PhD Research Week 14 Y2

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Justifying the field of alternative food initiatives When addressing communication design we must acknowledge that communication is a sensorial experience. Food is also a sensorial experience, which promotes a biological connection of man with the natural world.  So in terms of this research, this ground provides the ideal space in which to explore the research questions proposed.

The fact that food is also a social activity, creating opportunities for community, sharing and building relationships, also allows a good exploration of to what extent Communication Design can facilitate/accelerate conversations.

The anticipation of food consumption is also an area where Communication Design happens.  The packaging is part of the overall experience with food.  In this sense the ‘expanded field’ of Communication Design must also recognize the visual elements as important for analysis.  Elements such as brand and graphics should also be acknowledged as part of the overall unification of communication.  Although I am interested particularly in this notion of an ‘expanded field’ of communication design, the more tangible elements such as brand and graphics, cannot be disregarded from the beginning – it is through acknowledging and identifying those that the ‘expanded’ communication can be justified.


Mapping AFI’s onto an axis exploring different themes.

PhD Research Week 13 Y2

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John Thackara visits the Sandbox Community This was a session carried out at the Sandbox Network space, where we invited a mentor to come speak to a few of us engaged in sustainability, design, technology.

The conversation focused mostly on the notion of storytelling, impact, communities.

Who decides what is impact?  Who decides who impacts who? As the notion of communities, whether of practice or of interest becomes increasingly important, also the consciousness of impact upon others and the world around us increasingly becomes important to reflect on.

There is a clear need for the current generation, whether due to the after effects of the economic crisis and social crisis, to collaborate and form new ways of working, thinking, making.  This provides a ground to build stories - whether of production, of thinking, of collaboration.  The role of the storyteller is also becoming increasingly important.  Particularly to transition into “whatever comes next” that we don't yet know.  The storyteller that shows things are unique to their place.  The understanding of our planetary limits.


For the New York Times Tim Harford article

PhD Research Week 11 Y2

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DESIS Philosophy Talk at Design Academy EinhovenStorytelling and design for social innovation #2 “Designers telling stories”

"What is the role / power of the poetical side of stories when we talk about sustainability and social innovation?

The act of telling these stories makes them visible, tangible, and allows existing initiatives to grow and further develop and for new ones to take shape. How do we as designers look around us, see potentialities (both past as present potentialities), and bring them into actuality? Amongst the many philosophers who have been working on the idea of storytelling, we let ourselves be inspired by the work of the German philosopher Hannah Arendt. She believes that storytelling is in essence the act to recognise the potentiality that is hiding behind the mainstream, and be able to read this potentiality, to translate it, to tell its story.

With this philosophical foundation, this mini-event will encourage the presenters and audience to reflect and begin answering many questions together; What are the nuances in designers telling stories? How can we better express this poetic dimension of telling-making in our design practice (videos, objects, pictures?) In which way are designer today storytellers (or not)? How can we translate all these questions in design guidelines? How can we use stories to create transformative energy within society?"


PhD Research Week 10 Y2

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This week i had another great supervisory meeting.  Having my first poster accepted for a conference, we discussed the best way to present Joana’s poster for Cumulus conference and decided upon a more “interactive” poster through applying the understanding of the ‘expanded field of communication design’, and mechanisms for the viewers to take part in reflecting upon the research questions. I have now established that my practice focuses on the expanded field of communication design  and how it builds communities of interest around sustainability issues through design artifacts.    What is the relationship between my definition of communication design in relation to critical design?  Critical design does not necessarily have a function beyond challenging the hegemony or proposing better futures.

More to come on this subject soon.

Tate Live Thought 4 'Beginnings and Endings'

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The collaboration with Tate Modern Live Thought Workshops draws to a conclusion.A final public discussion had a great panel featuring Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; columnist and author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, Owen Jones; award-winning poet and novelist, Ben Okri; and musician and creative director of the Radiophonic Workshop, Matthew Herbert. Together we explored and debated the poignant question 'if you had a year to change something what would you do?' with these high-profile speakers from a range of disciplines including art, science, culture, politics and society.  You can watch the video of this session here


Tate live thought Workshop 4 'Beginnings and Endings'

The culmination of 9 months of thinking, exploring, talking about ideas for change making was beautifully captured by writer and journalist Justin Hopper and illustrator Florence Shaw, photographer Yemisi Blake.   The Thought Workshops team will make be making a book of our year long project. As usual in these very intense and immersive experiences, synergies develop between people that may be continued in future projects.  I certainly left with the sense that this project was a platform for future collaborations with like-minded people. There are a couple of important learnings I will take from this experience.  Being in the field of working within sustainability thinking I often participate in hackathons which enable creative thinking around the problems we face in our everyday.  This project was special in the sense that it included a wider audience, extremely eclectic and diverse in backgrounds, age ranges, origins.  This enabled for a much richer dialogue, taking aside all "expert jargon" and just focusing on people, a group of people, with the common interest of being proactive towards creating the future, and the present, they envision to be better.



PhD Research Week 8 Y2

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Talk:  "Original or Authentic? The Emergence, Formulation and Realisation of Ideas"Interdisciplinary presentation with Jerry Brotton, Bruno Latour, Adam Lowe and Simon Schaffer.

"Over the past 20 years they have worked closely together on a number of projects that blur the boundaries between disciplines and challenge the distinctions between the arts and the sciences. Their diverse intellectual curiosity, love of material evidence and celebration of the complexity of things has often produced surprising results and innovative ideas. They will discuss some new projects that are currently being developed - including a major new investigation into the aesthetics of the Anthropocene; Terra-Forming, Engineering the Sublime."

Another Bruno Latour talk here


The key notes from the talk that i took, mainly relate to my own research. The question of authenticity and originality in communication on sustainability is very relevant.  Latour and co, explore the natural world in search for meaning, which can be considered art and physics - "Cultivating an intimacy with the nature of the natural world".  Can communication design for sustainability also cultivate an intimate relationship with the natural world?

Original = idea of value in time Authentic = value of the producer

The ways in which engagement is secured makes meaning out of objects (meteorites)

Hard matter vs soft matters - what if soft matter provide stories that should be pursued?

Darwin on honeycomb (how do bees make perfect hexagons?)  Bees have instincts they are trained to manipulate soft water to max volume / decrease energy.

Art + science = interaction of both - the l was of physical order + harmony aesthetics live together.  The boundary between order and disorder - order and flow (outdoor sciences was the name given to the sciences that study the natural world).  The relation of art + science could be different than from commercial means (make different kind of history + future for what is at stake in our culture now)

Do we need to be the bird over viewing the world ? Or should we show the intricate delicate ways in which we are connected to the earth?  This is the ultimate answer to globalization towards fixing the anthropocentric age.

PhD Research Week 7 Y2

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Talk:  Green Week at London College of Communication Nat Hunter and Sevra Davis of The RSA Stephen Corry Survival International Dr Bob Bloomfield Bio-Diverse Antrim Caskey Photographer and activist Peter Cusack LCC Sound Arts Ciril Jazbec Photographer James Morgan Photographer Danielle Pafford CAT Jim Wickens Film

I attended a couple of conferences during green week which were extremely interesting for my research. The different ways in which the sustainability of nature, social has been recoded and communicated. Peter Cusak of LCC sound arts presented an interesting project of the recordings of Chernobyl execution zone.  It made me question the extent in which emotions towards “sustainability” issues.

What if communication design for sustainability can take diferent mediums to communicate the message, beyond visual? What are the alternative ways for communication design to transmit the sustainability message?

The project “liberate Tate” raised for me several questions.  It is difficult to represent the notion of climate change, we can only focus on the small stories that people can understand.  The power of visual to captivate in order to explain the facts.

"On Divergence and Convergence" Research Book1

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This book was produced as part of my first PhD year.It is the research journal containing thoughts, experiements, interviews, reflections, important content to the research.  My practice as a communication designer implies a structured, and messy at the same time, documentation of my work.

On Divergence and Convergence is the title to a year which resembled a DNA strand of intertwining discoveries and nuances of colliding ideas.

PhD Research Week 6 Y2

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This week I indulged into the bookbinding of my research journal of year 1.  This is part of my methodology and has been my way of working since 2008.  I inherited the taste for research journal making through my dear Masters supervisor Tracey Waller. The book is sectioned into weekly summaries, overviews of talks and workshops, a quote section and a glossary of terms used within my research.

It was printed by FE Burman print house and bound by Wyvern's in London.  I will share further images and key spreads soon!

PhD Research Week 5 Y2

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This week I had my first supervisory meeting after completing Registration.  I presented my reflections on the previous year and the main points I would like to move forward on.  We discussed the next steps of the research.  It was established the need to find the rationale for the selection of Alternative Food initiatives case studies - why choose one and not another? What are the typologies? Commonalities and differences between them?  How do the they talk about themselves to different audiences: media, public, consumers.  What are their drivers in the communication design decisions?From now on I begin practice based research.  I'm on the hunt for gathering great case studies of Alternative Food initiatives worldwide very exciting!


Also some reflection on Ezio Manzini's 'modes of design' framework. 


“The primary purpose of design for the market is creating products for sale. Conversely, the foremost intent of social design is the satisfaction of human needs.  However, we don’t propose the “market model” and the “social model” as binary opposites, but instead view them as two poles of a continuum. The difference is defined by the priorities of the commission rather than by a method of production or distribution.” Margolin, V. & Margolin, S. (2002) A ‘social model’ of design: issues of practice and research. Design issues. 18 (4), 24–30.


“The most basic level of creativity is doing, or accomplishing something through productive activity. For some people, washing and folding clean clothes makes them feel creative and they would miss this level of hands-on doing if they became incapacitated.  The next level of creativity, ‘adapting’, is more advanced. The motivation behind adapting is to make something one’s own by changing it in some way.  Someone might do this to personalize an object so that it better fits their personality.   The third level of creativity is ‘making’.  The motivation behind making is to use one’s hands and mind to make or build something that did not exist before.” Sanders, L. & Simons, G. (2009) A social vision for value co-creation in design. Open Source Business Resource. 12.

PhD Research Week 4 Y2

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Workshop at Hub Westminster:   Opening Up Product Data - Empowering Consumers with Open Data This workshop event was an interesting perspective on the notion of open data and participative consumers.  It made me think of how communication design can allow consumer and producer to have a conversation, through which not only product data becomes open and transparent, but also, builds meaning into the product and experience.

Provenance is a new company with an interesting approach to this issue of product open data.  I think there is room to innovate the approach to how this ‘conversation’ between producer and consumer is designed at the moment.


Vlad Trifa Co-founder and CPO of EVRYTHNG Jessi Baker Co-Founder of Provenance Chris Taggart Co-founder & CEO of OpenCorporates Jonathan Schifferes Senior Reserach at the RSA Retail 2020 Katelyn Rogers Open Knowledge Foundation

PhD Research Week 3 YR2

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Talk: Measuring Happiness, London School of Economics What does it mean to measure happiness? Can it really be measured? If so, how? Is this a more meaningful indicator of the state of the nation than GDP?

Paul Dolan is professor of behavioral science at LSE. Elaine Fox is director of The Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience, University of Oxford. Andrew Oswald is professor of economics at Warwick University. Ben Page is chief executive of Ipsos MORI.

- Not all richer countries are happier - the older you get the less money matters

- Constructions of overall evaluations, the ideal, but not the reality itself. - The adaptation point - get used to things so they become banal and no longer make us happy - Optimism vs. happiness - individual differences - the benefits of mindfulness - Happiness is the ultimate goal - Anger can have a purpose - to make positive change (ex the Occupy Movement) - Experiences of purpose, engagement, worthwhile make us happier

The notion of Economics of Happiness I find to be quite related to the crux of sustainable development principles, as well as, positive design, and design for social innovation and sustainability.  I found this lecture extremely interesting as the speakers presented scientific facts which support much of the qualitative research being done towards how design may spur more happy ways of living.


On What Modernism Is: Stephen Hicks, Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University, presents the seven "isms".

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Tate Live Thought 3 'A Reality Check'

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This third workshop of Tate Live Thought had the participation of;  Andreas Lang, Katie Harris, Gemma-Tortella Proctor (School of Life),  Catherine McDonald, David Hoyle, David Cushman,  . Laurie Penny,  Prof. Scott Lash The most interesting part of this workshop was our contact with the Tate public.  It was the first time that we had the opportunity to publicly share what we have been doing and to get feedback from a more general audience.  A gallery was setup on Level 2 Poetry and Dream, a relaxed café-like atmosphere with tables and two chairs each, and the touch of an interesting lamp on each.  The ambience was made for an intimate 10min chat with individuals who happen to be visiting the Tate at that time.  It was my first experience of the sort and extremely interesting.  I had great feedback from the 8 people I chatted to about my ideas and their potential development.

The project I have been creating for Tate Live Thought Workshop focuses on a new take to defining sustainability - focusing on networked knowledge, "combinational creativity" and the concepts that "everything is a remix".  It has developed from the initial proposition and along 7 months, has turned to focusing on the mash-up ex(change) to preserve traditional ways of making from disappearing - joining up those who wish to keep a tradition alive with those who want to carry them on.


Talk of Florian Malzacher on "art and activism" Artistic director of Impulse Theater Biennale in Germany and a freelance curator, dramaturge and writer. He was co-programmer of the interdisciplinary arts festival steirischer herbst in Graz where he also co-curated the 170 hour marathon camp “Truth is concrete” that explored artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. What role does art play? The paradigm shift - art and politics Creating situations = creating new realities Art as Intervention, Participation, Education Art Activism or Design Activism? Definitions get less important weather its art or design activism.  Ethics and responsibility in contemporary art/design are very important.


David Cushman was my expert #1 I had the opportunity to talk to regarding my project. He explained about distributed knowledge - connecting dots.  Connecting different bits of the same story.  We need to be ad-hoc communities (David Weinberger).  The importance of share-ability - design for it to be in small segments, organic in ad-hoc way, capture the little pieces and re-mixable ways.  (ex: IBM connections)  Make it small and discoverable.  If there is no purpose, you're just dead in the world.  Messaging of all forms is emotional, not information.

Scott Lash was my expert #3  Focus on the wonderful ways of making / learning.  These are wonderful things.  For example Patricia Ribault on glass blowing design, Solo Barretto on basket weaving. Look into Schumpeter and Nelson+ Winter


Group discussion:  how does change really happen? is it bottom up to make sense?

Some of the thoughts that came out of this brainstorm were; People need confidence that they can make a difference through a sense of worth. The technical way of looking at change - when you take your hand off, does it still continue? Logic vs. emotion The ladder of participation If you're not curious will you not engage? Frame language to peoples understanding Manipulation vs. engagement Courage vs. stupidity Constructive disruption Grass-roots is fragile but top-down is authoritarian The ecology of changes in different scales Does an idea have to exist in reality to be potent?


PhD Research Week 1 YR2

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The second PhD year has begun with an interest in the ecological articulation of systems within nature and the communication within them.  I find a parallel between the rhizomatic assembly as seen in Deleuze and Guattari and how I begin to define what communication design is;  an interdependent discipline, crossing many fields, and in constant transformation: "always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo."  This is an idea I am further developing within the research.


What is a Rhizome? Kluge and Vogl on Deleuze and Guattari

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Deleuze's Rhizome: A Line of Flight

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The Postmodern Psyche

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PhD Research Week 51

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An overview of the year -  Of divergence and convergence. The first year of a phd is given to be exploratory.  Mine has been somewhat of, in the words of Félix Guattari, a rhizome like exploration, with organic growth, turns of diversions and conversions. This week I have begun a piece of writing to narrate the evolution of the main stages is in a chronological and critical manner. How the key thoughts emerged, transformed and solidified.

“Theories and methods are only means, and means in design need to be complemented by a good perception of reality and a creative imagination to affect it according to established aims.  The effort we need to make today is to bridge theory and practice, so that theory does not remain self-referential, and practice moves beyond intuition. Methods form that bridge”. Frascara, J., 1997

PhD Research Week 50


“The Perverts Guide to Sustainability” (after watching “The Perverts Guide to Ideology”) "The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is a 2012 British documentary film directed by Sophie Fiennes and written and presented by Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek.  It is a sequel to Fiennes’s 2006 documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Though the film follows the frameworks of its predecessor, this time the emphasis is more on ideology itself. Through psychoanalysis Zizek explores “the mechanisms that shape what we believe and how we behave”."


[youtube w=500] During the course of my research I will inevitably reach high points of saturation with the sustainability business.  In the journey of trying to define what sustainability actually is, beyond a word, it is a belief in a way of living. It is inevitable to come across what I have called ‘sustainability porn’ or ‘green porn’ everywhere.  My own definition of sustainability, how I see it in my everyday, how I will define it in my research, should come from personal experience as a living being in the world.  This is why I will compare market-led approaches to, more authentic, more bottom-up, more grass roots approaches. That is the "sustainability" that I am interested in this project, and trying to understand how the essence of social innovation initiatives are more real, more authentic, transparent, and deploy a greater passion for their principles.  Green-washing seems to now be a term which is fairly obsolete.  It is not that mass market corporations are not working to meet sustainability targets and reducing numbers.  They are.  And that has taken sustainability and branding to a whole new level.  But lets face it, when MacDonald's switches from red to green, that's just as porn as it gets.