Thursday, February 7, 2008

Design Opportunities in Rural India: DCC2008 for Foundation students at NID

DCC2008 for Foundation students at NID began this week and we have chosen to look at trades and occupations that can add value and create wealth in rural India through design in the age of the creative economy.

Image: Exploring and reflection of the self and the rich picture models produced by the students.
The time is here once again to start the Design Concepts and Concerns course for the batch of students in the Foundation Programme at NID. This year we have 75 students in the class and we have decided to look at trades and occupations that could be enhanced and value added by the use of design. Design can be applied to the creation of new products and services and it can be used to improve the efficiency and comfort levels of the people involved in the trades itself and also to the services offered by each of these. With the arrival of the creative economy we are sure that many of our traditional trades will reinvent themselves with the use of design and offer high value to both the practitioner as well as their clients. Some of these ideas are discussed in more detail on my blog called "Design for India".

Image: DCC Blackboard with the discussion on the area of models and their role in design research and action.
This time our course has been truncated to one week in the first phase and to three and a half weeks in the second phase with a gap of three weeks when the students will do the SLA course in one week and have two weeks in the field for their Environmental Perception course. We have therefore modified our course offering and packed two assignments in the first week, one dealing with exploring and expressing the self through a process of introspection, reflection and expression in the form of a composite image which can be used to share their own story as a rich picture model. This is the first of the many models that the students would build during this course. Most students did not know what we meant by the word “Model” in the context of design exploration and this gave the teachers an opportunity to explore the concept and all its dimensions in a lecture discussion session in the class yesterday after a brief introduction to the various dimensions of design as we know it today. The DCC Blackboard seen in the picture will show the gist of the discussions in class and the words were contributed by the students as the discussions progressed, they quickly grasped the meaning of the term and the use of models in the design of new and innovative offerings.

Image: Rich picture representations of their self image on display in the class softboards.
The students made rich pictures of their self-reflection and expression assignment. These are displayed in the class and each student was asked to share their story with three other students over the next three days. Based on this sharing they would be able to develop a text that each would send to one close relative (an uncle, aunt or even parent or friend) as well as to the teachers of the course and to some of their classmates and all of these would be documented with the digital image of their picture and be made available to all the students in the class. We hope that by doing this they would be able to appreciate the role that each one of us plays in shaping the design directions by the value systems that we hold dear and how these would shape the decisions that we made on behalf of others in our design journey. The design journey is one of exploration and research that leads to the gathering of numerous insights that are based on these current and past explorations and insights. Insights get accumulated over the journey and these provide a certain degree of conviction based on which our design decisions are invariably taken. These are not just based on facts but also on feelings and convictions that would be influenced by the philosophy and ideology held by the designer. The paper and the model on the Design Journey that I had written earlier this year was circulated to all our students and we will be discussing this paper in class as we go forward with the learning in this course.

Image: Students of the DCC2008 class attending the lecture discussion session on day two.
The second assignment is based on what the students already know in their conscious and sub-conscious mind about a given topic. This year we have decided to make the first week a sort of preparation for the field work that would be undertaken as part of the environmental perception course when all the students will be visiting a village near Ahmedabad and using this visit to sensitise themselves to design opportunities in the rural sector as well as give them a first hand exposure to the India reality on the ground. In this assignment they are divided into groups of fifteen students and each group has been given the task of exploring amongst themselves their understanding of an Indian village and its challenges and opportunities based on what they already know deep in their collective minds. The groups have been assigned the following five regional situations and the context that is established by the very incomplete description of the village type and location in the broadly defined regions mentioned below.

Coastal Maharashtra
Himalayan Foothills
Kerala Rainforest
Northeastern Hills
Desert Rajasthan

Image: Brainstorming session in progress
Students are expected to brainstorm and identify all the attributes of the village type in question and try and capture in as rich a picture as possible without necessarily doing any external research from books or interviews with experts which is reserved for another stage in the course. Based on their brainstorming and the key-words that the group identifies they are expected to sort and categorise these into an agreeable structure that would be meaningful to the group in the form of key-words and hierarchies that make sense. The structure needs to be as complete as possible and the areas of ignorance too may be identified at this stage. The students would then develop a metaphor that could be used to express the structure in a memorable format and that which has a contextual relevance to the team as well as one that would make sense to most viewers as well. They are then required to make a presentation and tell about their journey as well as their findings to the rest of the class in a well prepared presentation and show and tell session that would be done in the class on the scheduled time. This presentation is now planned on Saturday morning at 10.00 am in the classroom at NID. The sequence of presentations would be decided by the teachers. Besides these inputs in class as well as the papers that were distributed we have set up a server based resource on the NID server for digital resources that are available on the net. Links to world thinkers and experts in fields that impinge on the subject at hand are made available through this channel. For instance we have links to hazel Henderson’s website and to her papers on development economics which the teachers feel are very relevant to the task at hand. Similarly, the links to DOTT07, the Design Council UK, Kaos Pilot, NextD and PhD-Design list are some popular design and inspirational resources that are shared with the students in the class. We will add resources as we proceed with the course and students too would be contributing new links and resources as we go forward with the course.

Image: Student reflection about themselves shared on the softboard as part of assignment one, Self Image.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.