I have found that the most exciting, important, immersive, intellectually stimulating task of my entire degree has been writing this thesis and attending constellation as a whole. Constellation has been a gateway drug for me into a world of free thinkers, I have been able to truly challenge both myself and Product Design. Whilst reflecting in my first year I spoke about how I did not know what constellation was, surprising for some but I wasn’t even aware that I would need to write a thesis for this degree. I was naive.
My first interaction with Critical Design came during my first year, I often speak of this moment with such glee and twinkle in my eye as I stare into space and wonder to myself, ‘what kind of designer would I be if I had not been introduced?‘, the answer being probably a boring robot clone. My obsession with this genre of design was instant, I believe it was down to its ability to choose important societal issues and create projects that deserve to be discussed within communities. As a student of design I have concluded that I want what I create to impact society through bringing attention to what is currently hidden by those who wish to keep it that way. I wish to challenge the status quo through design.
For me, the idea and creation of my thesis draft was the more significant moment of this journey. I must have spent countless hours drooling over this document, I created the Bible. My personal, one of a kind Bible that would be the stepping stones for my thesis. I have found over the course of this degree that my personality has changed somewhat, I have always possessed a strong work ethic but from the beginning of the second year I really turned up the notch to well over 9000 and began planning every micro detail for all projects. This thesis draft for example; I used the pre-agreed chapters, Introduction, Politics, Psychology, Cognition and Sociology, Sustainability and finally the Conclusion. I then provided sentences which highlighted the sections of the chapters which needed to be discussed; calling them sub-chapters. Following on from this, within those sub-chapters I described what I wished to discuss within a paragraph or two accompanied by countless quotations from literature completed for the dissertation proposal. Without this thesis draft I would have been truly lost.
Constellation has taught me to think outside the box of product design. Whilst reflecting on first year constellation sessions I mentioned how I began to question my intelligence, I must say that I felt like a fish out of water during the first few sessions, the level of self doubt imposed on me was overwhelming at the beginning. Reflecting back I now understand that challenging what you know is the whole point of constellation. Constellation for me was an escape into the unknown, a place where debates could be had, challenges to preconceptions, to societal norms, a way to rid myself of chains and restrictions placed on me within Product design (briefing criteria and deliverables). I was free.
‘Designers who are concerned about short-lived products, economic inequalities and environmentally damaging practices are able to affect their design decisions using the knowledge they have gained’ (Walker, S. 2006. p188). I came across Stuart Walker whilst writing this thesis, beforehand I heard nothing but praise for his book Sustainable by Design, I must say that I truly agree with the statement above and I believe that my work throughout this degree has shown that through gaining knowledge surrounding a plethora of topics I have informed my practise of Product design.
This thesis has taught me about how flawed of a profession design truly is. Design has an incredible amount of influence within Western societies, yet, for the most part we are seeing the market flooded with reskinned technology which is not developed or improved. I believe this is one of the reasons for writing this thesis, to explore the issues that I currently see within design education. When I see figures like that of Moore (2001, p72) where it is suggested that around 10 per cent of the population own 51 per cent of all marketable wealth, I am not surprised. There is an obvious influence on aesthetics within design education which adheres to the wants of the population, consumers.
I must say that one aspect of this thesis was very surprising for me, that being within Psychology, Cognition and Sociology where the Mexico City Penis Seat (Figure 5) was discussed but more importantly the responses to that piece of Critical Design from the public. Whilst reading the article I could not fathom a scenario where this form of design was responded to in a negative manner. I became biased towards Critical Design. This thesis taught me that the profession of product/industrial design has been corrupted with influences of finance and self inflicted elitism, this conclusion allowed me to become self aware of how much design needs to change for humankind to secure its sustainment.
I believe that design education is crucial for sustainment and constellation is key for student designers to learn about topics outside of their respected fields. If a designer is learning about the world of design and only focuses on academia relating to product design there will be no innovation produced from this individual. Whereas, if a designer is exposed to topics that challenge their preconceptions of ‘normal’ then it is far more likely for that individual to produce creative, thought provoking and truly interesting work. ‘Critical designs are testimonials to what could be, but at the same time, they offer alternatives that highlight weaknesses within existing normality’ (Dunne and Raby, 2013. p35).
Following a few paragraphs of serious text I should perhaps wrap this up but giving an overall statement about constellation and my thesis. I believe that constellation has changed who I am as a person, not just a designer. I believe the first year where I studied ‘Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ were stepping stones for me, simmering information in the pan. I truly embraced constellation during ‘Cognitive Futures’ where at first I struggled to understand what was being taught but I finally began to learn and take the information in following a lecture on Critical Design. Whilst experiencing a difficult period in product design whether it was the restrictions and my attempts to not conform or whether it was briefings that were questionable to say the least, constellation was a place where I could question ‘why’. ‘Why is this situation I am facing a reality?’, ‘WHY?’ to everything.
As a student of design I have fully adopted the ideology of Critical Design within my work, I see no other alternative now. I do believe that the thesis I have written has not reached its potential, there is always room for improvements. I believe that within this thesis there are so many avenues left unexplored, discussions that deserve a chapter to itself, a sentence deserving of much more than it has gotten. I have found that Critical Design has the potential to be connected to so many topics and discussions within our society and all it needs is implementation into the societal mainstream of design.