Another episode with a different voice! This week Max Pownall (you can hear Alison and Max chatting in episode 76) talks with Hannah Manley, a design PhD from Nottingham Trent University.
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Welcome to a special guest hosts edition of talking D&T podcast usually with Alison Hardy, but today with me, Max Pownall. I'll bring you some new voices and perspectives to add to the discussion around D&T education. Let's go okay, so hello, everybody. Welcome to another instalment of my guest hosting of Alison's talking D&T Podcast. Today, I'm continuing my discussion with successful women over DMT. And taking a step into that mystical world of research PhDs and true academia. I guess. I'm joined by Hannah Manley. Hannah is a PhD researcher at Nottingham Trent University, along with me and Hannah. Hello, welcome to Alison's podcast of being run by me. You want to start by introducing yourself and talking about kind of how you got here, I guess and your journey through D&T.Hannah Manley:
Hello, what a nice introduction. Thank you, Max. Yes, hello, I'm Hannah. I am a PhD candidate at Nottingham Trent University. And I suppose I started my journey at NTU doing product design BA. And then was really, really inspired and passionate about my final year project, which is about women's health and medical design. So I picked that up and continued with that through my master's which is the product design MSC. And, again, continued loved it. I don't don't more detail about my research,Max Pownall:
Yeah talk about what you are doing nowHannah Manley:
yeah, design for women's health, and specifically designing for menstrual blood and reproductive health. So really passionate about that. And in my master's, I redesigned a menstrual cup. So that was really fun. And I learned a lot about manufacturing processes like injection moulding. And then I suppose I was so passionate, I enjoyed it so much that I thought this is definitely worth pursuing. And I found myself really enjoying the process of research and exploring and finding new things. So I was a research assistant for about half a year again at Nottingham Trent University as part of the medical engineering design research group. And I then was able very fortunate to get a scholarship to study my PhD here. So I'm currently in year three, which is mad, but loving research, loving the process. And yeah, hoping to improve women's health through good design and human factors.Max Pownall:
It's good. It's really, really interesting. So you talk about the kind of getting the passion for designers have in your final year of your undergraduate in product design, and our course and so before that kind of what was what do you think was the thing that kind of really sparked you there? And before that kind of what are your journey been like to get there?Hannah Manley:
So I suppose maybe this is experience as a girl, I think young girls always have more liberty to be creative and to get colouring pencils out and, and be artsy. So I was always kind of a creative child. And we have we were lucky in primary school to have some design projects. I think that is quite unusual. So I designed a biscuit in year three, or whatever it was. So that was really fun. Just really enjoyed it. And then I really remember doing a quiz. I think when we were ready for GCSE are kind of one way of choosing which subjects to take. We took a quiz as part of personal development, and answered them all and it says you should do product design. And I thought, Okay, sounds right. Sounds good. I googled what that meant. And it just kind of really fit the bill. So I then chose graphics as a GCSE. For some reason resistant materials didn't seem like a valid choice and that now I look back to that online misogyny.Max Pownall:
Yeah, yeah.Hannah Manley:
I don't know why I didn't think that that was good for me. I suppose. You hear a lot of stories about people and designers and engineers saying, oh, you know, as a kid, I I never stopped tearing things apart to see how they were made. That's not me at all. I like drawing things and stuff. But yeah, I was never driven by that. So maybe that influenced that decision. But I did enjoy graphics GCSE. And I made a pop up book. So I suppose that could have been bringing 2d into 3d. I don't know if I'm reflecting too much on that. And then I was very lucky at school, they did offer product design a level. So I picked that alongside physics and art, which kind of was a nice trio for me. So upsettingly, I really did not get on with one of my art teachers. So that that was unfortunately the reason that I did not take that on. And I carried physics on instead, but absolutely loved the process of product design, I really enjoyed making and kind of running little rubbish experiments with strip heaters and bending acrylic and seeing what would happen to try and make some camping cutlery. And I really enjoyed the process of designing for other people. And one of my projects was designing, I was very into dance growing up. So I designed this. It looked like torture equipment. It was stretching equipment to help ballet dancers with specific stretches, including something that you'd lay your back over and then just buy something I don't know if that would work. In reality, it looks kind of terrifying. But I think I enjoyed that process of finding a need and designing for that need.Max Pownall:
Cool. Okay, but so that's that sounds really, really interesting, kind of, as you were talking, I was kind of thinking, do you think do you think there was it's interesting that the two kind of things I pick up from there, you've got kind of your your experimentation, your idea you had where you said you're always kind of playing around with things and designing a biscuit and doing things of that. And then you had your kind of artistic side kind of you wanted to draw and things do you think? Do you think you were kind of inadvertently or advertently from them led by kind of your your teachers in your experiences to kind of be more that side, as you said, like girls are allowed to be more creative and draw and things got more free than boys doing kind of resistant materials, I guess? Do you think that was kind of a decision that you made? Or do you think men are reflecting back that you were kind of led down that route? And as you said, with doing art, but then it didn't quite work? You didn't have that good relationship? What do you what do you think about that?Hannah Manley:
I think it seemed like a very natural route. For me, I am very lucky in that I never felt like these big decisions when you're choosing GCSE or a level was I never felt like I was torn between things. It just seemed a natural thing. Sure. I do think definitely be a girl, you know, it was okay for me to go to school and carry a big Art folder and be seen as that person. And I'm sure there are a young guys and boys struggling with that. And I would say don't care what anyone thinks and do what you're passionate about, because that will take you to where you want to be. But I certainly I did love the product design teachers. Big up to Lloyd Evans, and Luke Harding chipping Camden. I was obviously initially intimidated, particularly by Mr. Evans. But they were brilliant, they were really nurturing. And it was actually now I think of it the kind of the perfect amount of freedom. We were allowed to explore, we were allowed to use machinery and you'd learn a little bit of kind of cap design and stuff. And we were just kind of given just the right amount of loose reins to explore as long as they kind of all came back to the coursework in the end. So I think that was actually really important. It never felt regimented. So that probably really helped that creative side come out.Max Pownall:
That's really interesting to hear, because there's a lot of kind of movement within education, our level. And I think that kind of secondary education as well about kind of, like people, inspiring people to be lifelong learners and exploring through kind of creativity and things. But it's just interesting to see that that's kind of a thing that you picked up on. And those two tutors or two teachers with the kind of influential factor they kind of gave you that free rein to kind of be creative and a bit kind of wacky, but then rein you back into the, into your section now, which is good. So what made you want to kind of ... had you set yourself on that path after that doing that quiz? I said product design? Did you kind of think right laser focused on what to do that or did you as you go through did you think what made you decide to do continued product design at a university level?Hannah Manley:
Or do you think it's a really good question, because I consider myself I consider it certainly in a way the path of least resistance right totally made sense to me. This algorithms that we Good for me. And it felt right. So why would I resist that. But also, I really consider myself a huge goody two shoes. And I would have absolutely been striving for the best and trying to get those top marks. And so it's really hard for me to pin down exactly what that was. ThatMax Pownall:
just felt like the kind of the natural progression,Hannah Manley:
I suppose I have to hand it to my parents and on all those teachers, because they just trusted me to make that decision and know that it was right for me. I'm very lucky that I've never had expectations from my parents to you know, be a doctor, or you hear these horrible stories where people kind of feel forced to do a certain degree. So lucky to have never had that pressure. And certainly lucky that every teacher I had at school, had that attitude of we'd love to have you here, but we're not going to force you. So just very grateful to all those adults. Yeah,Max Pownall:
that's really good. Really, really nice to hear that you didn't have that kind of pressure. I wondered if that's where you kind of goody two shoes then came from the kind of pressure but it sounds like it's kind of coming from yourself. Strive? Yeah,Hannah Manley:
I think it comes from that it comes from being on the eldest as well, I've got two younger siblings. So that that definitely, that's the goody two shoes coming out as well. And, you know, being good church girl and having lots of extracurricular activities. I think that, but that, yeah, that was never external pressure that was just being fortunate to be able to do all these things. SoMax Pownall:
you seem to have really kind of thrived with that pressure as well. Yeah, I never kind of, I know, there was moments in the past of you being kind of hyper stressed out with final year and masters and things. But you always kind of dealt with that pressure. And even now in your, your research is quite highly pressured. And there's time constraints, and we were having a conversation before about kind of a stressful day you'd have and things. How do you think you kind of, do you have particular kind of tools that you think is it just in your nature that you can deal with that? Well, or is there anything you kind of think you can use,Hannah Manley:
let's be real, like, there have been times where I have not dealt with pressure. And it, I don't want anyone to think that I'm this amazing, talented, stress free person that I just work and it gets there have definitely been dark days. But I, again, I've had that support system to get help if I've needed it with stress or you know, getting the proper help from GP. But yeah, I don't know what the trick is. I'm currently doing daily meditation. So that definitely helps. But I think I am luckily very good at seeing a big task and be able to break it down into small chunks. And I think that is what design is. And that is what every day is. So practising that is quite good. And you can apply that to revising for exams, or you can apply that to applying for a job. But yeah, breaking everything down into manageable pieces.Max Pownall:
That's great. That's right. So so taking all your experience on board that and we used to sit last year, year before few years, we've kind of taught together a couple of courses, and then you're doing some dissertation supervisions for us now things so we're taking now you've kind of passed on into that kind of industrial academia world reflecting back on your own experiences and applying this to kind of the students as we see them now and things What do you do you see any kind of changes to kind of what it was like for you coming through or difference in the students? And what do you think about thatHannah Manley:
massively so and I feel very old when I say, Oh, back in my day, just a few years ago, when I was doing my undergrad, you would not see a laptop insights, everyone would be scribbling on pages, and it would be quite no like a loose chatty atmosphere. So I think there's definitely a culture shift. Everything's on screens, and some of these people like sketching on iPads and stuff looks amazing. So I can't I can't complain, because it can look incredible. And you can get amazing results with digital work. But I can definitely see that as a as a difference. And with the new generation coming through. I think, I don't know if this is me kind of seeing what is not actually there. But I feel like there's such a huge fear of failure that seems to be getting more and more prevalent. And I don't know if that's the exam culture that is cultivating this idea that everything if it's not right, it is wrong. And that is completely a fallacy. Like, that's the whole process of designing and creating is having that freedom to As up and not being scared to mess up, because by doing that, you create awesome stuff. So I think if there's any way to prepare for that, or to kind of overcome that fear of failure, it's just I always, I did keep a sketchbook over one summer. So I worked in a sweet shop for quite a few years in my spare time. And when it was very quiet, I would sketch passes by through the windows, and you've only got kind of four seconds to get that onto paper. And if it's crap, it's crap, but you've done it. So it was a nice way to pass the time. But I think being able to make a really quick sketch, and be happy with it, and move on, is really useful. I think that's maybe what we're missing.Max Pownall:
sure that it's really interesting that you talk about kind of failure and things being right and wrong. And I guess especially with your research, now, there's a lot of kind of, you're kind of venturing out into the unknown to kind of find out what you're what you're doing. Do you do you think some of your your kind of success in your path has been? Because you you, you have that freedom? We talked about those, those stages before? Do you think that kind of comes from that is that you think thatHannah Manley:
may well be I didn't have us a school system, you know, we weren't hit on the rest. If we made a mistake, it was a very nurturing, like, Gentle Teaching environment. So yeah, there certainly was not not that fair. You know, if you don't make that chair, perfect, it's gonna be detention like there was none of that. So yeah, I think you've hit the nail on the head, that kind of nurturing. And that nice environment of freedom of exploration really does help that Sure. That fear of failure.Max Pownall:
Yeah. So it sounds like you had a really, really positive experience and your education and things in terms of, I guess, kind of role models? And what kind of women representation and things. Was there anybody? Firstly, was there anybody kind of really inspired by? Or did you need to see somebody like that kind of, to be like that person? You have to see that person kind of thing? Or do we kind of really just kind of on this path of what you thought was just the kind of the best route for you? What do you think about in that world,Hannah Manley:
I suppose I was never one to idolise growing up. So I didn't have my favourite pop star, I didn't have my favourite colour even. So I suppose I'm not really one to do that. And to like, look up to very specific people. I was always so inspired by the Open Days at school, and in art, we would all exhibit our work. And the art rooms were decked out with beautiful work from previous students. And we could always see the projects from in the design department. And like some of the corridors had kind of exhibit windows where you could see some stuff. So I suppose that always really inspired me.Max Pownall:
Was that while you were at the school, you open days, andHannah Manley:
you know, get to choose me, I took part in the open days. So yeah, I think I suppose I'd say I was inspired by that. And I really remember in the art department, an amazing picture of fish that had been caught on ice in an icebox just look so realistic, otherwise, so cool. So yeah, some things definitely stuck with me. And I suppose I just, I enjoy looking at nice things. So we had the Robert Welsh shop and design in in the village where the secondary school was. So being able to see that process, he had some cool exit exhibitions of where the design process of their famous knives from beginning to end of the process. So this kind of inspired by that rather than people I'd say,Max Pownall:
okay, that's, that's good. That's good to hear. So is there anything to kind of, if you've got to kind of got the platform Allison's podcast platform as to kind of preach out down to kind of the secondary educators and or people in undergraduate and things? Is there anything that you kind of you think people should really be doing to kind of help people like you kind of whim or maybe you need help? Maybe you kind of would have got there, however, because you've so kind of driven in that good way. But is there anything you kind of think that yeah, that would be really good to see more of obviously talks about ability to fail or kind of waste or explore Is there anything else you think would be beneficial?Hannah Manley:
I suppose something that's maybe missing is group work, okay. And kind of maybe that freedom to fail can also come in a group. So something that I quite liked doing. We used to play. There's loads of different names for it used to call it Japanese whispers. So you draw something and then write it out and pass it on a drawer out. And so the picture would change and it's a collaborative effort. And it's silly. Yeah. So I suppose again, you can't make a mistake and you're working as a group. So I suppose activities like that. If you don't enjoy it, it's better with friends.Max Pownall:
Yeah. Do you think that applies to the students? We have it kind of undergrad and postgrad level the experience out there do you do? Do you think they're kind of missing any, anything the kind of skills or anything you feel like, I can remember us having lots of talks and things, particularly on teams, and we're in full lockdown about kind of all this, why aren't we? Why can't we get through to the students while they were doing the same things used to do a really good thread after every project, you do really good breakdown of all the kind of common mistakes we've seen, and more areas for improvement. So from that kind of university level, is there anything there you think the kind of people are missing?Hannah Manley:
Yeah, I think maybe it's the fact that school is, understandably, teachers are limited to how they teach and everything does, to an extent have to be spoon fed, and they have to deliver an amount of content. And I do I do appreciate that. I think it's, we noticed a huge problem when students were then coming through. And they then really struggled to think for themselves. And it got to the extent where I remember when I was uni, undergrad, I would not dream of asking a question in front of everyone, if I was not certain that it was not a stupid question, I look through every single document that I could find online and see if the answer was not already available to me. And only then would I approach, you know, these, I use the word formidable, but like these really impressive tutors that I really looked up to, because I wanted them to know that I was on the ball. And I think that there's a bit of an attitude with some students coming through that we are here at the back and whim. And they will make no effort to find something for themself and make themselves accountable for their actions. So and I don't know how you improve that, I suppose taking some responsibility for I don't know, if it's a part of a group project. Or maybe just allowing students to have more choice, rather than prescribing this as the essay, you're right, maybe give a little bit more freedom. In that respect. It's really difficult. But yeah, remember, fighting with that issue? And then what to do,Max Pownall:
I think that is an interesting challenge at university level, because the dynamic changes, I guess, does kind of primary and secondary, you've got everyone else that has to go with us to do their GCSE. And their maybe there are levels, but then when he gets to university, it's that switch to almost kind of customer client style thing. And it costs so much now. And there's kind of so much investment in there that yeah, there is some times that expectation of like, what are you doing? For me? It's kind of it is hard? Yeah, for my own experience, it's difficult to kind of, to not react to that. I think sometimes universities have fallen down. And because they respond to that the students like we asked for this. So we did this. And actually, maybe that's not creating the right kind of culture, especially when we're talking about creativity and freedom to explore. And kind of all the best innovations came from people who took a chance and did something a bit kind of out of there and crazy, didn't they say? Yeah, interesting, interesting challenge, I think particularly your offer higher education. The The final thing I wanted to touch on for you is I know Alison always likes to her guests to kind of talk about anything interesting. They're reading or podcasts or exhibitions, or maybe in your case, articles or papers you've you've read, do you think there's anything interesting that you've kind of come across recently that you think might be useful for our analysis listeners, if there's anyone listening to kind of Yeah, advertise to them? I guess.Hannah Manley:
I did think about this a lot. And I thought, Oh, this is a way that I can flexMax Pownall:
you know how I read your own papers.Hannah Manley:
Honestly, I know that you know, these are teenagers. And as a teen we are reading so much and writing so much for school. I I did enjoy reading for fun to an extent, but there's so easy to get burnt out. So I would really recommend I found the Netflix series abstract. I think there's a couple at least of seasons now. Incredible, really inspiring to see artists and designers at work in their space, their process really inspiring and it's such an accessible medium, you know, you can mock out of an evening and just in purely enjoy it and know that you're getting something out of it as well. And then I would say for me, rather than sitting and reading about something I really encourage kids to get making. So I learned a a lot about my own creative process burst out by making my own jewellery and doing a lot of wire twisting and bending and adding beads. And that was a really fun and purely kind of chaotic process. And then when I tried a different types of making a different craft, which was knitting, that's very systematic, and you follow a pattern or you follow rules. So that was a totally different creative process. And as I was thinking about this, I was like, Yeah, this is not something that I've learned from reading or something, an exhibition I went to visit, this is about exploring something. So trying to encourage that kind of trying something new and making something with your own hands and just seeing how it goes.Max Pownall:
Oh, that's really good. ties up nicely with everything you said, I guess it's all your whole kind of journeys from here to now. It's all been about freedom to explore and exploring and trying things out. So it's actually quite nice to be like, yeah, get out there and try some stuff. And brilliant. Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time, Hannah. really insightful to actually have a chat with you rather than complaining or whatever else we normally do. But yeah, thank you hope everyone who is listening, found that useful, and I'll see you the next one, I guess. Thank you very much.