I was honoured to be invited back to the Made in Brunel 2012 exhibition to give a Pecha Kucha presentation at the Barge House on London’s Southbank. Not only did I do my undergraduate degree in Industrial Design (back in the Runnymede years) but I helped organise our end of year exhibition and have always been a fan of the Brunel end of year shows.
It was a hard task to speak along side this list of inspiring people!
- Christopher Harkin – Brunel design graduate & founder of 7 Billion Ideas project, an innovative social media initiative
- Nick Eagleton – Creative Director at The Partners London
- rAndom International – Stuart Wood & Florian Ortkrass – they create artworks and installations that explore behaviour and interraction through the use of light and movement.
- Rob Thompson – Principal Designer at Nokia
- Richard Hartle – 3D designer at Saatchi&Saatchi X
- Nick Gray (Director of Business Development) & Ed Mitchell (Director of Realisation) from Design Bridge
- Tim Molloy – Creative Director at the Science Museum
- Dame Ellen MacArthur – founder Ellen MacArthur Foundation
However, the theme ‘journeys fuelled by ideas’ did allow me to present how I went from an undergraduate in Industrial Design to being a social innovator today. Here is a summary of my 20 slides (each timed at 20 seconds long):
- I started my talk by urging everyone to read Victor Papanek’s ‘The Green Imperative’ – a book that changed by view on design, made me question the world of consumerism that I was experiencing and think about what the future will look like.
- This new way of thinking inspired me to see if I could wear/buy only second hand clothing for a year. It would be a challenge but a good challenge – I would need to think creatively about my wardrobe, it would help me save money and give me peace of mind that I was preventing unwanted clothes from going to landfill.
- Of course, buying only second hand clothing meant I spent a large amount of time in charity shops – then came Mary Portas!
Mary Portas presented a tv show where she transformed a run down charity shop into a fantastic retail experience. It made great tv and raised awareness around charity shops but… I didn’t feel it was true to reality. Not all charity shops have money, a film crew or a tv celebrity!
- I wanted to see if I could use my design thinking to help improve local and independant charity shops with little or no money.
- So, I immersed myself in a local charity shop and became a volunteer to see what it was like to be on the receiving end of donations. I steamed clothes to join in the back room conversations, I worked on the till to speak to customers and I hung around outside the shop to get a feel for what the community was all about.
- These insights, volunteer stories and community help allowed my to come up with a tool to provide recommendations for changes to the charity shop. The recommendations ranged from renting out the shop windows to community groups needing advertising space to changing the opening hours to attract a different type of customer.
- I had a real love for second clothing and wanted to learn more about the subject so I went with [re]design, the social enterprise and their ‘Chalky Van’ to the Vintage Festival. We facilitated sessions to find out how people might give an old shirt a second lease of life – the ideas were brilliant. My favourite was ‘blow my nose on it’.
- I also ran a swishing event (where people come together to swap their unwanted clothes) with a twist. I wanted to see people’s reactions when a rack of clothing was placed in a busy street and people were allowed to swap their clothes. Some people swapped the clothes they were wearing, others negotiated with friends to swap and some went home to get something else to swap. It proved that people do like second hand clothing – it just needs to be displayed and presented in an interesting way.
- It was becoming clear that my passion was around behaviour change and encouraging people to swap bad habits for good ones and began to focus on using my design to do this.
- I became a design ambassador for the Design Council‘s Water Design Challenge and worked with a group of girls at a school in Southampton to enter the challenge. Their enthusiam, creativity and interest in reducing in their water consumption amazed me.
- I got involved with the People’s Kitchen in Dalston helping provide ‘food for the people by the people’ to encourage people not to waste food.
- Some people come to learn new cooking skills, others come to share their recipes, some come to eat an affordable meal and others come to meet like minded people. The best part is that everyone is helping to eat what would be unwanted food and change the attitude towards waste food. A People’s Kitchen has opened in Brixton which is fantastic news.
- And now, I’m Director of Behaviour Change at Ecoinomy helping large companies engage their staff to change their habits.
- It’s often hard for companies to create change within the organisation. Either the message is top down which feels like a stick is being waved to enforce change, or the message is bottom up and unheard. Ecoinomy offer a system that motivates employees to change their habits by rewarding them for their actions and in return, money is given to a cause of their choice.
- Changing behaviours can be challenging and I spend most of my time working with the end users to find out how our system can be improved, discover what language needs to be used and how we can dig deeper into the world of good sustainable habits.
- An area I had been wanting to work in was health and as a result teamed up with four other designers to enter the Design Council’s ‘Living well with Dementia‘ challenge.
- We decided to focus on helping improve the lives of the primary carer by encouraging families to collaborate to share the necessary care.
- This meant spending time with primary carers, speaking to people living with dementia and really finding out what life is like for everyone living with dementia.
- I am a real advocate for OpenIDEO – the platform where people collaborate to design better, together and recently ran an OpenIDEATION workshop with the Kingston University MA Design for Development students. We came up with concepts for the challenge looking at ‘how might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?‘
- And my latest concept ‘TED positive – sharing failures‘ for the OpenIDEO ‘how might we support web entrepreneurs in launching and growing sustainable global businesses?‘ is being developed as one of the winning concepts.
Do you have a failure story relating to your work/business/journey that you would like to share for others to learn from? If so, please let me know – I’d love to hear it!
And lastly, I’d like to thank Brunel for inviting me to speak, not only did it give me an excellent reason to reflect on my journey over the last 2 years but I got to meet plenty of interesting people and many old friends.
I also want to thank the lovely, Laoise Casey for taking photos while I spoke!