Thoughts, thus Design

Lately I have come to realize that there are thoughts that float all around us, some of them are recognized and become solutions to various problems in life while some of them are to futuristic to be true considering the present scenario ( and technology) and are thus rejected. They become part of some book in which lies all these ideas and more. These problems could exist in the real world or in the digital world.

The nature of evolution it seems is to solve problems at each step possible in order to help our future generations. Why else does it seem necessary that a mach 3 by Gillet is the ultimate product, that one product we cannot live without. At one point I had started questioning if a particular solution was actually required ? Were there no solutions available to the user in the present market ? Be it technological solutions or a simple pat on the back ( which turns out to be the best solution till date !) were they not  available ?

Surprisingly I was questioning my role in the bigger picture. We as design students have the responsibility to bridge the gap between technology and arts. This is a reason why design is know as a multi disciplinary stream. It is this nature of design that we are trying to understand? Am I  confused about design. Yes. And I love to be confused about design. Every new thing, every new product, a solution, be it the stone that blocked the door from slamming back or the piece of fabric that saved the dining table from having a permanent tattoo, all of it is design. And that’s not all when it comes to design. Wow, what a field. Hence, thoughts thus answers, and thus thoughts thus design.

Recently, while sitting in the cafeteria at NID Bangalore, I noticed that the chair we were sitting on could be placed on  the table by its shoulder and wondered if this would allow the cleaners to sweep and mop the floors better and also kill the noises created while continuously shifting the chairs. As usual ( and always) my idea was targeted and ridiculed. Iv been in a similar situation before and have learnt from them that the moment there is a certain  level of ridicule, the idea could be worthwhile. I smiled and picked up all the chairs in the cafeteria and placed them on the table by their shoulders. After this I forgot about having done this until today.

I got caught up in a meeting with my professor and ended up having my lunch a little late than usual. I went to the cafeteria to see that all the chairs were placed haphazard suggesting the space was recently used.  I saw the cleaning staff ready to mop and sweep the floor and to my amazement I saw them placing the chairs on the tables by their shoulders. I got up and started asking them if this helped them clean the place better. If it helped them save time by not moving the chairs around every time they mop the floor ? Apparently it did help them. One of the ladies told me that she is expected to clean the place in 10 mins and considering the space and the number of chairs, it took her around 20 mins.

Now was that design ?

Whether it is or not, this experiment was a good success  and I am glad It helped the “targeted audience ” in a certain way.

Whose India is this ?

What’s the crime, and who is the criminal ? A critical look at the education system.

Rethinking education. That was the topic we at IDC decided to discuss. It started with an assumption set in concrete. The education system in India is at its worst. The discussion led us to think about what education was and what was the purpose of it. Did it have any purpose at all ?

The education system as it seems today is preparing students to be professionals. At this stage it is inportant to understand who is a professional ? Is a man/woman dressed in a formal 3 piece suit a professional ? Or the one who believes that “this” has potential, this has the power to “change”, or this is what can be the solution to the greater problems in life, a professional ? These questions boggeled my mind through out the conference.

To understand things better the system of education as it stands today was devided  into 4 sections –

Assessment, Resources,guidance and

The one question that got me thinking was the primary need for education. What is the primary need for education? Why does a person need to be educated?

For a job ? No.

A Successful career ? That’s solving the problem looking at the solution first.

Life ? What is that ? How can I learn what that is ? Is there a LIFE 201 module part of my course ?

Somehow even in these well known clichés there is one pattern that emerges out. Education seems to be preparing one for “something” . Maybe an event, a moment .

Let us take an example.as much as this sounds barbaric and demonic there are two men, one is a compulsive murderer and the other is an honest neighbor. The murderer kills people for what he believes is an inner need. An urge would be the expressing of this so called need. On the other hand, let us assume one day our faithful neighbour  happens to find his neighbour being raped. He saw this happen and killed the rapist in order to let the innocent one ( or that’s what he believed) live. In both cases, a man has killed. A man has been the reason for another mans death. But are both the cases same in the eyes of justice. What makes the “work” of the first man ( the conditioned murderer) different from the second ones.

In the first case the man had no self control. And that was his crime.  And who was the criminal ? He or his lack of self control ? Is the primary aim of education to help us control our vulnerabilities ? Is its aim to prepare us about the facts of life which we end up testing and at worst cases find it to be wrong ?

A discussion is welcomed.

If its possible, Its not New !

As much as this would sound as a cliché, no one could have guessed the existence( and need) of a Computer ( PC) looking at a transistor way back then, and I’m sure there would have been someone who asked then if changing the way we look at things today is necessary, why not let things work the way they are cause they seem to work well.

I believe I got caught up in the whole mess of going to a departmental store and getting bogged down by the number of shampoo brands available ( not that the hair on my head need that level of Indulgence, Shampoo ?).

What I failed to understand is the bigger picture. Having multiple brands is not the problem. Serving an audience that is heterogeneous was the problem. Organizations all around the world look at problems in different ways  and solutions are equally different. And competition is also a reason why a certain brand of chocolate tastes better than the other. Imagine a world where there was only one brand of chocolate. That in my opinion would be a little boring. Hence Contradictory to my previous post, and till I realize something else, Revolutionary design is necessary. Its good and not really an indulgence. Its what improves the way we live.

Revolutionary Design : An Indulgence ?

I owe all these learning’s to the long conversations I had with Prof. Balram over endless cups of Chai.

There are two schemes in designing a product. Revolutionary and Evolutionary. Revolutionary design deals with redesigning a product for its intended purpose from scratch. Evolutionary design deals with make minimum changes to already existing products and improve it .

I picked up a product ( A standard A4 full-scale) and decided to redesign it for the disabled. To start with I took the revolutionary scheme. I started questioning the fundamental purpose of the product and got to a particular solution. However, as much as this method is tempting and allows one the explore a new territory and truly call one an innovator, it beats the purpose of redesigning for all. I realized this scheme of designing as an Indulgence.

Once I realized this, I quickly picked up the other scheme, the one which I believed was boring and would not allow me to exhaust my creativity to its potential, to my surprise, I found myself in great sorrow unable to redesign the product I had picked up. Designing  on to  an already existing product at first  seemed easy and thus uninteresting but it turned out to be difficult. Working with constraints was not as easy as I thought it would be. Designing on an evolutionary scheme is more challenging and satisfying. It satisfies ones creative needs way more than  what one could get on a revolutionary scheme.

Revolutionary designs are necessary for the progress of thought. With progress of thoughtour lives improve. Else we would all have been still wearing the greek robes  or the long gowns we see in the  Shakespeare plays. The only concern that I wish to address here is the critical importance of a revolutionary product.

Today’s market is flooded with products. There is  a bottle opener and a bottle opener stand. Is the need for these two related products to be separated .Maybe a better example would help ! I agree on the point that marketing one product at one time, getting the audience to use it to a certain time and finally introducing an additional product that, the user cannot help but purchase is a time tested ( a good design)of making money but when did designs concerns towards society and social responsibility shift to market and money ? Money I agree is important but to bridge the gap between social need and technological advancement needs to be bridged. And this  bridge can be designed by design.

A bad workman always blames his tools, but what if the tools are not designed for him…

Like most lefthanders would tell you, the world has not been designed for them, I too had a lot of difficulties adjusting to normal daily objects. So much so that I was branded as a dyslexic .  Using them was one thing shifting from one to the other was not as seamless as one could imagine. And choosing a better looking object compared to another came naturally to me just as anybody else.

I have a confession to make. I am a bad workman as I always blame my tools. But, what if the tool has not been designed for me ?

While writing on a piece of paper, it always bothered me that the marketing team of this pen I was using had not taken into consideration that a lefthander be reminded of the fine pen he was using at all times. The written content on the pen was always upside down for me. Making tea was another challenge as the spout was strategically placed in order to have an anticlockwise wrist movement. Bathroom fixtures, screwdrivers, nut and bolt configurations etc were all designed in such a way that a person (right hander ) would instantly know which direction to turn the driver in, in order to tighten or loosen it. Yes, I became the bad workman who kept blaming his tools. They were simple designs, very well thought solutions, but to a lefthander like me, they seemed complex and at times poorly designed. So, was I a bad workman or, was the tool not designed well ?

The new trend which John Maeda points out in his TED presentation, where machines are considered smarter than us and we ( the makers of these machines ) are the dummies who need to read a 800 page  book ( which still at the end does not tell if I am smarter than before) filled with inspiration to master the tool, struck me.  Why are we so bogged down by the technology around us  ?  Looking at evolutionary and revolutionary designs, what must guide what ? Should technology guide design or should design guide technology ? Or am I just a bad workman ?

A discussion would help.

What is a Browser ?

Great study by google. less than 8% of the people who were interviewed knew what a web browser was. This study clearly explains how certain products have been designed not keeping the original audience in mind. For a daily internet user search seems to be synonymous to browsing.

Has the chrome OS eliminated the concept of a browser ?
Is browser less web browsing the future ?
or are we just correcting the mistakes we made ?

A discussion would help.