Sensory Walk – Our London Design Festival workshop at London College of Communication

A Sensory Walk workshop in Elephant Park facilitated by:
Valerie Mace and Lucy Thornett
Tuesday 19th September 2017 1pm to 4pm LCC

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Workshop information
We make sense of the world through our senses. We are sentient beings and that as such, experiences are inevitably multi-sensory. This exploratory workshop invites participants to discover ways to document and map sensory perceptions and learn how designers develop their knowledge of sensing and their sensitivity to the sensory world to perfect sensory intelligent designs.

The movements of the body enable us to engage with the world through a process of intimate connections and interactions with spaces, people and objects. Environmental psychologist James. J. Gibson (198)3) calls it active sensing. Passive sense organs pick up on energy in the environment. Active perceptual systems (Gibson 1966) – visual, haptic, smell/taste, auditory, basic orienting. – seek information in the environment by constantly moving (eyes, head, body). Active sensing occurs in motion.

The workshop begins with a short briefing session in the Lower Street gallery at London College of Communication. Participants are then invited to explore Elephant Park, a nearby green urban space, and bring back their findings to LCC where they are given the opportunity to translate these finding into a sensory map of their experience.

Workshop schedule:
1pm – Welcome and briefing
1:30pm – Sensory walk and documentation
2:30pm – data translation and mapping

Instructions
You are invited to explore sensory experiences in Elephant Park. In your journey through the park you will stop at six different points, including your start and end point. Each time you stop, mark the point on your map and record your experience using one of the documentation handout provided. Also indicate on the map the proximity of the source of the sensory experience. Using your phone, take photographs, films, sound recordings of your sensory experiences.

You will be assigned a starting point. You goal is to reach a diagonally opposite point of your choice. Allow your sensory curiosity and perceptions to guide you. You don’t need to walk in a straight line. You can move across following a curved or zig-zag path to explore different points of interest in your journey.

We encourage you to be experimental. Don’t just walk on the paths or edges, find interesting places such as placing yourself under a tree or even hugging a tree, lying on the grass or bench, looking up, down, through, into, etc. There’s no right or wrong, only your sensory perceptions as they occur.

TOOLS

Event Descriptor
In the Event Descriptor, write down adjectives that best represent the qualities of each sensory experience, then draw a shape or a series/cluster of shapes, with textures if relevant, that you associate with the experience. Next write down the name of the colour you associate with the experience. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the experience. Record immediate, visceral impressions as they occur.

Sensory Flow
We experience a flow of information as we move through the environment. Johnson (2007) calls it a ‘streaming-past’ flow.
‘[…] if you are moving forward in a linear fashion, you experience a visual ‘flow’ that emerges from a horizontal focal point in front of you, expands out from that point and streams towards you, and then envelops and flows past you.’ (Johnson (2007: 50). Not all sensory perceptions flow in the same way. For example, sounds and smells reach us and we move through them.
In the Sensory Flow diagram, place a dot to indicate the characteristic of the sensory experience. Below is an example of what the completed sensory flow diagrams looks like although your template will be different.

Completed sf diagram.jpeg

Tool example: the haptic system

Haptic-system-template

Mapping the Sensory walk

 

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Collaborative Studio

collaborative-studio

On Thursday 16th February at London College of Communication, the course invited Alumni and industry specialists to participate in an interactive and dynamic design event with students. The event emulated collaborative working practices in design studios where designers discuss and develop work in progress. Armed with beverages and a whole range of delicious pastries, we clustered into small specialist teams across our teaching studio spaces.

Alongside sketches and design development drawings, students brought in 3D working models to use as a way to map different aspects of their design across the space as a whole, and in doing so, enrich their ability to communicate to an audience. Using simple materials such as card and paper, students were invited to construct the basic layout of their design to a scale of their choice, showing indoor and outdoor spaces and using simple volumes for important spatial elements of the design. They used the model as a 3D map to illustrate their design rationale and vision in relation to the buildings/spaces/brands including: activities, interactions, movement, light-shadows, materials, atmospheres, etc. They were able to adapt these criteria to their project requirements and communication.

The session was very popular and students’ participation was fantastic. Passionate discussions led to great feedback and recommendations from our guests. Contributions from alumni and expert practitioners proved invaluable and students made significant progress with their projects.