On Central Saint Martins: URL you'll find Futures at Work, a collection of graduating work that presents reflections and propositions for work practices and formats. Here, the curator of the collection and Employability Practitioner at CSM, Ruth Annett shares a selection – from MBA research on leadership in design to a spatial project that rethinks former industrial buildings into social hubs on London's Regent canal.
What is the future of work? We may consider this via the growth and contraction of industry or social changes in work practices and formats. Often we hear this question most profoundly within the quiet turmoil of our own minds: what does this mean for me and how must I change? The works in this collection each in their own way rephrase the question of what is the future of work, to what is the future at work?
Futures are a complicated prospect. As we approach professional or educational transitions, we imagine, tear down and rebuild multiple futures in our minds. In career guidance we call this ideation, a term also used in design-thinking and a practice familiar to a diverse range of creative practices. Ideation is not about determining what will be; it is the loose sketches of multiple futures that morph in and out of one another, each defining the actions that will be taken in the present. When futures are the subject, uncertainty is the medium. Threaded throughout the showcase we see futures made differently, where uncertainty is a call to action and an opportunity for intervention. These works offer a different way of knowing and working with uncertain futures; opportunities to define and redefine how we live work and know ourselves.
Within each of these projects is the understanding that our worlds of work are actively constructed and renegotiated by those within them. These are works which make the often-invisible conditions of work and creative practice visible as a site of creative intervention. This collection celebrates those who pay forward the hard-earned knowledge they have gained and propose alternative futures in a direct confrontation to the presents they navigate and the pasts that inform them. It honours the courage and vulnerability of seizing uncertainty, interrogating past and present and making futures differently.
"Yasmin's collection is presented in three chapters: Absorb, Reject and Reconcile. Drawing on childhood memories of growing up in her parents’ jewellery shop, her work questions traditional adornment as well as the relationship between diamonds and the performance of femininity. Each individually selected baroque pearl is carved to merge with “ready-made” jewellery from her mother's collection. The bulbous formation of the pearls mimics the silhouette of keloid scars and their appearance on the human body. Each piece becomes an extension of the wearer's physicality, reflecting Yasmin's exploration of emotional healing through her practice."
Interpretative text by Jasmine Rawlinson, BA (Hons) Culture, Criticism and Curation
Installation about the numbness of production line workers in the era of fast consumption. Envision rabbit’s production process as a microcosm of larger societal issues such as labour and class inequities.
Assembly Line Rabbit is a video installation, the two films tell the story of how workers lose their ego and gradually lose their right to control themselves due to excessive consumption when producing fragile rabbits. Through the humorous, absurd process of producing goods, it inspires viewers to rethink the hollow consumerism of workers and capital "making".
Following the decline in London waterways' commercial and industrial use, towpaths along the canal fell in despair and became overgrown, antisocial areas. However, in recent years there has been a high increase of boaters bringing back the life on the canal. Basins are becoming meeting points and spaces for encounters. These once-industrial sites are transformed into civic spaces, functioning as hubs for a network of waterways that crosses through London and is tied to the city’s historic infrastructure.
For over a decade, East London’s former industrial buildings have provided artists with affordable workshops, studios, and live/work units and supported the cultural and creative industries as inexpensive co-working start-up hubs. Learning from history can help us create more vibrant, valuable and integrated working spaces with the community at their core.
Situated in East London, the project responds to the area’s industrial history and sets focus on how we can utilise the infrastructure of Regent’s Canal to create a connection between the community on and around the Canal, yet also respond to the layered history of the site containing a level of spatial ambiguity. The project proposes a transformation and redevelopment plan for the derelict factory space.
The transformation of the former factory will create community and commercial spaces. These will include a multifunctional civic hub, accommodating supporting facilities for the people living on the Canal, such as flexible working spaces and studios, a workshop, private living accommodations, and a public garden providing spatial moments of transition and interaction.
An exploratory study into what design leadership is, what it currently looks like, and if current models effectively support design professionals to face industry-specific challenges as well as those of today's complex society.
"Over the last decade, I have been questioning what the future of the design industry could look like and what type of support would be required for this future. This provocation led me to explore design leadership, an area possessing limited substantive discourse. Current design leadership can be seen as an individual, e.g., a creative director, an individual leader “appointed” by the industry, and a design organisation, i.e., D&AD. Additionally, the image of leadership within the design industry continues to have one mould; a Design Council’s Design Economy Roundtable in 2021 noted that “78% of designers identified as male and only 13% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds” in the UK.
Design is interwoven into every aspect of human existence – it is in everything we see, hear, and touch. The future of this industry could have a wide impact on society, thus, having effective leadership in the industry is critical. The aim of my study was to look at leadership attributes that would support the design industry to effectively address the complexity of society and go beyond a firm’s profit. To accomplish this I investigated modern leadership theories, design leadership models, the design industry, i.e., design education orthodoxy, and current perspectives around design leadership through interviews with UK and US design leaders. My project resulted in initial recommendations of core attributes for design leadership; further research will expand upon it for secondary and tertiary attributes. My aim is to provide guidance for design leaders to effectively face what is impacting the design industry and beyond."
Ruth Annett is the Employability Practitioner at Central Saint Martins, a writer/researcher and UAL alum.