Friday, 6 February 2009

Dissertation

Today I had a chat with Jonathan Baldwin, my dissertation supervisor, about my progress (or lack of it) regarding my dissertation.

My topic was previously related to attitudes to design. More specifically, I wanted to look at the differences in attitude between designers and non-designers and the way they respectively perceive the design world. I realised very quickly that this is a very broad topic. I wasn't initially put off by the vastness of the subject but unfortunately it was quite hard to research. Usually when one begins researching for an essay, the library is the first port of call; not in this instance. I found the odd research paper or blog post on the internet, but nothing I really felt was concrete.

So today Jonathan suggested that I picked a much more focused topic, something related to an area I am interested in. I like sailing, so he suggested maybe the way technology is used to aid solo navigation around the world in yachts. Naturally I was still indifferent and eventually he "told" me I'm to write about ways in which the 2012 Olympic Sailing Team use technology to aid training.

At first I felt (and looked, apparently) like I'd been slapped around the face with a wet fish. For someone who lacks so much direction in life, I really resent being told what to do. Either way, I thought he was slightly mad. Write a dissertation on something so specific and arguably unrelated to my degree? Sure.

After a grumpy stomp around Tesco, I went to see my horse. He was also in a grumpy mood, so together we both went on a grumpy ride for an hour or so. I thought a lot about my dissertation and design and life in general and, having had time to reflect, I feel a little brighter. If I was the emotionally outrageous, thought-proclaiming type, I would perhaps go as far as to say I had a small epiphany. However I am not, so we'll stick with feeling a little brighter.

I had never, ever thought about writing about something I enjoyed. University seems to have distilled it within me that design is just generic, predictable design. Service design, sustainable design, interaction design, zzzz... I guess that shows how small-minded I am that I couldn't think outside the box. As JB pointed out, any technology a sailing team are likely to use is probably interactive media. Also, any research I do into such an area could lead to contact-making and potentially a future career in a related area. WHY HAVE I NOT THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE?

I would have been a much happier person for the last 2.5 years if I'd stopped long enough to think about all the things I could design. I've been scared about becoming a stereotypical designer, sitting at my desk in my sheltered world, making things in photoshop. Becoming, as my grandad would have put it, a "non-producer of society". Working as an outdoors instructor for six months over the summer made me realise I want to do something that will make a difference and actually help people. I hope this means a change of attitude from now on. I think a little bit more positive thinking will help me realise that I can be a designer and not hate myself.

Still don't know what I'm going to write my dissertation on, though.

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