Count Down To Launch Application

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Countdown to Launch 2017 will run from June 5th to 9th, applications are open now and will close on the 14th of May. Applications are welcome from all current Cardiff Metropolitan students and graduates. You can only attend this programme once, so priority will be given to final year students and graduates.

You do need to have at least one business idea, and be willing to talk about this idea with the facilitators and other participants, if you are concerned about IP please contact us before applying.

  • How did you hear about Countdown to Launch

From a friend who participated last year and the Centre for Entrepreneurship.

  • Please give a summary of your business or social enterprise idea in 200 words or less

I am a furniture designer and maker from the school of art and design. I work with composite materials; mainly OSB, which is closely associated with up-cycling. I produce a range of outcomes from functional desks to unique chairs.

Predominantly, my target market is other businesses, such as bars (BrewDog plc & Tiny Rebel Brewing Company Limited) and retailers such as Urban Outfitters Incorporated etc. Although, I am open to other forms of revenue.

I am currently undecided weather I’ll go for some of the prize fund. But if I was to pitch, the funds I would receive will go towards paying for facilities like a studio and access to tools. Or maybe purchasing the tools and equipment directly.

 

  • What is your motivation for attending Countdown to Launch

I wanted to apply for the CSAD incubator space this year. However when I approached the application form I quickly realised how limited my knowledge of business was.

Countdown to Launch is the perfect opportunity for a crash course into the commercial world, so that I am in a better position for life after graduation.

  • Where will you set up your business?

Geographically in Cardiff. In terms of facility I am as yet unsure but I am considering the FabLab in the CSAD building.

  • Are there any specific areas or subjects that you would like us to include in Countdown to Launch?

How to structure a business plan? How to conduct market research? How to use business terminology in the correct context? How to read the publicly available financial documents for other companies on the Companies’ House website? A look at co-operation or partnership organisational models.

  • What do you think are the main barriers to you starting your business or social enterprise?

Firstly, facilities such as a workshop and access to tools and equipment.

Secondly, the application of business knowledge in the real world, where things can so easily go wrong. That is why I want to gather as much information, advice and business skills as possible before leaving university.

 

Proof of application (Screenshots below)

 

Constellation Reflective Piece (PDP)

The topic of my dissertation is heraldry, as use by national institutions, compared to contemporary logo design; interwoven with semiotics analysis. This has pretty much nothing to do with my practice in the subject module, which is environmentally and economically efficient oriented strand board furniture, with an aesthetic focus on texture. There is however a weak connection in that my dissertation is half involved with branding and that correlates to my push for marketing my practice online and on social media. Unlike the national institutions in my dissertation, I have a unified appearance across all platforms I have account with.

I chose this topic primarily because I was told to pick a topic that appealed to me, as writing a dissertation will test my interest in that topic. As I am a visual person and somebody who likes politics and willing to learn some history; writing about the insignia of the state seemed like the logical option.

During the proposal stage and my rough writings over summer I planned using the mind mapping software called MindView. This was done so meticulously that I found it difficult to follow my own plan.

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Early Dissertation Plan

Additionally, I am a prolific note taker. However my notes are often unorganized and exist in various locations on my devices. Thus the first job of the formal writing process, which began in early December, was to bring all the notes and points of the plan into one document. After this my method changed from following the plan, to an organic style of writing which allowed the flow of the points to be smoother. I think this was a good change as the way I write a point will naturally and logically lead into another. This is in contrast to some students that set out their paper like a form with headings and quotas for each section; a method I believe to be highly restrictive. Another reason for dropping the plan was that I found I spent a lot of time planning and little time actually translating the points into formal language. Thus I simply stopped looking at the plan out of the necessity to write. The organic style meant that some points were not made in the dissertation, these were removed and placed in a separate “extenders” document. Despite this change, the same basic structure remained in place. Monarchy, Government, Parliament and comparison to contemporary logos.

My method of time management is another feature that remained the same. I block tasks together, and will then set aside time, normally two to five days, to get on with the job. After I am satisfied that I have made progress, I will put together another group of tasks. Only the next group deals with a different set of tasks, it could be another university project or just general life issues. I do this for two reasons; Firstly, I was told in the dissertation keynote and in tutorials to break the task up into small segments so that the larger end goal does not seem so scary. Secondly, I actually prefer to organise like this, as I find it very difficult to swap between tasks in a short amount of time. It also allows me to fully concentrate on the issue currently being worked on.

Obviously, researching is a sizeable percentage of the dissertation assignment. Studying the visual arts and being a highly visual person, I was surprised by the limited images that the library can provide, quality images at that. Although the introduction of MetSearch has improved the interface of the library, the ability for the system to understand what I’m looking for has not.

There are other difficulties as well, such as the interface not remembering a results page I had open, so that when I return to it at a later time the lines of investigation were lost. Additionally, the databases that are linked to the library use ancient and slow interfaces that look like they have not been updated for decades. And individually searching each database is incredibly frustrating.

Amusingly, we are told not to use material from Wikipedia. And yet one library’s databases features a Wikipedia page in search results, when it can not find proper results.

These points are important because usability matters; a point I make in my dissertation. I was looking forward to researching a topic that I genuinely find interesting. However, this joy is derailed by these issues. I should point out that I understand that assignments require work on my behalf. However I would express that they do not feel like challenges to overcome, they feel like obvious obstructions.

I had aimed to finalise the dissertation a day or two early. However, these snags pushed back my estimated finishing time back to the deadline itself. so on the one hand, I do not think that my paper is my finest piece of writing. but on the other, I am a creative and I will always be looking to improve.

The book Visible Signs by David Crow formed the bases for my semiotic analysis. I had looked at other examples of semiotics, however they were very difficult to grasp, even the “introduction to…” versions. Visible Signs manages to make it more understandable. I find visual semiotics to be very interesting. And although having just written a dissertation, I feel I have only just touched the surface of what this field of study could provide. It has impacted me in a profound way, to an extend that I have changed my drive in life to; the pursuit of meaning.

I am reasonably happy with the submission. But as a creative, there will always be more that I could do. For example I feel the need to write a complete historic guide to British royal heraldry from the 800’s to the present. I also feel the need to design HM Government a new comprehensive logo system, to be used across all departments. Of course this will not happen, but it is fun to imagine.

The draft submission and the subsequent feedback was very helpful. However I would suggest that the draft deadline be treated like a pre-deadline deadline. with a minimum word count (5000), fully referenced images and bibliography up to that point and a short statement setting out the planned direction of the final deadline. So to encourage continue research over a longer period of time and flag up snags to alleviate the pressure of a final submission.

I have created a Pinterest board with all the images in the my dissertation

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Formative Assessment

CNCing Preparations

  1. While CADing, remember the over cut rule. Circular cutter but square hole.
  2. In Rhino 3D add a rectangle sized to the material cutting into, for example; 1220mm/2440mm for a full sized sheet of ply. Then use this rectangle to arrange the pieces.
  3. When arranging, Think about which side the shipping details will be printed and out that will relate to which side will be showing or hidden.
  4. make sure the lines are appropriately joined or grouped.
  5. Export as .ai, open in illustrator and check for any errors, like missing lines or lines not joined properly.
  6. Check for correct size (rhino sometimes does not exports properly).
  7. If size in incorrect. make new .ai file and set the document to the correct size (millimetres). Then import the drawings from the old .ai file.
  8. If not already, change to landscape orientation. Object/Transform/Rotation.
  9. Remove the outer shape (rectangle), used for sizing and arranging.
  10. Export as .dxf or save as .ai

Although I was ready and confident to go-ahead. it was highly suggested by three people that I laser cut a mock construction first to make sure it all fits together.

The mock construction was a bit loose and fiddly but otherwise fine. I am confident that once the file is CNCed it will tighten up. this is partly the reason i don’t over cut, because it makes the joins tighter when pushed together.

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The arrangement over three boards

Given that OSB can be sharp, I sanded the surfaces and used a pressure hose to clean away any dust.

In the rush of getting things together for the assessment I haven’t recorded an assembly video for the final shelving unit. however, I did get some images of the unit fully constructed.

Cost Breakdown (estimation)

OSB boards x3: £11

CNC Machine [£40=hour]: £160

Sanding Pad: £4

Total: £175

Evaluation of Project

In the questionnaire I filled out at the beginning of the year. I was very weak on answering who is your audience/user? & how do you access them? I think I have improved those answers over the course of this project, thanks partly to the social media and marketing events I went to.

The production design method of creating was alien to me. I have found it very difficult to adopt a user focused design process. I recognize my failure to reach out to target groups like landlords, estate agents, furniture design companies and student organisations. I understand this in important and I will try to undertake this while also managing the work load from the next module.

The initial part of this project, where I was supposed to produce potential ideas, was badly recorded and unorganized. I should have utilised mind maps more, especially as I know they help me record ideas. Creating a mind map will be at the top of my list when the next term starts.

The group critiques (summer project presentation & pitch) were influential, they have steered my practice towards a more considerable place.  Peer feedback is an effective method of testing my communication skills.

The Monday morning seminar series has provided an alternative perception to creative works. The provocative discussions have been both enjoyable and cemented my position in formalism.

The adoption of time-lapse has been an interesting development that makes good use of my new founded YouTube channel. I find this to be a very useful tool as it can give an insight into my practice for viewers. I would have liked to record the designing process while the CAD files were being created. However, there is no screen recording software on the computers.

Statement of Intent

In various tutorials and interactions talk has turned to the post-grad world. A frequent topic discussed are the different business models and Start-up companies possible in the creative industry. Although, these conversations are insightful and are in good preparation. My design practice is not yet stable enough to be exposed to the wide world. I believe I would benefit greatly by a post-grad assistance programme, allowing me access to the vital components of a design practice. Components such as academic material in the library and the tools and equipment in the workshops. The next step forward is to start preparing an application for inc space.

I have not yet thought about post inc space. However, even at this point I am getting a better idea of how my practice functions. For example, my practice is heavily involved with CAD and CNCing. Therefore whatever the move is after inc space, those facilities will need to be available.

In terms of the trajectory of my work. I am aiming to use the metal press to shape sheets of aluminium into a “push, click” furniture fixing system. There is the potential for a stronger move towards modular furniture. Given the unique selling point of the “push, click” system, the ease of assembly and disassembly, I think forms such as; storage units, bed frames, desks, tables and chairs will be well suited to this system. Rather than sofas or kitchens units.

It is most likely that I will keep using OSB. However, I am unsure if I should treat the surface with some kind of oil or paint. As I am aiming for low cost approach, and by adding this type of process will raise the cost and the ascetic will change to a higher end item.

Although, I am interested in doing a masters. I don’t think I’m ready to undertake such a heavy research project at this point, and some industry experience would be beneficial.

 

Marketing Event

I attended a social media workshop and an even titled Using social media for job searching and self-promotion.

The basic point that I took from these events is that there is so much noise online. I should to market to a specific group and know; who the group is?, what services they use online? and how they learn; kinaesthetic, auditory or visual.
W basic question is why?, not what? Pushing out content that means noting is a waste of time. When the publish or post button is pressed, it should be on something worth the while.
Side information
  • Reviews and shares are more impactful that paid adverts.
  • Mix online and physical; emails and social media with contact cards and posters.
  • Images communicate an idea better that a blog post because images can be read with in seconds. an article takes minuets. The zero moment of truth (when a person decides if they like something or not) is shorter. additionally big chunks of writing look boring. who reads the terms and conditions?

 

There was also an emphasise on how and what to use each platform for
  • Twitter is good for live events because I can get into discussions and share things in a #hashtag, such as document, pictures, videos etc.
  • Live video, for example; YouTube live, for behind the scenes as exhibitions.
  • Snap Chat is perfect for in the moment clips (Instagram stories are also a good for this)
  • LinkedIn is for the professional thing like CV and networking.
  • Facebook is good for conversation and meeting people with common interests, also it is popular and should be included in leaflets.

After Works

I already had an email, WordPress, Pinterest and Instagram set up from last year. I had created a range of potential logos. Although I had my favourite, I conducted a survey, with some of my peers on the maker course, to test the response of others.

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Logo Survey

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • One = 1
  • Two = 11
  • Three = 3
  • Four = 11
  • Five = 4

Total = 30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been using logo 5, as this was my favourite.

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However in consideration of a professional practice, I have decided to update my logo and backgrounds of the current services, while creating accounts for the suggested services from the talks. I now have; a Facebook page, a YouTube channel and Twitter. The new logo is the fourth one as this was my favourite out of the top two. I have also added an OSB back ground, because it is the main material I use.

I have also updated the title from BirchMaker to BirchWorks. This is because I’m not just a maker and neither I am just a designer. I am a designer maker, However this is not a catchy title. BirchWorks covers all creative works both designing and making.

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Updated logo and background

Tutorial with Zoe Preece

I was undecided about somethings, primarily which of the two fixing systems to use for my formative outcome. The push ‘n’ slide system from my desk last year and from the material test boxes. Or a new undeveloped push ‘n’ click system, I thought of a few days ago. Zoe suggested I should set some key parameters, as this will help me make some of the decisions.

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Venn diagram

I created this venn diagram to help my decision making. however, there is a conflict. The push ‘n’ slide system works great in the efficiency zone and the push ‘n’ click system fits well in the usability zone.

In the interests of what time is left, as the deadline is approaching, I will most likely use the old push ‘n’ slide system. If anything to have something to hand in for assessment. even though I’ve lived with that system in a compact space and it is not suitable.

We spoke about the material test boxes. Zoe was interested in the potential aesthetic of the OSB, explaining the material holds an honest quality. I added the use of OSB is similar to the upcycling of pallets.

Although, I am aiming for a student housing environment to place this work. A retail context is a running alternative, I added that BrewDog might be a good place for a piece of OSB furniture. BrewDog is a bar that has an industrial interior, with exposed brick and utility feeds.

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BrewDog Interior

She also mentioned the simplicity of the push ‘n’ slide system on the test box meant that no other fixings and material were needed. This gave me an idea for a hinged-less doored cupboard.

 

After Works

I found this report on WGSN interesting.

Australian design and architecture studio Edwards Moore usage of OSB.

The honesty of the OSB that Zoe spoke about is translated into an open living space, with the bath and bed being in the same room. I enjoy the wall of shelving and the OSB kitchen cupboards, the island with the taps is more of a sculptural form. The amount of OSB has been balance to contrast of the various examples of white.

Another example of osb used in an interior space. This meeting and conference room, at the edgematrix office by forum-architects, provides a shielded and focused environment for communication.

Although there is more OSB used in this example, the surface is broken up with areas of light. The lights also serve to bring out the soft buttery colours and textures of the wood and make the room feel warm and intimate.

I haven’t collected contextual images yet, so Zoe strongly suggested I create some design boards. I have used Pinterest to do so.

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OSB Inspiration

Monday Morning Seminar Series and Display Cabinet

As the title states this seminar series is held on monday mornings, it is designed to addapt to the responses of the audiance with each iteration. The tutors, regardless of their own position on the topic of discussion, always provided an opposition and counter-argument. This was to keep the audiance on their toes and thrust them into defending a position.


Monday 3nd Oct 2016 – Formalism and Relativism

There are many different movements, philosophies and descriptions to explain and analyse creative works. We were introduced to a new partition, that of Formalism and Relativism.

Summarised

  • Formalism is primarily interested in shape, colour, texture, material, volume and the independant merit of the work.
  • Relativism on the other hand is interested in interpretation, narrative, context, figure and the creator’s biography.

Two opposite corners of the room were designated as formalism and relativism. Then a task was set where we had to sit in the corner that best described our work, this forced me to treat the two as a binary choice. Thus to begin with I was firmly on the formalist side of the room. My decision was based on the ecological use of material. As a formalist the amount, type and volume of a form is vitally important. Where as these are secondary to a relativist, favouring how materials conjure feelings. The premise that relativists are inherently wasteful inflamed the other side. They defended by claiming that the material is not wasted if the positive actions of those who view the work are taken into consideration.

As arguments and counter-arguments were made it became clearer to me that you can’t have one, without the other. Choosing one solely to the exclusion of the other, is in my belief, not reflecting the work accurately. Creative works are often far too complex to simply slap a label on them. Especially as artists challenge preconceptions and the limits of definitions.

A variable to consider is that of the differences between the creator and the spectator. This is something that was discussed in the seminar. What happens if a formalist artist creates a piece of work without context and narrative. When a relativist spectator views it, their eyes might see a pattern or the work might trigger a childhood memory. In an attempt to mentally process the work a context and narrative is made up. Even though the creator did not intend it, what ism is correct? My answer to this quandary is to prioritize one while still recognising the other. Therefore I still remain a formalist but I recognise the relativist aspects of a piece of work.


Monday 10th Oct 2016 – Octavio Paz

The reader for this week was dense and, I felt, difficult to absorb. Nonetheless, I did pick up on a few points.

The piece is written from a pro-craft position, calling art a religion and design a cult. I would completely agree that art is the secular contemporary religion and the museum is its cathedral. But I differ on the notion that this is a negative effect. I’m completly okay with this trend, my only detraction would be that museums don’t fully partake in this roll. This has correlations to a internet video series I watch; called the school of life.

The reader also calls design a cult, as design practices generally follow a principle borrowed from the field of mathematics, where simple equations are favoured over more complex ones, even though both give solutions. In the design world this is translated into the less is more phrase. Anything above what is necessary to complete a purpose is excess.

My thoughts on this are much the same as the art section above. The cult comment does have some truth to it, however I disagree with the negative overtone. The Bauhaus was the birth of design, and most contemporary design practices subscribe to the same or very similar principles.

I find the idea that craft will make any meaningful or long term come back to be a ridiculous one. A civilization will choose the path of least resistance and that which is most economical. Design and mechanical, or a more contemporary version; digital, industry are far more efficient; there is a reason Ikea is so popular.

I disagree with the readers gloomy position on technology. Modernity and technology has in my view raised us up. My position on this comes from my interest and semi-belief in post-humanism.


Monday 17th Oct 2016 – Display Cabinet

There are glass cabinets near the entrance of the 3nd year maker studio. We were given a small assignment to fill a space each in these cabinets with maquettes.

During this week’s seminar we were tasked with putting sticky notes on the cabinets describing what we think of the work and how we would categorise it. Unfortunately, my table design didn’t print fully, and I didn’t have enough time to print another one.

The phrases stuck to my space were: design, fascination with OSB board, design and functional. I’m very happy that others are calling my work functional design.

One if the things I needed to work on is the professional finish of my work. So I placed some wax, oil and dye material tests along the back of my cabinet.

It was difficult to apply the coatings to the boards, as OSB is rough. If I go forward with this material I will be sanding the surface first.


Monday 24th Oct – Material and Materiality with Zoe

The first task of this seminar was to define the two terms.

Material.

  1. Empty and void of meaning and status.
  2. The matter in nature; unprocessed by humans.

Materiality.

  1. Values of the material applied to it by humans.
  2. The matter processed and formed into useful items.

I disagree with the status value of a material, a kind of material hierarchy where it is organised by preciousness and rarity. An example of this value system can be seen in gold. it is expensive because is it rare and could be a reason why some people wear it; it gives them an exclusive status.

I subscribe to a more utility value of material. Where gold, with it’s unique scientific properties, would be used according to those qualities and not the whim of prestige.

There is of course the labour part to this. Where an outcome is comprised of low status material. But is higher up the hierarchy due to the time and still put into the outcome. this is often found in upcycling and art; see Sue Webster.

In Julie Brook’s work and much of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, the material is useless out of the context of their work. The objects are formed but material is not used; over time it will be returned to nature.


Monday 7th Nov – The Sublime; think of a time you were in the sublime

We were asked to bring an example of a sublime experience, preferably one based around an object.

Ingrid kicked us off with sharing how an audio installation with its all encompassing sounds brought her, and other visitors, to tears.

The discussion was then opened to the floor. Music and nature were popular bases for an experience. I can appreciate both of these types of experience. They can be beautiful and striking but neither have driven me to the sublime.

There was an interesting example of a group experience. Someone being emotionally moved to tears by parades. I can understand how a mass of people can be an experience. One of the things on my  bucket list is to visit Mecca to watch Muslims pray towards and walk around the Kaaba.

The last point discussed was those who have never felt a sublime experience. This is where I stand, I’ve often be bewildered, amazed or in awe, but never a complete emotional experience that brings me to tears.

I often fall back on a reductionist thinking, a painting might be outstanding and an accomplishment. but it is and always will be just an amount of paint on a canvas arranged in a particular fashion.

Although I have not felt the sublime, I have had some heightened experiences. Audio alone is often not enough to elicit a response. However I have below some visual audio examples that send tingles up my spine.

There is one other experience. Swimming in the sea at night, while it was raining . It was very liberating. I was free, just me and the endless dark liquid expanse. But even then still no tears, just a quiet pondering.

Material Experimentation

Following up suggestions from the Second Group Critique. I decided to create some small test boxes out of the three main types of sheet wood, MDF, OSB and Ply.

I mistakenly chose an inefficient method of CNCing. I was thinking of the each piece as if it was a different file and a different cut. Therefore I chose the smaller CNC machine. This meant that every piece needed to be loaded individually. This took a lot of time and labour on behalf of the technicians. I could have treated them as a whole, create one big file and have it cut on the large CNC machine in the FabLab.

Small bridges were needed to hold the piece down while the cutter goes around the edge. Without these the piece would fly off and damage the machine.

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Material Bridge

Assembly

Pushing the piece I want out of it’s frame is the first job. This was easy with the MDF & OSB. However, with the Ply little bits of splintered and broke away, this ruined the clean surface.

This was probably due to the layering of Ply. If I use Ply again I will use a band saw to cut the frame away. Unfortunately, the Ply also bowed.

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Videos and Properties of OSB

Properties of MDF

The MDF Pieces slotted together nicely, however both the OSB & PLY pieces were loose. I think this is down to the individual CNCing process I had chosen.

I attended Huw’s furniture club. Where he explained one of the positives of MDF is that it doesn’t have any wood grain as it is a 100% manufactured material, therefore it does not twist or bow as normal timber might.

Images: Materials – Mitchells Building Series 5th Revised edition Alan Everett, C. M. H. Barritt]

Properties of Ply

I didn’t much like this the cheapest version of Ply, the more expensive and most recognisable ply is the white birch covered kind. Aesthetically, this cheaper Ply surprised me how beautiful it looks. I also think this version is better as it gives a bit of colour. The pale viable layers along the edges contrasts with the red/brown surface give off a two tone aesthetic.

Properties of OSB

The OSB has more texture out of these examples. However, it requires a lot more sanding. I think it has a rebellious connotation when compared to the others; they have a more subtle aesthetics. This rebellious streak is very apparent when touched and handled. It is both physically and visually tough.

Boxes stacked next to each other