What can Possibly go Wrong?

  • this is a rough first text on the subject of failing on personal student projects. Any feedback is welcome.

“How students can fail in personal projects at the WdKA”

Before the summer holidays it’s ‘project assessment time’. When it comes to independent student projects it can be difficult to understand for students why they failed. In this type of project students can decide their own topic, their own research method and their own type of products that they wish to deliver. With so much freedom it’s sometimes difficult for a student to understand why the project was failed.

With an overview of scenario’s in which projects can go wrong; students can try to identify their own situation and possibly learn from their mistakes. The failing of projects is often based on a combination of several of the listed scenario’s. I have divided the situations into 3 main categories: concept, process and presentation.

Concept

a. Knowing too much

Theoretical insight can make the design development more difficult. Having knowledge of all the complications of the design-topic can lead to ‘design-freeze’; not creating out of fear of making mistakes. As a result there is an over-focus on rationalizing the theory. searching new data is easier than creating design solutions.

b. Knowing too little

There is never a garantee that research questions can be answered. Sometime the research question involves topics which are not clearly defined or are not explained in relation to each other. The project then lacks focus.

c. Saying too little
Sometimes the student feels no need to make a critical statement or position the work in a defined context. As a result it raises the question how the project can be relevant. It’s not enough if the work has esthetic value or has been constructed in a skilled manner. At the academy the personal goals and ambition of the maker are always relevant.

d Urgent, but not effective
A student can be overwhelmed by the urgency of a certain theme and believe that anything that supports this cause is by definition good. The quality of a project is only measured partially by the relevance in a bigger context. The sense of urgency of the matter can also lead to feeling powerless to alter the situation with design.

Proces
a. Too little time
Research findings can lead to new insight which alter your direction and can influence the time left to develop products. With too many changes, sometimes too little time is left.

b. Too little connection
Research can be inspiring and relevant, but sometimes the connection into designing a related product can difficult. The research must have visible influence in the final product(s).

c. Too little skill
Research can lead to new inspiring design strategies. However it always takes skill and craft to realize a product. Sometimes choosing a new technique can result in less quality project, because there was too little experience in the chosen technique.

Presentation
a. Too little confrontation
A project can be developed within the context of the academy. However at the final presentation it is expected that students already have brought their work in confrontation with the outside world.

b. Unclarity of presentation.
Even good research and well developed products can be missunderstood when the end presentation does not communicate enough. The presentation is always a design-task. Being to caught up in the project, can lead to too little time to design a communicative presentation.

c. Relation to the professional practice
A personal project offers the opportunity to create anything for anyone and place in any context. However in order to evaluate its quality; there has to be sufficient context. It is the responsibility of the maker; to provide and clarify that context for any audience. Especially if the maker goes beyond the context of the traditional professional practice.