A bite of Fab Lab (Reflection)

 

Being involved in the Fab Field 10 weeks project gave me an insight into the wide range of opportunities offered by the Fab Lab. It was a challenging, exciting and rewarding experience, which provided me with a skill set and knowledge in electronics, laser cutting, 3d printing and further expanded my creative thinking.

Click me for “What is a Fab Lab?”

Choosing the Fab Field module was an experiment for me, because it does not have much in common with my Graphic Communication discipline. Neither did I have any prior information about the main aim of Fab Lab – I only had a vague idea about what it is. The desire to widen my knowledge and have a taste of other fields motivated me to choose it, so that I can draw inspiration and have more tools to work with in the future.

 

The Fab Lab is a space for innovation where you can “Make almost anything”. It brings creativity to real life, it could be used to achieve many practical everyday life outcomes as well as artwork.

Apart from all the impressive machinery and material base, it has an extremely fascinating and inspiring philosophy – it builds bridges – between people, disciplines, concepts and sensory experiences. Bridges over walls that I thought were too high for me to cross.

The friendly, positive philosophy encourages open-source sharing of information, instead of keeping it safe and hidden for yourself. Sharing of a detailed work process for each produced piece of work in a Fab Lab (all over the world) is a must – instead of hiding it mysteriously because it is your own innovation. Support between all the people involved is highly encouraged not only on a local, but also international level.

I find all this embedded meaning so positive and inspiring. To me, it is a small but sure attempt to make a step away from egoism in a way, which is such a wide-spread illness. I totally support the message that Fab Lab is trying to spread to its ambassadors and I wish more institutions and people were driven by such motivations !

One of most significant lessons I took out of this experience is that the bridge between [arts, imagination, creativity] and [engineering, electronics] is not only possible, but could make amazing outcomes possible. The Fab Lab makes the connection between two disciplines believed to be opposite possible and lets everybody give it a try, no matter his/her previous skills or experiences and to slowly build upon. The previously hidden and complicated electronics practice strictly kept for engineers is made easy and accessible through the facilities offered by the Fab Lab and the structure of the course.

It is inspiring how the Lab allows transformation of one thing into another – for example transforms touch to light with ease and links different sensory experiences in a way you want in order to support your idea. The main element of this interaction is human intellect to generate an idea and to speak it to the elements of the circuit in their language. They do their job in return.

The Fab Lab module did not only broaden my creativity by showing me a different perspective and imaginative possibilities, but also gave me a lot of technical skills that I find valuable and would positively impact my future practice. Electronics used to be something I had a tiny bit of only theoretical knowledge about, however, after the many assignments and workshops I now have practical experience, which, in my opinion, enabled me to bring this knowledge to life, to wake it up.

Getting this started was challenging exactly because the lack of previous experience in the electronics field. The basics were missing and at times it felt to me like holding a wooden spoon instead of a magic stick and enthusiastically trying to do magic.

However, I am glad and thankful for this experience because it definitely got me out of my comfort zone. My objective when joining was not to be the best and compete with others, but to learn something new, which is never easy. Starting from scratch made me feel challenged (and at times even threatened),  but why would anyone learn something he already knows?

Working alongside students from other disciplines provided me with a broader understanding about where Graphic Design sits and how people with different creative background use the same tools in different contexts to interpret their varying ideas. The whole project had a philosophy which encouraged peer-help and exchange of knowledge and ideas, which was very helpful because it is obvious that all of us were on a different level in this area, but there was no pressure or competition between us.

The module encouraged experimentation by providing open briefs that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. It was very interesting to see how people from different disciplines decide to interpret the open briefs and work with almost the same tools but each one in a direction of solving different kind of problems connected to their own field of interest.

Self-centred study was absolutely necessary for each one of us in order to be able to work on our chosen projects. After each theoretical lecture covering the basics of each topic, we had to further read and research in a direction towards completing the work, or filling the missing information gaps, varying for each one of us depending on our subjects.

The open-source nature of Fab Lab and wide range of On-line materials and tutorials available, shared by people working on projects just like us, made the learning easier and more accessible, as if you are working in a team of all the others involved in Fab Lab around the world.

Another aspect I found fascinating is the universality of Fab Lab – how the same machinery and elements are available in Labs all over the world – I could compare it to a separate language consisting of the same tools and beliefs spread in different places.

Universality is also present in terms of where you would like to apply the possibilities the Lab offers. I don’t think that there is an area where it would be inapplicable. In the Lab you could work with food, fashion, engineering, social activities, architecture, graphic design, add music, light, color, shape, touch.. And so much more!

In my opinion, the one thing that could be improved in the Fab Field module is the structure. We covered each of the topics in a week, and had to complete a related project for each week  – with a theoretical lecture on Monday, followed by a workshop on the topic on Wednesday and the rest of the week left to complete the weekly project. To me personally, as a beginner, the Monday session was extremely crucial, but after it I had no idea what I can actually do with the things I’ve learned – until Wednesday. In my case the two days left + weekend were not enough to plan and complete my weekly projects.

Experiencing a week of each topic was in a way like  wine tasting – we got to take a little bite of everything so that we know what we can do with it and how to later expand it, but we did not go in too much depth because of the time constraints. That was good, because we have the main introduction, so we get to choose where to go in more depth (or which wine exactly to buy) after the project has finished, depending on our own preferences.

The final project I decided to work on was an electronics book with various interactive parts on each page.  What I produced was a prototype rather than finished product that needs to be further improved, but I am happy I aimed for a superior project than my abilities, because that significantly widened my knowledge by taking me out of my comfort zone. In my opinion, the final project that I chose made a good link between my Subject practice and the chosen Field experience and brought them together to produce a single piece of work. I am happy with the idea because it is not a commonly used concept and could be imaginatively improved in so many directions. I would happily alter and use this idea to fit in my future Graphic Design projects.

Overall, my Field experience was rewarding and had a positive impact on my learning. I am happy I chose such a completely different area to what I was comfortable with, because that was very eye-opening and also helped me to see where exactly Graphic Design sits in the bigger picture. I feel like I have gained a lot of valuable skills and now know how to achieve things that would only fascinate me before taking this module.

 

 

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