A Masters in Social Design

I get the news today on Facebook that Ambedkar University Delhi is open for admissions to its masters program in Social Design. I resist the temptation to add an ‘at last’ to the title and move on.

You can see the Program announcement here – http://www.aud.ac.in/academic/programs/masters_programmes-2/ma_in_social_design-582

I go into my blog to find the posts I was publishing as I was imagining a new school of design to be started in New Delhi. It is 2008, I have just stepped down from the position of Program Director and am very excited to do new projects. I bump into the Vice Chancellor and his Advisor at the India International Centre in Delhi. They say they would like to set up a School of Design at a new university! Would I work on this?

In 2003 I had worked on a similar project with the Advisor (then Dean of Planning at Delhi University) – visualizing a School of Design for Delhi University. So we had a connection. And I had another pro-bono venture taking off as it turned out.

The new university, as we sipped coffee, had at that time only three employees. The two people I was with and their driver. I am excited and running red hot suddenly – and launch into how the future should be non-object, non-elitist and non-urban. At the end of half and hour they say – send us something. I come back and through Nov and Dec 2008 have my vision drafted. As I draft my thoughts leak out into my blog – so I assembled that stuff, plus a paper I published on ‘service design for India’ below.

The vision was – an integrated UG (4 years) in Social Design, and two PGs (2 years) in Service Design and Social Innovation. You can see the documents and the program structure of the three programs here – https://sites.google.com/site/faintvoicesite/

You can see the argument for the vision here (a conference paper I published with Liz): The Social for India

Yes its now a PG in Social Design – but its great that its non-object, non-consumption focussed and focussed upon social engagement.

I am chuffed/ this is great news to start the day/ wondering about the curriculum! And so it goes.

New Design School at Ambedkar University Delhi

Nov 10, 2008

There is to be a new School of Design in New Delhi. This will be in the new university – AUD or Ambedkar University, Delhi. See link below to the site of the university.

The School of Design

Nov 10, 2008

I wrote this in October – as a starting of a vision document for the Design School (AUD)

Design School Vision

Nov 28, 2008

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.

Integrated Design

Dec 8, 2008

I have been looking at the Bachelors in Integrated Design offered by the Koln International School of Design. This means I have considered it from many angles and there are many things I like about it.

A New School for India

Dec 9, 2008

So I ask the question – can a design school be set up which lets go of its professional anchorings (in the art and design framework ) to focus all its energies upon this population of people?

Design Education for the future

Dec 10 2008

Such a design school then offers design education along two lines: Service Design and Social Innovation.

Social Design it is

Dec 22, 2008

I have just come back from India. And from Presenting the School of Design vision. For now its all go – and that is really exciting. In short the vision argues for three new kinds of courses: …

And for the future >>

Service design for India

July 15, 2009

Soumitri Varadarajan – Service design for India: The thinking behind the design of a local curriculum | Re-public: re-imagining democracy – english version

Curriculum Design

Just some eye candy on this subject – Papanek’s sketch.

I made the draft for three curricula – courses in Social Design, Service Design and Social Innovation. I am imagining that at this point the object trajectory of design is one path. The dematerialized is another way entirley.

The difference in the two paths is the focus upon the elite in the former. A focus upon objects, beautiful things and the producer. The latter focuses upon change and upon lives.

Social Design it is

I have just come back from India. And from Presenting the School of Design vision. For now its all go – and that is really exciting. In short the vision argues for three new kinds of courses:

1. Social Innovation: Where the key focus is upon a people orientated project that uses methodologies more attuned to the social. The vision here is that the problems of the world cannot be solved by technical intervention at the tip of the pyramid only. And trickle down is often ineffectual as it dries up before it gets to the bottom.

2. Service Design: Where the key focus is upon changing existing services which are doing such a bad job of ensuring a decent quality of life for all – or of coming up with new service ideas.

3. Social Design: Where the undergraduate curriculum in design is proposed – as a social one. Where the discourse is post professional – where specializations ought to be seen as things of the past. For specializations were a feature of a technological society – as in compartments and efficient units. In a post industrial society the profession of design too changes and becomes disengaged from the material and technical.

The school vision acknowledges the existence of the two dominant/existing paradigms of design – as the art and design construct and the technical innovation construct – and proposes an additional paradigm the social. Which is a sense makes then the case for the existence of three meta discourses: the 1850s onwards dominated by the Art and Design rhetoric in the words of Ruskin-Morris, then Gropius and Muthesius; the 1950s onwards where the technical-industrial is privileged in the voice of Banham, with Pevsner sitting on the fence; the 1990s onwards where the third discourse emerges in the voice of Manzini and the post-sustainability texts.

Sustainability has a post attached to it as design was to leave the technical in sustainability to the labs, TU Delft and the clusters that went too far into LCA, the quantitative and the rhetoric that was then called eco-design. But as the suits moved in to sustainability discourse – the poetics got marginalised and the aesthtic in sustainability was relegated to the material manipulations. So the ‘save the planet’ brigade in design opted out and found social innovation.

This is succinct picture – just done to distance social innovation from sustainability. Where sustainability is about the dominant discourse and the social is the inclusive marginal.

In short there is a possibility that the discourse of design i about to get a fresh lease of life – atleast in India – in the guise of the social.

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.

A Better World by Design

Social Impact, November 12th, 2008

The Better World by Design Conference was hosted last week by Brown University and the Rhode Island Design Institute (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. I attended the conference as a speaker and was impressed that the event was entirely student organized and run. The conference drew about 200 people from the design industry, private sector, social sector, and academia. We heard from a good mix of practitioners, consultants, and researchers.

The conference mapped closely to IDEO’s Design for Social Impact initiative so it was very much in-line with the work we’ve been doing for the past year. Just as way of background, the purpose of IDEO’s design for social impact work is to cause transformational change in communities of need.

Design today

Walking to work today I thought of design today as having three key energies – the technological, the artistic and the social – and that every design project or orientation (curriculum too) as a combination of how each of these is enerised. So in a sense the 1850s to the 1950s is a period when the ‘artistic’ dominated – where you got pronouncements like Morris, Bauhaus and others who talked of need for ‘artists’ to go into ‘industry’ to make things better. From the 50s to the 90s you have the ‘technological’ – where you have Ulm, Dreyfuss and Rams talking about ‘product’ design as a practice where the designer mediated between the maker and the buyer. In this period did the ‘artistic’ survive? Totally – it survived but moved into the realms of furniture or architecture orientated objects – the designers in this cultural cluster had their eyes firmly fixed upon the museums in big cities. From the 90s to now we have the social emerging and I would like to see it dominating – but it struggles with the dormant artistic and technological. The technological masquerades as the social – to win points – by calling itself Service Design. But we know thats that same techno-centric approach – and not genuinely social at all.

So you still have designers – who will pledge themselves to the ‘functional product’ (though now these peope can be seen more and more spouting such ideas in the field ‘interaction’ design).

The question then is how does one marginalise the artistic and the technological – so that design can emerge as the social (which incorporates sustainability and inclusivity which we (I) see as the way forward)?