Image: A visit to Calico Museum as part of the DCC course in 1999 by Debashree in an assignment created to teach scenario visualisation, learning by doing.
Background: Scenario visualisations in Design
Scenario visualisations can be made at any stage of the design journey. In the early stages these are typically rather abstract and with a low content of details, although some parts may be vividly expressed if these components or parts are already clearly conceptualized due to either historical reasons or if the larger scenario is being around this part which is already. Design visualizations can cover many attributes of the system that is being modeled. Some could show the structural and formal attributes of the system while others can go on to include an expression of several intangible aspects as well as those that can be seen and felt. These can also include the relationship between the components of the system and help give us an overview of the total system which is a perspective that would need to be considered when taking major decisions at the design stage itself. Many strategic decisions need to be taken at an early stage and these scenario visualizations provide the framework for appreciating the particular solution that is on offer. Several alternate scenarios can be examined before taking a particular decision and some decisions may not be reversible without incurring a huge cost or effort and therefore these need to be subjected to much advance planning and participatory modes of decision making in a democratic framework. Our cities and its future can be determined by a design process that is both visible as well as informed by expert action if we were to adopt a way forward that could accommodate such processes that may be required to make visible major infrastructure offerings as well as details of cost and impact assessments, all done in a manner that can be appreciated by the common man in the street. This means that the language of discourse would need to move from economic models in an abstract mathematical formulation to a more visibly appreciated modeling system that can show and tell the intended structures and the affects on our lives. It is here that scenario visualization in the form of picture stories or rich picture representations can make a huge difference to our understanding of the complex phenomena that go into many such projects of public good.
In our attempt to teach the art of scenario visualization we devised an assignment that could get the involvement of an entire class of design students at a high level of motivation while undertaking these experiences. The introductory phase of the scenario visualization assignment has the student sharing with the class, in one composite rich picture, an introduction to themselves in an attempt to show who we are. This assignment is the first of many visualization tasks done by the design student jn the DCC course and here they are expected to introspect and identify aspects of their lives that have significantly contributed to shaping their attitudes and abilities as they are today. Students are them asked to express their imagination in the form of images in juxtaposition on a single sheet of paper which they could use to tell their story of themselves. This is a first experience in show and tell about something that they are very familiar with already, themselves. The next stage is the experiencing of an interesting space or event in the city which can be done as a group and after the immersive experience the students are aslked to represent the experience in all its facets, again as a single rich picture representation that can be shared with the whole class. This time the event or space that is visited is common for all the students but it becomes clear that each student brings back their own point of view that is unique and which is shaped by their past experiences as well as their belief systems and cultural roots when it comes to styles of representation chosen. Going from a familiar but usually ignored representation of the self to a common space with different points of view are quite revealing when taken together for a discussion.
Image: DCC2008 students admiring Debashree's 1999 scenario artwork in my office today.
Calico Museum Visit and the DCC Course
The students are then given topics that they could examine in depth through the processes of group brain-storming and modeling in order to make sense of the complex interplay of factors that influence the situations that are being studied. These processes too lead to visual modeling of a variety of kinds and at the end of these collective journeys the students build a model that helps categorise the forces that influence the situation as well as discover a metaphor that can give meaning and a memorable setting for the structure that is discovered by the group. These structures are not sacred truths but are tentative offerings that can be discussed and debated leading to appropriate modifications, but as they stand they represent the current understanding of the situation and this does bring a great deal of clarity to the complex situation that is being handled by the group. In the DCC class of 1999 we asked the students to visit the Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad and after an immersive experience of that visit they were asked to make a rich picture scenario of their visit with all the details shown in one large format picture. The experiences that were sequential are now represented in a spatial manner with images juxtaposed and expressed on one single sheet and the variety of expressions were truly staggering. At the end of the major assignment the students are once again asked to show the design opportunities that they had imagined and this time they are to express a scenario of a pure imaginative landscape and an expression of the possible future with all the associated details that would make it both viable as well as desirable. This is a great introduction to design scenario visualization that can be used in all attempts to model the future solutions and make these visible to an interested and informed audience with a certain degree of credibility.
Image: DCC Blackboard with the assignment description as a structure model.
Water based Design Opportunities for India
This year we have assigned the mapping of Design Opportunities with Water in each of five geographic regions of India. Each student from the respective group would choose one specific design opportunity in which they have a personal conviction and through a process of imagination, dreaming and exploration build a visual scenario that can be shared with the class as an image in a show and tell mode of presentation. Each group would meet in a round table presentation for a per review and feedback session where the visual scenarios would be presented and based on the feed back from the group members each student would send in a 200 word email to describe their scenario and the specific design opportunity that they have developed for the future keeping a 15 year time horizon for having built an enterprise to roll out the design into the real world. We look forward to seeing all the presentations and to sharing it with the world through this blog in the near future.
For further reading look at this paper on Design Visualisation from my website. (pdf file 691 kb)