A social theory of learning.

This was my first lecture on the MA design course and was really an introductory into ways in which we learn and how to apply these ways into our own personal practice. Learning is something that we do unconsciously and everyday and it was interesting to really break down and look at how learning will continue to help me to develop as a student and designer.

 Looking at the ‘social theory of learning’ developed by Etienne Wenger we determined the boundaries of learning and how they lend themselves to each dimension of art practice. We identified these areas as:

  •  Learning through community
  • Learning through identity
  • Learning through meaning
  • Learning through practice
The theory visualised. It makes it far easier to access each area from viewing it this way as each section is equally balanced and links to one another.

The theory visualised. It makes it far easier to access each area from viewing it this way as each section is equally balanced and links to one another.

Identity- It's actually acceptable to be two-faced.

This area of learning spoke to me the most as i often contemplate where my work fits into the design world, and in particular the fashion world. I took 'identity' to mean a continuation of learning from what surrounds us, from past work to daily life. Learning is in the every day and we must question our motivations and recognise what drives us in the way we work. Once you’ve recognised these traits it’s important to harness them and drive them forward, so stepping into the unknown once in a while is a good thing.


 A happy balance of ‘the familiar’ vs. ‘the unfamiliar’ will reinforce our learning as we take on new challenges as our work is in a constant evolution. We need to acknowledge that we can have multiple identities as a designer (to me this said, commercial vs. personal or bespoke work) and that is what will keep our practice in constant development and reform.

 2 key things to remember:

  •  Self observe and know my individual pursuits regarding my practice.
  • Remember to embrace the evolution of my work and also myself as a designer. Adapting to changes can make it all the more interesting.


Community- Even hermits have friends.

This word to me is marmite, I either love being involved or want to hide away and do my own thing. I suppose it depends on the project at hand at how much i want contributors, collaborators or even criticisers, but through looking at the word from a learning perspective it is clear that 'community' is always present in design.

We are social beings after all, so it makes sense that a lot of our learning comes from human engagement. Consider your practise as a joint enterprise and a shared repertoire of 'doing things' ( i never consider 'things' or 'thing' as a lazy word. Sometimes undefinable work needs an vague and somewhat faceless name before it gives itself purpose.) Being designers we are never distanced far from a community setting as we are connected by our processes, skills and practices. Keeping an open view on our own position, in relation to the larger more abstract entities, broadens how we view our own field and disciplines, helping us to distinguish the role we have to play within it. For example, the difference between 'Craft' and 'The Crafts'.

After looking at identity, is is important to recognise the role we play in a community, and which ones we belong to and associate with, as each 'identity' we hold can lead us in new and exciting directions. Collaboration is a massive part in some area's of design, and a central aspect of learning. Something i struggle with the fact that i can't do everything myself  and find it hard to give up control, even to a worthy candidate. So learning this early on in the year has really engaged me with the possibility of opening myself up to new ways of not only learning from others but also working collectively. 

When embarking on collaboration ask yourself:

  • who one is? (your role in the group, what can you bring to the table)
  • who knows what? (a fresh and knowledgable approach to the task)
  • who is good at what? (identify the areas you can excel in)


Imagination- No, you're not insane.

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. -George Bernard Shaw

As designers our imagination is our most valuable tool, and perhaps one we overlook or take for granted. Taking the time to view ourselves, our surroundings, our thoughts can often lead to some pretty remarkable ideas and thats why its important to value the imaginative process. The creation of possibilities is to me, what drives designers and reinforces the nature of evolution in design. Through a merger our own experiences and imagination do new ideas start to grow and we begin to re-imagine what could be. What does this mean for my practice? There is not set answer, and that is the whole point of imagination; the possibilities. Each unique take on something drives the idea of a collaborative community in design which makes these possibilities endless, its who we choose to work with that will determine the outcome.

Feeling uninspired? Ask yourself..

  • How do i see myself? - where do i place myself in the design world?
  • Whats my ethos? - how does my artistic vision play out? 
  • What makes me unique as a designer? - what do i bring to the practise?
  • How can i adapt and keep a sense of who i am?
  • What do i respond to?- How can i use this?

Food for thought!


Watchword Technique

Aiming to explore our own personal understanding of our practice, we used a psychological approach called the Watchword Technique, which focuses on word association. Looks pretty basic as its merely just a number of boxes to input words and link them together, but actively contemplating which were neccessary to communicate my work lead me to a strange emotional response that I was not expecting to feel. It took me about 20 minuits to complete this as choosing one ‘thing’ to embody a multitude of avenues you hold in your practice was difficult to say the least. I ended up with some bizzare accossiations (cough, piglet, cough) things that would only make sense in my head, and some even I couldn’t comprehend how they got there, yet just worked.

Skeptical of psychological  readings (as half the time im not even sure whats going on in my own head) I didn’t expect to gain so much from such a simple excersise. It lay bare everything I wanted to say in a simple format that not only set me on a focused path but will no doubt be a great referencing tool for whenever I feel lost.  Allowing yourself to think about your practice in its simplist terms gives you licesnse to understand it deeper and rule over it. I see why I am attracted to colours, to concepts, to textures and how they stem off one another to form a whole collective that is me.