Today on Monday musings we are looking at something that happened at the weekend that sparked a bit of an ‘aha’ moment. We are (still) in the process of finishing our new studio – a former public toilet in Hove that we are converting into a design studio and, as we are nearing the completion date, we are getting into the final additions and nice bits. One of these nice bits included building, painting and planting the new raised beds at the front of the studio, which faces directly onto the street, slightly set back from the main pavement.
Despite it being a weekend, there were rafts of people on Portland Road – locals, families, people out walking dogs, running, getting the paper… It was buzzing. And as I was sitting there sanding, painting and planting I got to talk to a lot of them. Many people came to ask what the studio was going to be, when we would be open and what we do.
And then it occurred to me. Many of the people I spoke to were not completely sure what a design studio was until we were chatting. They wanted to know how it worked, how many of us there will be, what sort of projects we do – the sort of thing that often gets hidden away in offices out of sight and secret from most people.
This was the first time I had thought about it. Our current office is tucked away, and the only ‘public appearances’ we make are at events or through our projects themselves. Otherwise, the design process is invisible.
How can we expect people to engage with design if we hide ourselves away in our studios and workshops?
This is why I think it is so important for designers to get into the real world and help people understand exactly what we do and how it impacts us all. Not in a pretentious sense of course, but so we can gain a greater understanding of what people need, care about and show how design can help.
So this is why it was delightful to talk to people outside the new studio at the weekend. It was also wonderful to talk to people who had never thought about design at all, as well as other designers who popped past and stopped to chat. As I was there, covered in paint, sawdust, compost and bits of foliage I was not a scary designer. I was someone planting and painting.
Designers are just people – and hopefully people who care very deeply about myriad issues. We need to show people that we are not scary. We are regular people.