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)

A future led by corporate projects

Good on you Peter Jones. So well put. I will push for a more radical position – but ‘led by corporate’ is a damning statement. You slave you, designer you. You are part of the problem – but do go there (below) and read his words. And if it works for you – I will be glad.

Design Leadership for Problem Systems

Yet in the gritty reality of everyday work, the vast majority of working designers and design educators are training for, skilled for, and planning on a future led by corporate projects. Many of us owe our livings in a creative, dynamic profession to the overabundance of producing new things and marketing those things and services via every channel of media available. We might accept this reality as yet another dichotomy among those of our modern values systems, which indeed it is. Many of us love and enjoy the constructive and skillful work we do, but may not love some of the outcomes we are making happen. Yet I say we can find new ways to motivate and lead by asking questions, presenting alternatives, and designing social opportunities as we might create artifacts.

Soumitri Varadarajan Keynote Address

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Conversations 48 deg C – a two day symposium brought together Indian and international experts on ecology, urban space, architecture and public art.
Keynote: Soumitri Varadarajan, RMIT
Response: Sanjay Prakash, Energy Conscious Architect
Chair: Ashok Lall, Urban Planner Architect Provocateurs include: Amar Kanwar, Artist; Bharati Chaturvedi, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group; J.K. Dadoo, Environment Secretary, Government of India



Any object that has been used, modified, or manufactured by humans, such as a tool, weapon, or vessel. In art, an artefact is a product of human skill and creativity, while in archaeology, the object may be a simple item of importance and interest.

Armenian Architecture – VirtualANI – Glossary

Any small object that has been manufactured, used, or modified by humans.

Cancaver – Glossary of Karst related terms

A product of human manufacture or art, e.g. tools of bone, stone flakes, etc., paintings, engravings. In caves, tools are often buried in sediment.

World Wide Words: Artefact versus artifact

[Q] From John Weiss: “Could you give a note on the historical or geographical divide between artifact and artefact? I was brought up to stick with artefact, much as the incompatibility with artificial annoyed me, and I was surprised to see you use artifact. I suppose I could look it up, but your explanations are more fun.”

[A] Flattery will get you everywhere …

Presumably you are referring to the recent piece on ecofact? In the newsletter I was inconsistent, using artefact one week (while noting that Americans spelled it artifact), but the next week accidentally spelling it artifact (I put in as evidence for the defence a saying of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”).

In saying that the British spelled it with an e, while Americans spelled it with an i, I was guilty of a sweeping generalisation that needs some qualification and footnotes.

Both spellings may be found in both countries. In Britain, the preferred form given in dictionaries is artefact, though the other often appears as an alternative. The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors firmly suggests spelling it with an e, as does Bill Bryson in The Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors. However, the style guide of The Economist, with a large international circulation, suggests using artifact, since it is acceptable, it says, both to American and British readers. Americans prefer the i form by a large majority, but not exclusively so — newspaper practice seems to vary considerably, some insisting on the i form, others being more relaxed about it.

Design School Vision

I finally started writing – the tool kit for a new School of Design. A tool kit because a vision is so self aggarandising. Tool kit is so much more participative. For now the tool kit has three parts – a way to do a take on design.

1. The Agenda – which in this case is a social agenda. As against a technological agenda. A  social agenda where design is a community engagement discourse. The BOP is one core context of practice – and ‘for the marginalised’ is the defining focus.

2. The Approach – which in this case is porous to allow in local practices of engagement. PRA re Chambers being one of them. I add to this a version of design process which is designed for long and slow projects. Design then is fundamentally not an expert discourse (with a quick fix and get away strategy) but a community involvement discourse. I situate a critique of the ‘Technology for the marginalised’ as a key way to think of the approach.

3. The Artefact – which is a way to define profesional specializations. For now I have ‘social innovation’ and ‘social enterpreneurhsip’. Then I have service design. The big question is how much of the conventional courses can one let in – and will they be a contaminant. Industrial design will eventually become egaged in the making of the sofa!

Will leave ths for a bit.

The State of Design Education in Nova Scotia

The State of Design Education in Nova Scotia | Brightwhite Design

I am extremely interested in all aspects of the design profession, from how it’s taught to how it is practiced, especially as it relates to online or ‘new’ media.

It seems that our local educational institutions are largely out-of-touch with the skills, design processes and requirements of the the interactive industry as a whole. Through the teaching that I have done at NSCAD, I’ve tried to bring a standards-based approach to the classes I’m putting together, but this isn’t the norm across all of the Universities and Colleges found locally. Recently, May Chung (a tenured professor at NSCAD) and I have been discussing how to better equip our grads for the current economic and work environment. We’d like to create a a curriculum that benefits everyone from students, to faculty and the businesses who employ designers.

I put out a call on Twitter the other day to see what people would be looking for in a design program. I heard from industry folks, recent grads and others. Last night, at a GDC event, I spoke with a number of young designers, all of whom felt like they were not being properly prepared for the working world. Now, don’t get me wrong, NSCAD has never been about giving designers the ‘hard’ skills, it’s a school that is about teaching the design process. However, interactive design isn’t even being taught in that capacity. And let’s face it, if we don’t give designers some skills in HTML and CSS they’re not going to know how to integrate with the businesses that are leading the way in the new media space.

Accelerating Innovation for Development

Accelerating Innovation for Development

Innovation, the process of developing ideas into products and services, is a major driving force in global economic growth and development. Historically innovation has been done within institutions, whether companies or non-profit organizations. Innovation generally tends to be a closed process, relying on a limited pool of human resources and knowledge (albeit expert knowledge) and largely driven by companies, individual innovators or specialized research/designers rather than by those who are ultimate users of the innovations.

Innovation has been moving from a “closed”, inward-looking or “supply”-driven process to a more open and networked process: open to new ideas, knowledge, resources from outside the institutions – from external advisors, from enthusiasts (“the crowd”), from other fields, from overseas (even outsourcing is in a sense “open”), and from customers and end-users. According to economist Henry Chesbrough, creative knowledge is widely diffused, and innovation structures that support a solely internally oriented, centralized approach to research and development are becoming obsolete. Our connectivity today offers an unprecedented opportunity to harness global creativity and add value for products and services.

Method U

I have been following Kahane’s Solving Tough Probelms for some time now. And have taken many bits of method U into my own practice.

The best bit about it is in this text – from Zaid Hasan – Connecting to the Source: The U-Process.

‘instead of planning and designing you just start. You take the first stp as quickly as possible. You try something out and then evluate it.

You can get this and other publications on this process from here:

Daily Dump

Composting Service in Bangalore India. By Poonam Bir – a designer, graduate of NID.

home | Daily Dump

Daily Dump offers a range of products and services that help compost at home.
It also provides solutions and knowledge through an open source platform.

As a service, Daily Dump helps you manage your household waste and
convert it to useful high-quality compost. It supports you with
flexible service plans to achieve your goal of becoming a green

We’re involved in developing a range of composting solutions, and
already have a number of simple home Composters that you can find here.
The Daily Dump products are designed to ensure that you compost at
home, conveniently and hygienically.

On this site you’ll find information on us and our products, plus
free material on everything you need to start your own composting
project, faster than you can say ‘biodegradable’.

Quest University Canada

Is this the way forward for our universities.

Quest University Canada

Quest University Canada is…

An innovative, secular, not-for-profit, liberal arts and science university located in a spectacular location – Squamish, British Columbia.

Daily Dump

Composting Service in Bangalore India. By Poonam Bir – a designer, graduate of NID.

home | Daily Dump

Daily Dump offers a range of products and services that help compost at home.
It also provides solutions and knowledge through an open source platform.

As a service, Daily Dump helps you manage your household waste and
convert it to useful high-quality compost. It supports you with
flexible service plans to achieve your goal of becoming a green

We’re involved in developing a range of composting solutions, and
already have a number of simple home Composters that you can find here.
The Daily Dump products are designed to ensure that you compost at
home, conveniently and hygienically.

On this site you’ll find information on us and our products, plus
free material on everything you need to start your own composting
project, faster than you can say ‘biodegradable’.

Stanford D-School

Is a focus upon the needs of corporations the same as a focus upon the needs of people. Corporations are into people-focus like they are into CSR and triple bottom line. But can they do emotion – can they privilege the faint voice?

More significantly how can they do ‘disruptive innovation’ like stuff – with small volume, inefficient long term strategies?

Designers worked with the US car industry and look where it got them. Did the Art Center ever (ever!!!) say to the car industry – you are wrong. This is the right way – this is the right design.

I read Moggeridge and I read Cooper – and I found no emotion in them. Dry, just too too dry. Is this kind of soul-less design really fun? Or is design just supposed to be fun – within the world of design – and the ones who dont get it are just plain dumb. For I dont get it. I am bored!

SAP founder gives $35 million for Stanford D-School – BusinessWeek

Corporations on the hunt for more innovative, creative managers and employees should check this out—Hasso Plattner, co-founder of the business process software giant SAP, is donating $35 million to fund a new design school at Stanford. It will be housed in the Stanford School of Engineering and be called—what else?—the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This is a big step in the evolution of design from form and style toward thinking and strategy. Plattner deserves tremendous credit.

David Kelley, Stanford engineering professor and co-founder of IDEO,is one of a small number of design academics who are working on new courses, case studies and other curriculae that take design’s methodologies and people-focus to a higher level, making it much more valuable to industry and society as a whole. Roger Martin, dean at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto and Patrick Whitney, head of the Illinois Institute of Design, are part of that conservation.

Stanford’s D-School will teach innovation by bringing students from engineering, social sciences, education and design together to form collaborative teams that solve problems. It will teach innovation as a process, not as magic or as a simple creative spark. It will teach design methodology as a way of thinking.

The idea for a new D-School came out of a “manifesto” written on a napkin at a Peet’s coffee house some time back, according to Diego Rodriquez, who was there. The Stanford Institute_manifesto.jpg
handwriting belongs to George Kembel, who is the Executive Director of the Institute.

£200 000 for Public Service Design

£200 000 for Public Service Design « Redjotter’s Weblog

Designers are being sought to improve public services.

“The Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills has put forward an initial £200 000 to support the Design Council’s Public Services by Design scheme, with the goal of bringing a range of design skills to bear on the emergency services, prisons, healthcare, education and the workplace.

The Membership Project

About the Membership Project | The Membership Project

The Membership Project explores how the social web and other factors are changing the ways in which we may belong to groups and organisations.

We believe that these changes will have major implications for civil society institutions, ranging from national charities to local groups.

Put simply, will people still pay subscriptions if they can get information, meet and collaborate through social networks? As individuals, how do we turn connections made online and in other ways into deeper relationships and ways of working towards a better society? What benefits must organisations offer in future to survive?
We are inviting anyone interested to join us in a exploring how ‘membership’ and the act of ‘joining’ is changing, review the implications for civil society institutions, and then to develop services, support or guidance to help them meet the challenges and opportunities.

Is this the real story of service design?

This is what the wikipedia says about service design.

But I see this as just one strain – this is when product designers took their methodology into the design of services. And they needed to do this when they realised that the internet integrated business economy was being constructed more and more as a a combination of many parts. Only one of which is the hard material object. But not all parts are the service – for the service is a focus specifically upon the ‘event’ of consumption – and not upon the processes that result in the consumption event. So service design falls under the category of ‘product’ in the way marketing and communication agencies talk about it. For a traditional touch and feel designer this is all very soul-less. But for a designer who went abstract-logical-digital a while ago (in this include all the mass-pro design strains) this is all pure adrenaline. Or maybe not adrenaline – for they get small rushes – but maybe a sense of accomplishment. Adrenaline we can reserve for the designers – for whom emotion still matters. But hang on we hear they are bringing in the psychologists into design to make ’emotion’ also an analtically managed product.

All very sad and soulless.

(So do I have another take on service design? Yes I do. Its a practice I enjoy for it is a face to face service design. That will be in subsequent posts. So come back later.)

Service design – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the earliest contributions on service design (Shostack 1982; Shostack 1984)the activity of designing service was considered as part of the domain of marketing and management disciplines. Shostack (Shostack 1982), for instance proposed the integrated design of material components (products) and immaterial components (services). This design process, according to Shostack, can be documented and codified using a “service blueprint” to map the sequence of events in a service and its essential functions in an objective and explicit manner.

In 1991, Service Design was first introduced as a design discipline by Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff at Köln International School of Design (KISD), and Prof. Birgit Mager has played an integral role for developing the study of Service Design at KISD in later days. In 2004, the Service Design Network was launched by Köln International School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Linköpings Universitet, Politecnico de Milano, Domus Academy and the agency Spirit of Creation, in order to create an international network for Service Design academics and professionals; now the network extends to service designers around the world, as well as professional service design agencies such as Livework and IDEO.

Digital Industrial Design

Can we visualize a new kind of Industrial Design education – called for a bit “Digital Industrial Design Education”?

Where the process of design is:

1. Primarily digital – so its not then about hand drawing, or workshop practice.

2. Independent of ‘manufacturing’ priorities – and so is significantly ‘form’ and ‘shape’ orientated.

3. Similar to graphic design in that it lives in the computer environment.

4. Similar to set and ‘fantastic’ object design – like design is for Syd Mead and the other designers who do not take current reality as a constraint.

Do you think such a picture is scary or soul-less? But keep this thought in your mind for a bit and then speculate on the good things that can be done in design with this orientation.

Would you like to see a program in Digital Industrial Design?

More Social Innovation

“The world needs more social innovation—and so all who aspire to solve the world’s most vexing problems—entrepreneurs, leaders, managers, activists, and change agents—regardless of whether they come from the world of business, government, or nonprofits, must shed old patterns of isolation, paternalism, and antagonism and strive to understand, embrace, and leverage cross-sector dynamics to find new ways of creating social value.” from Rediscovering Social Innovation, By James A. Phills Jr., Kriss Deiglmeier, & Dale T. Miller, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2008

Richard Buchanan Leaving School of Design

Richard Buchanan |

Today we learned, in an apparent slip, that Richard Buchanan is leaving the School of Design. At the very end of class, in a conversation largely framed around the question of what is design, he mentioned that he would be a professor of information systems, “whatever that means.” There was a pause in the room as we students wondered if we just heard what had been rumored to be the case ever since Dick dropped all thesis advisees a few weeks ago. I took the opportunity and broke the silence: “So you are leaving?”


He did not say much more, only that it was very difficult to leave the program. Not surprising for the person who has been with the school for 17 years, first serving as the Nierenberg Chair, followed immediately by a 10-year stint as head. He redesigned the undergraduate program and spearheaded the creation of the grad program that I am about to graduate from.

Sources indicate that he has accepted a position at Case Western.

As Buchanan has provided the theoretical and philosophical perspective to design that has influenced everyone that has passed through the grad program and contributes greatly to what makes designers from the School of Design stand out amongst their contemporaries, his departure will definitely impact the feel of the program and perhaps the thinking of its future grads. I’m very curious to see how the school adapts to his leaving next year.

Personally, I have enjoyed the classes I have taken with Dick. I appreciate the broad view of design that he promotes. And there was something wonderful about being beaten down and made to struggle through difficult texts during Seminar 1 the first semester of my graduate experience. If nothing, the experience contributed to a stance of humility and appreciation for different perspectives. It’s difficult to know how much he has influenced my thinking. I tend to believe that I have been influenced more by my peers when talking about the material of his classes than the classes themselves. However, if the stories Dick tells are true, I may not realize the impact of his classes for years to come.

Cranbrook Academy of Art

Welcome to Cranbrook Academy of Art

In other words, Cranbrook is far more than just a place to go to school; it is a community. Whether you are making art in your studio (all Academy of Art students are assigned their own personal studio space), swimming at the Williams Natatorium, attending a lecture in deSalle auditorium, or simply relaxing along the Triton pools in front of the Cranbrook Art Museum (where the work of Academy students and leading artists are both on display), you’ll find Cranbrook is an environment that has been specifically tailored to support your growth as an artist, and as a productive member of society.


The School of Art + Design at Montgomery College

The School of Art + Design is a unique program at Montgomery College, offering an art school environment for college students majoring in studio art or graphic design and noncredit students seeking new or improved skills in fine and digital arts.

Describing Art and Design Education

Art and Design Courses

Art and design education is remarkable for its diversity. Broad subject definitions include Design, Fine Art and History, and Theory of Art and Design. Design based courses are offered in a huge range of disciplines from craft based areas such as Furniture Design, Ceramics, Textile Design, and Silversmithing and Jewellery, through Fashion, Graphic Design, Product and Automotive Design, to areas such as design for Multi Media and the electronic environment, including digital graphics and animation. Fine Art provides courses ranging from those in traditional disciplines such as Painting, Sculpture and Printing, through courses concerned with Performance and Installation, and those which relate to lens-based and electronic media.

Courses in the History and Theory of Art and Design range from those dealing with Art History, through courses in Curatorship, Conservation and Museum Studies, and those which combine the study of theory with other practical subjects such as painting, or with study of other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology or history. Most courses contain vocational elements which assist graduates in progressing to appropriate professional destinations, though these elements range in type and delivery from simple business and professional study elements to specific subject-focused live projects.

Universities, colleges and Art schools are noted for the high quality of the resources provided for education. Courses are offered in specialist studios, workshops and lecture rooms, and the best of the facilities have excellent technical support, including Information Technology and Computer resources. Library and Learning Resource provision is also excellent, with many universities providing large new facilities, which combine the storage of thousands of books and periodicals with the best of technology-based learning support and teaching aids. The staff resource is also first-class, with most teachers maintaining professional practice and research within their disciplines, as well as a teaching role. It is not unusual to be taught by staff who are internationally recognised specialists in their own field. The employment of large numbers of professional artists and designers on a part-time basis ensures that contemporary professional issues are brought directly to students in the normal course of their education.

Service design as a growing discipline

Design Council | About design | Design disciplines | Service design

Business and management courses are fast-growing areas in education and increasingly, courses or modules in these courses are being included that show how to manage products and services. The design of services is a natural component of such courses.

* There are plans to open a college in Northumbria that has services and service design as its main focus. This is planned to have 6,000 new service design graduates per year and between 270 to 350 faculty by 2012.
* The University of California, Berkeley is offering a Services Science graduate course for the first time in 2006.
* Paul Horn, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, has suggested a new academic discipline of Services Science that would ‘bring together work in the more established fields of computer science, operations research, industrial engineering, management sciences, and social and legal sciences, in order to develop the skills required for a services-led economy.

Car design in India

Automotive design gets ready for a greater role in India

The initial flow of companies setting up design centres has led to as many as 15 institutes introducing courses in automotive or transportation design in the country.

Auto design is also getting more classroom space in design centres that have traditionally focused on other industries.

The National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, launched a postgraduate course of two-and-a-half years’ duration in transportation and automobile design in 2006. MIT, Pune, and IIT Madras also have programmes on automobile engineering, but the industry says that finding design manpower is still a problem because between the institutes, only about 300 designers graduate every year.

“It’s a turning point in the Indian auto industry,” says Pradyumna Vyas, mentor, transportation and automobile design, and head, education, NID. “The role of design, more than ever, in the Indian auto industry is gaining increasing importance if the ongoing auto show is any indication of the shape of things to come. ” NID has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Italian design houses and schools such as Pininfarina SpA and Domus Academy where their students go on exchange programmes.

Dear Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister

The Knowledge Commission was given an ambitious mandate to strengthen India’s knowledge potential at all levels. We had agreed that if all sections of Indian society were to participate in and make use of the knowledge economy, we would need a radical paradigm shift in the way we thought of the production, dissemination and use of knowledge. In some ways this paradigm shift would have to be at least as radical as the economic reforms you helped usher in more than a decade ago. The sense of intellectual excitement that the commission generated stemmed from the fact that it represented an opportunity to think boldly, honestly and with an eye to posterity. But the government’s recent decision (announced by Honorable Minister of Human Resource Development on the floor of Parliament) to extend quotas for OBCs in central institutions, the palliative measures the government is contemplating to defuse the resulting agitation, and the process employed to arrive at these measures are steps in the wrong direction. They violate four cardinal principles that institutions in a knowledge based society will have to follow: they are not based on assessment of effectiveness, they are incompatible with the freedom and diversity of institutions, they more thoroughly politicise the education process, and they inject an insidious poison that will harm the nation’s long-term interest.

All things being equal

CC June 2006 — Special Report

All things being equal

Multiple Index Related Affirmative Action (MIRAA) – a more
effective system for equal opportunity


Hence it is important to discuss reservation in the holistic context of much required social restructuring and not to convert it into a fetish of ‘political correctness’. Admittedly, caste remains a social reality and a mechanism of oppression in Indian society. But can we say that caste is the only mechanism of oppression? Can we say with absolute certainty that poverty amongst the so-called upper castes has been eradicated? Can we say that the regions of the North-east, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, are on par with the glittering metros of Delhi and Mumbai? Can we say that a pupil from a panchayat school in Bihar is equipped to compete with an alumnus of Doon School on an equal footing even if both of them belong to the same caste group? One of my students once remarked that he was regularly compelled to swim across a rivulet in order to reach his school and the rivulet in question did not distinguish between Brahmins and Dalits. Incidentally, this young man happens to be a Brahmin by birth! Can we also say that gender plays no role in denial of social opportunities? After all, this society discriminates against girls even before they are born. Why talk of access or opportunities, they’re denied birth itself. Such discrimination exists across religious and caste lines.