Flower Power

I participated in a quick workshop beside the lake Balaton, in Hungary. I'm interested in sustainable techniques so mark making with plants made me very exited. Instead of jumping right into the water I spent a couple of hours on a bench but it worth it. Although the final piece isn't my kind of taste but this technique is very interesting and made me think how could I use it for something else.

First we collected some flowers, leaves, berries and put them between two sheets of 100% cotton fabrics. Then we hammered the top layer for ages...pretty hard work.


We cleaned the surfaces  with a sharp knife and ironed the back of the fabrics to make the 'dyes' more permanent.

With a special fine liner for textiles we drew the outlines of the forms.

And the ready pieces...they look like illustrations from a vintage tale book rather than textile designs but using flowers as a dye really made me think.


Up - cycling


Assignment 5/B

Plans for the future

Book list for summer:

Blink – The power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
I really enjoyed the Tipping Point written by the same author and I also feel this book would be a good complement after I've read 'Change by Design' by Tim Brown. Gladwell's book is about making decisions or getting new ideas in a second. It explains what's going on in our head when we make instant conclusions and how to use 'intuition' in real life. Brown's book gave us many ideas how to research customers we design for, how to use brainstorming and how useful is to think together with people from different occupations. This book would help me understand the other way of thinking.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell's
This book investigates the reason why some people become rich and famous but on a different way. Gladwell looks at the environment of successful people instead of studying what they did to become who they are. How their birthday, their community or their family affect what they accomplished? Another interesting social study by Gladwell, I must read it.

The back of the napkin by Dan Roam
This book is about the power of visual thinking. The author says that any idea can be explained by a picture. It would be very useful for me because I was always wondering how to transmit messages with textiles. It would be a very powerful tool to know that.

Fashioning technology by Syuzi Pakhchyan
A fashion related book about innovative materials, fabrics and paints. It's full with good ideas how to make crafted functional things using electronic components. I love 'found' objects and it would be nice how to use them as part of clothes. It is also useful to know about new materials and get inspired by the technology.

Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen
I've always been interested in sustainability so this book is a must read for me. Fashion industry faces with different challenges to become environmentally friendly. This book provides a wide range of essays to get an insight into these problems.

Designers to contact:

Craig Fellows
A successful, award winning designer with an informative blog which give us an insight into his inspirations and thinking process. I like the way his gathering the information for his designs. The colours, the unusual patterns and the geometric organization of them is just amazing. I would contact him by email.

Mariposa Vintage
The colours and the compositions of her designs are very successful. I like her style and her technique. She could also tell me about what are the advantages and disadvantages of using Etsy. I would contact her via her web shop.

Margo Selby
She created a unique 3- Dimensional fabric and since then she sells her products internationally in many shops and galleries. I like innovative approach, her pattern and her use of colour. I would contact her by email.

Sari Syväluoma
She's a successful freelance designer who worked on many different projects not just with textiles. She's open-minded with a playful attitude which makes her a real innovator. She worked in co-operation with architects in long-term projects which makes her work even more interesting for me. I would contact her by email.

Anna Sassi
Taking inspiration from the natural world, it’s colours, textures and naturally reoccurring patterns, I enjoy the challenge of interpreting my concepts into both printed and knitted textiles. “ I like to use nature as my inspiration and I was thinking about choosing knit as my main discipline. I choose print though but I still feel strongly about knitted fabrics. I like the 3D quality of her work and I'm really interested in her technique. I would contact her via her blog.

5 things to change in my blog:
- I will write a profile about my previous studies, my interests and my goals
- I will set up a flickr account because photography is essential for me and not just as an inspiration
- I will post more about my activities relating to textiles and interesting websites or articles I found on the internet
- I can't think of anything else I would change just now. Blogspot.com has limitations though so I might will change for wordpress.com


Assignment 5/A

Research Proposal

During Semester 1 I carried out secondary research on 'Connectors in Design' and I would like to explore this topic further. This time I'm planning to use primary research to get a deeper insight into a particular problem I have identified based on two articles I read in the previous semester.

Pamela's Place: Power and Negotiation in the Hair Salon’ by Debra Gimlin is based on field research undertaken in a hair salon and highlights the importance of personal, face to face contact with clients to build up a trusting relationship. This type of personal contact provides an opportunity for conversation between two people who may have different opinions. It can help to solve problems the customers may be having and create a new discourse between two people. Conversation can help to personalise the product for the customer making the shopping experience special, unique and creative. This article highlighted the importance of providing a high level of service in a small designer shop.

Consumers and Consumption’ by Sharon Zukin and Jennifer Smith Maguire describes a history of globalization and the success of shopping centres. These big, shiny malls create a perfect place for gathering and convert shopping into a social experience. They give the illusion of a wide range although they sell very similar products according to the latest fashion trends. The cheap prices of the goods sold in the big brand stores in these malls are also very appealing to customers. The article describes globalization as a 'political project' and uses advertising as its biggest weapon to sell a massive amount of goods. Magazines and TV adverts tell customers where and what to buy and suggest that shopping centres are the obvious place for customers to buy these goods. This article reinforced my belief that it is very difficult for independent designer shops to compete with the shopping malls and the big brand corporates.

This led me to wonder how could small, independent designer shops become a success story in such a competitive market. My first idea was to combine designer shops with cafés or pubs to make them a place for socializing and gathering as well as purchasing designer goods. I also had an idea of a campaign to popularise these shops. This would involve a big sculpture build up from personal, unique links designed by the small shops. The exhibition would attract a crowd of people and start a conversation between sellers and buyers to discuss problems, share ideas and spread information. To investigate whether independent designer shops can be successful I believe primary research is required by reviewing the perceived needs of shoppers who would normally shop in malls and by finding out if their shopping habits can be altered.

The research method I propose to use is the interview after I have carried out a brainstorming session with fellow design students to prepare appropriate questions. Brainstorming is quick, creative and it always provides plenty of ideas for further investigation.

I find the interview research tool very useful because it's personal, informative and gives me the opportunity to get detailed answers for my questions. I also have the chance to react for to an answer immediately and get the exact information I'm looking for.

Interviews have limitations as well. People can only give opinions based on their own experiences and the local situation could be very different from other locations'. In Dundee there aren’t as many small designer shops as there are in bigger cities and so Dundonians who have not traveled to other cities have limited experience of this type of shops. There is also a limit to the amount people I can interview.

Preparing for the interviews will require a lot of planning, organisation and the process itself is also very time consuming. I still believe this is the best way to investigate this question because of the interactive quality of this design tool. I think talking with 10-15 people for about 15 minutes each would be enough to give me an insight into customers' shopping habits. I intend to find out what might make people shop in designer shops instead of shopping malls and how these shops might become more attractive to customers. I also intend to investigate if people are more likely to use independent designer shops if they feel they would get a better service or are more likely to obtain a unique, handmade, highly crafted product made by an artist. I am also interested in finding out if shoppers would find it more appealing if designer shops are grouped together, like in the same district and it if this grouping gives more of an opportunity of socializing and gathering?

I will select my first interviewees in small shops to find out what makes them chose these shops instead of shopping malls. That would help me to create my exact questions. Then I will search for customers in shopping centres by using ethnography to find the right people to participate in my survey. I'm planning to do it on the weekend because that's when shopping malls are the busiest.

I intend to analyse the results to find out the typical age and gender of the clientele which would most likely shop in designer shops. The interviews would take place in a silent café to create a relaxed conversation. I have to be careful with my questions because I don't want to influence my interviewees. I'd like to get creative ideas how to develop a unique shopping experience in small shops and make them able to compete with big companies. I will carry out the interviews alone because I have a deep insight into the topic and two people asking could be confusing for the participants. Although it would be useful to involve other students to the analysis of findings. More people means more opinions and different standpoints.

The organisation for the interviews including a brainstorming session should be done in three days. To carry out the interviews would take about two weeks and I would leave another week for the analysis of the findings.

Assignment 4

How knowledgeable are shoppers about what they are buying?

We've been asked to do three interviews in a chosen topic. I choose the one above and I started with a mind map before I found out my questions. I've tried to consider different topics relevant to the question. I won't use the real names of my interviewees because they didn't give me a permission to do so. I choose 3 girls because as far as I know boys not that interested in shopping trips. They try to buy the items they're looking for as quick as possible while girls do shopping as a hobby or a recreational amusement.

First I talked with an architecture girl in her early 30's, her name is Petra. 
1. Where do you usually buy your clothes, shoes, etc.?
I lost my job because of the recession so nowadays I mostly go to charity shops, I search for High Street sales and TK Maxx is my constant favourite.
2. How many times do you go for a shopping trip per a month?
I go for window shopping about twice a month but I don't buy anything if I don't need it. Mainly because I don't have the money for it. But I still buy a new item in every month.
3. What do you consider when you buy something?
I would go for colourful, extreme items, maybe with big patterns. Those are the ones which catch my eyes.
4. How do you make decisions during shopping?
Value for money. I wouldn't buy something just because it's organic. I used to buy organic T-shirts though when I had enough money.
5. What influences your taste?
I think the biggest influence was the Art College in Hungary. I still have the same style although it became more sophisticated and a little bit more mature. I always want to be different, that's the main rule.
6. Do you know where the products you buy coming from?
Since I found out where Primark products coming from I buy less items there. But probably almost every clothes made in Asia (China or India) by wee children. TK Maxx is good though, they sell quality products for reasonable prices. I don't think we can find out where clothes coming from or at least it's really hard to bring to light. I've read an article on Tree Hugger about organic clothes. They discovered that a big percentages of them aren't really organic, although the labels told so.
7. Quality or quantity?
Both. I think I spent as much money at Primark for cheap stuff in the last couple years as I spent on quality stuff. Not any more though. I realised that they last for 2-3 washes then they are rubbish. And I don't want to produce more waste. TK Maxx is the best place to go, it offers cheap, quality products and it has a similar feeling than a charity shop what I really enjoy.
So you don't go to Primark anymore?
Well, sometimes I do, but I don't buy lots of stuff just because they're cheap.

Petra is fairly aware of sustainable issues although she still goes to Primark sometimes. It's hard to resist of cheap clothes and customers usually hope that this time it's going to live longer than last time. Sometimes actually Primark goods do live for years but you have to be extremely lucky. Price is a very important issue for her at the moment because she doesn't have the money to buy costly products. I'm not sure if it's been always the same. That's a shame that I forgot to ask her. She enjoys shopping and likes to present herself with something new every month but she's not a shopping freak. She has her own style and she's fairly unaffected by trends and by her environment. She probably checks the Tree Hugger website regularly so she must be interested in eco-friendly solutions. I think if she would have the money she would go for quality, sustainable maybe even fair trade clothing but price still would be essential. Although if she falls in love with something unique, extreme and colourful item I'm sure she would pay quite a lot of money for it when she'll get a new job. It's value for money after all.

My next interviewee was Eva in her mid 20's. She's working as a shop assistant in a book store. 
1. Where do you usually buy clothes, shoes, etc.?
I go where the big sales are. To the high street or to the shopping centres. Sometimes I go to outlets but they are pretty far away.
2. How many times do you go for a shopping trip per a month?
I go for window shopping about 6 times but when I actually buy something is about twice a month.
3. What do you consider when you buy something?
What are you looking for when you go for a shopping trip?
T-shirts, jumpers and shoes.
What catches your eyes?
The colours or the shape of the clothes.
Which colours do you prefer?
In terms of T-shirts I prefer black or white because they are perfect to wear at work. Vests can be colourful though, I can't wear them at work anyway. I prefer green, blue or grey. I don't like pattern so I go for the plain ones.
4. How do you make decisions during shopping?
I fall in love at the first blush. I would pay more for something if it perfectly fits or if that's the item I was looking for. If it makes my shape looking nicer that's a must buy. Or if it's very cheap even if I won't use it just as a pyjama. I guess this is why I have a huge cupboard full of clothes and I never find anything to wear.
5. What influences your taste?
My environment, my workplace, what I allowed to wear at work and also my age.
Your age?
Yes, I dress more elegant than before. I try to wear clothes appropriate for my age. But fashion must influences me as well because shops have a narrow supply according to current trends.
6. Do you know where the products you buy coming from?
No, it doesn't really matter for me.
What about the materials?
That's very important. I only buy 100% cotton. It doesn't make me sweat and comfortable as well.
8. Quality or quantity?
Quantity. I rather have many clothes and store them in the cupboard.

Eva is very aware of her look and her main goal is to fit in to the society. I don't think she has an interesting wardrobe probably it's full with similar coloured plain T-shirts and jumpers. She cares much more about what she's wearing - even for sleeping – that where the products come from. She's not interested is sustainability or in global issues. Price is the most important criteria for her probably because she doesn't have enough money for shopping. She goes for window shopping quite often though so probably she would buy more stuff if she could afford it, maybe even another cupboard to store the new findings. I think she's a little bit addicted to shopping otherwise she wouldn't buy useless cheap stuff just to own it.

My next girl is Gigi also in her mid 20's. She works as a shop assistant at a petrol station. 
1. Where do you usually buy clothes, shoes, etc.?
I'm looking for high street sales or I go to shopping centres because they sell quality products for cheap and they come in all sizes.
2. How many times do you go for a shopping trip per a month?
5-6 times for window shopping and 2-3 times for actual shopping, when I need something.
3. What do you consider when you buy something?
I buy something when I find myself in the object, when I feel like its my own. Of course I check the prize tag first.
How would you describe an item like this?
Style, material and the right size are very important. I like feminine clothes in pastel colours, black or white. I always have a crazy hairstyle so I try to balance it with my clothes. I like soft cotton materials because they are comfortable and healthy. I also care about the quality of the item.
4. How do you make decisions during shopping?
I just fall in love at first sight.
5. What influences your taste?
My environment, my family and the style of the music I like at that moment. For example I wouldn't ever bought a pair of Air Max shoes if wouldn't go to hardcore parties at that time. Everybody was wearing them so I tried to fit in.
6. Do you know where the products you buy coming from?
No, I don't check it normally, everything is coming from China anyway. Although I would never buy Nike shoes if the label says 'Made in Taiwan'. It means that's a fake one because Nike doesn't fabricate shoes in Taiwan. In any other case I don't care the origin. I think it doesn't affect the quality.
Do you check what the product made of?
Yes, but I can feel it. I love touching fabrics. I wouldn't buy anything prickly, soft feeling is very essential for me.
7. Quality or quantity?
I like to buy more. It is important for me to have a wide range of clothes in cupboard but I wouldn't buy anything cheap to bin it after two washes. Quality is important.

Further research:

Petra, my first interviewee mentioned a website called Tree Hugger and the problem of some companies faking organic clothing. So I tried to find the post about this topic but I couldn't. I found some other ones though.

An interesting finding from Michael Lackman of Lotus Organics concludes, “The growing of bamboo is environmentally friendly but the manufacturing of bamboo into fabric raises environmental and health concerns because of the strong chemical solvents used to cook the bamboo plant into a viscose solution that is then reconstructed into cellulose fiber for weaving into yarn for fabric.” 
This interesting article compares eco-friendly attributes of cotton, nylon, fake- and real fur coats. It talks about the accomplishment of organic cotton and how big companies trying to adopt it to their supply. It also mentions innovative fabric types as a solution for sustainability even a sweatshirt developed by Rebecca Earley (Craft Council) which never has to be washed. It's a big success story because 80 per cent of a garment's energy use is in its laundering.

Assignment 3

First I had a look at a website about useful design tools like mind mapping, prototyping and role playing games. There are plenty of others and they all serve to understand how people use an object in real life before we create the actual product. But this time we had to use ethnography as a design tool. Ethnography is about observing people in their own environment where they act natural. It helps to understand the relationship between a product and the target audience. We had to visit a place where we've never been before so we wouldn't feel comfortable. I think it helps us being aware of the place and the people. I've chosen the Tropicana Casino a posh district of Budapest but before I went there I did some practicing by watching people on the Underground.

I moved back to Hungary for a couple of months and I quickly bought a cheap bicycle to travel because I felt public transport is really depressing. I bought two tickets to observe underground traveling and find out why? First of all the Underground is a place where all social classes travel together and it generates some tensions. It shouldn't be like this but there are so many problems in this country and you can feel the stress around you. I've realised earlier there are two raw of seats facing towards each other in the metro cars which force you to stare the people opposite, the floor or any random point in the car. Many people are actually reading, playing cross word/Sodoku or playing with their mobiles just to do something. Staring is very impolite but you can see all the extremes of the society on the underground so you have to have a look around. Nobody wants to get into trouble though so everybody tries to be as polite as possible. You can catch other people's eyes as they give you a look but in a second they change their object to look at. It's quite uncomfortable and it could be changed by rearrange the seats to something like on a train. Me personally always enjoyed watching people and underground is the best place to find out what's going on in the society so normally I don't mind the seats but a lot of people do. The other very annoying circumstance in the travelling experience is the state of the cars. Imagine very old, rusty Russian metro cars with graffiti tags all over the windows. It definitely has an effect on the passengers. It makes them feel even more unsecured. No security gay, no CCTVs just you and a lot of different people in a dodge metro car. Probably that's why everybody moves to the other side of the car if a group of gipsies get on the underground. There's too much discrimination going on in Hungary but small changes could help a lot.

After a little walk in the posh district of Budapest with all the fairy lights on I arrived to my destination. It wasn't hard to find it, it has a huge entrance arch with a flashing red 'Tropicana Casino' light on it. It looks like a hotel's entrance and the reception has the same feeling. They take your ID than take a picture of you and than you get a credit card kind of thing. You can sign in with the card with no hassle at any time in the future. So we were allowed to enter by a nice, elegant security man. I took two other girls and later gave them some money to play with while I'm writing. But first we went to the bar. I instantly realized their branded matches and the drinks came with branded coasters. They have a tropical bird on them sitting on a palm tree. The whole image of the place was like being in 'Waikiki' from the 'Hotel' board game. They created a perfect place to feel relaxed. 

The most conspicuous thing was definitely the tropical design. In the middle of the room there were about five fake palm trees with lights at the bottom. The place was fairly dark apart from these warm lights hidden among fake plants around the room. The other light source was a fake glass roof over the palm trees and the poker tables which were located round the trees. The roof gave a botanic garden feeling to the place and highlighted the poker tables. It was old looking with painted plants on the edges. The mood of the place was like being in a cave but the lightning made it mysterious and warm. Palm tree motives were also used on the carpet design and on the uniform of the poker table guys. The colours were mainly green, blue and some warm red touches. Over the Bar, the Cassa and the roulette tables grass thatched roofs accentuated the tropical feeling. So the design of the place was very successful and created a really relaxed feeling. Although we weren't relaxed because it was obvious that we've never been at such a place and everybody was staring at us for a while. Than they kept playing so we were fine. My friends started to play after the helpful security guy explained how the machines work. The 'one-arm bandits' were on the walls with comfy little chairs. You can choose from several designs on the touch screens just in case you're bored with the fruits. So I started to watch people. The staff was more elegant than most of the audience: two sexy, black dressed girls at the bar and young guys in light coloured palm tree patterned shirts at the tables. The security men were the most elegant. The customers were normal people mainly in jeans or something casual. Most of them were men in their 50's but at the machines there were mainly women. A couple of guys in their 30's were playing poker, they were talking sometimes but haven't seen too much socialising elsewhere. The Bar was empty too so it wasn't about drinking either. In general there wasn't any moving in the room apart from the security man who walked around sometimes. It was all about playing and spending time at a nice relaxed place. Although I don't think many of the customers realised the design features because they were lost in the game. People playing at the machines were just staring at the screen and pushing the button. I couldn't decide if they are looking for luck, want to leave with a bunch of money or just the addiction of playing keeps them in this mysterious cave. Anyway it's a comfort zone for them because they fit in the society of the club and they found a way of recreation that they enjoy. I think it's still better than drink in a pub and playing helps lonely people to spend their time among others and not at home on their own. Tropicana created a place where adults can enjoy the experience of playing and the feeling of a holiday.

I've learned from this assignment how small things can change a lot. Like the lightning, the colours and the mood of the staff. I've learned to pay attention for the details and to keep enjoy watching people. I think I have to find my target audience and learn what they need.


Mass Culture and Sustainability 11/02/11

A lecture by Hamid Van-Koten about industrialization, mass consumption and sustainability. We are living in a post industrial world which carries a lot of meaning. Everything is industrialised around us and this has many consequences. The most important thing in our society called money, as important as major decisions have been made because of money. We pay money for services so we don’t have to make things any more, we can buy anything. Because of industrialization we have fewer jobs (traditional jobs) since everything made by machines although they still need humans to maintain them. But what’s wrong with it? We can buy anything we need or just want so there isn’t any problem. Yes, there is. But let’s start at the beginning.

“…when commodities are in the relation of exchange, their exchange-value manifests itself as something totally independent of their use-value.”

Marx, Capital (p. 125.)

Use value means that the product we buy has the same value as the product we give instead. It also means that we buy things what satisfy our needs. Nowadays we pay with money for everything, which is basically a piece of paper that means everything for a lot of people and it called exchange-value. But it’s proved that money won’t make people happy. We’ve been brainwashed and this lecture helped me to understand how.

To Fordize:
“to standardize a product and manufacture it by mass means at a price so low that the common man can afford to buy it."

Ford – Fordism

Ford was the man who started the industrialization. He designed a car which was affordable for anyone. It wasn’t made by hand anymore but machines which made the process faster. Than the same thing happened with other industries like textiles, printing, jewellery, and architecture. New techniques and materials appeared as artificial oil based fabrics, early plastics that provided cheap materials for the product industry and digital processes in printing which created the print + image format instead of the art deco style. Buildings became less decorated as well with the appearance of concrete and the new modern style born. 

Modern style is international and functional. I’ve never thought about it but kitchens are the best example for this. Earlier kitchens were a combination of different bits and bobs but today we have designed, highly functional furniture. Based on user studies and measurements of people’s sizes they made for average people. Mass production doesn’t care about individuals and different personalities. But it cares about money and because manufacture became much more effective they had to sell the products. Designers became more important to create sellable items for consumption and everything speeded up.

Commodity Fetishism:
The relationship between consumer and producer is obscured

Marx – Capital

Everything is designed for us but we have no idea where the goods coming from or what they made of. Even our food is a mystery if we have a look at the ingredients. These new products lost their social value, just their exchange values are important. As an example we don’t know what Martini or Coke made of, they could be made from 2 pence but we have to pay much more for them. Adverts created a new social context for goods, they became magical objects.

Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:

•Removal of ritual context and tradition, resulting in
•Loss of aura of the object
•Mass production delivers to a mass audience

Walter Benjamin

Adverts changing our taste and tell us what to consume. We became a crowd and the need of individuals doesn’t matter anymore. Manmade object are more expensive so a very few people would buy them. But on the other hand if we need only 3-5 jumpers instead of 20 we can easily afford the better quality.

…Advertising creates “false needs” and thus increases consumption…

John Kenneth Galbraith

It hasn’t been proved that advertising increases consumption but definitely changes the values of it and by providing cheap products it allows us to buy whatever we want. The biggest problem is the waste we produce. First of all the packaging which wouldn’t be necessary if we would grow our own food or buy it at the market  (-  by the way those who interested in cheap organic vegetables you can purchase a big net full of them for a fiver at the main entrance of the Union every Tuesday during lunch break. Recipe and free soup included and you can also take the net back so no waste involved). Also such a small thing as carrying a fabric shopping bag with us instead of using plenty of plastic ones can make a huge difference. Can you imagine how much waste we produce by following the new trends of fashion, electronics, interiors, etc? But do we really need to buy new ones or we just obsessed with fitting in to the society. Do we have to use our cars every day (I don’t have a car because I don’t need it) and do we need new mobile phones every year? Dundee is special though because the public transport here is pretty useless, mainly after 6pm but its small enough to walk or cycle to most of the places. We don’t have to do what adverts tell us to do. Have you ever calculated your carbon footprint? You can do here if you haven’t: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

A photograph from the lecture:

We have only one planet Earth and we’re just about to make it impossible for human being to live on it. I saw two shocking documentaries recently in association with consumption so I’ll write another post about those, until then a short but impressive animation from the lecture:


Assignment 2 - Semester 2

This assignment is based on an essay: The Rhetoric of the Image by Roland Barthes. The writer discusses the meaning of polysemy which is in nutshell the multiple meaning of pictures. When different people look at the same picture they will understand it in different ways. They will associate the image with something from their own life or experiences and it will open up one route for their ideas while the other routes closing down.  The author analyses advertising images, this one in particular:

He says advertising images are clear, intentional, frank or at least emphatic. Pictures contain symbolic and non-symbolic messages. The last one is very obvious and the consumer doesn’t need any special skills to understand it apart from being able to read in the particular language. The non-symbolic message of this image is the pasta and the sauce. The symbolic message is a little bit more difficult to understand. This image uses Italian-ness to sell these products and this message requires cultural skills to realize (it isn’t an international message). It starts with the appearance of Italian colours red, yellow, and green in the image but the name of the pasta and even the still life composition suggest Italian qualities. There are other symbolic messages in the picture like the net and the vegetables coming out from it. It can hint a ‘back from the market’ feeling which suggests freshness, the essentialness of domestic preparation and also that the tinned sauce is equal with the fresh vegetables beside it.

Because of the polysemy they need something to fix the meaning of the picture. The author mentions the ‘civilization of writing’ which is the importance of linguistic messages in our society. Using a text (or a logo) on the picture fixes the meaning. The text answers the question: What is it? It helps to identify clearly the image by explaining the image but it doesn’t explain the symbolic message. It’s a guide to the reader of the image it makes the viewer to avoid some bits and receive others. Text also communicates the differences between the literal and symbolic message because the literal message can’t be substantial it’s always relational.

The other important element is the usage of the photograph instead of a drawing. Drawings are captured humanly so it’s easy to manipulate them and it communicates the message from one person’s perspective. On the other hand photographs captured mechanically so it proves that ‘this is how it was’. The ‘naturalness’ of the photographs create a ‘real unreality’ which means it’s still easy to manipulate (by lighting, the usage of colours, etc.) but it looks very real. Films are even more powerful because they provides the experience of ‘being there’ which naturalises the symbolic message. 

After we read this article we’ve been asked to do a little experiment about polysemy. We chose three random pictures and went to the streets and asked people to tell us a narrative which links the pictures together. We meant to do it in groups of four but jewellery students were too busy this week so we had to start it on Friday afternoon just the two of us with Jenny from my class. We show people these three pictures and we got so many different answers:

1. Loving parents support child with creative activities to produce artists. (age:19, student, female)

2. Four people got together to draw a new baby that’s been born.  (age:20, student, female)

3. It’s a Benetton advert, people uniting together. (age 28, medical student, male)

4. Son and father colouring in and it connects them as he grow up. (age:20, student, male)

5. Baby is born, LGBT, happy. (age:30, medical student, female)

6. Colouring in book for kids, family games which connect child and parents. (age 20, student)

7. They were all at art school, very close to each other and one of them got pregnant. Their life was colourful but it became dull – black & white picture of the baby (age:44, student, female)

8. When you born and you draw it makes you a better people. (age:21, student, female)

9. Family, kids, colouring in. (age:21, medical student, female)

10. Artist and child, she met with a man, they got engaged, they were happy and got a lot of support from their family. (age:19, student, female) 

11. Parents encourage creative learning and as time passes they learn to connect with others and if you don’t encourage it wouldn’t happen. (age: 30, receptionist, female)

After we’ve done this we found a couple key words what they associated with the pictures: connection, family, creative learning, colouring in, support, development, future, and uniting. It was very hard to pull out a proper answer from young people, they were too tired or to stressed to think but older (over 30) people came up with more complex stories. Than we had to choose a target story, add a fourth picture and see if people would get it right. We choose the first story: Loving parents support their child with creative activities to produce artists; and then we add the fourth picture:

The answers:

1. Family and friends supported the child through school and she came out as an artist. (age:25, electronical engineering student, male)

2. Baby lives with grandparents, granddad is a painter and they are drawing together. (age:20, student, female)

3. Baby helps with colour blindness than became an artist. (age:22, sport president, male)

4. Baby was born, they loved her and because she was interesting they put her into art school and she became an artist. (age:20, student, female)

The first and the last one was pretty close but we realised the fourth picture wasn’t working. Although the four pictures told a very obvious story for us people still came up with different stories so we decided to add text. First we add the word 'creative' onto one of the pictures:

The answers:

1. A proud father supports his child growing up to become creative. (age:21, student, female)
2. Parent helping child to learn the importance of going too far. Holding hands – when the child falling from a cliff they will protect him. (age:22, student, male)

The first one was right but the second one just ignored the text on the image. We decided to add text onto two pictures - creative learning, support :

1. Support a pregnant girlfriend then they have the baby and they provide the baby with support for creative learning. (age:50, selling books at the Union, female)

2. Parents who support their child for creative learning. (age: 40, waiting for a meeting, female)

3. People supporting baby with creative learning skills. (age:20, student, female)

4. Local communities support creative learning for kids. (age:19, student, male)

This last bit was very interesting because although the stories are still different they all used the words from the pictures. Actually they started to think about the words more than about the pictures. No more colouring in, engagement or uniting. We fixed the meaning of the pictures with text and it was working. It was a very difficult experience not just because we had to do it just the two of us and we had a very short time to do it but also because most of the people were too lazy to think and gave us answers that don’t make any sense. But at the end of the day we found out that Barthes was right about texts. 

How can we use this knowledge? Sometimes we want to produce more than just pretty textiles and want to add a message. But we can't be sure the message comes across until we test it. I don't like text on textiles but the colours, the context, the composition all can carry a message. We just have to make sure other people can get it not just us.