Chapter 4 - Investigating and experimenting with techniques

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Investigating and
experimenting with
This chapter explores creative and collaborative approaches in designing
and producing. In order to develop a clear understanding of the content
of this chapter, carefully examine the ‘Students learn about …’ and
the ‘Students learn to …’ statements relating to Outcome P3.1 in the
New South Wales Design and Technology Stage 6 Syllabus.
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4.1 Selecting and applying cognitive
We aim to:
• be clear about our goals
• be well informed about the related
• consult a range of resources
• consider a variety of points of view, not
only those we favour
• work to the best of our ability
• continuously reflect on our actions and
• share our ideas with other people.
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making ideas
for products or
businesses into
productive and
profitable businesses
Today’s designers and technologists have
access to a huge variety of materials, processes
and information sources. How these are used
and the types of changes society accepts
will be crucial to the future of our country. It
is important that you are not only a creative
designer, but that you have an understanding
of innovation and entrepreneurial activity,
so that you – as a decision-maker of the
future – can make wise decisions. It will be
beneficial to develop a toolbox of strategies to
help you make wise but creative decisions, to
encourage you to think outside the square and
to look at things from different angles. You are
encouraged to take risks with your thinking!
Creative and critical thinking
Some people will view critical thinking as
mainly evaluative, and creative thinking as
generative, but others believe it is difficult to
distinguish between them. They complement
each other and have many of the same
attributes. Good thinking will involve you in
quality assessment as well as the production
of something different. While you are thinking
creatively you will be constantly critically
evaluating the validity of your ideas.
It is a fallacy that creative people rely on
effortless inspiration. Creative achievement
requires self-discipline and dedication. Creative
individuals are hard workers who devote
time and effort to their pursuits. They are
prepared to take risks and often reject obvious
alternatives because they aim to push the limits
of their abilities and knowledge. They will also
be flexible thinkers who look at a problem from
many different perspectives. We want to be
creative thinkers so that our design solutions
will be different from those of other people.
Successful designers are both critical and
creative thinkers. They have developed a
number of different strategies to enable them
to consciously improve the quality of their
thinking. They are able to successfully solve
problems and think creatively – to think outside
the square.
We are all thinkers. It is natural for us to
think about things. However, much of our
thinking can initially be biased, distorted,
uninformed or even prejudiced. In the
development of our designs we each want
to become a motivated, disciplined thinker
who conceptualises, analyses, synthesises
and applies information. This means that we
will become self-disciplined and active in the
process, constantly responding to information,
issues and processes. We want to become
critical thinkers with intellectual integrity.
We aim to:
question traditional solutions
evaluate information
assess sources and resources
accept abstract ideas
test ideas and develop conclusions
justify solutions
be open-minded and listen to others
communicate effectively
reflect on our learning.
Design and Technology: Stage 6 | Preliminary
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Compare and contrast the lists of actions
for creative and critical thinking given on
page 34. Why do you think there are similarities
and differences? Do you consider your strength
is in critical or creative thinking? Why?
You can think of your brain as your mental
toolkit. You want to use the tools that promote
the logical mode as well as the creative mode
of thinking. You want to be able to deliberately
set out to solve problems in a logical manner,
but also appreciate the benefits of the deeper
thinking that meanders, moves off in tangents,
is contemplative and is often full of gaps.
Reflection is a valuable tool in the thinking
process. Take time to think through your
ideas. The more time you spend in the ideadevelopment stage of your design projects, the
more successful your final solution will be.
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Figure 4.1 Xavier &
Me designs
Designer profile: Ellie Bradley
The creative force behind the Xavier & Me
products that inspire home furnishing in
Australia is Ellie Bradley. She provides us with
an excellent example of how a successful
designer employs creative and critical thinking
to solve problems. Her response to the problem
of sourcing the bright bold designs she craved
led to the development of a successful home
furnishing company.
Ellie first worked in advertising, and
here enhanced her creative flair through
her association with design agencies,
photographers and stylists. After the birth of
her son Xavier, Ellie was able to further develop
this talent as the owner, creative director and
designer of her own business. She is wowing
the market with her soft furnishing, textiles and
rug design house. Her products reflect her
passion for colour and design. She epitomises
the ability to seek new ideas and not be bound
by traditions or expectations.
Creative thinking about design forms the
foundation for Ellie’s products. She has described
how she lies awake at night thinking about how
she would use a pattern, imagining it as part of
the furnishings in a room, what colours would
enhance the impact, and how these would relate
to fibre and fabric. The colours, images and
materials are the crucial factors of her designs.
Design development begins with a mood board,
reflecting her thoughts and ideas. The designs
are initially presented as paintings or vector-based
artwork. With colour as the focal point, Ellie will
create samples with different colours, until she
is satisfied the design is ready for production.
chaPTer 4 | invesTigaTing anD exPerimenTing wiTh Techniques
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
And where did she start proving this
colour seeking theory and mission? Well,
it all began with one simple cushion
vision. See, Ellie just couldn’t seem to find
the right, bold cushion design. Looking
absolutely everywhere, to no avail, she
decided right then and there that she was
going to design, create and make her own
to sell. And that’s just what she did (and
is doing) oh so very well. Now designing
absolutely everything on this site, from
cushions to rugs, always with colours
so bright; with almost every piece from
Xavier & Me being made locally, here, in
Sydney; with the exception of the actual
making of all the rugs which are made
with nothing but love from and in India.
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Bright, fun and bold, too; those three
words, exactly, were a-going through
our Creative Director & Designer Ellie
Bradley’s mind, when she first dreamed
up the concept and theme for this, her
colourfully chic interior design line.
Neutrals be gone, subtracted right on
out and shooed only because Ellie knew
she was going to have to leave ample
amounts of space and room in this design
equation for the addition to fill your
rooms, too, with nothing but the brightest
and fun of bold patterns and hues. But
just how would Miss E go about making
this colour-drenched dream she came up
with a reality? Why with the inspiration of
her son, Xavier, the ‘X’ in this here design
Cognitive organisers
Many strategies have been developed to
encourage us to become more creative in
our approach to thinking. A number of these
are discussed below. They are designed to
encourage you to think differently, to consider
all aspects and look more deeply into an issue
or problem. Some will suit your style of thinking
better than others, but you should be sure to
try those that you find more difficult in order to
move your thinking outside its comfort zone.
You never know, you might come up with an
idea you would not have considered otherwise.
Source: Xavier & Me,
1 Conduct a PMI on each of the designs
shown in Figures 4.2 and 4.3.
2 Sketch a design for a bed that you
believe would be an improvement.
3 Ask a friend to do a PMI on your design.
Plus – the good things you like about an idea
Minus – the bad things about an idea
Interesting – what you find interesting
about an idea
Figure 4.2 An antique cast-iron bed frame
lateral thinking
using creative or
unexpected thinking
to solve problems
Lateral thinking proponent Edward de Bono
suggests this method to ensure that you do not
reject a valuable idea on the first introduction.
On the other hand, it can help to remove bias –
you may have difficulty seeing the negative side
of an idea that you really like. Judgements are
often based on emotion, so it is important to
explore all aspects of an idea.
Figure 4.3 A modern bed design
Design anD Technology: sTage 6 | Preliminary
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
Futures wheel
This strategy is used to ensure that we consider
all options. It is best done in a group. The
group members should feel comfortable
suggesting all ideas that come into their minds.
All options must be recorded and no comment
on an option should be made during the
brainstorming session. At the conclusion of
the time spent brainstorming, discussion will
occur and options that the whole group deems
unsuitable may be removed from the list. If it
is important to narrow your list, you could use
some other thinking strategies, such as PMI, to
help you shorten your list.
A futures wheel can be used to enlarge your
view – to get you to look into the future. As
designers, we must consider the consequences
of our products, systems and environments.
This strategy will force you to think about the
implications of your designs (or the work of
other designers) on individuals, society and the
environment. It should consider the short-term
and long-term consequences of the design.
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Draw a futures wheel to illustrate the
consequences of using up the world’s
supply of crude oil.
1 Form a group of three to five students.
Select a student to record the
2 For five minutes, brainstorm a list
of articles that need to be carried
in a sports bag to be used by one
of your peers.
3 Reflect on the process. Were there any
articles listed that you did not think
of? Did you listen without interrupting?
Did anyone monopolise the brainstorm
session? Were you surprised at the
number of things suggested?
Figure 4.4 A student
has created this futures
wheel to investigate
the consequences of
an increase in world
chaPTer 4 | invesTigaTing anD exPerimenTing wiTh Techniques
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
Figure 4.5 A student has
created this mind map
to develop ideas about
rubbish problems.
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You have been asked to consider all the factors
that affect the design shown in Figure 4.7.
Draw a mind map to plan your response.
Figure 4.7 A mountain bike
Concept board
Often designers are inspired by an experience
and incorporate this into their design.
A concept board can be used to clarify the
aspects of the concept that will be important
to the final design. Many people believe that
the design of the Sydney Opera House was
inspired by the sails on Sydney Harbour. Others
believe it was the waves of the sea. Its designer,
Jørn Utzon, says he was inspired by orange
segments. The important point here is that
inspiration can play an important part in the
development of designs, and a concept board
helps clarify this inspiration.
Figure 4.6 A concept board
Mind map
concept board
a cognitive organiser
used to clarify the
aspects of the
concept that will
be important to the
final design
A mind map is a graphical method of
organising your thoughts. It is particularly
useful for those of us who tend to go off on
tangents when developing ideas. It is a strategy
that enables you to list all the things you are
thinking about and link them back to the
original idea (see Figure 4.5).
1 Develop a concept board to illustrate the
concept of poverty.
2 Use your concept board as inspiration
to design a cover for a book titled Make
Poverty History.
Design anD Technology: sTage 6 | Preliminary
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
4.2 Applying problem-solving techniques to
identified problems
3 Use models, graphics, words or
numbers to simplify the problem.
4 Try to look at the problem from a
different angle or someone else’s point
of view.
5 Work backwards.
6 Ask yourself questions constantly.
7 Keep copies of all your trial solutions in
case you need to return to them later.
8 Be flexible.
9 Talk to others.
10 Investigate how someone else solved a
similar problem.
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We need to be able to solve problems in
order to survive – many of the situations
we encounter in our daily lives are really
problem-solving situations. In Design and
Technology, you are often given a specific
problem to solve in the form of a design brief.
However, frequently during the development
of your response to these design briefs you
will confront more poorly defined problems
to solve: What material will you use? How will
you get the arm to move? How can you join
the pieces securely? A selection of general
problem-solving processes is listed below.
Some will be more useful than others; this will
depend on the type of problem you are trying
to solve.
1 Understand the problem. Ensure that
you have the whole picture and have not
focused on insignificant detail.
2 Remain open-minded. Do not make
judgements too early in the process.
Do not forget to critically evaluate throughout
the above process. Does this remind you of
the design processes you use in Design and
Technology? Can you identify any similarities
and differences between this list and the lists
given earlier for creative and critical thinking?
Why do you think there is so much repetition in
the process?
4.3 The advantages of cooperative structures
People naturally learn from each other;
they do so all their lives. Good designers
take advantage of the cooperative nature of
learning. Rather than leaving it to chance,
they will plan for it. For example, an ice-cream
company is keen to introduce a new flavour
to its range of ice-cream. An initial meeting
may involve someone from the marketing
department, a representative from production,
a food technologist and members of the
consumer group. Together they will be able
to discuss various flavours, include all their
different perspectives and come up with a
range of ideas.
Sometimes a design team will consist of
people with different skills. An architect of a
new council library will work with the electrical
engineer, the interior designer, a council
representative, the builder, the librarian and
any other people who will impact on the final
Chapter 4 | Investigating and experimenting with techniques
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
Designer profile: Dirt Art
The design and construction of
successful mountain bike trails and
infrastructure relies on inspired and
creative design. Dirt Art trails are
designed and built by elite-level riders
to suit all rider abilities from young
families through to world-class athletes.
Our trails ‘flow’, providing ultimate
user enjoyment and minimum ongoing
maintenance. Dirt Art pushes the
boundaries of traditional design methods
whilst delivering projects with the highest
standards in sustainability.
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Figure 4.8 Dirt Art
specialises in the design
of bike trails.
Dirt Art is an Australian business specialising
in all facets of recreational trail and mountain
bike facility consultancy, management, design
and construction. The team of experienced bike
riders is dedicated to designing and constructing
recreational bike trails of the highest standard –
world-class trail infrastructure that is both
sustainable and enjoyable for users.
Source: Dirt Art,
Rob Potter of Dirt Art is a keen mountain bike
rider who has been involved in designing many
new challenging trails in Tasmania. Rob’s
experience means that he has theoretical
understandings of riding the rough terrain that
is required to create a challenging experience
for the huge customer base of mountain bike
riders. The Tasmanian natural terrain is an
ideal place for his work.
It is important that mountain bike trails
do not damage the natural environment, so
Rob will work with an expert to advise about
the flora and fauna consequences of a new
trail. When designing the trail at Mt Stronach
in north-east Tasmania, he surveyed the area
with Anna Povey, a botanical consultant. Anna
advised about any threatened species that
might suffer from the building of a trail. They
walked the trail together and discussed any
issues that might arise. Dirt Art takes natural
values seriously. Not only does Rob consider
the damage that a trail may do to the pristine
environment but another issue is to ensure that
bikes do not bring in any unwanted species.
Rob also has to consider machine access for
the building of the track through the steep
Dirt Art has an in-house design team
capable of producing a full range of 2D and 3D
CAD designs for a range of pump tracks, dirt
jump facilities and related infrastructure.
Figure 4.9 Hornsby Mountain Bike Trail
Design anD Technology: sTage 6 | Preliminary
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
4.4 Factors that contribute to successful work
and collaboration
These may include teleconferencing,
videoconferencing, face-to-face meetings,
email, an online forum, letters and faxes.
Working in groups or teams can be very
useful for you as a Design and Technology
student. You can all use each other to support
the work you are doing. Teams can be used to:
generate ideas for projects
discuss and solve problems
share skills
gather consumer reactions
work on projects
support each other.
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A design team works together to achieve a
common goal. It is essential that all members
are able to collaborate, have respect for each
other and work as a team. Commitment to
the project is an essential ingredient. Many
employers will require staff to be team players.
They want people who can work together with a
common vision. Your experience as a member
of a design team will assist you to develop
these required skills.
Communication between team members
is essential for successful projects. The
team leader should ensure that effective
communication and information-sharing
methods are agreed upon by all participants.
Chapter 4 | Investigating and experimenting with techniques
Figure 4.10 Professional
designers often collaborate
on projects.
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
4.5 Working cooperatively
Below is a list of characteristics that should
be evident in a successful design team. Can
you think of any other characteristics to add
to this list?
the project and ensure that everyone
has a copy.
Step 4: Document the methods of
communication to be used. Develop a
timeline to clarify when this communication
will occur. (This step will need to be actioned
in conjunction with Step 3, but as it is so
important it has been listed as a separate step
in the process.)
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• clearlydefinedgoals
• commitmenttothesegoalsfrom
all team members
• agreementonlong-termand
short-term objectives
• soundcommunicationstrategies
• skilledteammembers
• relevantknowledgebase
• abilitytofocusontasks
• willingnesstochallengeoneself
and each other
• opennesstochange
• powerandauthorityusedethically
and fairly.
Step 1: Consider the skills you are going to
need and then select the team members.
Step 2: Write up a list of roles and functions for
each team member. This is crucial, as it will
save time in the long run. In industry, time is
Step 5: Set up a process of evaluation. This
should occur throughout the development of the
project to ensure that each member is pulling
their weight, is clear on their responsibilities and
that the project stays on track.
You have been asked to organise a design
team to create an educational computer game
suitable for children aged from five to 10 years.
Step 3: Design the working plan. Remember
that each member’s contribution is equally
valuable and that each person is responsible
for the completion of the project. For the
working plan:
1 In a table like the one below, describe
the team members.
2 Outline the methods of communication
you, as the team leader, will set up to
ensure a successful project.
3 Explain how working as a member of a
design team will benefit this project.
• breaktheprojectintosmallertasks
• identifythehelpandresourcesyou
may need
Design anD Technology: sTage 6 | Preliminary
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400
Extension tasks
• Designers use a range of thinking
strategies to enhance their creativity.
• When faced with problems to solve, it
is best to plan a series of steps that will
lead to a solution.
• Collaboration in design supports input
from a range of sources.
• Communication between team members
and clear goals are essential for effective
team design.
1 Think about the work of Dirt Art. List
the different strategies you think the
business would employ to fully develop
its ideas for a new bike trail. Compare
them with the strategies you think Ellie
Bradley might use in developing ideas
for a new product.
2 You have been nominated to organise a
fundraising event in your school to raise
money for World Vision. Think about the
problem-solving techniques discussed in
this chapter, and list the steps you would
follow to complete this task.
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Chapter summary
Chapter summary tasks
1 Identify five different strategies you
could use to illustrate creativity in your
2 Justify the use of PMI as a cognitive
3 Describe the process involved in a
brainstorming session in which you
have participated. Do you think the
brainstorming helped?
4 Describe the role of sketching in
the communication of design ideas.
When have you used sketching to
communicate design ideas? How have
computer software and applications
changed the way we communicate
design ideas?
5 Explain why idea development is so
important in the development of a
6 Discuss how a concept board can assist
in the development of a project.
7 Identify a movie you have seen recently.
List all the roles of the team involved in
the production of that movie.
8 What makes an app useful? Develop a
list of criteria. Use your list of criteria to
evaluate five apps for organising ideas.
9 Outline the advantages and
disadvantages of working in a design
10Justify the communication techniques
used in effective team design situations.
Figure 4.11
Chapter 4 | Investigating and experimenting with techniques
Uncorrected 4th sample pages • Cambridge University Press © Wesley et al., 2015 • ISBN 978-1-107-50437-0 • Ph 03 8671 1400