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)
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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

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1795245&dest=33493]

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

Artefact

artefact

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.