Design Activity & Reflection: Four Squares

This was an in class design activity where everyone was handed over 4 black squares and were asked to represent emotions on paper. Individually and then with a team. This activity tried to explore the different phases in the design process - being the Explorer, Artist and the Critic.

These were the design challenges: 1) Using just 4 black squares, made from construction paper, create a composition that conveys the concept of ORDER. 2) This time create 6 compositions for each of these concepts, TENSION and JOY. 

Deliverables: 1) How did the first part of this exercise compare with the second?
2) Propose a “process” that might be used to enhance these roles and discuss how you think the
process will be beneficial? 


1. How did the first part of this exercise compare with the second?

A few negatives that I identified during the individual design exercise were: My thoughts were omnidirectional in a way with a very little room for flexibility in terms of ideas. I agree to have transitioned through all the different roles, I did come up with ideas, some of them totally opposite to each other, but the first idea stuck in my head throughout the process. That same bias in some way trickled down to the last stage and affected my final choice rendering the critic phase less effective. But there were obvious positives to the whole process. One of them being: I was compelled to divide my attention between between being and explorer, artist and critic without any external bias or influence, though internal bias was always present. This process eliminated the external dependency factor. Handling multiple roles provided a complete picture of the process at the end. The whole idea behind my design was the show “Order” in two ways. I chose to represent proportional spaces in my first design (Equally spaced steps – diagonal sequence – partitioning the while space into two equal triangular halves). For the second design I chose to ignore the order of the white space while focusing on the sequence of the black squares, ultimately arranging them in an intersecting cross or a plus which unintentionally gave me a perfectly square white space in the middle. 

Even though the team of 3 started out on the same foot, discussions, individual designs influenced each and everyone equally. I remember changing my ideas more number of times, I was less focused on a particular solution and more open to suggestions while working with the team. As a team consisting of people with various personalities, there were obvious distinctions and some were drawn towards design by default while others were more of a critic. Also somewhere deep within each individual wanted their idea to be selected as the final one. That might have led to a few positives like thinking uniquely and out of the box (where Gargi & Me came up with radically different ideas like tearing up the squares or stacking all of them together) but that might have introduced a few negatives like each one trying to influence or dominate the whole design process though not explicitly. I was more of a design person as opposed to Gauri being a critic. The idea behind our design was to present the worst form of Tension. That made us use Gargi’s approach which depicted an extreme form of breaking squares. For the depiction of joy, we decided on my approach to stack all the squares together to showcase togetherness.

But another major driver behind the selection would be the aesthetic design component attached to it, everyone had the same verdict, “this looks beautiful”. So, in this case a pleasing design might have somehow biased the decision which was supposed to be more logical.


2. Propose a “process” that might be used to enhance these roles and discuss how you think the process will be beneficial?

In my view, a process that explicitly assigns the roles (Explorer, Artist and Critic) to individuals instead of asking each individual to perform the multiple roles would be more beneficial. I am sure there would be arguments against this view, someone might say, the former process brings in variety of ideas into the design process, might help an individual think and grow as a whole, would help them grow a multidisciplinary skillset, but I would counter that by stating, “the burden on the individual isn’t worth it and there might me more negatives to it than positives.” In a real world scenario, multi disciplinary teams and individuals with specific skillsets assigned specific roles and tasks exist for a purpose. As the age old adage goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. When it comes to perfection and detail, a single person should be allowed to apply his niche skills to the area that she specializes in. Potential benefits of that process would be, a much more systematic approach, a streamlined process flow and a much defined hierarchy that makes issue resolution simple as responsibility is vested on a single individual.

Sambit Pattnaik - UX Design