Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Research for Studio Brief

I have had numerous studio briefs this year all asking me to undertake appropriate research into my given topics in order to analyse my findings and make fresh connections in my creative thinking towards design outcomes. These briefs have required that I document my research in sketchbook form. I used the library and Internet to find information and images to add to my knowledge on new topics. However after learning new research techniques through Design Studies, both secondary and primary, I feel that I could have found out a lot more information for my projects with quick but in-depth research methods. I would like to discuss how I would tackle one of my studio briefs again with new research techniques and methods in mind.

At the beginning of this Semester (semester 2) my fellow classmates and I were given a brief titled The Origin of Food. The brief outlined that we were to research the activities of the SCRI (Scottish Crop Research Institute) in relation to a fruit or vegetable plant that we would be later designated. We had to take this research further and see how our plant related to sustainability and food, find out the main issues for our plant and what it could contribute to our society and the environment, so that we could later produce an eight column broadsheet to communicate what we had found out about our plant.

I was designated brassicas, a group of plants including swedes, turnips, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Where as everyone else had one main plant such as raspberries or potatoes I had a whole group to cover meaning a lot more scope for my research. I found it hard to find interesting information about any of the brassicas family members. Looking back I think that taking a different approach and using different research skills would definitely have helped.

I would not have changed the fact that I used the library and Internet to find the basic information about brassicas but I would have used this ground knowledge more efficiently by using it to create a detailed mind map. This would have led me to new ideas and potential statements for using in library cross search. The reason I could not find out much information is because the wording I used when searching for books and articles was not very effective. The mind map would have allowed my wording to be clearer and more to the point hopefully providing better sources. I would have then discussed my initial findings with more people to get my ideas out in to the open and gather some feedback instead of struggling away myself with the minimum of knowledge. Using these techniques, I may have found out more interesting facts about brassicas. If so I would zoom in on one particular area and go through the process again- mind mapping ideas, brainstorming, searching for more comprehensive articles and studies and discussing my findings.

What I did decide to focus on for my broadsheet was why you should buy brassicas from local sources as I had found that only 27% of brassicas that we consume in Britain are grown in Britain. A terrible statistic when considering sustainability with food transportation producing carbon emissions. I wrote in my broadsheet about these facts as well as how brassicas could contribute to the health of our society, promoting their many nutritional qualities. The second part of the brief which we were given at a later date outlined that we were to communicate further the information in our broadsheet by means of a three dimensional piece of type. I decided that I would create large letters from cardboard fruit and vegetable boxes, with the goal of spelling “LOCAL.” I felt this was appropriate because it got straight to the point but had the underlying message of; is my fruit and veg really local? Where does it come from?

Collecting the boxes from supermarkets and grocery stores showed that in fact the fruit and veg in our shops comes from every corner of the world and I learnt a lot myself by observing this. Although I was trying to show that many people don’t buy local food as all of our sources have been imported without us even noticing, I didn’t have any facts, figures or information to back up my case. I have since realised that using interviews would have been the perfect method for obtaining this missing information.

If I were to do it again I would use interviewing to find directly from a range of people their fruit and vegetable shopping habits. I would target people in supermarkets and grocery stores, some before their shop and some after. I would target people before and after their shop because I think they would answer differently. The people who had not yet been shopping might answer the questions on how they like to think their habits are but people asked after their shop might answer on the basis of what they have just bought making the answers more true to life. Asking people after their shop could be beneficial because I could ask them to show me some of the fruit and veg they had bought and ask them if they would usually buy these products. To gain a broader amount of answers I would also consider arranging interviews with a range of people when they are not in a shopping environment so they would have nothing to pollute their thoughts. It would be interesting to ask people of different ages and backgrounds, genders and professions to see if this effects what type of fruit and vegetable products they buy. To find out the right information I would not directly ask the question; do you buy local fruit and vegetables, but instead ask questions that stem from this idea, which would lead me to conclusions about where people buy their fruit and vegetables from and how they think about where it comes from. These questions could include; How often do you go food shopping, where do you usually go food shopping, do you buy fruit and vegetables when you go food shopping, and would you say you buy a lot of fruit/veg. Finding out information like this would have made me feel more confident talking about my work and it would make me feel like I was communicating a bigger message.

Not as many people buy local fruit and veg as there could be but we can’t blame individuals as it is down to what is readily available for them. Transport and cost could be big factors but the largest factor is what is being sold in the shops. For this reason if I could do more research I would like to target shops, businesses and companies, interviewing them and asking them for statistics on where they get there fruit and vegetables from and why. This would further more back up the point I was trying to prove with my work and the information I found out would have been great to include in my broadsheet because I would be talking about problems a lot closer to home making it more hard hitting and easier to relate to.

As well as using interviews I feel that observing would have been beneficial for this project. I could have observed people picking up fruit and vegetables in shops and supermarkets to see if they read about where the produce was from or if they just chucked it in their basket. This would give me better answers than asking people if they read to see where their fruit and vegetables were from, as I would be seeing first hand with my own eyes. An observation that I did make during the project is that a lot of the fruit and vegetables in shops are not displayed in their original boxes but instead the boxes are packed up and sent away whilst the produce sits in similar plastic containers with no graphics on them disguising where they have come from. For this reason I would add to my interview questions to all groups. To the buyers I would show them the boxes and tell them the places the fruit and veg they had bought had come from and ask them if they now had second thoughts about buying it. To the companies I would ask them why they don’t show the fruit and vegetables in their original boxes; do they do it on purpose to disguise where they have come from or is it for other reasons? Finding this out would give me an answer to all the unanswered questions surrounding my work and make it a lot more plausible.

Reflecting on how I could have carried my project research out more thoroughly and describing what I would have done differently, makes me realise that I really do have a different perspective when thinking about any brief or project I am now given compared to before doing Design Studies. After every assignment I felt my design research capabilities were expanding and bringing everything together has proven this to me. I feel a lot more confident going out there and interacting with real people and problems and connecting it with my design work, a very important factor as design is about real people. No longer do I feel confined to the studio walls and I feel this outlook will take me to new levels with future projects.

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