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Week 5 - Perspectives

Thoughts on Ideas

Defining Methods of Thinking, Curiosity & Insight

This week I was tasked with investigating new and established methods of thinking, gaining insight into different problem solving and ideas explorative approaches, and the construct theories of the working mind.

I absorbed the given and self directed resources and produced notes that highlighted what I considered to be the most interesting aspects of the research.  My notes can be viewed in the slideshow below.

Analysis of Research

Design Process

Susanna Edwards lecture and introduction to the topic this week struck chords with me because I recalled many of the theories and approaches she referred to from my teacher training and development sessions over the last 10 years.  (Edwards c2020)  Teachers needed to understand how a child's mind worked in order to teach them effectively.  Many barriers to learning are inside a child's mind and often stem from phycological issues related to upbringing and life chances or lack there of.  Therefore research in to the working of the mind was very useful when attempting to interpret a child's slow academic progress or negative learning behaviour.  

I taught Design and Technology at secondary school and had seen dramatic shifts in the national curriculum modes of study and exam board specifications in light of embracing what had been coined the 'iterative' design approach.  Previous models of the design process had been taught as a linear format with a step by step process of 'primary & secondary research', 'initial design ideas', 'developed ideas', 'final design', 'manufacturing plan', 'production' & 'final evaluation'.  This structure left little room for going back to the drawing board, further investigation or client feedback.  The new curriculum placed much more focus on cyclical 'iteration' (Fig 1), responding to feedback, and a trial and error approach.  Students resisted the change and at the time I left teaching (2020), were still struggling to understand that the 'iterations' were in many ways more important than the 'final prototype'.  

I had been thinking about iterations produced during a cyclical process and posted on the Ideas Wall asking whether there could be a satisfactory conclusion when working with this type of process?  Should ideas continue long after a project has concluded?  What happens to the outcomes that were discarded by the client?  Do they become part of a new cyclical process?  What about the labour time involved with producing designs that never satisfy the brief?

In considering time during our 'process of creation', I wondered how much the pressure of deadlines and time constraints hindered the flow of creativity.  Susanna Edwards discussed how the weight of design considerations could have a negative effect on creativity, the linear concept of old meaning that designers only had one 'rub of the cloth' to solve the problem with no time to evaluate and test ideas.  (Edwards. c2020) Time and the management of, has a significant bearing upon the path of process.

It was suggested in the lecture that there might never be a perfect design process model and with the fast paced, quick changing society today, a flexible and efficient process is paramount.  I considered whether a standardised process is needed at all; perhaps each designer works through a brief in his or her own unique way, juggling elements of different models.  All my peers are investigating the same initial resources for this project, but all will find different aspects interesting, all will chart their own path of further inquiry, and all will produce a different outcome.  The direction and order of decisions will inform each designers process, the process is as unique as their fingerprint. 

 

Susanna asked "How do we combine different ways of thinking?"  I think the answer to this depends on the nature of the problem to be solved.  For example if the brief requires a User Interface outcome, the designer would need to use a systems approach to consider input, process & output differentials.  However, in designing a UI for a particular audience, the designer will also require a degree of social research to understand their primary needs.  The combinations of thinking models utilised during the project are therefore defined by the question at hand.

Thought Process

One notion I contemplated after listening to the lecture, was the question 'What is intuition and how does it affect design?'  Daniel Kahneman raised some very thought provoking ideas on this topic in his Google talk about his book 'Thinking, Fast & Slow' (Kahneman. 2011).  Kahneman explains his System 1, System 2 theory that the brain has an automatic (System 1) response to some experiences and a more effortful and deliberate (System 2) approach to others (Fig 2).  I was not surprised to learn that System 1 is employed readily by the brain in its attempt to avoid the more strained thinking required for System 2, this explains why people give up easily sometimes, when their brain just can't put in anymore effort. This idea of the brain avoiding more vigorous inquiry is supported by S Ian Robertson when,  in his book 'Types of Thinking', he describes the brain taking "mental shortcuts" and using "pre-packaged procedures" to avoid "the real labour of thinking". (Robertson. 1999)

 

 

Moreover, it was fascinating to learn that skills can be learnt to such a depth that they become automatic and therefore part of System 1 responses, driving is an example of this.  Many of the actions we do every day can become automatic and this is an example of intuitive thinking, when it 'just happens'.  Kahneman therefore describes intuition as 'recognition'.  It is something so familiar and common that the brain has no difficulty responding.  How does a person develop this level of intuitive skill?  If it were easy, we would all be experts in any skill we attempted to command.  Kahneman explains that a person must be frequently subjected to environments with rules and regimes for intuitive responses to happen.  Our brains will then assimilate the information and recognise it again in the future.

 

Where we will not develop intuition, is when the environment is chaotic and disordered.  So one might surmise that for a designer to develop their intuition in response to briefs, they must try to create and subject themselves to organised and regimented environments.  Personally, I am a designer who needs organisation in my world and I constantly strive to reach the perfectly organised space.  I wonder if all designers felt the same way.  I know the few opportunities I have had to view another designers workspace, it has been impeccably constructed.  But do all designers need this order?

 

Robertson recognised that a problem requires breaking down into manageable chunks to support cognition - we call this 'chunking' in education.  Many of our children with Special Educational Needs require this processing method and this links strongly to the computational model of thinking (Fig 3), related to computers and algorithms.  This approach to problem solving is a well documented method used by programmers and code writers who deal with very complex patterns requiring systemizing.

 

It is perhaps our relationship to the aspects of a project we recognise (System 1) and the exploration of deeper inquiry (System 2)  that blend to inform our design responses.   

 

It seems to be agreed by many theorists that a deep level of examination is crucial to effectively engaging the brain with a subject, particularly in relation to the psychological development of ourselves. The School of Life online article entitled 'Thinking Too Much; and Thinking Too Little' states that "we are natural self-deceivers" and "we cut ourselves off from possibilities of growth" when we think too little, preferring simple and easy to understand concepts that maintain a basic personality, without intricacy.(The School of Life c2021).   Furthermore the article argues that by not addressing the more awkward side of ourselves, we open ourselves to physical manifestations of that suppression, ailments such as "insomnia, impotence, stuttering and depression" plague us.

 

I agree that self exploration can enhance a persons sense of wellbeing and self confidence.  I have personally experienced this through BA study, teacher training and now the MA; they have all given me self assurance and confidence.  The opening up of oneself to knowledge, skill and experience must be a positive action for a designer, enabling them to recount and utilise a wealth of information in their work.  This marries with Kahneman's description of intuition being 'recognition'.  As designers, the more we can use prior knowledge to steer our investigations, the better the judgements we will make during our design process.  In their book 'Making Thinking Visible', Ron Richhart et al, state that "the better people think about and with what they know, the more likely they will be able to make sense of [a problem]" (Richhart et al. 2011)

A counter argument to a persons excessive exposure to 'experiences' that inform their mind, is the work of William James (Fig 4) in 1890 who was concerned with the retention of such information and it's usefulness to us.  James noted that millions of items enter our brains and connect with our senses and yet do not produce an 'experience' for us to recounter.  This, he theorised, is because these 'items' hold no interest to the person and therefore the brain edits it's own experiences based on this, or as James puts it "My experience is what I agree to attend to"(Goldstein 2015, pg 8).  This suggests that we all have control over what we want to engage with in our everyday lives.  James thought this editing was necessary in order that we can deal with the important things effectively.  This aspect of processing information identifies the points in the design process where ordering, refining, selecting and rejecting takes place.  James's pragmatic viewpoint clearly has a part to play through the design process, ensuring that we don't float so far out of the box, the idea is completely unrealisable. 

 

One of the modes of thinking that I felt most clearly explained our thought processes through a design project, was developed by J P Guilford in 1959, the premise of which was documented in his journal entitled 'Three Faces of Intellect'.(Guilford. 1959)  Guildford uses the terms Divergent and Convergent thinking in the same way that Kahneman explains his System responses.  Divergent thinking is classified as creative thought, it uses imagination with spontaneity & free flow.  Furthermore divergent thinking encounters unexpected connections and considers a range of possible solutions.  Convergent thinking is like the System 1 response, it considers one clear answer, it is critical and analytical, using probability and standardised formats.

 

The significant difference, to Kahneman's model, is Guilford's inclusion of Lateral Thinking as a thought strand between Divergent and Convergent.  According to Guilford, Lateral Thinking is where reasoning takes place that is not immediately obvious to our Divergent and Convergent thoughts, and because it is not obvious, it creates what is commonly referred  to as 'out of the box' thinking.  The important point to consider, and what interested me the most about this model, is that Lateral Thinking requires a working relationship between our divergent and convergent thoughts.  I contemplated whether we could track when our Divergent and Convergent elements took charge throughout a design project and whether Lateral Thinking occurred or not?  I looked back at last week's project and plotted my thought process in relation to Guilford's theory (Fig 5) and then produced a model to represent a more cyclical view. (Fig 6 & 7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I plotted where I thought divergent and convergent thoughts were most dominant throughout the process of my last brief, I appreciated just how much the two ways of thinking interact.  I imagined that divergent was broad and wide with convergent being more filtered and narrowed.  This translated as the drawing in my notebook, after which I wanted to see how this could move from linear to cyclical by cutting out the diagram and wrapping it to join stage 1 with stage 10.  The object felt like a bracelet, so I attached it to my wrist and made this video to show how I might physically work through the stages.  I noticed that the places where I felt lateral thinking was possible,  were predominantly at the beginning to mid sections of the process.  Furthermore the start (no 1) and end (no 10) of the process overlapped and I wondered if perhaps they were one and the same, both divergent, both about considering all possibilities, only with two different perspectives, or are they?  Is the evaluation at the end of a project really a platform to launch in to the next?  And is the start of a project a period of retrospection alongside the investigation of the new?  Are 1 & 10 interchangeable, is the process truly perpetual?

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Fig 1 Design Process Diagram for GCSE students - New DT Curriculum
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Fig 2  Infographic representing Kahneman's ideas on Thinking Fast & Slow
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Fig 3 Computational Thinking Model.
 Icompute Teaching Ltd
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Fig 4  William James 1903 - American philosopher and psychologist
Fig 5 Extract from my research notebook
Fig 6 Convergent/Divergent 2d model
Fig 7 Convergent/Divergent 3d model

Workshop Challenge 

Tasks:

  • Explore and find an example of a way of thinking. This could be from the area of arts, design, philosophy or science.

  • Choose a thinker or a process and summarise in a black line drawing.

It is Guilford's mode of thinking model that I have selected to base my line drawing upon.  I decided that I wanted to explore artists utilising line drawing in their work and the definition of a line drawing before I began some iterations.

The artists all work with textile materials and a range of techniques to achieve the 'line' in their work.

Rosie James is a Textile Artist who uses the sewing machine as her drawing medium.  She is interested in people and how they interact with fabric, textiles, and yarn in the everyday.  Fig  shows James exploring the relationship between line and people.  I am intrigued by the way that her machine stitch lines are very fluid and convey motion in the way that she has left loose ends trailing.  The background she uses also helps convey the message of a man on the street, with some feint pattern marks that almost look like dirty smudges, as you would see on the streets & walls of our towns and cities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This piece of textile art was really absorbing.  On first inspection it seems that the artist has made a range of marks using a pen or pencil, but take a closer look and you realise the marks are in fact safety pins.  The artist has been cleverly strategic in placement of each pin to create depth and form to the piece.  Moreover the fabric background has a light pleating effect which creates vertical texture lines running through the piece.  The overall feeling created is anonymity,  vulnerability and that the subject's body has been overwhelmed.

Paula Koverick is an artist working with fabric and stitch, her viewpoint is about recognising "the moment when body, soul, and statement" combine in her work.  She uses multiple layers of stitch lines and fabric and this creates a quilted effect to her work.  I admire the abstract and expressive nature of her work.  My brain wants to make sense of some of the shapes and you may see what you think is a figure here or a teacup there, which is playful and explorative for the viewer.  I chose this piece in particular because is uses white thread on a black background and this is something I wanted to play with in my work for the brief this week.

What is a line drawing? This seemed to be a vital piece of enquiry for this week.  I did not want to bring preconceptions of this in to my work.  I have experience of completing mark making exercises at art school in the mid 1990's.  Designed to free you and allow for deeper adventure with your mark making tool, we did drawing to music, with our blindfolds on, using someone else's hand, using a range of non-traditional mark making tools, like a fir cone.  My online research furnished me with the following definitions:

Line Drawing is:

  • often in black and white

  • no shading

  • can be rough sketches or completed art

  • 'lines' can be formed in different ways - think sculpture & photography too!

  • line is used to 'build' form and dimension. 

I was interested in the idea of forming lines in different ways as the artists above have demonstrated by using thread & components.  I have always enjoyed using the more quirky fancy yarns in my textile work and thought this could be a 'line' creating medium for this brief.  My concept was to show the relationship between convergent, divergent and lateral thinking.  I could see convergent being restrained and 'straight laced', with divergent being a more chaotic fancy yarn.  The lateral thinking would occur where the two met.  These are two initial sketches I made in my note book...

Man Walking by Rosie James
Fig Man Walking by Rosie James
Zeng Cengpei Textile Art
Textile Art with Safety Pins by Zeng Cengpei
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Playtime Black by Paula Koverick
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The idea on the left is an idea to keep convergent lines very uniform and regular, juxtaposing them with the chaotic, wavy lines of the divergent thinking.  Where the two sets of lines amalgamate is the 'surprise' elements of lateral thought.

In the right sketch I played with the idea that the lines were yarns of a warp on a weaving loom.  Convergent thoughts run vertically and divergent horizontally.  Convergent are regularly spaced and divergent are an irregular pattern.  Every now and then lateral thinking binds the two together to create 'original' thoughts.

Development of Ideas

Following the thought strand for these ideas, I then produced these iterations...

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I felt that the different natural character of each yarn I had chosen and how I had chosen to wrap them was communicating the differences between convergent and divergent thinking,  however I wanted to demonstrate how they are utilised in the design process and conjoin the iterations to the process model. 

 

I also felt I needed to push the idea that the two work together to produce lateral thinking, and that lateral thinking is a celebrated happening that can sometimes be elusive or overlooked.  I also wanted to communicate how difficult it is to achieve lateral thinking, that a person who is told to "think outside of the box"  often does not know what this means or how to do it.

It was time for a change of production and substitute yarn wrapping for to my sewing machine in order to better communicate my first sketch concept, using straight uniform and wavy stitch lines.  This was the resulting iteration...

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This iteration produced some interesting results.  In particular, I liked the way the fabric was puckering due to my machine tension not being correct, it felt as if divergent thinking was 'tinkering' with convergent as it tried to maintain regularity and order.  I related this to my feelings during a project as my mind tries to filter and organise research findings, but divergent thoughts are jumping around in the background, eager to take over!  This relates to discussion on the wall this week about desires to jump straight to the design ideas stage of a project, skipping aspects of investigation.

I also began to think about my interaction with the sewing machine as I produced this piece.  To keep lines straight and ordered one must use guides on the machine, our hands and our eyes.  I then decided to experiment with filming my process from stitching the straight lines, to cutting those lines up,  to throwing them around, to pinning them down, to stitching them with straight lines again, to neatening the loose threads and irregular edges, to final outcome.  

The result is the video below alongside the final outcome...

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Journal Reflection

I am pleased with my line drawing outcome, especially because it works collaboratively with the video, in the same way that convergent and divergent thoughts must do to achieve those 'eureka' moments us creatives crave.  Have I achieved lateral thinking as a result?  I will let the viewer decide that, but what I will say is that producing a video of an aspect of my production process that also defines my design process is not ordinary for me.  In fact it is the first video I have ever produced and edited (please excuse the crudeness of it!), so definitely not in my usual box.  If I was going to develop this idea further, I would explore the widening and narrowing theme more, I would utilise the weaving loom and perhaps produce a bracelet wearable, manipulating the warp and weft threads to communicate convergent and divergent thoughts. 

At the start of this week my brain recalled prior knowledge about a number of thinking process models and it felt comfortable to already have some understanding of the topic.  Furthermore, I could relate to using these models in a classroom setting and had seen the value of these approaches in the positive lesson results and the pupil responses.  I have not had experience of working through a brief for a number of years and really had no idea which methods of thinking would work for me.  It therefore felt important for me to explore some unfamiliar approaches.  I found many of the methods of working through the process interesting and am open to trying a range of different ideas as a result of my research.  I see this now as a continuing exploration of my design operations.  I've purchased resources written by Michael Michalko and am eager to try out the exercises and assess the results in my next brief. 

I felt this weeks topic separated in to two different categories, the study of design processes and the examination of how to think.  The latter theme seemed to be more interesting to me.  I explored JP Guilford's theories in relation to convergent and divergent thinking in detail and quickly realised that his ideas aligned with the work of Danial Kahneman's Systems model and Ian McGilchirst's divided brain in the sense that they all considered the 2 hemispheres of the brain and how they have different agendas but must work together for a person to apply reason, imagination and creation in their world.  I think this consensus cannot be disputed but the question of how these two sectors work together more successfully in some people than others is still unclear to me.  Perhaps we need to look to S I Robertson's book Types of Thinking for the answer.  He discusses the nature of the human brain essentially being lazy, wanting to find the easiest way to resolve everyday problems, deeper consultation with the brain requires more effort or laboured thinking.

Overall it has been a fascinating week this week, I have grown with my work, felt energised for letting go of my preconceptions of what graphic design is, changed my MA blog to a format that I find so much more straightforward and listened to my instincts.  Roll on week 6!

Resources

Edwards, Susanna.  c2020.  'Thoughts on Ideas.'  Falmouth University Lecture Resources  [Online] Available at:  https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/686/pages/week-5-lecture?module_item_id=48195 [Accessed on 20 February 2021]

Kahneman, Daniel. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow.  Google Talks [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVQJdIrDJ0 [Accessed on 20 February 2021]

Robertson, I,S. (1999) Types of Thinking Routledge, London & New York.

 

The School of Life Article (c2021) Thinking Too Much;and Thinking Too Little [online] Available at: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/thinking-too-much-and-thinking-too-little/[Accessed on 21 February 2021]

 

Richhart. Ron et al. (2011)  Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding & Independence for all Learners. Wiley. London.

Goldstein, B (2015) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind Research & Everyday Experience. 4th Ed. Cengage Learning: Stamford, CT.

Guilford, J P. (1959) Three Faces of Intellect.  American Psychologist, 14(8), 469–479.

Spencer, J. (2019). Convergent Thinking Versus Divergent Thinking [Youtube User Generated Content]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmBf1fBRXms [Accessed on 26 February 2021]

Fig 1 Design Process Diagram for GCSE students - New DT Curriculum.  Technology Student [online] Available at:  https://technologystudent.com/despro_flsh/NEW_GCSE3.html

Fig 2 Infographic representing Kahnemen's ideas of Thinking Fast & Slow.  Big Arrow Marketing Group [online] Available at:https://bigarrowgroup.com/tortoise-hare-marketing/

Fig 3 Computational Thinking Model by Icompute Teaching Ltd [online] Available at:http://www.icompute-uk.com/news/computational-thinking-2/

Fig 4 William James 1903 - American philosopher and psychologist. Wikipedia [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James

List of Figures
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