Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Assignment 5 part A

In semester one I researched into Subway design and train stations; the cultural, environmental issues, general security and atmosphere placed around these public transports. The sources for my research were primarily surveys and journals which observed railway stations and links to crime.

How the general public found using stations everyday was my main concern, however after finding results of this I also started to question this service in other cultures, mainly Japan as their country is run by the Subway system. Gaining a greater knowledge of how to improve general public transport is important as everyone uses it and so everyone should be provided with a safe public service to use.

From my secondary research in semester one, I found a relevant Journal of information: ‘The International Journal of Transport Management 1 (2003) 121-132: Managing Crime and Fear of Crime at Railway Stations - a case study of South Wales.’ Which brings forward evidence that the general publics perception of personal crime in the station and in the vicinity of railway stations are much higher than statistics show, discouraging them from using trains. In this journal there is a specific type of research method used in finding this evidence: a Virtual Reality Interaction Programme (CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). This provided a walk-through panoramic view of a particular station, with a constructed questionnaire then completed candidates (three males, three females); results were then used in finding needs for improvisations of the railway stations.
Using this method to find out how the public viewed these stations (a total of six in six different locations) gathered some interesting results. Mainly that the stations should have better lighting, followed by increased staff and cleaning to improve customer safety. The interesting part is that all of these screen shots of stations were taking during the day, yet people noticed that more lighting was needed at night. This tells me that by using CPTED people were really paying attention because of the visual aspect of the survey; this may not have been noticed just through a series of questions.

‘Learning from the Japanese City; West Meets East in Urban Design’ Shelton B.1999; gave me an overview of Japanese Culture; why cities look the way they do, and a comparison to the Western world. In relation to my subject this source informed an idea of ‘content’ in Japan rather than ‘context‘(in the West). The locations of rail stations (according to source 1) are usually in deprived areas in Britain. Why? This made me consider how cities are laid out. I questioned the influence of other cultures on our society and how we could learn from Eastern countries to look at Design from a different point of view to perhaps improve on our public transport.
If I were to investigate this topic further with Primary research I would choose to interview the public and also use visual aids such as photographs. I believe that asking the general public is important, as you would gain a good knowledge of who uses the train, how often, what do they think of the service, any bad experiences using the train? My target group to ask would be adults younger and older who pass through the station at rush hour, travelling in and out to work every day. I’m likely to get informed answers from more frequent users. Five main questions would be enough to ask initially then I could ask more from their responses, it would be sensible to keep it under 10 minutes long, as I would hopefully get more than yes/no answers.

Interviewing combines observation; as you interview you tend to analyse their reactions especially from your own questions, so I would use the skills I have learned from my previous assignment ‘Design Safari’.

Even though I would be combining this with an interview and would mainly be observing the person I’m talking to, I could take note of the ‘type’ of person they are; businessman, traveller, etc. Paying attention to whether the interviewee seems calm or stressed when asking them about the trains with the kind of questions I ask. Current issues are important so I would ask about past experiences but mainly stick to up to date questions which would give me fresh answers.

Showing candidates three photos of three different stations and asking them to analyse the image, would help me gather a lot more information rather than just relying on my own observations, they may notice things I don’t with their interpretations.
Problems caused conducting these interviews would be the environment in which I’m interviewing; people who are rushing about for trains may either give me very short answers or not want to partake at all. However I would then ask people in cafes or sitting waiting on trains as they are more likely to be relaxed. There is a possibility of contradiction, I would have to structure my questions carefully so as not to gain an answer that the person might think I’d want to expect or hear. In-direct questions are key essentials. Some of the public may find the interviews invasive, which would then make the situation daunting for myself, questioning more people may prove difficult. The interview participation sheets would clearly state that they may stop being interviewed at any time if they feel uncomfortable and no personal information (name, age etc) will be used in the research or posted on the internet unless consent is given. I have to take into account that the answers given will be opinions, not facts, so when using the interviews for further research I must also look at other sources by other researchers.
My personal safety would be at risk as I would be asking strangers questions so during the day and at rush hours would be my target times. There may also be the risk of station staff questioning my interviewing on the premises, so I would explain my research with the use of a participation sheet. If still unacceptable I would ask in the centre of a city, as most of the public would use this public transport to get to work.

To conclude, I would make use of interviews to research further into the need to improve railway stations and subway design, including using images of different stations and asking people to analyse them. I think this will give me accurate up to date information of the general public’s opinion on the needs and improvements of stations. Also whether they feel safe, the atmosphere and everyday issues of using the train. I will do this by interviewing candidates in stations in a quieter area such as a cafĂ©, and around five main questions with sub-questions thereafter. Each candidate will be given a participation sheet and consent form to read and sign. Gaining non-bias information from the public will improve my research further and help towards looking at other sources to back-up my findings.


Cozens.P, Neale.R, Whitakers.J (2003) ‘International Journal of Transport Management 1’ Wales: Elsevier LTD

Shelton.B (1999) ‘Learning From the Japanese City: West Meets East in Urban Design.’ London: New York. Taylor and Routledge.

Assignment 5 part B

Our most recent project for jewellery was setting; to make a piece in metal which incorporates settings of other materials. This did not just involve the skills we had learnt in the workshop, our design was to be inspired by religious/ spiritual symbolism, which gave us a chance to create something with a deeper meaning, have a story attached to our designs which we might not normal choose to do. I found this brief particularly interesting because it makes you question superstition; why is luck attached to jewellery? How would you recognise a religious piece of jewellery? Why does a stone make something spiritual, protected, it made me question jewellery being associated with memories and the history of stones.
If I were to do this assignment again I would do some secondary research on spiritual symbols and religion. The main source for my research when doing this project was a book called’ Secrets of Aromatic Jewellery’ by Annette Green and Linda Dyett; Flammarion, illustrated edition (15 February 1999). A fantastic source of the history of religious and spiritual meanings of jewellery, also containing many detailed images of perfume bottles, pomanders and containers. This is a design I have become gradually more interested in as I love compartments, the ability to make something which will contain, hold or hide something precious. “Together, scent and container were considered a protection against violations of the spirit, the soul, the psyche.” (pg5) To take my research further I would use library journals and look further into jewellery used as religious objects, such as pomanders and rosary beads. Thinking about the personal identity created by both the scent and container at the same time. I would also mind map my thoughts and ideas for my design, which I did do in my sketchbook but would then brainstorm these ideas to enhance them. Amulets and pomanders were used to protect, to cleanse etc; do they have any other functions? The internet is especially useful to look up meanings and uses of precious and semi-precious stones which I would look further into.
To enhance my research further, asking the public to analyse images and interviewing would be my main body of primary research. I would ask males and females of all ages, to gather the most information and opinions I possibly can, and divide the findings by age, sex and occupation accordingly. Perhaps starting off in a shopping centre where people are likely to walk past a Jewellers that day and have maybe had a look at or bought an item that day. My thought is that most of the general public have at least a couple of items of jewellery they are attached to which have significance to them. I would not make the questions too invasive and keep them quite open to interpretation; as I am looking for how closely people are attached to their jewellery and how much they realise that symbolism plays a big part in this and for them to tell me themselves how much they know.
If I asked “Do you have any religious jewellery?” I think that people may be reluctant to answer. A better question may be “What was the last piece of significant jewellery you were given?” Hopefully if it related to symbolic connotations I could ask further questions. If asked “Do you own any jewellery that contains precious stones?” I could then ask if they knew what kind of stone it is, do they know what meaning there is attached to it if any? For creating a piece of contemporary jewellery with stone settings the results could be useful, I would perhaps find out a currently popular stone, why that is, for example is turquoise a trend in stone set jewellery at the moment because it is set to bring good fortune? Or is it because of the colour? Perhaps where it is from?
“Would you recognise a religious piece of jewellery?” Even getting a description would be useful of the kinds of images people would think of associated with that. Asking “Do you believe there is luck attached to jewellery?” Could give me varied answers but possibly some negative ones, or a short ‘no’. So I would perhaps say: “Is there a particular piece of jewellery you tend to wear all the time or frequently?
This would tell me whether it was because the piece was a gift from somebody important in their lives, to mark a special occasion, or if they wear it because it brings them luck, kind of like a modern-day talisman.
The other technique I would use to gain further information is to present to people images of jewellery, symbols, religious and spiritual. By analysing a photo of for example a pomander, which is a scent container used to cleanse sacred areas and for church ceremonies, I could find out whether people know of them, their function, the history, do they like the aesthetics of them? Also providing images of different varieties of religious and spiritual jewellery such as talisman, amulets, rings, necklaces, scent bottles, then ask people what they like about them in terms of materials, texture, colour, decoration would give me further informative ideas of how to create my design accordingly.
Now that I have done this project and have reconsidered how I would approach it using these different techniques I can see how much it could benefit my designs. Mind mapping and interviewing seems to me to make the design process more logical than just doing research, developing some ideas I like and think could work then creating a final piece. Now it feels more like I’m designing in the real world as a jeweller. I do forget that I am a design student and must pass to get to the next level of study but ultimately; my aim is to design for the people, by their information but through my research and thought process with my skills. I could apply these techniques to so many aspects of my life; I aim to carry on this process in third year to make more sense of how I’m going to carry out my work, and to carry on questioning. I will definitely be putting people, adverts, and global issues under more observation than I realise from now on, hopefully I will learn to use these observations for future designs and further thinking. Primary research is not only a key element to design but very enjoyable, by going out and asking the public questions I am interacting with potential clients, not just the ‘general public’. It has made me realise that talking to people to create contemporary designs is crucial as well as your own ideas.


Dyett.L, Green.A, (1999) ‘Secrets of Aromatic Jewellery’ Flammarion, Illustrated version.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Assignment 4, the interviews

To begin with for assignment 4 I decided to choose the topic I covered last semester which was the Design of train and subway stations. I began with a mind map and asked the question ‘Do you think the design of train stations could/need to be improved?’ in the middle of my map, then branched off with different areas. Such as culture, public service, environment and safety. Questions started to appear as I added more information, and I used the ones I thought would give me the most knowledge and interesting answers for interviewing people. Re-wording questions so as not to give directed or yes/no answers proved difficult but I think I thought about it enough to give me some good results.

I interviewed some acquaintances, friends of friends, and all gave me varied answers for most questions. This may be because three were female, one was male; the male comes from London and uses the subway at least 3 times a week, one female comes from Orkney and only uses the train in Dundee very occasionally, one female is on the train a lot and usually travels alone, and the other female is from Edinburgh but has only ever used the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow with friends/family.

My main aim was to find out how comfortable the interviewees were in train stations, how easy it is to use the service, perhaps how safe they felt on their own. Their opinion on improvement of rail service, does it need improving?

I asked ‘How useful do you find time tables in a train station?’ Generally the feedback was fairly useful and straight forward, can be confusing when in a hurry. The leaflets are easier to read than the sheets on billboards in train stations (which I also agree with) but the boards above the trains which are usually lit up are direct. One female suggested a touch screen board which you could key in information to let you see your own time table for a particular train which is an idea, however maybe not so good if you’re in a rush to get somewhere. Another female also said that the departures and arrivals boards were confusing when in a hurry, perhaps this could be of some improvement?

I did ask about congestion but the main answer was that trains themselves were occasionally packed with too many people, longer trains perhaps? But no issues with general queuing.

‘How energy efficient do you believe trains are? Should there be more information on this?’ “Guessing they would be pretty efficient because you can get more people on a train, and they’re direct. Could have a comparison of using public transport and cars to say why it’s more efficient, why it’s better for you.” All others interviewed said there was little or no information about the efficiency of trains, that there could be more.

Every single person immediately said ‘WH Smith’ when I asked ‘Which shops do they regularly see/notice in stations?’ There are also coffee shops, perhaps a pub and some fast food places. However nobody said they required anything else, a station is a passing place to get from A to B, you don’t need more than a book and a drink to pass some time whilst waiting for your train.

All interviewed said the general atmosphere is that of busy, rushed; female from Orkney also mentioned that it’s smelly, dirty and full of pigeons…not that there is anything so strange about a busy atmosphere, the hustle and bustle of a working day passes through these stations, most said this can be stressful but that it’s also just a normal occurrence, none seemed too bothered about this.

Only the male from London said that he had seen graffiti in stations, he uses the London underground regularly, and said that the images that this creates is one of vandalism.

Young teens with not a lot to do graffiti-ing tags and pictures that don’t mean much. However he mentions graffiti artwork (which I hoped someone would) and said that if it was a piece of wall art he would admire it, that he quite liked it. I asked if say street artists did this more and rid the ‘vandal’ look would the train/subway stations feel a bit safer, perhaps just more interesting? He agreed with this, if somebody like say Banksy or professional street artists were commissioned to landscape our stations then that would be good.

The question I was hoping to get a lot of interesting information from was ‘How do you feel when waiting for a train with friends compared to when you’re by yourself at a platform?’ Nobody gave me an answer that I expected, perhaps if I’d said, at night on an open platform outside, then I would have got some ‘I’d be slightly nervous’ or something similar. Also I did expect the male to say ‘makes no difference at all’ which he did. The general consensus for the three females was they’d be concerned whether they were at the right platform for the train, got the right time, but if they were with friends then they wouldn’t care. Also that it is better to have company, someone to sit with etc.

I had focused on safety and looked at surveys to do with how safe the public felt when in a train station at night last semester so I have to say I was expecting those kinds of answers, perhaps my question was too vague rather than undirected?

I asked if any of the four new of any other countries with ‘good’ subway systems? One female said she had heard that German and Scandinavian countries tended to have good railways, that we could learn from German rail as they are punctual and environmentally friendly. The male interviewee said that England tended to have better rail travel than Scotland, that France, Canada and Moscow had very good rail service. Not one mentioned Japan…which surprised me a little (again, maybe because I wrote about it last semester) but maybe due to it’s famous for its regimental shoving at rush hour? Looking back on it maybe I should have had a question to ask whether they had heard about this…

As a last question I asked what they might think tourists would think of our railway stations. All but one said that it didn’t really matter, that it was our problem to worry about and not their’s if they’re not up to our standard…but surely, if people visit this country even if we don’t care about how good we look exactly, we want them to have a pleasant experience whilst they’re here? One female said “I do believe it’s important, it all comes down to how they see our country. Tourists do use our public transport; there is always a tourist information point.” Which I thought was a good observation, why would there be info points if Tourists didn’t use our transport? I wasn’t so sure myself if many tourists would use train stations, maybe Subways more, but they probably do. Something to look up for me now would possibly be the tourist industry, how often do they use public transport?

I can see that from doing interviews I have gathered a lot of different information from only asking a few question from just four people. All with varied backgrounds and train station experience but I feel like I’ve gained some valid points which I could use as genuine research. If I asked more people would I begin to see patterns and similar answers? Or perhaps if I made my questions more detailed would have I gained more answers that I expected to get the first time round, would I make them more directed? I think if I did it again I would have asked more in-depth questions back from their answers. I can see how using interviews can be useful in gaining research of public opinion; it can be tricky however I think could be made very successful with a lot more practice!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Design Safari

For assignment 3, I to walked into town with a few flatmates and wandered about looking for a spot to observe the public. My thoughts were a place I hadn't been to in a while but loved to go to, like a coffee shop or even just a shopping centre (these involve money unfortunately and temptation to buy!). However we all immediately marched towards a shiny new sign saying 'The McManus gallery', had no clue it was the re-opening of it last Sunday.
Which is when I came to my first observations; I knew as a general rule that museums and art galleries admissions are free, neither of my flatmates new this, and there were no signs telling us otherwise. I assured them it should be free and there would be a box for donations somewhere if you wished to do so. (I didn't see one myself) Plus on the way in in the very busy fast moving queue we were given leaflets (including a map) of the gallery. We still did not know that it was the opening day but soon figured this out as it was extremely busy inside, especially for a Sunday in a museum I guess.
Since this was the opening day as a general I'm guessing that I may not have found the same sort of people as I would have done on a 'normal' day. There were families, couples of all ages, students, art students (I recognized quite a few) just...all of the public were in the gallery!
I think my challenge then for observing was to see how these different 'groups' of people acted.
I noticed that when looking at paintings, an adult would perhaps walk past and stop double backing a bit if it catches their eye, read the blurb beside the painting, and then stand back a bit to look at it again, perhaps to take in what they are seeing in more detail. I couldn't quite figure out if the art students were doing this too, but I noticed that when someone was looking at an abstract painting in the contemporary section, they took one quick look at what it was and then immediately read the information to find out what it was/what it meant etc to understand what they were looking at, as I do the same. Either that or I try to figure out what I think of it first, or how I interpret it, and then see if I'm right. Most people seemed to read the info after a quick glance first of all and then have a look at it though, like an automatic action.
Parents tend to explain to their children what they are looking at, either because of unlogical questions they ask, or ones that adults may never have thought to question... I saw a boy of about 5 or 6 run up to a drypoint sketch of a tree, onto a glass frame, and announced that 'the tree is on the glass on this side, and then there is another tree on the paper!' and then ran off into the next room to look at the next piece of work. I hadn't even noticed that the light in the room was creating a shadow from the tree onto the green paper behind it to produce another tree until that little boy had said...
From my observations so far it looked like families got a quick run round the gallery as children's attention spans are short or are elsewhere completely so parents just have to keep up with them, and on occasion children spot other things some adults wouldn't.
I could quite clearly recognize some art students when I saw some with their SLRs gathered round some paintings or sculptures and taking pictures, one also made me spot a sculpture right up in the rafters when she was pointing her camera towards the ceiling, of a gargoyle. I think the piece was called 'the king is dead' other than that i don't know much about it..
In general everyone was tending to circulate the rooms in an order, if they realised they had missed a room they would double back.
Children were most interested in the rooms with interactive screens, and running around the free-standing wall spaces.
Most with young children are lead to something that catches their eye in the room first (such as the interactive screens) then the parent slook around the room in a circular order. Everyone else does circulate as normal.
I might have listened in a little bit to a family who were all gathered round a painting by Pompeo Batoni. They were discussing the story of the painting, then refered to the information beside it, and associated it with a tv programme. As people tend to do they refered to what they could link it to in their daily lives maybe.
I think my favourite part of observing (and maybe listening in a bit although they were standing right next to me when I was taking photos of an exhibit piece) was when a father and his two girls were looking at a large Mayan headdress. One of the girls said 'that looks stupid' and the dad said 'well it may have look silly to you but it was important in their culture because the headdress showed that the woman who wore it was very wealthy..' (which i think definitely realtes back to the Taste lectures!) '...which is why it was covered in precious jewels, and also men would want to marry them'. Haaaang on a minute there, I had just read the information on the headdress and it had said that this was actually a wedding piece and that the newly-wed woman would wear this for most of her married life (god knows how as it looked extremely heavy and impractical as it was pretty big). So...he did tell his children some truth in it but has also told them his own interpretation without really knowing himself...I'm not sure if he would be too bothered to know that he got it half right or wrong, but I wasn;t too sure what to make of that myself.
It made me tell kids the truth...(which in this case wasn't really an extreme truth to tell) or to keep them happy with what we know? Children soak up information ... I'm not sure if this was the 'right' thing to tell two very young girls. It could have also been a father who was exhausted from the questions and didn't quite realise the explanation he was giving was maybe a little behind the times? I'm not keen on judging too much but it was an interesting observation for this assignment anyway!
I did enjoy doing the Design Safari, could have maybe spent a little longer in the gallery and maybe explored the rules and regulations of the way the gallery shop works or the cafe, but I felt the gallery itself was a more interesting topic for me. Also not sure if I went into too much detail or perhaps snooped more than I should have into passing conversations but I felt like that's what I was there to do!
I have to say I didn't feel too uncomfortable doing this assignment because the place I chose was a public art gallery, i would not have listened into people's conversations in a coffee shop but merely observed, as more private/personal issues would have been main topics in such places which i wouldn't have posted. I feel like thoughts and ideas in a gallery are shared with other people looking at a piece/painting anyway, sort of public opinions coming to light as i spoke to other's standing beside me about some paintings, so i decided focus on that for this task and got some interesting results.