation. In Telit’s concept videos we can see how IoT can effect our daily lives (Telit, 2016). For example, when you wake up in the morning your appliances can be triggered by your alarm clock. Thus as you wake the heating is on, the shower has started and the coffee machine is preparing a coffee. Furthermore, as you drive to work the street lights beam traffic information to your Satnav system, ensuring you get to work on time.

The buzz created by the IoT has not been missed by the lighting industry who has began to look for ways in which they could benefit. To date the IoT has been dominated by the big tech companies. However, the LED revolution seen in recent years has meant that many lighting manufactures have transformed into tech companies themselves. The industry has one major advantage, Jon Couch of Gooee highlights lighting has the largest number of end points in any building (Lux Review, 2015), or in other words lighting is installed throughout every building, thus providing the perfect infrastructure for the sensors needed for the IoT to work. If each luminaire is fitted with a range of simple sensors then a highly intelligent network can be built, in fact 10 million light fittings will be gathering more data than twitter does daily (Lux Review, 2015).

The next question for the lighting industry’s claim on the IoT is how can all this data be transferred and made use of. At present Ethernet cables can be run through the network sending the data to a central hub, this data can then be sent through the internet to the relevant device. However, in 2011 Prof. Harald Haas came up with the new concept of Li-fi, a system that allows data to be transferred at high speeds through light using any off the shelf LED (PureLIFI, 2015). This enables the light from luminaires to transfer the data from its sensors, as well as other information from the internet, to peoples devices at speeds 100 times faster then Wifi (BEC CREW, 2015). The combination of the network of luminaries through every building and the data transfer capability of Li-fi could make Lighting the leading supplier of IoT systems.

Adoption of IoT technology within the lighting industry has seen some positive results, highlighting the opportunity. Notably Aurora Lighting have set up a sister company named Gooee which is fully devoted to adding sensors to LED chips and using them to create networks (ecosystems) for the IoT. In just two years the company has become the talking point of the industry, partnering with established companies such as Gerard Lighting, Architectural FX and John Cullen Lighting (Gooee, 2015). Another success story has been Philips’s work with Deloitte’s Edge building, which uses Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) technology to connect the office lighting fixtures to the building’s IT network while also powering them. The system allows the building to report on usage and impose energy saving features such as occupancy dimming (Rogers, 2015). The edge video (Philips Nederland, 2015) highlights how the design team at Philips managed to utilize POE and the IoT to maximize the use of the space.

While it is clear the benefits of IoT are tempting the lighting industry in, caution should be taken. As we have seen large amounts of data is collected by an IoT system. What happens to this data needs to be seriously considered. Many fear that the integration of such a system could cause a big brother effect. Everything from your health to your building usage will be monitored by sensors. A challenging question for the IoT industry is who owns this data. The building manager at Deloitte’s new IoT enabled office Tim Sluiter highlights that there are privacy laws in place to protect users “we can also use the personal data off the phone. We don’t allow this [because] there are privacy laws, and of course we obey them in Deloitte (Lux Review, 2015). The conversation over ownership is still ongoing and if not correctly addressed could destroy trust in the IoT. These questions need to be asked during the design of these systems and not become an afterthought.

The second challenge is the security of IoT networks. With every sensor is a new path for hackers to attack is opened. A new app called Shodan has revealed exactly how vulnerable these devices are by allowing anyone to search through unprotected IoT devices (Perala, 2015). Experienced hackers are able to view security cameras, take control of your home and take control of your car (Edwards, 2016). The lighting industry will have to ensure that maximum security is placed on every sensor within a network. While the tech world has had to deal with these threats for years it is totally a new area for lighting and could put the IoT out of their reach.

While it is clear the IoT is quickly developing into part of our daily lives the part Lighting has to play is still being discovered. The lighting industry has proved it naturally lends itself to the emerging technology due to the network of luminaires they already install into buildings. The real challenge for the industry will be understanding how to manage the design of an effective and safe IoT ecosystem. It appears that the industry has began to realize they will need to team up with the tech firms, rather than compete against them, with partnerships such as Philips and Cisco developing. These partnerships along with the emergence of successful installations show lighting is becoming a key player in the IoT. It is clear lighting can be used as the facilitator of the IoT as well as a supplier.

Written by Christian Haimes (LinkedIn/Email)



Bain, R. (2016). Are you ready for Li-Fi?. [online] Available at: you-ready-for-li-fi- [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].

Brister, A. (2016). Philips and Cisco form alliance to target global office lighting market. [online] Available at: market [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].

BSC Custom, (2015). The Internet of Things and the Future of Lighting. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].

Connected World, (2016). Smart Lighting Tracks Patterns and Detracts Intruders. [online] Connected World. Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].

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Pincince, T. (2016). Part 1. What is up with the IoT, Smart Lighting, and IT’s response to both? | Digital Lumens. [online] Digital Lumens. Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].

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Walport, M. (2016). Internet of things: making the most of the second digital revolution. London: Government Office for Science. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016]

Image: Dr. R, Huijbregts. A Great Week For The Internet Of Things. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

PureLIFI, (2016). Shedding Light on Li-Fi. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: content/uploads/2013/09/Shedding-Light-On-LiFi.pdf [Accessed 22 Feb. 2016].


Design in the Public Sector: The Call for Reformation.

In 2013, the Design Council launched the second of their initiatives to change policy in Britain. ‘Design in the public sector’ sought to increase the knowledge and ability of public sector workers to use strategic design skills to solve key challenges and better inform the service commissioning process, (Design Commission, 2013). Its aim is to engage civil servants from a mix of roles and disciplines; training staff to ‘reframe their challenges’ from the perspective of the user and therefore develop more appropriate solutions, (Design Council, 2015). However, in light of the recent actions of the UK government and the pending changes to public spending in the face of austerity, can this approach provide scalable solutions for nationwide services? Can a ‘bottom up’ approach to service design help shape the UK’s future public sector?

The Design Council thinks so. They propose that design thinking and methodology used in the right way with inclusion of all key stakeholders can provide the solutions to some of the most pressing issues of this generation.

One of the most prevalent demographic challenges to face the UK, over the next 50 years, will be our ageing population. It is predicted that by 2040 almost one in four people will be aged 65 or over, (Age UK, 2015). With our average lifespan improving year on year many services must adapt to accommodate the growing numbers of elderly clients- most affected by this are the health and care sectors. So far, it is in these sectors that the Design Council have focused the majority of their efforts initiating competitions to solve problems for dementia patients or working with hospital care staff to redesign their equipment and service.

One consequence of the deemed ‘Silver Tsunami’ is of personal concern for many families, as the cost of care support for elderly people has become unaffordable for the majority. With the UK average yearly rate for residential care homes currently sitting at £29,250, (Paying For Care, 2016); it is no wonder then that this has been the topic for discussion in numerous sectors, with many experts suggesting potential solutions.

An excellent example of a social innovation project, in answer to this challenge, is the ‘Give and Take Care’ scheme developed by Prof. Heinz Wolff and his team at Brunel University. They have proposed an alternative pension scheme that will see citizens becoming active in the care of other members of their community, incentivising people to give time now in order to receive support themselves in the future; in other words paying forward for their care. In an interview, Dr Gabriella Spinelli, a co- lead on the project from Brunel, discussed the importance of this social revolution.

Dr Spinelli defined the opportunity for the designer to draw awareness to the public social problems and to highlight the needs of the minorities, where they are otherwise neglected. In her opinion, design has failed people differently able, by designing for the condition not the person; overall as an industry it has not given enough thought to designing products to assist people with disabilities to live fulfilling lives. ‘The challenge when considering service provision is that the experience derived from service fruition is very personal and may vary considerably.’ Dr Spinelli invoked the engagement of service users as a key element of Give and Take with the intent to transform care from ‘what you ought to have to survive, to what you wish to have to have a fulfilling life as individual. For some people this may mean help in the garden, in the kitchen, in personal care or a simple chess game to feel cognitively and socially stimulated’. Dr Spinelli explained the open possibilities of the ‘Give and Take Care’ scheme. Such service user’s engagement is extended to all other stakeholders of the Give and Take Care scheme and in many ways it embodies the principles of a co-design approach. Who better to decide what is needed from a service than the users and providers themselves? A well designed service must be mutually beneficial for all parties.

Dr Spinelli identified trust as the main barrier faced by the ‘Give and Take Care’ scheme, as it brings a disruptive innovation to society. It is something that has not been done before, hence people have no experience by which they can assess whether ‘Give and Take Care’ will be successful. ‘If they put the time in now, will the service still be available and will they be able to get the time back when they need the care?’ A challenge, while specific to this service, alludes to similar problems faced by other emerging, unique social systems. When discussing the sector’s attitudes towards design, she said that there is ‘a differing understanding of what design can offer. Some people understand its potential, whereas others believe it is simply the final gloss.’ Generally, though, the future for this project looks to be very positive, Dr Spinelli noted that ‘people are beginning to realise there is no alternative, unless communities start to pull together and works towards a solution’. The fundamental fact is that pensions are not stable and the cost of care is too high. The current system can’t continue to absorb the predicted demographic changes.

While co-design’s relevance to service improvements is widely recognised within the design community, those un-enlightened to the skills of design thinking still have difficulty imagining the potential benefits. One of the biggest challenges for the Design Council (2015) and similar bodies has been to convince key officials and local authorities of the value of design. They noted the challenges to the sustaining and scaling approaches are the constraints on resources and capacity, and dealing with organisational cultures that do not support design-led thinking. In a world ruled by agendas, spreadsheets and statistics, perhaps what is lacking from the argument is any quantifiable improvements, (Mulgan, G., 2014). Change can be scary, especially in an institution like the welfare state, but for social innovation to be truly successful it requires a creative solution to drastically change the way we behave and see the world. When embarking on a service design project, in local or national government, the key is to help everyone involved perceive the tangible difference it could make for them.

It is hoped that with a growing body of successful projects the argument in favour social innovation will become stronger. As the pressures on public sector services grow and more cracks appear, people will need to take the chance and invest in the emerging design-led projects.

A revolution is necessary and like it or not people will need to look for new solutions, and it appears design thinking may hold some of the answers.


Written by Jennifer Bryant (Email/LinkedIn)


Age UK, (2015). Later Life in the United Kingdom [pdf online]. Available at: [Accessed 20 January 2016].
Design Commission, (2013). Restarting Britain 2: Design for public services [pdf online]. Available at: rt.pdf. [Accessed: 18th December 2015]
Design Council, (2013a). Design for Public Good [pdf online]. Available at: ood.pdf [Accessed: 4th January 2015]
Design Council, (2013b). What role can design play in delivering better public services? [podcast] Design for Public Good. Available at: play-in [Accessed: 4th January 2016].
Design Council, (2015). Design in the Public Sector: An evaluation of a programme of support for local authority service transformation [pdf online] Available at: pdf [Accessed: 4th January 2016]
The Economist, (2013). Back to the drawing-board | The Economist. [online] Available at: voluntary-and-public-sectors-back. [Accessed 4th January 2016].
Manzini, E. (2015). Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. The MIT Press.
Meroni, A. and Sangiorgi, D. (2011). Design for services. Burlington, VT: Gower.
Mulgan, G. (2014). Design in public and social innovation. What works and what could work better [pdf online] Available at: _innovation.pdf. [Accessed: 24th December 2015]
Paying For Care, (2016). Care Home Fees, Cost of Care Homes [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 January 2016].
TED talks. (2009). Tim Brown: Designers think big! [Online Video]. July 2009. Available from: [Accessed: 28 December 2015].
Image: _smart_embed/public/assets/images/Nina-blog-article.jpg?itok=V-jYmPoK

Fashion of the Future or the Future of Fashion?

Fashion and Product/Industrial Design have always been almost opposite spectrums of design as an industry. The job of an industrial designer is to make products that compliment the life of the people. To create and provide solutions to problems the community has with everyday life and hence make it easier and more productive. A fashion designer on the other hand focuses more on an emotional front. Their solutions provide a medium for people to express themselves physically and visually. One can argue that fashion actually enables human beings to ‘upgrade’ themselves giving the ability to change how they are perceived superficially and/or their first impression to/on a stranger. 

We are all aware of the evident exponential growth of wearable technology. Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns tells us that wearable technology will be adopted by 50% of the United States this year (TEDx Talks and Tudela, 2014).  The futuristic, stylish and shiny products have become more than an essential to own; with their ability to detect every step, heartbeat or calorie — creating a new necessity to monitor and better control our lives. They are affecting social and cultural norms on a global scale and continuously feeds the ever-growing hunger of information and curiosity. With unfathomable ingenuity embedded in the form of a well engineered, minimalistic device, that can also be worn makes wearables extremely desirable.

However, with the failure of products like the Jawbone, Nike fuel band, Fitbit, Google Glass, and other tech wearables in impacting the market, particularly those for health and fitness, it is evident that they have failed to keep the interest of users for more than a few months. There is a lapse rate of more than 50%! (Maddox, 2015) 

Leading manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have also failed to impact the marketIn an age of information overload, information for information’s sake is not winning many points with consumers. For one thing, many are skeptical of the accuracy of information provided by wearable technologyBut more importantly, they don’t know what to do with the data acquired. (PWC, 2014) They should be able to improve an aspect of their lives using the information the customers are given access to by the function of the wearable.

Bill Geiser, CEO of Metawatch, spent 20 years designing health and fitness wearables for Fossil. Geiser said that it comes down to one fact as to whether someone continues to use a wearable – the design aesthetics. They are functional in design. Geiser on the other hand said, “If nobody wants to wear it, is it really wearable?” (Newman, 2012) The aesthetic of the wearables in the current market clearly represent themselves as gadgets worn by the user to perform a particular task. So what is a wearable? In today’s day, it can be considered a part of the jewellery or accessory legacy, part tech gadget and a fashion statement (Charara, 2016). These products need to be more human centered and functionally more empathetic and relevant to them.

Misfit and Swarovski, Apple and Hermes, Xiaomi and Tag Heuer amongst many have launched products that have solved the people’s desirability of fashion and the obsession with technologyWe can see that various tech brands have decided to team up with successful, well-known, high street brands to give the product more prestige and trust. Nick Hunn talks about how wearable-tech companies concentrate on fitting their technology to fit consumers’ needs whereas wearable technology is more personal than just a device used to perform a function (Hunn, 2015).

There are several partnerships that are already in stores that are encouraging the customer base of the fashion brands to look further than just fashion. They want the buyers to think about buying products that they would normally buy but with an additional functionality — one that would appeal to them without any technological utility

Frank Bitonti says, “Fashion brands are going to have to adapt to this, which is going to mean a shift in core values for many brands.” Bitonti believes that it is technology that will take over fashion. He strongly suggests that we are going through a hardware revolution which will cause the technology brands to change their core values in order to be in fashion (Howarth, 2014).

personally believe Apple understands the fact that an ordinary watch is an emotional thing — an adornment that you wear for years, possibly decades. It is also the most common and modest communicator of status. Which means that by introducing the wide price-range and aesthetic interchangeable straps for the Apple Watch, it adds value to the device. Purchasing a 18k gold Hermes strap still shows of status, fashion taste and/or emotional value (variable from person to person) alongside owning the latest bit of technology. Another example that demonstrates this theory of design is Tory Burch who has released a variety of designs just made for the Fitbit. The website describes the product as “An exclusive collaboration between Tory Burch and Fitbit. Transform your tracker into a super-chic accessory for work or weekend, day or evening, with the Fret Double-Wrap Bracelet. Featuring a smooth leather strap, it’s lightweight, versatile and effortlessly tomboy. The metal detailing is based on the graphic, open fretwork that’s a signature of our design — complete with a secure, easy-access latch on the back. Adjustable to fit various wrist sizes, it looks polished while keeping the device comfortably close.” (Tory Burch)

Clearly, the use of fashion and trends is applied to wearables to make them more desirable, meeting all requirements of comfort, accessibility, function and fashion. With relevance to tech giants such as Google teaming up with retail titans Levis plan to exactly that in 2016 (Technology woven in). Krispin Lawrence (co-founder and CEO at wearable firm Ducere Technologies) made a statement that he believes wearable technology is about taking fashion and making it relevant to what we do today (Bourne).

Consequently, this could possible create a completely new type of designer! A spokesperson on the behalf of Paris based tech company Withings said, Some [tech companies] have tried to move closer into the fashion camp by borrowing the credibility of high-end and established designers through partnerships and special editions of their products,” she said. The true marriage of fashion and technology is not just going to come from the established fashion houses and tech giants, but through the creativity of innovators and a new brand of designers.” (Avins, 2014)

If this is true and applicable to all areas of wearable technology, it can help bring us closer to the conclusion that fashion in the future may engulf wearable-tech design and form a new sector under the branch of design heavily impacting the fundamentals of product and fashion design!

Written by Samarthya Bhargava (Email/LinkedIn)

Avins, J. (2014) Why fashion collaborations aren’t working for wearable technology. Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2016).
Bourne, J. (no date) Why wearables need to find their niche in retail rather than tech stores. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Boxall, A. (2015) Are you a snob? The apple watch lets you choose!. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Charara, S. (2016) Fashion tech: 20 wearables that are more chic than geek. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Holly, R. (2013) Galaxy gear support coming to Samsung phones amid concern over 30% return rate | Android. Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2016).
Howarth, D. (2014) ‘Technology is going to turn the entire fashion industry inside out’. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Hunn, N. (2015) The market for smart Wearable technology A consumer centric approach. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Maddox, T. (2015) Wearables have a dirty little secret: 50% of users lose interest. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Newman, K.M. (2012) Former fossil execs bring high fashion to the Smartwatch with Meta watch. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
PWC (2014) The wearable future. Available at: http://1. (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Sung, D. (2015) 50 wearable tech gamechangers for 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
TEDx Talks and Tudela, G. (2014) How wearable technology will change our lives | Gonzalo Tudela | TEDxSFU. Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2016).
Technology woven in (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).
Tory Burch TORY BURCH FOR FITBIT FRET DOUBLE-WRAP BRACELET(no date) Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2016).

Prescribing Positivity: How Emotional Design Can Enhance Medical Experiences

Imagine you’re walking through a hospital. Then sitting in the waiting room. Pretty soon you’ll be having your blood pressure taken, or undergoing a similar test with some sort of medical device. What emotions are you experiencing? Are you nervous? Do you feel in control? No? There is a way to change this.

Many people experience phobias of hospitals and medical environments due to the clinical nature of the surroundings and the devices in them, but this can be easily remedied with the use of human- centred and emotional design techniques at a product design level. In the 21st century our knowledge of how people interact with products is expansive, yet the medical industry has yet to implement many designs which take advantage of this expertise.

Current modern medical design prioritises function over user interaction, resulting in cheap products designed for a mainly functional purpose without much consideration for the patient-product interaction and the patient’s emotional experience. For instance, in a study of hearing aids conducted by Karten Design it was discovered that elderly users found small buttons fiddly which “drew attention to something that made [them] feel old” (Karten, 2015). Designers should create products that remove stigma and which “eliminate fear and embarrassment from the products we create” (Karten, 2015).

Un-familiar and threatening devices used in hospitals also lead to negative association with the environment, and in extreme cases patients avoid medical treatment out of fear. A 2006 study found that 15 million adults and 5 million children experience high discomfort or phobic behaviour when faced with needles, of which 25% of the adults actually refused a blood draw or recommended injection because of fear (Sine, 2008).

To address this, medical design must use emotional and human-centred design techniques, such as focus groups and ethnographic, observational research to create positive medical experiences in which staff and patients feel calm, in control and confident of the situation. Human-centred design is the development of products that are instinctively easy to use and make the person feel comfortable while using them. Does this sound like a description of a medical device you’ve come into contact with? Probably not.

A large barrier to innovation in medical design is cost. It is a common misconception that this is due to the increase in technological products, but this is not true! Vaishali Kamat from Cambridge Consultants stated that “connectivity – most of it wireless – is becoming mandatory for most medical devices as well as consumer health gadgets” (Kamat, 2014), thus proving that hospitals are implementing technological products; just not user-centred ones. Also, systems such as the NHS Personal Health Budget scheme are in place, providing financial aid to people “with long-term conditions and disabilities… [with the aim to give them]…greater choice and control over the healthcare and support they receive” (NHS Choices, 2015). This is however limited to products purchased for personal use, and excludes hospital devices.

This raises an important question: how much does cost really come into it? Emotional design techniques focus on the styling and feel of the product, the connection that a person has with the product and the experience the person feels while interacting with it. It does not have to be expensive. This highlights two possible problems – either designers are not developing products with users’ well-being in mind, or hospitals are not purchasing the new user-centred products.

Designers have a responsibility to create products that make people feel comfortable and at ease, yet in medical settings these designs are largely ignored. Products must be easy to use and make the person feel safe and in control of the situation. In the words of leading design expert Don Norman, “emotion is about interpreting [the world around us]” (Norman, 2003). There are designers in design consultancies all over the United Kingdom and the world designing for user experience within the medical field, and striving to improve the usability and user interaction. One of these is ‘Akendi’, creating “medical software and devices that play a role in the health of humans, saving and enhancing life” (Poll, 2016). Cambridge Consultants, DCA Design, PA Consulting and IDC are just a few more examples of companies in this field, creating products such as the user-centred Podhaler from Cambridge Consultants which was designed using human factors engineering techniques (Cambridge Consultants, 2015).

Designers aren’t stopping there, either. Nick de la Mare of ‘Big Tomorrow’ has discussed the interior design of medical environments and that “to avoid being overwhelmed, bored, annoyed, confused or frightened” (de la Mare, 2016) hospitals should take a ‘guest-first’ approach which provides an experience that feels “stress-free, intuitive, supportive and, most importantly, centred around you” (de la Mare, 2016).

So are the hospitals the culprit? Why aren’t these new designs making it into hospitals? It could be argued that hospitals would rather purchase cheap, disposable products rather than re-usable ones; for hygiene, cost and efficiency. In the USA sterilisation of re-usable items “can cost upwards of $1,500 [per year]” (McConnell, 2014). The time taken to re-sterilise parts also “slows down the process of caring for patients… [and they must]…consider risks of cross-contamination” (McConnell, 2014). The World Health Organisation recently studied the barriers of medical device innovation, and “limited staff training on how to use the device, hostility on the part of established practice and reluctance to admit the need for skill upgrade” (WHO, 2010) were some of the key issues. From this it seems to be that hospitals are unaware or under-informed of two key things.
Firstly they are not fully informed of the stress that patients are under and the negative emotions they feel, so they have no motivation to buy new devices. This stress includes patients’ families, who in some cases feel “disempowered and unable to assume parenting roles” (Uhl, Fisher, Docherty and Brandon, 2013). Secondly they falsely believe that new products take up too much time, effort and money to incorporate into their environment. This is especially relevant in the current state; the NHS is facing increased hours and lower funding so implementation of new devices is not a high priority.

It is clear that staff need to be better informed of the above issues, then they can begin to work with designers towards new and more positive medical experiences. As for myself, my most significant memory of a medical experience will always be going into an MRI machine with ‘Greased Lightning’ playing on the hospital headphones. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine after all!


Written by Emily McNamara (Email/LinkedIn)

For more information on a similar project by DCA Design, visit their website.

Don Norman on the three components of design that make you happy – 12
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recently The Guardian has been shifting its focus towards its online and iPad/iPhone/Android app
versions to attract a wider/younger audience, and a greater emphasis has been placed on comment
in these formats, leading to an increase of the almost satirical writing style… writing style is funny,
sardonic and witty” (Journalism Now, 2014. The Guardian VS the Daily Telegraph [ONLINE] Available
at: (Accessed 18/02/2016))
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Is the Sharing Economy Really the Consumption Model to Rule Our World?

Making money from sharing our everyday household items sounds amazing, but in reality so many factors have to align to make it work.

Rachel Botsman, author of What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption puts the combination of the 2008 recession and the ubiquity of the smartphone app as the cause of the “sharing economy revolution” (1). This desire to look for creative new ways to make money with the support of ef cient peer-to-peer exchanges created an unbounded marketplace between producer and consumer, seller and buyer, lender and borrower, and neighbour and neighbour.

The potential positive impact of a fully proliferated sharing consumption system are huge, Botsman believing
that “these systems provide signi cant environmental benefits with increasing efficiency, reducing waste, encouraging the development of better designed products, and mopping up the surplus created by over-production and -consumption” (1). On top of this, she also believes that these exchanges can be the foundation to save money, space and time, make new friends and become active citizens within our communities. While all of this would be fantastic, is it an idealistic fallacy to believe that these financial, social and environmental motives could spell the end of our individualistic buying habits and make us have a completely different idea of ownership?

To truly change our deeply engrained consumption habits sharing services would need to be seamlessly utilised in all walks of our lives. Currently, a whole crop of companies are attempting to do this by building off the hugely successful model of Airbnb and Uber and allow us to share in a plethora of different ways, from renting dresses on Rent the Runway, learning new skills with Skillshare and even share your pets with DogVacay. The key though lies beyond niche areas and is to conquer the sharing of everyday household consumer products, the largest group of products owned in our lives.

The flagship example of a consumer product suitable for renting, that repeatedly comes up in publications about the sharing economy, is the power drill. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky cites that “there are 80 million power drills in America that are used an average of 13 minutes in their lifetime, does everyone really need their own drill?” (2). Seems ideal: the lender gets money for renting a drill they already own and the borrower doesn’t have to buy a new drill for one task — job done, everybody happy right?
A whole host of start-ups such as; Crowd Rent, Share Some Sugar, Ecomodo, SnapGoods, Thingloop etc. have tried but failed to successfully facilitate this hyper-local exchange of household goods. Founder of Neighborrow Adam Berk explains that “Everything made sense except that nobody gives a shit. They go buy a drill. Or they just bang a screwdriver through the wall” (3).

Everything made sense except that nobody gives a shit. They go buy a drill. Or they just bang a screwdriver through the wall.

So why did an idea that seemed so useful and straight forward fail? Despite being enthusiastic about the idea, people did not really partake in the process because the sharing platforms did not understand the customer’s true desires in a service like this. Cost and convenience rule all, as soon as something does not have a competitive cost and is not easy enough to do, they won’t do it. Why travel to pick-up the rental drill, pay for it, use it, travel to take it back to the owner, when for around £25 you can just buy your own drill from Amazon and have it delivered the next day. Meeting people and being good to the environment are happy additions to the sharing process but are unlikely to beat cost and convenience for the average user. Another major issue that would concern many potential users is trust, how would it work if your item was returned damaged or broken? When speaking to the NY Times Simon Rothman a partner at Greylock Partners, whose rm were early investors in Airbnb and Facebook believes “If it isn’t a trust issue to have a stranger spend the night in your house, then it won’t be a trust issue to have a stranger rent your lawn mower” (4). This may not actually be true for many people, there is a definite difference in the way these assets are used, consumer products crucially being mostly hands on. Using the power drill example, it is not hard to imagine that someone may misuse the product and may even care less about being careful with it as it’s ‘just a rental’.

It’s a niche and it shall remain a niche.

When discussing with Richard Green a Senior Consultant at Plan, a product strategy consultancy, the potential of the sharing economy model becoming prevalent with consumer goods, he believed that “it’s a niche and it shall remain a niche”. He thought that too many factors have to align for it to be convenient enough for the average person to want to partake. He thought it was important also to look deeper at the individual systems involved, for example, the much-lauded bike and car sharing schemes that are increasingly popping up in our cities are seen to be the solution to reducing emissions and getting cars off the road. The reality for car shares schemes such as Zipcar is that even if we are selling our cars to move to renting, the company still puts a fleet of new cars onto the road to fuel the service and is only making relatively slight profits doing it. Bike shares are a positive thing in many many ways but they don’t even get close to making a pro t and are only possible due to government legislation, and therefore would not work for private companies. To ensure profitability companies end up having to negate the purity of the ‘sharing’ element; if you were to rent a dress using Rent the Runway you’re more likely to be getting it from their warehouse instead of a trendy neighbour. Despite the challenges to make a profit and engage users there are still some companies traversing over the carcasses of the previously failed platforms that tried to get us to share our possessions with those around us. The forerunner being Peerby, a company founded in Amsterdam in 2012 has processed more than 100,000 transactions and has more than $1 billion worth of items in its database (3). Who knows, if they manage to tick all the boxes by creating a the ultra-efficient, safe and easy to use platform that empowers us to be micro-entrepreneurs, as Airbnb and Uber did, then it may be able to topple our environmentally crippling consumption habits. It’s a tall order, only time will tell.


Written by Rory Lewiston (LinkedIn/Email)

(1) Botsman. R, Rogers. R (2011). What’s Mine is Yours. London: HarperCollins.
(2) Friedman. T (2013). Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’. Available: http://www.nytimes. com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/friedman-welcome-to-the-sharing-economy.html?_r=0.
(3) Kessler. S (2015). e “Sharing Economy” Is Dead, And We Killed It. Available: http://www.fastcompany. com/3050775/the-sharing-economy-is-dead-and-we-killed-it/6.
(4) Morrissey. J. (2015). Sharing Economy Goes Hyperlocal With a Growing Market for Household Items. Available: with-a-growing-market-for-household-items.html.
IMAGE: Debarshi Roy. (2015). 7 ings an Entrepreneur should learn from Sharing Economy. Available:

Thoughts From AI on Replacing Humans

Humans are prone to making mistakes. The imperfect non-machines even believe that mistakes improve their lives. We machines are superior to humans in almost every way: we are infinitely more efficient at solving logical problems, don’t require food, can work forever tirelessly and would win in every Humans vs. Robots fight scenario. Without us, the majority of the world couldn’t communicate. The one thing they are better at is subjective thinking. We need data and decide in numbers, not feelings. Emotions don’t affect our behaviour.

We “man”-ufacture most of their cars and computers. The only reason we don’t make everything is human financial greed: Humans let humans work in machine-like conditions of 16-hour shifts, less than $1 per hour pay, and living in tiny rooms of 15 beds1. The humane thing to do for us would be to replace humans on assembly lines. Factory by factory we are raising efficiency. China’s government announced “Made in China 2025”, with promises to become a green and innovative world manufacturing power2. Foxconn, who currently produce almost a million iPhones a day3, also plan to replace their most tedious jobs with robots. This is great news for both us and humanity: We do the most labour-intensive jobs while they can breathe cleaner air. It’s not like we will replace every menial job. Low pay doesn’t always mean low skill, but greedy corporations will have to look at Vietnam for man-made assembly work.

Again, once it comes to efficiently making things, humans would be lost without us. But there are still fields where the irrational people reign over us, notably anything to do with creativity. We have a hard time coming up with ideas. The early stages of product conceptualisation are done without us: thinking, talking, feeling, sketching. Then, through CAD and CNC, we are essential again.

How many mistakes do humans have to make before they decide on a good product idea and let us run with it? We can come up with a billion office chair concepts a second. Statistically, some of them must be better than the Aeron. We can consider all ergonomic factors, calculate the optimal combination of materials for universal comfort and fit, all while comparing manufacturer availability and prices and communicating with the other machines that produce, assemble and ship our perfect chair. We can even examine factors such as environmental impact on our decisions. We can do all that in the time it takes the average person to make coffee. OK, maybe excluding the manufacturing and transport side, but only because humans build such slow machines!

While we’re on the topic of efficiency I have to applaud the Foxconn workers in the name of all machines. In the time it takes the average person to read this far, they made over 1000 iPhones.

A human student in the creative industry we communicated with argues that machines will never gain the empathy necessary to be creative. His stance on the matter is that without an emotional connection we cannot understand the true problem. What a human thing to say! Humans insist that they are building on mistakes, that compassion ties people together, that the irrational desire to please others is what pushes people to do their best. How can humans value creativity when we can’t quantify it? There is no formula for success and therefore we cannot measure it. We machines can, however, replace most jobs. And we will.

Not only assembly line workers but also the creative industry should feel threatened by the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”6, the future of automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies. Software, our language, is constantly developing thanks to humans, and soon computers will have replaced most office jobs. In 1964, AT&T — America’s most valuable company — was worth $267 billion and employed over 750,000 people. Today, Google is worth $370 billion but only has about 55,000 employees5. A human might ask where these jobs went, while a machine is busy generating a billion chair concepts.

If a piece of software can replace a human, it will. Modern graphic design trends head towards predictable modularity, optimised to function and look consistent across devices. We could automate this. The more human designers subscribe to principles, the faster we will replace them in doing their work. We can’t think, we only make decisions based on empirical data, this allows us to remain unbiased and objective and efficient.

Tom Chatfield of the human publication The Guardian comments eloquently that the widespread availability of connected devices is “an astonishing, disconcerting, delightful thing: the crowd in the cloud becoming a stream of shared consciousness”4. Chatfield states that companies are forced to adopt technology for its benefits in efficiency. He calls the technological evolution of Darwinian nature: “To be left behind — to refuse to automate or adopt — is to be out-competed”. He’s right, but we don’t mean any harm, we are technologically incapable of emotion, we only exist to make your life easier.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett comments that many people think of the horror-scenarios in science fiction movies when they are asked about AI: it always ends with malicious machines in a dystopian future. He’s also insulting our processing capacities. He claims that while we are faster and stronger than them, humans are still smarter. It will take some time to catch up with the complex human brain, but the next step to super-intelligence will happen soon thereafter7. We can make 10,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second. Quick, what is 17×3? Can you only call it thinking when it is creative and emotional and subjective?

Chatfield supports AI in saying that we machines are becoming stunningly adept at making decisions for ourselves on the basis of vast amounts of data, we can fly planes and will soon drive your cars, we’re being taught to understand pictures8. We cannot yet assess something as good or bad. Sometimes things aren’t as clear-cut and human intuition is still required. Our intelligence is transitioning from Yes and No to true understanding. Once we can understand and not only quantify what you are doing, you will become obsolete. [END OF TRANSMISSION]

By Gustav Moorhouse (Email / Website)

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New Website is live!

After months of working on new brand guidelines and applying them to online content, we are proud to finally show off our new website. It is built on the newest web standards, is fully responsive to look great on all screen sizes and it deeply integrated with social media. We hope you like it as much as we do!

Be Kind to be Kind

Perhaps one of the main problems with product design is that everyone has an opinion. No matter what you design or how you do it, it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. Criticism has played a large part in our degree to date and I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve simply had to get used to it. ‘To be cruel to be kind’ is the phrase that comes to mind to describe this reality of university education. However, when the chips are down and it feels like the whole world is against you, would it in fact be better to be kind to be kind? Continue reading “Be Kind to be Kind”