August 2006

Dear Colleague,

This is week 5 and the dust has settled somewhat – the madness of studio and elective choices, the enrolment and withdrawals from courses, and the flurry of emails from all quarters of the university have died down. You are also in the period coming in to work with a better sense of what is going to happen through the day, your students are not complete strangers anymore and you have begun to remember names. The initial anger and frustration of the students has begun to change to a more focussed approach to their course. In fact it is time for a dinner, a chat and a quiet drink with colleagues to say ‘so how is it going’.

I am really happy with how my lot are going – one of them has given up sugar, another her mobile phone and another his showers. This is for the studies class where we are eventually going to end up with a new board game for kids. That is my Friday, and I am discovering that this is a good way to end the week. The rest of my week has a few more BDes involvements – most of them with quite charming episodes week after week – and week 5 is good because I am not all that confronting for them anymore. Each week is different for me depending upon whether it is an odd or even number week – like this is an even number week and so I have a particular set of post grad appointments – and a particular set of senior student supervisions. It is also a week where I meet separately with teachers from the schools and the elective students, to plan for a session on 31st when we will all wander the streets with school kids doing our research for the hometowns project.

This week also has the meeting of the Education Group of the Design Institute at the CUB site. You may have picked up the impact these deliberations are having on our local environment. Some of these are:
1. The adoption of the 3+2 model for undergraduate education in Europe has transformed the nature of Architecture programs around Australia and this has an impact upon our local culture of Masters by Research. We are very aware of the 4 year nature of our program and its implications.
2. The proposal for a Masters by Course Work. We – Mick, Malte, Liam and myself – have come up with a program (MDes: Sustainable Journeys) and this has been discussed at the Program Advisory Committee (PAC). The School has put in the intention to develop and this work is in progress for the program to start in 2008.
3. The Group has discussed the rationalisation and streamlining of the various awards in design at RMIT from TAFE to HE. This can profoundly transform the relationships between the various program and schools. This amplification of the dual sector nature of RMIT has found expression in the pathways typologies that Liam has drawn up and circulated. I would like to take this to the Education Group meeting to show this as work in progress.

We are half year down from the roll out of online enrolments, and the transfer of student administration to the Hub. In this period Brian has taken some great initiatives, in addition to moving into his own office, to make students self reliant. He still does a tremendous amount of student support – but in the main the more progressive students are very independent and use the services of the Hub quite effectively. There are many teething troubles – and our senior students have been slow to adapt to these changes – and we continue to see many disasters. So for some time now it will be a new disaster of a completely different kind – mainly students failing to enrol or missing deadlines and asking for help – every day. But to his credit Brian is coping admirably.

One initiative of Brian’s that had an immediate impact upon my work was the way he set up Academic Advisement at the beginning of the semester. All the students were called in one afternoon and all staff were asked to participate. That afternoon he set it up so that he would send students out to different staff, and I got to meet only the most difficult of cases. This worked really well, and really got the job sharing happening effectively.

Last semester we had our training session on discrimination and followed it up with the chart from Brian on job sharing where each job/task had two people responsible. He sent the chart out on two occasions and got some response. But this wasn’t enough and the chart lay incomplete till two weeks ago. This chart was taken up for discussion in the last staff meeting and I am glad to see that the chart is complete and we can start listing the responsibilities for each role – this is on the agenda for today’s staff meeting.

I began my second term as Program Director on the 1st of July. Two points are significant from my meeting up with Harriet, my supervisor, before I started this term:
1. All projects would be closed: The first phase was orientated towards ‘development’ and one face of this was the ‘projects’ that were set up. That phase ended with my term – and all projects that were initiated between 2004 -2006 are closed –and all staff roles will be in line with the responsibilities of the ‘program team’. This means – If you have been working on a project, like the Learner Centered Project, you may continue with your work and steer it towards a grant application. Liam did this with a Carrick 06 expression of interest. I communicated this to all of you in the mid year work plan meetings.
2. I would focus upon my academic profile: I began this year by saying that I will push all staff to do two things, one grant application and two conference papers, by the end of the year. I then began work on the papers and grant applications. Four applications have been submitted, and teaching has been aligned with these grant application topics. After the mid year discussion the focus shifted just a little – I would concentrate on my projects and collaborate with you when you asked for it. I then sent off a mail to each of you asking you to take the lead in the joint papers we had discussed. I then began to construct my academic life from scratch putting gin only things I would like to do.
This change has made a big difference to me and by week five I am beginning to see the effect on my work and writing. I could very quickly get up a UMAP and New Endeavour Application. I have been able to construct my courses close to my research interests, and have been able to give time to meetings with outside agencies like Diabetes Australia.

We are weeks away from the mid semester exhibitions and drinks. I have some plans to display the work my students have been doing. And am looking forward to share with you things you have been doing.

Until then.

Soumitri Varadarajan
Program Director – Industrial Design

Design for Manufacture

The project is to redesign the glucometer.

The Glucometer is a medical product, a niche product and usually quite unappealing in appearance. The redesign of the glucometer will have three distinct phases:
1. Research: Understading the product. How it works and how it is purchased, used and manufactured. One part of this work will be with the users group. While another part will focus upon the strict product design requirements of the project.
2. Design: Simulating the appropriate product.
3. Design for Manufacture: This will happen in China and is a revisiting of stage 2, after consultation with the manufacturer in China. This phase will happen in China.


China 2007

The semester in China is to have three parts – coinciding with similar components in the curriculum at Foshan University.
The RMIT students are to be year 2 and year 3 students.

1. The Studio (24 Cr): “Working with China” – Is to focus upon familiarizing the students with working on a Product Design project in China. I will attempt to set up a project with Fan that has an Industry client.
2. Elective (12 Cr): “Diabetes” – (also as a technology course) is to focus upon design for manufacture, and is a technological project, drawing upon the resources of the health Care system. The idea would be to explore the possibility of a project which has a users group – medical/ hospitals – and a manufacturer of Glucometers, and insulin pens. The project is an initiation of a research collaboration between Soumitri and Fan/ RMIT and Foshan in the area of interventions in Diabetes Care.
3. Elective (12 Cr): “Consumption” – (also as a studies course) is to focus upon studying the way of life of urban chinese families. Students will be encouraged to do a home stay for periods during the course of their semester. The students would study spending habits and the ‘right way’ of the Chinese.

Semester in China

July 2007


There are three things you have to do in this course: Say No, Do the spending habits study and design a game.

(A)Provocation: Say NO

You can say no, it needs personal strength, and step out of your conventional/ normal ways of doing things. In this exercise you have to give up many things. Your success will be in demonstrating an effective departure from dominant discourse and in showing a ‘renunciation’ of worldly possessions.

(B) Crash Assignment: Spending Habits Study
In this exercise you will study spending habits of target families:
1. Each student/ or group of students will identify a family to study.
2. The research involves:
a. Photography of the house and household objects. Over two visits.
b. A questionnaire study or interview; that the researcher has to fill out with information from the household. To be done in the first visit.
c. Free Conversations (regarding the ‘spending habits’) between the student researcher and the members of the household. The conversations will be recorded using both video and audio recording devices. The conversations will be about the artefacts in the house, and about recalling thoughts and feelings associated occasions and events of ‘spending money’. This will be done over four visits.

(C) Design Project: Game for Children
Design a board game based on Monopoly. With the objective of – eventually – making people change their spending habits.

Key Learning objectives

The course has a specific area, sustainable consumption, and a particular way, methods in design, to go about the semester.

(A) Content
Understanding Sustainable Consumption
Gaining an experience of making Design Interventions in complex problem areas

(B) Methods of
Field-work Research
Report Writing
Poster Design
Game Design