Originally written for University of the Arts London.
It was introduced to our parents as a wonder material for its convenient plasticity, accessibility and also for its beauty. As the cornerstone of modern life, plastic has adorned our homes in the form of toys, household bric-à-brac and furniture items, like the beloved Monobloc chair. In the mid 1950s, before the 1960s boom in iconic plastic furniture, the chemical company Monsanto celebrated plastic with a futuristic house, made and furnished entirely with synthetic materials. The house was named ‘House of the Future’ and was exhibited in Disneyland for 10 years.
Very little has changed since then, as we still celebrate and adore plastic. The 21st century version of ‘House of the Future’ is somewhat illusive and has gained a steady popularity among many image makers and designers. Facilitated by Cinema 4D, digital renders of glossy surfaces, wrapped in vivid candy hues, dazzle our screens with visions of a sleek otherworldly reality. One popular and hypnotic motif that sticks to mind, is bouncing elastic balls that give an air of soothing innocence whilst they resemble Microbeads (minuscule plastic particles) that are found in some beauty and cleaning products.
As creative practitioners, we are fuelled by the power of images to evoke emotions and stimulate desire in our audience, for better or for worse. With that in mind, digital renders of high shine plastic and silicon surfaces in artificial colours might subconsciously perpetuate a deep-rooted appetite for plastic. Similar to sugar craving, the more you have around you, the more you want it!
We have made some recent progress in understanding the dilemmas of single-use plastic, and we are gradually coming to terms with the unviability of plastic recycling, because of its high carbon footprint. Our next task is to really grasp the vast ramifications of producing fossil fuel plastic. There is some research being done in bioplastics but critics argue that mass production of bioplastics will have its downsides and won’t be human- and earth-friendly.
Luckily, the creative community has become increasingly disapproving of foam-based products and techniques such as lamination and foil blocking, among others, as they are harmful to the environment. This attitude change opens the door to expanding our material palette and moving towards eliminating plastic from both our tactile and visual encyclopaedia. Through skilful creativity, it is in our power to de-normalise environmentally unsound materials, regardless of their current desirability. As a UAL student and alumni you can also use Not Just A Shop as a platform for your design merchandise to shape consumer taste preferences, with products that are in harmony with nature and our future well-being.
1) You have either interrogated the brief handed to you or written your own, 2) carried out necessary research, 3) identified the problem, 4) re-written the brief to answer the problem and 5) generated a fitting concept. You are now in the design phase and are faced with indecision. You know that the antidote to creative blocks is joyful experimentation and lots of them. You also know that inquisitive trial and error helps boost your design sensibility, but how do you go about formulating a visual outcome that communicates your message effectively, encompassing the core concept regardless of trends and what is #trending.
Only a few scrolls away, the pervasive presence of design and visual references by creative influencers can sometimes have an overpowering effect, subconsciously making us view them as the accepted visual language, clouding our own creative vision.
If you, like many other creatives, follow design platforms and creative influencers on social media, it is likely that you are being served fairly homogeneous cultural references by the hands of social media algorithm. When the same visuals are ceaselessly reposted and circulated from one platform to another, it can be tempting to mimic them. At the same time, for many creatives, there is something problematic about the idea of ‘being influenced’. We like to be ‘inspired’ by a myriad of unexpected sources and tend to thirst for self-authored design solutions and visual outcomes.
If you are keen to resist the ongoing visual and design sameness it is useful to reduce the visual clutter and have a regular cleansing of the mind and the eyes. Away from any screen, allocate time to catch up with your ideas and mentally sift through your findings and references. Start the design phase by mentally constructing the design and the process in vivid details such as the format, composition, colour palette, pace, texture and more. Determine for yourself whether you want the outcome to be thought provoking, uplifting, informative, unexpected, familiar, entertaining or any other qualities that is relevant to your brief. This process can boost your creative decision making and ease the delivery of innovative solutions that are not diluted with unhelpful external influences.
Mental visualisation is used in language learning, deep sea diving and by professional sports people such as the Canadian sledding Olympic team who visualise their physical actions on the racing track ahead of each race. Mental visualisation can also work for some creatives as an integral part of the design process before the actual implementation phase. At times, it can be useful to be blissfully unaware of the external world, only to help combat sameness.
There is no shortage of marketing reports with insights on the habits, wishes and troubles of Gen Z. Win the heart of this generation and engage them commercially, is the focal point of these reports. Older generations such as Gen X and the Baby Boomers seem not to generate similar interest, even though they will soon form the larger proportion of the global population. One recurring topic, other than the shopping habits of Gen Z, is the acute eco-anxiety that preoccupies their mind. We are however yet to uncover generation Z’s role in the global ageing population and what their vision is for the future of the older generation.
The number of 60+ has doubled since 1980 and is expected to double again by 2050 to comprise 22% of the global population. The decline in fertility and advances in medical science are some of the key factors to this demographic shift. A longer life have the potential to bring more opportunities, both for the older people, their families and societies as a whole.
As Gen Z are stepping into the workforce, they will be expected to operate in multigenerational workplaces and sometimes work alongside 3 – 4 other generations. With each age group bringing their distinct perspectives, values, motivation and communication style into the world of work, it is important for Gen Z to gain good knowledge of the intergenerational differences, in order to easier navigate their career and make good use of the older generations’ accumulated experiences and knowledge. Cross generational mentoring will be the key to bridging the generational gap and exchanging skills in workplaces. The ageing workforce in the coming years will require Gen Z to provide constructive leadership for older coworkers. By understanding the wide cultural nuances of ageing, there will also be a pool of opportunities for thriving and creative entrepreneurship and winning the heart of a diverse older demographic.
Whilst Robotics and VR are making advances in becoming an integral part of senior healthcare, it is in the hands of creative practitioners of Generation Z to counteract the lack of human interaction, robotics technology can cause. Societies will be relying on creative thinkers to shine a spotlight on the 60+.
During the 2 week design sprint, LCC students will work collaboratively towards creative solutions by gaining deeper awareness of the different aspects of an ageing society and the advantages of intergenerational interaction.