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)

What are the 10 big design challenges in the social sector? » Design Thinking

We have relatively few design thinkers operating in the world. What would happen if instead of that capacity working randomly on problems it was focused on a small number of big issues? Could we use new mechanisms like open source or prizes to motivate larger numbers of creative people to collaborate? Could we create categories where creative competition causes us to build on the ideas of others to create the breakthrough ideas many areas of society need? I think we could.

The first step is to generate the list of big design problems in the social sector. I want to take a stab at starting that conversation here. One place to start is the list of Millennium Development Goals published by the UN. What do you think? Is this the right list? What about social issues in the developed world like obesity or crime? What kind of metrics should we use to determine the potential impact of tackling any given challenge? Should we use a return on investment approach like Bjorn Lomborg? How do we go from these general categories to more specific design challenges? I would love your thoughts and ideas.

UN Millennium Development Goals:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Achieve universal primary education

Promote gender equality and empower women

Reduce child mortality

Improve maternal health

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability

Develop a global partnership for development

via What are the 10 big design challenges in the social sector? » Design Thinking.

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.

on Design Forums

Why has the level of discussion in “design forums” degenerated so quickly? Maybe because they’re not populated by “designers.” Greenfield explains …

A List Apart: Articles: The Bathing Ape Has No Clothes (and other notes on the distinction between style and design)

I admit it: I’m one of those poor souls who likes to indulge myself in the fiction that there’s something called “the online design community.” And (in what is probably a still greater admission of my own naivete) I believe in both the possibility and the worth of associating with this diverse and international scatter of people on message boards.

Indigenous Australian Design

(picture above – David Lancashire)

On Monday I was asked to be a ‘respondent’ ( my first time as a respondent!) at this event – Culture Shift:

Culture Shift: An Indigenous Future for Design

There’s a global shift in design towards greater collaboration. In Australia, designers have learnt greatly from working with Indigenous communities. But as with the new wave of Indigenous film directors, there is also an emerging generation of Aboriginal designers in fields such as architecture, fashion and interior design. Join a discussion about how our future will be shaped by Indigenous design.

INDIGO is an international platform that asks – What is Indigenous design? As an Icograda-led initiative of the IDA (International Design Alliance), INDIGO is a multi-disciplinary network of designers and stakeholders generating a community and presenting a series of projects to explore the meaning and interpretation of Indigenous design culture throughout the world.

During the State of Design this free public forum will bring together Indigenous and non-indigenous designers and commentators to look forward, examining how their architecture, product design, craft or art practice can step between cultures, drawing benefit from both, and generating a new proposition for Australian design language.

I saw some work that was spoken of as connecting to land, country and culture. The speakers spoke to motifs, colors, forms and process – all as distinct with a desire to produce something specific and precise. The specific and precise is my way of constructing a category of the ‘meaningful’ in design. Design is often utilitarian – of course – and here were designers and architects working to add an extra dimension – in the porcess hinting at the existence of an indigenous ‘way of design’. I am intrigued by this suggestion of the redesign of the design process itself.

My response was as usual all over the place and spoken very fast ( there was very little time and a lot to say ). I am at this very moment writing a piece on ‘design and the sacred’ and suddenly I was furiously rewriting the main points because the ‘sacred’ was being replaced by the ‘significant’ or the ‘uncanny’. Many people walked away that evening with the notion ‘ anything can be made sacred’ – which was me doing Durkheim. I also threw in a generous dose of the roots of design in India. I said that at that time in 1854 there were three parts to the “project” of design for indian crafts – one was a school ( a curriculum- lithography, pottery and so on), the other was the ‘institute’ of art in industry( to bring industry – read clients – and artists together) and the last was a journal (to influence opinion).

Four things are interesting here – as a construction of the elements of the theory of indigenous design:

Re Designers: There are two parts to this one indigenous designers doing design ( indigenous inspired – Alison – or just normal design) and the other is non-indigenous designers (David) doing indigenous inspired design.

Re works: The focus of this work is either for consumption by indigenous communities (troppo, merrima) or by all (Page jewellery, David).

Re Genre: Are we arriving at a specific class of artefacts, designs, experiences that classify themselves as indigenous? Is there a new design process, or is the artefact valuation (appreciation) different?

Re Context: I am inspired by David’s location in NT and the opportunity for immersion. Indigenous imbued-inspired artefacts in natural settings and in contrast in urban settings.

Which has started me off on thinking about INDIGO and a hypothetical project – indigenous australian design practice.

1. What is it: There are many practitioners who are pioneers in Australia and are making a mark. This jewellery is by Alison Page – who is striking out on her own in defining ‘aboriginality’ in design. Some very exciting stuff. Others are Troppo and David Lancashire. Then there is indigenous design in the Americas. (I went looking for some of this stuff – see following posts)

(images above – Alison Page, and work by Troppo Architects.)

Diamond Dreaming – Rare and beautiful jewellery, Sydney, Australia

Mondial Neuman Jewellers have collaborated with Indigenous Designer Alison Page to create an unique range of contemporary Aboriginal jewellery using natural coloured diamonds and precious metals. Diamond Dreaming is the first range of jewellery of its type in Australia.

2. Why is it this way: The project is an amplification and appropriateness, or a quest for the indigenous and a grounding of the design in context. So this is one way of describing the project of ‘doing the indigenous’

3. What else can it be: The main work is now happening in ‘industry’ as commercial projects, a lot of it is state funded projects – there is however very little from the universities. hat can be the location of an initiative.

4. What should it be: A three year project to build a multidimensional action research project. Some design, some research and some teaching – just three things.

(this is writing in progress)

Do you have a comment to offer? How would you answer – what else can be done?

Sustainable Designs for a Living World

Design for a Living World photo
10 Awe-Inspiring, Sustainable Designs for a Living World: Showing Now at Cooper Hewitt (Slideshow) : TreeHugger

Not able to hoof it to New York City’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum for the Nature Conservancy’s Design for a Living World”? Fret not, because we’ve brought the exhibit to you through the magic of the Internet.

In our slideshow, you’ll find prominent designers from the worlds of fashion, industrial, and furniture design (Yves Béhar, Maya Lin, Isaac Mizrahi, Hella Jongerius, and Kate Spade, just to name a few) who have explored natural, sustainable materials from specific parts of the globe where the Nature Conservancy works, from the grasslands of Idaho to the forests of China’s Yunnan Province. The result: Beautiful yet practical objects with the potential to revolutionize entire industries and reshape lives.

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.