Monday, October 27, 2008

Parsi, Jain and Marwadi Food: An Anthro-look in DCC2008

Parsi, Jain and Marwadi Food: A closer look in Design Concepts and Concerns course in 2008. The batches involved included Graphic Design, Film and Video Communication, Furniture Design and Ceramic Design, all from the Post Graduate programmes at NID.

M P Ranjan

Image 1: Parsi food as a table setting of various categories of food from the Parsi fold and a backdrop of storyboards that was sued to tell a story of the Parsi way of life as the team understood it after their anthro-design investigations.

The Parsi food team had a matrix type storyboard on the wall and they used it from left to right and top to bottom to tell the story of the Parsi way of life and the role of food was woven well into their story. While the image and installation was not that visually rich they told a good tale and many insights about Parsi food came through in the presentation. An amazing number of facts had also been gathered by the team having contacted many Parsis in Ahmedabad and discovered the sources of supply of ingredients and Parsi delights.

Image 2: Jain food was represented as a road to salvation and a roundabout for the mortals. The route to Sainthood is flagged with street signs and terminates in a lamp.

The Jain food group spent more time explaining the philosophy of the Jains and their taboos for particular food types and as a consequence missed out on the appreciation of the value of Jain food and their potentials that is the purpose of the design investigation, to find sources of value and an understanding of the context at many levels. Their model was once again more symbolic than expressive and each section needed an explanation from the team for the finer aspects to be appreciated. The overall understanding that the team brought to the class was eventually quite deep.

Image 3: Marwadi food was shown as a very rich shop for provisions and the cultural attributes were captured in the icons, turbans and images of real food as well as the trappings of a real store in action, the balance, the price list and examples of food types all classified and visually articulated.

The Marwadi group had a collage of images of Marwadi food and an installation of the fields from a desert location besides the store metaphor that was the main attraction. The group also gave us a historical overview of the migratory passages of the community and the assimilation of various local cultures by way of food habits that the community had imbibed through this migratory passage over the years. In all a very rich presentation.

M P Ranjan

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food across Communities: Macro Micro investigations in DCC

DCC2008 Paldi Group 2: PG Disciplines at NID: Graphic Design, Film & Video Communication, Furniture Design and Ceramic Design: Assignment one: Mapping the known universe of Food: Producers, Converters & Consumers.

M P Ranjan

Image 1: The Producer Group with their model of the production pyramid and the variety of food types at the circular base.

The last batch of students who are taking the Design Concepts and Concerns course here at Paldi campus of NID were asked to look at the theme of Food at the Macro level of exploration in three groups, each looking at three stages through which food travels from the land to our plates, from the point of Production, Conversion and then Consumption. This kind of Meta investigation is encouraged in all design journeys since it is a good point of departure for any design task to take stock of what we know of a particular subject or a theme that is being addressed and to try and map this territory as clearly as possible before embarking on a further journey of research and experimentation to discover what we do not already know. As a group process, this kind of articulation of what we already know about the broader contours of a discipline or a particular subject is very useful to discover the depth of understanding that is present with the group members as well as get a glimpse of regions of uncertainty and in particular the areas of ignorance, which could inform the later stages of research in those specific and identified areas.

Image 2: The Producer Group making their presentation to the class.

This batch was divided into three broad groups that included, Producers, Converters and Consumers, since the focus was on Food and we were keen that the groups would explore regions that were beyond the ordinary, to include areas of agriculture, nature and food production through the Producer focus group while the broader contours of processing, trade, branding and distribution could be covered in some detail by the second group which we called the Conversion focus group. The last group looked at the whole area of Food consumption lying at the far end of the supply chain by looking at the Consumer as a category along the long path from growing to eating. Each group went through the processes of brainstorming and categorization to discover and articulate what was known to the group and from these explorations they built models that could be used for a show & tell presentation about the insights gleaned from the whole process.

Image 3: The Converter Group gathered around their Sun metaphor with the long supply chain as a literal exhibit on the floor.

This batch of students came from the disciplines of Graphic Design, Film & Video Communication, Furniture Design and Ceramic Design, all post graduate students, from a variety of disciplines which brought a good mix of variety of skills and abilities to the group processes in this course. The three groups had an equal number of students from all the participating disciplines since the process of selection ensured an even mix in the composition of each team. Three coordinators volunteered at first and they then selected one team member from a particular discipline by turn till all the members from that discipline were assigned to one of the three groups. They then moved to the next discipline and selected additional team members by taking turns and all the disciplines were covered in the end. Each group had an even mix of students from all the participating disciplines and in the end we took lots to assign the three meta themes to each of the groups thus formed to ensure that the whole process was democratic and not pre-determined by any one including the teachers.

Image 4: The Consumer Group with their “Last Supper” metaphor to capture the huge variety of conditions of food consumption across India.

The three groups wee given a day and a half to explore what they already know about the chosen and assigned theme through a process of brainstorming and categorization and the group then built a structure that was based on the discovered words using a metaphor that best captured the meaning of the joint investigation that the team had discovered during their explorations of the theme. The producer group came up with a Pyramid of concerns with the hierarchy of governance flowing down to the roots in the variety of agricultural products on one side and dairy and poultry products and fisheries on the other two sides of the triangular pyramid. The circular base was strewn with images of all kinds of food alongside words that the team had gleaned during their intense explorations of the day before. The second group on the other hand made a sun like image that radiated from a soft centre in rings of growing magnitude before breaking out into rays that extended around the circle, each touching upon a key issue that the group had identified as being important for their analysis of the Converters in the chain of the supply of food in India and across the world. The chain was represented by a set of large paper links that formed a “Chain” along the ground from the sun to a remote location across the room. The third group used the metaphor of a complex dining table, almost a last supper, in their representation of various categories of eventual consumers, from the poor and the hungry to the rich and the affluent, each located at opposite ends of the table. The installation was set on the ground and words were literally sprinkled on the floor in meaningful groups and paper plates with images of food and chairs that expressed the status of the consumer by their form were the highlights of this particular display. The representation achieved by this group was quite stunning in effect as well as in structure.

M P Ranjan

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jignesh Khakhar: On DCC in Bangalore

Image: Jignesh Khakhar at the DCC class presentations on various days in Bangalore.

The Design Concepts and Concerns (DCC) course was conducted for a two week period from September 25 to October 01, 2008 at NID's Bangalore campus. DCC is perhaps one of the longest running courses taught at NID. It is taught by Professor M.P. Ranjan, who conducted the course for 41 students from three disciplines at NID-Bangalore - Information and Interface Design (IID), Design for Retail Experience (DRE) and Design for Digital Experience (DDE).

The theme for this year's course was 'food'. Three groups investigated the theme in the context of three southern states - Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The course introduces students to design, design thinking, design process, design opportunities, to mention a few. Most importantly, in my opinion, it forces students to ask the question: what is design, and what is their role as a designer? These are complex questions and require a lifetime of deliberation. Students are pushed into the 'deep-end of the pool' and forced to swim or stay afloat. Thus begins their journey, or 'design journey', as Professor Ranjan calls it.

There are two significant challenging aspects to this course: One is to represent their ideas. Various metaphors are employed to represent data, and it is often a challenge to map the data to a particular metaphor. This time, a number of metaphors - kite, word, tree, metro map, etc - were employed. Some were more successful, others were not. It is quite a long and challenging journey before a representation becomes a visualization, an act of insight. The other challenge is to work in a large group. This involves 'managing' relationships, time and space. The nature of the course has changed over the years to enable and encourage students to work in collaboration with each other, something they will inevitably have to do in practice.

The final exercise termed 'me board' was an act of introspection. This was perhaps the most challenging exercise, as it required students to 'peer' into themselves. To my mind, this requires a high degree of honesty, akin to 'searching for the truth', and then representing it in some 'form' - an indelible proposition indeed. However, some of the presentations in the form of collages were remarkably interesting and provoked me to question the nature of such representations and their relationship to painting. Perhaps I may find some answers in the future.

Finally, the Design Concepts and Concerns course remains a very intriguing, interesting and enjoyable journey, both as an observer and a participant. Its significance and impact is one students are bound to realise much later in their design education and professional practice.

Posted by: Jignesh Khakhar, NID Bangalore Centre

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Modeling and Mapping: Finding Design Opportunities

Design Concepts & Concerns: Modeling and Mapping - Tools for Design Exploration and mapping Design Opportunities
Prof M P Ranjan

Image: The Karnataka group used a choreographed skit to tell their story of design opportunity explorations and shared their thumbnail explorations as well as the chosen scenario, both displayed as placards on their body. The front had the thumbs arranged, as a letter form while on their back was the scenario, which would be explained by their team adjacent member. This group missed categorizing the explored design opportunities using higher categories in their focus on the ideas created by the individual.

Design Opportunities can be felt but not seen since they are a product of the imagination that is triggered by a particular perception or insight and these are nurtured by the designers conviction till it can be manifested in the world through the process of visualization, construction and operation. I am therefore not surprised any more when policy makers and the public alike fail to see value in a particular design offering till it is almost fully realized and placed on the market as a compelling offering and at an attractive price with an appropriate set of features. Design offerings take on a particular form and these can be easily differentiated through both deep and - or superficial transformations and compositions which is a strategy that companies use to make a range of offerings to meet a variety of price points and an equally wide range of feature sets to make for an active market where none exists.

Image: The Tamilnadu group used a metaphor of a number of kites in the sky to map out broad areas of design opportunities in the fields of agriculture, industry, and fisheries and at the infrastructure and systems level of action. The thumbnail maps of the individual design opportunities were categorized and arranged along the string that held the kite in the sky and the developed scenarios came out of their group debates and identification of priorities. However most groups did not know much about agriculture and this was visible in the fewer design opportunities being identified for these sectors of collective ignorance, suggesting scope for additional research before these explorations are done once again.

The format for exploration was created earlier this year when the DCC course was offered to the Foundation class in the previous semester and over the past few months we have given this format to each batch of DCC students at Gandhinagar, Paldi and at Bangalore and the results have been very encouraging indeed. Group and individual explorations can be bridged by making the design exploration journey a shared experience by giving the peer group a place in the process of design opportunity mapping and this reinforces the process of exploration through the strengthening of the expression through a process of peer discourse and sharing that would otherwise have not been encouraged in a design class that may be project driven and one that involves individual exploration. Since the group has a shared agenda to realize the best design opportunities with the focus of a chosen theme along with a given bias, in this case the theme is Food and the bias for each group is the chosen State – Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – the process of articulation and choice making is both individual as well as group driven.

Image: The Andhra Pradesh group used the metaphor of the branching tree with its elaborate sets of deep and capillary roots, each part with a particular name, characteristic and attribute that mapped the real world attributes that the students found in their journey into the field during the previous assignment, The group was particularly successful in their exploration and as a group that were able to show a wide range of application areas and fairly developed scenarios for the particular design opportunities that came out of the group selection processes that they had adopted for their task.

Numerous thumbnail images are created on the format provided and each image is supported by a brief write up that describes the salient features of the design proposal or as we call it the design opportunity. These are discussed and debated within the group as they emerge from the hands and minds of the individual creator of the images and these then may go through a further transformation with the incorporation of the feedback that is so critical for the design journey to get a bearing that is akin to the potential responses in the market place. However the conviction levels of the designer would determine whether or not the suggested changes are carried out in full or in part, if at all. The insights that led the designer to make this particular offering may not be seen or be visible to his colleagues which sets up a platform for discourse and debate and these processes at an important part of the conviction building process in design when it comes to making a decision, in favour or against a particular offering or a part thereof, of that particular offering.

Image: Scenario visualization being shared by some of the students from each group as part of their final presentation of the DCC course at NID Bangalore campus.

Students then select one out of many potential directions that are revealed in their design opportunity mapping and this choice is done in consultation with the team members. Each student then sets out to develop his or her chosen design opportunity and in the process sets out to build a visualization in the form of a scenario that would help articulate the particular offering, its impediments and potentials, the business models that would need to be considered to make it a success in the face of known and anticipated competition as well as a host of other factors that would deal with material, function, aesthetics, economics and other meta level criteria such as current and future legislation and the ethics of the offering in the context of society, culture and the ecology in which it is to be manifested eventually. This complex offering applies to all kinds of design situations and the design student is taken through these in the classroom long before they came face to face with these complexities in the field in which they are required to act.

Prof M P Ranjan

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Understanding Food: Anthro-Design Research in DCC

Understanding Food: Anthro-Design Research in the DCC class at Bangalore
Prof M P Ranjan

Image 1: Presentation by the Tamilnadu group in session at the NID Bangalore Centre. The group chose to build a flow chart of their understanding and the presentation uses a “story-board” that was represented like a film strip from the Tamil cinema story as shown in the illustration below. The storyboard was personified by the image of “Annaswamy” their man from Tamilnadu, from childhood to old age, and the food for all seasons brought into sharp focus by the overlapping threads of their story.

The first assignment at NID Bangalore dealt with mapping ones own knowledge about food and each group had a particular bias from which their knowledge was to be mapped and shared with the rest of the class. As describer earlier this thematic bias plays a strong role on how the subject is addressed and it even shapes the perception of the situation and this was quite evident in the various interpretations that were exhibited by the groups, each working with Climate, Region and Culture, as their given bias for investigation and articulation. While I did not specifically tell the students that they were not expected to do elaborate research on their subject of food with the bias assigned to each group, they did not have the time to do such research and all the teams had to fall back on their well of knowledge that resided in their collective memories and from which they drew quite liberally through a process of brainstorming, categorization and articulation to show their models and constructs on the given subject FOOD – with the bias of Climate, Region and Culture.

Image 2: The ‘story board” shown by the Tamilnadu group who used the persona of a young Tamil software engineer to represent their understanding of the chosen theme of “Food from Tamilnadu” shown here as a life time story, a journey from the cradle to a ripe old age, very interesting indeed.

The Second assignment saw the groups fanning out to various places in Bangalore to carry out direct contact research in the mode of “anthro-design” with each group being assigned to a particular region State of South India. The assigned States were that of Tamilnadu, Andhra and Karnataka, each assigned through a draw of lots, which was done on behalf of the group by their student coordinator. The group members then went into a huddle and made a plan for gathering information and this information strategy played out over the next three days with the groups meeting and exploring Food and eating places in Bangalore, each looking at their respective State issues and trying to make sense of the vast field that could be covered by the omnibus assignment with very low definition and broad interpretation. As designers they were to investigate the subject directly from the field in live contact with ‘experts” and ‘stakeholders’ from whom they could get valuable insights about their assigned subject – FOOD from one of the three chosen States of South India.

Image 3: The Karnataka group looked at the business of Food and explored the various dimensions of Karnataka cuisine as well as the typical resources of the State as they had discovered through their engagement with their contacts and eating-places across Bangalore city.

The Udipi café, MTR – “Mavali Tiffin room” and Café Coffee Day success story played strongly on the minds of this group and shaped the story that they had to share with the class through their wall size model and their mega success stories of food and the potential for a revolution from the State of Karnataka to the world at large. Their presentation was located in the basement workshop space of the NID Bangalore Centre and they impressed with their scale and sense of structure that was achieved in their model.

Image 4: The Andhra group was shocked by the stories of poverty and distress that came from many of their contacts across the migrant labour now in Bangalore. Their installation, which is the appropriate term that can best describe the assembly of objects, sarees and posters that the group assembled to tell their story, was colourful and then filled with coloured light and everything turned red….

Making contact with live sources of informants in the field is so important for design students since it is important for them to learn that what they need is not knowledge of the kind found in books as much as getting a feel of the situation and in picking up specific insights that would give them a sense of direction and a glimpse of the way the trends shaped up in their area of investigation. It is here that anthro design as a subject area gets appreciated and some degree of competence is built up in handling such research where book based knowledge would certainly not fill the need. This kind of experience would be useful for design students and through these experiences they would also learn about research strategies to be used in the field and the whole range of processes of making contact, making observations, meetings and interviews as well as processing the rich data from the field in order to glean insights about latent needs and future possibilities are all critical for design education.

Prof M P Ranjan

Thursday, October 2, 2008

DCC2008 Bangalore: Invitation to FOOD themes

Prof. M P Ranjan
DCC2008 Bangalore: Invitation to FOOD themes

Image: Invitation sent out by NID Bangalore students for their first presentation scheduled on 22 September 2008.

Their two week course started late on the 18th of September since I had to attend the Governing Council meeting at NID having been summoned by the Chairman for a meeting with the GC on 16th September when they met in Ahmedabad to discuss the action plans that would be an outcome of Dr D O Koshy's premature relief from the position of Director NID. I reached NID Bangalore on 17th Afternoon and the DCC class started on 18th morning with the first assignment being assigned to the students on the 20th September. The first presentation was scheduled on 22 September with three teams looking at the theme of Food with a bias towards – Region, Climate and Culture.

Image: Views from the Swiss design exploration workshop conducted by the Swiss design team of industrial designer Frederic Dedelley and design journalist Ariana Pradal at NID Bangalore

This delay was also due to the unexpected event of a one day workshop conducted by the Swiss design team involving all the students of the NID Bangalore campus. This was a hands-on workshop and it brought value to the students who were all busy in making working models of a "Letter Opener" concept directly by shaping materials, like "kalakars" and not in the more usual tradition of first making elaborate drawings before some crafts modelmaker creates a finished prototype. The direct shaping of materials is close to the hands and in my slogan for design, Hand-on Minds-on", this is a very critical part of being a designer, through working with ones hands, while exercising the mind. In conversation with Jignesh Khakhar who was working with me this time as an associate teacher on the DCC2008 course at NID Bangalore I outlined my insights about the kinds of people that were being attracted to design education and how the NID admissions systems seems to be skewed towards the selection of "chitrakars" at the exclusion of "kalakars", which is in my opinion a real loss for all of us. The spectrum of abilities and multiple capabilities that are desirable for design education could be classified as follows as an as yet incomplete list:
1. Kalakars: craftsmen who can work materials with ones hands
2. Chitrakars: artists and illustrators who can create images through drawing and painting techniques
3. Shilpakars: sculptors who can shape materials into image models in clay or other materials but with no joinery (usually)
4. Vastukar: planner and architect who proposes built spaces
5. Natyakar: dancer who uses the body and choreography to express form and message
6. Sutradar: storyteller and theatre performer who tells a compelling story
....... to name only the dominent categories from our experience at NID.

....... and now we have some more categories such as the "Digital Illustrator", "Software Programmer" and the just plain "Manager" wishing to become "Design Managers" with a booming market emerging for this last category and I still need to find an equivalent hindi name for these categories of design aspirants. All of them can be designers and design thinkers if the design education establishment acknowledges their skill sets and abilities and steers their foundation training to bring about a transformation in their abilities and attitudes towards change making in the real world which is one of the major roles of design action that wishes to shape the future in small and big ways. Therefore the levels of design action can go from dealing with the Tactical Level using skills and sensibilities of the designer, through the Elaborative Level by using market and trade values in many particular sectoral categories, through the Creative Level through the creation of breakthrough innovations and patent driven investments and lastly through the Strategic Level through the creation of new visions and the translation of systems level change that can help change a whole sector and shape the future in the process. My paper on Levels of Design Intervention explains this model and was written in 1998 for a conference in Barzil. The paper can be downloaded from this link below: Download:"Level of Design Intervention: as a pdf file 200 kb size.

Prof. M P Ranjan

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DCC2008 at Bangalore: Three disciplines participate

Prof M P Ranjan

Image: The three groups that explored and mapped out the contours of Climate, Region and Culture.

Design Concepts and Concerns at Bangalore concluded yesterday morning with several students sharing their "Me Boards" or self maps with the class in the NID Bangalore Conference Room where all the lectures and group discussions are held. Earlier their assessment grades were finalised by Jignesh Khakhar and myself and these were submitted to the academic wing at Bangalore as well as to all students and coordinators as a three page pdf file. The report on the first assignment has already been posted in the Design for India blog as part of my report on the Bangalore visit and I will be posting the other assignments from Ahmedabad since the internet access speed in NID Bangalore was very poor during the first week at Bangalore and I did not have access to the internet in the evenings since the NID Bangalore Guest House is not connected to the web.

Image: Students of the NID Bangalore making group presentations of the first assignment. (click image to enlarge)

The theme was once again food and this time the macro survey included Climate, Region and Culture as the meta themes for brainstorming and Sensemaking" using the tools of modelling and discourse so that the team could plumb their own minds and life experiences to map out their current understanding of the assigned theme and the bias given to each group.

The post on the Bangalore visit can be seen at this link "Design for India" -Bangalore visit.

Prof M P Ranjan

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Individial Visions for Food Security in India: DCC2008 Paldi01

…>…Design Concepts & Concerns

Individial Visions for Food Security in India: Scenarios developed during the class DCC2008 at NID Paldi in the past two weeks.

Image: Individual offerings for the scenario visualization assignment at the end of this DCC2008 class at NID Paldi.

Scenarios visualized by NID students for the broad range of issues identified by them while working in groups over a period of two weeks in this particular session of the Design Concepts and Concerns class at NID Paldi. It is ironical that there is so much to be done and the country is facing severe food inflation but the investments in design efforts to solve these problems on a long term basis is almost zero.

Image: Another group of students from the DCC2008 class with their individual offerings of imagined scenarios to address the real needs of food and the design opportunities in our economy today.

It is not that the country does not have the money to address these issues but most of the money is spent on making standards and on testing rather than on innovation which will promise a better future for our people. This year we have as a nation spent a huge sum for trying to avert farmer crisis in the form of the loan waiver scheme that was announced by the Government of India while a small fraction of this amount spent on a regular basis on farm based innovation and the building of imaginative prototypes for the future would have given long term solutions. I hope that we will see such investments in the near future with the National Design Policy having been launched last year. However agriculture, education and health are still not on the radar of the policy makers since they seem to be only looking at luxury products for exports and not at real needs across the land that need design

…>…Design Concepts & Concerns

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Incubating Design Opportunities: DCC2008 Paldi 01

Design Concepts & Concerns

Incubating Design Opportunities: Food, Inflation and the Economy: DCC2008 Paldi 01

Image: West Bengal team with their huge Sun icon and the design opportunity thumbnail images distributed along the categories identified by the Solar flares, each named in an appropriate manner.

After trailing all the other groups and getting sharp critiques from their peers in the first two assignments the WB team has come back strongly to make a clear statement showing a huge leap forward in their understanding as well as their articulation of all the design opportunities identified and sketched by the group members. The model and the visual presentation was very powerful indeed.

Image: Goa team with their radial model surrounded by all the thumbnail sketches of the design opportunities shown as a horizontal display with the viewers traveling around the model to look at it closely.

Goa team continued their effective radial model and they offered a modified structure and this time to accommodate the categories that they have identified for their numerous design opportunities for the theme of Food, Economy and Inflation with reference to their chosen region, Goa.

Image: Rajasthan team in front of their display of design opportunity maps that have been broadly categorized into areas of concern and value.

Rajasthan team used the broad categories of Ecology, Awareness, Culture and Economy to arrange all the design opportunities that the team members had articulated during the thumbnail brainstorming and exploration phase. They are seen holding their individual scenarios based on an agreed selection arrived at through peer review within the team.

Image: Uttarakhand team in front of their display of design opportunity thumbnails in the NID Foyer and they hold in their hand their individual scenario visualizations.

Rajasthan team had an interesting categorization of all the design opportunities that the team members had imagined and articulated. These were divided into broad categories through a process of sorting and categorization and they used the categories of Education, Food Preservation, Community Development, Industry, Water (Mineral), Transport and also a special category for Policy and Legislation that was also proposed.

Image: Detail of Goa model and design opportunity thumbnail sketches

Design Concepts & Concerns

Design Opportunities Presentation: Water, Sun, Hills and Desert

…>…Design Concepts & Concerns

Design Opportunities Presentation: Water (Goa), Sun (West Bengal), Hills (Uttarakhand) and Desert (Rajasthan)

Image: Goa group took their radial model and modified it to accommodate all their design opportunity thumbnail sketches along the various categories identified by the group (Right) and the West Bengal group used the Sun as a metaphor to map out the various categories in which they arranged all their design opportunity thiumbnail sketches (Left).

The four groups dealing with the theme of Food in the four selected regions of India made their group presentations in the NID Foyer yesterday. Goa, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan were the areas of focus for this batch of DCC2008 which just concluded at Paldi and this gives us the platform to reflect on their offering during this course. Just as the Gandhinagar students had explored four other states of India these students gave us a glimpse of their imagimation for the issues and opportunities that they saw after their journey through the various stages of this course that included the exploration of the theme leading up to the development of design opportunity maps and then onto individual scenarios for one idea that they felt needed their full attention.

Image: The celebration at the end of the course with students and faculty bunched around the Goa model that was displayed on a group tables moved in from other rooms near the Foyer, impromptu but instantly effective.

The groups gathered at the Foyer at NID Paldi and each put up their design opportunity maps for all to see. The sky was overcast and the sun was almost gone but fortunately the lights in the foyer were discovered and this gave a renewed life to the presentations and we were able to photograph all the submissions and also record the individual scenarios which will be shared in another post after the groups have been discussed in some detail.

…>…Design Concepts & Concerns

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rajasthan: Song, Drama, Theatre and Games as Metaphor

Design Concepts & Concerns

Image: Team Rajasthan with their Board Game as metaphor and their Puppet Theatre to drive the point home.

The Rajasthan group used all the devices in the book to make their presentation. Starting with a song and a puppet show they told a story of a Princess and her new fangled ideas for bringing prosperity to a dry land. However the plans go dry and some problems emerge needing the attention of the King and his consort as the story unfolds. Their understanding of the complex interplay of various factors come out clearly in their first blast of theatre and drama to make their point.

Image: The Rajasthan team used a digital presentation to share their detailed structure for Food and the various categories of influencing factors, very detailed but long winded.

A very detailed structure gave the team a fairly deep understanding of the factors but since they used a digital medium that was linear in the mode of viewing the audience could not quite keep all the factors in their mind. This led to the discussion of George A Miller and his concept of the number seven and the limits of the mind memory span. This gave the class a view of an alternate platform that could be used and they could examine the pro’s and con’s of the various methods used by all the teams.

Image: Multiple views of the Rajasthan groups presentation using various methods to share their exploration of the theme and share their findings and insights with the class.

This group had the benefit of all the other presentations since they came last in the sequence but not to take away from the offering from the group the class appreciated the rich show and tell that they used.

Design Concepts & Concerns

West Bengal : Boat Fish and Fish Boat as Metaphor

Design Concepts & Concerns

Image: West Bengal team members with their Fish-Boat or Boat-Fish model.

The West Bengal group bounced back and surged foreward after the drubbing that they got in the first round of building models. What they missed out everyone else got to learn from, “fail early to succeed sooner”, as the slogan from the IDEO group says.

Image: Team members explaining the various parts of their model of Food in the context of West Bengal using their metaphor as an aid.

They chose to make a three dimensional model and the disadvantage was that it had more that one side and they had to work twice as hard to mark both sides of their Fish-Boat or should I say Boat-Fish metaphor to capture their understanding of the West Bengal food scenario as they had understood it after their meetings with their experts.

Image: Multiple views from the group presentation and the discussions that followed from the West Bengal team show.

The team however still did not have the deep understanding that a coherent structure would have provided them and the critique was sharp and the discussions quite revealing. The effort of making the huge model was however appreciated by all the particpants. However the consensus in the end was that the group missed out on using the richness of the model fully since the categories were quite macro and the finer aspects were not integrated into the final model but kept on the various external elements still to be brought into a central area.

Design Concepts & Concerns

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Design Scenarios for Food Security: DCC2008 Gandhinagar

The four groups at Gandhinagar had a week to make their individual scenario visualisations that was based on the thumbnails that the groups had explored in the previous week in a visual brainstorming mode, each in a huddle in their respective studios or under the tree in the back of the mess block where Punjab group had located themselves.

Each of the groups are shown here as thumbnail images and a bigger image of the individual scenario will be posted when the group members find time to send me the email of the supporting text which is still awaited.
Click on each image below to get an enlarged view of the scenarios. Punjab:

Image: Punjab group and their individual scenarios for design action in India.

Image: Kerala group and their imagination for the way forward as individual scenarios visualised and shared with the class.

Image: Northeast group with their mountains of ideas culled into individual scenario visualisations based on their own convictions for the action going forward.

Image: Gujarat group with their real business like models for rapid deployment of food based scenarios based on their very rich model and exploration as a group.

The four groups in Paldi – Uttarakhand, Goa, West Bengal and Rajasthan – too will be working on their group thumbnail brainstorming and over the weekend on their individual scenario in consultation with their group members in a peer review and supported process, in other words with a little bit of help from their friends. We look forward to their presentation in the NID Paldi Foyer on Tuesday 12 August 2008 at 5.30 pm.

Goa Group: Fish, Boats and Beach as Metaphor

Image: Goa group with their massive model and metaphor representation with the Fisherman in the foreground and the Goa Tourist map and persona in the background.

While the Goa group had very rich palette of images to support their presentation it was their structure that was truly memorable. Using a radial structure they built their structure about Food, Inflation and the Economy with the Meta factors around the circle and the process questions along the radial axis. This gave them the possibility of using the rings to represent the various parts of their structure in a very interesting manner.

Image: Radial model of the rich structure by the Goa group with the Fish, Boats and Beach Metaphor with the Fisherman in the foreground.

The structure model was further strengthened by the use of small iconic images strewn all over the diagram that helped us locate the major ideas visually while getting an overview of the structure. The Move in understanding was huge. While the first presentation that was based on what the group already knew was skewed towards a sort of outsider view of tourist Goa the second round saw the group connecting with all the right kinds of people who can be called experts and this led to a huge shift in understanding.

Image: The Goa team making their impassioned presentation with all members taking the stand and making a pitch with a very high level of motivation.

The presentation which had all the team members participating was truly memorable and of a very high quality. In the teachers experience this is by far the best effort in many years in the PG programme at NID. I would request the students involved to make a textual note of their experience and to share this with all of us so that this experience can produce durable learning that Prof Bruce Archer had told us about when he visited NID in the early 80's to give the Sir Misha Black Award for excellence in Design Education to the then Executive Director of NID, Ashoke Chatterjee. He told us that experience by itself does not produce knowledge, but it is the reflection on experience that does create deep and durable knowledge.

This assignment is therefore a way for groups of individuals to first map out what they already think they know about any chosen subject through brainstorming and categorisation followed by rounds of modelling to find structure and finding a suitable metaphor to map the discovered structure for all to see and understand. The next assignment has the students sharing their understanding with real experts and through research and the process of modelling, finding structure and making a metaphor so that the findings can be shared in a coherent manner. This process also has the effect of clarifying the concepts in ones own mind as well as in locating insights that would drive the process of opportunity mapping and decision making as the design process goes forward.

The other two groups too have completed their second round which will be reported here later in the day. We need to meet today to review all the MeBoards, perhaps in the SDM studio and the final opportunity maps as well as the individual secnarios will be exhibited in the NID Foyer on Tuesday the 12th August 2008 at 5.30 pm IST. We have booked the Foyer space through the NID Academin Administration and we look forward to a live participation from faculty, students and invited guests.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Uttarakhand Group: Mandi as Metaphor

Image: Uttarakhand Group assembled in their Mandi Metaphor for their presentation.

The Uttarakhand Group was the first to complete their model by the evening today so we decided to have their presentation while the other three groups would have theirs tomorrow morning. The team worked out a way to reuse their Himalayan Mountain range model by using it as a backdrop to locate the wild life and fauna of the region while the main exhibit was that of a Sabji Mandi or vegetable market through which they tried to explain the current level of understanding about Food and the chosen region in the context of design possibilities going forward.

Image: Uttarakhand Group assembled in their Mandi Metaphor with the teachers included.

The Mandi metaphor was however not used as effectively buy the group to make their presentation as it came out in the discussions and critique that followed the groups presentation. According to the comments from the teachers it showed a lack of an articulation or visualisation of relationships that formed the core of the concerns that the group had indeed identified and expressed as very interesting images of islands of concerns that were arranged on the backdrop. The four main headings of Production, Distribution , Consumption and Impact did offer the group an adequate framework for linking the various sub-groups and issues that were in the field of vision but the audience felt that they missed showing the linkages between all the issues covered there.

Image: Uttarakhand Group assembled in their Mandi Metaphor as the class presentation progresses.

Further the lack of detail at the next lower level of the structure was also pointed out in the arguments and comments that followed. The Mandi visual was quite effective in getting a feel of the place and the context as a whole and I used the metaphor of the Constellations to show that association of star groups were given meaning by showing the invisible lines that gave the groups its form as a visual symbol which made it memorable and recognisable in the rich ground of all the other stars. Each illustration was rich and when the team explained the model it was clear that the team had come a long way forward in their understanding of both Food as well as the context on the ground in the Uttaranchal region through their meetings with experts in the field, but the group failed to tell us who they met and how the insights were actually collected and put together in their model. In all the group efort was appreciated by the class particularly since this group was able to meet the very tight deadline and come through with a fairly high degree of effective representation and discourse.

We do look forward to some rich presentations from the other three groups in the morning tomorrow. The order of presentation will have the Goa Group making their presentation at 9.30 am and this would be followed by the other two between 10.30 and 12.30 pm tomorrow. The afternoon session is for the next lecture on Design Opportunities after which the groups will start work on their next assignments dealing with Design Opportunities in the area using the formats that have been developed for this purpose.

Down the Drains

Image: Ayan Ghosh at Gandhinagar and Paldi DCC2008 discussions

I feel a primary aspect to be understood while analyzing the role of food and its importance in its current context is to examine how humans consume food, which is after all what its main function is. This consumption pattern has never been constant, and has changed considerably depending on the way food has been cultivated, stored, transported, re-stored and eaten. These systems have been considerably modified by the various discoveries, innovations, improvisations and inventions which continued to evolve since humans settled as an agrarian society.

Some main events in the journey of food have been the discovery of fire and the plough, and a basic understanding of time and seasons, leading to agriculture. This new form of foraging, through cultivation, was helped substantiality by innovations in irrigation techniques (like the Archimedes’s screw and the Noria) and extensive canal building. Later, architectural innovations followed in the form of dams and later more sophisticated aqueducts built in ancient Rome.

However, the pattern of agriculture the world over remained unchanged for thousands of years, although techniques might have differed from civilization to civilization depending on the climate and topography. The most significant innovations that boosted the production capacities of fields to feed the increasing global populations happened in the post industrial revolution late 18th and 19th century, with development of fertilizers like Ammonium Nitrate, pesticides, and other mechanized innovations like the development of tractors, and threshers.

Limitations in preservation options reduced the transportability of food which being organic in nature starts putrefying in short time. The organic nature of most food either allowed it to be frozen or dried. Drying substantially altered the nature of the food, while freezing was expensive and exclusive. Food storage changed drastically since the 19th century, with Nicolas François Appert inventing canning in 1809, which contributed significantly to Napolean’s army’s mobility and Europe conquest. Appert himself didn't know how the process of heating canned food helped in its preservation worked, but was later explained by Louis Pasteur. This was followed by breakthroughs by scores of inventors contributing many small advances in cooling machinery leading to the perfection of the refrigerator. This allowed surplus food to be stored in its actual state for many days domestically, and also to be transported overseas on long journeys. Later innovations in packaging design also contributed hugely in optimizing trade.

Human Movement
Various events and inventions in other domains contributed greatly to the food industry, like globalization, colonialism, colonization, international trade and human migration. Globalization, which has its roots in the silk route trades across Asia and Europe, contributed in the spice economy, which thrived for hundreds of years. Colonization, starting with the Spanish conquests of the Americas, resulted in many new food items being introduced to Western countries. After colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean. They also took it to the Philippines, whence it moved to southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent. The Spanish also brought the potato and tobacco to Europe. Similarly the British Empire introduced tea from China to Sri Lanka, India and Britain and the USA.

Colonialism and the industrial revolution also catalyzed an unprecedented amount of human migration the world over, which gave rose to new consumption requirements and opened up endemic food cultures to new markets.

Image: Ayan Ghosh at Gandhinagar and Paldi DCC2008 discussions

Alternative power
Shift from traditional energy sources like animal, human, wind and water to steam, coal, fuel and electric also revolutionized the way the food industry expanded over the last century and a half. The industrial revolution triggered the concept of the factory and the mass production of food. It also led to the invention of the railways, automobiles and lastly the aircraft. The last three are of major consequence, as it allowed surplus food to be exchanged between countries through exports and it also allowed fast and networked system of food distribution, thereby preventing widespread famines.

As a result…
However all the above mentioned factors have also contributed in a serious fall out of food wastage which is a result of the ability to acquire surplus food. Since we can acquire much more than we consume, its inevitable that there is a great deal of surplus in the hands of the upper classes in the first world countries who can afford such benefits on the basis of a higher disposable income. Previously we cultivated only as much can be consumed immediately, but the option of preservation has made us uncertain to the consumption amounts, since there is always back up.

In the USA
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) calculates 20 percent of the country's food goes to waste, representing an annual value of about $31 billion in lost resources. Such wastage is not productive, sustainable, or ethical. While food is being squandered in rich countries, 800 million people around the world often do not know where their next meal is coming from, 166 million children are undernourished, and 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day.

In Britain
Britons are throwing away £10bn worth of food that could be eaten each year. About £6bn of the wasted annual food budget is food that is bought but never touched - including 13m unopened yoghurt pots, 5,500 chickens and 440,000 ready meals dumped in home rubbish bins each day. The rest is food prepared or cooked for meals but never eaten because people have misjudged how much was needed and don't eat the leftovers. The complete £10bn consists of food that could have been eaten, not including peeling and bones, the researchers say. Tackling the waste could mean a huge reduction in CO2 emissions, equivalent to taking one in five cars off the road.

In India
Its a matter of concern even in India where it was announced in the Rajya Sabha in March 2008 by the Minister of State for Food Processing Industries (FPI) that wastage of harvested food items is estimated to be around Rs 58,000 crore at various stages of handling due to lack of adequate post-harvest infrastructure, cold chains, transportation and proper storage facilities.

Food = water
A new report by the Stockholm International Water Institute has determined that the wastage of food means wastage of a large amount of water. According to a report in Discovery News, given that crop production uses about 1,800 trillion gallons (1,700 cubic miles) of water a year, almost 40 per cent of which comes from irrigation rather than rainwater, that loss represents a lot of water. The report says that in the United States itself, up to 30 per cent of food is tossed out each year, worth about 48.8 billion US dollars, which is equivalent to flushing 10 trillion gallons of water down the drain.

Why so?
There are many reasons for the humongous quantities of food wastage. They vary culture to culture. Economy, social status, cultural habits all play a part, and many solutions have also been suggested in the past and continue to be done. Rationing food had been a popular concept in socialist countries. It is however an economic control, aimed to provide food to those who cannot afford it. Denying people who can afford to do so the right to food is never going to be accepted universally in a democratic political ideology.

However, I personally feel that the problem hasn’t been understood yet, and all solutions are working at a preventive level rather than a curative level. Waste food management is happening because waste "is happening". It is broadly accepted that completely eradicating food wastage is not possible and every effort should be taken in minimizing it. One possible source of finding the root cause of why we waste food I feel lies in our evolutionary past, and how it has shaped human psychology. Maybe somewhere within our subconscious the million years old hunter-gatherer psyche is winning over the thousand years old settler-cultivator psyche. One aspect of study that has been undertaken in this direction deals with how humans and all other animals behave with food, and is called optimal foraging theory.

Optimal Foraging Theory?
A central concern of ecology has traditionally been foraging behavior. In its most basic form, optimal foraging theory states that organisms forage in such a way as to maximize their energy intake per unit time. In other words, they behave in such a way as to find, capture and consume food containing the calories while expending the least amount of time possible in doing so. The understanding of many ecological concepts such adaptation, energy flow, competition hinges on the ability to comprehend what food items animals select, and why.

Furthermore, the absolute limits of the range of food types eaten by a consumer in a given habitat are defined by morphological constraints, but very few animals actually eat all of the different food types they are capable of consuming. Optimal foraging theory helps biologists understand the factors determining a consumer’s operational range of food types, or diet width.

At the one extreme, animals employing a generalist strategy tend to have broad diets; they chase and eat many of the prey/food items with which they come into contact. At the other extreme, those with a specialist strategy have narrow diets and ignore many of the prey items they come across, searching preferentially for a few specific types of food. In general, animals exhibit strategies ranging across a continuum between these two extremes. Recently, scholars have connected optimal foraging theory to prospect theory, noting that survival thresholds might be responsible for human attitudes towards risk.

I am personally still trying to understand the full implications of the optimal foraging theory and how it is directly linked with global food wastage but I sincerely believe in its existence. Somewhere down the line, through a protracted history like I mentioned, the process of accessing food has got distorted too fast, which has contributed to this current phenomenon of over-consumption. Wastage happens not only in food, but in almost every other form of consumerist products, which is a thematic redundancy phenomenon in modernist and postmodernist society at large.

A huge shift has occurred at the options level and the time level, which has led to the disparity in the intake and outtake proportions. The handling time and search times required for access to food in the current urban set up is minimal, which means we gather up much more than what we can consume. The energy requirement levels have stayed the same, since humans have been more or less engaged in the same energy expedient tasks since cultivation started. What might have altered is the energy supplementary levels, which is a result of the consumption disparity. Our dietary patterns have changed so drastically since the dawn of agriculture (at least in the urban areas), that the amount of food required to meet the necessary energy levels have also been distorted. In most cases we consume more, to bridge this gap.

We fear that we might not be able to meet this shortfall,be there a crisis or not, and so the ones who can, they consume more than what they need. They are not to be blamed entirely, because the surplus they are consuming is being made available to them in the first place. Its a huge and complicated cycle of economics and ecology, but very little research has actually been done into the subject, or maybe I haven't myself delved into the subject in depth as yet.

Maybe this in itself is a design research subject which can be expanded on for addressing the cure rather than the prevention part. Maybe an apple a week can keep the doctor away, as well as one a day.

Ayan Ghosh

"The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think."

~ Gregory Bateson

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sustainable Food solutions and Waste management

Image: Food wasted in a week: US Department of Agriculture. In India food waste starts from the field due to poor storage and transport facilities at the farm end itself.

An immense opportunity waits to be tapped with regard to Food waste. Enough cannot be said of the amount of waste that is generated in particular by the consumerist mentality of the current generations in terms of food and several aspects relating both directly and indirectly to the food industry. The primary problem that can be seen clearly is one of distribution. The cycle of demand and supply can be met with much greater ease if only a strong distribution network could facilitate it. In India, the land of contrasts, the issue is always one of extremes- Of simultaneous drought and floods, of slums and high rise buildings that share a wall, of children who study in the dim light afforded by the street lamps while others live in over-lit mansions and most strikingly, of starvation and excess.

What will it take towards creating a food network that will be sustainable worldwide? The answer is complex on many levels and yet calls for immediate consideration, action and solution. With the liberal policies of globalization undeniably linking everyone together through good times and bad, no one is spared the consequences of the actions of the other. There are many simultaneous and conflicting consequences that arise as a result of our agricultural policies and the technology that is implemented. On one hand, there is an increase in yield per unit of land as a result of which there is less requirement to cultivate new land. This leads directly to facilitating the sustenance of numerous natural life forms and securing their habitats. At the same time, this comes at the cost of permitting enduring harm to natural resources such as water and soil by imbuing them with immense quantities of prolonged chemical exposure and this leading to a speedy deterioration on these fronts.

The immediate challenge confronting us now is in increasing the production of food to be able to meet the demands of the future without any harmful impact on the environment. Another significant challenge in this realm is to ensure that everyone has access to adequate food to live a fit and fruitful life.

In order to be able to live up to the needs of the future and tackle them successfully, a strategy must be concocted that will encompass the relevant policies and the technology required that will enable us to eradicate food uncertainty, food shortage, and undernourishment in a manner that is in harmony with an ecologically sustainable management of natural resources.

There is a need to connect with the learning that we garner from such a macro-perspective and an understanding of the global phenomenon, in order to apply this newly gained knowledge into our own immediate surrounding. Discipline begins at home and in this regard there are numerous examples of food waste that we can see all around us- our very own canteens and cafeterias, home kitchens etc are huge opportunities for creating a sustainable system of waste food recycling which can cater towards fulfilling many constructive and urgent needs of communities around us. Within this large spectrum of the food chain from pre-process to post-consumption to disposal, waste generation and utilization exist innumerable opportunities that make not only ethical and social sense but also have the ability to generate several layers of economic independence.

Attached are a few links of relevance in this regard.

A New Stone Turned

Image: Anindya Roy commenting on students presentations in DCC2008 Paldi01

“An unusual choice of career at your age, isn’t it?” This is a question I’ve been thrown in one form or another many a time by friends and acquaintances ever since I made a conscious decision to stop running behind the bigwigs of the Automotive world and instead, look a different way. I joined NID as faculty of transportation design at the age of 27. It is close to a year now since I joined and through this time I have been involved in various courses across a few disciplines. All through this time, like the murmur of monks in a monastery, I used to hear about DCC from students. The remarks didn’t sound so much like that of a course that was taught but a great journey to an uncharted place – revelatory, eye (and mind) opening, unforgettable, intense, tiring, rewarding – and one that would leave you changed somewhere inside for sure.

Just like when I hear of someone who’s been to Ladakh, and I haven’t, my first thought is, “I must go there myself and see what the fuss is all about!” What could be in this place that everyone who’s been to can’t stop raving about? With this curiosity built up over a period of one year spent at NID, one ordinary morning I decided to pack my bags and book my ticket, by replying to M.P. Ranjan’s email call for volunteer faculty. Brave move, knowing that I really had no clue about the course or its subject for the year, I had never read this blog and that I would be facing 20-30 students at a time, some waiting to hear great words of wisdom from this young faculty. The fact is that I was in it for really the same reason as the students – to learn about something anew. Well, the students do have grades to fetch as well but that’s another matter.

Image: Anindya Roy with teaching colleagues: DCC2008 Paldi01

It’s been a week for me on this journey and I’d say what has taken me by surprise is how much there is to unlearn before new learning can begin. It is an unavoidable situation having grown to this age conditioned by much focused education and exposure, the result of years of learning within limited context. What does it take then to outrun the legacy? This is where the DCC course structure takes on the avatar of a roadmap and students become the guides on a journey that never ceases to explore. It is through their brainstorming and structuring of gathered data that a wholesome picture starts to emerge within which one can find specific sites of interest.

Though initially what comes out may be a barrage of information with too many layers for the untrained mind to make sense of, it is within this very tangled web that multitudes of design opportunities lurk. In sessions that follow, much grey matter gets activated, sleep is lost and egos are put aside, reluctantly at times. Scores of minds aligned by a common goal can be a fantastic force. While I am yet to see results of some of the intermediate stages of the process, the direction gets clearer with every passing day. Having a bird’s eye view of the ongoing process not only is educating me (even as all the effort at ground level is being put in by diligent students) but also allows me to have an overview to reflect upon.

Image: Anindya Roy in DCC2008 Paldi01

This is about getting to know your context of work first-hand, meeting the people who matter and the people in whose life a little design intervention could go a long way, about designing not to satisfy the ego but to attempt to satisfy real needs. The relevance of this approach to a context as complex, rich and demanding as India is undeniable. Hopefully, many of us will carry the learning beyond the academic realm and remember it in our careers whatever they may be. A young bloke came to teach a few things and got taught many times as much in return. Not such a bad choice of career after all!

This is but my initial reflection on a new method of Design Thinking that I have had a chance to experience firsthand and in great detail. In the days to come of my involvement with the course and beyond I will be posting my insights, remarks and findings for all to share and comment on.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.