MA Fashion Journalism students review Here and There Symposium

Two students from the MA Fashion Journalism course Rachel Edwards and Hannah Donald have reviewed the recent Postgraduate Symposium Here and There that explored the relationship between Disciplinarity and Interdisplinarity. There reviews are below:

Here and There; A Postgraduate Symposium on Interdisciplinarity in Contemporary Design By Hannah Donald

Throughout my academic career I’ve attended numerous lectures given by guest speakers, most of which resulted in me trying to hide the fact that I spent the entire time on my eBay phone app to pass the dreary time… until now. The postgraduate symposium put on by The Design School left me feeling truly inspired, and eagerly anticipating what my future career has in store.

The day started with Simon Maidment, Head of The Design School, giving a short introduction stemming from the Swiss artists’ Fischli and Weiss’ ‘How to Work Better’. This was followed by Dr. Paul Micklethwaite’s introduction, which broke down the traditional interpretation of the meaning of the word ‘discipline’, getting us all thinking, and asking us whether Design can ever be truly rigorous?

John O’Reilly, Editor of Varoom magazine, was the first guest speaker of the day.  He comes from an academic background with a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Warwick, on to an established career in Journalism, where he has contributed to the Guardian, Independent and Observer amongst others. He spoke to us about the mutual exclusivity of discipline and power; every discipline needs authority. He also gave us his key to producing interesting research; being able to bluff, and to truly believe that what you have come up with is both new and exciting.

Next to speak was Lise Strathdee. As a Fashion Journalism student I was particularly looking forward to hearing what she had to say, and was left totally inspired by her truly amazing career, which is so dynamic and impossible to summarise. She spoke about starting her Fashion career in Milan in the early 80s, where Fashion was seen as a trade in a culture of working with artisans. From the start, Lise was truly interdisciplinary, and stressed the importance of working across the board, and of not being pre-occupied with labeling yourself. She went on to set up her own Design Consultancy, moved to London, then on to New Zealand and set up a beautiful destination boutique, which she now runs as a pop up shop through Summer, whilst freelancing throughout the rest of the year. She illustrated her career to date through a serious of wonderful photographs, some from work, and some personal, all showing how she has channeled everything she has learnt and successfully combined her many skills so eloquently.

Jason Allcorn was next up, and full of more inspired tales of interdisciplinary collaborations. With a background in Industrial Design for Engineers, Jason decided he wanted to begin selling things he had created, and started off making giftware from materials found through skip diving. He went on to set up a number of his own companies with his partner, whilst also freelancing for companies such as LEGO. His current company, WEmake, has the motto “make better stuff and make stuff better”, encouraging others to get creative through exhibitions, workshops, seminars and publications, which illustrate a plethora of different interdisciplinary skills under one inspirational roof.

The final speaker was Architect Peter Higgins. Peter has worked on the design of a number of large scale projects including the Millennium Dome Play Zone, the V&A Golden Age of Couture exhibition, The O2 British Music Experience and the Sutton Life Centre to name a few. He showed us a window into his creations by playing video clips illustrating the sheer impressiveness of the technology and imagination behind these projects.

The speeches were followed by an exclusive opportunity for the audience to question the experts as a panel. The atmosphere was laid back, informal, and intimate whilst the four experts sat at the front and took turns answering the diverse array of questions put forward by the audience. They patiently and thoughtfully answered everyone’s queries, with the nature of the Q and A session turning more conversational, and at times, philosophical, when the relationship of design and discipline were debated towards the end.

As you can tell, all of the speakers have highly inspiring careers in Design, and all of them proved the importance of trying your hand at different skills. The four experts gave the audience a glimpse into the exciting and diverse futures that could be in store for anyone of us sitting before them; ready to embark on our own Postgraduate adventures. The Design Symposium definitely widened my opinion of different areas of Design, and blurred the line (which I previously thought was quite rigid) between these different areas. The overall mantra from the day was definitely to learn as much as possible in life, and to apply it to everything you do.

Design Symposium reviewed by Rachel Edwards

A theme of interdisciplinarity informed the discussion at Kingston’s Design Symposium on Thursday and with four keynote speakers representing different areas of the design spectrum, the theme was certainly upheld. Whilst the speakers themselves embodied the diversity of contemporary design, their respective career trajectories demonstrated the possibility for overlap of design fields.

The symposium, aptly entitled ‘Here and There,’ welcomed first John O’Reilly, editor of Varoom, a magazine covering contemporary illustration, who spoke of his views on discipline in the field of design with a distinct philosophical edge born of his years of study on the subject.  It was John’s MA in philosophy during which he “learnt more and more about less and less” (which, if you hear him speak, is hard to believe) which sparked his interest in the artistic process and ultimately segued into a career steeped in aesthetics and contemporary design. His presentation was interspersed with the work of illustrators and artists, from Marian Bantjes’ Isle of Knowledge, an illustrated map of ‘the known, beyond which lie monsters’ created for Varoom magazine to the work of Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani for Benetton.

Lise Strathdee a chameleon of the fashion world; designer, writer, editor and business owner gave perhaps the most entertaining presentation, highlighting the misadventures of starting and developing a creative retail business in the largely unpopulated wilds of New Zealand. Partisan of the fashion scene in 1980′s Milan where she worked under the direction of Romeo Gigli, Lise spoke of the inherent interdisciplinarity of working within the fashion industry, being sent during her time with Gigli from the design studio to the press office. It was, however, her labour of love in Hokianga, New Zealand which coloured her talk the most; Lise’s outpost shop selling the work of local artists has brought tourists to the remote area. From spray painting abandoned cars to designing an alter cloth for a local church and producing a New Zealand themed issue for Italian magazine, Case da Abitare, Lise proved herself utterly dedicated to the pursuit of a creative outlet in the most unexpected places.

Jason Allcorn, a freelance designer for LEGO and co-creator of [re]design took us from his humble beginnings in a make-shift, tarpaulin design studio in his back garden to his current enterprise; a socially-conscious creative endeavour with his partner. Jason’s emphasis was on sustainable and responsible design, the mission statement for his design company WEmake, to ‘make better stuff and make stuff better,’ encapsulated his core beliefs. His design company [re]design was described as largely not for profit, evidently another labour of love from our speaker. Instead Jason and his partner aim to create experiences, interacting with the public during exhibitions and workshops. It was here that the theme of interdisciplinarity came to life. As part of [re]design, Jason has produced an innovative design tool, the ‘flowmaker’ a set of 54 cards with five suits consisting of instinct, personality, ageing, play and potential, which can be used across all design disciplines to generate ideas and encourage non-linear thinking.

Finally Peter Higgins, architect and commercial designer, presented his work in planning and designing spaces for museum exhibitions and visitor attractions. Whilst Peter uses his formal architectural training in his commercial designs, it is the technological aspects of his job which he professed to enjoying the most, evident in his prolific use of interactive multimedia in his designs.  Similar to the fashion industry, Peter described his work as heavily reliant on interdisciplinary collaborations and his impressive variety of clients is testimony to this; from working with fashion curators, historians and illustrators at the V&A to launching a large scale ‘multimedia musical experience’ at the O2.

What was evident during the talk was the wealth of experience the speakers had collectively accrued, shifting seamlessly between design disciplines, borrowing from one to apply to another; interdisciplinarity in action. It was a joy to listen to and was met with considerable enthusiasm from the audience.  All students present were encouraged to hear that a person’s career path, especially those in a design discipline, is joyously convoluted and complex and can lead a philosophy major into the art world or a fashion designer into the wild.