Nadia’s blog

Lecture visualisation 9
14 May, 2008, 2:17 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

Lecture 9 was delivered by Keith Robertson and was entitled ‘Shit Design’. Keith embarked on ‘an exploration of the aesthetic in graphic design’ by completing an audit of 28 magazines (mainly those in Australia, but also a few key international magazines).

Keith looked at the differences between high- and low-end magazines (labelling these pro- and anti-aesthetic), noting the differences in price, subject matter and design.

He mainly focused on the differences between ‘That’s Life’ and ‘Vogue Living’.

For example, the use of white space.

Some of the main points Keith touched on included:

  • White space gives value, although it is the most meaningless thing of all, it means so much because we fill it with our imaginations.
  • It is a continuum with pro-aesthetic at one end and anti-aesthetic at the other.
  • Graphic design has to start seeing itself as a universal concept and not just as designing for the elite market.

  • Design, art and communication teaching at universities should become more egalitarian and not just about ‘good taste’
  • Designers should see their discipline as communication, not just marketing

The final visualisation is something I’ve always thought, which relates strongly to Keith’s lecture – that filling space on a page is akin to filling silence.


Lecture visualisation 8
4 May, 2008, 6:17 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In week 8, we had an open question session with Virginia Solomon and Di Lancashire on community. Virginia is a permaculturist and Di has completed a lot of work with some indigenous Australian communities. They each spoke on their experiences and impressions of community.

I’m not going to put up full lecture notes for this one, as it was hard to document. Below are some key points I gleaned from the lecture.

  • Virginia define a community as people gathering around a focus; religion, language, any kind of practice or philosophy, an idea… pretty much anything. Di agreed adding that communities have shared visions, values, aims and senses of problems. They can be supportive and inspiring, however, some communities have a strong sense of their boundaries and can be too exclusive.
  • I found Di’s point about water particularly interesting and poignant; she said, “All the water that will be is” and discussed the idea that most resources are like that. She said that indigenous communities realise that we are all sharing the one planet and the same resources.

    “Please sir, I want some more” is a direct quote from Charles Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”
  • They discussed the preciousness of water: Most of the word’s water is inaccessible to us – saltwater in the sea, ingrained in soild, etc. Di said that 3% of the world’s water is fresh, and only 1% is usable. Virginia spoke about a conference she went to where they discussed “revering water in an almost spiritual way”. In response, Di said it could be better described as “respect” and “attending” to things.
  • Di discussed the dilemma for designers (and others) of how to get important messages across without depressing people – we don’t want to disempower people. Designers must find ways of communicating positive messages.
  • Virginia said we need to act local because global issues are simply too big. Things can be done immediately on a community level, tomorrow or even now. She says we should look at where we live and see the potential.
  • Di discussed the relevance of design research (relating it to her own experience). If you research something you find out things that fundamentally affect our everyday life. Mainstream media doesn’t tell you that. Communities disseminate information well. She also raised the interesting point that a computer is a tool, it doesn’t make you design any more than a pen makes you write.
  • Di spoke about there being thousands of different indigenous Australian communities, each with different issues, whom should not be lumped together – this is what the mass media does. The more each community could communicate their issues, the better it would be. Says the new government acknowledges people and issues better; “acknowledges where people are.”
  • Virginia discussed a future without oil. Melbourne is not a walkable city, future communities based around food gardens will look after themselves naturally when people can’t drive places anymore. She says designers (of all sorts) should design without carbon based fuels and see where it takes us.
  • Both Di and Virginia discussed the idea that we follow the European seasons here and that we expect all produce all of the time. Do we even know what seasons many fruits are from? Virginia offered that if oil is more scarce in the future, given Australia’s remoteness, could food stop being imported from overseas?
  • Virginia discussed the key values of permaculture; it teaches that we have choices, and if we know what the choices are, then we can make ethical decisions. Permaculturists make choices knowing full-well what they mean. She said we need to inform ourselves and find our own truth. Di agreed, saying that all you can do is make yourself aware. She said there are so many vested interests out there, so we have to think critically and make informed choices, even if it is hard to find the facts.
  • Virginia discussed the concept of cradle to grave solutions that could be implemented by manufacturers or sellers of consumer goods.
  • They finished off by saying that there is a design opportunity to be ethical – it is no longer acceptable to not think about ethical issues (eg: thinking about materials used). They said that what you save and don’t use adds up to money you save and that this is not at odds with sound economic theory.

Lecture visualisation 7
25 April, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In week 7, we were delivered a lecture on theory and explanation and the French theorists Foucault and Bourdieu by Keith Robertson.

What is theory?
A set of facts, propositions or principles analysed in their relation to one another and used, especially in science, to explain certain phenomena.

Theory is often the difficult side of research and often the most exciting.

  • Delving into areas you’ve never been before
  • Driven by philosophy
  • Many opposing positions can be taken (theorists often entirely reject other theorists’ work)

Not really looking at ‘the truth’; theories are just angles or windows on the truth – interpretations.

Design theory is new and in its infancy, however, this is not entirely so – design theory borrows from many other areas. Ideas are mined from other areas.

  • Complex, rarely simple – bringing together a whole lot of areas
  • Borrow and interpret phenomena through theories that already relate to each other
  • Bologna model – specialists in education are taught simultaneously with other educational disciplines with the hope that a broader education might facilitate a wiser more versatile knowledge base that might produce better informed judgements than those made from a narrow point of view (though this is only one theory) – should education be more general?
  • Theories are new ideas


  • Madness and civilisation
  • Philosopher, of sorts
  • Didn’t dissect ideas so much as collect them
  • Discovered that madness had a much more acceptable and less stigmatised status than it does today. Mad people were accepted for the talents they had. But now it is a ‘mental illness’.
  • Madness keywords: Archaeology (learning about the past by digging up facts about the past and assembling a truth which hadn’t been done before his search) and genealogy (family tree stuff – mapping of changes in direction of the history of madness).
  • Suddenly, from people being tolerated or appreciated for their worth in society, they were locked up in asylums.
  • Madness became medical and medicine became scientific.
  • Electric shock ‘therapy’ – brain got fried

    See Sarah, told you I’d do it! :P
  • Now we treat mental illness with drugs – drugs, drugs, drugs for everything!
  • Discipline and punish
  • Controlling techniques: Hierarchical control, normalising judgement and examination.
  • Execution, humiliation (public rituals) – throw rotten fruit at people with their heads in the stocks
  • Panopticon – multi-storey building – creating surveillance for observation. Used in prisons. One observer and many observed.
  • Concern with normality is a modern phenomena
  • Panopticon became a metaphor for modern society – control of masses of people enforced by schools, etc.
  • History of modern sexuality
  • Science of sexuality. Controlling sexuality.
  • Sex vs crime
  • Modern control of sexuality parallels modern control of criminality by making sex (like crime) an object of allegedly scientific disciplines, which simultaneously offers knowledge and discipline of its subject.
  • Education is a method of ‘normalising’ people.
  • People controlled internally – willing self-control
  • Panopticon – design to change behaviour.
  • Design when used in this way is never neutral, it’s an instrument of power and it controls how people interpret information.


  • Social direction
  • Influenced by his conscription and being a peasant.
  • Looked at social change
  • Created new concepts which went against the old concepts.
  • Uses any research method that does the job
  • Pedagogic violence – authority figures, empty vessels being filled by teachers, top-down, using position to inflict views in a one-directional way – THIS IS A VIOLENT ACT.
  • Cultural abitraries – things we assume are normal and okay (Bourdieu says that when things become accepted in this way, we must then begin to question them).
  • Fields – a concept developed by Bourdieu.
  • ‘Value maintenance’ – the role of formal education.
  • Society in every area is in a struggle.
  • Keith says these concepts as relating to design.
  • Habitus
  • Best way to learn is through learning from our environment (learn from our parents) rather than schooling – schooling reinforces our original values
  • Designers relate to habutus at every level
  • Distinction
  • A book about taste – patterns of taste, why is it distributed throughout society in this way.
  • Questionnaires, interviews, observation and photography – about French cultural consumption
  • Working class people enjoyed more literal entertainments (ie: didn’t like experimental stuff, liked accessibility in art, didn’t like things that were too difficult or esoteric).

I found this lecture to be quite evocative of imagery, so I might even do a few more visualisations if I get the time!

Lecture visualisation 5
16 April, 2008, 9:48 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In the week 5 lecture Craig Austen described the work of Edward deBono in his lecture On design thinking: A conversation between certainty and possibility: Revisiting the work of Edward deBono. Craig also outlined his process of visually representing deBono’s theories and also integrating them with the design process.

Edward deBono’s work is all about the way the brain works – he approaches this from a medical background, and not a design one, like Allan Whitfield. He is probably most known for coining the term ‘lateral thinking’ and his ‘Six thinking hats’ model.

deBono on Design thinking

  • With 11 pieces of clothing, there would be 39916800 different ways to get dressed – the brain makes patterns so it doesn’t get confused. The brain is a brilliant self-organising system
  • Creativity is a dysfunction
  • There are many shades of grey between black and white (on/off, yes/no)
  • Lateral thinking is almost the opposite of fuzzy logic (vertical thinking is the opposite of lateral thinking – lateral thinking is thinking sideways

  • Socrates looked at critical analysis, Plato looked at truth and untruth, Aristotle looked at categories and identity
  • We must have understanding/experience to analyse or judge – we won’t even realise, it just happens for us to survive (analysis- and judgement-oriented thinking are past-based – generative (creative) thinking is not)

Developing a design process model

  • Simplifying is a complex process
  • We have evolved to be more complex
  • There is a context to everything
  • Is the design process linear, or when we hit a wall, do we wander within the design process?

Developing a design thinking framework

  • deBono’s models:

o Parallel thinking (six thinking hats) – directs thinking
o Lateral thinking – shifts perceptions
o Direct attention thinking tools – deepens and broadens perception

  • We have a major pre-disposition to the main track of thinking that we don’t notice other branches (tunnel vision)

  • Adversarial thinking is more black and white – politicians
  • deBono coined the term ‘surpetition’ to refer to something more than just competition in the corporate world
  • We can all be designers because we can all be involved in design thinking
  • “We try to do too many things simultaneously – let’s unbundle it!”
  • A company brainstormed 29000 ideas, but it took 9 months to harvest them
  • Funneling and sorting is one of the most important design concepts

Six thinking hats

  • Blue hat: Thinks about the thinking being used and is used for the process control – for organisation and for ‘conducting the meeting’
  • White hat: In charge of data, facts and information – what you need to know
  • Green hat: Creative , pause to allow your brain to make things up and suspend judgement – creative thinking, new ideas, alternatives and possibilities.
  • Yellow hat: Looks for benefits, value, feasibility and logical positive assessment
  • Black hat: Critical judgement, caution and logical negative assessment
  • Red hat: Feelings, intuition, hunches and emotions

A task-oriented design thinking framework

  • There are things you know, things you don’t know (these comprise 50 per cent) and things you don’t know you don’t know (the other 50 per cent)

Lecture visualisation 4
2 April, 2008, 3:37 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In Lecture 4, Tony showed us a video called The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

A summary of what the film is about can be found here. You can learn more on the Power of Community website.

‘Peak’ oil refers to the point at which oil production reaches its height (after this, there is always less produced). However, peak oil is just the beginning; the same process will occur with natural gas, coal and uranium.

Most developing countries have the wrong vision for the future, in terms of sustainability. For example, China and other developing countries aspire to be like America, in that, they want to consume like America. However, even America won’t be able to consume like America at some point.

The major use of fossil fuel is on food production (which surprised me).

With relation to Cuba, they fell into a deep economic crisis (known as the ‘Special Period’ after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The average Cuban lost 20 lbs. There was no imported fuel and blackouts for hours on end. You would have to wait three or four hours for a bus that might be full anyway.

The US “suffocated” Cuba by denying any ship that docked in there access to the US for six months.

A lack of fuel led to a lack of food. Out of sheer need, Cuba made drastic changes.

There was a major effort to convert every piece of arable land to agriculture. Any idle plots in the city were converted to ‘urban agriculture’. Cuba has become a shining example of the ‘permaculture‘ movement.

Today Cubans are much more self-sustainable. They work and study closer to home and eat local produce. Farmers are among the highest paid workers (they are also at an advantage as they already have food, and can also sell it) and others are able to supplement their income through permaculture.

Cubans also use more sustainable sources of energy, like solar power, particularly for schools and clinics.

Cuba has changed its entire social ethos. From being a country that used to use huge amounts of pesticides, to being one which has 80 per cent organic produce is a huge leap. Cubans truly live on the land – “The first ethic is to take care of the land, the earth, if we don’t take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us, get rid of us”. They work with nature, not against it.

And it is about community
• “It’s not the technology, it’s the human relations”
• “Recovering the sense of neighbour is not going backwards”
• “We need more friendship, more love because we only have one world and it’s for all of us”

Whilst I feel we can all learn valuable lessons from Cuba’s example, the cynic in me says that in prosperous societies, little will change until it has to. In Cuba, they didn’t change their ways until it was forced upon them, and I feel that the same will happen for us. Whilst it is a matter of life and death, it is, to most people, not something that feels real. Until it feels real, there will be very little action taken.

The visualisation above shows Fidel Castro and Kevin Rudd saying the same things. These are all the messages Fidel Castro would have had to deliver to his people in the midst of the oil crisis or ‘special period’. Imagine how Australians today would react if Kevin Rudd told us we had to change our ways so drastically. Would anyone make these changes voluntarily? We already complain that our public transport system isn’t good enough – who would voluntarily wait three or four hours for a bus?

Whilst the Cubans provide an excellent case study of how to deal with a crisis in a way that promotes a beautiful society in which community and environmental values are held in high regard, it is hard to envision Australia in this light until it reaches its own crisis point. It would only be then that we could see the messages the Prime Minister would inevitably have to deliver as a positive message, hence the negative/positive execution of the piece.

Lecture visualisation 3
20 March, 2008, 6:26 am
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

For lecture 3, we were privileged enough to have Allan Whitfield speak to us about the ‘Hunter-gatherer brain’.

I found this a fascinating lecture. Allan was a most engaging speaker and he delivered the scientific content in an easy-to-understand manner. It was a most entertaining, humourous and interesting lecture.

Allan told us that the way the human brain works today is due to our ‘ancestral brain’. Our primate ancestors date back to 5 million years ago, and that within each of us there are inherent remnants of those days on the savannah.

Some things have changed, like the world around us, and the technology we have, but we are still essentially the same.

Some points on the ancestral brain:

  • Language began 200 thousand years ago
  • Agriculture began 10 thousand years ago
  • In the days of the savannah, “we carried with us everything that we own”

  • In the grasslands, we were part of the food chain
  • We survived by forming groups – the basis of culture and society
  • If you were ostracised, you were killed and eaten
  • 1.2 million years ago, fire was discovered, which meant we didn’t need such powerful jaws, we could cook food, and therefore didn’t need to grind food so much
  • Fire also allowed us to see at night
  • Language could have begun to allow us to communicate at night
  • We are separated from other primates by our lockable kneecaps (and now bigger brain and smaller hips)

The brain is powered by emotion, and our main thoughts are:

  • Can I eat it?
  • Can it eat me?
  • Can I mate with it?

The brain recognises objects quickly – the amygdala, a primitive, early part of the brain ‘sees’ before we do and takes action

  • What is it?
  • Is it good or bad?

Our brains are made to make sense of a week, this is why it is difficult to communicate something like, “In 40 years you will have cancer from smoking.” There were no long-term goals in the savannah. With reference to ‘climate change’, because it is gradual, the brain ignores it. The brain finds it difficult to focus on background features.

Some things are ‘wired-in’ (inherent, innate) and others are socially acquired:

  • Gifts have more significance to women than men – modern-day men can’t give women the best cut of meat like they did on the savannah, it is much more complex nowadays

  • The popularity of confectionery is possibly due to being that if it was sweet, it was more likely okay to eat on the savannah (they ran the risk of starvation, not obesity)

In design, packaging has two functions:

  • Container and indicator of content
  • To the brain, the package is the surface of the object
  • It indicates its performance – brain decides whether it does or doesn’t like it
  • Package is the interface for the brain – people perceive beautiful things as being usable (like websites)
  • Transposed savannah processing of objects to packaging
  • This is why we don’t package raw foods – we have evolved with raw foods and expect to see them, they are imprinted on the brain and are true brands
  • We design packaging with the aspiration that they will become true brands

Humans have superb visual memory, we don’t smell an oncoming tiger, we see it.

Lecture visualisation 2
14 March, 2008, 5:51 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In Lecture 2, we were exposed to a panel comprised on Judith Glover, Denise Meredyth and Stephen Huxley who discussed the issue of sustainability and ethos.

Ethos is about society’s voice, beliefs, behaviours, ideologies and consensus. It comes from community, government and commerce. Sustainability will have to become a part of our ethos.

Since World War II, we have been encouraged to consume, and we have begun to consume the planet to death. If it happens, the future holds a transition from one set of social behaviour to another (consumerism to sustainability).

The future also raises a number of ethical concerns, for example:

  • Should we manufacture what people want and what will make money, despite the negative impacts or repercussions they may have on the environment
  • Consider services like Google, YouTube, etc. have servers running 24/7 and the environmental impact that may have
  • As designers, we should consider whether what we are producing is needed, in what form it is needed (eg: does it need to be printed?), how it will affect the environment and can whatever it is be smaller or have less of a ‘footprint’.
  • Should we all be working closer to home and nurturing local communities?
  • Do we need to own (anything)? Can we just hire, borrow or share?
  • Are we actually recycling effectively?

Other interesting points from the lecture included:

  • Economy versus sustainability. For the economy, we need to keep people spending, but also make them save. If people consume less, will we have ‘negative growth’ and will that be detrimental to the economy?
  • Sustainability is a part of everything
  • It is not just about designing things, but designing ways of doing things
  • ‘Green’ has become fashionable

Below are my lecture visualisations:

Is the promotion of consumerism more of a con? What do you really get out of consuming?

Are we just consuming the Earth to death and using up more than we have? Consider the effect you have and multiply by 6 billion …

Spin cycle economy – what goes around comes around, and must do so. How do we become ‘green’ without threatening the economy?

Is ‘green’ a fashion statement (or the latest fad)? A new take on fashion recycling.