Cre­ative forces be­hind a city on the up

Cre­ative Dundee co-found­ing di­rec­tor Gil­lian Eas­son gives us a glimpse be­hind the scenes of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and some of the pro­jects that are in­volv­ing whole com­mu­ni­ties in their cre­ation.

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Istill think of my­self as a de­signer, even though I’ve not de­signed a ta­ble or chair since fin­ish­ing art col­lege nearly 20 years ago. We all have our views about what de­sign is and for me, de­sign is sim­ply about find­ing and solv­ing prob­lems. Like most new busi­nesses, Cre­ative Dundee was born out of a frus­tra­tion that artists, de­sign­ers, dig­i­tal de­vel­op­ers, ar­chi­tects and ev­ery­one else mak­ing a liv­ing from their cre­ativ­ity, weren’t well con­nected or well known about, even in a small city like Dundee.

We saw a prob­lem that we could cre­ate a so­lu­tion for, and now a few years on, we are an or­gan­i­sa­tion which am­pli­fies and con­nects cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties hap­pen­ing across the city.

We run events, get in­volved in city­wide pro­jects and have an ac­tive on­line pres­ence. We use de­sign ev­ery day be­hind the scenes to make sure that what we pro­vide meets the needs of the peo­ple who use our ser­vices.

For us, good de­sign is in­vis­i­ble. De­sign is usu­ally only ob­vi­ous to users and cus­tomers when it doesn’t work well. We all have painful ex­pe­ri­ences of bad de­sign – I have too many to share.

Our small team at Cre­ative Dundee has used de­sign to help im­prove the city and its sur­rounds in order to make it a bet­ter place in which to live, work and study.

Over the last year we’ve run a small project in Sto­b­swell which ex­plored and chal­lenged some of the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of the area. My col­league Claire worked in part­ner­ship with lo­cal peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions to find out their sto­ries, hopes for the fu­ture and mapped their hotspots on a dig­i­tal map, which in­cluded places such as Bax­ter Park, “Swan­nie” Ponds, and the house of Franken­stein’s au­thor, Mary Shel­ley.

These per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences tell us more than just which places we might like to visit – par­tic­i­pants spoke about the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity spirit and sup­port, the ac­tiv­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties that many peo­ple might not know ex­ist on their own doorstep.

Us­ing a de­sign ap­proach to un­cover the prob­lems in the area, we cre­ated a short film fea­tur­ing voices of the com­mu­nity to high­light the great ben­e­fits and pos­i­tives about the area, in the film, “A Post­card from Sto­b­swell”.

The film has been shown at fes­ti­vals like Blue Skies, and has been viewed hun­dreds of times on our web­site.

A larger project, We Dundee, was de­vel­oped with Fleet Col­lec­tive to find out what peo­ple loved about Dundee and hear their views on the city’s fu­ture.

More than 4,000 peo­ple sub­mit­ted their ideas and although this project was orig­i­nally to sup­port our bid to be a UK City of Cul­ture, ev­ery­one’s feed­back was re­ally im­por­tant to gain­ing the UNESCO City of De­sign ti­tle.

It was a great project to be in­volved in and it’s a good ex­am­ple of de­sign work­ing well. We Dundee re­minded res­i­dents how proud they were of their city and a num­ber of peo­ple even de­vel­oped pro­jects and busi­nesses from read­ing the many ideas on­line.

We’re al­ways look­ing for ways to de­sign, en­gage and im­prove the city and have some in­ter­est­ing pro­jects lined up.

The de­sign com­mu­nity is re­ally strong in Dundee, so if you want to con­nect For more in­for­ma­tion on Cre­ative Dundee and its pro­jects, visit www.cre­ative­dundee.com

Screen in the Square: as part of Dundee’s Com­mon­wealth Games pro­gramme in July 2014, Cre­ative Dundee filled a gi­ant screen in City Square with lo­cal films, an­i­ma­tions, mu­sic and more.

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