Friday, 17 February 2017

Reflections on the Rotor event meeting held on Wednesday, 15 February.

I felt reasonably energised after the previous meeting on the on 8 February, and bearing in mind the exhibition opening night was only one day away, I was keen to make sure that the whole group were aware of their expectations and responsibilities, but sufficiently relaxed not to worry too much!

Unfortunately, as is always the case with a larger group of people, a sizeable number were unable to attend this meeting prior to the event opening night. Sometimes, this might be a good thing in reflection, because those who do attend, seem to bond together just a little bit more. Anyway, a number of decisions were made, which I think again in reflection, were right and proper.

One of the main decisions has been to remove the artificial segregation between group A and group B, as it is clear that we will all need to support each other, in various ways by working on our individual strengths within the team to help it move forward.

My biggest concern at the moment is a lack of what appears to be, an understanding within the group of the grading criteria, with respect to the necessary academic rigour that we need to apply to our practical tasks and obligations. This is particularly evident in the production of the website, as it is now two weeks since the original meeting that we had, and there is a lack of designs and critical reflection having been documented in order to help the group select the most appropriate format for the website.

It seems that my request for some group members to create evidence of their decision-making and research is falling on deaf ears. Whilst I am conscious that this could affect potential marks for the group activity, I'm also conscious that with the correct back filling (that is supplementing any lack of work through the absence of those team members who are appearing to choose not to engage), we can, try to resolve these shortfalls. (I recall after the meeting, saying something like "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink to Dr Bailey)...  However, this puts greater pressure on those members of the team that are conscientious, and wanting to try hard to achieve the best of their ability.

This is a classic example of group dynamics operating, and it appears that this exercise, and these interactive situations, we are no different to any other group. Part of my role is to recognise this, understand blockers and shortfalls, and put plans in place to circumvent, or at least alleviate potential problems, as we move forward.

Nevertheless, as is always the case, various people have their own unique and individual issues to deal with which must always take priority for themselves. So, with a group size of 12 people (that we now have), there is sufficient resource to level out peaks and troughs of productivity demands and requirements.

Further thoughts;

I'm delighted that there was a large number of students that attended the opening event on Thursday, and our previous meeting of the 15th helped to prepare and make sure everyone knew what was expected of them.


  • The group is beginning to gel together.
  • There are clearer and more defined roles and responsibilities which helps people to focus on what is expected of them.
  • We still have another two weeks to go before we present our ideas back to our client, and so I think it is vital that at our next meeting on 22 February there is clear evidence (from an academic standpoint) to show and to articulate that we have not only researched our ideas, but have collectively selected and chosen the most appropriate recommendations for Dr Devlin.
  • We have replayed our own interpretation of the explanation given to us by our client Dr Devlin in a number of different ways within the group. I have been able to document this to a sufficient level to be able to provide him with the confidence that I think he is seeking from us.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Reflections on a lecture by the BBC, creative innovation and entrepreneurialism, and the art of Pitching.

I've really enjoyed the lectures that the BBC have kindly given to the Master's group over the last few weeks, and these notes provide a review of the final session that we had on Wednesday, 15 February 2017. The lecture was delivered by Mr Dan Ramsden, Director And Head of Creative Experience at the BBC, supported by Tina Connolly, senior UX designer, and Laura Fletcher, a UX designer for "content discovery".

The lecture was entitled "Pitching", or "effective communication and the art of being generous and selfish"!

I liked the style of Dan's delivery of the presentation almost immediately, as I appreciated the first important step of any presentation, which is to get attention!
In his words, the whole experience of a good performance is to "sell the dream, but deliver reality", clearly an example of his vast expertise in the marketing and advertising industry.

The lecture and presentation was split into three sections, which comprised of;
1) understand your audience.
2) have a clear and concise structure.
3) tips of the trade.

In a nutshell and something quite near to my own heart, Dan was saying that before any presentation, "we need to create a plan!" He was saying, "Make all your messages through the presentation, sticky ones", in other words, messages should be easy to remember by the audience, and easy for them to buy into, both logically and emotionally.

Section 1 a) - Consider an approach through Generosity. Focus on the audience.

- As I think McLuhan once said, "the medium is the message" (Marshall McLuhan, 1964, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man).

  • Whenever delivering a message, be "outcome oriented". In other words, don't bury a message in reams of text, but make it clear and explicit, have clear objectives or actions that are easy to find.
  • I also like the phrase "you can win minds with logic, and hearts with emotion".
  • Therefore, when considering the delivery of the key message, it is vital to understand the audience to define whether the message is either emotional or logical. Both of these have different methods of delivery. What outcome do you want to achieve?
  • If you're winning hearts, use emotional persuasion, tug at heartstrings, or stroke someone's ego.
  • If you're winning minds, use logic and especially evidence to convince your audience.
An overview of some audience centred techniques was then provided, which relies on the idea of people falling into personality profile types. Choose the correct type of language that suits a particular personality or profile type. For example;
  • Emotive people are usually image orientated. They like change, are usually assertive and sociable.
  • People who fall into the directive category, are usually goal driven, dominant, opinionated, perhaps somewhat intense as they have a keen focus.
  • Reflective personality types tend to be thoughtful, considered and cooperative, but low in sociability; They tend to love the detail.
  • And finally, the supportive personality type tend not to like change; They are loyal, steady, reliable and considerate.
The audience impacts on the message! It's, therefore, vital to work out what personality type they might be, in plenty of time before a presentation commences. How the audience decodes, a presentation, therefore, will affect the outcome.

From my own experience, however, although it is in support of this concept outlined above, in the real world what is important is how we tailored the presentation to each of the audience participants. It is this blend of our interactions, which makes a general approach to satisfy each of the personality types present. Nevertheless, it is just as important, if not more so, to fully understand who the decision-makers are within an audience to ensure that the "pitch" is properly directed to them, and yet also gets the corporate support from the others.

1b) The selfish aim; 

In this section of the lecture, Dan was suggesting that instead of just giving a series of words to make up a full presentation, state your intent early!

  • Open the conversation by saying something like "to give you an understanding of…"
  • Or perhaps start with "to convince or to persuade you that… XYZ".
  • Be explicit in what you want, or alternatively what you want your audience to do, or to believe, or to go away to do, as early as possible in the delivery.

I remembered here, some of the beautiful words of a previous boss of mine, the legendary Scott McNeely, who used also use the phrase "Get all the wood behind the arrow"!

In other words, focus on the vital points you want to get across. Invite the audience to engage by asking "what questions would you like me to address to achieve the aim?"

Which are supported by bullet points, like feathers on the quiver of the arrow, with phrases like "how will you deliver the vital point actually?"
  • Establish early in the conversation what your "vital" point are.
  • Why are these critical to you?
  • What resources do you need to achieve them, or deliver them?
  • What will happen if you don't do this or that?
  • And finally, how will this make life better (for you, for them et cetera)?
  • Give your messages through questions to address each of the quadrants of the personality types.
So, -
In thinking about "my" audience, asking myself three fundamental selfish questions;
1) why am I bothering?
2) whom I talking to anyway (can they make a difference)?
3) what do I want them to do after this meeting/presentation?

An exercise that has been used with some success by Dan is what he calls the squid method. "Sequential questions and input diagram".

We were then divided into our groups to take forward some of the ideas that have begun to emerge in response to this whole module. The outcome of the "squid" session have been documented elsewhere, as it is not important in the flow of this blog. Nevertheless, it was a useful exercise and helped to establish and drill down each of the merits of our ideas.

In brief, the "squid" method helps to drill down, similar to the "five whys" method, and attempts to expose;
  • what are the features that a client is looking for?
  • How have we responded/done that?
  • Why is that right for the client? What are the benefits, not only for the customer but also to ourselves?
Ultimately what we uncover is what are the unique selling points that we need to address as part of our presentation.

Instead of thinking about the client's brief and then coming up with an idea, think about the idea again and check that it fits with the brief.
  • How are we going to communicate this to the client through the "pitch" (the what, versus the how)?
Some of the ideas that Dan was using were very similar to a simple method that I have been using throughout my professional career, which is based on AIDA, attention, interest, desire and action. The simple graph was shown as follows;

Start, introduction, the body of the presentation, conclusion.

The objective is to reignite attention at the end of the presentation to get action!

I recognised that this is similar to the classic idea of the narrative arc. A further graph was shown which I particularly liked that had the stages of:

exposition, inciting incident, rising action, crisis, climax, denouement, and ending.

Section 2: Structure;

"Introductions and attention grabbers."
choose one approach to grab attention right from the start of the presentation, which can be either
1) unexpected
2) emotional,
3) simple.

Or alternatively this could be through;
1) a quotation by famous author or celebrity.
2) a declarative statement such as "what's in it for me?"
3) a controversy,
4) humour or drama to induce an emotional mode.

Many of these ideas been taken from an advertising book called "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath, (2008),"Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath, (Publisher: Arrow (7 Feb. 2008), who also have a web presence and website at

The Oxford English Dictionary's new word of the year is "post-truth".

2) again thinking about people, people are great at visualising things. Therefore consider, what is the pain that you are going to come to cure with your solution? And also, who will you fix with your solution?

Tell your audience about a problem, something that they can readily recognise and identify with, and turn your own problem into an issue for them; Capture their emotional hearts by tugging at their metaphorical heartstrings.

Relate your conversation to diverse audiences by selecting real or imaginary people who are different, but who the audience can relate to on a personal level.

3) Building a case
Consider the classical Greek rhetorical devices;
  • Bring your facts to life.
  • Statistics and evidence win a logical mind.
Compare statistics and if necessary exaggerate, by making big numbers digestible by placing them and juxtaposing them in context with something familiar and reducing problems down further and further, e.g. Reductio ad absurdum.
  • Use vivid language to build a mental picture.
  • Use visual linking to metaphors through props and images.
  • Create these analogies and metaphors by making hooks to get above the topic or issue, by process of abstraction.
  • Consider the use of third parties; that provides evidence of success, case histories validation, and credibility.
4) Convince!
  • Use rhetorical questions. "Who doesn't love a rhetorical question?"
  • Recap - Through the presentation, especially to if it is a long one, to give some space to the audience to allow them to think again.
  • Use reiteration. Create a series, as a streamed reiteration, list the issues out.
  • Use triples or the rules of three; human beings seem to have an ability to put things together in threes. Exploit this behavioural characteristic.
5) Closing.
  • Never forget to ask what is next?
  • Build confidence around your product or idea by including at least one of these themes as your final slide; 
    • a list of short milestones; 
    • some testimonials; 
    • or a specific question 
    • e.g. "what's next?"


  • Building a good pitch or presentation can often be quite daunting, particularly if it's felt that the outcome may be subjective.
  • With a clear structure to a pitch or presentation, the tools that have been provided today will help a great deal in bringing confidence not only to a future audience but also to the presenter.
  • Many of the ideas that Dan presented in this lecture can be applied in one-to-one discussions with people, and it should not be forgotten that critical conversations, if structured and planned beforehand can equally result in your own individual desired outcomes.
In my own case, I often fail to think carefully about my desired results before engaging in conversations, and I particularly like the idea of considering your own selfish aims (perhaps this itself is controversial?), before making a pitch.


  • Lecture bt Dan Ramsden of the BBC, University of Huddersfield, 15th February 2017.
  • Heath, C & D, "Made to Stick" (7 Feb. 2008), Arrow, London. ("Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath, (Publisher: Arrow (7 Feb. 2008),)
  • See also for a great resource on Decision Making, Change Management and "Sticky Ideas".

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Further thoughts the lecture and workshop by Sara Nesteruk (Friday, 10 February 2017) University of Huddersfield.

Thinking a little bit more about the ideas of inspiration and creativity, I recall that one of the questions that Sara posed to us was how do we create our own productive space?

The moments of insight often occurs when we least expect it.

In Sara's case, she referred to a book by Rainer Maria Rilke, in which she gets lots of inspiration from. Ostensibly, within the book, he's asking and pointing out "do not look outside yourself for inspiration, but keep looking inside for it is there that you will find it." For example, Sara randomly picked a page from the book which read;
"I would like to beg you to have patience and consider problems like locked rooms waiting for some translation".

I particularly like the idea of using text to find inspiration, this fits nicely with my own practice at the moment and my choice of using JA Baker's "the Peregrine" (1968), but equally I understand the point that each of us needs to find inspiration from any source.

A further suggestion was made to consider the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. This is a book about intuition and where we seem to find that component of our lives. Our immediate responses to situations, whether they are spontaneous bringers of joy, or alternatively situations that require some form of problem thinking, are what Gladwell explores. He goes on to say that our immediate responses are usually the most effective.

Therefore quite clearly, when one needs inspiration, the active "doing" provide us with inspiration in itself. In other words, make work for yourself!

On the subject of readings, another recommendation was made called "The Artists Way", which totally encourages the activity of writing, before picking up the paintbrush, or beginning to sculpt or make. This book is useful to help us get "into the zone".

Perhaps in thinking about this, it is useful to step backwards and ask oneself "what do you do when moments of inspiration hit you?".

Maybe, by processing thoughts from elsewhere, new ideas can come forth in entirely different manifestations.

Spontaneity is a vital step. The suggestion of writing before making can be inspired by simply thinking about three separate topics, things, or themes that generally inspire you. In my own case, the three things that inspire me and have full resonance are;
-drawing, particularly with a sketch pad and pencil.
-The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, and almost all the other great masters.
-Open spaces. And what I mean by that are areas of land that do not have the regular and constant footfall of mankind. The Moors on my doorstep particularly fall into this category.

I also took time out to look at the TED talk created by John Kelly, which was his final video submission to the Royal School of Art, and then further submitted to the TED talks, entitled "Procrastination".

I found this to be incredibly insightful, he absolutely captures the artist's sense of fear of failure through "trying to avoid the inevitable", which is rooted together with the thoughts of being afraid to even finish something, once making has started! This video in itself is sufficient inspiration to simply get started! I think it is useful to make a direct link to it on this blog so that I can repeat it to myself, almost like a daily mantra, particularly when I'm suffering from procrastination.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Inspiration... The battle within! - Reflections on an interesting Workshop, (with Sara Nesteruk, UoH)

Friday's workshop was quite an epiphany; a magic moment for me!  It seems that the more I try to work out a process for my creativity, the more I am led to writing about it. Which is leading me to think that perhaps my real practice is in the writing of it, itself!...

Sara's workshop opened with a suggestion that when searching for inspiration, a first step that she finds helpful is to just start writing.   Write about anything from within!

The first step in the exercise Sara set, was for us to write for approximately 30 minutes, and then to pause, Step 2; go and look at something completely detached from what we have written, write about that, then Step 3; reflectively write up on the whole experience.  

So this is the outcome of these exercises below;

Step 1.  

Just looking out from within and writing my thoughts;

[A title?] -  Winter

My mind is wandering through the valleys and hills of North Yorkshire. Or a typical English landscape with hills and meadows.

There is a Skylark flying high above, making its usual trill of random notes, which gracefully swishes across the canyons and lowland streams.  How is this tiny creature here at this time of year? – Where does it take shelter from these freezing winds and hailstones?

My heart is racing through the strenuous walk. The breath of my existence is tangible almost, through the vapour clouds that flow from my shivering mouth. My arms are heavy with the coat I wear, but my legs are strong and ready for the remainder of the climb.  Looking down, half way up the mouth of this valley, I see a child’s magical re-assembly of their image of winter. The Snowman seems to beckon me with his branching twig arms towards an unknown liminal space of white nothingness.

The stone wall; that black lichen covered permanence of man's presence thrusts itself through the snow. The black smog of two hundred years of toil and fires from the cities has engulfed the rock and grit so tightly in its grasp. Blades of frozen glass shards of translucent green, wisp and rattle against the base of the walls, the delicate grasses have the strength to endure the coldest of winter days and writhe in unison as flurries come and go.

The Skylark’s sweet tune is fading now.  My arms and hands are cooling in the blustering wind. Time to move.

Walking further on the mud trodden path, now frozen in staccato patterns of sheep foot holes of recent passage. My boots skid across the mesh of open treads, loosing grip, though, being unable to ride the leaf-thin film of wet thawing ice between foot and hardened mud.

The air is thin, my coat blows cold, it’s chip, flap, flap, flapping against my chin and red raw cheeks.  I pull my hat lower.  My head is light and empty of thoughts, just bearly able to make out a distant tune of the skylark.

Far below, the wisp of smoke rises from a remote farmhouse. I imagine the roaring fire within. Big armchairs; a dog lying across the hearth maybe.  
Warmth is what I need. The cold air is biting me from above and from the end of my fingers, now numb with the grip of the salutation and greeting with Jack Frost.  The snowman looks distantly on at me, with indifferent curiosity.  Why would anyone be out here in this temperature?

We share something in common, that child’s nod to winter, and I.  We are both alone.  Far from anyone to hear us moan or curse this wretched cold.  I’m low and deep in thoughts of nowhere at all.   But then my spirit is lifted again.  The distant call of the Skylark comes back into zone.  Mood lifts and falls, and lifts again like the rolling of the sea.

I must keep going.  Where is my goal? – I have none. It is the journey that is the goal, my likely finishing point will be where I started.

It always is.

I will come full circle, but the warmth of knowing the journey’s nuances makes it all worthwhile. I will make some fire when it’s dark and start again when I have eaten and slept.

But where? Where can I sleep in this cold?

My sleep will last forever, but the journey is just a fleeting passage of time that I must savour.  Sleep will erase so much…
32 mins.

It took just over half an hour for me to write that short passage, no doubt influenced by both the time of year and my walk into the studio, and moreover, the quick sketch that I made while killing some time earlier at lunch that day.

 It's satisfying that I can imagine narratives quickly, but the process of drawing from imagination seems so much better if accompanied by writing too.  I'm pleased with this approach and will adopt it more generally.

And then on to Stage Two.  
I spent 15 - 20 minutes in the library, and semi-randomly selected a book by the Getty Museum (a Guercino Catalogue), I randomly found a sketch of a landscape with a sea jetty and stonework, that instantly caught my attention;

Guercino (Ca 1635), Landscape With a View to a Fortified Port. Pen & Brown Ink,
Los Angeles, J.Paul Getty Museum, 85.GA.408. 

Guercino – Sea Scape and Castle (Casa Gennari)
 Guercino’s use of subtle shading that brings out shadows and contours of light makes the line drawing effuse a sense of calm. The promenaders on the jetty are both captured in a moment of work in the foreground, but idle strolling in the mid vista.
The arches under the jetty are suitably void of detail, but provide a structure and scaffold for the drawing to rise out of the calm waters. 

The tower is skewed towards the right, suggesting that the artist was not necessarily directly in front of the drawing (pad or easel), but to one side; therefore unable to immediately see the perspective of the architecture.

The two boats in the centre of the picture are neither tethered, nor in motion, but an oarsman is clearly seen pulling a punt to stabilise the ship as his mate draws a rope towards the bow of the boat.

Under the central archway, the light of the outer sea creates a shadow filled silhouette of a recently arrived skiff. Strangely, though, there is no reflection from the water below the boat, yet there is a reflection of the archway above.  It is evident from this alone that the sketch was made 'in the moment'.

Stage 3.

(5-10 Mins);

Immediate reflections on the above writing:

The image was taken from page 71 of “Guercino, - Mind to Paper”, by Julian Brooks (2006), The J Paul Getty Museum (Catalogue), Getty Publications,  Los Angeles.

The response addresses how my interpretation of Guercino can be articulated from a critical view through Artistic discourse.  While it describes the picture’s contents, perhaps it doesn’t address what caused the original artist to stop his other activities and pause to draw this scene.  It highlights the transient nature of drawing as sketches, through the observation of missing details that speculatively may have been present, but are simply lost in time. The existence of reflections is an interesting theme that in itself suggests a temporal existence which may, or may not be present, or have existed.

The observations of social pastimes are also of interest in the drawing. There are both workers and ‘walkers’ in Guercino's sketch… Time (as in ca. 1635) was being used, but time was also being 'wasted'…


In further consideration of the above, there's a strong influence of drawing being a transient, fleeting activity, in some ways, similar to that of traditional photography.  The artist's intentions to capture a moment in time is mediated by what they immediately see and choose to record; so a narrative can be both created through latent imagination or through a particular engagement. How a "scene" is described to 'another' is what is important here to me.   If a sentient being 'could' report through a visual description or narrative, how would they present such a response?

Sara's workshop was really helpful, it's a very succinct way to expand upon imagination and to create that elusive seed of inspiration.

Nevertheless, I have lots more to do, before I can say that I have achieved a level of mastery in this process!