MA Design Expanded Practice: Graduate Address by Morgan Thorne

GraduationLast week we had our first graduating cohort of the MA Design Expanded Practice. The ceremony was specially designed for our programme and was full of happiness and celebration.

As part of the Ceremony, we asked Morgan Thorne,  from the Interaction and Technology Studio to give the Graduate Address. Her speech was warm, moving and embodied many of the values we hope to support in the programme. We asked Morgan if we could publish her speech, and she kindly agreed:

Professor Waller and staff of Goldsmiths, honourable guests, parents, guardians, friends and fellow Graduates – I am honoured to stand before you on behalf of all the students graduating today.

I’m originally from Barbados, a small island in the Caribbean. Before moving to London I was in New York City working in Advertising, and although I loved New York, I wasn’t passionate about my practice. When I decided to go back to university I spent a long time thinking about my future and the type of work I wanted to create. So, when I saw the description for our course, the focus on interdisciplinary collaboration from such a wide variety of studios, one that was said to “ challenge the role and norms of traditional design” and “push boundaries of what design can be and do”, it instantly felt like the right choice.

We are cohort of 103 students from all over the world. From Mexico City to Minnesota, from China to Greece, we’ve spent the last 15 months working together on multiple projects, spending time in Pubs getting to know one another, and travelling around places like Rugeley and Rhyl — all with the underlying aim of trying to better understand our practice and ourselves.

When preparing for this speech, I was troubled by how “speaking on behalf of” can often fall into a tendency to “speak for”, subsequently running the risk of silencing or misrepresentation. So, I asked my colleagues for their opinions on the best way to move forward. We thought back to how we negotiated briefs during our programme and soon came to the realisation that the best way to write this speech was to do it as collectively as possible. Collaboration was an important aspect of our course and we thought it made sense to continue to work in the same way we had done these past 15 months.

So, we decided to ask an array of students from all five studios a series of questions in an attempt to describe what we had just experienced. We asked 14 of our colleagues questions from their time at Goldsmiths, their practice, things they would want to change and the things they wouldn’t forget.

So, as a Graduate of the Interaction and Technology studio, the smallest of the five studios, I stand before you today as a representative reading a collaborative speech. Through this working together we came up with three takeaways from our shared experience.

Our first takeaway was our renewed confidence in ourselves and our practice. We felt that the course had helped us in many ways see our true potential as designers to impact the world around us. The nature of our course allowed us a lot of space to explore different topics, giving us the ability to mould our projects into something that we felt passionate about. This as times was daunting because we were given so much freedom to decide our own trajectories and outcomes. And although, our choices weren’t always the right ones we were able to create a supportive atmosphere where we could depend on each other for feedback and critique.

We were asked to listen to ourselves and figure our genuine interests in every project we were worked on. These experiences encouraged us trust our gut, that small, tiny feeling that told us that it was okay and we should keep going. This lesson was one that only came with us releasing ourselves from the confines of our own comfort and inherited training but it’s resulted in us developing our craft and sense of self.

The second takeaway was how our design practice had changed. Our confidence to engage and ask questions, to iterate and test gave us a new way of looking at the world. We were able to better process information in a critical way which in turn gave us the ability to re-imagine the potential of spaces, communities and people. This was incredibly liberating for us as it helped open our minds to the many ways we could understand and engage with the world. A particularly proud moment for all of us was our degree show were we were able to exhibit all of our projects, that were all so diverse, thoughtful and inspiring.

Our most prevalent feedback about our course was about our love and appreciation for one another and the profound effects we’ve had on each others lives. A make up of so many different kinds of people,different backgrounds, languages, cultures and interests, all of us intertwining and becoming our own little family. When we all first met, many of the conversations circled around what made us different, what someone called a lime in one country was a called a lemon in another but through our working together, field trips, spending evenings relaxing at the pub we were able to realise how much we had in common. Our love for design and wanting to affect the world in which we practice and our openness to learn, listen and act.

The last question we asked was “what do you wish for your colleagues?”. Most of our colleagues wished for all of us to get jobs in our chosen fields and stay in touch. But one response in particular stood out to me because it’s also something that I wish for the cohort as well, a takeaway that I really believe will help all of us live more fulfilling lives. It said, “I wish my fellow students to continue with the curiosity and the inspiration they’ve shown in all of the projects, if only because they all inspired me very much.” For me, this thoughtfully expressed the sentiment that from all these experiences, successes and failures and struggles and triumphs we’ve had during this course, we’ve learned so much from one another and ourselves.
As a cohort, we’ve been all lucky enough to pursue topics that truly interested us and made us happy, which was such an incredible privilege to be able explore so wildly and freely. To try to answer questions and delve into topics that we were always curious about. I hope that we all can continue to explore, critique and learn about the world around us no matter what we do next. whether it’s in our career or in our free time. I hope we can do it with all the same level of love, attention and curiosity that we did with all our project and I hope our working like this inspires others to see the potential design has to change the world around them.

A special thank you to Tine Ohlau, Erin Lui, Carla Schleicher and all the students that helped me write this speech with their thoughtful input.
Thank you to all the tutors, workshop staff, design office staff, our parents, guardians, friends and ourselves for supporting us, listening to us and allowing us the space and time to be here today. Congratulations to all my fellow graduates, I’m so proud to stand with you!

Thank you!