In this assignment we are looking at subjects that on the surface may not appear to connect with our disciplines, however when looking deeper and establishing connections between ourselves and these topics we are able to assess them within a design context.
Our RSA Project brief is titled “Mid-Life Moment” and it asks us to “Design something that challenges the traditional notion of middle-age and shifts focus toward the opportunities of mid-life” When I first pulled the brief out of the bag my initial reaction was “huh!? how can mid-life be an issue” – it seemed so strange to me that mid-life was considered a problem and within that how could we come up with ideas to cater to a group of people that are so diverse. However, throughout our tasks my initial reaction was altered and I began to engage with the topic on a new level.
The three main parts of our assignment were to:
My group (Beth Spowart, Eilish Mackay, Niki Pasini, Vanessa Drummond and myself) met at the local Tartan cafe. Our first session combined both brainstorming and discussion which seemed to produce more creativity and a better flow of working than if we had done each task individually. After reading through the brief and discussing various options we decided to settle into a collective brainstorm. We chose to have one person writing down our ideas as this seemed to generate a more organized way of thinking as well as a greater chance to expand on group ideas and our own thoughts.
Rather than systematically going through problems and lingering around solutions we combined all of our thinking into one quick mind-map/brainstorm sheet(s!) and could therefore say anything that popped into our heads, instead of editing our thoughts to fit into specific points and we seemed to be using the solutions that our minds were instinctively drawn to as a way to illustrate the problems surrounding mid-life.
To start with we looked at the opportunities within mid-life rather than the limitations. “Old is the new black!” Stability seemed to be the theme surrounding all the points that we covered, in terms of finance, career, family, friends, etc. We looked at this as a time in life to perhaps travel, learn new skills, meet people, volunteer, change careers and build on existing family relationships. This was quickly mapped out (see below) and in our following discussion it was understood that the central point to all of these aspects was socialization.
Socializing and meeting new people seemed to be a topic that would slot itself into all of the ideas that we had. Our discussions and mind-mapping reflected various ideas, moving from new forms of internet socializing to a shared bank of personal interests to a new way to travel to short-term learning here and abroad and all the gaps in between. By looking for gaps in the pre-existing market we were able to identify new ways in which to cater to middle-age people and to discover their potential precipitations.
I think the main ideas that appealed to us/that we focused on were wrapped up in all of the main aspects that we had previously outlined. I wont mention all of our many ideas! but I will touch on a few that I connected with most. The first was an internet-based container for articles and things of interest that the user could then collect and put onto a webpage that was set out like their own magazine and was than able to share with friends through pre-existing interconnecting sites (ie. email, facebook, twitter, etc.), however our discussion never quite stretched far enough to tailor this specifically to middle-aged people as a platform like this would potentially appeal to all age groups. Another idea we looked at was the idea of short-term learning – local businesses or volunteers setting up 1 or 2 day courses for middle-aged people to go to and learn some new skills. This would then combine further education, fitting new things around careers, family and other commitments as well as the social aspects of meeting new people. This last point we expanded by suggesting online forums to meet people to go with as well as organizing events after the main learning, e.g. exhibitions of craft works, tastings of cooked meals, or just drinks and discussions, etc. This whole idea was then taken further to include travel – we talked about having these courses abroad and having an online (perhaps application as well as website) guide to all of the courses that could be taken while on holiday. The web-page would be made by middle-aged people and it would contain reviews and profiles so people could meet up with other people before going to these course as well as finding recommendations for courses from people with similar interests (we talked about a site with personal profiles that worked a little like match.com (a dating site) that would match up people with certain interests and hobbies). I think this last idea will be the one that we will develop in the future.
Our mind-maps (I’ve borrowed these images from Eilish because I only had my ipod camera with me and as it was quite dark in the cafe my photos came out grainy and a tad unreadable):
I think we worked well as a group were able to establish the main issues surrounding mid-life as well as exploring gaps to come up with potential solutions. As our next assessment is a continuation of this topic I look forward to developing our ideas and moving towards a fuller idea.