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Year 12 and 13 DT students visit the Emmanuel Centre in London for the 'Design and Technology in Action' Conference

On 1 December, Mr Seedhouse and the Year 12 and 13 DT students travelled up to the Emmanuel Centre in London for Design and Technology in Action!, hosted by Anna Ploszajski. The event consisted of four speakers and a practical design challenge, spread across the day.  

The first speaker was Sebastian Bergne, a product designer who prides himself on his ability to make ordinary objects unique and surprising. He explained that, due to his dyslexia, he felt that there was an element of inevitability to his creative nature and passion for design that differentiates from the ordinary. Personally, I thought that his most notable (and controversial) design was the minimalist nativity scene. He said that he originally intended the product to be merely an experiment, where he was testing how recognisable the positioning and colour codes of the nativity figures were, even with most of their detailed features removed – however, after its success (including being featured in a display within an ornate chapel in Greenwich); he noted that he thought that minimalism was useful as it reduced something down to its essentials, which is more efficient and useful. However, the product came with two sides of feedback, as it was also featured on a list of the 50 worst nativity sets of all time – as Bergne highlighted the fact that for every design success come many failures, and that perseverance is very important. 

The second speaker was Tim Fu, an architect who specialises in algorithmic design, including the use of AI. He talked about the differences between visual AI generative software, and technical parametric design – and how they will be able to work together in the future to improve architectural design as a whole. He focused on how the use of AI aids in creating a visual structure that takes inspiration from other architects that he looks up to, such as Zaha Hadid, that he can then easily refine to his liking before sharing on social media – where he explained that his work has previously gone viral. When questioned about whether the use of AI could be considered cheating, or whether it would leave the jobs of architects obsolete; Fu explained that from his point of view, there will always be a human role in architecture, specifically in ironing out any practicalities that AI is unable to decipher and that although through AI the style of other architects can be used as inspiration, it cannot be considered copying, as the work remains original, and undergoes a plethora of processes beyond the initial AI image generation, which separates it from the controversy surrounding AI generated art. 

The third speaker was Jude Pullen, a creative prototyping expert who has won many awards and appeared on the BBC show Big Life Fix. He maintained that one of the most significant pieces of advice that he has is the power of 1:1 design relationships – as he stated that the relative impact that can be had from designing something with someone who you form a close connection with can be far more meaningful than having a small impact on a greater number of people. He also spoke about the misconception within the design industry that everything has to be made entirely from scratch, or through using Computer Aided Design software, which can make the industry seem inaccessible – but he said that this is untrue, and that many successful innovations are an amalgamation of products that already exist, rather than something completely new. When questioned about why he got into the design industry, he said that when he was in school, he was actually completely unaware that you could even be a designer for a living, but that he is dyslexic, so once he left school he found himself drawn to the combination of art and science that can be seen in the design world. Finally, he spoke about how you can utilise design to start conversations on stigmatised topics – such as the gender data gap – and how important it is that design is not superficial. 

Next was the Design Workshop, with the host Anna Ploszajski, who is a materials scientist. This was a practical competition, where we worked in groups of two or three to construct a tennis ball holding structure out of 3 pieces of A4 paper and 10cm of tape – with the aim of making them as tall and stable as possible. The aim of the activity was to teach us the importance of iterative modelling and testing, as well as how the properties of materials can change depending on how you use them. 

The fourth and final speaker was Ingrid Murphy, a ceramic artist who uses incredibly innovative methods of combining traditional ceramic work, and cutting-edge technology. Her main point was talking about object-to-object interface, using the internet, and how technology could be almost woven into traditional artforms to create new, unique and strange exhibits that have featured in displays all over the world. She said that she feels as though the implementation of new technology into old art forms is important because it can help to intrigue and educate people on history, as well as the world around them today. 

Overall, I found that the event was really engaging and interesting, because it made me aware of some new types of design that I wasn’t previously aware of, as well as opening my eyes to the role of AI in design, which I hadn’t considered. I enjoyed it a lot! 

By Evie, Year 12

Tagged  Sixth Form