Reflecting on Redfront Relay

The RSA FutureMaker Day was all about making and we wanted to stimulate an open design and making process. We wanted to design a process whereby people could construct something themselves or inspire others to, over the course of the day, whether participating at home, in the office, in a cafe, or in the room itself.

The process

We set a creative challenge with a framework for people to design and build from. We chose to use simple materials that people would easily be be to access remotely or onsite: small cards the same size as business cards.

We provided a stack of cards, 2 sharpies and 2 pairs of scissors and a trestle table for people to work from. Participants were asked to create a structure made from up to five cards, in five minutes, in response to what was on the table, what had gone before. People could add to or build on existing structures, or make their own independent structures. People were given the option to sign their creations, leave instructions or suggestions for others on cards for others to follow, or follow previous participants instructions and physically incorporate the instructions cards in their own construction. In addition, participants had the option to observe the emerging structures on the table.

This way, people could incorporate others thinking and literally, physically build on others designs, openly, in the room. We also sought to share remote participants design and builds through inviting people to make structures with five cards in five minutes and submit photographs via the hashtag #redfrontrelay and a dedicated tumblr.

To counteract this process a Redfront team comprised of Phillippa Rose, Simon Gough and Judee Tshu worked in a relay to design and build a competing structure at the same trestle table, at the same time. We envisaged two parallel physical structures being created in tandem as the day developed. Not surprisingly the day did not evolve exactly how we imagined…


The Outcomes

People started off by designing and building their own structures completely on their own, preferring not to build on anyone else’s work. Gradually, through the day as more and more structures emerged – some literal and some abstract, people responded to the ever growing content laid out before them, and a sense of collaboration grew. Increasingly participants responded by following or setting instructions, adding to others structures or building complimentary structures and narrative threads and connected environments started to emerge. Someone created letters of the alphabet which others added to. Someone built a tower with the words “Add a top to the tower!”, another built a beautiful abstract structure with an instruction card “Please help me grow”. The RSA’s Michael Ambjorn also created a lovely stop motion film of our #redfrontrelay process.

On the other side of the table, the Redfront team adopted more of a singular, and ‘size matters’ approach as we tried, and failed, to build a tall and resilient tower. We were distracted by the intricacy of the structures evolving by other people. Although we had envisaged everyone else would also build one large structure, people created environments, contributing to thought processes with feedback, and setting challenges for others to follow, as well as physically building on each others designs.┬áThere was a genuine sense of evolution, connections between structures, and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Some people returned at different times of the day to see progress, or to have another go. I think people really enjoyed actually making something small, in a small amount of time, that was part of something bigger, in the open.

For more information on our thinking on Open Design see Simon Gough’s article. We’ve also written a post on the day with a time-lapse video of some of the day’s construction in action.

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