Data Physicalisation Iteration 2 by Kyle-james keen

Graduates 2020: Kyle-James Keen: Product Design

“My final major project, Design Privitruism, is an exploration of the privilege of the designer, and how that determines the macro/meso/micro level of pro-social design interventions.”

Hi Kyle-James, please tell us a bit about your work, your influences etc

“I had started off my university career as staunch member of the School of Rams; Function always came before form, and good design could be boiled down to a framework. But as I started to consider (product) design from a deeper level of understanding, I started to think significantly, and critically, differently.

“Dieter Rams, or rather my “breakup” with him during placement year, was the catalyst for all of my final year work; which has predominantly been focused on Design ethics and Design ideology. I started to question the role in which Design had played in the development of the neo-capitalist society we find ourselves in, and if sustainable design could be anything more than an oxymoron.

“My first project in final year, Blind Spot, addressed the sustainability of electrical components, and cultural materiality that electronics now have in society. By designers continually adding value to artefacts, predominately by adding smart capabilities, they have created a situation where they no longer see the electrical components, or the materials that they are made from. They simply do not see the resources that they are using.

My second project, a dissertation entitled A Carrier for All: Does the current UK government have a handle on the sustainability “bag”? used the shopping bag as an artefact of analysis to explore the symbiosis between systemic change, sustainability, politics, and, design.

My final major project, Design Privitruism, is an exploration of the privilege of the designer, and how that determines the macro/meso/micro level of pro-social design interventions. The project is heavily entrenched with Hegelian logic, and draws from Foucault and Gramsci to bring to the discussion notions of power and our relationship to it. It brings the themes of ideology, privilege, altruism and objectivity vs subjectivity to form a subjective contour with which to respond to my hypothesis: A designer’s personal privilege determines their level of affinity towards macro altruistic, pro-social, design solutions.”

How have you found your course and time at Brighton?

“As a mature student, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to hold my own in a typically younger field, but I’ve found that my experience prior to university has been incredibly beneficial to my studies. At the end of first year, I started to question if the break away from my career in robotics, to study design, was the best move (especially when finances became more of a struggle), but I am glad I stuck it out. My time here at Brighton has been one of the most rewarding, but difficult, experiences of my life thus far.

The Product Design course has multiple pathways, and over my university career, I somehow managed to take advantage of all three of them. During 1st and 2nd year I was a BSc Product Design Technology student, exploring everything from FEA and simulations, all the way to aerodynamics and mechatronics. Having started to see design differently and more critically, I decided the I wanted to approach my final year from a different perspective. With the guidance (and patience) of my tutors, and the new course leader, I switched from BSc Product Design, to BSc Product Design. This meant that I would be doing a dissertation, instead of a technology research paper in my final year. For me, this was probably the harder route considering my background in robotics and technology, but the risk was most certainly worth it.

The last change came after submitting my first major project, Blind Spot. I realised that I needed a more critical option to fully develop my next project than was available in the next studio module. The course had fortunately gone under a massive restructuring prior to us starting final year, and with that came the option of a new, highly autonomous, BA Product Design route. As this was unchartered waters for the university, an incredible amount of trust was given to me from my course leader, for this I am eternally grateful. Had I not received the freedom and support to explore in an unconventional manner, I would not have achieved what I have today.”

What are your plans after graduation?

“I plan to carry on my research into Design Ideology and Ethics at Brighton, under the MSc/MA By Learning Objective postgraduate course. There is currently no design course available for the field I have started to specialise in, so having the opportunity to create my own is incredibly exciting.”

View Kyle-James’ work in the End of Year Show 2020.

Find out more about Product Design with Professional Experience BSc.

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