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Posted 21.12.17

On Unconscious Design

By Calum Zachary

Professor Justus Theinart works with first year students on our BA (Hons) Product Design & Innovation degree

Guest blog by Calum Zachary, BA (Hons) Product Design & Innovation

Professor Justus Theinart recently visited to deliver a three-day workshop focusing on reworking the process of design and idea generation.

Working with students from our BA (Hons) Product Design & Innovation degree, the workshop looked at how the beginning of the design process - the idea phase - must be as open as possible to the new, and that it should shut out influences from the past, where the designer trusts solely in their intuitive, creative powers.

Theinart is an industrial designer, who studied product design at the Stuttgart State Academy of the Visual Arts in the early 60s, followed by field research into the methods and teaching of design at leading European universities.

He has worked in corporate design with Mercedes-Benz and has held teaching posts at institutions around the world, including as a guest professor in Shenyang, Xiamen, Chanchun and Wuhan, as well as writing a number of significant publications.

First year BA (Hons) Product Design & Innovation student Calum Zachary gave us the run down on the workshop...

From 9 - 11 November 2017, our Product Design & Innovation group were lucky enough to be invited to take part in a workshop run by Professor Justus Theinert of Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. This workshop focused on reworking the way design students think, and how altering their approach toward design can transform utopian and fantastical ideas into a reality.

The workshop started with a task that focussed on drawing without thinking, and, in many cases, not even looking at the paper. This yielded a variety of results that differed vastly from student to student, something I view to be a representation of each individual’s subconscious. This process gave us many pieces of abstract art to begin our thought process with.

We then proceeded to discuss the pieces of art, and talk about what we could see in them, and what they looked like. Using this exercise to bounce off each other, we quickly came up with a selection of words that could be used to describe the drawings and then used these to create stories, both individually and in groups.

Justus emphasised the key point he wanted to teach: how thinking under pressure can cause results that are often more inventive than usual. These stories were read out loud and debated by the group, we eventually came up with the idea of a train, concluding the first day of the workshop.

The second day began with a continuation of the debate, centred around the idea of the train. Although still an abstract idea, many people went to find a space to record their thoughts and come back with a design proposition.

At the end of the second day, a number of students presented ideas that would reshape the way trains work, from utopian or seemingly impossible concepts to easily implementable ideas that could kick off with just a bit of funding. Critical thinking was key to breaking down these ideas, in looking at what separated them from reality, and what technology you might require in order to make them work.

We then expanded further on these ideas, so on the last day each member of the group presented their fully thought out concepts.

The presentation was the finale of our workshop, and definitely gave us all some food for thought. We focused heavily on what beauty was in modern design, which can be considered a very subjective area but has vast importance in contemporary design. Justus’ way of designing seems more whimsical than what may be considered a standard approach, but yielded results in no way inferior. To me, this was the biggest point of interest.

Rather than trying to teach us to think outside the box, the workshop focused on redesigning the box itself, and bringing forth inspiration in the process.