Thursday, August 30, 2007

DCC Assignment in understanding design intentions and goal setting through brainstorming and categorization

Image: Coordinators of three sub-groups dealing with "Future of Retail in India".

The class has been divided into three groups, each with a volunteer coordinator and the topics were assigned by drawing lots. The coordinators then selected their teams by inducting members from the class by taking turns in selecting their colleagues in a stand-up session.

The three groups will address the theme of the course that has been set for this particular course which is to explore and articulate the “Future of Retail in India”. The three groups will have a sub-theme each which will act as an area of focus and these are listed below:

Team 1: Design opportunities and challenges in Retail of Fresh Food.

Team 2: Design opportunities and challenges for Retail of Provisions and FMCG products.

Team 3: Design opportunities and challenges for Retail of Home Electronic products and services.

The team members of each group are shown below and they will carry out brainstorming and make a presentation of their findings on Monday morning after they have found an agreed structure of the opportunity space in the form of words that cover the attributes and features and the having mapped the contours of the space as they understand it today. Based on the discovered structure they will explore a number of metaphors that would be useful to help transmit their understanding to the rest of the class in the form of a poster presentation which would show the metaphor and all the associated concepts that they have discovered in their brainstorming stage.

What is Design and Design Research: Class discussions on the Day 2 of DCC at Paldi.

The blackboard on Day 2 shows the areas covered and the models of fire and ice berg as a metaphor for design. The “Fire” metaphor shows that design is like a system which takes inputs from the environment and provides an output that is believed to be beneficial, an effect. It is located on the ground of culture and geography, very specific and very particular to the real world and is far from abstract although it is often mediated in the realm of the abstract before it is manifested in a particular situation.

The “Ice Berg” metaphor shows that only a small part of the design intention and action or effect are visible or tangible while much of its manifestations and intentions are intangible and can only be sensed by one who is willing to feel its presence and is capable of perceiving its effects.

The question of What is Design and What is Design Research were discussed. The books and concepts introduced in class include the impact of the Bauhaus as a transformer of design education at the turn of the century in Germany and the post-war efforts to re-define design education and research at the Hfg Ulm, again in Germany. The setting up of NID in 1961 and the articulation of the Eames report were discussed with a look at the NID documentation 64-69 as well as the Eames report and the Eames website as a source of reference.

The current debates on design research from the PhD-Design list as well as the posts on anthro-design and designindia were part of the discussions and the books introduced included “Design for the Real World” by Victor Papanek and “The Sciences of the Artificial” by Herbert Simon. Also discussed were the quarterly publications from the Design Research Society and issues one and two were taken up to introduce Liz Sanders and the MakeTools site, Nigel Cross and the paper by Charles Owens to look at their view of the design process and the designerly ways of knowing and acting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Know thyself

I believe it was in early 2000,when we met to discuss the dcc course at hand that this assignment was first conceived by ranjan, as a means to ''understanding yourself'' - to map yourself, your life memories,sensibilities, capabilities, values, influences, beliefs, aspirations, goals, traditions and more - all that is rich in significance for you.

So that they may confront the question 'who do i intend to be?',we believed it would be useful for all students to go through a process to get in touch with themselves, to review what are the values they have just taken from their cultural environment, and after reflection which would they still hold on to. Having done it here it would become a journey they would hopefully undertake many times.

Over the years I have found that many students have felt transformed after the exercise, there is a feeling of liberation having acknowledged and then shared with the class these very personal facets of themselves. Classmates are revealed in new ways and the class itself emerges on a new plain with a better appreciation of other members and of the diversity held therein.

All students go through a rather uneasy churning when they spend some quiet moments reflecting before putting pen to paper, and there are always some who feel restless, and even somewhat diminished at the end of the exercise. Here I think it is important to remember that the attempt is not to measure what you are but to help in creating who you want to be.

As Csikszentmihalyi says in (Good Business) '' A leader will find it difficult to articulate a coherent vision unless it expresses his core values, his basic identity. Yet while everyone assumes that his or her identity is transparent, there are, in fact few things so covered with veils of deception as one's own nature. For that reason one must first embark on the formidable journey of self-discovery in order to create a vision with authentic soul.''

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NIDG: The PG campus at Gandhinagar has a new social network

The PG campus neetwork is an active platform and we hope that it will sustain itself and move forward asa productive resource.

The blog has a post on the DCC2007 that was recently conducted at Gandhinagar. The blog of the NIDG Social Network can be seen at this link here.

The pictures have been linked as well below:

Find more photos like this on NIDG

Exploring the Self image: Assignment for the students of Textiles and Furniture

Image: Profile of the Emerging Designer

Assignment for the Paldi batch of Textiles and Furniture
The Paldi batch of Textiles and Furniture students are requested to explore this assignment on their own and prepare an A3 size image map of their own explorations into the self and submit the final image as a jpeg file by scanning and dropping the same into the UNSECURE server at NID Paldi inside the DCC2007_PG folder. The file name can have the following structure for easy identification “DCC Self_Your Name.jpg”. A word file may also be included which has a 50 word description of the image in order to provide a context for the viewers. This too should have the file name of the student’s name. Please note that the full name of the student may be included in the file name for ease of use and recognition. Submission will be on Thursday, the 30th August 2007 and we will look at some of these in class together for a group discussion based on your submissions.

Exploring the self and making an image map: DCC Assignment as offered at Gandhinagar and a discussion of the theory that informs this assignment.

Image: Self map: Aditi

All students at Gandhinagar did the quick over-night assignment and several of them were able to share the digital images of themselves in the class. This experience of articulation of an external image and sharing is important sine through this one can discover and express what ones deep interests are and what each of us believes is important for ourselves. This knowledge is quite important for design thought and action since it is best to work in areas of ones interest and the best performances do come from such an engagement since motivation and involvement are a very critical part of the discovery of design opportunities as well as in being able to tackle these complex problems with empathy and sustained effort that can carry the designer and design team well beyond the threshold of frustration which is quite common in such major design initiatives which do not easily get outside sympathy and support till after some kind of visible breakthrough is achieved.

The image of the self and its representation are less important in itself than the act of doing it with intensity and introspection. What it can provide the person doing the reflective representation is a deep insight into the self, provided it is done with the purpose of looking at oneself with the intention of discovering deep seated interests and personal beliefs which would be the motivational drivers for future design action. This could also provide the incentive for learning and other self improvement tasks which one would set to embark upon in the future and if we can see the connections these tasks become meaningful and would be then done with a deeper commitment and participation and not just a chore to be completed. This inner motivation would be the key driver rather than some looking for some external incentive, although these too may be useful in many cases, however the inner motivation is a necessary condition for sustained effort and the platform for imagination to flourish and translate into excellence in design thought and action.

Image: Self map: Akhilesh

Image: Self map: Anil

This assignment at Gandhinagar involved the students in a period of intense reflection about their own life experiences and how these could have shaped their character and belief systems, some which may not be consciously held by each one of us, while other may be painful but still rewarding to reflect upon as a source of learning about life itself. A period of reflection and meditation about oneself and ones intentions are a useful starting point for design learning and for the subsequent engagements in design thoughts and actions. The student is then required to capture their thoughts in a external representation in the form of doodles and words that can capture ones feelings, experiences and emotions and well as specific events in ones life that could have helped shape a particular belief or behavior. To be aware of ones beliefs and taboos would help one in focusing ones energy towards the goal setting tasks at the fuzzy front end of the design process as well as keep ones commitment to the task as the complexities lead to many layers of confusion and conflict which is quite common in dealing with the wicked problems of great complexity and their associated periods of frustration and low emotional sustenance. Working in a team helps since all the skills and abilities that are needed for the various tasks can be shared and in design as in many other human tasks many brains are better than one and so are many hands which make light of many heavy tasks and these would also need a climate of creative leadership to sustain the motivational levels that can contribute to the production of excellence as we have seen in many management case studies.

Klaus Krippendorff, in his book, The Semantic Turn talks of design being mediated by the use of language more that most designers would care to agree. While images are used it is the discourse in language that helps provide a sense of meaning and in sharing the common understanding that needs to emerge between client as well as the team members if the design tasks are to be accomplished with a high degree of quality and fit. In a similar manner the exploration of the self is a discourse within oneself which is aided by the creation of the image which is supported by the story and the words that are invariably used to describe the life experiences and the learning from that experience. So this can be seen as a process of translating a vague feeling of interest into a articulate statement which is rooted in the expressed form of the image and this can then be shared with colleagues and partners as a part of this process of learning from the articulation process.

For Krippendorff, the theory of the meanings of artifacts in language has to be self-reflexive and since designers always attempt to change the world, they must use language creatively as well. Language is not therefore an immutable entity which resides in dictionaries but a living force that is constantly re-defined and categorized by the thoughtful connections made in pun and intentional play through juxtaposition and discovery of new relations. This assignment is therefore a beginning of a journey of the design student learning to engage with the world and oneself which is a part of that world but best known to themselves being the closest thing that they can examine from inside and out, and from this reflective engagement they are required to create a model that can be shared with oneself as also with others in a design situation.

Image: Self map: Arunima

Image: Self map: Charanya

Image: Self map: Gaurav

This kind of model building is at the core of design thinking and action since the process of design progresses from a nascent understanding of an freshly identified opportunity that is triggered by a fact or a perception of a reality which is further supported by an imagination of a possible outcome, however abstract and incomplete it may be when it is first encountered. From this kind of imagination comes an iterative set of initiatives in the form of an exploration that is directed by the intentions of the designer towards a possible goal. This is described in my model of the design journey and the initial stages are those that only the designer can see at first (since they are internal, as a vague sensation in the mind) and unless it is articulated in language or expressed in a visible and tangible model that is further supported by language of description, it cannot be transferred to another person who is part of the forward chain for the realistaion of the design and manifesting it in the real world as an introduced change. This assignment therefore has an ice-breaker effect and helps loosen up many design students to the world of expressed models, especially those dealing with abstract and intangible aspects of design, and what better opportunity would there be for articulation of the known than ones own life and the lessons gleaned from this life.

Image: Self map: Harry

Image: Self map: Madhavi

Image: Self map: Neha

This assignment was developed over the past ten years or so in the DCC class and it has been found to be very useful as an ice-breaker in helping students start a journey of self discovery and in learning from reality rather than from authoritative sources and books as the only way forward. In design we need to trust our senses and our own convictions and these would need to be tested with a degree of open-mindedness if we are to make valuable contributions to both society and culture, which is a real outcome of great design action. The images shown above are a few examples from the 30 that were produced by the students of this class at Gandhinagar this year.

Image: Self map: Ram

Image: Self map: Saurabh

Image: Self map: Suchita

Monday, August 27, 2007

DCC2007_PG Class starts at Paldi campus for Textiles and Furniture students

Image: Day one, students who made it to the class today.
Today we had many absentees due to the long weekend with Onam and Raksha Bhandhan, but the brave ones were there and we did get the show on the road, DCC has begun and the students have made a dash to Calico Museum after we discussed it in class. There was a heavy downpour in the afternnoon and I am not sure of they made it to the museum on time but their report on Wednesday will tell us what happened.

Image: DCC2007 Black Board on Day one.
The DCC black board shows that we discussed "What is Design? .... and the Designer?" and looked at various aspects of design and how the designer knows what needs to be known. The nature of knowledge was seen as not being additive but with a focus on understanding rather than a mere collection of facts, like putting new ones into a container. Insights were important as was motivation and exploration. Imagination was the key to finding design opportunities and this also created the problem of not being able to share these easily and much effort was needed to show through models, from abstratct to tangible at various levels of reality, before we are able to manifest a design action in the real world. The future is not knowable although we may glean trends and possible approaches, but the future can be created by design, if we are able to translate our intentions into tangible actions with sensitivity and care, this future can be sustainable and beneficial as well.

Image: Books that were introduced to class.
We introduced some leading thinkers in design as well as current concepts that are being discussed and debated on forums such as the PhD-Design list as well as the DesignIndia list on yahoogroups with a focus on the major authors whose books are at hand as well as those who are easily accessible through JSTOR research and ofcourse on Google and Wikipedia. More later about these sources and the authors.

Students will submit a writen note by email on what they think is design after they have explored various internet sites and accessed the books in the NID library. Students were asked to reflect deeply on their own belief systems and what they had experienced in their childhood which may have contributed to some of these beliefs. This would lead up to the next assignment when we meet again in class.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mapping Design Opportunities for India: Models by the “Play” Team in the DCC course

Image: The "Play" Team with their Model


The design opportunities discovered by the individual team members will be posted here as they make the submissions the next few days.

Mapping Design Opportunities for India: Models by the "Work" Team in the DCC course

Image: The "Work" Team with their Model


The design opportunities discovered by the individual team members will be posted here as they make the submissions the next few days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mapping Design Opportunities for India: Models by the "Life" Team in the DCC course

Image: The "Life" Team with their Model


The design opportunities discovered by the individual team members will be posted here as they make the submissions the next few days.

Mapping Design Opportunities for India: Models by the "Society" Team in the DCC course

Image: The "Society" Team with their Model


The design opportunities discovered by the individual team members will be posted here as they make the submissions the next few days.

Mapping Design Opportunities for India: Models by the "Nature" Team in the DCC course

Image: The "Nature" Team with their Model

The design opportunities discovered by the individual team members will be posted here as they make the submissions the next few days.

Mapping Digital Design Opportunity across the selected domains in the Indian context: Offerings by brainstorming and categorization

Image: Nature, Society, Life, Work and Play Teams with their models using a chosen metaphor and each depicting a structure of the design space that they have been assigned to investigate and model through the process of brainstorming, categorization and model building, all done as a team.

The students of the DCC class at Gandhinagar have today made the first layer of organization and articulation of the design opportunities that they have discovered or should I say gleaned from their group engagement over the weekend. They explored the task of the five domains that were assigned namely – Nature, Society, Life, Work and Play – and from these structured and introspective explorations they have identified a mutually acceptable framework of concepts as well as categories under which they can frame the specific digital design opportunities that they have perceived during these explorations.

The brainstorming was carried out in a number of sessions with the group discussing and capturing the concepts in a random manner on sheets of paper and after a number of iterations they have attempted the building of an acceptable structure that would adequately describe and help understand the space that they were assigned in the course. While there may be overlaps the focus would be on describing the design opportunities as abstract concepts in the beginning and later moving progressively to setting priorities and providing depth and detail through a further process of articulation, discussion and scenario building, all in an iterative mode. The models that emerged from the categorization of the found concepts helped each group to build a shared understanding of the design opportunity space as well as the macro-flows of information and to take stock of the various influences that could impact the particular opportunity as it is unfolded in the design process going forward.

These conceptual structures and modeling experience would help the student to share their current understanding with others with a degree of conviction help to obtain feedback as well as advise and critiques from stake-holders and experts in the next stage of the design process. Such feedback and repeated presentations of the models shapes the contours of their own vision about the possible design approaches that could be taken in their chosen space and about the details that would still needed to be addressed to fill the gaps in their own knowledge.

The design opportunity mapping that has been done by each of the five teams if shown below and these will be explained in a statement that would be submitted by the teams after they have made group presentations and conducted expert reviews in the days ahead.

Image: Nature – structure and metaphor (brief description by student teams will be posted here)

Image: Society – structure and metaphor (brief description by student teams will be posted here)

Image: Life – structure and metaphor (brief description by student teams will be posted here)

Image: Work – structure and metaphor (brief description by student teams will be posted here)

Image: Play – structure and metaphor (brief description by student teams will be posted here)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Design Opportunity mapping and making choices in India

Image: Mapping Design Opportunities – Individual Assignment

Having explored the five regions of the universe of digital design opportunities (Nature, Society, Life, Work & Play) all the students have had an experience of having intensive brainstorming sessions as well as the task of categorisation of all the concepts into a coherent structure. This is a process of plumbing the memory banks of each individual member as well as the team as a whole since the process creates thge possibility for collaboration and cooperation in the very confusing area that is the "Fuzzy front end of design" if I were to borrow the words of Liz Sanders and her colleagues who have done remarkable work in the whole field of exploring the beginnings of the design journey and the papers about this journey are available for download from her website here.

The students are now full if ideas and appraoches about potential application areas and they should use this preparedness to try and capture the opportunities that each of them individually feel are of high priority as well those that are imminently doable through local investment of effort, resources and money. The next assignment is therefore a "Mapping of selected digital Design Opportunities" that are in their view high on their personal list of priorities. For this they may need to think as entrepreneurs and envision how they would take it forward and use this inner vision to articulate in one paragraph of not more that 100 words the specific opportunity that they think is both desirable and perhaps feasible. They should also give the project an evocative title like a potential brand name that can be attached to the task as a working title that will guide the partners and the team members about the core concept and the intentions of the design opportunity that they offer to the group.

Each student is required to list out at least five such design opportunities in consultation with their team members and while this is an individual task the team will be in it together to support and expand the opportunity so that we can make it happen sometime down the road.

These five design opportunity descriptions will be sent by email to both the teachers as well as to all the team members.

We now look forward to the articulation of the design opportunities and to a full presentation of the models and the insights generated by the group brainstorming and the intense discussions that all the teams have had all night at the Gandhinagar campus yesterday, very stimulating indeed.

See my papers below in case you need some clarification on the concept of design opportunity mapping.
What is a Design Opportunity?
What is Design?

Also look at the KaosPilot site for information and insights about the Fourth Sector. (Downloads small pdf file.)

Also see the two wonderful Apple Design Projects of 1995 and 1996, INFARM and MANDALA as examples of design opportunities that were visualised and shared with the design community in 1997 at ICSID, World Design Congress at Torronto.
Download: INFARM pdf file 1.5 MB
Download: MANDALA pdf file 1.4 MB

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Team formation for Digital Design Opportunity assignment

Image: Volunteer team coordinators with Prof M P Ranjan

The five groups dealing with the following areas – Nature, Society, Life, Work and Play – were formed by asking for five volunteers to be coordinators of each area and from the volunteers the areas were assigneed by casting lots.

Nature team: Shalini Dey
Society team: Arunima Saboo
Life team: Harish Dubey
Work team: Zinal Patel
Play team: Charanya Sivakumar

Image: The Natrue team

Nature : All encompassing. Nurturing everyone

"Human beings are always going to be dependant on some other being for every thing we need or might need. More often than not the urge to sustain, makes us look towards nature. Nature, as long we can remember, is looked upon as an entity with character, traits, emotions. Like us, it too has soul. It feels, nurtures, soothes and helps. Helps us be. But we, like it's careless children tend to take it for granted. We exploit, destroy and fuel our greed some more. And we keep fulfilling the chasm of our needs till resources get exhausted and we still keep looking towards it for some more. Nature like the responsible and affectionate mother, tries and tries, till it can not breathe anymore to give us whatever we want. It is time that WE become the responsible ones. Try and look within ourselves to find that compassion which we kill everything, when greed overpowers us. To give back, bit by bit, all that we have taken away. Give back love to get what we need. In the end we DO need to Sustain; We too are a part of what we are killing."

Image: The Society team

Society : A foundation of civilization, survival by mutual co -operation could be called a society.

A society survives on understanding, structuring and most importantly a design. It’s a form of structuring which differentiates the ‘intelligent being‘. Each individual part of a society has a social responsibility and individual concerns are looked at collectively and with compassion and understanding. Realizing and recognizing responsibility, abiding by the laws of society and learning to live in harmony is the edifice of living in a society.

Image: The Life team

LIFE, as said ‘Jaan hai to Jahan hai’.

Life is the most precious thing God has gifted us. It is a fusion of struggle, commitment, recollection of dreams and sentiments. Life is to achieve goals and to make them valuable. Life is a continuous process of exploring and learning from experiences. Life is about nurturing, bonding socially and emotionally. It is colorful for those who live it and tragedy for the rest. Life exists after death in the form of a smile, memorable moments and tears.

Image: The Work team

Work: Work is worship

We all have heard the old saying that, "Where there is a will there is a way.” So, if we need to achieve something we need to work. Generally in a broader sense WORK is defined as Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something but it doesn't mean only to complete a given task but its the passion, commitment and zeal that is involved in it. Work is the attitude towards the job that is rewarded and recognized at the end. There are few other inseparable attributes of work that are time and quality. So work in its totality is the satisfaction that is felt and the appreciation that one is rewarded with. Various works of people has been the great boon to the world only because of the enthusiasm and attitude involved in it.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Image: The Play team

Play: After two days and nights of brainstorming sessions we have categorized our ideas, and should soon come up with a structure that represents more than 5000 (five thousand) digital design opportunities.

"Play is a very natural activity that everyone from a little child to elderly people can engage in, as it helps break free from routine and intrigues us. Thus, in the context of one's interest, play could be any physical, mental, social or spiritual activity. Recreation, creativity and imagination have always been important aspects of play. Our purview of play also includes anything from an individual activity like 'reading a book one finds interesting' to an economic activity like 'investing in the stock market' which involves many people. Thus, play in general can influence our well being, relationships, learning abilities and generate interest in otherwise monotonous jobs."

We now look forward to see what they will show us next Monday morning in class when they are expected to present their digital design opportunity maps for their respective areas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assignment two: Disclosing the Self – Modelling the Discovery through Reflection and Introspection

Image: Slide from the EAD06 Show about the DCC assignment on “Disclosing the Self”

In the lecture and discussion held at NID Gandhinagar yesterday with the batch of thirty students in the DCC course we examined the nature of design as well as the attributes and characteristics of the designer. Design is an activity that takes place in a field of thinking and believing persons where a variety of belief systems and levels of understanding may prevail and this by itself would call for a great deal of sensitivity in the management of the intentions as well as the directions of the proposed outcomes. Technology is but one of the many considerations that the design teams would need to cope with and it may not be the most challenging aspect of the design task on hand. Social and cultural factors may play a significant role in shaping the intentions as well as determine what can be indeed offered as a solution to the perceived problems in the given context. Temporal factors too would have their own impact and one solution that was found valid at a certain moment may become invalid or even objectionable when the context would change with time and location. This makes the task of design truly complex and it has therefore been called “wicked problems” when the complexities are almost unmanageable using the usually accepted tools of logic, science and management.

Image: DCC Whiteboard from Gandhinagar, August 2007

In such a situation the designer too would need to know what the self is bringing to the situation, since all of us have our own system of beliefs as well as our abilities and knowledge levels which would in turn determine our ability to understand or empathise with the particular situation that is to be improved or changed. It is here that this assignment of exploring the self with an intention to discover and disclose comes into focus. The student is asked to reflect and introspect about themselves and attempt to try and plumb their memory and the boundaries of their consciousness about themselves in order to discover their true interests as well as the sources of their learning and belief systems in a whole range of areas that may matter in the process of design. Knowing ones strengths and weaknesses as well as interests may help in setting the learning agenda as well as help set priorities for what one would like to learn through reading and self study. It can also help motivate one to make the investments needed to change oneself in the area of skills, knowledge and most importantly in the area of the attitudes that one brings to the activity of design. It is here that the assignment may make sense in helping one reveal to oneself many aspects of our being and from this we may choose to disclose only a part of our experiences and beliefs but the journey would be useful in any case for the individual and their peers in the class.

Design is a reflexive activity since it is carried out in a thinking and acting field of persons who can and will react and this calls for a heightened level of sensitivity in the designer if we are to achieve a degree of satisfaction and closure. Charles Eames when asked a question about the nature of the boundaries of the design task he asked for the boundaries of the design problem. In a diagram that he submitted for an exhibit in Paris in 1969 he modeled the roles of the designer, the client and the society in a very insightful manner and stated that one could achieve real satisfaction only when the task fell within the overlapping zone of the interests of all partners. This amazing diagram or model of the “What is Design” can be seen here along with more about Eames at the Library of Congress archive.

My slide presentation and paper titled “Creating the Unknowable” which described this course at the EAD06 conference in Bremen 2005 can be downloaded from my website here. Link: Full paper 50 kb pdf file Link: Slide Show 4.1 MB pdf file

Monday, August 13, 2007

DCC PG2007 (Gandhinagar): Assignment one – Theme: Design inside 230 sectors of the Indian economy

Image: Design Opportunities categorized by five broad fields – Nature, Society, Life, Work & Play

DCC PG Batch 1: Gandhinagar Campus: PG Students of the following disciplines
New Media Design, Information & Digital Design, Software & User Interface Design

Design Opportunity Maps:
Using the five –field categorization proposed by Prof. M P Ranjan in his Hyderabad lecture – Nature, Society, Life, Work & Play – we will have five groups of students in the DCC PG 2007 class look within each of these five broad areas for design opportunities and sub-fields that can be outlined in an expressive model and try and discover as many applications that could challenge future design students all over India.

Each group will explore one area and identify by the process of brainstorming and categorization as many design opportunities that they can find and then arrange them into a structure that is contextually relevant. The fields and sub-fields may be categorized in a manner that makes most sense to the group. On discovering a structure that works for them they will try and represent these in one visually interesting model that will make the structure memorable as well as be a source of reference in design schools that are being built as part of the new National Design Policy. We would hope that this exploration will help set the agenda for several years of design exploration and be the fountain of ideas from which numerous assignments and projects would emerge while they cover the needs of the various areas adequately. We will try to be as comprehensive as possible since the National Knowledge Commission we hope would be taking this work seriously since it is something that they would wish to do themselves.

Brainstorming: First Session
Capture all the associated ideas and concepts that come to mind when addressing the chosen topic and jot these down in a random manner on a large sheet of paper with all members of the group contributing to the sheet. Target would be about 500 word ideas, each with some explanation which the group can supplement later if required.

Categorisation: Session Two
Using Post-it stickers or card sorting and listing methods the team would arrange the discovered words (and Images) into a structure that makes sense to them. This would show how each concept is related to the whole as well as to the nearby concepts in the form of a semantic map or network diagram. On arriving at a satisfactory flow-chart or diagram the team would embark on the next stage of the assignment. Such diagrams are also called Affinity Diagrams.

Representation in an Evocative and Memorable Model: Session Three
The key words and associated networks will be represented by the team in conjunction with an evocative metaphor that can help support the chosen field as well as the parts in a sensible and memorable manner making the concepts both accessible in the future as well as well as be suitable as a poster that could find a place in a future design school somewhere in India and become a source of inspiration for the faculty and students there.

Presentation and Discussions: Session Four
Each group will make an adequately large model on paper or digital form for presentation as a single large image that can be shown to a group in the class and these models will be explained and critiqued by peers and faculty as part of the class presentation. A summary of this work will be posted to the blog after the discussions.

Note: The Hyderabad event can be seen at this site – USID2007: Living in Digital World

Download presentation by Prof M P Ranjan titled Living in Digital World: Opportunities for Engineers and Designers File size 2007 800 kb pdf

The other presentations shown in class today can be downloaded from the links below:
IDSA2006_Ranjan_v02: Giving Design back to Society: Towards a Post-Mining Economy File size 695 kb pdf
The Design Journey: Model File size 670 kb pdf
The Design Journey: Voice File size 1 Mb duration 15 minutes Quicktime .mov
Watch or download from here Hans Rosling at TED: Making the Impossible Possible Quicktime movie 20 minutes duration

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Design Concepts & Concerns Blog: An interactive platform for the DCC course at NID, India

Image: Fire as a Metaphor for Design

The Design Methods course provided the limited framework for discourse on design theory at NID and in the mid seventies the course went through its first metamorphosis with the appearance of the environmental agenda into the Foundation Programme being introduced by the then coordinator and teacher Mohan Bhandari and this layer has persisted over the years. I started teaching this course in 1982 soon after Mohan Bhandari left NID and by then I had started bringing in my own convictions to this course in some tentative way at first and later with a more definite value orientation that is reflected in my own engagement with design research and practise over these years in the crafts, bamboo and small industry perspectives and later in the domain of digital design all informed by the context that is India. The case material and the concepts being developed caused me to change the name of this course to Design Concepts and Concerns (DCC) in the mid nineties. In this period we also embraced systems design philosophies that came to be accepted at the senior years of the industrial design programmes at NID and its intellectual bearings came from the works of Stafford Beer and Gui Bonsiepe besides Buckminister Fuller and Victor Papanek. Bonsiepe’s books and documentations of the work in Argentina and Brazil continued the thought processes started at the hfg Ulm and brought a new perspective that of the difference between design in the West and that of the Periphery and its associated social and economic implications.

Image: Profile of the Designer

For me the Design Concepts and Concerns (DCC) course became a platform to revisit the domain of theory each year after several fresh and new experiences in research and practise during that year since all NID faculty are expected to teach, research and practise within the Institutional studio and professional practise framework. Design Concepts and Concerns (DCC) is about Finding, Knowing, Doing and Feeling, the last word of the quartet being the most important in my opinion. Which is why the name of my course was changed from Design Methodology that was used in the sixties to suggest that design was a scientific discipline and later on it was called Design Process to suggest that it was steeped in good management but now we understand that t is neither Science nor management and it certainly is not Art. I changed the name of my course without official sanction several years ago since NID gave a great deal of latitude to its teachers to experiment and evolve their courses as they too developed a better understanding of their subject. I am grateful for this liberty as a teacher but bemoan the fact that many colleagues do not read enough and pursue an intellectual debate to argue these positions nor do they understand these ideas fully nor support these views from a form of apathy that seems to permeate our intellectual landscape. My model for the “Profile of the Emerging Designer” that I use in my class to sensitise design students to the range of possible professional profiles was first published in 1994 at a seminar on design education at the IDC in Mumbai provided a framework to look at all design professions from this tetrahedral view of the skills and knowledge base of a design professional. (Ranjan 1994)

No one is comfortable when we talk about ourselves as designers in India and the role that we should, could, or would play as a designer in the Indian context. It is the context that gives us the shakes. We get perplexed at the sheer size and complexity and cannot see where to begin or we see the opportunities for our special skills at the comfortable and special end of the economy where about two percent of our population lives and push away our sense of guilt when someone asks us about the other 98 percent and our contribution to these people or even the middle 60 percent of India. However all our students know that design as we are discussing it in the DCC class is about looking, knowing and doing what needs to be done, however uncomfortable. Doing it thoughtfully, skillfully and with a great degree of empathy for the user. The value orientation in this class is deliberate and the model of the designer as a tetrahedron of vertices with Finding, Knowing and Doing as its base and the most important quadrant, in my view is the apex, which is that of Feeling. This is what we bring to our students each year and throughout their stay at NID.

Redesign of the DCC Course: Introducing the Macro-Micro design strategy
For the Foundation class of 2001 we were compelled to innovate our teaching strategy because our city of Ahmedbad was seriously affected by the continuous bouts of rioting that prevented the usual movement of students into the field for user centered studies. Therefore we decided to look at macro economic issues as our point of reference for this particular course in design thinking. The results wee startling to say the least. The “Concept Mela”, a sort of concept sharing exposition, which the students put up at the end of the course shared visualisations and explorations that the seven groups of students had created and each was the proposed framework for a sector specific initiative for design action in India. These explorations were informed by a series of brain storming sessions and the usual lectures and coupled group assignments that followed the structure that this course has been known for at the NID. This time however the young students were in the process of transforming India from a resource poor country to a self confident and successful economy that it can be since nobody told them that this was not possible, the skeptics were missing. They were told to research the various macro parameters and use the NID faculty and senior students as their immediate source of expert consultants. The groups formed went through a progression of assignments at building models of the economy with a view to discover structural relationships and functional proximities between related industries and economic sectors. Five groups looked at the same issues and discussed these with great enthusiasm and captured the major attributes of these sectors and their interrelationships by a process of brainstorming and discussion. The thus identified parameters were arranged using Post-it stickers into intermediate structures and based on a consensus within the team and amongst the consultants that they chose to involve.

The resultant structures were represented the form of presentation posters, each using a suitable metaphor for organising the elements. The five groups had five different models but several aspects of these overlapped and some models were more amenable to further manipulations than the others. However at this stage all the students were highly motivated and demonstrated a very high degree of clarity about these macro economic parameters and their impact on the National economy and its related issues and contexts. One group proposed a Ministry of Design and divided the economy into basic producers (primary), processors (secondary) and services. The representation was in the form of a city road map with a downtown circle that had the three forks, one for each category, which got further divided into a branching diagram that accommodated all the individual sectors identified by the group.

Another group selected to depict the economy as a Venn diagram with here major areas of economy, ecology and society with the interstices of these accommodating the critical sectors that needed inputs across these areas. Yet another interesting strategy was to look at the interrelationships between a few key-driving parameters and this was represented as an interactive wheel where the outer circle defined the individual sectors where design could and should play a critical role, and these numbered 230 in all.

Design Initiatives: Sector Specific Strategies
The efforts of the students and the resultant flow of ideas was further supplemented by a series of lectures by the author on the institutional frameworks that were needed to make this initiative a reality in India. I shared the work done for the two institutes dealing with crafts sector and the bamboo sector with the students and asked them to identify specific opportunities that they could locate for immediate action in the Indian context. The teams were further divided into seven and this time the students were permitted to join teams that they could align themselves with on a personal interest and ideology basis. The result was startling and the motivation levels kept these students active in groups on an almost round the clock basis in a seemingly inextinguishable flow of energy and creativity. Each group created panels that described the issues visually and built models to share their vision of the proposed framework for action, each in a small panel based exhibit that could be taken to the public. This time we invited the public into our campus, and over two days of intense interactions, the students got a great deal of feedback and critique from a large number of visitors. Seven sectors were selected from a larger list of possible choices and the Institutional frameworks developed to address these are as follows:

1. Badal (Monsoon Clouds)
Proposed as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), the metaphor of the monsoon clouds is used to describe a process for strengthening micro-enterprises through the use of research, assimilation, refinement and delivery of know how to the micro-entrepreneurs just as the clouds perform a function of delivering rain to the people. This is way of understanding self-employment strategies of some successful people in one part of India and to be able to share these with the others in need.

2. Udaan (Flight of the Spirit)
A strategy for the empowerment, modernisation and for Information Technology enabling of rural India with a deep understanding of the needs of this particular community or groups of such communities distributed all over the country, each in their own environment and unique cultural and linguistic space.

3 Aavriti (A Platform for Change)
The child and its activities are the focus of this initiative. The design opportunities area of toys, games and active education are addressed in this framework. India does not have a single agency that is capable of embracing the design needs of children although they form almost 60 percent of the total population.

4. EDD (Education Design Developments)
The proposed network of designers would work towards improving the quality of education in India. The design needs of the education sector are both complex and fund starved at the same time. The use of the web and face to face strategies form the basis of this design scenario that could build a network of designers with teachers, students and other interested specialist contributors.

5. SEEDS (School of Ecological Design Studies)
This organisation fosters a holistic approach to issues of environment through education, research and action strategies that are unique to the problems of India. The belief system embedded in this proposal assumes progress through a two way learning process in building contemporary design solutions and in learning from the traditional wisdom of an established society.

6. Green Dots (Design Organisation for Sustainable Transport Systems)
Transportation strategies that do not damage that environment need to be innovated and made acceptable to our society if the quality of life in our cities and villages is to improve. This strategy includes the use of novel solutions and sustained information campaigns to build acceptable models with the involvement of people.

7. IID (Institute of Interface Design)
To supplement India’s software engineering strengths there is a need for the capacity to make products that are usable and appropriate for a wide section of indigenous users and for export needs. The proposed framework and associated scenarios fill a real need for value added approaches to enhance the interface design capabilities of our existing software industry.

This effort gave us a glimpse of concepts that were both necessary and achievable. The next stage in this course led to the development of scenarios by each student of one sub-opportunity that they individually felt could help precipitate the necessary investments or action in the sector of their choice. The fact that these explorations reached concrete action plans with well-defined objectives and a visual expression of the possible scenarios made it easy for visitors, senior students and faculty to engage in a deep discussion on the merits and risks of each specific approach. This is the hallmark of design thinking and action that is rooted in the domain of the visual scenario that can locate the discourse at the macro level and at the micro level simultaneously. The future of design too lies somewhere along this path and we can and must find new roles for design in the production of images that can inform decision processes, some of which are so complex that they need many iterations and political mediations to resolve in an amicable manner. Most importantly these design processes need the involvement and partnership of a multitude of stakeholders and such visualisations make the concepts, decisions and issues available for visual review in a transparent and understandable manner that fosters long term partnership needed to achieve the lofty results. Design at this level has the ingredients to create the avalanche effect, a great positive mobilisation, an overwhelming quantity of something hopefully new and beneficial, with a very small designerly effort.

Since this batch we started selecting a major theme each year and offering these as challenges to the batch of students through which they could experience the design journey of inploration and exploration using the tools and processes that were introduced during the course. Some of these themes, a few examples listed here , were introduced in the various courses of which some have been briefly documented at my website at these links below while the others will be added as time permits.

Theme : Globalistaion and Impact on Indian economy – Link: Documentation of the course in 2004
Theme : Khadi as a way of life for India and the World – Link: Documentation of the course in 2003

Theme : Child friendly services
Theme : Services across sectors
Theme : Food, Clothing, Finance and Entertainment as design opportunities
Theme : Creative Industries of the Future
Theme : Design Institutes for the States and Regions of India

The various concepts and concerns that inform design action as well as the theory of design have been expanded upon at other links here as well as on my blog called “Design for India” which will be updated with contemporary concerns and reflections in the days ahead.

Design Theory links:
Prof. M P Ranjan’s website and Design Theory links below
What is Design?
What is a Design Opportunity?
What is Design Knowledge?
What is a Designer's Profile?
Levels of Design
What is Design: Fire Metaphor
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