At Hemingway Design, as multi disciplinary designers who specialise in affordable and social design we are fortunate to have a varied and stimulating series of projects. From our housing and urban design projects to our public festivals and design for public events at Southbank Centre, to our sustainability led projects for Coca Cola and McDonalds to seaside regeneration projects like Dreamland Margate and The Boscombe Overstrand there is never a dull moment, we are challenged and have to dig deep in terms of design thinking and often how to deliver real, lasting value on very small budgets. We often take on projects that are voyages of discovery for all parties and take them on because its clear that a project will fulfill the mantra of our design practice “design is about improving things that matter in life.”
We have just attended the “kick off ” meeting for Galloway’s Centre for the Blind and Partially Sighted in Morecambe where we are heading up the vision for a forward thinking new centre for the blind and partially sighted in one of Morecambe’s iconic buildings. The Visitor Building. This project has challenging budgets and a challenging building and as new centre’s for the blind and partially sighted are not iniquitous, there are not many precedents to inform our thinking, but often that is a good thing as you have to really put your thinking caps on. There is a natural tendency to approach first meetings of this nature with some trepidation, you are just getting to know the client and you hope that they will be forthcoming with their knowledge, that they will throw themselves into the process and be open to change and experimentation, but its not always the case.We left this meeting though thoroughly uplifted. Galloway’s had organised a focus group of a dozen or so blind and partially sighted women and men across a wide age band to come and talk to us about their needs, their ideas.
So we all assembled in a room in the Visitor building, 20 people and a clutch of utterly adorable guide dogs, for this dog lover this really adds to the attractiveness of this project! The discussion started to flow, the blind and partially sighted community were certainly vocal and came armed with ideas and all contributed to a design discussion as if they were old hands at it. We shouldn’t have been surprised. Our first company Red or Dead was started by Gerardine and I without any design training and built by a team consisting of club kids, university drop outs and the odd trained individual and I mean odd and individual! Everyone at Red or Dead was encouraged and did contribute to the ranges, from the accounts staff to the warehouse operatives and van drivers and the product ranges benefited from it and the meetings remained full of surprise and witty banter.
This way of working has continued at Hemingway Design.We have created award winning and hugely popular affordable housing schemes, been the driving force behind award winning regeneration schemes, designed successful radios, furniture ranges, uniforms and a whole host of products that none of us have had training in, but what we pride ourselves in is having an abundance of common sense, positivity, an ability to graft very hard indeed, an understanding of the need for thorough research and thorough user engagement and a philosophy that we will not entertain the idea that at the end of a project that we ever feel that we could have done better. We have got to feel that we have pushed ourselves to the level of our ability and pushed the project to its highest level with the resources and budgets available to it.
The meeting with the Galloway’s community was a meeting full of common sense, sleeves rolled up, positivity, excitement and the icing on the cake…witty banter.
We are so lucky to be embarking on a project that again is life affirming.