FIELD 5 – BEYOND THE BARCODE – TERM 2 – PROJECT REFLECTION

Without a doubt this has been one of, if not, my favourite project since studying at CSAD…

I really didn’t enjoy Field in the first year, so wasn’t looking forward to undertaking 2 Field projects during second year expecting them to be equally as unenjoyable. My assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Beyond The Barcode as a module. I’ve really enjoyed the delivery of the module and the split between tutorial time, lecture time, guest speakers, workshops and free time to get on with the work and tasks given.  Having input from guest lecturers / speakers on a weekly basis including Jenny Kate, Alex, Dewi etc has been hugely insightful and inspiring giving a real sense of how everything works in the real world / industry. Having Alex come in and speak to us and also give us some feedback / tutorials was hugely beneficial and interesting. Hearing his background and how he’s worked his way up through the industry was incredible, I found this really inspiring and hugely appreciated being able to have him on board for the project and being able to help me and give me input in terms of my own business. Likewise with Jenny Kate, it was incredible to see / hear how she has developed her business from her ideas at UNI to where she is today with her business and getting an insight to some of the behind the scenes and marketing strategies. Although I was a little unclear to begin with on what the required deliverables were, I feel like I have produced a good portfolio of work that I’m pleased to present and feel like I’ve developed hugely as an individual in multiple senses over the past weeks. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone a little during this project, delving into something completely different, that I’ve always been interested in but, haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn more about. The project has definitely lit a spark of passion and interest with me and I’m certainly going to continue developing the ideas and work that I’ve produced as its something that lies close to me and I believe, has real potential as a business in the real world. So much so, completing this Field module has completely transformed my prospects for after my degree and I’ve changed my dissertation focus to a business plan.

Cardiff Met EDGE – I feel that this field module has given lots more opportunity explore the Cardiff Met EDGE (Ethical, Digital, Global and Entrepreneurial). Ethically I’ve had to consider my target audience and the fact that people come from all sorts of backgrounds and have different viewpoints towards all aspects whether it be cultural, racial, environmental etc. This is something I’m really interested in hence hoping to include a race/religion episode on my podcast series. Digitally I’ve done a lot of exploring and experimenting. I’ve explored lots of digital avenues including photography/film, website building, social media marketing, new digital softwares, digital sketching, logo design – the list is endless! I’ve had to make decisions on which softwares are best suited to completing particular tasks as well as completely learn/teach myself new softwares. The opportunities, capabilities and possibilities are endless in this field, I don’t think you can ever know enough when it comes to using digital skills and softwares hence why I plan to continue putting all of these skills to use as well as developing upon them. In terms of being global, I’ve had to research and consider global brands, companies and customers as this is a global matter and has researchers and developers in the field across the world. I’ve also had to think globally in the means of my products and services, who might they reach or be available to? Will they be applicable and appropriate to people across the globe? And arguably the biggest one for this project, Entrepreneurial. This project has been extremely entrepreneurial with its business focus – I’ve developed a breadth of new knowledge and skill in this field that I will continue to carry with me, use and develop both in my spare time and back in my Product Design practice. As I will continue to discuss in this blog, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear and learn off so many entrepreneurial people from industry as well as beginning to learn some of the skills and knowledge required to start a business and begin putting these to practice with my own business concept. I will continue to discuss these in more detail however, thought it would be appropriate to mention The Met EDGE here and how this field module particularly has given opportunity to develop all four of these key skills.

Due to a severe deterioration in my health, particularly over the second half of the project, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the volume or quality of work that I’d have liked to, or, would have been able to achieve without these health struggles having spent a lot of the time in hospital. However, I have to remember, these health struggles are what in fact have inspired this business idea/brand and this has given me time to reflect upon and appreciate that in a more positive, better mindset. If anything, this has greater informed my aspiration to continue developing this idea / business and hopefully, one day in the near future be able to build it into a real business for myself.

 

So, my business idea and developments thus far;

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After much confusion, curiosity and a lot of suffering with unusual symptoms, at the age of 13 I was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, one of the two main forms of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). As yet, there is no cure to these debilitating diseases. At this very young and vulnerable age, I began working my way through the list of harsh treatments available to try and get some control of my symptoms and regain my life that was being striped of me. Unfortunately not much luck was had. My symptoms continued to worsen and I began spending more time in hospital than I did in school. In 2015, when I was 17, my body eventually gave in. With no options left and days before my condition would lead to me to bleeding to death, I underwent emergency surgery to remove the majority of my diseased colon. This left me with a temporary stoma which I had to overcome both mentally and physically. Following this time of recovery, my symptoms began to return in my remaining colon and rectum again, with no treatments succeeding leading to another emergency surgery to remove the remainder of my colon, rectum etc making my stoma permanent. In very short, this is my IBD story and leads me to where I am today. This story has shaped the majority of my life and my stoma is something I now deal with on a daily basis along with the complications of my disease. Being a young person growing up, and dealing with these experiences, I’ve particularly noticed that much of the literature and guidance to do with IBD but in particularly, stomas, is very much tailored to the elderly not to mention the huge stigma there is surrounding the subject making it very hard for anyone but particularly younger people to come to terms, learn about and manage what they’re going through. As my research shows, one in four people newly diagnosed are actually under the age of 16 so this really doesn’t make sense that things are this way…

This is where my brand’s story stems from. I’ve grown up with very little aid in terms of understanding and empathy for people my age going through these experiences. Everything is extremely medical and mundane. Literature is focused on the elderly and there is much taboo surrounding the subject meaning that people don’t want to or, don’t feel comfortable discussing these things. This is where I want to make a change. OSTO.ME is an empathetic and inspiring brand that creates products and services aimed at a general target market of people with chronic illness, invisible illness, bowel disease and those particularly who’ve undergone bowel and stoma surgery whatever their age or background. This is my WHO. These products and services steer away from those of the typical medical generation that are currently on the market and aim to break down the stigmas and taboos surrounding these illnesses with aim to empower and inspire the customers, making them feel part of a community and more comfortable in their own skin and with what their bodies are going through. This is my WHY.

During this project, my concept has developed immensely from a very very basic concept with no real idea or purpose, just a recognition of a need and gap in the market, all of the way through to thoroughly researching the current market and trends, placing myself within these and recognising my strengths and weaknesses as well as what I can provide that they and nobody else can’t. I then moved onto creating a brand name and streamline and putting this into a logo thus creating the beginning of a brand image and beginning to place this on marketing strategies such as social media, a website, marketing imagery and business cards. I’ve began creating concepts for physical products and merchandise as well as digital such as a podcast, social media and a website. I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and experimented with new softwares and skills, attempting to delve into the world of the fashion design course. Evidence of all of this and my developments for product and services ideas can be found in my blog. This is a part of the project I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as it has allowed for creativity and personal touch, what we’re good at here at CSAD, but has also given this creativity and what we’re doing purpose with real world research and justification for the need and placing of this particular brand. I even went as far as researching into how I might be able to kick start and achieve this business financially. A lot of this initially would require my time and effort with some small costs for things here and there eg website domain, sample items. However, when it would come to beginning to develop and produce products (in particularly those physical) I might require some sponsorship or funding. So, I began researching and mind mapping this and even got into conversation with one company, ‘The Good Neighbour RX’, who have actually made an offer for the near future to work with them and financially support some of my ideas which is incredible. This is my WHAT.

Now, with a concept of a brand and some of its potential services and products, I was able to begin thinking about and developing some marketing strategies for it. Again, I was thoroughly interested in this area in particularly the social media marketing aspect however didn’t realise there was so much background, theory and knowledge to it. I learned that there’s much more to this aspect than anticipated and was rather overwhelmed but with some of the tools and knowledge advised by the team of tutors that its quite easy once you’ve cracked it and begin developing a customer basis and fan base if you like for your products / company. Something key that I learned is that you could have an absolutely fantastic business / brand idea but, if you get your marketing wrong, this could have absolutely detrimental effects to the business, in some cases leading to huge loss and failure. I would have liked to have maybe had a little bit more time to focus on this area to get my marketing strategies really crisp and refined however, I’m going to continue to develop on this  and my skills in this area in my own time, seeking advice and assistance where needed so that I have a strong portfolio that I feel markets and showcases my brand and ideas at their very best.

On the whole, I really feel as if I’ve developed in many areas over the duration of this project not only in my knowledge and skills but, in myself as a person too. Being mixed within a new group outside of my subject practice, I’ve gained confidence in myself and my ideas to be able to pitch them to new tutors, guests and a new group of colleagues in particularly due to the theme of the idea / business being very personal to me, this is unlike anything I’ve done before. Through this, my professional skills have developed and I’ve been able to have many real world like business orientated conversations with people from a range of industries. I definitely feel more confident in going into similar discussions/conversations in the future. This kind of thing is difficult to demonstrate on a blog but it is one of the highlights of the project for me personally and I’m really proud and pleased with this. Another one of my personal highlights has been taking an interest in the fashion design side of things so much so, that I’ve booked myself into weeks worth of workshops in this field and have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try and include some work in this area within my final portfolio which although I can appreciate is probably very low fidelity for a fashion student, I’m really proud of this and have actually discovered something new that I’m really interested and enjoy being clothing design. This is something I actually can’t wait to continue developing my skills in so that hopefully, one day in the near future I can actually begin printing and stitching some of my designs and ideas onto actual garments. These are just some of my highlights from the past weeks. I think it’s easy to tell that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this project, where a lot more detail and imagery of the weeks can be seen throughout my blog, despite some of my health setbacks, I’m really pleased with some of the work and ideas I’ve been able to produce but even more so, my personal skill development – these I will definitely continue to work on and take through to all aspects of my other work.

Thank you to Irene, Dewi and all guests, I look forward to further developing my ideas and pestering you for your knowledge and help.

 

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