DS 83: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE16), Design Education: Collaboration and Cross-Disciplinarity, Aalborg, Denmark, 8th-9th September 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Christian Tollestrup, Kaare Eriksen, Nis Ovesen
Author: Hall, Ashley; Bahk, Yoon; Wright, James
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Royal College of Art
Section: Design Practice
Page(s): 146-151
ISBN: 978-1-904670-62-9


Elastic Octopus was inspired by a perceived increased reluctance in student attitudes towards taking
risks and failure in design innovation. In particular, recent trends in funding and risk-aversion in
earlier phases of education where failures are discouraged has limited the potential for ground
breaking innovative thinking. This experimental design project was conceived to tackle the failure
reluctance trend by developing a team based cross-disciplinary masters level design innovation studio
module where students would succeed in relation to their capacity to demonstrate failure. Principally
this involved creating a permission giving process where ambitious design experiments are developed
in order to encourage the transgression of edges and boundaries. This was achieved by adapting a
number of creative design methods including blue-sky thinking, back casting and design exorcisms to
challenge and de-programme failure aversion. Succeeding through failure involved transitioning from
meta-themes through to experimental contexts where failures could be attempted as a way of
exploring the limits of technologies, structures, mental models, human engagement and other factors
critical to success. We hope that insights gained from this disruptive educational module can offer
unexpected benefits for students ranging from increased failure resilience, through to narrative
generation and context forming skills while at the same time providing wider value in discussing how
designers deal with failure.

Keywords: Design failure, permission giving, design thinking, innovation methods, and industrial design.


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