2009. A year to remember or a year to forget? I’ve put together this review of my year at University, saying what I thought about the second semester of first year and the first semester of second year. Following that, a small review of what designs caught my eye through the year.
The year has been a mixture for myself. Some highs and some lows, though in all fairness the lows did outnumber the highs. The projects in the second semester of first year didn’t really grab my attention as much as I wished they would. This is apart from the second project undertaken in Design Studies regarding supermarkets, where I feel the group I was in (bar one member) put in some of the best work we had done at University up to that point, and it was the first time since possibly the December of 6th year at high school where I felt I had put in the sufficient hours and had gotten far. It was a good group to work in, but not as good as the group for the first project of Design Studies in that semester where we had to create characters out of ‘junk’, and then using these characters, create a story involving them.
The product design part of that semester was interesting to say the least. A combination of modelling a dyson, a kitchen object and creating a product which met an unmet need in the kitchen was required. At the time it didn’t really seem that relevant, and if I’m honest, part of me still does not see the point in what we did, but it, at times, was good fun none the less.
The mechanics module was, well, rubbish. A lot of time was spent helping others, which, I should point out, do not really mind doing as long as people at least say thank you. Then there are those (and only one or two) who I like to help without expecting thanks from because I like them too much to mind. However, once the exam was over in the middle of May, that was the hardest part of the Mechanics done and dusted for the full university course.
First year left me with mixed feelings about the course. On one hand it was not quite what I had thought it was going to be, and thoughts were coming into my head about whether or not I had made the right choice about what I wanted to to, or if I had chosen the wrong place to go since I could have gone to either Edinburgh or Glasgow instead of Dundee. However on the other hand, I did have quite a lot of fun in my first year, ranging from meeting huge amounts of new people, some who have left a huge impression on me, to doing a range of things which I would not have done anywhere else, from sticking my face in paint, in the name of leaving my mark, to making a Dyson out of blue foam.
Before I knew what was what, September sprung up again and it was time to head back up to Dundee for the start of the second year, and as it turned out two of the modules were once again verging on awful, but one was pretty decent. The two which were not that enjoyable though were not two which were expected.
The two modules which were the ‘unenjoyable’ ones were the Design Studies and the Industrial Design modules. Design Studies because we started the project very late, the workload in the group was very uneven (read that as 2 or 3 people in the group doing the work and pulling the weight of the other 3 or 4), and in all honesty it was not the most interesting project, despite the people involved, those with Aphasia, who were some of the nicest people anyone could meet.
The Industrial Design module did not start very well, and neither did it finish very well, however the middle was quite enjoyable. This was probably in part due to the fact the lecturer ripped down everything that was put forward and did not really give any useful criticism. They changed their mind from week to week, and strongly seemed to favour some people more than they did others. And I know that this sentiment is shared with at least one other person in the class.
I have posted a full review of those two modules previously where I covered everything, or almost everything, as fully as I could, or felt I could since this is publicly available. You can view them here for Industrial Design and here for Design Studies.
The surprise module was the mechanics one, or giving it its proper name, Software Applications. This one was surprisingly enjoyable. I think this was because it was the only time when I felt as thought I was learning new skills which would be useful in later life. It started off with AutoCAD and then onto Solidworks. Whilst neither were taught that well, self experimentation gave me most of the answers I needed (along with Google I should add). This was then passed onto the majority of the class, who seemed to ask me more than they did the bearded lecturer. Again the same opinion as per first year mechanics, I did not mind helping people, and definitely helping more people more than others. It was a good thing most of my work was completed by putting in longer hours than others at the start of each part of the project as the later parts were consumed spending time crouched down, on my knees, next to the computers.
The other part of this module which proved to be quite enjoyable was the Microcontrollers part, though I am probably on my own with this one. It did finish quite quickly, I felt as though I learned quite a lot, though maybe it is not quite as useful as the AutoCAD and Solidworks. The labs were good as well, working with people who I enjoy working with, and putting into practice what we had learned. We had to do a project as well, creating something which used a microcontroller and all the previous knowledge we had gathered. Our group, after initially wanting to go for a car traction control system, changed it to an outdoor keyboard. The basic prototype is shown in the picture below.
Overall 2009, in terms of the University course, was not as good as what I was hoping it would be. There just seemed to be too much of ego’s getting in the way in some areas, not knowing what was going on, having to carry people through projects and not seeing the relevance of what was being done. It was sort of counterbalanced by the fact I got to work with some really good people, begin to make more of a mark for myself up in Dundee, feeling more comfortable with what I was doing, and since the amount of alcohol consumed in writing this post has increased over the time it has been written (though not that much to say what I really am thinking and start to not make sense), gotten closer to people who I really enjoy being with.
I am hoping that 2010 will be a much better year overall in terms of university work. Hoping that it will be more useful, more enjoyable. One of the projects I am looking forward to though, is one where we are going to be making an MP3 player, which should be interesting. There are many areas in which I feel as though I could improve and I hope to do so quickly and effectively..
I am aware that I have gone on for quite a bit in this post, so I shall try to keep this next bit to a minimum, despite it being a part in which I could write so much more than my 2009 University musings. I shall also try and keep it away from my usual haunts of Apple and Bang & Olufsen (or as it has been said to me instead of B&O, Häagen Dazs), but in some instances I cannot help it.
One of the first pieces of design which was revealed in 2009 was the Apple Magic Mouse. I wrote a piece about its predecessor, the Mighty Mouse a while ago, citing reasons why people thought the scroll ball was a bad piece of design and possible areas of improvement. It seems that Jonathan Ive or Steve Jobs read what I wrote and implemented it in the Magic Mouse. It is probably one of the best pieces of Apple design, up there with the iMac G4. It’s beautifully simple and elegant, almost Scandinavian in its design, and I love it. I was very close to ordering one when it was launched, and sometime over the break, I am planning on heading to the Apple store in either Glasgow or Aberdeen to try one out and then possibly buy one. (Post about Mighty Mouse here).
The next piece of design which caught my eye in 2009 was the Bang & Olufsen Beotime. A gorgeous alarm clock inspired by a flute. I have no other words to describe it other than I want one. But then again, I am a bit of a sucker for B&O (and Apple I should add). It just seems that at the moment, both companies are producing products which are leading in each of their respective fields. We all have, in our minds, what we think an alarm clock should look like, the Danes then took this archetype, turned it upside down and rewrote it, or drew it to create the Beotime.
Despite only being a concept. the Art.Lebedev Transparentius caught my eye for being something epically unique. It takes an aspect of road safety and turns it into something which has not been seen before. It is absolutely astounding. When following a lorry and looking for opportunities to pass, the driver is often unaware of oncoming obstacles until they pull out, and it is often too late then. A camera mounted on the front of the lorry, projects the front view onto the rear of the trailer so the drivers behind are able to see ‘through’ the lorry. Whilst this could be quite distracting, it is a start to reducing the number of deaths on the roads. Additionally, being from Art.Lebedev studios, a Russian design company who are responsible for some of the most random, yet brilliant pieces of modern product design available, you know the final product will be just as radical and fun as the concept.
The final product which has captured my imagination is another one which I have written about. The Eigenharp. Not really being musically minded (despite playing the violin for a few years when I was younger), the Eigenharp is an electronic instrument with a difference. It looks beautiful and sounds pretty spectacular, especially the Moby Extreme Ways version. Read more on what I said about it in the original post here.
I know those four may not have been the most radical designs of the past 12 months. But those are the three which have made an impression on me, or the ones in which I can remember. I may end up adding a couple of more in the coming days, as this year draws to an end. What sort of things am I expecting to appear next year? I don’t know, that is the beauty of product design, and only a question which can be answered when you work in the industry and not just studying it.
So there we go. Nearing the end of not one of my favourite years. A post verging on 2000 words, and the general tone of my posts turning to grumbles instead of musings. I am planning on making a few changes on here for next year, some more subtle than others, a post sometime in January will hopefully and probably outline them. Thank you for reading my posts this year, and I hope everyone got something from at least one of them.