Studio & Entrepreneurship – Week 8: Building New Models & Tools for Future Practice

Week 8 Lecture & Resources

Thoughts on Resources & Lecture

“Collaboration is key to the success of any product or service because collaboration brings out the best in people. You find that ideas become stronger, you learn better, everything is quicker. It’s just a better thing for everyone when you have a collaborative process that combines lots of different skills and unique points of views together. You end up with something greater than the whole.”

– Dan Parry, Tectonic


Research

Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and the Elastic Mind book, designed by Irma Boom.

On a visit to the Fine Art Library in Edinburgh, I discovered a really thought-provoking book, Design and the Elastic Mind. It was designed by Irma Boom, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) published it to accompany an exhibition of the same name, held at the MoMA in New York in 2008. Having examined the content of the book, I assume the “elastic mind” part of the title refers to the concept of neuroplasticity, the idea that the human brain can continue to learn new things and adapt as we go through life (Psychology Today 2021).

It features a wide variety of visually stimulating projects which really push the boundaries of design, and include many cross-disciplinary collaborations – there are contributions from design, science, (nano)technology and elements of futurism, along with some great examples of information design and data visualisation.

One such project, collaborative work created by Rachel WingfieldMathias GmachlLoop, pH is a called Biowall, shown below.

Biowall

From the gallery label at the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition:

Biowall is a woven scaffold that becomes a partition when colonized by living plants. In their attempt to create a modular building system based on structures found in nature, the designers looked at several geometries, such as Penrose tiles (pairs of shapes that tile a plane so that no section of the pattern is repeated) and Synetic structures (airy, lacelike basketries of thin arcs over which pressure is evenly distributed). They opted for a weave of twelve small circles made of one-millimetre fiberglass rods around which the plants could grow and creep. “The construction is based on the principle of self-similarity, translating a biological construction from the nanoscale to the macroscale. It can be seen in our natural environment in the formation of bubbles, living cells, and water molecules,” the designers have explained.

I love the idea of creating a living wall that echoes organic structures, but also allows plant life to gradually envelop it as it grows around the Biowall. If they were to capture it on film throughout the “evolution” I imagine you could create a really beautiful time-lapse.

A TED Talk by MoMA Curator of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli,
explaining Design and the Elastic Mind.

Given that the MoMA held the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition in 2008, it’s interesting to see how forward-thinking so many projects featured in the exhibition and the accompanying book were, and still seem very contemporary now, even over a decade later.

Design prototypes: “Bubble Screen” (top) and “bit.fall” (bottom).

Above: Installation views of Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at MoMA.

Above: The AMOEBA, or Advanced Multiple Organized Experimental Basin was developed in Japan to evaluate effect waves have on the design of a ship.
An unexpected discovery was that the prototype could create letterforms on the water’s surface using specific wave forms to “draw” letters and shapes.

Workshop Challenge

Proposal for a collaborative tool or process.

Design Development

An example of a composite image I created by layering two different images in Photoshop, using masking, different opacities and blending modes.
Draft page layout designs for the final visual proposal.

Final Design: Visual Proposal

To view the final proposal as a PDF, click here.


Reflection on the week

After some deliberation, I opted to focus on the idea that I thought would be the more straightforward of the three to execute, at least in part due to time constraints.

I was really inspired by a collaborative photography project where two cousins living in different parts of Italy stayed connected by sharing images when they couldn’t see each other in person due to the pandemic.

They chose a theme together and communicated by sharing a visual dialogue, inspired by the words of Tolstoy – which sounds as beautifully poetic as the resulting photographs. The project was an ongoing one, and every month they would agree a new theme.

Connection is something that is so vital to the human experience but something that has been much harder to come by due to this period of facing necessary lockdowns and social distancing we’ve been living through.

I liked the idea of feeling connected to others by sharing images and exploring creativity, and took it a step further by deciding to make new images that are composed of photographs from two or more people. My hope is that it would lead to some interesting juxtapositions and unexpected, thought-provoking combinations generated through this collaborative process.


References

ANTONELLI, Paola. 2007. ‘Design and the Elastic Mind.’ [online lecture]. TED Talk. Available at https://www.ted.com/talks/paola_antonelli_design_and_the_elastic_mind [accessed 28/07/2021]

Museum of Modern Art. 2008. Design and the Elastic Mind. New York: Museum of Modern Art.

MoMA. ‘Design and the Elastic Mind.’ Available at https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/58 [accessed 28/07/2021]

Psychology Today. 2021. ‘Neuroplasticity.’ Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/neuroplasticity [accessed 23/08/2021]

Tectonic. Available at https://www.tectoniclondon.com/ [accessed 25/07/2021]