Dick Powell (Seymour Powell) Quote

One of the great skills of a designer is being able to articulate the reasons why this or that needs to be done, understanding the business strategy and being potent and powerful in presenting a strong business case that what you’re doing is the right thing for that business.”

Dick Powell

The end of creativity in schools?

Design and Manufacture on the decline?

An excellent article  written by Rachael Williams of the Guardian on Tuesday 11th February 2014 shared here in it’s entirety highlighting the plight of design and craft education in schools

Many pupils are losing the benefits that come from studying craft and design, and Britain’s strength in the creative industries may be under threat.

Oskar Paulinski is talking Education Guardian through his design for a birdhouse, conceived in the style of a chocolate box-perfect country cottage. Holes in the roof, fashioned to look like skylights, will allow the birds to fly in and out, and doors at ground level allow access to the box’s owner. The pencilled plan shows pretty paned windows. “I’m still figuring out whether to paint them on or leave it as glass,” says the 16-year-old. We discuss whether nesting birds might prefer the darker interiors afforded by the painted option.

“I like practical stuff and designing stuff,” says Oskar, who is studying for a GCSE in resistant materials at Strood academy, in Medway. Does he know what he’d like to do for a job when he’s older? “I haven’t decided yet, but it has to be something practical.”

Simon Ofield-Kerr, vice-chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), might view Oskar’s window question as a perfect example of the importance of realising designs in real materials, for real use. Creations that exist solely on paper won’t teach their designers how to take account of the way wood, metal or textiles actually work, or push them to think about the needs of consumers – be they human or avian.

Yet schoolchildren of all ages are increasingly missing out on the opportunity to enjoy and learn from “making things”, Ofield-Kerr says. Sewing, ceramics, metalwork, woodwork and crafts are all on the wane as digital disciplines take hold and resources become scarcer. Not that there’s anything wrong with digital, he stresses, but translating it to the real world is essential.

“My sense, when I go into schools, is that it’s all become very flat,” he says. “It’s become a 2D world. Young people are becoming incredibly confident in their use of digital, and that’s wonderful. But they’re not getting the experience of how the material world around them is fabricated and developed.”

“And as policymakers focus on Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering, maths), he says, “kids are just not getting the same experience of playing with clay, with materials, of doing embroidery, of getting their hands dirty”. He believes craft education is being better sustained in the private sector.

UCA is the sponsor of the four-year-old Strood academy – a non-grammar school in an area with selective education – and is working to ensure that making things is a key part of its offering. There are traditional workshops for wood, metal, plastics, clay and textiles, GCSEs in textiles and resistant materials, and an A-level in product design. Pupils spend time in the art and craft workshops at UCA’s nearby Rochester campus, and UCA students come into the school as mentors for days of project-based learning.

Strood’s principal, Kim Gunn, believes the sense of achievement her students get from seeing their finished work is second to none. “They experience success in areas where maybe they wouldn’t otherwise, and it provides them with an opportunity to move on to something they can succeed in post-17,” she says.

But the Crafts Council has observed a decline in craft education over the last four to five years, says its research and policy manager, Julia Bennett, especially in disciplines that require space, teaching expertise and pricey equipment or materials. This month will see publication of a Crafts Council study of achievement and participation in crafts over five years, from key stage 4 right up to postgraduate level. Bennett expects it to find more evidence of declining takeup.

Last year, leading figures within the arts world lined up to express dismay at the absence of arts subjects in the EBacc, and research suggested the effects had been swift. An Ipsos Mori study commissioned by the education department (DfE) found that a quarter of schools had withdrawn arts courses for the 2012-13 academic year because of the EBacc. Among those, design or design technology had been withdrawn at 14% of schools, and textiles at 11%. A study by the Cultural Learning Alliance released in September found that since the EBacc was introduced in 2010, the number of arts GCSEs studied by children had fallen by 14%, and suggested the narrowing of options away from the arts affected disadvantaged children more.

Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design, says there is also a serious lack of funding for teacher development in craft education. Some 60% of those coming on her organisation’s courses pay for themselves, she says. The effect is that teachers can’t keep abreast of fast-developing contemporary practice, including the use of digital within craft – as exemplified by self-described “iPotter” Michael Eden, who uses techniques such as 3D printing in his acclaimed pieces.

“There’s a lot of really exciting work going on the moment,” Butterworth says. But she warns that if teachers aren’t able to make pupils aware of it, the field may seem less arresting than others. “If fine-art practices are seen as having digital context and craft doesn’t, then craft may quickly appear a bit fuddy-duddy.

“The replacement of the EBacc with a new performance framework that takes in pupils’ “best eight” subjects will not end the pressure on crafts, she says, given that the eight must include English, maths and three further Ebacc subjects. It’s not just the British craft industry that loses out, but young people themselves, she says: “There’s evidence that haptic skills help young people with other aspects of learning, with wider cognitive development and behavioural issues. It can help them find something they can focus on and be proud of”.

“Bennett has little truck with the idea that crafts are something children can learn just as well outside the school week. “The government may say that these skills are the kind of things you can develop in Saturday schools and things like that,” Bennett says, “but if you make ‘making’ skills an add-on, then it requires people to have the resources, the time and support to be able to do that. Then it becomes rooted in inequality”.

“The decline sits strangely with the growing popularity of crafts, both in the luxury goods market and at grassroots level, Bennett points out. “It’s a sector that makes a contribution to the economy and has the potential to be a much greater export business as well. There’s a dissonance between the way craft is perceived by the public and amongst adults, and the way we’re investing in supporting schools to keep that happening”.

“At Strood, Gunn echoes Bennett’s concerns about GCSE choices and equality of opportunity, especially given the price tag on materials. With so many courses competing for the three slots available within the “best eight” framework outside the compulsory subjects, numbers opting for each may be small. “Schools can’t run expensive courses with only six people on them,” Gunn says. “[Education secretary Michael] Gove’s new agenda will restrict choice … To push parents to pay for those sorts of things means our children from more deprived backgrounds won’t make as much progress as others, because they won’t be able to afford it. It’s about equality”.

“You could have some middle class parents who’ll say ‘yes, here’s £50’ and you’ll have parents who will say ‘I’m really sorry, I’ve got to pay this electricity bill this month’.”

But the answer isn’t as simple as just dropping the Ebacc or including design in it, or even more university sponsorship of academies, Ofield-Kerr says. “Rather … we need much greater recognition by government, and indeed all levels of education, of the importance of material research and making, both in terms of personal development and the maintenance of our longstanding national strength in areas of cultural production.”

Britain’s great strength in the creative industries is no accident, Ofield-Kerr adds: “It’s the product of a very strong history of British design and craft education. You lose that at your peril.

“Without it, there are countries that have absolutely recognised why the UK is so good at creative arts and they’re looking to replicate it themselves. The number of art and design colleges China has opened over the last 10 years has been phenomenal. When production has been so decimated in this country, to put design at risk is just fatal.”

When Marketing Fails in Schools

There are many ways marketing in schools can fail.

Banana skin

Marketing is one of the few business disciplines that can do as much in the future for a school as it does in the present.  Successful schools are aware that ‘planting seeds and tending to the crops’ will reap rewards down the line.  But, at the same time, those involved or leading marketing in schools can also bridge the gap of the ‘now-until-then’ and provide immediate benefit. That is when schools really win.  Too many long term activities with no short term view will cause failure.  The flip side is that if there is too much of a focus on the ‘now’, schools tend to wobble into the future with uncertainty.

So, what’s the right balance?  How do you know if you’re getting it right?

We’ve all seen it.  Sales’ driven schools like to pull marketing into what becomes frequently known as ‘sales-support’ (pupil registration or the proverbial ‘bums on seats’). With marketing attached to the hip of the sales team (admissions/registrars), they can provide great assistance with proposals, research, audio-visual presentations, and more equally riveting immediate activities.  If this becomes all consuming, then marketing becomes highly tactical however this can lead to strategic oversight on all sorts of critically important activities:  messaging, branding and positioning within the market.

Marketing that is only future-driven will lose perspective over what’s actually resonating with current forecasts. Currently independent education is going through massive peaks and troughs due to many economic uncertainties. Consequently they can miss out on critical input that can hone in on positioning and target numbers.  What’s more, and maybe more importantly, is that the admissions organisation and marketing tend to lose sight of each other.  Marketing within schools is often seen as out of touch and irrelevant to business generation (you just have to look at the relative lack of social media use in schools currently – by Heads, Governors and so forth). Those involved with marketing in this scenario are often confused because they are bringing in the leads – but sometimes many, many months too late.

Like all successful business functions, solid marketing teams put together marketing plans that specifically address both dynamics.  Their plans highlight the intended rewards and challenges.  They scope out resources and expectations.  They also identify Service Level Agreements for the business.  Nothing makes a Head happier than knowing ‘how’, ‘when’ and at ‘what speed’ they can rely on marketing.  Nothing makes a marketing team member happier knowing that they can do their “day job” and not be expected to drop everything on a penny to support pupil recruitment on an impulsive notion.

Marketing is a balancing act.  It takes strong leadership that can see the need to invest in marketing when times are hard (the last thing you do is ‘cut back’ when your chips are down…); rally the troops and enthuse when required; say “no” when needed; and have real courage of conviction.

The long term view of what marketing does for a school requires some internal fortitude to know that any bets placed will become realised.  The short view of marketing requires crystal clear expectations and the strength to pull away, or add more, at the right time.  Marketing departments fail when any one of these is not accomplished.  They also fail when the balance is not effectively achieved.

I have failed.  And, that’s the last thing.  Those successfully involved in marketing (and other disciplines associated with schools) have failed as often as they have succeeded.  I have learned to embrace my failures; learn from them, review and go forward armed with that experience to hopefully avoid further pitfalls where possible. Have you?

Virtual walk through of Mclaren Technology Centre, Woking, UK

Virtual walk through of Mclaren Technology Centre, Woking, UK

Like F1? Super cars? great architecture? Engineering? Well, have a look at this walk through of Mclaren. It’s wonderful.

Jony Ive and Marc Newson talk about ‘Red’ design and the ‘Red’ auction for charity

I love this. Two of my favourite designers in converstation about what good design is and what motivates them.

Jony Ive and fellow designer Marc Newson sat down with Charlie Rose (American TV host and Journalist) to discuss their recent charity auction. The interview is over the course of 40 minutes and they chat about working with Bono’s ‘Red’ charity and take a tour through Sotheby’s to see many of the items up for auction.

“The thing about design, the thing about what we do, is that it’s not necessarily meant to be expensive,” Newson says, explaining how they approached curating the auction.

“I mean, design is necessarily supposed to be accessible and we’re now faced with a situation where we’re trying to raise money. This is not like art.”

The designers’ collection is eclectic but maintains a clear coherence through its recurring use of red and white.

It’s worth hearing straight from the designers what went into making it all happen and taking a closer look at some of the gorgeous products they created for this charity auction.


The 25 Best Inventions of 2013

The 25 Best Inventions of 2013

What makes an invention great?

Sometimes it solves a problem you didn’t think could be solved.

Sometimes an invention solves a problem you didn’t know you had.

Want a list of the best things that were invented in 2013? Now you have one. Just click on the link above and keep reading!

A Lego-Style take on Modern Mobile Phone Technology

A Lego-Style take on Modern Mobile Phone Technology

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Phonebloks is a concept for a mobile phone made of swappable components that fit together like blocks of Lego.

“It is basically made to be upgraded and repaired,” explains Hakkens, who was speaking at the Design Academy Eindhoven graduation show during Dutch Design Week last week, before his collaboration with Motorola was revealed.

“Usually we throw [a mobile phone] away after a couple of years, but this one is made to last.”

He continues: “You throw away a lot of good components [when you throw away a phone], because usually it’s only one item that is broken. With this phone you can only throw away components that are actually broken, or need repairing or upgrading.”

“If it’s getting slow you only upgrade the speed component, if you need a better camera you only upgrade the camera component. In this way you can keep the good stuff and the bad stuff you upgrade.”

Say this carefully…motofocker cargo-scooter blends delivery truck & two-wheeler

Say this carefully…motofocker cargo-scooter blends delivery truck & two-wheeler

No doubt a nightmare to drive BUT an interesting take on a practical, and iconic, mode of transport.

I present to you the Motofocker Cargo Scooter!

Finest Somerset Rhubarb Fool….made with Rhubarb from Somerset no doubt….

Image…Or not?

Well, to be honest I am not too sure. This one seems to have Polish Rhubarb in it and to all intensive purposes is manufactured (packaged?) in Manchester according to the information on the package. Rather delicious though 🙂


Confused about the origin of the contents? Me too.

‘Hanker’ Part 2. Youngtimers (warning – Car Content)

Well, here is a collection of absolutely wonderful machinery from the 1970’s and 1980’s that I really hanker after.

Saloons, Wagons, coupes….all collected together and driven on track, on roads and just cruising. The Mercedes with the surf board on top particularly appeals…I have an old W124 estate – I think it might succumb to that look!