Sunday, 20 December 2009

Furniture Project

Last week we finished our furniture project.

For the presentation side of things we decided to present our ideas with the use of a massive timeline. This was a very useful method because this was similar to the way we worked as a group throughout the project. Originally we were confining ourselves to our own individual and group sketchbooks and were banging our heads against a brick wall. Limiting ourselves and not allowing our creative minds to be free, the first week really was a struggle - we just could not latch onto any decent ideas!

Ripping our sketchbooks apart and lining our studio walls, we were able to see all the group member's thought processes. Brainstorming and sketching basic ideas allowed us to expand on these and move around the wall freely, adding to each other's ideas. This was really useful and after a small amount of time we were all on the same wavelength - our initial idea was born.

The workshop was a steep learning curve for me! Over the past 6 weeks I have learnt so many new skills and I am sure that I am going to be able to put these into practice for future projects.

This view shows the finger joints at the front of the seat.

Side profile of the seat.

The table sits 10mm away from each of the edges of the seat creating the illusion that it is floating.

A back view of how the table sits in the chair.

A view of the table sliding out of the chair.

The finished table and chair.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Furniture Project

A little update on the furniture project...

This week we have been focusing on the side supports for the chair - it's crucial that we get these right as this is what is going to make the chair stable. Using butt joints to connect them to the main frame, the outer skin is made more solid. The image below shows the process that was undertook while creating these.

The side supports are made from Birch Plywood and are cut so that the outside edge is flush with the outer edge of the oak base (See above exploded view). The angle at which the Birch Ply intersects the oak made it slightly difficult when cutting so great care had to be taken to insure that the angle was not altered.

A certain amount of thought has been taken when making these side supports as any discrepancy could make the chair unstable when a load was applied.

While cutting the oak for the length of the seat, we made a slight mistake and cut the wood too short (see below).
With the width of the oak being 24mm short we had to think of something to make it wider so that the oak would be sitting on the Birch Ply (the whole point of the supports). A solution that we came up with was to cut two bits of oak, both 12mm wide, that mimicked the shape of the backrest. These were not simply a square shape and were set at 75ยบ.

The angle at which the chair sits against the support.

Template used to mark angle onto wood.

Cutting these parts could have been hard but we made a template that could be drawn around. This was such a time saver and there was no fiddling about with protractors!

We have yet to attach these pieces to the final chair so I cannot really comment on the effectiveness of these yet. Hopefully tomorrow, we will test these and see whether we have solved the problem. If not it's back to the drawing boards as they say.

I thought in this post I should include what our final design should look like seeing as in the last one I just talked about what we hoped for. Also below, is an annotated page from my sketchbook showing the thinking process that had to be undertook for parts of the chair.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Challenge

After buying a new phone recently I was shocked to discover that the camera on it was almost as good as my digital camera that I had. Over Christmas I've set myself the challenge to try and capture as many different things that I can with my phone camera so watch this space...

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Interior Design Environmental Architecture Society.
As big second years now it is our job in our department to fundraise for our degree show.
Sounds easy but add everything else into the mix and it's quite stressful. Running this alongside your studio based work and design studies is quite a challenge but it has allowed me to get better at my time management.

Organising bake sales, setting up Internet search engines to raise money everytime you search, a £10 challenge and last but not least the pub crawl.
The pub crawl was a great success for us and I have to admit I was a bit of a cynic to begin with. Dressed up as Cowboys and Indians we hit the streets and pubs of Dundee asking for donations. I wasn't sure to be honest how many people would want to part with their beer tickets but most people were willing to do their bit for IDEAS - some were even upset when we didn't go over and ask them for money!

All in all, the evening was a great success and we ended up raising well over £300! Everyone had such a good laugh and we all managed to show our support for the degree show.

Furniture Project - Workshop Based

Thought I should give you a preview of what I've been up to lately...
Brief: design a well made and fully considered piece of furniture.

Another group project and another learning experience. From the very start of this project, it has been very challenging. The new brief challenged us in ways we had never before been asked to...this was the first project that involved us jumping from our sketchbooks in the studio to making an actual finished and working piece. Unlike the scale models where there can be the odd discrepancy - if things are slightly out on our furniture chances are that it will collapse!

A few sketches from my notebook (these were done when I should have really been concentrating on a talk that was being delivered to our class, whoops!).

Designers are well known for trying to think far too complicated and think in strange ways that sometimes 'normal' people cannot understand...well we fell into that trap. Trying to come up with a piece of furniture that was special to someone and that could hide something sentimental to them. It was fine drawing all these ideas into our sketchbooks but we were forgetting one thing...we would have to actually make this.

Now I'm not gonna lie, my skills in a workshop are very basic. I only had good old CDT in first and second year at high school but most of the time spent in there was either making pencil holders or just having a general muck about thanks to us having it last on a Friday afternoon... The only thing I gained from this was being able to sand and knowing how to saw things- this just really didn't prepare me for the shock I was about to get.

Getting a skills day allowed us to gain a basic understanding of the machines down in the workshop and learn a few basic joints (Half and half and mortise and tenon joint) then for the real thing.

To begin with things were slow. Everybody was in the same boat and most of the time was spent standing about trying to work things out for ourselves. This steep learning curve though provided a little self confidence in myself.

I didn't think that I could do half the things that I am learning in the workshop but I'm happy to report that I have successfully managed some manly things! Sawing, chiseling, drilling, you name it, I can do it! Never mind Bob the Builder... Okay well I'm not that good yet (judging by the cut on my hand that I got today while chiseling finger joints...) but I'm getting there.

So I thought I'd upload some pictures of what we've made so far. Don't laugh I'm so happy with it!

This is only part of the finished piece so far. This is a table that will be slotted in underneath the chair.

The table is decorated with these oak routes that will be attached to runners on the chair allowing the table to be slid in and out when needed.

Moving the table is easy with the handles that we have built into the table. These are outlined with a thin oak beading.

And if I've learnt anything so far - KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Christmas time

It's really hard to try and not write about this time of the year. Everyone urging the days to go by quicker so that the big man can come! Even now it seems quite a while a way until Christmas yet people are still running around the city like headless chickens as if things are going out of fashion. Kids queueing to see Santa constantly saying "I want this", "I want that". Have we really forgot the true meaning of Christmas?

To me Christmas is about spending time with your family and enjoying a nice dinner and reminiscing on the past hectic year. I guarantee without fail the words "Where has the year gone?" will make an appearance during the day but who cares? Everyone has a laugh about the family's misfortunes and we can watch the same rubbish that is on the television for yet another year. For example, Singing in the Rain. I cannot begin to count on my fingers how many times I have watched films like this on Christmas day but every year, my gran still acts surprised when she sees these and still insists in us all watching them! This has just become a tradition for the Laing family on Christmas Day and I wouldn't change it for the world. Everyone is just so relaxed for one day we can just stuff ourselves with delicious food and just forget about all our worries.

It is quite easy to take it for granted how lucky we are to all be spending time together but some people are not so fortunate. A friend of mine has missed out on so many Christmas' with her father who is a soldier and is called away on duty at the most inappropriate times. It is the same this year for many family's across the UK who have someone on duty fighting for their country and something that I can't help think about every year is the story of the 'Christmas truce'.

During WW1 in 1914 the whole truce started on Christmas Eve with candles being placed on trees and Christmas carols being sung. It must have been a strange sight to have witnessed - an unusually cheery place to be instead of all the bloodshed. It just shows that even the most patriotic soldiers gave into their beliefs.

After a while, things were shouted out across 'No Man's Land' to the enemy trenches and troops surfaced from their 'homes' to meet with the enemy. It was as though they were old friends meeting; gifts and addresses were exchanged. There are claims that football matches even took place!

I wonder if anything like this will happen this year...?

With thanks:

Hidden Objects

Everyday the same necklace hangs around my neck. Big deal right? Actually it is (to me anyway).

I've just starting reading the book "Snoop" by Sam Gosling and cannot believe how interesting it is. Gosling conducts experiments where he looks at people's rooms and can tell what sort of person they are from them. Some have things that comfort them, others inspirational messages to motivate them. Others strangely have things hidden, sometimes in places that only they can see them. This reminded me a little of a necklace that I wear...

I wear the necklace everyday around my neck but not very many people know why and what it represents. There is nothing special about it, except the memories attached with it.

This is probably one of my first strong memories as a child. I received this necklace when I was a flower girl at my auntie's wedding and I have kept it ever since. I can remember the day well. I was only 4 years old but I can still remember walking behind my auntie down the alter, throwing petals. Looking back at the photos of the day it is with me in every single one and it reminds me so much of family.

It's strange how things are invaluable to some people but are irreplaceable to others.

Social Networking

We've all heard of Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, etc and we all know how great they are for keeping in touch with old friends, looking at photos and posting what you thinking...but would you go as far as posting how your feeling at your wedding?

This is exactly what an American software developer did!
During his ceremony Dana Hanna managed to update his facebook status and tweet "Standing at the alter with @ TracyPage where just a second ago, she became my wife! Gotta go, time to kiss my bride." Ridiculous?

Hailed as the 'social utility' this sort of thing is not uncommon and more and more people are posting strange status'- "hopes this Halloween, he doesn't end up with a bag full of restraining orders again." (Just maybe not as bad as posting your status at your wedding!)

The amount of media attention this couple is receiving in America is unbelievable and they are already on Fox Channel and there is something telling me that this was the intention behind the posts, but is it right? I mean your wedding day is supposed to be the most exciting day of your life and would you really want yours to be publisied for some cheap publicity?

Social networking does have its serious side though and some people now are using these websites as tools to help them design art pieces.

Here are some of the examples that I came across:

With thanks:

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Assignment 4: Reading and Reviewing

Taylor purposely sets out to highlight the differences between neighbourhoods and investigates the level of responses to disorder. He clearly delivers his ideas, educating us with the key facts needed to understand his arguments. Very quickly Taylor begins to talk about the sources he used to gather his information to write the journal. This evidence-based report relies strongly on the data gathered in research such as resident surveys, census information, on - site assessments and crime rates from 66 randomly selected neighbourhoods. From this research he is able to use the facts gathered to conduct other tests but also to make conclusions about the information gathered – context does affect how responsive we are.

Expansive research provides us with a great understanding of the underlying theme of the journal; context affects response. Taylor talks about how neighbourhoods help shape a community and also an individual. Although this point is discussed, further reading that helps reinforce this idea by looking into specific areas is “Stencil Graffiti”. Different neighbourhoods have different types of graffiti – each provoking a different level of response depending on the context in which they are placed. The environment in which individuals are placed serve as a backdrop where changes in it act as stimuli to individuals. (Manco 2002:5)

So why does context affect our responses to certain things? Taylor answers this successfully by highlighting a large amount of sources and manages to keep his personal opinions out of his writing, creating an unbiased report. Making a neutral point and then backing it up with a source meant that on reading, his report appeared creditable. Talking about local communities, Taylor presents ideas about the sense of community and value of community and refers to some local communities as “a complex system of friendship and kinship networks and formal and informal associational ties” (Kasarda and Janowitz, 1974:329; see also Hunter, 1974). Sometimes results from Taylor’s experiments placed a negative spin, for example on African – American neighbourhoods. He appeals directly to the reader that although there is significant evidence that renders this true, he also asks us to take into consideration that not every neighbourhood has been studied and so results are entirely random. By presenting us with this additional information, we are aware that he is sensitive to the fact that not every neighbourhood was part of the study.

Another method used to present sources was including test results in which Taylor asks people a number of questions about their neighbourhood (how attached they are to their neighbourhood? would a neighbour stop graffiti?, are there dangerous places to avoid?, etc), providing an honest response from local people. The results of this test reinforced the idea that different neighbourhoods work differently and that people in different neighbourhoods have different response levels to those in other neighbourhoods. Different neighbourhoods pose different threats so by creating interviews with a large variation in questions a deeper understanding can be gained when researching different opinions on a context.

One factor of a neighbourhood that acts as a threat is graffiti. Graffiti is associated with crime; place this in a neighbourhood context and the mood changes almost immediately for people. Graffiti is not the only catalyst of the change of behaviour from an individual but placed with the right conditions people become nervous and feel vulnerable – maybe because they are not exposed to graffiti on a regular basis. Taylor explains that in ‘high class’ neighbourhoods there is an uproar about graffiti because residents are not subjected to this everyday. Some residents view their neighbourhood simply as a place to live, nothing more. In contrast, other residents in neighbourhoods feel a strong sense of social attachment and are familiar with everyone in their street (Taylor 1996:42). Associations that aim to maintain high standards are now introducing schemes to help promote a better standard of living. ( (21 November 2009))

With the aim to educate people in ‘Environmental Psychology’, Tony Cassidy expresses his idea that personality doesn’t control behaviour but that setting is the reason behind our reactions. With so many questions surrounding the area of context and behaviour, the author tries to answer as many of these questions as he can using a number of sources and experiments.

One of these includes an experiment conducted by Roger Barker and Herbert Wright in 1947. Although this source is slightly dated, the information gathered is still relevant in portraying the idea that environmental factors are more important than personality. This meticulous 25 year long study by Barker monitored the effect of context on behaviour of 100 children, studying them until adulthood. At a time when video equipment was not available, the results were extremely detailed allowing reliable conclusions to be drawn from these.
“…the behaviour setting provided information in which allowed explanations for the behaviour observed. Individuals move through a wide range of behaviour settings each day, and it is not personality traits which control behaviour.” (Cassidy 2003:47)
The conclusions drawn from Barker’s experiment are very accurate due to the fact that there was so much information gathered. Comparisons could be made due to the vast amount of research collated and the number of participants that took part in the experiment and it could be concluded that there cannot be a separation of behaviour from its setting. Context can influence our experience so by watching lots of different individuals, results could be compared on their placement. By repeating similar aspects of this experiment making use of video equipment, recordings could be watched repeatedly to gain a greater understanding.

Another source, Bronfenbrenner, argues that behaviour settings offer inadequate reasons as an individual’s experience of context is not included. He argues that “behaviour settings provide incomplete explanations because they do not include the person’s experience and appraisals of the context” (Cassidy 2003:51). Bronfenbrenner disputes that response to a place is specific to an individual and personality does in fact come into it. Individuals are all brought up differently and are taught to behave differently so by placing a number of people in certain contexts they are likely to behave slightly differently - this is not due to the context but to their own individual personalities. Memories also play an important part in explaining Bronfenbrenner’s theory because an individual will remember how they behaved in an environment previously or how someone else behaved, thus influencing how they respond.

From presenting these conflicting sources, Cassidy feels strongly enough to present his own ideas about how small changes in context can have a massive impact on behaviour. These might take the form of either physical or social aspects provoking a positive or negative response from an individual. When people are presented with things that they are unfamiliar with, their behaviour changes. For example, if a person from a high class neighbourhood was presented with graffiti they may feel uneasy and threatened whereas a person from a rough neighbourhood may not respond in a negative way. Something that we are subjected to often will in time have little effect on us - presented with something new and we are more likely to respond.

Although both sources have similar underlying themes, there is a slightly different content in each source. Taylor specifically talks about behaviour in neighbourhoods and how individuals within a community can have a positive or negative response to their surroundings. Raising the issue that these small changes within context can have a massive impact, designers are now trying to accommodate these problems and are trying to come up with solutions. Designing Safer Environments echoes what is said by Taylor but shows specific examples of how each context has different problems that have been understood to enable better design solutions. For example by changing the orientation of buildings so that they overlook public spaces, we are more conscious as individuals of what is going on around us (Stephen 2006:7). By studying contrasting neighbourhoods using crime rates and photographs, one could conduct a mini experiment in which observations could be made about the design of a neighbourhood.

Instead of highlighting the small changes in contexts that can affect our behaviour, Cassidy presents us with different environments that are the most influential in imposing change to our normal behaviour, e.g. school, home, neighbourhoods. Experiments in each of these areas are presented in extensive detail creating a greater understanding of the objective, the advantage of this being that a large number of experiments have been conducted so that stronger conclusions can be made. The sources offered to us from Cassidy are all very reliable but compared to Taylor’s they are a little outdated, with one of experiments commencing in 1947. Lasting 25 years there is no denying that this experiment is extensive but conditions in these times were very different to what they are like now so it is hard to compare the results with the current circumstances. Problems faced in that period would have been different to the problems faced nowadays and a more up to date experiment could be conducted so that results could be compared from two different eras. Newspapers such as The Guardian are up to date sources about the latest attempts to try and tackle crime within a community but also they document designer’s attempts to try and solve these problems. ( (2 December 2009))

Each day in different contexts, small changes can alter behaviour. An artist who uses this as a platform in which to present his work on is Banksy. It is clear that most of his designs are created to draw a response, sometimes positive but mainly negative. As Taylor and Cassidy both stress, these small changes can affect people differently and Banksy manipulates this to gain attention. By placing his stencils in the places he does he is rewarded with the maximum response and can communicate his opinions. As a designer it is important to understand certain things such as where a product is best suited and who it is best suited for. Although Banksy ‘writes on walls’, a lot of thought from his behalf goes into researching the area that will receive the most response. With different attitudes to this work it is clear that the upbringing of an individual plays an important role in interpretation, something that Taylor and Cassidy both convey - but what if they are wrong? A report by Nuffield council on Bioethics asks the questions if our genes have more to do with our behaviour than context and if anti – social behaviour has got anything to do with our upbringing? A little more research into this topic would provide a better understanding to the relationships between genetics and upbringing and the response to context. We cannot choose to ignore this source, as it may be vital in explaining other issues that context cannot.

Context and behaviour is such an interesting topic and as an Interior and Environmental Designer it is important to consider every aspect of our design and be sensitive to an environment's needs. Extensive research is required when trying to understand a context and the people that inhabit it - get this wrong and you risk upsetting whole communities!


Banksy, 2006, Wall and piece, Arrow Books Ltd, United Kingdom.

Barker, R.G. & Wright, H. 1955, Midwest and its children, Row and Petersen, New York.

Bronfenbrenner, U 1979, The ecology of human development, MA: Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Cassidy, T 2003, Environmental psychology, Psychology Press, East Sussex.

Dudman, J 2008, The wow factor, The Guardian, viewed 2 December 2009, <>.

Hunter, A 1974, Symbolic communities, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Kasarda, J.D. & Janowitz, M 1974, ‘Community attachment in mass society’, American Socialogical Review, vol 39, 328-339.

Kennedy, I 2002, Genetics and human behaviour, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, London.

Manco, T 2002, Stencil Graffiti, Thames & Hudson, London.

Muir, H 2009, Kent police attribute massive reduction in crime to neighbourhood teams, The Guardian, viewed 21 November 2009, <>.

Stephen, S 2006, Designing safer places, The Scottish Executive, Edinburgh.

Taylor, R. B. 1996, ‘Neighbourhood responses to disorder and local attachments: the systemic model of attachment, social disorganization, and neighbourhood use value’, Sociological Forum, vol. 11, no.1, pp. 41-74.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

December 1st

For many, today will mean the first day that they get to open their advent calender but for a Liverpool fan it means so much more...

50 years ago today Bill Shankly arrived at Anfield with a dream that was almost laughable.

Just before the 'Shankly era' Liverpool FC were struggling. Relegated from the top flight and now struggling in the bottom half of the old second division, it seemed only a miracle could help them. In steps Bill Shankly.

How could a man from a mining town in Scotland create such an impression? Well, he stamped his personality all over Anfield with the players and fans all looking up to him. He understood what needed to be done and he wasn't afraid to step on anyones toes.

Without the influence of Shankly, I'm sure that Liverpool would not be in the place they are now. His sheer determination and visions lifted Liverpool out of a dark period and raised them to where they should be! (Pity he couldn't give Rafa a hand this season...)

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

With thanks: Photo: