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  • Merle Ebskamp



Starting with this experiment was hard, because the designer did not know what to photograph and maybe did not even know how to use the tool photography. There were so many options and the brief was relatively short. She started to improvise: in this case by making photos of random things that attracted her attention. This feeling of ‘randomness’ also introduced a vague distressed feeling. Possibly coming from the idea that her actions were futile.

Therefore some perseverance and courage was needed to push through. Not in the sense of putting more pressure on the experiment, but by ’letting go’ or ‘letting lose’ of any existing ideas about architectural productivity. The designer did so by not only accepting that this may not going to work very well or even at all, but also by adopting a playful or ‘not so serious’ attitude. This may have contributed to the idea to buy a coffee and to frame it in different situations. Often accompanied by laughter and failing. Nevertheless, in between the laughs and the not-so-interesting framing of the coffee, it did initiate a new way of looking at the surroundings. By consciously trying to capture a coffee in relation to space, the designer explicitly noticed certain conditions of the surroundings. For example different textures, shadow patterns and colours.

Also, now she had found a ‘method’ to use the tool, the exploration became easier and design decisions started to follow each other up in an accelerating pace. This ‘method’ was mainly based on ‘action and reflection’. After taking a photo the designer (photographer) is able to directly view and reflect on the photo result on the digital camera. For example, the designer encountered a green metal bridge which she thought had interesting architectural features. After taking a photo she reflected on the exposure (figure 1) and also acted on this reflection by taking a new photo (figure 2). Then again, the designer reflected on the second photo; she was not satisfied with the composition. Therefore she acted again, but now by turning the camera. The result (figure 3) was even less to her satisfaction and she decided to take a completely different position (figure 4). The resulting photo was more to her satisfaction, not even so much because of the ‘photo-qualities’, but rather due to the colour scheme, the material and the architectural qualities of the structure. The latter may have inspired her later on in the process, because the photos in her final selection show a similar colour schema, materiality and, to some extent, structure. A similar process of ‘action and reflection’ occurred when reviewing all photos in a photo editing software (Lightroom). In this case the ‘action’ was either photo editing or selection.

All in all, this particular way of using the tool initiated a dialog within the designer. The photos were motivators for thinking, for a dialog with oneself. In the dialog the designer made design decisions. The photos acted as newly made references. The designer used the new references to analyse her environment and to associate or test new ideas. Furthermore, she reflected on these analysing thoughts and associations. Not only during the act of photographing, but also afterwards, when reviewing photos. She reflected often in a ‘jugdemental’ way: ‘I do not think this is meaningful, because…’. It is hard to say on which grounds she made design decisions. Most likely on certain personal preferences, memories or references, which are part of the ‘frame of reference’ (Van Dooren et al., 2014). It is also difficult to say whether a design choice is made consciously or unconsciously, but the designer suspects that the design decisions became more and more explicit (consciously chosen) towards the end of the experiment. The latter may be due to the evolving image of an coffee kiosk design in the designer’s mind.

Photography to Sketch

After photographing outside ( for 1.5 hours), the designer selected and edited the photos in Lightroom (for 0.5 hours). This ‘action and reflection’ process was, in contrast to the ‘action and reflection’ process outside more explicitly based on architectural qualities. Most likely due to the coffee kiosk image forming in the mind of the designer. The result were five photos which contributed mostly to the formation of the design in the mind. When articulating this image to sketch, not only the physical result of the five photos, but also the whole process of photographing was of influence. For example, when photographing she became aware of light patterns due to penetrable structures. This notion did not merely derive from the final selection, but already developed before. For example, the first photos show that the designer was interested in the pattern of light due to treetops. Later on this developed further into patterns of light due to metal structures.

All in all, the designer summarized her design decisions in the sketch. However, it is important to note directly in the act of sketching she already started to further test and develop these decisions as well. The sketching initiated a new process of ‘action and reflection’. Nevertheless, it is not a completely ‘new’ process because it is heavily based on the previous ‘action and reflection’ process. Therefore one could say that the designer was able to continue the dialog.

Final photo selection

The designer took around 150 photos. She decided to

Design Sketch

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