Link to slides here!
The “PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR DESIGN PROFESSIONALS” reading by Williams G Ramroth was incredibly insightful and a good lesson to all designers on how to plan for a project.
I believe the things the book conveyed have been taught to many of us since young, although it was done part by part rather than as a whole. Some skills and practices mentioned were habits educators have been constantly trying to instill in students, yet, perhaps too young to understand the importance of it, many of these habits have been long forgotten.
Likewise, only as I read the chapters that I begin to recall the words of teachers from before, and how I had failed to recognise their concerns raised. It is only in these recent years where projects have become increasingly complex that I start to practice these rules and habits unwittingly.
In Chapter 2 of the book, it is said that “Project management is an outcome-oriented process”. Indeed, more often than not, the blood and tears put into a project goes unseen if the end product is not achieved in the first place. Thus, we must aim to manage well so that the goals are achieved, and therefore showing that the process and steps taken were well-planned. Otherwise, it would mean the process had not been sufficiently managed and would hence be considered a failed project.
Among the six project management goals, the first one is to reach the end of the project, with the third being to reach the end on time, and the 5th is to reach it error-free. These three goals stood out to me, and it is something I strive to achieve in every project. As a designer who aims to do the best I can, it is important to make sure I plan for my objective to be achievable within the time frame and with little to no flaws. Sometimes, I find myself setting an objective that may be challenging to accomplish within the time frame. In these situations, I must plan well, and re-assess my objectives, and see if any tweaking of the project is required to finish the task. This comes to goal 6, which is to reach the end while meeting everyone’s expectations. Designers may sometimes end up giving themselves high expectations and thus feel overworked. I, too, am guilty of this. It is important for us to find the balance between meeting the professor’s expectations, meeting our own, and having a healthy lifestyle.
It was mentioned that the most important fundamental project management activity is learning. True enough, it is vital that project managers, and of course all project members, continue to learn and experience new things throughout the project. It is through gaining new skills that the project may potentially grow and reach greater heights. It also opens doors for higher quality and higher complexity work in the future.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
“In design, the big picture is developed first-conceptually, without much detail. Once the big picture is conceptually completed, more detail is added as the design develops.”
In my opinion, it is important to have a rough idea of the end product before going into a project. Otherwise, one would be struggling to make proper developments, and much time might be wasted on experimenting with things that do not aid the making of the final in any way.
What is to be done?
When is it to be done?
Who is to do it?
How much will it cost to do it?
The book was also really insightful when it comes to group work. Having a QC/QA manager would be essential for every group project. It would be useful for the team to come to a consensus on the style and quality of the project they are aiming for at the start of the project. From there, the QA/QC can continue to ensure everyone is on track.
Finally, the Outline of a Typical Project Work Plan Document was a good template for documentation and planning. Adding to the document as the project progresses to record the changes and take note of initial objectives would definitely help in the long run, allowing designers to see how plans have changed, and also reflect how well they have followed their proposed and original plan.
Link to slides here!
Both exhibitions, An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season and Time Passes, were extremely interesting and eye-opening for me. There a variety of mediums, as well as a large range of ideas brought up in the entire exhibition through many works. It was a good experience seeing how certain materials were used and manipulated into works of art, and how many of them mixed traditional and digital into a cohesive project. It was interesting to hear how the curators chose the works, and the problems they faced in the exhibition set up process.
All the works were well-thought out and gave food for thought. It opened my horizons to the art scene in Singapore, and made me realise the amount of unique and brilliant artists there are in Singapore. It was fun to see some works bring in the Singapore context, with works relating back to places we live or things we use. At the same time, many works also touch on issues on a global level, as well as personal level.
Among all the works presented, one work that really caught my attention was Blue Trapezium by Chong Lii and Christian Kingo in Time Passes. It is a 30 minute HD video, projected onto the wall. Opposite the projection are 3 seats, with speakers on each side. The area is dark, and is found hidden behind the exhibition’s description wall, unlike the other works that are openly displayed. The work being separated from other works allows the viewers to be fully immersed in the film, as they sit in the dimly lit screening area.
The reason why I chose this work was because of how I was so absorbed into the work when I watched it. More often than not, while I was amazed by works, I often still felt more like a person watching from the outside, in a sense that it was me realising how I was supposed to feel from watching it rather than feeling that emotion itself. Yet, for this work, it truly tapped into my mind, and made me feel things I never expected to.
Blue Trapezium is a film that, based on the Singapore Art Museum’s audio tour, :
“…explores the peculiar location and role of the brain in every human body. Knowledge is often referred to as the “light” that dispels darkness. Yet, this knowledge, or ability to understand, is located in the “dark” crevices of the brain, which itself resides in the enclosed space of the skull. It is from this location that physical actions and mental processes are initiated for all humans. However, each individual has their own unique perception, memories, and interpretations. Blue Trapeziumis set in a nowhere place. We follow the characters in the film as they move through hallways, doorways, television screens, indoor and outdoor spaces. The characters flow in and out without a link to each other and with no clear story line. There is a fragmented, endlessly shifting context, while the sounds, colour, pauses and pace of the narratives add to the elastic space created in the artwork.”
True enough, as I watch the scenes in the film, they do not make any narrative sense, and feels as though they are cuts of different videos pieced together. Some scenes feel as though I am watching a film or movie, while others feel like a memory, or a vision. Some scenes in particular really moved my heart and mind as I sat there for about 10 minutes just watching the film.
One was of a person next to a window being lit by passing neon lights as loud classical music played in the background. The scene was ethereal and brought memories back of when I sat in trains or buses for long periods of time, listening to music from an earpiece, blocking out any other sounds. The feeling of being detached from the world, watching it pass by, was quickly brought out from the depths of my mind as I saw the scene. The fact that the video could touch memories and feelings so specific within us was extremely incredible and I felt the film managed to achieve what they aimed for.
Another scene was of a lady walking through a corridor with flickering lights. This paired with the dim lit projection area was a unique combination that aided in the effect it had been trying to give. As the lady walked “towards us” in the film, the lights suddenly went fully out. Sitting alone in the area watching the film, the sudden darkness caught me off guard and I loved the idea of the film feeling so alive and how I felt I could connect with a video that displayed on a flat wall.
The film continues to show different scenes that trigger memories and feelings from within the mind, making it an extremely captivating and engaging video.
Likewise, in the works that I make, I hope to achieve the effect that the film was able to do. Using interactive elements, combined with my product design, I hope to make works that can reach deep into the minds of people. I do hope to continue learning more about the human mind and brain, and study how we think and act.
About the Artists
Chong Lii is a Singapore artist who studied in the Gerrit Rietveld Academie of Amsterdam, New Zealand.
Chong Lii’s work aims to explore the possibility of merging or levelling disparate spaces, objects, people, and images. Permeable frames of history and ontology are set against the spectacle of fiction, re-articulating the sociopolitical tensions from which these elements arise.
Singaporean millennial fantasies, accidental occult tributes in digital media and imagined historical subcultures are among the subjects filtered through an idiosyncratic gaze that supports and undermines them in equal measure. Operating alongside strategies of complicity and dissent, his installations and films simultaneously counter and revel within the apparatus of the moving image.
Christian Kingo (b. 1993) is a Danish filmmaker born and currently based in Copenhagen. Contemplating notions of belonging, his work investigates subjects of cosmopolitism, nostalgia and the domestic. These concerns are reshaped by elements from science fiction and horror, rendering narratives within disorienting environments. Grounded by traditions of cinema whilst pushing to defy its genres and formats, Christian works primarily in video & sound installation, live sound performance and film.
Exhibit Chosen: Shifting Between
Location: Gillman Barracks
Our Softest Hour presents Shifting Between – a group exhibition that plays on the seams of the digital and physical as the works weave together an online and offline experience. Through these two realms, participating artists Clarice Ng, Divaagar, MACHINEOFTHE, nor, Softslabs. and Planeswalker invite audiences to explore the shifts in how they engage with and experience intimacy and vulnerability.
Throughout the week, each artist will be joined by founders of alternative art spaces in Singapore for an artist talk.
Exhibition Visit and Review, done with Sylvia Low!
Shifting Between’s website can be accessed here.
Link to slides.
Being a product and interactive design student, I found that this chapter was extremely useful in summing up the process needed to create a well-developed and polished product. It took the years of lessons from my teachers and neatly described what we as product designers strive for and how we pave the road to the goal. It is definitely something all designers should read and aim to follow.
For design to be design and not art, it must serve human needs and goals.
Indeed, design is made with people’s wants and needs in mind, and the end goal is to create something that can meet their demands. This sentence made me think of an interesting mindset I had recently changed to.
More often than not, we may see the people’s wants as something that is more related to numbers and statistics, something that requires improved technology or a groundbreaking invention, but we must open our eyes to also see that sometimes their demands may come in a more emotional, fun way.
Before I had finally understood what it meant to design, my peers and I used to joke about how some of our products had no actual value and were just for users to have fun or for aesthetic value. It took me rather long to realise creating a fun product also had its benefits for the user – to enjoy themselves and have a good time. This was the value for my product, and I should not limit myself to thinking that value only came in the form of tangible outcomes.
I would consider designing a fun product Design and not Art as while it does indeed refer to more non-essential creations, I would say it is made with the idea of solving people’s need for fun and joy, rather than the creator’s personal expression of their thoughts and ideas. In this case, I would call it a fusion of art into design.
Design is the craft of visualising concrete solutions that serve human needs and goals within certain constraints
As the reading says, whether it be industrial design or lifestyle design, the aim is to find the optimal solution into helping the users achieve their goal. As designers, we must aim to create something that targets the problem as best they can, or improve existing products.
While we sometimes feel restricted by our knowledge, as long as we see the potential end goal clearly, we can articulate the things needed to external experts that will aid in achieving that goal. We must always be aware that we are not alone in the entire creation process, and must mainly learn to carry across points to other parties of the project. Sometimes one may be highly skilled in various technical areas, but with no vision, it would be difficult to solve the problem effectively. This can be connected with the next phrase:
Design is a craft because it is neither science nor art, but somewhere in between
This is an interesting sentence, and does resonate deeply.
Consider a product design assignment, where the brief is to create a new design for an existing household item, one may think we simply need to create a new look for the item. Afterall, the technology exists and is already well made. Yet, we may fail to realise that to create a new look, we have to become experts in the creation process of the item quickly, to ensure the final design can not only house all the necessary components, but also be comfortable for the user to use. This includes the technology the item uses, the size of the components, materials, and even the machinery needed to create the item must be put into consideration. All this is paired with thinking of how users would hold the object, keep it, are there room for them to misunderstand the use of a part.
It seems as though we require multiple facets of the entire process to come up with a single best design that looks simple to create yet took immeasurable considerations and information to complete. Design is the compilation of thousands of pieces of information, cleanly sorted and artistically arranged to form a final product that looks effortless and beautiful. The balance of art and science here has to be perfect to create the best outcome and perhaps that is why design is fun yet doubtlessly difficult. Nevertheless, it is the satisfaction when our work meets the demands of people that most probably attracts designers into continuing the pursuit of the perfect solution.
Experience Design – No designer can determine exactly what experience someone has
I agree with this statement strongly. Thus, we are often told to consider the affordance of the product we create in product design. In other words, how might others view the object and what might they mistakenly do or interpret. In other words, we must think of all the possibilities that may occur when someone interacts with the product we create, and ensure it is safe and still serves in function.
Apart from that, we must also think of who the target audiences are. If made for the mass, then one must be sure it is suitable for the young and old to use. Products designed must be inclusive and consider all parties involved. The handicapped, the elderly, children, etc.
In the Origins of Goal-Directed Design segment of the reading, Alan Coopers creation of Aunt Edna is hence ingenious and perhaps is something all designers should adopt.
Often times, we tend to be so absorbed in our idea that we may not realise the idea is clear in our minds but not properly articulated or expressed in the design. While we may think something is obvious in the design we made, other who have never seen it before may be confused or lost. These are things to take note for every project to ensure the usability of the product.
Kim Goodwin goes on to talk about the components of goal-directed design, which are great points that I will definitely aim to apply to all my design works.
The reading was insightful as it helped me to see my main purpose in the creation process. Occasionally I may feel restricted by my knowledge, but it is important for me to realise that with a clear solution and idea in mind, I can get help from external experts to achieve my goal. Hence, I must always ensure that my designs are well articulated and most of all, meet the purpose of creating that product to begin with.
While I do think about these in my product design works, perhaps I should begin to apply it to Interactive Media too, and see how I may improve the works I create.
Art can certainly change the life of one person who had been deeply impacted by an artwork, yet, I highly doubt art would be able to solve poverty or world hunger within a single exhibit. If such a thing was possible, no doubt we would already be living in a world of pure peace and joy; an oasis.
While I do appreciate and enjoy viewing works related to social practice, I always preferred not doing works of such kind. As such, this article truly resonated with me, and made me think deeper into the reasons why I may have avoided these topics.
To me, art is something more personal and less about the whole world, to put it in a bad way, something more selfish and self-gratifying. In other words, whether the topic be about one’s self or world issues, it stems from the artist’s own feelings for the topic, and it would be seen in a more extravagant light. Perhaps one may argue everyone in the world is doing things based on their own personal agendas, and that I do concede, but what differentiates art from science is the mundane, systematic, raw data and facts from science, as compared to what art may bring – a more aesthetically based, potentially-biased, emotional level of work.
I think this view of what art is influences the way I see social practice art, which on occasion seems to attempt to make changes that in my personal opinion would require a more dire solution which is built on a more solid foundation compared to one that also puts half the attention on the overall look and experience of the solution. What I mean to say is, perhaps trying to solve world issues such as homelessness is not as easy as building a row of houses by artists.
The Project Row Houses by Rick Lowe sounds like an amazing project, yet, as said in the article, it had failed to solve the problem it had aimed to solve. Instead, the situation had gone worse and yet they were praised worldwide.
Is this strand of art a starting point for addressing social problems, or a distraction that keeps us from seeing their true extent?
True enough, one would begin to wonder if those who heard of the Project Row Houses began to research and start to help the homeless more. Or if the government had taken action after the project. Or… Did they sing praises of the project, get amazed by the collaboration of artists doing a “good cause”, and then think the whole problem magically disappeared just from building a few houses?
I do agree this may be a negative way to think of things, yet, I believe the effect of such one shot projects may make others believe the situation is easier to solve than it is. Such projects have been done out of goodwill, yet, it perhaps is also done in rose-coloured glasses, where the artist themselves also truly believe their artwork may make a huge difference. However, reality may not be the case and there may be other factors that people fail to recognise in such big lasting problems.
Reading about Project Row Houses was amusing as, interestingly enough, I had considered doing something similar. While I may speak harsh words of the social practice arts, I would be lying if I were to say I had never thought of doing an impactful work that could help the lives of many. Yet, this beautiful thought is naive, and my eyes were opened by a friend I spoke to, who often did volunteer work to help the homeless.
I had proposed to her about the possibility of creating tiny homes in Singapore to help the homeless. As a product designer myself, I wanted to create space saving and multifunctional furniture, that could help save space while being affordable, thus creating a HDB of sorts made of small apartments for the homeless. In turn, she told me that it was not so easy to solve the issue. The homeless in Singapore had varying problems and reasons for them being homeless. Some did have homes to return to, yet found more company among the homeless, some just wanted someone to chat with, which was what their organisation did, but would reject any more help. More pressing, the government would highly reject the idea, as it would be seen as an encouragement for more to leave their homes, and instead seek shelter at the tiny homes.
Shamefully, I realised my mindset had been too shallow, and likewise to Rick Lowe, maybe we have failed to consider firstly, the true reason for homelessness and how to solve it, secondly, the other parties involved in this “art project” (the government and the homeless themselves), and finally the implications and possible outcomes of the project.
Yet, upon research on how to truly solve the problem, it would seem the solutions often involve education sectors, the government, and other parties that the arts would have little relation to. However, going in depth on the situation and looking at the pragmatic ways to solve it, it would no longer really be an “art” with a more beautified take on the topic. Which brings us to:
The very fact that “social practice” focuses on tangible issues means that, quite often, its aesthetic aspect is downplayed.
In this scenario, following my idea of what art is, I would no longer consider this “art”, but rather just social work (focusing on the issue rather than the aesthetics), that is made pretty. Not to say that it becomes less important or less valuable, but it would not be classified under art in my definitions.
Of course, that is not to say that the arts have no place in social issues. Social practice art yields a very positive outcome for topics that are focusing mainly on awareness. For topics such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment (both men and women), LGBTQ, etc, the arts can play a large role in helping those facing the fear to speak out, or the fear to allow themselves be who they are. For example, it had been thanks to the increased awareness of sexual harassment cases that many victims finally feel safer to voice their own experiences and get the help and comfort they need. In these situations, no doubt the arts may help open up conversations on these sensitive topics, and help people understand what it feels like to be in the victim’s shoes, creating a more compassionate society.
In other words, it seems there is a limit on when social practice art is highly beneficial. It may instead cause misconceptions and downplay of the severity of issues at hand, only looking at the issue superficially. Artists must know how to carefully thread on these lines, and ensure they view the problem in an all-rounded unbiased way.
My name is Tjoa Wei Lin, a Year 3 Product Design and Interactive Media student in the School of Art, Design and Media in Nanyang Technological University, looking for job opportunities in this field.
My passion lies in making functional artisan works, fusing form and function to create a well-rounded work. Being keen in creating highly conceptual works, I have a strong interest in exploring topics surrounding human nature and behaviour, usually creating intimate projects that are in relation to human presence and mind.
To accomplish my goals, I have refined skills such as model making, computer aided design rendering and worked with multiple software. These software include Unity, Processing, Arduino and HTML.
2. Link to Presentation Slides
Download my Resume here!
Slides on Alex Davies
Link to Alex Davies Site