What is Design Integration

Design Integration has been used (UK, NZ, Aus) as a phrase within the specific context of connecting the sectors of ‘product design’ with ‘manufacturing Industry’ to improve the design of the products made by industry. In the past this form of ‘program’ has had different names. Art in Industry was one.

The South Kensington Initiative of 1851 was an early initiative. Focussed upon the theme of “Art in Industry” the program responded to critics (Morris and Ruskin) of the design of early industrial equipment by proposing a ‘capacity development’ initiative.

This early program had three components:

  1. Program: Placing artists within Manufacturing Enterprises.
  2. Institute: The Institutes of Art in Industry were set up to provide a location for exhibiting works, holding lectures, connecting industry owners with artists. These institutes documented works and published articles on topics focussed upon the “good” in taste and design.
  3. Training: State funding was provided for training the new ‘artist in industry’. The Glasgow School of Art has its roots within the South Kensington support ecosystem.
Glasgow School of Art
Glasgow School of Art

All State programs – including the very robust programs in Japan and South Korea – have these three components. In modern parlance its usual to see terminologies such as these:

  1. Demonstration Projects: Cofunding programs where the state pays part of the design fee for SMEs to hire product designers.
  2. Promotion: Chambers of Industry organised Industry+Design professional networking events.
  3. Professional Development: Workshops and lectures for industry leaders/ employees about ‘new product development’.

Replacing Program, Institute and Training with Demonstration Projects, Promotion, and Professional Development aligns the same motivations of the state with the contemporary categories of activating and facilitating change.

Art in Industry is an early precursor of the discipline of Product Design. These days due to the influence of American nomenclature many Product Design Courses are named Industrial Design. The post hoc explanation of the discipline often describes a generalist or diverse discipline. The method and content are still closely aligned to the South Kensington curriculum: art(aesthetics) plus manufacture (engineering). 

What do Governments look for?

While the early motivations (late industrial revolution period) may have been to do with emerging modernism (the look of Industrial equipment), the mandate was very soon eclipsed by the state imperative focussed upon manufacturing competitiveness. The Crystal Palace Exhibition (1951) was an ‘exhibition’ to showcase the producer-side competencies of Britain (Imperial Britain). The State of Design Festivals funded in the past by the Victorian Governments (Australia) were largely intended as a showcase to connect designers to Industry. The state mandate wasn’t always understood by the organisers – this frustrated the department functionaries, many of these people are still working in VicGov, who have been custodians of Design Capacity Development in Victorian Industry through many governments in Victoria. I imagine this then lead to endless arguments between the staff of ministers and bureaucrats within the government. In one way these festival spends were never meant to be towards a celebration of ‘urban works’ or craft artefacts made by designers for elite consumption. Such monies were set aside by governments to boost the economy – significantly the manufacturing economy and the innovation ecosystem in Victoria.

These festivals were also not funded to showcase urban scale works. There is a separate ministry for that. In fact the naming of ministries by successive governments (who always change the names of ministers portfolios) has tended to keep industry and the arts separate. In the current incarnation we have two ministries connected to the ‘design for manufacture’ discourse.

Industry and Employment: Funding is also available for business capability development activities – including assistance with management skills, sales and marketing strategies, financial management, new product development, business development and marketing opportunities.

Creative Industries: The Andrews Labor Government has teamed up with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to deliver a new dedicated program to celebrate, promote and strengthen Victorian design.

Of these Industry and Employment has a capacity gap around New Product Development. When a consultant presented the last draft report at the consultation meeting (years ago now) I spoke up and said that he was probably too focussed on only ‘product design’. This is normal in Scandinavia, UK, Germany and the US – where State programs connecting Manufacturing and Industry are focussed upon ‘new product development’. I was referring to the fact that the audience at the consultation workshop had only one product designer – me – and the rest were from the creative industries, which require a different narrative of state support.

NOTE: Let us say the issue of Design Integration in Victoria is in the category of an intractable problem. UTS (Sydney) probably is having a bit more success. This is the link to Powerhouse post on this topic.

Case Study: New Zealand

New Zealand is commended for their Program of Integrating their design community with their manufacturing enterprises.

Excerpt from: http://www.designforeurope.eu/case-study/design-integration-programme

In 2006 Better by Design introduced the Design Integration Programme, a six stage process to help companies use design to become more innovative, efficient and internationally competitive.

The programme helps businesses use design to create more desirable products and services, faster growth, a better workplace culture and loyal customers.

The coaching is delivered inside companies and works on the specific problems and opportunities they face. It’s a hands-on collaborative approach to learning that focuses on addressing the firm’s current challenges.

Design Integration coaches are carefully chosen for each company, these coaches are generally private sector practitioners with expertise and experience in both design and business. They support the CEO and their team, sharing knowledge and skills, breaking down some of the traditional divisions within companies that block innovation. As the confidence and design capability of the employees increases, coaches will support them in taking on increasingly complex challenges.

The initial phase of coaching is 100% funded by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – after which costs are split 50:50 with the company. The structure of the support reflects the fact that integrating design within a business is a journey, and the Design Integration Programme provides coaching that is tailored to the needs of each firm as it progresses through the six stage programme. This support is delivered in a way that is reflects the speed with which the company wants to progress, and exactly what they want to get out of the programme.

  1. Enrolment

Better by Design look for CEOs who see value in design and want to know more about how it could help their business.

  1. Design thinking experience

A day-long ‘Design Thinking Experience’ workshop provides an intensive introduction to the design process that’s customised to address the current challenges of each company.

  1. Discover, define, design

This is a three month co-discovery process including two workshops and a series of practical activities that help companies look at the way they work through a design lens. The outcome of this is a shared understanding between the company and the coach of key commercial objectives.

  1. Design activities

A series of activities help cross-functional teams within the company learn to apply design to specific challenges. Proven techniques are used to tease out and resolve real issues faced by the business.

  1. Evaluation

This is an opportunity to share learning and assess progress. Teams within the company work together testing out new forms of collaboration as design behaviours become embedded at every level of the organisation.

  1. Completion

Companies may spend up to two years being coached and building design skills before they graduate from the programme. At this point they will feel competent to move forward as an effective, design-led organisation. Grad companies become part of Better by Design’s learning community with continued access to events and resources.

(Detail Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne. Source)

The Codesign Initiative

I have for years been working on a project, with colleagues, within this space of design integration. I discuss that project using the language of Capacity Development – and this has been a useful exercise for me.

How is the Codesign Program akin to state development/ support for of industry transformation? The Codesign Initiative can be articulated a aligned to the spirit of developing ‘industry’. The key principles employed are similar to those in the state mandate for their programs:

  1. Recognizing industry employee careers:
    1. Embedding design within the organization
    2. Collaboration to last a long-period of time with Ongoing Mentorship
    3. Staff Professional Development
  2. Need Identification
  3. New Product Development

Capacity Development

The Codesign Initiative has been working with Industry in the following dimensions/ WAYS:

  1. Developing in-house design capability: Setting up design studios within the organisations, employing design graduates
  2. Mentoring in-house design staff, and leadership
  3. Industry Placements
    1. Embedding PhDs within the organisations
    2. Embedding Honours (UG) students within the organisations
    3. Proving Student Placements: Undergraduate Industrial and Interior Design Students
    4. Embedding RMIT academic staff within organisations: Three staff are Hon Senior Lecturers at Austin Health.

New Product Development

I am working on Design (Research) projects to develop Products and Services for commercialization and wide adoption. Two of the projects I am able to share are:

  1. VCCC/ Pancare: Funded by Cancer Australia (2017-2019) to develop an App to support (especially rural) people with Pancreatic Cancer.
  2. State Govt (VicGov): ARC Linkage in development focussed upon developing a new framework for crime/theft, and vehicle identification.

Industry (Design Integration Partners)

The Industry-Partners I work with are:

  1. Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre/ Austin Hospital
  2. Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre ( and VCCC)
  3. VicRoads
  4. Victoria Legal Aid
  5. CoHealth
  6. Royal Dental Hospital
  7. Alfred Hospital
  8. Jayco

The ways we can engage with organisations

In our work with agencies and organisations we have typically begun from a low base and focussed upon listening and doing codesign projects to build the ‘need identification‘ matrix and framework. This work then is owned by the organisation and is core to their enthusiasm and commitment to investing in design capability and mentorship of senior leadership within the organization. Then we have stayed the course and over a period of 3 to 5 years embedded a robust design culture – Case Study: The work with VicRoads(VR) began in Dec 2012. In 2015 Dec they funded positions to set up an inhouse design studio employing 3 RMIT Industrial Design Graduates. In Dec 2016 they increased the funding and restructured the design studio to be more visible with the organisation. The studio employs now 3 of our graduates and has made a commitment to spend upwards of 750,000$ over the next 4 years, plus is very enthusiastic about joining an ARC Linkage application. My role with this organisation has been as the mentor, and supervisor of staff – plus to build a ‘research culture’ – such as drafting the current ARC Linkage Application.

In addition to the above 6 WAYS – we can undertake to do work with organisations on a few specific fronts (below). This could be aspects additional to the process we have followed in working with the 8 organisations listed above.

  1. Product and development-process Audits/ and recommendations for action
  2. New Product Development/ focussed upon radical innovation
  3. Capacity Development through demonstration projects
  4. Capacity Development through training workshops

What Disruption is not

BRIEF: I have been invited to a conclave of the Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) in Goa. To run a workshop – and “shake things up”. The session length is 90 minutes, and the target audience is car designers within large Indian auto manufacturing companies. The question is what value can I provide to highly capable designers, with a long track record (experience), capable of working within complex engineering organisations?

Designing the Workshop

I had a few things I could potentially do. Here were my options:

  1. I could run a session on ‘how to come up with a design that goes viral on the internet’. This would draw upon my experience of teaching car design since 1994, with specific emphasis upon the message of this blog – how to do a campaign project.
  2. I could run a session on ‘how to feed the inner artist’. For the design job could prove to be a joy killer.
  3. I could run a session on ‘cultural capital’ as a way to reimagine who to design for.

On the topic of design jobs being a joy killer – or boring – here is a blog post that addresses this issue through the comments section – priceless. Titled the ‘in house designer’ the discussion centres around the downsides of working in house. Here are some comments:

I find that I spend the majority of my time trying to sell an idea or ideas to the internal team rather than working directly with the client to find that new and exciting idea we both can be inspired by.

You don’t have as much freedom to express your own ideas in a larger organization… at least not without convincing 3 different committees and submitting several forms/documents. Even if you do that, your own ideas could get squashed by another manager in another department who has seniority and doesn’t like or fully grasp your idea (or just doesn’t like you or your department for that matter).

Familiar? Its possible it doesn’t have to be this way.

Disruption theory is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success

Most people in leadership within car companies are familiar with the notion of Disruption. Now even managers can do disruptive thinking – having read Clayton Christensen they can play experts. However its possible their understanding of disruption is incorrect – as is that in much writing (click here to read the article that explains this)

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

  • incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most profitable customers

  • ignore the needs of some segments

  • successfully targeting those overlooked segments

Importantly in this article you will encounter the question: is UBER an example of disruption? “According to the theory, the answer is no.”

Then to continue on my options: I could run a session on disruption.

For Disruption is an explanation by Christensen that is part “a posteriori” and part a “post hoc” proposition. What is questionable is whether disruption can infact be designed and implemented at all. By the same measure any paradigm shift can be re-explained as a disruption. Lionising disruption also marginalises maintenance – read “tradition” and the collectivised ways of doing things. If we take food as an example we can ask the question: Does food need to be disrupted? The answer is no – for some of us. So the balance between maintaining current ways and coming up with new ways (innovation) is a fine one. It just so happens that we are in a period where ‘innovation’ is riding a high.

For design a better word (rather than using disruption) is project. Within the notion of the project pre-exists paradigms of ‘listening’, ‘provoking’, ‘nudging’ and simply taking risks. The pre-existence is very old and established. The problem within ‘corporate’ ecosystems is the issue of ‘justification’. The project to the corporate administrator (a bureaucrat who is referred to as the ‘executive‘) is always about getting it ‘right’ – in the dart board analogy thats about getting a bulls eye – hitting the target. The project – some very successful ones and the theory of Christensen argues for this – is often focussed upon a marginal and neglected area. One that is not profitable – or considered to be of value. Radical design often focus away from the centre and pick up themes from the periphery.

The question then is how does a designer within a large enterprise focus away from the target, and make a case for privileging? With difficulty I guess. But I have some ideas.

The Designer as Creative Practitioner

Within the PhD space in my place of work – we have a focus upon privileging the “creative practitioner”. If I were to treat the designer within the car company as a creative practitioner – then I would be able to open a line of discussion around the ‘work’ – the oeuvre – of the designer (artist). What this could do is to focus the work of the designer upon a inner ‘boss’ quite different from the external corporate ‘boss’. This designer wouldn’t need to do what the superior or employee in the organisation with a higher pay says, or what the ‘customer’ survey says. The designer can simply choose to take a risky path – design by designer – in opposition to the “design by designer influenced by many superiors and loud people”.

However the sub-ordinate position of the designer is a problem. Its an issue that has dogged designers for ever.

It is at this point that I have a solution. I may come back and upload – how I did it. Watch this space.

For now I will share a teaser from a video mashup I am working on.




Was Jesus a black man?

Or brown certainly. Most definitely not a white man. Its actually great that the European and American god is a Brown Man. Like me.

“Jesus was a white man, too,” Kelly said, launching a national discussion about history, tradition and just how white Christmas should be.

Wrote Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic: “If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening.”

Source – http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/what-race-was-jesus-no-one-knows-for-sure/

Of Course Jesus like some Palestinians could have been dark. Since the color/ethnic identity of Jesus’ gentic makeup ie Y-Chromosome is not known – we can even speculate that Jesus could have an African ancestry. Like the Eritreans in Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv (below).

Source – http://only-connect.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/breaking-into-israel-my-eritrean-hero.html

The colour of Jesus’ skin is important. If only because the notion of white-Jesus is improbable.

After one of my recent lectures, a Christian college student approached me and asked if black people are uncomfortable with the fact that Jesus is white. I responded, “Jesus is not white. The Jesus of history likely looked more like me, a black woman, than you, a white woman.”

I wasn’t shocked by this student’s assumption that Jesus was of European descent, or the certitude with which she stated it. When I am in US Christian spaces, I encounter this assumption so often that I’ve come to believe it is the default assumption about Jesus’ appearance. Indeed, white Jesus is everywhere: a 30-foot-tall white Savior stands at the center of Biola University’s campus; white Jesus is featured on most Christmas cards; and the recent History Channel mini-series The Bible dramatically introduced a white Jesus to more than 100 million viewers. In most of the Western world, Jesus is white.


Wikipedia on Arab Christians.

The Econocracy

After Piketty and Sachs – come another critical work that I am now reading.

As members of Rethinking Economics, an international student movement seeking to reform the discipline of economics, we are campaigning for a more pluralist, critical and participatory approach. We conduct workshops in schools, run evening crash courses for adults, and this year launched Economy, a website providing accessible economic analysis of current affairs and a platform for lively public debate. We want economists and citizens to join us in our mission to democratise economics.


What is important in this book is the ‘expert’ voice in my profession – Design – is incrediby out of touch with the everyday voices of people. We educate people to the new ‘technical’ words, jargon, we use as an essential condition for appreciating Design (and art of course).

We have also seen the economisation of daily life, so that parts of society as diverse as the arts and healthcare now justify their value in terms of their contribution to the economy. But in this process economists have largely ignored citizens and failed to consider their right to participate in discussion and decision-making.

I am reading about economics – as someone who critiques Design as focussed upon ‘expensive stuff for rich people’ – and alongside this pondering the Designocracy that we witness now.

lamented that economists had “failed to communicate basic economic concepts to politicians, journalists and businesspeople, never mind the public

The text – quotes – are from this book-review in the Guardian.


Remote Rural Poor Women


(Image Source)

Narrative Text for a project on Maternal Mortality – (Text from ARC Discovery Submission 2012)

This project is based upon the proposition that current practice of service design fails when used to develop services for poor and marginalized communities. Service design is currently centered around urban and affluent contexts. I wish to expand the practice of service design to take into account services for the rural poor. My case study is maternal health in India.

Current global practices in service design use a mix of methods added on to conventional system design practices (Manzini, Vezzoli et al. 2001; Morelli 2002). These new tools and methods are in the main drawn from contemporary software development practices in the field of interaction design(Manzini January 2009). By becoming significantly integrated into retail business practice discourses, service design has had a significant and visible impact upon society (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). The goal of this form of design is to improve ‘ease’ of customers’ access to services, improvement of ‘customer experience’ by the innovative use of internet and telecommunications infrastructure that is common in urban contexts (Hollins and Hollins 1991; Varadarajan 2009). This project is based upon the proposition that current practice of service design fails when used to develop services for poor and marginalized communities(Varadarajan and Fennessy 2007). Further arguing that:

  • Emerging service design theory is intimately bound by service design practice and
  • A project of re-conceptualization cannot be a theoretical discussion of service design and needs to have a case study to underpin the theory development.

Service Design projects in health service delivery have validated inclusive practices such as ‘co-creation’, through examples such as the RED project of the Design Council UK (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). RED and other milestone projects in service design have been urban projects. The rural poor have not been the subject of a case study thus the practice, and theory, of service design has had little impact beyond the urban(Varadarajan 2009). Elsewhere within conventional service delivery, the preamble to the Indian National Rural Health Mission document amplifies the need to focus upon the rural and mentions the need for an ‘architectural correction’ of the health care services in India(Bajpai, Sachs et al. October 2009). The problem of government health service provision in India being focussed upon urban populations has meant that health indicators for rural populations have been consistently poor and this is manifested in the high incidence of maternal deaths(Padmanaban, Sankara Raman et al. April 2009). Maternal deaths, considered a key indicator for the development status of communities and of the quality of health care services and medical infrastructure of a country, are among the highest in India. With four more years to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals it is expected that the project of maternal mortality reduction would continue to be a location for intense scrutiny of service delivery(Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2008). This sets up a location for a case study and lends urgency to a peripheral discourse in mainstream design practice, that of services for the poor and rural.

I commenced work on this case study in late 2009. This was a pilot project supported with seed funding from the Design Research Institute at RMIT to trial the project and methodology on a small scale. The research in the pilot project began with a literature review, a mapping of the stakeholder network followed by a field-study phase. The field-study was undertaken in two stages; the first being interviews with key agencies that were either doing research on maternal health or were actively involved in projects at the grass roots level. The second stage was interviews in one specific location, the state of Assam in India, with rural families and key stakeholders in the maternal health system in Assam. The information gleaned from the analysis of the interviews was compared with what I was reading in the literature. The outcome was the formulation of a theoretical strategy as themes for engagement, similar to a set of design concerns that contained both universal elements that applied to other contexts and specific elements that were particular to the local context I had studied. The pilot project concluded that services for marginalized and remote communities are indeed a separate category of services. A methodology of service design practice in such contexts would need to be; one, inclusive and account for traditions and deep rooted community practices; and two, decentralized, to account for both the need to support and stimulate local economy and to build self reliance as a way to tackle potential marginalizations(Gupta 2007). In effect such a practice of service design would do well to be situated in opposition to mainstream service design practice that privileges centralization, use of sophisticated technologies and assumes urban consumption practices. This preliminary hypothesis of ‘service design for the unserved’ was written up and presented at a conference in Assam (Addressing Maternal Mortality in Assam, Dec 2010) and at a public lecture (Bangalore, Jan. 2011).


The project fills a major gap in the theory of service design. Service design theory has evolved with a focus upon privileging expert discourses in a predominantly urban context (Shostack 1982; Normann 2000; Leadbeater and Cottam 2008) This form of practice is focused upon redesigning existing services to either reduce cost, or improve customer experience and is predominantly targeted at urban, educated and affluent consumers of services(Glaeser, Kolko et al. 2001; Frug April, 1998). In instances where projects in health care services have been visualized the significant beneficiary is the client often the publicly owned service(Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). Extending such a paradigm of practice carries the danger of producer side thinking into disadvantaged communities and often the situation turns exploitative(Whitehead, Dahlgren et al. 2001; Wagstaff 2002; Goodman Jan 1968). The current project fills the gap by proposing an inclusive approach; where health indicators take precedence over economics; where people are central beneficiaries and where marginalized communities are supported to become self reliant and responsible for their quality of life outcomes(Yunus and Jolis 1999). This project offers a contribution to a long-standing debate on user side thinking in service design theory.

The project makes a major contribution to current service provisions targeted at rural, remote and tribal communities. Access to service in regional communities, communities distant from economic hubs, is a crucial problem in India. For tribal communities this shows up as a life expectancy gap between urban and regional populations. The conventional approach has been to push services and infrastructure designed for urban population concentrations into regional areas, followed by education to get compliance on proper usage. This project is significant because it opens up a theoretical promise of amplifying notions of alternative forms of development and realizing valuable goals through innovative inclusive designs of services. An inclusive model of service design will impact upon aspects other than just maternal health. In this way the project offers a major contribution to the long standing debate about approaches in service delivery for poor and marginalized people(Wearing).


The project is thematically innovative as it extends a service design research framework to apply to marginalized communities. To do this the project eliminates the commercial client and sets up a research project along the lines of a large action research service design project(Soumitri and Chaudhuri 2001). Such a transformation is crucial for the reformulation of practice as historically service design has evolved from an interest in the design of user experiences. While user experience design is about improving the quality of the event when individuals interact with a service the practice has in the main been about a better design of the graphical user interface (GUI) and about the potential for tangible interfaces in allowing for alternative modes of interacting with service delivery points(Bruseberg and McDonagh-Philp 2001). While service design theory itself has two main themes, that of affordances and technologies of interaction and of increasing ease of access to services, historically a greater focus upon technology has suppressed the discourse of access(Candi 2007). The project design in setting up a problem location where access is restored as a central theme amplifies two key agendas in design discourse: a political agenda, focus upon marginalized communities, and a theoretical agenda, deriving a new model of service design practice.

The project is innovative in its method as it locates the field study in a remote rural context thereby challenging contemporary design ethnography practices. By its choice of location of field work the project changes the form of ethnography that is to be conducted to inform the project. Design ethnography in the service of a client project (Segelström, Raijmakers et al. 2009) is often strategic in its intent and privileges the clients’ intentions at the cost of the genuine needs of the community. Additionally the practice of design ethnography accepts small and sporadic events of immersion, privileging thereby certain categories of information that would be useful for design. A deep and prolonged field study, as has been visualized for this project, suspends judgment till after the research field-study has been completed. The theoretical implication of working in rural, rather than urban areas, therefore has the potential to change the nature of inquiry and the outcomes of research. Further focussing upon just the rural poor allows service design thinking then not to be only about technology, such as internet enabled delivery of services.

The project is conceptually innovative as it keeps the issue of ownership open and unresolved by problematizing the client-designer duopoly as a necessary relationship in the formulation of service design solutions. The removal of a commercial client opens up the potential for service provision, potentially by governments, to be owned in three discrete ways; by community, by service provider and jointly owned by service provider and community, which then mirrors emerges approaches to governance (ref pluralism). In fact approaches to sustainbility outcomes would assume collaborative ownership and community oversight leads to better outcomes(ref). The conceptual framework thus sets up a problem, the theoretical implications of which can be tested in the case study of maternal health for remote poor communities.

Approach And Method

There are two significant phenomena relevant to the current application. One, is a situation of heightened awareness in the Australia to issues of social engagement and service design, where both universities and government agencies have watched events unfold in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons debates and transformation of public services (2008). There is in fact an emerging openness to propositions of service design within local, Australian and Victorian, service delivery practices(Dawes 2009). Two, is a unique situation of rethink and reformulation of rural health services underway in India brought on by its commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals(Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2008). This commitment has created a condition of unprecedented openness to innovation among government agencies dealing with rural health. Together the two situations create a space and a need for a robust case study on service design for rural and remote delivery.

The theoretical context of service design for the unserved is set out here. Service design for poor, hence marginalized communities, is a unique field characterized by neglect and poor performance of public services(Sainath 1992; Louis 2007; Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2009). Approaches to the poor and marginalized in design have been characterized by a discourse of social engagement and social entrepreneurship(Jegou and Manzini 2008). While a focus upon the remote and poor(Papanek 1985) has found form as the practice of social design(Margolin and Margolin 2002) with a strong focus upon artifacts(Rawsthorn 2007) the main paradigm is still one of pushing from the centre to the periphery(Er 2001). Interestingly if we were to pick up the counter current of documenting practices of the poor or old and traditional(Gennep, Vizedom et al. 1960; Varadarajan Jun-2009) and amplify the essential paradigm that characterizes them we see similarities with social design projects in their approach of focussing upon self reliance. Service design thinking in health, universally viewed as a state subject has two key problems; one is the focus upon increasing access to and compliance with state services in remote areas(Humphery, Weeramanthri et al. 2001) and two is that “provider pluralism”, where different forms of service providers are allowed to operate, often goes unrecognized and is marginalized in state plans (2005). Provider pluralism (Chernichovsky 2002; Sheehan Jul-Sep 2009), actively encouraged in urban areas is mirrored by self reliance in remote areas. With more regulation in rural contexts such pluralism often gets ‘written out’ and becomes illegal(Jeffery, Jeffery et al. 1984 Jul-Sep; Ram 2001). To summarise service provision for the rural poor is a complex context for design which demands that service design theory needs to move beyond: one, the urban context and reliance on infrastructure to become more widely applicable, and two, privileging the client’s needs and ‘work creatively with messy and sometimes contradictory realities to achieve better outcomes’ (ref).

The project field work has been deliberately located in a place, the river islands of Brahmaputra in Assam, where the state has failed to and will not provide services(Hazarika 2003) and instead expects the non-governmental sector to be the service provider. While this is a situation that satisfies the current goal of universal coverage of health care the long term prospects of such avoidance of service provision come unstuck especially when seen in the framework of the charter of ‘rights’(ref). The theoretical underpinnings of this inquiry have two components that are crucial; one, is a field study (Wasson 2000; Sanders 2008) to observe and study maternal health in the community and two, will be the definition of the network of actors (Callon, Law et al. 1986; Akrich and Latour 1992; Law and Mol June, 2004) to reconstruct the condition in abstraction. It is the discourse of the actors that will constitute the description of the maternal health condition in the char areas of Assam. The project approach is therefore an inquiry in the reconceptualizing of service design for the unserved that has an agenda of inclusivity(Smith and Fischbacher 2005; Varadarajan, Fennessy et al. 2007; Adler and Kwon January 2002) encompassing the key themes of distance(Tudor Hart 1971; Young 2006), “provider pluralism”, and self reliance.


The method for the project contains three key aspects: an extended field study, a stage of exploring practice that involves reconceptualizing practice by undertaking research through design and a synthesis of the research findings into a specific framework for service design.

Stage 1 – Field Study

The first activity is one of planning the project: this will include recruiting the research assistant (RA) through a limited advertisement and organizing the field trip. Ethics approval will be sought prior to the field study with the submission of the questionnaire and a statement of methodology describing the photography and video recordings that will be done. The ethics clearance is expected to be a more than moderate risk level due to interviews of affected families. On completion of planning and getting the ethics approval I will undertake two field-study trips, of three months each, separated by a gap of about three months to avoid the monsoon season in India. The field study will be undertaken in the river islands of the Brahmaputra, the Char areas of Assam state, where health services for the population are being organized by an NGO, Centre for North East Studies (CNES), and delivered by boat(Hazarika 2010). The field study will involve interviews of three stakeholder groups; the rural remote community, the government health service NRHM staff and the non government organizations (NGOs) working in the community. The community interviews will use a modified version of the ‘verbal autopsy'(Soleman, Chandramohan et al. 2006) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the maternal death in the community (interviews structured like a verbal autopsy were used in the pilot project). The event of the community interview would be photographed to establish the context for design visualizations. The interviews with the government staff and NGOs will be recorded both in audio and video format.

The field study will generate two kinds of raw data – one will be the questionnaire data and interview recordings and the other will be the information from participant observation, video and still photography. This data will be analysed though year 2. The analysis will produce a theoretical account of the condition of maternal health in a remote community.

Stage 2 – Exploring Practice

The field study and analysis will be followed by the activity of ‘research through design’ (quote Cross- and designerly ways of knowing, and Peter Downton – PD in group of experts) which will comprise the two activities of Modelling, and Testing.

  1. Modelling: The activity of modeling will use the sociology of technology framework of actor network theory (which I used in my PhD and in the Diabetes research) to develop a graphical model of actors, and a narrative of the agency contained in each of the actors. This is a variant of the analytical activity undertaken as part of ‘design ethnography’ (Sanders 2008). The key outcome of this stage is a complex portrayal of the system studied in the field.
  2. Testing: The abstract model will be tested in two stages:
    1. Testing Stage 1 – Backcasting and Action Planning: The first stage of testing will involve the use of Vergragt’s (Vergragt 2001) methodology of reconciling future goals with the model of a current condition. The outcome of this activity is both a road map, referred to as action planning, and a map of lesser goals which can be set up as targets. These outcomes are tested through a process of review by a panel of ‘subject experts’ (the subject experts are detailed in the ‘role of personnel’ section of this application). The backcasting activity will produce a set of graphical and outcomes that can be taken forward to further testing in the field.
    2. Testing Stage 2 – Service Design CoCreation: The activity of testing outcomes in the field will be undertaken in year 2 and 3. It will involve testing the outcomes of Action Planning by engaging in Co-Creation with the stakeholders in Assam. This will follow; one, the methodology of community engaged practiced by Cottam (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004) in the RED project, and two; the framework of participatory planning advocated by Chambers (Chambers 1997). The activity of co-creation will focus on two clear community goals for service delivery that were defined through the pilot project: that of ‘safe motherhood’ (SM) and that of ‘emergency obsteteric care’ (EmOC). CI Varadarajan will conduct the co-creation sessions in the community.

Stage 3 – Articulating the Service Design Framework

While the two notions of social design (Margolin and Margolin 2002) and inclusive design(Goodman, Langdon et al. 2006) provide the basis for the construction of the theoretical framework, the goal in this research project will be to: one, establish a specific category of practice that privileges the theoretical discourse set out in the approach and two, set out a theoretical framework for research and practice in service design.


The project sets out to offer a novel approach to service design by focusing upon a case study of an unserved populations (view service provision from the perspective of remote communities) for purposes of developing new process models and guidelines and new results (theoretical frameworks) for the benefit of service users. While the project uses established processes in design research – the artefact outcomes that will be privileged by the way the project is constructed will be different. It is in this context that the following outcomes are visualized. Outcomes that have the potential in this emerging field to become widely disseminated and adopted within an ongoing program of work within the field of Service Design theory and the development of Service Design practice.

  1. An analytical articulation on current practices in service design showing their urban-context embeddedness.
  2. A service design thesis of practice that separates technological affordances from service design.
  3. The first service design research project informed by deep case study grounded in an off the grid context.
  4. New ways of constructing goals, new methods of community engaged service creation.
  5. Improved procedures and techniques in designing and in managing design.
  6. The findings will be published in a book form.


The project would contribute a valuable case study to convince [Australian?] governments of the value of service design. While case studies of improvements in specific sectors of service delivery in Europe have had an impact upon government thinking in Australia, service delivery Australia presents a unique geographic challenge for service designers. Contemporary service design practice, with its combination of communication and interaction design, is almost completely focussed upon urban internet users and the profits of service providers relies on heavy urban concentrations of consumers. While a combination of social innovation and service design is emerging as a practice in pockets in Australia, the focus is still urban. In effect the problem of few urban concentrations, situated amidst a sparsely populated but vast regional landmass, confounds existing capabilities in service design discourse. The project thus picks up a marginal theme in mainstream service design discourse, the focus upon distant and potentially poor regional populations, and amplifies it as a key theme for inquiry. The project has therefore the potential to present new approaches and methods for service design for regional contexts, which can impact upon the social and economic fabric of disadvantaged populations.

Clinton will win by a Landslide

I said this on Oct 7, one month ago, that Clinton will win by a landslide. This was my post.

I tweeted this today:


End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House

Why do I think that Clinton will win by a landslide? My answer to people was that I believe in the fundamental decency of people. The alternative is not an option.

Its a day & 2 hrs and 32 minutes to the polling. After which I will have to change by ‘feeds’. I will now wait till wednesday (Melbourne) midday for news.

Have you seen a dead person, been with them?

In 2016 there is a national conversation (in Australia) about voluntary euthanasia, as some refer to it, or assisted suicide, another phrase for a voluntary end to ones life. I have listened to the Andrew Denton PodCast series “Better of Dead”. I was listening intently, hunched up and very much interested and fascinated by the journey the podcast took. This was a new dimension to death and I was eager to learn all I could. The campaign to change Australian legislation to make euthanasia, or the practice of choosing to end ones life, legal has been waged for two decades and a bit. It looks like 2016 would be a significant milestone in the campaign. I would hear something similar voiced by the people and campaigners I spoke with. Inspired by the campaign I found myself in Portland, Oregon, to see and hear for myself how a place that has legalised assisted suicide imagines the rights of humans. A full 8 months later reflecting upon my journey I realise this campaign has given me a deeper understanding of the collective navigation towards a shared understanding of death.

For we don’t understand death. We ignore it. We shush people who raise the topic. We would rather death was not brought into the conversation. We are happy for death to be dealt with by experts in technical environments, such as hospitals and funeral parlours. The contemporary period is defined by the removal of death from our lives. Death has become hidden, and unfamiliar. If life is sacred, then death is profane.

Death however happens to us. It exists always as a future event in each individual person’s life. Death therefore ought to be planned for and prepared for. Within the continuum of death Voluntary Euthanasia constitutes one component; the death of a legal entity, a citizen, a tax payer and a law abiding individual. While the material apparatus and practice of taking one’s life is within the ability of an individual the law treats this as a form of crime – the taking of life is a crime. However in exceptional circumstances, such as extreme pain and suffering, it ought to be permissible for society to permit the individual to choose a form of exit and end to the pain and suffering. Those objecting to a law permitting voluntary euthanasia point to the possibility of the exploitation of this option and use the argument of the ‘slippery slope’. The ability of the state to allow for the voluntary Legal Death of a citizen is thus not a straight forward discussion in Australia.

Another component of the continuum of death is what is being referred to as ‘good death’. Chiefly a terminology popular within ‘end of life’ choices within the medical, hospital, ecosystem this phrase refers to the notion that death is largely cast in medical terms. Medical death also largely occurs in hospital where contemporary medicine is confronting the impacts of its practice of aggressively attacking the body to prolong life. Advocates raising the notion of good life are campaigning for doctors, patients and family to have a conversation before undertaking aggressive interventions that would not significantly prolong life but could instead render the person unable to lead a life outside of hospital, fed through tubes and connected to life support apparatus. The notion of good death is thus a way to reimagine the medical death of the person.

Framing the notions of Legal and Medical Death allows me to frame the category of the death of the person: where the death is the end of the social individual, the cultural practice of life. Thus in an individual’s death many things come to an end: the legal entity, the functioning body and the performing individual in society.

In coming to the construction of a location for a project involving students and colleagues I arrived then at the lack and thus the need that we have in society to reframe death. As designers we can do something about a lack – we can populate it with practice, services, products and a discourse. Developing a cultural discourse, we can invite people to enter into an engagement with the notions of death in cultural ways; with amusement, awe and laughter.

Death is a space that is the last event in the journey of life. It then has its own rites of passage, and traditional cultures have many sophisticated, curious and wonderful ways to engage with death. Death thus ought to be designed. Death as this designed practice ought to be framed as a discourse of desirable ways to proceed towards death and constitute the universe of possibilities to reimagine ways of dying. The celebration surrounding the last phase of a life can be so much more than a consumption event, such as the bucket list. It can be the end of consumption too and a repudiation of the mean and the meaningless in the shallows of life.

The proscription of death, and the consignment of the journey towards death, the experience of dying, to a technical facility such as the hospital, a body repair shop, robs society of its past, its ability to enrich social discourse and its ability to build resilience. The banishment of dying from our homes has some horrific consequences in that most people die unhappy and away from their loves ones. People die in horrible ways. We can change this.


(Knight Meets Death, in Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman)

The End studio took a group of design students and teachers on a journey to dismantle death and to put it back together in interesting ways. The goal in this enterprise has always been to be able to take the design outcomes to others who deal with people and families navigating mortality and death. It had been possible of us to construct the studio so that it was embedded within the medical facilities to include experts who deal with keeping people alive. We chose to stay outside of this ecosystem – for a while – so we could create a space that was not about life, where death is the unacceptable, but about dying as a desirable and normal practice.

We constructed dying as a long period. Not just the moments, days and weeks before death and after death. But as a phase that occurs after the end of the working life. So in our view dying commences when you stop working and may extend to decades. Dying in this ways is reframed as something that can be made meaningful and full, rather than empty. We imagine we can speak about death not just with those dying soon, but also with people, such as children, who will die eventually. We can speak of dying as a place where we do things differently, to imagine our lives in ways different from the way we imagined it before we entered the world of work. We can recast dying as the place where we savour. Where we pause to taste, smell and touch. Where we don’t take, but give. Its the location of the poetic phase of our lives.

To enrich ways of dealing with this tremendously important aspect of being alive we imagine we focus not about how we look but upon how funny we are. The attractive person is one who is generous, kind and amusing. We become children and in this we close the loop. Gently and with grace.


We make time to be with a dying person in our homes. We hold them, get them to hold our beer as we munch the pizza, stroke their skin and make them normal. We will have seen many dead people and would be richer for it.


Acknowledging others who came along on this journey.

  1. Haley West: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-28/hearse-stolen-with-body-inside-nsw-blue-mountains/5924708
  2. Libby Molony: http://www.theswitchreport.com.au/people/natural-approach-death-interview-libby-moloney-natural-grace/
  3. Rebecca Bartel: http://www.achr.org.au
  4. Tony Yap: http://www.tonyyapcompany.com
  5. Swathi Madike
  6. Ian Gray: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/retiring-coroner-ian-gray-says-victorian-coroners-court-should-be-more-transparent/news-story/9939a32cc1d788576533562d02d471e1