Thursday, 30 January 2014

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Primary Research with Speech Therapist)

Having the opportunity to contact one of my friend's who is training to become a Speech Therapist, it allowed me to reach an exciting research topic for this brief. As explained in my initial ideas, I had a conversation with her and she said she would speak to her friends about it who are also on the same course.

During our conversation she came up with a couple of ideas of product I could produce:

"Every patient who has difficulty communicating (I.e deaf, had a stroke, elderly, dementia etc) has a pack of cards with pictures on for things they need/want on the ward but can't necessarily ask for them. Like a card for food, toilet etc etc."

"There's quite a lot of communication aids around though like something called PECS which you use to build up sentences with pictures/symbols and talking mats are used by people who have had a stroke which has columns for things a person does/doesn't like and you put the pictures underneath."

"For autistic people they may benefit from different textures!"

Since then we have kept in touch and spoken more and more about this brief. Emma thought a lot about the last idea she had suggested, relating back to autistic people benefiting from different textures. She told me during a phone call that when she has worked with patients who have autism in the past they love certain properties of the toys that they play with. For example, if they play with a car toy they don't really think about what it is they are playing with necessarily, but they may be fascinated with the wheels and how they constantly spin them round and round.

With this in mind, she suggested that I could make a sensory board made up of lots of different textures. I really love this idea and think it could be a strong starting point. The more research I do into existing products, the better idea I will have. I am going to look in to PECS in a lot of detail as I think I could be inspired by their products.

After carrying out a quick search I found this product which could be inspirational:

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Primary Research with Carer)

I contacted my auntie to gather some primary research for this brief. My cousin has Angelman syndrome and uses a lot of different materials to aid communication. At this stage I am obviously unsure about what the brief is going to ask me eventually, however at the moment it is important that I gather as much information as possible to give me a broad range of possibilities. I may end up focusing on a particular disability to make the communicative material/product more specific, or I may make it more generalised so that it could reach a wider audience.

I asked the following:

"I'd like to design a learning aid for disabled children or adults (or both) and was wondering whether you have ever thought about something that you wish Charlotte had to help communicate with you? I know there are so many existing products but I think there's always room for more!"

I received the following response:

"I think your idea to design a aid for disabled children sounds such a good idea. The only ideas at the moment would be a fun bag or pocket size bag or something that could carry her communication pictures. Every thing Charlotte has ever had is great big folders for the pictures or boring heavy bags for her electronic communication devices ."

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Primary Research of Paper Work)

Having asked my Auntie for some primary research about Angelman syndrome I realised that I had some sheets which we were given a while ago to help the family learn the necessary sign language to communicate. I have scanned all of the sheets in and they are shown below, some aren't as clear as they could be but they get the message across.

This is another route I could go down, creating a book with sign language illustrated inside. I could do this and try and create textures to include as well as this would add another dimension to the product that I design. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Augmentative and alternative communication research)

What is AAC?
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.
People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth.
AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication.
What are the types of AAC systems?
When children or adults cannot use speech to communicate effectively in all situations, there are options.
Unaided communication systems – rely on the user's body to convey messages. Examples include gestures, body language, and/or sign language.
Aided communication systems – require the use of tools or equipment in addition to the user's body. Aided communication methods can range from paper and pencil to communication books or boards to devices that produce voice output (speech generating devices or SGD's)and/or written output. Electronic communication aids allow the user to use picture symbols, letters, and/or words and phrases to create messages. Some devices can be programmed to produce different spoken languages.

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Research Plan)

Before we present our research next week I want to have the following complete:

Primary Research

- Discussions with Speech Therapist
- Discussions with my Auntie about Angelman Syndrome
- Gather any materials I may already have at home
- Find out whether designs would differ depending on the age

Secondary Research

- Augmentative and alternative communication research (as recommended by Emma (Speech Therapist)
- Further research into speech therapy
- Further research into Angelman Syndrome
- Research existing educational games
- Research PECS - Existing materials which are used to help patients with autism and related disabilities
- Find examples of graphic design specifically used within the NHS to help with learning
- Look at digital methods of communication

Once I have completed the above research I will then have a strong foundation of facts and examples of design to work with in the near future. I am also likely to add to this research along the way depending on anything else I may come across.

I think this is going to be really challenging but extremely interesting at the same time. I feel as though researching alternative methods of communication for those with disabilities will allow me to gain a lot of knowledge and will also give me a strong moral incentive to design something worthwhile and beneficial to a large population. 

OUGD505 - Design Practice 2: Study Task 1 (Initial Ideas)

Today I decided on my research topic. I initially wrote down a lot of different ideas that I had but didn't feel satisfied with them. Once I got an idea I carried out a quick search online to see whether I could gather interesting information, I found lots of information which I could use, but none of them appealed as much as they could have done.

I looked at jewellery and the idea of creating some packaging eventually, but this is something I have done before. I did some research on the Dezeen website and found several articles relating to jewellery and fashion and how it is created using 3D printing technology. I found this extremely inspiring but at the same time I realise that if I was to end up designing packaging and perhaps the jewellery itself I wouldn't be pushing myself as much as I could do. 

I then came to my final decision. I had already looked online at 3D printing, which then led me to look at all of the uses of 3D printing and I found it fascinating. However I was unsure whether or not I would be able to pursue this in the long term when it comes to designing something and receiving the design brief we will be working on. I therefore wanted to try and incorporate it somehow but more indirectly. I did a simple Google search for '3D printing graphic design' and lots of different images came up.

I then found this piece of work below which was created using a 3D printer and a lot of thought, I instantly found it inspiring and as a result it led me to have even more thoughts in close relation. I started to think about how I could make a difference with the work I produce for this brief, and how I could perhaps create something which could be used to help people with disabilities.

I got in touch with my friend who is currently in her final year (close to graduating) of studying Speech Therapy in Sheffield. She has mentioned to me before now that her and her friend have had several ideas about learning aids which could be designed. We have had a conversation tonight which has made me feel really excited about continuing with the research. She is going to carry out some further primary research for me and ask her colleagues about any ideas they may have and then get back to me.

I have also been in touch with a family member to ask her a few questions about my cousin who is disabled. I am hoping that the more responses I get, the better, as it will give me a wide range of possibilities for the outcome. 
At the moment I am obviously concentrating on the research aspect as I haven't been given a brief, however I feel pleased that I have potential ideas as well at this moment in time. 

The inside back cover of Discover the Body, showing four three-dimensional human figures that can be removed and examined.

Three pages of the book showing various parts of the human body, including the head and brain

Discover the Body (3D Printing and Teaching Materials for Blind and Visually Impaired Children)

by Halla Sigridur Margretardottir Haugen

From the Editor: Halla “Sigga” Margretardottir Haugen is a graphic designer, illustrator, and events planner who lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. She studied graphic design in Florence, Italy, and at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik. She hopes to use her background to work in an environment where people with different educations come together to make beautiful designs that will help others. As she wrote this article, she was awaiting the birth of her second child.

"Two years ago I decided to go back to school and finish my bachelor's degree in graphic design at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. While researching an assignment in 2011, I visited the National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind and became fascinated with tactile graphics in books. Each tactilely illustrated book was a work of art, combining form, materials, and imagination. Most of the books I saw had some educational purpose, giving children an opportunity to learn about the world around them through raised images.
Looking farther, I found that most children's books with tactile images come from other countries. The schools in Iceland do not have many learning materials with tactile illustrations for blind children. Some books have been translated, but in the translation the meaning often changes and the images and texts do not necessarily match.
Personally, I cannot imagine how it would be possible to learn without having illustrations to explain how things work. Our whole environment comes to life when we understand its particular forms and functions. But the blind children in Iceland have no choice. They are lucky if they get one or two pictures in a whole math book.

I could not get this lack of illustrations in learning materials out of my mind. I ended up writing about tactile books for my BA thesis in the autumn of 2011. In the process I learned more about tactile books and what blind children need. I learned how the books should be designed, what is available now, and what may be published in the next couple of years. I found myself asking the same questions again and again. Can these books be made in another way? Is there a way to make the process easier and to enable the publisher to make many copies without difficulty? Is there a way that could be used for a variety of teaching materials? How could I make a book for the blind or visually impaired?

When it came to my final project I decided to make teaching materials about the human body for blind and visually impaired six- to eight-year-old children. It is possible to use almost anything to make a tactile book, but it can be hard to find enough of one material to make many books. What would be the best material to represent skin or bones? I went through a long process trying to find the best way to make my book. Finally I decided not to limit myself to technology that we use today. To broaden my horizon I talked to a lot of people with different backgrounds and tried to find a new way to make the book. During the research, the idea of using 3D printing came to me.

Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is well known to many people. It has been around at least since the 1980s. At first large printers could print out fairly simple objects, but since then there have been vast improvements. The process is now used to make many of the most complicated objects on the market today. I knew about AM but I had never given it much thought before, as I did not have the knowledge to make things in 3D programs.

Many companies print in 3D. I ended up contacting a Belgian company called Materialise because it has an extensive range of 3D printing technology. Its clients include large technological companies, hospitals, surgeons, and people like me who are interested in bringing their own designs to life. With 3D printing it is possible to print virtually anything in as many copies as you like. If I can design or model my idea digitally on a computer, it can be "3D printed" in layers of material to form a complete three-dimensional object. Objects can be made from a wide variety of materials such as hard or soft plastics; soft fluffy material similar to fake grass; or metals such as titanium, stainless steel, and silver. Researchers are even bringing new materials to the market, enabling people to print out gold, concrete, wood, bone, human cells, and much more.

When I learned about these possibilities, I knew this was how I wanted to make my book. With 3D printing I had the opportunity to make a book with both 2D and 3D images. The idea fascinated me, and I wanted to see if I could make something that could be used to help blind children.

At that stage of the project I had no idea how to work in 3D programs, so I had to start from the beginning. I had to find a program that suited my needs, then sit down and learn to use it. Once I had some anatomical models of the human body and a relatively good knowledge of the program, I could start to design the book itself. The design changed numerous times during the process, but today I have a white prototype in 3D and a 2D color version of my book. The original final design cannot be executed today in exactly the way I intend, as I decided to design the book without limitations. I tried to think beyond the frame of current possibilities.

I always knew it would be hard to print out the human body exactly as it is, but it can be produced from materials that have a density and texture similar to the skin, muscles, bones, and inner organs. Why focus on what we have now, when there is progress in the field every day? Who knows what will be available in a few years? The technology exists, and in the end I hope to make something that will be even more useful for the children. If there is a demand, the technology will follow. I am happy to say that at this moment people are working out how to print the book in a cost-effective way with as many of my desired details as possible. We will see what I have in the end.

Through the whole process I have been looking at materials created earlier for blind and visually impaired children. To my surprise, I have not found any learning resources made with this 3D printing technology. There are endless possibilities. The only limits are those within our imaginations. For example, it will be possible to enhance the experience of art exhibits. Replicas of paintings and sculptures can be printed in 3D so that anyone can touch them. With the materials available today, almost anything can be reproduced with a density or texture similar to the original. Objects that are too fragile to be handled or things that are too large or small to be understood by touch can be printed in more durable materials or in different proportions. It should be fairly simple to print maps of neighborhoods on a feasible scale. Imagine being able to feel the shapes of neighboring houses, to discover how many trees there are along this or that road, or to learn what your own house looks like from the outside! Imagine a tactile picture of the view from your window! It will also be possible to print the world as blind people experience it, to help sighted people understand it better and link these differing perceptions.

Today the greatest barriers to making 3D printed learning materials are the cost and the learning curve involved with 3D design programs. These factors will not always stand in the way. The companies that print in 3D are becoming more aware of the private consumer. Printers for private homes have entered the market, and the materials are becoming cheaper. In the near future it will be easier to design in 3D with the help of programs such as SketchUp from Google, which is already available. Other programs are on the way. Some AM companies have developed simple programs that are specifically designed for their printers.

My advice is not to limit yourself to what is already available. Make designs that can and will be used in the future. If I can do this, anyone can! It is just a question of how much you want to make it happen.

Making the book Discover the Body has been a long and adventurous process, and it has been one of my greatest challenges in design so far. I have been lucky to meet and know new people who have been ready to help me make this product, which I hope will be a great help to the children.

Since I graduated four months ago, my book seems to have taken on a life of its own, receiving attention from all over the world. People from Europe, the United States, and Australia have been in touch with me to learn more about Discover the Body.Some want to buy the book. Others publish articles about it, introduce it at conferences, and even show it in art exhibitions. I never thought that a BA project could get so much attention, and it fills me with overwhelming gratitude.

All of this interest tells me that I am doing something right. Creating 3D access to the world for blind and visually impaired people is one of my dreams, no matter what form the connections may take. I think that only good can come from this pursuit. It is just a matter of having an open mind, following the technical developments, and using each step to the best advantage. I hope that in the end the whole process of making this book will do some good in the future, no matter how long it takes."