Rockfish, Paper, Scissors II

Rockfish, Paper, Scissors: design for/with other than humans. How do design methods change if we are designing for other than humans?

Written by Zach Camozzi, Louise St Pierre & Anna Dixon. Support: Gillespie Research fund

Collaborators: Emily Carr DESIS Lab, Emily Carr Faculty Amanda Huynh, & Charlotte Falk,  Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI), and researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium, Amanda Weltman and Dr. Jeff Marliave.

Photo Credits to INDD200 Students

During the first phase of this project, the research team explored methods that would draw designers closer to an empathetic relationship with the natural world. We looked for actions and rituals to support holistic and spiritual perspectives in the design studio. This second phase brought some of these research activities to the 38 students in the studio class (INDD 200).

Rockfish were personified through simple paper representations. The paper models helped students visualize rockfish shape and scale and learn basic facts. Rockfish have a life span that is similar to humans, and are often cannot reproduce until they are about 20 years old. These paper models supported personification and empathetic resonance. They became totems, appearing later in notebooks and even accompanying students to out-of-class sites (upper left).

“It put us designers in the mindset as caregivers/protectors/nurturers moving forward in the project” I “kept mine for a while and grew attached to it”

Some students took their research off campus to consider ‘being a rockfish’. For the project researchers this was very exciting as it showed that students were considering how they might shift out of the studio and conduct research with the natural world.

Students engaged in contemplative, place based and/or action based research on BC’s shores. These ranged from contemplative practices of sitting in context, to re-experiencing and re-evaluating the ritual of skipping stones, and even swimming in the frigid waters near Porteau Cove.

“going swimming…it took bodystorming to a whole new level!”

 “We did some ‘think out loud’ research on location. That we went back to and it really helped inform our final project.”

As the classroom activities turned to more traditional design methods of modeling forms, researchers noticed that the innate expectation that designers should be productive in certain ways started to overtake the focus of the project. The design process has its own momentum. We began to look for ways to bring students back to the realization that we were designing with nature, designing for other than humans… we realized that this might mean a different kind of design process.

Stepping away from traditional form-making in order to consider rituals for engagement was one way to shift the design process. As students stepped back from their making to think about setting, context and rituals, they considered the wider story. These moments of reflection and regrounding were important throughout the project. Reflection and regrounding moments disrupt the powerful momentum of the design process, and bring new values and perspectives into the conversation.