Cognitive Development: Ikea toys!


For the last 3 years, Ikea has run an annual competition for kids, in which they enter a drawing of a toy they’d like to be made and the winning drawings are then made by Ikea and sold in store.
The designs that come out of this are perfect examples of how the cognitive learning of children is developed and applied. Each toy is designed for children by children, ensuring that they are all perfectly designed, with each toy having features obviously created with ease of use and the cognitive skills that the children have learned from their own experiences. Unlike conventional toys designed in the competitive market by toy manufacturers, who are designing more for the adults that buy their toys than the kids that used them, these designs take into account simple things; like ease of use and how the child might actually want to play with them. One of my favorite examples of this considered design, is the green dinosaur toy:
56311b55190000a600b95214For the sake or argument and to make him easier to write about, I’ve dubbed him ‘Steve’. Steve’s design is perfect for an imaginative child to have as a playmate; his body shape makes him easy to hug and legs make him easy to hold. The hat and the, somewhat disgruntled and/or bemused facial expression, give him an easily distinguished character for a child to grasp onto in a role play like game; add in the hat for a little silly whimsical twist and he’s all set for an adventure. This is far different to the usual  blank or typically overly happy dumb expressions painted on the faces of many children’s toys.
Also looking at the positioning of his mouth, Steve’s face is a great example of how the child who drew him had tried to add a little perspective, they clearly didn’t have an adult understanding of how perspective works-with his eyes being both on the same side-but Steve’s mouth is in the right place for his side profile. Also, in the original drawing, Steve, only has one leg, due again to a lack of perspective; while they have added his missing leg to the finished product, it may have been better to leave it out. A single leg would have made him easier to carry, giving him one perfect handle for a small child to cling too; whether or not the addition of a second leg was a decision made in production, or if it was simply assumed that the leg was supposed to be included is unclear, but I feel it should of simply been left out and stayed true to the original blueprint of Steve.
All of the designs in the competition are shinning examples of how children see their play things, and how they think that they should be ergonomically designed to fit childlike needs. The cognitive thinking involved in their conception is obvious and supports Piaget’s popular theory that ‘children are philosophers’ and not simple minnie adults; they think quite differently and the experience based logic in the designs of these toys is a clear show of a practical example of this thought process.


Creative Individualism

Piaget considers children philosophers, when we learn as children, we apply your prior knowledge and learn through using our knowledge in the every day. He disputes how we teach our children in school and the emphasis that our education system puts on non cognitive learning. subjects like English, Maths and Science are all about learned knowledge and not applied learning; as very young children we go from the play friendly and interactive knowledge, to written and memorised text book learning very suddenly and we have to leave all the fun and engaging play behind. Looking at how children learn when they are still very curious learners, it’s debatable as to whether this is a healthy progression, we don’t learn in this oppressive way naturally and so the lack of cognitive involvement in the education system goes against the grain of our natural learning. More arts based subjects are less emphasised in mainstream education and aren’t appreciated for their methods and their cognitive learning styles.
Applying this to my own subject, it’s quite glaringly obvious to me, as to how it fits into my practice.
Illustration bridges the gap between both cognitive and noncognitive learning, even in the most unengaging science text books there have to be illustrations in way of explanation. Being able to even see a vague example of how something might work, appeals to the more cognitive learning of children. From my own experiences of the UK ‘stem’ system, I can say that the lack of cognitive involvement in my own education was frustrating, even on a basic level. Being part of the Arts, it has always been glaringly obvious how underplayed the arts education is. As a young student, I always doodled, still do really, but I was always penalised for it by my teachers; doodling has always been a form of information processing for me, and the fact that I was never allowed to do it in class was extremely frustrating and the habit was somewhat beaten out of me until I came to higher education in uni. My doodling in class was a form of illustration for me, a stream of consciousness on my page, of my thoughts while in my lessons; this helped me to digest my learning and to create things that I could then go back to for a form of revision.
Illustration bridges the gap between both cognitive and noncognitive learning, even in the most unengaging science text books there have to be illustrations in way of explanation. Being able to even see a vague example of how something might work, appeals to the more cognitive learning of children.

Field: Community Space Project

Our Field challenge was, as a group, to come up with a community piece that followed our manifestos. My group has some somewhat annoying scheduling issues that mean that we had to get our project done in about a day, with some planning done over social media; while this played up to our ‘don’t over complicate’ manifesto point, it made the day we decided to actually do it quite full on.
The idea that we all decided to pursue was quite a simple one, we wanted to emulate the individualism of the collective art school; in order to do display this, we used are large white board and had as many people in the CSAD building to put a fingerprint onto the board with an ink pad we bought.

We positioned ourselves in the main entrance to the building and asked people to put their fingerprint on the board as they came in and out of the building. Most people were quite happy to do so, and we had a lot people who were clearly quite excited about doing it, but there were one or two people who had to be persuaded or just blanked us; it was an odd experiment with the CSAD students and staff, it was fun to see people in groups warm up to the idea when their friends joined in, even if they’d been sceptical.
We allowed everyone to use whatever finger they wanted and told them that they could put their mark anywhere they wanted. Most people tended to stick to the middle and they all began to group together in that spot, but we did get people to chose to put theirs at the very top of the board (or as far as they could reach) or the very bottom. It was interesting to see how people who put their mark on the  board when they were alone, in contrast to when they did it in a group or with a friend. Individuals would often just stick to the simple middle section and groups were more likely to try to out do their mates in how high or weird their positioning was; some even putting their prints over or in tandem with other older prints. The board quickly filled up over the 2 hours that we stood in the hall over lunch, when we thought most people would be around, and we when happy with the number of people that did put their mark on our board, we moved on to putting together our presentation.


Field Work Introduction

For the most part, our introduction to field was very heavy on the talking. We spent a great deal of time listening to our tutors, Anna (illustration) and Ceramics man-I’m pretty sure his actual name is Duncan?-, they presented some cool ideas to us, like Dada and the kind of artists manifestos that we had been asked to come up with, giving us some really good examples of manifestos to work with. But unfortunately, when you put two very waffley speakers together to lead a group, the sheer amount of verbal procrastination is overwhelming and I can’t say that I remember a whole lot of what was said because I zoned out a lot…
The first activity we did involved picking out some postcards and building a story or some sort of commentary based on the images and what they say. I feel like my group didn’t really get the task, we had it explained to us too intensely by Ceramics Man, who realised we weren’t sure what to do but ran verbal circles round us when he tried to explain, which lead to me zoning out and us still being lost by the end of it. What we came up with worked on a basic level of what we’d done, but I feel like if we’d been able to talk to other groups in order better understand the task and the parameters of what we were supposed to do with it, it might have proved more useful and been a bit better all round.

We were also given the task of creating our own manifesto and coming up with a cake based on this by the next day. My group were in a genrally quite anti authority mood, and therefore make up with a manifesto that reflected that pretty quickly; our manifesto, while simple, reflected our moods at the time. In keeping with this, we ‘made’ our cake in accordance with our mood; one in which no one wanted to make cake. Instead we came up with a de-constructed cake idea, this way we could bring in all the ingredients for cake and simply talk  about how it reflects the attitude of an art school. Our ‘cake’ would represent the potential and how you are only ever presented with the ingredients for success in life.

Our manifesto, while kept very simple and direct, was designed to be easily applied and to push us away from simple what we’d been told. Our group didn’t want to create some generic work and so our manifesto was built to push us towards that end; while at the same time reflecting a general mood of frustration and a very anti-establishment kind of mood we’d found ourselves in.

Arnheim’s Visual Thinking


Arnheim Argues that the way in which children are taught contradicts how we perceive information and how cognition plays a key part in the process. He argues that children learn more effectively when they are allowed to play and create, learning how the knowledge they have been taught can function in reality. Children learn based on their previous experiences and the way that they interact with the world, too much emphasis on subjects that focus only on learned knowledge from texts and books, gives a child no parameters for it’s use and relevance in reality. More arts based subjects give a child the time and opportunity to play and learn with gathering and perceiving information.
This is the argument between S.T.E.M (science, technology, english and maths) and S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, english, art and maths).

Future Generations Research

This being our first brief of the term and also our first real field brief that we’ve been given thus far, it is, of course, vague as hell. In essence, the brief has asked us to do the research project into the concept of future generations, we can go in any direction within this and come out with anything we like; the end result of this brief doesn’t even need to be finished piece as such. The scope for what you could do with such an open brief made it very freeing but also quite confusing; I’m beginning to see a pattern forming, most of our brief seems to be along a similarly vague and impossibly vague vein.
my group for this project has not been the most attentive lot, we’ve had a string of illness and annoying absences, due to this over complicated mess of poor timing and alarm ignoring lie-ins, the bulk of the work and planning has been lumped on just two out of four in our group, namely Zack and me. Rachel, who has been unfortunately very ill and Josh, who’s a pain to try to force into the studio, have been fairly inactive in the group.
So me and Zack threw ourselves into cult sci-fi movies as way of ‘research’ in order for us to turn up at the monday crit and sound vaguely like we knew what we were talking about.
The first movie that we watched was ‘Blade Runner’ (1982, directed by Riddley Scott), at the time we very looking at the possibility of technology taking over our lives and also incredibly fast innervations that each generation seems to expect – the movie is set only 3 years in the future for our current times. Set in an unrecognizable Los Angeles (2019), ‘Blade Runner’ centers around an incredibly advanced future in which bioengineered beings, or replicants, are advanced enough to pass for human, though they only have a 4 year life span. After 4 replicants escape and come to Earth illegally, looking for a way to extend their dwindling life span, it’s Rick Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) job to find and ‘retire’ the replicants before they find their way to the Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel).
Replicants are indistinguishable from normal humans, except for the reflective layer within their pupils that appear to reflect light in a similar way to cats and dogs (though this is not expressly mentioned in the movie, only seen). The only way to truly tell replicants from humans is by applying the “Voight-Kampff” test (which is an actual A.I test that can be applied to modern day A.I). As well as the on going search for the 4 escaped replicants, there is a very important sub plot involving Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell’s assistant, who has no idea that she herself is a replicant until Deckard is asked to test the “Voight-Kampff” test on her in front of Tyrell. she has been given fake memories and is utterly convinced of her own humanity until her suspicions arise after Deckard won’t tell her the results of her test. It is also heavily implied that Deckard himself is A replicant. The ultimate death of Roy (Rutger Hauer)- The leader of the escaped 4 replicants –and the monolog he gives before his death are what define the movie as such a cult classic; expressing the fleeting and fragility of life, as well as how tragic a loss Roy’s life is and how all his memories “will be lost, like tears in rain”.

In case you haven’t already guessed, I’m crazy about this movie: the characters, concepts and cinematography is stunning; it’s easily one of my favorite movies of all time. In addition to my obsession, it is also a very good exploration of what might happen, if we finally become advanced enough to build bioengineered models that can feel and think independently enough to pass as human. The idea that our future generations might have to deal with such a morally ambiguous reality could be possible in a distant future, though it is debatable as to how long it would take for that to happen. In addition, looking at the futuristic landscapes that the movie presents, the future looks to be a very dark and polluted place, L.A is almost always shrouded in dark threatening clouds that are spewed out by countless factories, that are slotted in amongst the towering cramped dirty city. This is not a future that any of us want to see, but one that is entirely possible given our current environmental destruction.
Two other movies, worth mentioning, that both follow a similar concept as ‘Blade Runner’, are ‘Metropolis’ (both 1927 and 2001)

and ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995)

‘Metropolis’ (1927) is sited as being a major influence on all futuristic Sci-fi movies that came after it, as one of the first true scifi movies. ‘Ghost in the shell’ is one of many modern cult sci-fi movies that has taken similar ideas as both of the above and thrown a new and fantastical twist on it.

Ingold’s Theory of Agency

Ingold’s theory of Agency, is the theory that when we create, build or do anything, we are taking part in a delicate balance of the ‘agents’ (components) or ‘dance of agency’. The ‘dance of agency’ is how Ingold explains the way in which the different agents involved in a process can effect the outcome, he uses the example or a musical instrument; the sound created cannot be emitted without the instrument, but the instrument cannot make the noise without the player, therefore all the agents in this equation are heavily reliant on each other to work and ergo are of equal effect and importance. Which relieves the musician of sole responsibility for the musical piece.
“When we think of making in a project”(Ingold 2013)…we consider the materials, environment and the creative process as things that we are in control of, that everything that we do is down to our movements and actions alone. He argues strongly that this is, in fact, not the case. Instead, we are in fact at the mercy of all the ‘agents’ involved in the process, and therefore our creations are not entirely our own.
In illustration, when you go to create a piece or draw an illustration, the initial idea your come up with in your head, is never the finally out come. This is an example of how ‘agency’ might work in practise; as the idea that you come up with at the start of a brief, is an idea that you’ve come up with based on a hylomorphism (a philosophical theory developed by Aristotle, which conceives being (ousia or true being) as a compound of matter and form.) thought process, excluding the agents you are working with as things that you yourself have complete control over. Ingold’s theory takes into account the limitations, reactions and complications that these agents may cause during the actual process to making, that prove that they do in fact play an integral and tangible role in the  creative process of making a piece or completing a brief.