Reasonably Good for Nothing

Reasonably Good for Nothing
February 1, 2016 Andrew Davey

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to ‘think aloud’ as one of the guests at a Good for Nothing Social along with Alex Clifton (Chester Performs) and Al Jones (BBC), the theme was ‘Culture in Chester – mediocre, risk-averse and suspicious or open, challenging & embracing?’

The turnout was great, all the better considering it was before payday in ‘Dry Jan’. Al and Alex’s talks were both fantastic about creativity techniques and the new Cultural Centre respectively. I had some thoughts on design and collaboration that stemmed from MA Design studies, here is an overview.

Designers should consider artistic and mathematical principles in projects, being a good designer is seeing the value in both. If designers just consider projects in terms of the measurability, then creativity will suffer, if projects are thought of only conceptually then it becomes an art project, depending on the project, a designer will have to float somewhere between these extremes. Brian Eno suggests that focusing on measurability in the arts can kill it in his John Peel Lecture.

Design approach
“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” (attributed to Henry Ford but not verified).

Design can broadly be considered from two starting points, solving problems or breaking new ground. When solving problems, there is a measurability which is a more risk averse starting point to one that sets out to break new ground, the latter is more challenging with potential for greater innovation.

Disruptive innovation
Although solving problems is a more risk-averse approach, it can have risks; Nokia engaged with customers and answered their perceived problems with handsets, customers could only conceive of small enhancements. Apple created the iPhone, breaking new ground through creating the App Store, this innovation took over a lot of Nokia’s market share.

We can learn from this in a cultural context in Chester by not focusing entirely on the white middle-class middle-age demographic. This group has measurability of spending power because of affluence but we could end up with a mediocre offering. If Chester becomes a cultural Nokia with small enhancements, then Liverpool and Manchester will undoubtedly be the iPhone and Android that everyone goes to for innovative culture, even the demographic being focused on.


The App store’s power is through the use of an emergent system, a bottom-up approach of allowing a community to be innovative, Apple isn’t prescribing what innovation is, they created a space for App developers to flourish with their own ideas. Encyclopedia Britannica is prescribing facts, Wikipedia facts emerge.

Emergence in culture
A community in Granby, Liverpool started fighting a cynical top-down regeneration plan when their homes were going to be demolished. They painted doors of empty houses, cleaned the streets and pulled together. Assemble, a collective of Architects, Designers and Artist assisted with their ideas and built on this community vision. The Turner Prize was awarded to Assemble for this collaboration.

Coworking, collaboration, innovationStudio_5185-1
We run a coworking studio INDUSTRY, an open collaborative environment, we want to expand on this idea; we’re about to take an empty shop on Watergate Row for a short time. There’s an opportunity to learn from Granby and explore what can be achieved in Chester having a space where the focus is collaboration and innovation. Can we grow something from the bottom up that doesn’t have a measurable main focus? Perhaps if we are lucky, may be part of something that’s challenging and embracing that adds to the cultural landscape of Chester.

by Andrew

Hobbyaholic, likes fungi and knows the difference between a Great Crested Grebe and other crested waterfowl, can be seen in woods with a full tang knife wearing an eye-patch. Apiarist and meditator, a co-founder of Reasonably Good whose love of design stemmed from early rave flyers, some of the collection are posted on this blog. Contrary to this bio, not a complete twit.


  1. Richie McBride 4 years ago

    Like it Dava!

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Thanks Richie, value your opinion. Hope you’re doing well at the moment.

  2. Sally Hall 4 years ago

    Good work!

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Hi Sal, thanks for taking the time for a comment, nice to know the waffle gets to a few people.

  3. Ric 4 years ago

    Keep up the good work and the good thinking. Enjoyed catching up at this and listening to you speak. See you soon. RB.

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Thanks for writing a comment Ric, it was good to catch up with you too and Anna was very pleased to see you there.

  4. Laura 4 years ago

    Cheers for writing this up Andrew. Sorry I missed it: the flu has stolen a week and a half of my life from me!!

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Hi Laura, good to hear from you and sorry to hear about the flu. Hope that you’re busy with lots of interesting work, come to 61 Watergate Street from 15th Feb to see the free coworking popup experiment if you get chance. Pop in for a coffee at least at some point.

  5. andrew 4 years ago

    Interesting reading, especially as this isn’t my field but affects my business and how we market it…loved reading about disruptive innovation!
    I think Chester needs a good kick up the ass with creativity and diversity….just simply relying on it’s historic history will leave it exactly there, in the dark ages.
    Your idea to bring a space, in town, alive, through collaboration and innovation is brilliant and a real chance for those people wanting to be the change Chester needs, to come together and discuss their ideas. Granby is a great example of this and i’m sure you will forge your own path.
    I wish you all the best on this venture and look forward to seeing it’s progress.
    Inspirational as ever Davros x

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Thanks for that comment Andy. Disruption is what you’re all about, disrupting the usual markets (not farmers markets) to create new innovations, Festivals / Education / Classes / Cookery Schools. One day we’ll get a project going together that’s across both our fields. Keep up the innovation Andy x

  6. Tom 4 years ago

    Giving yourself time to think and explore ideas with others allows you to experience life as it should be experienced. Escape the drudgery and boredom of conventional profit making and enjoy life. We’re only here a short time. At least have some fun.

    • Author
      Andrew Davey 4 years ago

      Couldn’t agree more Tom. Passion comes before profit, we’re all a bit scared though… Keeping the creative passion ourselves and our kids is tough.

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