Ó Mãe, tenho Saudades // Design through Making

“Making is the universal infrastructure of creative production – be it technical or artistic scientific or cultural.” (Daniel Charny, 2011:7)

This project is based on a previous assignment, Brief#6 – Influencers, and it has a really open brief. We were required to design, prototype and make any 3D object that fits these requirements. Materials, function, shapes were left blank for us to decide.

On one hand, this brief is an opportunity to take the time and explore the facilities that the university offers.

On the other hand, Design Through Making aims to give the students background knowledge about what takes to build a 3D object. All of us are more likely to be having a future job that is connected with the thinking part of the process of making, instead of the production one. Therefore, it is essential to understand how and what can be done. Moreover, this will also facilitate communication at the moment of asking to bring our ideas to real life.


My Brief#6 – The Influencers presented my Erasmus experiences in Finland, reflecting on how those shaped myself and my practice. However, for this brief, it was time to draw conclusions from that and apply them into a material object.

The process started back in January 2019 when the assignment was given. As soon as the tasks are presented I start immediately deliberating of how to approach it. This time was no different and I started writing down some initial ideas. However, because of other projects, there was no time to think more about those embryonic concepts.

Then, it was time to sit down and catch up with the brief in order to begin the process. At this time all the other ideas didn’t seem promising anymore and I was doubting if any of those would fulfil the assignment.

After reading Craig Oldham words, “Your environment will inspire you. You will draw information from every aspect of your life and find the solution to a problem in a totally different place.” (2017:88) I decided to investigate further on the process of coming up with ideas and follow his recommendation of reading James Webb Young book, A technique for producing ideas.

With his ideas in mind, it was easier to identify and understand the stages of this simple but sometimes complex process. After gathering the “raw material” and reviewing and analysing all the ideas (Young, 2003:20), I had to walk away and unconsciously think about it when doing other tasks. “You drop the whole subject and put the problem out of your mind as completely as you can.” (2003:32) Then, the idea comes spontaneously and we can start stretching it to fit the brief and test if it is an adequate solution.

Along with the guidelines described in the project, my objectives for this assignment were to create something that would bring me back to the process of making. As I entered the creative world by doing sculptures and painting, I wanted to review this part of me and combine it with my Communication Design knowledge in order to make something with a clear function and audience. And, ultimately, make something that looks good in my portfolio and communicates my approach to a project like this one.


The concept that moved forward was to make an Erasmus Kit. At first, the idea was not clear, but the aim was to produce something for people that left Portugal to live abroad to take with them. Something that ultimately would work as a piece of portable culture. Therefore, this assignment ended up being also connected with my Brief#1 – International Pedagogy where I presented my country and the Portuguese culture.


It was not until we spent a day as course in the wood workshop that the actual visual ideas started appearing. “A plan of a design alters in the doing or, conversely, the beginning of making with the hands enables a plan to evolve.” (Martina Margetts, 2011:40)

Culture kit or Survival Kit? What items to package? How to package a culture? Can it be developed for a Portuguese going abroad and for a foreigner going to Portugal at the same time? Materials? Shape? These were some of the initial questions. Meanwhile, online research in platforms such as Pinterest was conducted to find inspiration about what has been done in this area.


Decisions were made and the concept evolved. It’s a culture kit for someone that wants to travel with something from Portugal or new residents that want to get a taste of what the country’s culture is like. This would also make the object a good option for a goodbye gift for someone in this situation. Therefore, it being portable and easily sent by post was a priority. It must be lightweight but durable.

Portuguese Products Inspiration

The products included are a port wine mini bottle, a codfish can, a small package of olive oil, a Portuguese football scarf, a book with Portuguese poems edited by me and three postcards also illustrated by me. For the visual communication, there were two initial considerations. Either the products would keep their original label to keep the traditional look associated with them, or I would create a unified brand that would be more visually appealing together.


The solution found was to create a brand for the culture kit and create an imaginary partnership between them and each one of the traditional retailers. This would be reflected in the labels that communicate the total visual brand yet still keeping the traditional logos included. The materials chosen for the package were wood, vacuum forming plastic and paper. 

After some sketches, the brand name ended up being “Ó Mãe, Tenho Saudades”, which means Oh Mom, I “miss” you (the feeling of missing someone). The word Saudade does not have a direct translation to English and it has been used numerous times as a representative of the language.

It is a long and not easy brand name but it was chosen because of the meanings and connections associated with missing the country, family and friends. Moreover, because it’s a kit that is meant for a special occasion it’s not likely that people will purchase the item several times, therefore, I think the name will not be over complicated.

The chosen colour palette it’s also straightforwardly connected with the country once it has the national colours represented.

Colour Palette Testing

“(…) Making is a revelation of the human impulse to explore and express forms of knowledge and felling, which shapes human action and hence the world we create.” (Martina Margetts, 2011:39) Then, it was time to start prototyping and getting my hands in the wood.

With the help of the Wood Workshop Technician at UCA, Paul Laurence, we started making tests on the vacuum forming, laser cutting and building the interior and exterior box.

Vacuum Forming

In parallel with the workshop part of the project, I started developing the visuals that go with it. From the colour palette, I experimented with geometric forms to create an illustrative touch associated with the brand. These shapes are composed either to create patterns or to represent traditional symbols associated with Portugal.

The visuals were applied on the exterior of the box for a branding strap that gives the audience a brief look of what is inside. Also, on the interior, all the labels were replaced for the “Ó Mãe, Tenho Saudades” ones. Additionally, I applied the same style to the postcards and the Poem book.

Furthermore, I also started thinking about how the brand would sell this product and have a presence. The images below show prototypes and ideas of what the website and some brand merchandizing could look like.

Branding and Communication Ideas


This project was challenging for two reasons. Time management and adapting the project to the workshop schedule were two aspects I had to deal with during this project. Because this brief was running at the same time than other bigger ones, it was important to prioritise but also to manage and adapt in order to conclude the task successfully. I can say this was accomplished and the schedule was well planned.

However, it is noticeable that the project could benefit from improvement if I had sent more time on it. It would benefit from more testing of materials and also the possibility of other solutions that would be more time-consuming.

To conclude, this was an interesting and exciting project that made me remember how important and rewarding it is to actually make stuff and have the look and feel of when what we designed comes to life.


Charny, D. (2011) Power of making: the importance of being skilled. London: V&A.

Oldham, C. (2017) Oh sh*t what now?: honest advice for new graphic designers. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Young, J.W. (2003) A technique for producing ideas. New York; London: McGraw-Hill.

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