Constellation summarised / Learning Journal

Having explored all subject options for constellation, ‘Sustainable Practices’ appealed to me most as I believe that I, as a product designer could be a key player in the future of the way that products are made, understanding the importance of being a sustainable practitioner in the consumerist world we live in today. I was pleased to be assigned to this group for the first term. Having read Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s ‘Cradle to Cradle re-making the way we make things’ over the summer, I felt I had some understanding of frameworks for going beyond sustainability/designing for abundance in a circular economy. I felt I had a good understanding of the subject as a whole having studied Geography at A level but, I was interested in learning more about how it directly affects my practice as a product designer and therefore, how I should be applying some of these theories and methods in my work.

I soon realised that the subject was much broader than I anticipated and that it directly related to my practice in many more ways than I initially anticipated e.g. material choice and the selling/shipping of goods. This excited me and I looked forward to continuing with the subject and discovering more. Something I didn’t know was how the rise of (un)sustainability came about and was shocked to discover it ageing back to the first industrial revolution! I worked well with Huw’s teaching dynamic mixing formal with informal methods alongside setting both individual, and group tasks. The sessions were very interactive, encouraging us to voice our opinions and question others – something I would have been weary of doing before.

Participating in group tasks as a part of a different group each week posed many opportunities. I was able to gain and share ideas both with, and from, a range of people that I wouldn’t have necessarily worked with otherwise. It was interesting to see how people from different disciplines often took different views on matters being discussed. The fine artists often took an aesthetics approach whereas the architectural design students often favoured functionality. Fine artists often incorporating many ideas, sometimes obscure, but, fascinating. Working as mixed disciple groups has encouraged me to start thinking outside of the box and adopt an open-minded approach to tasks. It has also encouraged me to compromise as for the reasons discussed, people would have such different inputs, for the first time I had to consider all of these, as opposed only the ones within my own discipline. The tasks had to be completed within short time scales which encouraged me to work and research concisely and quickly, something that has been very beneficial to me as an individual as can often spend a lot of unnecessary time on untimed tasks. In doing so, my personal time management skills have developed. Occasionally, working in a group proved challenging. I certainly noticed this during the life-cycle thinking task as my group members took a back-seat approach allowing me to take the lead and do the majority of the work. Wanting to encourage input from everyone, I assigned a small task to each member (something I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to say/do before constellation). Despite members leaving, I persevered after being told that ‘you get out what you put in’ when it comes to constellation, and it was certainly true. I gained a lot of useful insight when it came to presenting and listening to other groups in the afternoon.

My public speaking and presentation skills have improved. Having to present in front of a crowd of mixed disciplines beyond my subject practice only, has improved my confidence. I particularly gained from the feedback I received in the fifth weeks presentation task. Taking this feedback on board, I researched it further in order to use it in my final assignment. Seeing different examples of stainable design in practice was insightful. It showed me how sustainable design can be applied to other practices for example, in textiles, the pineapple leaf leather concept. There were many more examples than I anticipated, some very quirky, for example, the cow manure furniture, it inspired me to think outside of the box when it comes to material choice – as a product designer, I have the ability to experiment with new materials and concepts in the future. I learned new knowledge, terminology and theories within sustainable practices study group for example, Green Design, consumerism, obsolescence, the circular economy, the enlightenment, different laws e.g. the law of self-interest and the law of competition, past leaders and inspirers in the industry such as Raymond Lowey and Henry Dreyfuss, design for abundance and many others. All of the above knowledge and understanding, I am now able to take forward and apply in my own practice as a product designer. I feel like I am now equipped with a new toolbox of terms and knowledge to begin designing sustainably myself.

Despite studying English at A level, writing my final assignment proved difficult requiring me to adopt and a new academic writing method. I’ve never learned how to reference so the few teaching sessions were useful in helping me understand how to do this. The sessions helped refresh my academic writing skills in general as my work has been very practical. I now have a better understanding of how to reference although am still not completely confident. I aim to better my skills in this area through further practice and research. Having the blog to write has been good revision in refreshing my memory on weeks content and in reflecting on what I learned in each one.

My second study group, ‘Meshworks of objects’, has allowed me to apply and further build upon the skills previously mentioned alongside introducing some new ways of thinking and working. I was introduced to adopting more of a hands on approach in order to explore theories and concepts for example, both the clay and the film making activities. This allowed me to do and discover things for myself. The study group also taught me ways and theories for curating and analysing objects and artworks beyond their initial appearance for example, Bill Brown’s Thing Theory. However, this study group was extremely abstract and sometimes left me feeling confused. I could understand how it would be applicable to other subject practices for example, fine art, however, as a product designer, I strongly feel that the sustainable practices study group was much more relevant, enjoyable and applicable to me hence why I have chosen to take it forward for my final submission. On the whole, I’ve learned a lot from my first experience of constellation. I plan to apply all of the skills and theories learned going forward in my subject practice.

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