How do you start an international walkabout? I don’t know. From my London trip, I knew it would mean seeking out people to have good and meaningful conversations and creating an offer, but most importantly, my starting point was my ‘WHY’. The reason that I wanted to do this was to ‘help people to come together and use their creativity to better themselves and others’. Here are some of the approaches I used. In a way, each creative approach created stepping-stones for new directions and amazing conversations.
A.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Design Research Companies
While writing a poem about creative confidence for Forgotten Letters book, I had used Twitter to ask people to describe when they felt at their most ‘creatively confident’. This exercise led to the idea of mapping inspirational design research companies around the world using Google Maps, which I entitled ‘The Hitchiker’s Guide to Design Research Companies‘ – as at this point where the companies were was not the relevant focus for me. I really did not know where this idea of crowdsourced mapping would lead to, but the map began to get re-tweeted, and more and more companies got in touch wanting to be added to the map. This led to me having some very interesting conversations with different international design practices.
B. Video CV
During this time of exploring my potential future, I wanted to make clear what I had to offer to design companies. The best way I knew to do this (apart from sharing my design portfolio) was to do a ‘video drawing’ in order to demonstrate the passion I had for design and creativity, and how I could share these through a service offering. Following my London meetings, I was keen to explore what helping design teams visualise their design processes would involve. At the time I was working in a design research team at Northumbria University, and they kindly allow me to work with them to try out some of the methods I was thinking about – exploring the human journey behind the design process by creating a one plane of their current journey during their design process, reflections on ‘barriers and opportunities, and then seeing if the plane could fly (for fun!). Some of the pictures from this experiment are below. This experiment led to the first version of a service that I decided to call ‘The Design Doctor’, which the team found very helpful in letting them step back and identify the ‘barriers’ in their design process.
I always knew that if I did a Walkabout, I did not want to do it for my own sake, there had to be a bigger purpose. There would be many stories for me to share about my experiences, I was sure of this – but I was not sure of the right way to go about sharing them. From my trip to London, I had came across different companies and realised their practices were always in transition: change was a constant for them. The companies were always changing their approaches to exploration. I shared this observation with Dr. Joyce Yee, a great friend and mentor during my PhD, and she said ‘Well, if you are going to do this International Design Walkabout then we have to write a book!’
My first reaction to this suggestion was ‘Absolutely not!’ The PhD had drained a lot of my energy, and the last thing I was looking for was another writing project! But, I took a step back, and then reminded myself that the process of writing helps reflection, and without doing my PhD I would never have known the value that writing could offer. Through my conversations with Joyce, we decided to call our book ‘Design Transitions’, and we set up a website called www.design-transitions.com to capture design companies’ stories and started using social media to ask people to share stories of companies that inspired them. We started to get a response, and saw the value was in capturing conversations about how design is changing. We hoped we could get a publisher for the book, but given how design is now changing, we felt it best to just get going and start sharing stories anyway! What if we could truly capture the picture of design at this moment, and possibly even create a picture of what design may be in the future? That would be amazing!
I did not know where the mapping, design doctors and book would lead me, but I was happy in this uncertainty – it was a way of having good conversations with different people and also having fun in the process (for example, during the mapping I accidentally mapped a leading design company in India as being a pizza shop! Which gave everyone a slice of fun ). The conversations I was having were proving valuable not only for my Walkabout, but also for the book Joyce and I were now developing.