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CSI Design School, Hong Kong

Environments 17 February 2014 | 10.00am

The East Asia Design School was held in Hong Kong across 3 days from 16 to 18 January 2014. The theme of the program was “CSI – Collective Sense-making to Innovation” which highlighted the importance of gathering information from a broad range of places and for people to see a problem from different angles and ultimately find a collaborative and innovative solution.

Day 1

After a quick self-introduction session, delicious dim sum lunch and an ice-breaker activity, our first group exercise was a crime-solving one – the unexplained death of a “Priscilla” type Diva! Delegates were divided into groups and given a general “evidence package” including fingerprints, weapon descriptions, blood samples and witness testaments. In addition, different pieces of specialist information were provided to each group to be shared or swapped as required.

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Costumes and sets were provided and based on the witness statements, crime scenes were re-enacted, piecing together critical information of the Diva’s last hours. Based on the information provided and the re-enactments, groups needed to determine if it was indeed a murder and who was the culprit. The decision was unanimous between groups; the Diva was murdered by her bar-owning employer!

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Day 2

A quick warm up challenge to build the highest tower out of dried spaghetti and mini marshmallows got the creative energy flowing. Each tower was expected to hold up a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg until judging time later in the day. Anxiety was high as towers dropped around us…would any survive the test of time?

In the meantime, the day was filled with a design and construct exercise. Short briefs were provided outlining what the Client required – a desktop stationery holder that wasn’t too expensive or too big. Groups got down to business, with discussion of suitable questions to be submitted to the Client as part of two Requests for Information (RFI’s). Each group then produced a design package for the Client including drawings, a budget and resource schedules and a separate specification document for the contractor (another group) to construct their version of the stationery holder.

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After lunch, construction began and the room was a hive of activity. Resources were collected and slowly the stationery holders began to take shape amidst a lot of last minute panicking – deadlines were looming! Constructed stationery holders were then compared to the design drawings and scored for how closely they matched the drawings and met the Client’s expectations. It was surprising to see most were very close to the design intent though it certainly pointed out the importance of asking Clients the correct questions.

And back to the spaghetti towers, almost all had fallen down by the day’s end, with the shortest one being the only one to remain standing!

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Day 3

Walking into the conference room we were advised that we would be taking part in the first “Amazing Race Arup”! Rules were explained and then we were let loose in teams to find clues, solve riddles and collect secret items from checkpoints to identify an event in history. Following the format of the TV show we were hit with U-turn and fast forward cards in a race to the finish line. Once all teams had returned, we were advised that we needed to re-enact our historical event so that other teams could identify what it was. Craft supplies were provided and teams went to work creating sets and props. A fun way to learn history, we saw dramatizations showing the first steps on the moon, introduction of the Euro, sinking of the Titanic, abolition of slavery and the collapse of the Berlin wall.

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The design activities were also spaced out with some great external presenters which included presentations on creative space collaboration and patent law, architecture projects around the world, forensic investigation methods in a kidnapping murder crime and the global fight against human slavery.

The 3 days gave us the opportunity to network with colleagues from a variety of disciplines and offices globally. The activities definitely identified new ways of thinking and approaching problems, all with a creative flair. Nothing like costumes and re-enactments to break down barriers between team members!