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)

We have to change the world

Or so goes the sentiment in”design thinking” – and well its possible. Or alternately – let look back to see how we HAVE changed the world. From 2004 till now we (my colleagues and I) have shaped 321 minds and put them out into this city, Melbourne. Of these, lets say for the sake of our story, 100 are proactively idealistic and changing the world. We have in effect created the perfect 100th monkey phenomenon. Which means the change that we have been instrumental in effecting, is already a phenomenon. The question here is how do we see, touch and feel this change? (I would be keen to hear your responses to this question – in the comments section)

“What we’ve been talking about since my first day on the job two years ago is how artists can change places,” Landesman said – have a listen on ABC RN here ( He was talking about the role artists (which is all creative people – including Industrial Designers) play in a society and the economy. He went on to say that artists (Industrial and Fashion Designers) create events and works. People flock to places where a concentration of such works happen (Melbourne?) – and where the city acquires a reputation as a creative cluster. Where there are people – there are jobs: people eat, watch and go out spending on a whole load of other consumables. The service industry in Melbourne continues to grow. Melbourne is a creative cluster – one of the big ones. How aware is Melbourne of this creative ecosystem? How well does Melbourne support and nurture this creative ecosystem?

Below are a few additional/ useful/critical readings on creative clusters and Richard Florida.


PDF download from here –

Where does Melbourne rank among cities as a creative cluster:

In 2009 I started a few different kinds of engagements with creatives (designers) – the ones that I had worked with in their formative stages. I had a hand in their development – and I decided that it would be good to walk with them as they took baby steps through entering creative practice – this was one intervention – careers curation. I have a few other interventions.

One was to speak loudly in the hearing of the people in the Victorian government (Lyn Kosky in the old days and then the Innovation-wallahs who supported the labour policy on innovation and more recently the people in the Bailleu Govt)  that DESIGN IS AN INDUSTRY and as such needs support like an industry. Everyone in this city agrees that Design contributes to the economy – as in a sector that employs many people. It is a sector, that is not in doubt. But can it claim status as an “industry” and then become eligible for government support – and development projects (a 100 hectare design precinct and incubator estate – with state of the art prototyping facilities – like China has in most cities, possibly also with a visionary like like Bao Fu Han leading it)? Instead we got a festival (not bad for starters) and an Industry support organization (modelled on New Zealand and 1970s UK) – not bad as mild commitment. But not necessarily anywhere near what cities, that wished to be leaders in innovation, were doing. Will this change? Probably not anytime soon.

The orthodoxy sees the situation in two ways: One, industry and the potential employers of designers need to be educated bout the economic benefits of design. This ignores the fact that contemporary society is ‘saturated’ with design – and anyone needing design help knows where to go – the internet. This was not the cse in 1960s UK and so the design council had a programme of workshops and training courses. Is it valid to spend resources educating potential clients to use designers? Why wouldn’t it be a better idea to seed designers to go off and do some creative activity. Like an arts council – only as a new age ‘design council’. Two, more damagingly another view is that designers need to be re-educated to fit into industry and workplaces. Damaging – because it superfluous – or even that these workplaces need fresh ideas not creatives trained to “fit in”. Hence these orthodoxies are fallacies. Have you heard me say this – Yes this has been the way my litany has run for a fair few years.

Still to move on.

Then there was an attempt to find out what the 321 people were doing. This last suddenly seems a very interesting line of inquiry to follow. What I would like to do is first have a group of people – who I can then chat to. If I can get an understanding of what they are doing – then I can get some ideas of what manner of support they could do with. Or I can propose that ‘creative insurgency’ with the willing ones. I can also add to this 50 additional people – the ones who came to us from overseas (mainly from NID in India) and walked some way with us. Right so I have 371 people.

Next I create a place – I tried a NIG network in 2008. It wasn’t perfect. I am trying facebook now – and it looks promising. I have about 200 people at hand.

Then I need projects! First I tested the ground with a ‘pilot’: DIY Pads. Then started looking further afield. I have been looking around and talking to agencies about projects. It looks like there are two projects that have potential for 2012. (If you want to know more about this – express your interest in the comments section.)

My goal initially was to find work for graduating designers, that became bigger and I was looking to figure out all the places where a designer could potentially work in Melbourne. Its now all that, plus – why not create work, workplaces and projects!

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.

who do I want to be as a professional?

Tales from an Unemployed Interior Designer

Now I’m faced with yet another problem (in addition to all those associated with searching for a new position in this economy); if my job is not coming back in any way, shape or form… then what do I want to do and who do I want to be as a professional?

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.

Stimulus Program For Unemployed Designers

Job Stimulus Program For Unemployed Designers –

With unemployment at a 25-year high, and an estimated 3.3 million jobs lost in the last five months, a leading design software company has created its own stimulus package-providing unemployed engineers and designers with the opportunity to learn valuable new career skills.

The program gives free software licenses, training videos and tutorials, networking, certification and potential job leads to any job seeker living in the United States, Canada or Europe-helping candidates stay current with the technology while upgrading their skills for an ever-changing job market.

Behind The Scenes