Yoga, chapatti-rolling and shaving routines: An intern’s experience at Revealing Reality

Today we’re sorry to be saying goodbye to Amy White, a design student from Goldsmith’s who’s provided us with fantastic support over the past few weeks. Here, she reflects on her time at Revealing Reality, and what she’s taking away from the experience.

‘As a second-year Design student at Goldsmiths University with an entire summer set aside for interning, I was pointed in Revealing Reality’s direction as a pathway into design and research. Initially, it was the mix of social and commercial projects that attracted me; but I soon discovered that fieldwork can be a lot more creative than I first imagined.

Finding myself in a stance that vaguely resembled Warrior 1, surrounded by a group of ageing Asian ladies, in a village hall in Thornton Heath, was not the situation I envisaged myself in when I started this placement.

Bizarre as it sounds, there was a serious purpose to it all: we were researching attitudes towards health, in particular Diabetes, in the local South Asian community.

A full day of group activities – including participation in the yoga session – saw me filming, taking photos, and conducting ad hoc interviews with members of the Jagruti women’s group. The stories we heard and insights we uncovered were compelling and, at times, surprisingly emotional.

With my background in psychology, this immersive approach to research was fascinating, enabling me to uncover narratives that could never be found while sitting at a desk. (Also, being invited to witness a chapatti rolling competition is an opportunity that should not be turned down!)

I’ve also spent time working on more commercial projects – including an investigation of men’s daily shaving routines. Conducting desk-based brand analysis and consumer profiling, then designing some inventive research tasks for participants, allowed me to exercise a more lateral way of thinking – asking how people work, and what triggers them to behave in certain ways.

Of course, the big question ‘But how is this design?’ has been put to me a few times while I’ve been at Revealing Reality. Personally, I take the view of Dunne and Raby, the famous critical design duo, who define design as ‘a means of speculating about how things could be – to imagine possible futures … to pose “what if?” questions that are intended to open debate and discussion.’

For me, this view demands that, as designers, we take time to explore the world around us. It may just be my ‘holistic design’ ideology speaking, but I’ve long believed that both ethnography and design are fundamentally anthropological in their roots.

My time at Revealing Reality has served only to confirm this view, and I hope to complete my degree next year with this internship providing prime evidence of the inherent links between design and research.’