Sunday, March 30, 2008

Self-Disclosure: Reflection about the self

Image: Students presenting rich image maps of themselves as part of their first assignment in the DCC course:

Self-Disclosure: Reflection about the self
Self-Disclosure: Reflection about the self and looking back into ones life activities and experiences to find and locate ones preferences and belief systems including likes and dislikes and ones taboos and epistemic roots when confronted with reflexive situations in the process of design. Students are expected to draw a map of themselves on a sheet of presentation paper (A3 size) along with key-words and images that would disclose themselves to the rest of the class. This is also a journey of self discovery in many cases and it is carried out with a great deal of commitment. These sheets are all displayed for several days on the softboards which are ever present in a design classroom at NID and it represents the first of many composite images that the student is asked to prepare during this course. About half a day is given for this task after the introductory lecture on the origins of design and our current understanding of design. No reading list is now given since the key-words generated during the lecture are to be used for research in the library and on the internet search sites to locate interesting new resources each time. This material becomes a point of reference all through the course, particularly during the intense group processes of the assignments that are to follow.

This description of the self disclosure assignment was part of a paper that I presented at the EAD06 conference on design at Bremen, Germany in 2005. The full paper (pdf 50kb) titled “Creating the Unknowable: Designing the Future in Education” and the visual presentation (pdf 4.1mb) can be downloaded from the links here.

To see the full presentation with all the embedded quicktime movie files please download all the files listed below and place them in a single folder along with the pdf file from the links below:

01_Self (mov file 1.6 mb)
02_Macro Model (mov file 3 mb)
03_Context with (mov file 6.2 mb)
04_Business (mov file 3.9 mb)
05_Designer (mov file 3.4 mb)
06_Calico (mov file 8.4 mb)
07a_Unknown (mov file 4.1 mb)
07b_Unknown (mov file 8.9 mb)
EAD06_2005_Show_MPR.pdf (pdf file 9.6 mb)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Business Models for Designers: Learning from the Field

"Business Models for Designers: Learning from the Field" from the DCC class was featured in web portal for Industrial Design and we shared it with our students with much excitement in class.

Last week the undergraduate students of my Foundation class at NID, called “Design Concepts and Concerns”, studied business models as part of their programme of study in order to understand design theory and practice that is included as a core subject at the end of their first year at the school. Organised into five working groups, they fanned out from the Institute in search of small street food vendors located in many parts of Ahmedabad city and each group observed and studied one particular type of food vendor, each using their designer sensibilities and the designer tools and skills of drawing, observation, interaction and interviewing, all done in the field at the place of work, creating a platform for learning from the field. This kind of learning would stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives since design knowledge and insights are usually hard earned from the field through sensitive observation as insights about the future are rarely found in books and other resources that are usually considered sound sources of knowledge in the fields of science and technology.

They had to first break the ice and introduce themselves as well as their project intentions and try to muster the cooperation of the busy street vendors to get them to share their experiences as well as their insights about the business that they managed, all done in a fairly hostile space of the unrelenting street environment, which in many cases is not entirely supported by the local laws and the local and national law enforcement agencies. Last year the Supreme Court of India had instructed the Government of Delhi to take immediate action to ban all street food vendors under the current laws of the land and this had raised an uproar from a number of concerned citizens and activist groups across the country. Karmayug, a local NGO in Mumbai has done very detailed work on the management and facilitation of street vendors in Mumbai since they do serve a real need in the crowded Metro which cannot and will not be met by the organized retail sector in India. However, from these studies it is clear that these street food vendors negotiate an existence in this difficult space and manage to build up a steady source of income and from a start-up mode with very little investment they work hard to establish a credible business and in many cases a lot of good-will and business partners such as their suppliers and their regular clients in the field. Many of these individuals are eventually successful in managing their lives and earning a good living, good enough to tend for their family and give their children a platform from which they could launch themselves to positions of advantage that the parents did not enjoy in their lifetime. This is a great way to beat poverty by using ones own efforts and determination and this is an informal channel that can be used by the under-privileged, the poor and the desperate people living in the edge of the city to fend for themselves when neither industry nor governments can do very much to help them survive or thrive. is a great resource that discusses the various issues that pertain to street food in the developing world or as they say the Global South. The Seminar Magazine had discussed this topic in great depth in one of their issues and the debate is far from over in India and across the world, it seems.

Indian cities are full of such hard working and imaginative settlers who having migrated in search of work from our villages to our cities and they have managed to eke out a livelihood in an imaginative manner with no capital and with a determination that is truly amazing. They build up local contacts, live in slums or shanty towns to start with their city lives and then some of the more successful ones move on to build major businesses across many sectors depending on the opportunity that they find or what they learn through their many experiences in the city. Our Foundation students were assigned to study five such street food vendors by working in teams and the pictures that follow show the presentation that the groups have made after a three day sojourn in the field, deep learning and a great many insights about business in design and the business of design.

Our students looked at the following street food vendors and the pictures below show a glimpse of the presentations made by each group. I am requesting each group to fill in their insights as comments attached to each section and I hope that they will contribute to make the experience a rich and rewarding one for all of us in the days ahead.

1. Street Tea vendors (The Chaiwallah),
2. Omlette makers using chicken eggs (Omlettewallah),
3. Fried Bhajiya makers using potato in pea-flour batter (Bhajiyawallah),
4. Paav Bhaji wallah (Fried Bread and mashed vegetables),
5. Pani Puri wallah (Puffed Puris from wheat flour with a sweet-sour dip)

All of these are favorite Indian street foods, all served from “Laris” or informal carts, by small and micro business enterprises, each run by a poor but determined individuals who is trying to build a livelihood in a harsh socio-economic environment. We asked the student to avoid established stalls run from built spaces and to focus on small street based enterprises which can be seen and understood as a whole business enterprise.

1. Chaiwallah: The Street Tea vendors of Ahmedabad

Image: The Chaiwallah group made several models to share the structure and the form of the business propositions used by the Chaiwallah's of Ahmedabad. they used models of gears to show the interrelationships of the various parts of the business processes as well as symbolic images to show the multi-functional avbilities of the Chai vendor and "her" multiple skills. While they did not meet a woman tea maker, they chose to use an image to express their understanding

2. Andawallah: Egg Omlette makers using chicken eggs

Image: Anda Omlette Wallah team making their presentation to the DCC class at NID. They made a very interersting presentation using flip charts and sequential image with hidden layers below. However, the whole message cannot be seen at a glance and this was a trade-off of the strategy employed

3. Bhajiya Wallah, makers of fried dishes using potato in pea-flour batter

Image: Bhajiyawallah team making their group presentation to the class. The team were able to understand the structure of the bhajiya making business and tell a story in a compelling manner.

4. Paav Bhaji Wallah (Fried Bread and mashed vegetables)

Image: Paav Bhaji team prepared several models to explain the business processes and the business models of the various Paav Bhaji makers that they had studied in the field over a three day period. These were discussed in the class.

5. Pani Puri Wallah (Puffed Puris from wheat flour with a sweet-sour dip)

Image: DCC student group studied the Pani Puri makers of Ahmedabad streets and presented their understanding of the business process and business model to the whole class

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Team Coastal Maharashtra on Water Opportunities

Team Coastal Maharashtra with their model on Water Design Opportunities

The following five pictures were taken to acknowledge the teams who had made the effort to explore, build and present the design opportunity models based on the DCC assignment. Those missing in the picture were not present at the time of the presentation.

For further information about the course and the background papers on design theory the author may be contacted or do visit his blogs and web site for more information on design as it is taught at NID. Links are provided below.


Prof M P Ranjan
Faculty of Design
Head, Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID (CFBI-NID)
Chairman, GeoVisualisation Task Group (DST, Govt. of India) (2006-2008)
National Institute of Design
Ahmedabad 380 007 India

Tel: (off) 91 79 26623692 ext 1090
Tel: (res) 91 79 26610054
Fax: 91 79 26605242

web site:
web domain:
blog: (
education blog: (
education blog:


Team Northeast with Design Opportunity Maps

Team Northeast with Design Opportunity Maps

Team presentations for Desert Rajasthan

Team working on water opportunities for Desert Rajasthan

Design Opportunities for Rainforest Kerala

Team working on Design Opportunities for Rainforest Kerala

Team Himalayan Foothills with presentations for Water Design Opportunities

Image: Team for the Himalayan Foothills

Design Opportunity Mapping: Coastal Maharashtra India

Image: Terrain model to capture and present Design Opportunity Mapping for effective water conservation and management in Coastal Maharashtra, India by the DCC team.

The Coastal Maharashtra team used a terrain model to locate all the design opportunities that they had arrived at as a group using the small A5 size format that was provided to them. Each member of the team presented their ideas to the class and this was preceded by an overview of their categorisation of these opportunities. Then teachers too gave their comments and the critique from the class suggested ways forward from here.

This method of working has been found effective in getting a deeper understanding of the macro and micro issues and opportunities for design as part of this course at NID. Each group spends time brainstorming, researching and exploring collectively as well as individually before the findings that may be intermediate in nature to the rest of the class. Each group shows interesting insights that are discivered along the journey and these form a cumulative learning for the whole class since all five groups look at diffetent regions or areas of focus within one macro problem area at a time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Business Models from the Field: and DCC

Learning about Business Models from the Field: The assignment and DCC
Image: Prof. M P Ranjan explaining the Systems Design Model to the DCC class. This four stage process includes User studies, Scenario Visualisation, Concept Detailing and Business Model development.
Several years ago, as part of the DCC course, we realized that strategy and planning were as important as concept and product detailing if a particular set of design offerings were to be successful in the marketplace. Unlike technological innovations and science innovations which can be proven in the laboratory or be subjected to peer reviews for validation, design innovations and design offerings are of a class that can be measured and the success of which can only be tested in the marketplace and this makes it truly complex to prove. The producers who have almost the same quality of product on offer can only differentiate their offering by the thoughtful development of their business models. So we see objects being converted into a service offering through a lease finance model or a service being dematerialised through the use of technology and the shift could be in either direction and the winner is the one who can capture the imagination of the consumer and offer a special convenience that the other is not able to offer.

Learning business processes is seen as the exclusive domain of the management graduate and not that of the designer, however as teachers at NID we realized that without this knowledge being integrated into the product creation and development process, the impact of the new product or service offering would be essentially incomplete. This led to the creation of the four stage systems design model that I presented at the CII-NID Design Summit in 2001. This model was several years in the making and was an implicit part of the DCC assignments over many years before it got formalized in the Design Summit paper and presentation which is called “Cactus Flowers Bloom in the Dessert”.( download pdf: Part 1 of 3.6 MB and Part 2 of 4.6 MB and paper of 123 KB) Much earlier, in 1998 we had asked a group of students in the DCC class to go out onto the streets of Ahmedabad and study several street food vendors in working groups and come back to the class with an understanding of their business processes and strategies. We called it the assignment and it was an instant success since we realized that the students were indeed able to observe, interact and understand the structural, functional and performance attributes of the business particularly since these were small and micro enterprises that were managed and effectively carried out by one entrepreneur with a small team of supporters, many from within the family itself. We have offered this assignment to all batches since then and the learning from the explorations and presentation that go across three or four days is very rich indeed. The contacts in the field, we found, were also open to share much information and insights with the students, but there were others who were either suspicious or indifferent to the needs of the students. On their part the students learned how to be diplomatic and deal with the very public interactions with care and empathy. Besides learning about fieldwork and about gathering information first hand from the live subjects the students also developed insights about start-up entrepreneurship and how some of these individuals learned to cope with poverty and to deal with it rather effectively. The revelation that the students usually came back with was that some of these individuals earned more each day than their teachers, their own parents in some cases or even officers in very respectable and well known large business enterprises.

The assignment that evolved over the years included the forming of five or six groups, each being assigned to research one kind of street food vendor through direct contact and observation in the street. Students were briefed about various issues to be kept in mind while making these field observations and in the interviews that followed The criteria for the selection of the vendors would be based on a quick survey of a number of such vendor locations and to seek out the ones that were basically cooperative as well as those who provided some significant attribute such as proximity to public facilities, apparent success by the customer draw that was exhibited in the preliminary observations, and the presence of other differentiators which the group feels would be worthy of deeper examination. Over the years we have had our students look at Street Tea vendors (The Chaiwallah), Omlette makers (Omlettewallah), Fried Bhajiya makers (Bhajiyawallah), Paav Bhaji wallah (Fried Bread and mashed vegetables), Golla wallah (Crushed ice on a stick), Pani Puri wallah (Puffed Puris with a sour dip) and so on, all favorite Indian street foods, all served from Laris or informal carts, by small and micro business enterprises, each run by a poor but determined individuals who is trying to build a livelihood in a harsh socio-economic environment.

Each group of students are required to make repeated visits to the chosen locations for observation and use the insights to model the flow of resources, finances and build an understanding of the visible as well as intangible assets and processes that have been incorporated to make the particular business a success. Through the interviews that are also required to get an understanding of how the story pans out across the year or a longer period and in some cases get an understanding of the history of the establishment and its various successes and periods of crisis, of which there are many being so exposed to the vagaries of the street environment that is at once full of opportunity as well as challenges. This collective understanding is to be mapped out using the group processes of discussion, dialogue and modeling from which would emerge a coherent model that can be worked into a suitable metaphor that can be used to share their understanding with the rest of the class. The students would be required to make a rich visual representation of their model in the form of a wall size poster for presentation and this would be used as a prop to explain the concepts that they have gathered about the particular business that they have studied. Teachers use this opportunity to connect the students to possibilities for further study and they are in turn quite ready to follow up on these leads since the learning from the field is quite deep and highly motivating as well. We look forward to seeing how this particular batch respond to the field study challenge particularly since it happens across the Holi festival weekend with all its associated distractions, but we are sure that they would stay focused and get the job done in time. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Northeast Team shows the way: Design Opportunity Maps

Image: Northeast team offered several design opportunities and presented these in a categorised manner.

The format provided for the capture and sharing of the design opportunities were used by all the students groups for the first time and it seems to have worked as planned. This is a new pedagogic tool for providing a common framework for groups to collaborate and make a coherent presentation. The small A5 sized cards on which the students could individually draw their imagination of the particular design opportunity along with a brief description was used well by the Northeast group. They offered all the generated alternatives into a meta structure where the identified design opportunities were divided into five categories: Individual, Family, Community, Village/Town and Eco-System Level.

For the chosen subject of design opportunities with Water, this categorisation worked quite well and the students were able to make a very expressive presentation, working as a group. The other groups too presented their explorations and at the end of the day we had a large number of avenues that could be explored in this specific field across all the design disciplines.

The format that the students used is in an DIN A5 size and the artwork was made on a DIN A4 paper for quick reproduction using the photo-copying process. Having a format I think helped in bringing a sense of order to the presentations and facilitated collaboration at the presentation stage particularly for the difficult task of categorisation of all the concepts. The rest of the presentations will be shared in the next post.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DCC2008 Students in the NID KMC: Subject Water

Image: Foundation stufdents in the NID Knowledge Management Centre looking at a variety of published and archival resources about their theme, WATER.

The DCC2008 Foundation batch spent the day in the NID KMC carrying out research on the various categories of resources that are available in the Library which is called the KMC for short. They looked at the variety of resources that are available here after having put together a list of keywords and having broadly dividing the field into manageable areas amongst the team members, at least those who had agreed to participate, I did not see all of them in the KMC when I did my rounds with the camera. Some went to the Computer Centre and checked out Google and Wikipedia as well as other web resources and yet others met faculty at NID for very specific questions that needed to be addressed.

I look forward to the meeting with the class tomorrow and to an intensive work session during the week ahead and through this I do hope that we can build up a credible inventory of design opportunities in a massive list that is also organised and presented in a manner that we can share with the rest of the Institute and in the process influence future Diploma Projects at the NID with some of them being done in this critical area of water resource conservation and the culture of water for the future. This is indeed the very first stage in the design process, which is finding and sensing design opportunities and deciding what is worth doing and what can be done with the available resources and constraints, through the application of strategy and imagination and the designers sensibility, all part of the design journey.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Information Strategies for Research: Their role in Design Thinking and Action.

Information Strategies for Research: Their role in Design Thinking and Action.

A variety of information would be required as we go forward with a particular design initiative. In this case we are looking at water as a subject and at the role that it could have in facilitating people living in the five selected zones across our country. We have taken this as a subject so that as a group we can engage with a process of articulation, clarification and research that would help us understand the field of design and in particular design opportunity.

Water has many forms and numerous uses and it is a critical resource for human existence. However it is not taken very seriously and we are seeing wide spread pollution of our water resources as well as gross misuse by individuals and industry alike. This shows us that there are many opportunities for design action in this space since for each problem that we are able to recognize and articulate we can offer many different solutions with the application of our imagination. The assignment was therefore a method through which all the students could understand how a particular area of focus could be explored by a group and from this how we can discover numerous design tasks that can be done to help solve one or other aspect of the problem. This will of course be seen that the issues to be handled could be small scale and fairly clearly articulated problems or large scale and extremely complex problems. It is only when we have an inventory of challenges along with an inkling of what we can possibly do in this situation do we have the beginnings of a list of design opportunities that deal with this.

While we try and tackle such wide ranging design problems we would necessarily have to deal with many kinds of knowledge as well as many disciplines of design to try and address these issues successfully. Some may well be outside the scope of the fields that each one of us may be capable of handling with our limited knowledge and skills but this does not make the problem either irrelevant or something that cannot be solved. This is where the role of imagination comes in to play and where conventional wisdom gives up we have seen repeatedly the emergence of break-through concepts emerging that can help look at the situation in a new way and this may open up avenues for new classes of solutions. Further, each design discipline could take up a particular design problem and find different approaches to address these towards a lasting solution. For instance the solution could be in building awareness amongst the users and not just in building new tools and processes for society to use. Awareness building could be through addressing the information needs of children with books, illustrations, films, plays and multi-media offerings or through reaching out to policy makers through traveling exhibitions, websites and visually rich presentations that have a real impact on the mind and that can bring a new understanding of the complex situation at hand and therefore help in a decision to be made. At this level the design actions can be very political while at other levels it would be seen as the application of the skills of composition, colour and form in a sensitive manner that the designer is always expected to do by virtue of their training and sensitisatioin to issues and outcomes that are desirable.

The information needed is quite varied and can come form many sources and each source would require the design student to develop a different skill in managing during research. Research from books would need the skill of working with keywords and in the use of indexes and library resource maps such as access books and encyclopedias and dictionaries. A good place to start research is in text books from a particular field and in some cases when the subject is unknown to the researcher it may be wise to start with childrens books on the subject and move from there to the more specialized and scholarly works. One could make a list of thought leaders in any given subject and today it is very easily provided by a quick review of the intrernet resources and in this case the Wikipedia could be a great source to start research with a set of key-words as a starting point. In the age of information getting new data is very easy but making sense of data is the real challenge. This is where meetings with users, subject experts and domain level experts could be a great help. Students could go out of their class and meet real people who are likely to provide insights about the subject and in design this is more important that tons of information. All the information thus collected by the students working in groups would need to be organized and structured into an information model that can be shared with all the class.

Friday, March 14, 2008

DCC2008 Course Abruptly Terminated:

Image: DCC2008 Course Abruptly Terminated: Foundation classroom at 9.30 am and at 12.00 pm today

I have terminated the DCC2008 course for the Foundation class today since very few students had turned up to class in the morning when we were to have the scheduled presentation of the groups on the design opportunities in the area of water in rural India. The task was important but the habit of not coming on time seemed to get in the way. Rashmi and I decided that we would come again at 11.00 am, after the morning tea break and start with a lecture on Design Opportunities and the students present in the class were informed of our intention and they were requested to message the others to come for the lecture. At 11.00 am we found about 40 percent of the class present so we decided to call it a day and retreated to my office from where I sent out the mail to all students and marked copies to my faculty colleagues as quoted below:

Dear Students

I am very disappointed with the presence of students in the DCC Class today especially since we were to have a presentation of the Design Opportunities on what designers can do in the area of water. We had a very inspiring presentation from Dinesh Sharma about the water harvesting system that he has designed along with the posters and postcards made to promote the idea in schools. We also had Sumiran talking to the students and sharing with all of you the village opportunity mapping project that the Gandhinagar students had done last semester in the Data Visualisation course with me.

However today when Rashmi Korjan and I arrived at 9.30 am we had a handful of students in the class out of a strength of 75 and we had to defer the presentation to 11.00 am. I had informed the students present that we would have a lecture immediately on Design Opportunities and the various Disciplines of Design but to our utter dismay the class strength was less than 40 percent when we came up at 11.00 am. This just will not do at NID, or in any other school. I am requesting the Chairman Education to relieve me from the onerous task of trying to teach this batch about Design Thinking if we are to continue the education programme in such a lackadaisical manner. Count me out.

I spent the morning posting the work done yesterday on the Design Concepts and Concerns blog but I fail to appreciate this casual attitude to coming to class and participating in the group tasks. Some students have been regular and committed and I am indeed sorry for them that they have to face the consequences that are not of their doing.

I did enjoy teaching this course over the years but perhaps the world is changing fast (24x7) malls and all and so is NID and I may ask the Education to find another way out for this extreme fiasco. I am sharing this mail with my colleagues at NID and a copy to Chairman Education for their consideration and advice.

With warm regards

M P Ranjan
from my office at NID
14 March 2008 at 11.35 am IST


Prof M P Ranjan
Faculty of Design
Head, Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID (CFBI-NID)
Chairman, GeoVisualisation Task Group (DST, Govt. of India) (2006-2008)
National Institute of Design
Ahmedabad 380 007 India

Tel: (off) 91 79 26623692 ext 1090
Tel: (res) 91 79 26610054
Fax: 91 79 26605242

web site:
web domain:
blog: (
education blog: (
education blog:


In the afternoon six students visited my office, in pairs, to tell me that they were sorry but we spent some time discussing the symptoms of the student action or inaction and I asked them to spend time in the library to look at resources of past student work on water and development. We will need to meet together sometime and explore how this course can be salvaged and taken forward and I do hope we get help from our faculty colleagues as well as our senior students. I find that the dialogue between the seniors and the freshmen has dwindled and very little exchange seems to be taking place in the corridors and the BMW or the basketball court, all spaces for informal learning at NID. This too may need to be corrected and this break may be a blessing in disguise if we are able to get the processes of sharing and interaction started again in real earnest. I will have a word with my colleagues and seek their advice about how we can move forward from here.

M P Ranjan
14 March 2008 at 8.20 pm IST
posted from my office at NID

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Design Opportunity Mapping: Northeast India

Design Opportunity Mapping: Water in Northeast India and Coastal Maharashtra
Image: Northeast group presenting the lists of design opportunities for water

The NER group made a presentation yesterday and their list was broad but lacked visuals This meant that while the possibilities at a general level were listed they missed the representation of the particular form that they saw for each opportunity in their minds eye. In design this is a very important difference and that is why in design there are many answers and not just one way to do things since each designer and their client situation would have different specific constraints and aspirations while deciding the features and the form in which a specific item in their list would be transformed and delivered in the real world.

Even the larger posters done by the groups showed a symbolic treatment while the need when unfolding a design opportunity would be to get as specific as possible so that particular attributes in the possibilities and the limitations are addressed in each representation. There are therefore many possible interpretations possible for each expression and the designer must then make a judgment call while making the thumbnail expression that would capture the image in the minds eye. In order for the students to experience this process we evolved a format on which they could capture these thumbnail sketches along with a very brief caption and key words working as a team that would cooperate in building a large number of design opportunities and these would be categorized and presented to the class for each region that has been selected, namely, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Himalayas and the Northeast, all villages here so that the macro variables are drawn from this regional constraint by each group.

Image: Coastal Maharashtra group mappong design opportunities for water
The format is yet to be tested and we will know later in the day how the students have been able to use the constraints offered by the format and how they were able to interpret that assignment that has been set for each team. After this presentation we will explore the nature of various design disciplines through a field interaction assignment and also the Business model assignment using local street food vendor models as their source of inspiration. The teams would return to the village economy with the insights gained from these two assignments and continue to work in teams with the assignments that follow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Water Harvesting and Village Study Visualisation

Village Study Visualisation Water Harvesting: As a Case Study Presentations in the DCC Class
Image: Sumiran presenting his Village Study Maps and Models to the DCC class today.

The DCC2008 class was given a treat today with two very inspiring presentations from two NID graduates, Sumiran, a graduate from the SUID programme in Gandhinagar and Dinesh Sharma, a graduate in Product Design from the NID, Paldi campus. Sumiran shared the work of his team on the manner in which they carried out a village study in a selected location with the intention of visualizing the data in an expressive model such that it could be the foundation for a new web based system that could help understand the resources and aspirations of any village in India. The Data Visualisation team had chosen Sahpur village in Gandhinagar using Google Earth as a reference resource and due to many attributes that this particular village had for carrying out their survey. He shared the strategies that the team had adopted as well as the lessons that had been gleaned as insights from their experience. This reflective presentation was also intended to give the Foundation students a platform for their own reflection on their Environmental Perception experience at Dholka town as they went further with the various assignments during this DCC course. The whole area of design opportunity mapping and then modeling these in the form of an associated set of icons and symbols that were used to capture the insights on a map that had some basis for suggesting a new software proposal that could be applied to many other situations was explained as a case study.

Image: Dinesh Sharma explaining the concepts and business processes developed for the Furaat Rain Water Harvesting system that he designed for an Ahmedabad based company.
Dinesh Sharma on the other hand took the students through a very inspiring case study of the Furaat Water Harvesting system design and the business models that the company had explored to realise their design vision as well as their plans going forward. Dinesh told the group that the promoters of the company had come into this particular activity after the 2002 riots of Ahmedabad had completely destroyed their former business of tube well drilling and the two brothers had to literally build a new business from scratch. It is here that they started looking at water harvesting as a business opportunity as well as an avenue to make sense in society. They had approached Dinesh and his design-consulting firm, Isiliye Design, to help in cost reduction and product detailing to start with. However after he got involved the entire system was built from ground up as a new and innovative offering that addressed all the systems level complexities in a manner that the construction became simple, the costs were reduced at many stages of production, transport and maintenance and the product was made modular and easy to use and manage. Dinesh also spoke about the philosophy and ideology that has driven this project from the very beginning and the practical business aspects that were kept in mind while the projects were being designed and executed in the field. Today over 500 installations later a whole new set of insights have been developed and a lot of conviction about the direction have come about as well.

This presentation also came as a useful peg on which the concept of Design Opportunity could be understood by the students and the DCC model for perception and imagination was shared with the class. The rich Q & A session that followed set the stage for the follow up work that would be done by the groups of students and we look forward to their group presentations in class tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Design Opportunities in Water: DCC2008 Assignment

Design Opportunities in Water: Looking at the five Indian village types as part of this course
Image: Furaat Water Harvesting system designed by Dinesh Sharma an NID graduate in Product Design.

Yesterday we talked about water and the need for the design community to look closely at this resource that is becoming increasingly scarce as population increases and we tend to use more technology to extract this very limited resource in an unsustainable manner. The key word is sustainability and with imagination and design creativity we can and must find ways to reduce, recycle, recharge and reform the manner in which we think about and use this precious resource. Anita Roddick in her book “Troubled Water” tells us how critical water is to sustaining human life. She says, I quote, “Water is more fundamental than any other substance on Earth: You can live three weeks without food, but without water you’ll be dead in three days.” UnQuote

We also talked about the conversation that Hazel Henderson, futurist, evolutionary economist and author had with Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist association to promote peace in their book titled “Planetary Citizenship”. Here the attitudes that were needed to shape values, beliefs and actions for a sustainable world are discussed as an extended dialogue that covers insights form both authors from over 80 years of individual experiences. Their belief that the individual can shape a sustainable world is at the heart of this dialogue. Water is a repeated theme across the book and the need to conserve, share, and protect water as a critical human resource is repeatedly addressed across the many themes that are discussed by these visionaries.

We talked about the work done by Dinesh Sharma with the Furaat Earth Pvt. Ltd. In Ahmedabad over the past three years and used this as a starting point for our collective brainstorming about what the design community could do about this very critical resource, particularly for our village economy. The traditional wisdom of the manner ion which water has been used in the dry regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan have shown many sensitive and durable ways of conserving and using water for the benefit of society. These were also ecologically sensitive and have held the local populations in good stead for the past hundred and even thousands of years. The village pond is a critical method that has been used in all our villages to recharge the ground water as well as to hold surface water for use to feed cattle, for agricultutre as well as for washing and other tasks. The village wells are usually located near the aquifers that are fed by the ponds through a slow filtration process that works unseen below the surface of the pond.

We also spoke about two of our graduates in Baroda (Varodra), Mala and Pradeep Sinha, who have a textile design company which recycles and reprocesses all their water before it is let out into the environment in a high quality discharge. Pradeep had designed India’s first commercially available water filtration system using the Reverse Osmosis process. The e product was launched by the Baroda based company and soon thereafter Symphony took up the marketing of these products on a nation wide franchise agreement.

The task given to our student groups was to brainstorm and research the whole area and come up with design opportunities that can be taken up by seniors across all the disciplines at NID in the Industrial Design, Communication Design and Digital Design disciplines. The presentation is scheduled for the 12th March 2008.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.