Week 10 – Thinking about design & synthesising the concept.

I’ve had a really productive two weeks over the Easter break talking with graduates from all walks of life. Some chats have been with graduate friends and some have been with people I’ve connected with through The Dots.

Generally speaking there seems to be a lot of positivity out there for this project. Talking with graduates has really helped me to understand how to move forward, their insights and feedback were the final missing piece that have finally helped me to pull everything together. That being said, the ambition and direction of this project has changed massively from where it began to where it is now.

I’ve written a quick recap of where this research project has taken me, mostly for my own benefit but I imagine it will be helpful for others too:

  1. Initially I was focused on figuring out a way to bring some of the ideas I’d explored in a previous module to life. I was interested in interdisciplinary practice and how the skills necessary to thrive as an interdisciplinary worker might be taught to different groups. (students, postgrads, workers etc.)

2. The more I looked into this subject the harder it became to envision a viable business providing this kind of service, I learned that there were more barriers to interdisciplinary competence than I had originally thought and so I went back to the drawing board to rethink my direction.

3. I decided to spend time identifying a specific group that I wanted to create for. I had been looking too widely up until this point. After some consideration I landed on the idea of supporting graduates. Specifically those that have aged out of traditional graduate / early career support.

4. Running with this idea I began to research heavily into the graduate jobs market to try and understand the situation as best I could. I began to devise an idea for an online community that gamified participation in order to passively build potential employability for graduates. It was complicated and in hindsight, probably unrealistic too.

5. I took this idea to the panel review where it was generally well received. The main takeaway however was that it was too ambitious and that I should try to think more locally, responding to my own lived experiences and those of graduate friends.

6. I was stuck for a little while after this, struggling to pull together everything I’d learned into a project that made sense. Stuart suggested that I focus my efforts on talking with the actual user group for this project. This turned out to be really helpful. Through these conversations I learned a lot about what kinds of things appeal to young adult graduates and what things don’t.

7. The idea continued to evolve to where it sits now – very different to where it started but fundamentally still responding to the same issues. How can Bristol’s graduate community be better supported?

The idea as it is now:

The conversations with graduate peers were really helpful at allowing me to essentially see the bigger picture. We were talking about all these different ambitions that the project has – (to provide support around things like creating businesses or applying for funding grants, to build community through events like talks, workshops, club nights, coffee shop discussion groups and so forth) and it dawned on me that what we were describing was kind of familiar. It was basically just like a students’ union for graduates.

This notion really grabbed me, it’s such an easy to grasp concept. What is one of the best parts of being a student? It’s all of the social aspects right? Stuff that is facilitated by the students’ union.

So why not build a grassroots, community-led version for graduates here in Bristol? It’s the perfect way to blend fun, engaging stuff with more helpful and supportive services in a format that is already familiar to graduates. We could even draw upon some of the semiotic language of students’ unions by creating events that feel like university events – a freshers’ fayre for graduates where they can find out about all the independent and cool groups that exist within the city for example.

One of the key questions that emerged from my discussions with graduates was ‘How do you make this something that people want to actually get involved with?’ Sure, there are important services and support that we might offer but what draws people in? It’s the promise of a good time right? A fun event of some kind. There are tons of possibilities here.

Management and organisation of the group could also draw upon the democratic processes that are often employed by students’ unions. Leadership roles could rotate often allowing fresh ideas to surface and helping the organisation remain relevant to its users’ needs. Overheads could be paid for by a monthly membership fee supplemented by any grant support we could drum up. This idea also has the flexibility to start off very small and to naturally grow over time as the membership grows.

I’m really excited about this idea.

A look at some design

One thing that I haven’t done enough of yet is actual design work, mostly because the idea hadn’t coalesced enough yet to warrant it. Now that I’ve got something to work on though, I can start thinking about how it looks and where / how it’s advertised. When I spoke with Evening Class, one thing they said was that in the early days they just created one basic landing page that outlined their ambitions and shared it as widely as they could to drum up interest. I think that something like this makes sense as a first step for this project too. It would help me to source potential collaborators and find people who might be interested in helping get it off the ground.

This is what Evening Classes’ About page looks like.
Main landing page

I really like the bold look of their site overall, it’s simple and to the point – they’ve made it look good but haven’t spent hours and hours to make something excessive. There are only a handful of information pages available with some contact information etc. too. The clock design appears on each page and shows a different time when you reload, it can be moved but is more of an annoyance than anything, it’s interactivity isn’t very interesting. A good blueprint for what I might like to make and put out there though for sure.

Stuart put me on to this site, looks like a design-specific online community for designers from BAME backgrounds
Nice design, real crisp and clean.

Again this site is fairly simple in the way it’s laid out. It takes you through the basics of what they offer and how to apply to get involved. The design is fairly safe overall, they haven’t taken many risks which leads to it feeling a little stuffy and corporate. I think that this actually feels too resolved for what I want to put together.

This is a ‘design community’ site being set up by a design agency to supposedly help new graduates out through the pandemic
They’ve set up a gofundme page to try and raise 40 grand to support the project. Seems to be doing fairly well.

This seems like an interesting project, it’s organised by a design agency and the branding throughout carries messages like ‘it’s the least we can do’. Some might argue that it could be seen as a fairly inventive if not cynical bit of self-advertising but nevertheless it seems to be doing a good thing and we need more support like this out there. The site itself is fairly sparce of information around how the money will be spent but it seems to still be under construction at this time. Again, the design looks well resolved as you would expect from a design agency. It works in this context really well as it’s a design industry-based project.

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