Thursday, 20 May 2010

Speaking From Experience... Self Evaluation

What problem did you identify?
First year graphic design students spending their loan too fast and not knowing how to economise money spending.

What evidence did you find to support your decisions?

80% of students questioned said that they found it hard to manage their money.
74% spent their money on food, alcohol and entertainment... all things which are easy to splurge on.
64% don't earn any money currently.

I felt from this questionnaire students need an aire of guidance regarding money. For most students coming to university they will be living away from home for the first time and therefore have never really had to deal with money and budgeting on their own before. Expenses such as food, clothing, entertainment - general living expenses may come to a shock as to how much is spent on them without the guidance and financial support of their parents. For the exceptional students I'm sure that in such current economic situations money is a priority.

Looking through magazines there are many articles regarding money such as this one article 'CASH AND CAREERS CLINIC' which tells of the 5 reasons your money 'just disappears'... 1. Being too generous, 2. You're too busy to take notice of what you spend, 3. Making snap decisions, 4. Bailing poor friends out, 5. Shopping essentials and brands.

A day/week in the life of a student looking at expenses, I expected that I would only spend around £50-70, whereas I actually spent £150.79, averaging out at £21.40 per day and £1112.80 per year. This is a clear indication to me that it is very hard to keep track of where your money is going and there needed to be some way of organising money day by day. I USED to think I was fairly good with money until I conducted this survey on myself, it is quite an eye opening thing to do.

Some banks will give an overdraft of up to £1200, but expenses would be over £1112 for each of the three years while I am on the course mounting up to £3336 of living expenses.

What methods did you use to gather your evidence and what forms did it take? (categorise your research using terms primary, secondary, quantitative and qualitative).

Primary: I conduced surveys to gather new information. The surveys showed up to date information that gave me an idea of how this problem is affecting the students I surveyed.

Secondary: I looked at internet research and book research to find similar studies and what they found. The book and internet research gave me an overview on how the problem is affecting a more general audience. Having existing articles and information about student money issues means this has already been defined as a problem.

Quantitative: The survey I conducted with students gave me a broad generalisation of how money affects people when they are studying. Most people questioned are living away from home for the first time and money becomes more of an issue as students have to think more about what they are spending living on tight student loan budgets.

Qualitative: I selected a proportion of the surveyed students to ask further questions and get a more thorough view of money spending and weather they were money conscious. I looked at their spending habits over a day to day basis and calculated the projected annual money spent.

What methods of research did you find useful and why?

Conducting surveys on the specific target audience gave a reliable and up to date representation of the problem. Collecting people's experiences and thoughts on money issues also helped me to analyse the best way to solve the problem because I could get a deeper insight into where money is spent and relate it back to student loan allowances.

Looking at magazine articles and student advice websites gave me a good knowledge for a starting point on existing ways used to help students with their money. Having, a year ago, been the target audience I could relate to these ways of helping students save money and weather they worked with myself. On a general scale I found that the advice was very valid, however the form of the information isn't very appealing to read and doesn't help in making a serious issue more enjoyable to tackle.

How did these inform your response to your problem?

Knowing existing ways used to help students economise with their money spending helped me to analyse which were successful and which weren't and for what reasons. Telling someone where their money is 'disappearing' to may well be enlightening and interesting, but it doesn't solve the problem itself. So, to give students an alternative to splurging all their money in one go I came up with the concept of wallet sized tips and vouchers cards. They helped to budget day by day for planned tasks and for those days where there is nothing to do 'tip's' cards would give information of free things to do in and around Leeds.

The questionnaire taken by 50 students informed me further that this was in fact a very prominent problem shared amongst students. It also helped inform me in which areas to help mostly with money spending (food, alcohol, entertainment). These areas were addressed in the 'tips' cards.

Having a more in depth questionnaire looking at money spending habits helped me see further into how people can be ill-informed as to what they are spending their money on. By now people are into the routine of college life and perhaps have developed some not so helpful habits. Focusing on the problem from the beginning of the academic year would nip all potential bad habits in the bud.

What research could you have carried out that would have proved more useful?

Asking more students in and around Leeds would have created more valid and reliable research because the problem, although it will be aimed at Leeds art college graphic design first years, is no more related to these people as it would be to the rest of the UK's students.

Looking at more existing projects aiming to help students with their money eg. bank accounts, student unions, student discounts etc. would have given me a more wide spread idea of what is already out there. And being a student myself, I would have been able to look and analyse weather I was aware of these services in the first place and weather they appeal to me and why/why not?

Rather than finding out that 'organisation' on a whole would help students with their money issues, I could have looked deeper into this with another survey asking 'What would help you economise your money spending?' and 'Have you tried to economise your money spending previously and if so what did you do?'

5 things I have learnt about the design process over the last five weeks:
  1. Looking at existing products is key to helping find an effective final product because you can determine what had worked and what hasn't and improve on this.
  2. Ideas change and develop at a fast pace to create the best possible outcome, so defining a few set rules about the final product helped to focus me on the final outcome without loosing sight of what the initial task was.
  3. The more design ideas you create the easier it is to see what direction to take.
  4. The more initial ideas you take further, the better the final product because you have explored more avenues.
  5. Flexibility and patience is key. Having a final idea doesn't mean that nothing can go wrong and that it still won't develop further because of problems that arise.

5 things I would do differently next time:
  1. Collect research on a wider scale to get a better idea of how it was affecting people so I could better solve the problem.
  2. Research and experiment with materials more instead of going with instinct.
  3. Looked at more packaging ideas to create a better overall professional finish.
  4. If I had more time I would test drive my products to see how effective they are.
  5. If I had more time I would create a wider range of products eg. wallet, online webpage to download and create tips, a box to hold all items together as a set, etc.

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