Soumitri in 2016

Design is vehicle for change. A Design Project can be a campaign. In a furiously online world I see design projects as either a first step towards a business venture or a campaign that changes the way people think. Design innovations can change the way we deal with ageing and death. Design projects can change the way the world thinks about issues. Design projects can be about improving the lives of ordinary and marginalised people. Below are some of the areas I am currently interested in/ excited about:
  1. How to die well
  2. Ways of dealing with obesity
  3. Imagining a Future beyond Medicine
  4. Ways of Journalling Pregnancy
  5. Design for people with Locked-in syndrome
  6. Proposing a Bio-Dome (a personal diagnostic ecosystem)
  7. Design for living longer
I live and work in Melbourne. In Melbourne there is a lot of energy these days around imagining a healthy future. I engage with this energy.
  1. My design approach focuses upon proposing a future that contains preferred/ visionary products and services.
  2. I am excited by design projects that focus on the small and big challenges facing humanity.
  3. I see design projects as campaigns and so have developed, and therefore teach, the abilities required to prototype design projects within communities.
  4. My current interest is in innovations in healthcare services, where I focus upon de-medicalising and re-contextualizing normal practices to develop new traditions and artefacts in the areas of:
    1. Mental health
    2. Obesity
    3. Ageing
    4. Death
    5. Diabetes
    6. Maternal health
    7. Hearing loss
    8. (Defines the design theme or discourse)

When Design is Research: A proposition realised as artefact constitutes design’s knowledge contribution

Austrailan modes of Practice based PhDs have gained currency the world over within the creative disciplines. However with time and translation into other contexts the operating models often lose the core spirit that the focus on ‘practice’ as both a method and topic was intended to privilege the useful knowledge domain of creative practitioners. Written theoretical takes on the Practice based PhDs describe, Practice-based and Practice-led, as the two ways in which scholarship can be undertaken. This has direct parallels with the way design research focussed upon discovery of new knowledge itself is categorised as Research through Design or Research about Design. The first is not about design knowledge at all and the later is what non-design scholars have tended to do. The often justificatory tone of these texts are attempts at the validation of PhDs in creative practice within the paradigm of the traditional notion of doctoral study as an advancement in knowledge, where the implicit assumption is that this knowledge is required to be textual. Such a justificatory stance was to be expected in the hotly contested nature of the territory of the PhD in design which struggled to gain acceptance with the discipline and then had to gain acceptability with suspicious external institutions. In the contemporary context however such hybridizations can be set aside and the gauntlet of ‘design is research’ can be thrown down to prompt a purer construction of scholarship in design. When design itself is accepted as research, it throws up two questions, how is the PhD to be constructed and how is the work of scholar to be validated? This paper describes a mode of PhD that answers these questions by describing a research paradigm that privileges the practitioner and uses a particular institutional practice for the validation of the scholarship.

Bring Kevin Back

Then I thought that maybe we could bring him back. Bring Kevin back as PM!!

Changed Kevin: Kevin is redone. He keeps his vision of changing Australia. But gets a refresher on how to deal with people. He does a course in ‘negotiation’. He spends a weekend with Obama on ‘think before you act’. This is a started – the ‘curriculum’ for changing Kevin will be written with your help – and consultation.

If you think we need to bring – a changed Kevin back post you comment here.

Can you please post here – What Kevin needs to learn.
(And we will try and get this to him.)

Bloody Wednesday

The day started off in an unsettled fashion. It was the day after I had spoken out at an office meeting – being a lightening rod for a criticism. I provoked and was feeling I had spoken too much the day before. The I woke at 4 and watched Australia concede that goal to Serbia and end up with a small margin, and so head home. Good on you socceroos!

Then the news began to come in from Canberra. I was aghast! I was apalled. It was wrong – it was not a decent thing to do. Later I heard John Faine on ABC and his cynicism was corrosive. I felt like I was in a naive space, I began to hanker for idealism. I did not want to lose Kevin Rudd – I did not want Australia to lose its vision.

The new person who would come on board was not clean – it felt sleazy. It was back to politics after 30 months of a feeling that politicians were for the people.

I sat at Degani’s in Clifton Hill and jotted things desultorily. Its only about feelings – and very disjointed! So here goes.

Kevin Rudd and perfection – A thesis of perfection with a hidden fatal flaw.

Australia will go through the five stages of Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance and Death. The death would be of the independence of governance. It would be lobbyists and special interest groups. The idealist leaves and the pragmatist arrives.

Then I wrote this:

Dear Kevin, why, why did you let this happen?

You had dreams, you invited us to dream with you and you showed courage, took risks and promised us the dreams would come true. And you let them dump you, push you aside. You let us down.

You may well say et tu Julia.

But hemlock you have drunk

you are no philosopher

you are no academic

you were meant to keep evil in check and protect us from the cartels, the gangs, the organised thugs

Industrial Design Melbourne

This year, like every year at this time, a whole bunch of design students will leave university to enter the profession. And as with this time every year the prospect of making a living from design is scary!

So I said to myself I would do something about it. But what?

I could visualize projects – write grant applications and generate jobs myself. September saw me submit a grant application – to redesign a glucometer. A simple project – that can use fresh design talent. October saw me dream up a rash of design projects – and I realized I had missed the deadline for many grants – thats okay I said to myself, I could ask the graduating students to work with me writing grants. That is my solution.

But all this is a long term strategyl and what if I dont get the grants. OK – this problem needs a solution that has many parts to it.

So here is what I came up with – my short term strategy:

1. If I focus my attention on only 10 of them or so – I could ask around and find them work: But shouldn’t they do this themselves? This is training for work as a freelance designer – to hustle for work is a skill that is invaluable, and has to be acquired the hard way. Still I can pitch in – and ask people over email or by calling hem up. So I did this. It may work for one or two of this bunch of students. I have to remind myself to keep the pressure on the agencies.

2. Some of the students have not done so well in their last year. Life intruded. I realise they may want time to sort things out. Or a design place to be in for a bit.

3. I think some of the students would be better off starting a business. But they do not have the necessary confidence. I realise they may want a sounding board.

4. I think some of them would be better off going overseas. But they want to live in Melbourne.

So then I realise I could do things to help 10 students. And this is best done on a case by case basis. So I said to them all – ‘okay here is the thing, I am going to support you for a year will you find your feet’.

But this left quite a few of the others out. And this is when I went off and had a conversation with Design Victoria. I came away from that conversation understanding DesignVic’s agenda and role much better. It wasn’t about work availability for Industrial Designers. I mulled about talking to State of Design – then came across the Australian Design Unit – also being done by Propeller. So they were doing something else – which was part promoting design in Melbourne and part resource for designers. Neither answers the problem – how do you employ the hundred or so fresh design graduates?

What if you dont? Well (a) its not fair, and (b) its back to the retail sector for the graduates, and of course with some more options which may be employment elsewhere – not design! I have for decades heard the comment that this is an okay situation – that we train our students will a tool kit – ‘the design way of thinking’. I wish I thought like that. I cant. My predicament is that in my previous job I looked after placements – and campus recruitments. That was in India. It doesnt happen here.

So I am back to my hole – I need to do something that will work for everyone.

This is when I thought to rectivate a NING social network we had set up last year for a course. I did that and sent off the info to the whole student community. Now in my next post I will talk about the vision for this project.

So remember the project is called – “Industrial Design Melbourne“.

Its a social innovation project.

And the NING network is here if you want to join it.

And if you have a suggestion of a solution to the problem – let me now through a comment here.

In the recession

Barry Katz – writing in ARCADE says:

But what of the legions of unemployed designers? Happily, in a truly restorative world there would also be more design. A lot more of it. But design of a different sort, practiced by a new breed of designer according to principles now only dimly perceived.

The first new design specialty to blossom will be un-design. Under the guidance of trained and dedicated professionals, un-design students will study methods of fabrication but starting from the back end of the textbook. Forget Derrida. They will practice applied deconstruction. During their summer recesses, they will intern with un-design studios and gain practical experience excavating junkyards, strip-mining department store shelves and clear-cutting rooftop satellite dishes. Upon graduation they will hang out their shingles and begin practicing un-design for an array of corporate and municipal clients: Architects will be put to work un-designing dilapidated, underutilized and just plain ugly buildings; Graphic un-designers will set out to neutralize billboards, web pages and corporate identity systems; Industrial un-designers will start by dismantling handguns and cigarette machines and move on to assault rifles and SUVs. They will have more work than they can handle.

As legions of un-designers gradually clear away the appalling detritus of the Design Century, a guild ofimmaterialists will emerge who specialize in “mining urban industries,” in the phrase of the Worldwatch Institute, transforming industrial waste into a new generation of building and manufacturing materials: Used tires will be more sought-after than virgin timber, empty soft-drink bottles and salvaged copper wire more valuable than oil wells. Just as the raw engineering of the first industrial age had to be softened by the designer’s touch, so the processed materials of the post-industrial age will cease to look like used egg cartons and become shimmering, sensuous and superb.

Tamil and Australian aboriginal languages

I sat and watched Ten Canoes the other day. The language in it sounded like Tamil. Which was a surprise. Just like years ago I realised that Japanese and Tamil words were interchangeable in a sentence. So I went looking for research where others may have found this too. I came across this:

Perhaps most similar to Australian languages are the Dravidian languages of southern India. Tamil, for example, has five places of articulation in a single series of stops, paralleled by a series of nasals, and no fricatives (thus approaching the Australian proportion of sonorants to obstruents of 70% to 30%). Approaching the question from the opposite direction: according to the latest WHO data on the prevalence of chronic otitis media (Acuin 2004:14ff), Aboriginal Australians have the highest prevalence in the world – 10-54%, according to Coates & al (2002), up to 36% with perforations of the eardrum. They are followed – at some distance – by the Tamil of southern India (7.8%, down from previous estimates of 16-34%), … (from

Then I started to look at other linking the tamil and the Aboriginal. And here I encountered a lot of material. I big proportio of this has to be discounted as it is typically in the vein of the Indian or Tamil suprematist. Quickly – that vein is one that claims that Tamil is the original language – and the class of languages called Dravidian ( an unfortunate appellation?) is huge and spread all over the world. Some claim the flaw in this na,ing has given rise to the feeling that Tamil ( as dravidian) is the original language. Still now we can start to read about DNA evidence. See this:

Dr Rao and his colleagues sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of 966 people from traditional tribes in India. They reported several of the Indian people studied had two regions of their mitochondrial DNA that were identical to those found in modern day Australian Aboriginal people. (

Also –

Then there is the Human Genome Project and here is what that has to say:

During his own journey in pursuit of the Y chromosome story in the late 1990s, Wells took blood samples from males of Dravidian ancestry in southern India. The Dravidians were among India’s earliest colonists; they now live among the descendants of a later wave of Sanskrit speakers — like Latin and ancient Greek, Sanskrit is an a branch of the Indo-European ‘mother tongue’, more closely related to modern English and French than to Dravidian.

Wells was looking for a genetic marker called M130, the most ancient, non-African, Y-chromosome marker. It is rare in Dravidians, but quite common in Australian Aboriginal males — and, intriguingly, in the Na Dene peoples of the Pacific north-west of North America.

The Na Dene peoples are descended from a second, later wave of immigrants into North America, who were ultimately of Sino-Tibetan stock — M130 is both the oldest non-African Y-chromosome marker, and the most travelled.

Wells’ suspicion that M130 might have survived, at very low frequency, in southern coastal regions of India, was proven correct

The first African emigres left a durable calling card on the coastal migratory route between Africa and Australia.


Which is of course mystifying and a bit thrilling. Do I carry M130 I wonder. If yes what would that mean to me? Or should I just learn the (which) language?