Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Assignment 5b

I was reflecting back on my studio project Juteopolis and how I would approach it differently. My studio brief was to design an exhibition space, using sustainable materials, to create our response to the theme of Juteopolis. This was a term to describe Dundee at the height of its success in the Jute industry and also was the name of a ship that transported Jute from India. Our client was Verdant Works, but we were fortunate to work alongside Brain Kelly (Education and Community research officer for Dundee Heritage). This exhibition would be displayed in the visual research centre, which is part of the Dundee Contemporary Art Centre.

This was mainly a group project and I really enjoyed researching it. My source of information was from secondary sources - books and the library. I looked at different period photographs and compared them against the changing landscape. I found it interesting reading stories of the mill workers and weavers. This gave a real insight into the conditions at the time and adds flavour to the research. This helped me to gain a clearer insight into the jute industry and to the history and importance of Dundee. The 3 ‘J’s– Jute, Jam and Journalism - really made an impact on me. These were very much the industries of the time and helped shape Dundee, its history, its land, its position in the world and most importantly its people. I was very much looking at historical information and dates which was important to ensure that the content of the exhibition was correct and accurate. It might have been better if we, as a group, had taken different roles and responsibilities in the research.

On further reflection, given this is recent history within Dundee; I should have looked at some primary sources. It would have been useful to have met someone who had actually worked in the factories who was still alive. It would have been a great opportunity to have heard it first hand – their stories, their worries and concerns of the time as well as their hopes and aspirations. It would perhaps have been useful for them to have seen and reviewed some of the material that we were planning to display.

Presentation of the material was key. I would have spent some time interviewing locals and tourists to gain a better understanding of what they were hoping to see in the exhibition, their knowledge of Dundee’s history and to ensure that we were delivering an excellent client experience. It was important to try and pitch the exhibition at the correct level. This is important given the wide age range that attend exhibitions like this – how interactive do children or adults like it? Should we have had detailed story boards or old film footage or recordings of old stories from the weavers? Would this have been interesting? Do people expect highly technological displays? Do visitors expect the staff to be knowledgeable on the subject?

In addition to the presentation of the material, planning where it would be situated and how the exhibition would flow were key. I would have done a series of interviews as well as observing other exhibitions to ensure that we had the best lay out. I found that my observation exercise on the London Underground very powerful and has made me look a things in a different light.

Observing can add so much. This is ensures that the client experience is good that the exhibitions flow well and that the staff can ensure that it is easy to manage on a day to day basis. This is critical given the importance of disabled access and adherence to Health and Safety regulations. I was particularly drawn to thinking about how the disabled would consider in this exhibition. Can they enjoy the interactive parts of the exhibition? Are the models and signs at the correct levels for them to enjoy? Can they enjoy a similar experience to someone who is not disabled? Do they have particular needs and how do we fulfil them? Selwyn Goldsmith in his book ‘Designing for the Disabled: The New Paradigm’ gives an intelligent, clear-sighted view of how we should approach access in our environment effectively rather than emotionally. He talks about 'access for everyone' - it should not just be 'access for the disabled'. This is a very powerful statement for any designer.

It is critical to engage all interested parties as Campbell & Co – an Edinburgh based Design Company that specialises in museum design and has worked on the McManus Museum in Dundee noted

‘The Plan is developed through a series of workshops which bring together a wide range of interested parties, including project staff, subject matter specialists, educators, local tourism officials and community representatives.’ (Campbell and Co: Interpretive Exhibition Design)

On reflection of this activity, it has been interesting to open my eyes to new approaches in research. In the past, I have really been focused on looking at secondary sources and have found the interview techniques particularly insightful. I found that I have had to develop some project management skills, particularly in a group situation. You need to ensure good time management, have constant communication and be willing to face up to challenges and problems that you encounter. I have learnt some new skills in helping me to deal with these issues and ensure I successfully improve and maintain those relationships, in particular with clients.

I am confident these new skills and approaches will help me to take a much more holistic view of any project and tackle it in a new and innovative way with a sense of energy and excitement to ensure that my design reaches new heights. I think that this has given me the confidence to challenge, to listen and to gain clearer insights into any project. It has given me a greater understanding that we are often designing for others and not ourselves and we need to ensure that the needs and objectives of others are achieved and that they get they full benefit of the work.

I am sure this approach will improve the quality of my work and help me to serve my clients better.


1. Selwyn Goldsmith ‘Designing for the Disabled: The New Paradigm’

2. Campbell and Co: Interpretive Exhibition Design.[Section]=SERVICES&queryarray[Fontsize]=1.1&queryarray[content]=Interpretation&queryarray[Subsection]=Interpretation&

Assignment 5a

Earlier this semester, I started to look at the growth of internet marketing from its early development and the development of super brands. In particular, I was interested by the development of the Virgin brand in the article ‘Super brands’ (Cave 2007). It charts the development of the brand and looks at the diverse areas it covers from trains and planes to multimedia and mobile phones. ‘The Virgin Group comprises of an assorted mix of businesses. It has its “finger in every pie”, so to speak. The Virgin has group diversified into 200 businesses.’ (Abdul)

How has this group been so successful? How does it take advantage of technology? How has it used internet marketing so successfully? How has it become one of the most trusted brands?

This is what I would like to explore in more detail in this research proposal. It has been interesting to observe that the growth of this group is very much down to the individual.

‘Richard Branson is leading a well-diversified Virgin Group with over 350 companies. He is known for his outlandish and flamboyant leadership style. In 2005, the Virgin Group had annual sales of about $8 billion with operations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. With the group becoming bigger and more diverse, Branson emerged as a strategic and charismatic leader rather than a hands-on manager. Industry observers felt that the group needed a systematic approach to control, and exploit its synergies between its businesses, and manage risks. But the question was whether the group would sustain as an entity as it seemed to be led by the active involvement of Branson.’ (M.V. Patil & Bharathi S.)

Branson has been critical to the development and success of the brand. This is also a potential risk that needs to be better understood. It has successfully embraced the development of the digital age and has developed a clear digital marketing strategy. Virgin has put into action what Stenbock referred to as ‘From the Market place to Market space’. Another observation is the company’s approach to change. Branson employs creative and talented individuals and gives them the opportunity to grow and develop their ideas. As Abdul observes:

A flat management structure helps encourage innovation; provides flexibility and promotes the values of shared ownership and responsibility’ (Abdul)

Having made some observations of the company’s structure and strategy, it is interesting to analyze how this has translated in to the success of the company. Detailed financial analysis would show the group’s commercial successes as well as the significant growth in customers and the ability to cross sell products and enter new markets. Virgin seems to always stay ahead of the completion. In the UK market, Virgin and BT are now going head to head on fibre optic sales – who will be most successful? What will customers are really looking for?

‘An increasing number of broadband users are opting to use Skype for their phone calls. In the last 12 months around one eighth of the total calls made in the UK were on the online telecommunications service. When using a super fast broadband service the Skype system can offer free calls around the world which are reliable and fast. Recent studies have shown that the rate of increase in the use of home phones has reduced, showing that systems such as Skype are growing in popularity.’ (Fibre optic broadband)

Is this about speed or is brand really important?

‘The Virgin brand name is a consumer’s champion and as mentioned previously is a much respected brand with the British public’ (Abdul).

I would like to explore this in more depth with detailed client interviews. I found that this technique is particularly helpful in gaining a clear understanding of what motivates clients. The client experience is unique – both good and bad. The ability to gain client respect in the market place and market space is critical to success. Virgin has illustrated that the have helps reduce the barriers to enter into new markets as people trust the brand and will be confident in the product. A series of face-to-face interviews across all age groups as well as using online ‘Survey monkeys’ (a web- based tool that allows you to create an online survey) would give a clearer and more detailed picture. This is particularly valuable when entering a new market or product to gain a clearer understanding of the clients’ buying behaviour and motivation – does the client want or need the fastest internet broadband in the UK?

I have found that when I first started thinking about Virgin and the brand I took it at face value. In this semester, using many of the techniques that we have learnt from research, observation, analysis and interviewing adds a depth and understanding that I did not fully appreciate. This allows us to a have more consideration and gain a clearer understanding of any local market difference. Steinbock talks in his book about the US market. It is interesting to observe that Virgin has not only become a successful UK brand, but in fact has been able to develop an international reputation. Chan Olmsted talks about ‘free access to the World Wide Web anywhere in the world’. The barriers to entry into new markets and new client segments are breaking down and no one has shown how to do this better them Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. Their continued investment in technology and product innovation has ensured this success.


1. Cave, A. (27th November 2009). A Special Report about Superbrands.

2. Chan – Olmsted, S.M (2002) Journal Tile: ‘Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media’,
Volume: 46, Issue 4. Article Title: Branding and Internet Marketing in the Age of Digital Media

3. Steinbock, D (2000). ‘The Birth of Internet Marketing Communication’. Quorum Books.


1. Abdul,R(2002).Virgin corporate strategy Case Study

2. Patil,M.V. & Bharathi, S (2007) Virgin Group: Richard Branson’s Business with Flamboyance?,%20Organizational%20Change%20and%20CEOs/LDS0025B.htm

3. BT and Virgin go head to head in fibre optic sales

4. Survey Monkey -

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Did anyone think you could have a complete Solar City?

But would you believe the United Arab Emirates are the first in the world to design and start building a Solar City.

Assignment Four - Interview

For my interview assignment, I decided to focus on the question “ How do salespeople influence purchases?”

With lots of close friends working in shops as sale assistants and with us all being consumers, I felt that this was a very appropriate question to study through interviews. These consultations were mainly conducted within the city centre of Dundee.

I first of all made up two mind maps with the first one being my initial thoughts and the other ones being questions.

The questions I finally decided to use are:
1. What qualities make a good sale assistant?
2. Have you ever made an extra purchase because of good service?
3. What shop do you think has good sales assistants?
4. Have you ever not made a purchase because of poor service?
5. Where have you had good or bad service recently?
Salesperson question:
1. What qualities make a good sale assistant?
2.Do you get incentives for increased sales?
3. How does your experience of being a shopper affect your work in sales?

For my first response I decided to ask a part time female sales assistant: a student who works in Clarks shoe shop. She believed a good sales person should be approachable, friendly, good at listening, good with people and know about the products they are selling. It was very interesting to find out that if they sell more handbags and shoe care on top of selling shoes, the bonus is put in a pot and is split between all the staff. This is done to encourage the staff to work together. The sales assistant thought it slightly affects the way she works. When I asked her about her experiences as a customer rather than a member of staff she said, “I know that I don’t like to be pestered when shopping so I try not to hound customers. Also, I know that if I’m looking for something I need help with, then I’m more likely to understand when customers need my help.”

I then spoke to a Mother of two children. It was very interesting because her ideas of a good sales assistant are that they should have good communication skills, the ability to communicate with a wide range of clients and have a depth of knowledge on the products they are selling, along with an interest in their products. She has bought extra clothes from shops when the sale assistants have said it looks good or that they've been really glad that she bought it. The shop she believed to have good sales assistants was Debenhams. On the negative side of this, she has not made a purchase because of poor service. For example, if they take too long to notice her or if they take too long to serve her then sometimes she would leave the store without purchasing an item.

I next decided to interview some males. Firstly I began with a male teenager who thought that to make a good sales assistant you have to be approachable and you have to be confident. The only extra purchase this teen had taken was insurance but this was a necessity. He doesn’t like sales assistants in general, never mind a specific store, as he would prefer to ask for help when he needs it, rather than it being forced upon him. The teenager has never not made a purchase because of poor service but if someone has not helped when he needed it, he would go somewhere else. He has had bad service recently when he was told someone was going to call him back with an appointment but didn’t phone back, so he had to contact them again.

Finally I asked a businessman on his way home from a day at work. He said, ”I believe that a good sales assistant should be excellent at listening, approachable, enthusiastic and is able to work as a team.

In conclusion, I felt that people had very different opinions of sales assistants. It was interesting to find that the sales assistant came up with the same ideas of what makes good sales assistant as everyone else I interviewed. Overall it seems that salespeople have a very large influence on the purchases you buy every if it is from buying an extra purchases or even return to that shop other and other again the purchase other items.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Dundee Sun City- Solar Cities Scotland

Solar Cities Scotland is designed to advertise the use of renewable energy and give advice on minimal carbon living for urban areas across Scotland.

Burning fossil fuels produces carbon emissions and is the largest human input to climate change. The only way to combat this issue is if we replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

On the 23th of March, my course visited the Solar Cities Scotland ‘Eco House’ at Whitfield Primary School to help us with our projects. The house was originally the school janitor’s house. It is now being used by the Solar Cities Scotland to show the environmental advantages of the latest energy saving technologies including a wood pellet burning stove, solar panels and a ground source heat pump.

Why don't you join solar cities Scotland and use the earth, the wind, the sun, the water and the trees which will generate our future energy.....

Monday, 22 March 2010

Interior Conference

On Friday the 19th of March, selected students travelled to Edinburgh’s Napier University for an interior design conference. There was a range of students present: from Glasgow School of Art, Dundee College of Art and Design, Edinburgh College of Art and Napier University.
Here each university spoke for an hour about their interior design course and what they have been doing recently from re-modelling hotel rooms to constructing cantinas. The courses all seemed to be the same until the third year students at Dundee College of Art and Design stood up and spoke about the GIDE Project. This is where a group of university students all over Europe get the same brief, then eight weeks later display their presentation and take part in a workshop, lasting four days. This year it was held in Switzerland. Following that were students from Napier University studying Interior Architecture.
After each presentation there was an open discussion about each course. I found it overall a very interesting day, where I learnt that our course is very up to date and modern. As well as seeing what the other interior students do and how I could improve my work.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Assignment Three – Design Safari (London Underground)

In assignment three, I was asked to ‘people watch’ and to observe the behaviour, rules and rituals they follow.

Where better to observe people than on a study trip to London to visit the Ecobuild Exhibition. The London Underground carries on average Three million passengers every day. During our stay in London, we travelled by the London Underground at different times of the day and on different lines. We travelled at both rush hours, which appears to be between 07:00 – 09:00 and 17:00-19:00, and at quieter times during the day. The rush hour is when people are travelling to and from work. This is a very functional service carrying passengers from point A to B.

The trains are very busy and crowded at rush hour. Everyone is very focussed and determined to get on the first available train and no one seems prepared to wait a few minutes in the hope of travelling when it is quieter. On the platform people eagerly watch the signs displaying the time of the next train. Time in London is very precious.

When a train arrives on the platform, everyone seems to be standing in an orderly fashion at the point where the doors will open eager to board the train. The accepted ritual is to allow passengers off the train before boarding in a businesslike manner. People move down the carriage to ensure that all available space is used. There are signs above some seats saying ‘Priority seating for elderly, disabled or pregnant passengers’. The passengers did not seem to pay any attention to the signs and only thought about themselves. No one appeared to be willing to give up a seat, but at rush hour there was no evidence of the elderly, disabled or pregnant women travelling. When the train arrives at a station, everyone moves aside to let people off whilst eyeing up and manoeuvring themselves for the next available seat. People sit very neatly; keeping arms, legs and belongings confined to a well-defined space. Small bags and handbags are placed on laps or behind legs when seated. People boarding the trains at rush hour with luggage are frowned upon. There was little or no evidence of small children or babies on the underground at busy times.

There is very little interaction and only visitors and tourist talk on the underground. The unwritten etiquette is that you do not even make eye contact. The general rules of personal space seem to be abandoned on rush hour trains with people squashed in together. Most people seem to cope with this by withdrawing into themselves and internalising their space. This is achieved by listening to ipods, reading books, newspapers; fiddling with mobiles (which have no signal) and reading the well placed overhead ads. A person holding on to the grab rail will avoid physical hand contact with another passenger even though they are crushed up beside them and should this happen they will withdraw their hand and nod an apology.

The only written rule appears to be on the escalators where it clearly indicated ‘Please stand to the right’. This is obeyed.

For a group of Dundee students with little experience of London, the underground seemed a very foreign and daunting environment. Everyone appeared to know how to behave. Imagine joining a motorway for the first time if you have only driven on country roads. It is amazing how quickly we all adapt and pick up the rules.

What is your experience of travelling by underground in other parts of the world?