Final presentations and graduation celebration

After in field presentations, we returned to Malavli. Students had time to rest and shower and then put on their traditional saris and kurtas. Raksha and Moshi (the fantastic ISAC cook) helped the women put on their saris.

From left to right: Mike, Maya, Vanessa, Sarah, Felipe, Monifa, Zimeng, Arielle, Anna, and Kylie in our saris (women) and kurtas (men).

Felipe explains the final design his group created with Sadhana and the community.

Mike, Vanessa, and Arielle present the playspace their group designed with KESBO.

Mr. Ali, founder of KESBO, presents a certificate of completion to Anna.

We then went to the studio where students set up for their formal presentations. Savita, Mr. Ali, and the founder of Chetna joined us as guests, along with ISAC staff. The students created digital presentations capturing their entire process from beginning to end product. This included the interviews they conducted with key stakeholders in the community, sketches, keywords and insights, finalized budgets, as well as other activities and inspiration that happened along the way.

At the end of the presentations, ISAC staff presented each student with a certificate of completion in recognition of their work over the last three weeks. Both the ISAC staff and I talked about the uniqueness of this pilot program and how excited we are to make this happen and continue to go forward in the future. We recognized the time given and opportunity granted by the partnering organizations. With out their openness and willingness to give students access and flexibility, the program would not have been possible. We also talked about the students’ tremendous work and commitment to seeing their projects through and giving something of meaning to their adopted communities.

From the studio, we traveled down the road to a rented facility, where ISAC set up a lovely meal al fresco in an open courtyard. We ate delicious food and celebrated the end of a successful program and amazing, enlightening experience for all of us. Our guests from the partnering organizations joined us in the celebration.

After dinner, ISAC surprised us with a DJ. We spent the rest of the evening perfecting our Bollywood dance with Raksha as our dance leader showing us new moves, as well as traditional folk dances. We danced as the stars came out. This was a perfect ending to great experience – total immersion in Indian culture mixed with diligent, rewarding design work and a lot of fun!

Presenting the final results and giving the projects to the community

The final day of the course came very quickly. Today, the students presented the finished projects to their partnering organizations, key stakeholders, peers, instructor, and ISAC staff. It was a full, exciting day. A rented bus picked us up in the morning and we first traveled to KESBO. Here the students celebrated the opening of Unity Park, the playspace they co-designed and named with the boys and Mr. Ali. The students described their inspiration for the project and demonstrated its various uses. Then they invited the boys to play! We all enjoyed playing in the new space – from trying out the swings and monkey bars to testing the tire obstacle course and racing each other on the racetrack. The best part was watching the boys of all ages and abilities use the play structures together and help one other.

The students were thrilled to see their design come to life and completed. It is functional, it is in keeping with the limitations and challenges of the climate and landscape, it utilizes mostly reused materials, and came in under budget. The students put their own blood, sweat, and tears into building the playspace – from digging holes to mixing concrete, moving boulders to playing and working alongside the boys under the intense Indian sun.

The playspace was completed for under $200 CAD. Most importantly it included the ideas and input from Mr. Ali and the boys, who will be benefiting from it the most. The students completed an implementation plan that explains to the boys and Mr. Ali how the playspace was designed, how it can be used, and ideas for future expansion.

Then, as a group, we traveled to Sadhana. We were greeted even more enthusiastically than usual by the many children who have been a part of the Sadhana student group’s activities almost everyday for the past two weeks. The students displayed the banner created by the kids, as well as printed business cards and letterhead, which together highlight the versatility of their new logo design and identity for Sadhana.The surprise element to the presentation was the arrival of the freshly printed saris and kurtas delivered by Ravi, the textile printer. He arrived on his motorcycle to personally deliver the finished textiles.

The students talked about their experiences designing with Sadhana and the surrounding community. Savita talked about how much she and her staff learned from the students and about what design can encompass. She is pleased with the design and how it can be used to further the work Sadhana does to fight for the rights of all people, particularly those living in the cantonment areas. Savita handed out roses to each one of us thanking us for our work and contribution the organization
and the community.

Throughout the project the students learned about the power of imagery and the importance of a clear message to further an organization’s work. They worked through the challenge of distilling a huge amount of information and complexity to not only design a final image but also include the community and staff in the process. They took a logo one step further by integrating their design into culturally familiar forms – the sari, kurta, and henna. By doing so, they gave it more dimension and the opportunity to communicate in a way that just business card or poster alone could never do. Their work will help to visually unify a community and strengthen its message so that it can be heard and positive change can continue to be made. The students did this in under three weeks and spent less than $100 CAD.

Mehndi Night

On Thursday night, we had a night of mehndi, designs on the hands and feet using henna. ISAC staff member, Farooq, invited his daughter’s friend who is a trained menhdi artist to the yellow house. She brought her books of designs and allowed each person to pick out a design for their hands and/or feet. She is busy this time of year, doing henna for weddings, as well as other for various festivals. She works quickly and is very talented.. We all loved the henna designs that she did for us.

Arielle has an intricate design drawn on her hand using henna.

Monifa, Arielle, and Vanessa show her mehndi designs.

Last working day

Today was the students’ last full day to finish their projects with their organizations. The KESBO group set off early to finish painting the climbing structure and tires and to create the rope net. Yesterday’s trip to the hardware store for more paint and rope produced a rainbow of colours. The boys requested bright colours, specifically: yellow, pink, and lime green to complement the swing sets, which the students have already painted red, yellow, and blue.

By the end of the day, the playspace was completed! The students painted the structure and tires and weaved a strong, colourful net for the boys to climb. They created a running track down the middle of the space, with a green starting on on side and a red finish line on the other. The finished product truly transformed the space. Before the paint could dry, the boys were already creating out their new playspace – laughing and playing together

A pile of used tires of various sizes is transformed into a colourful obstacle course.

Arielle, Vanessa, Anna, and Kylie create a knotted rope net strong enough for the boys to climb.

Mike paints a green starting line for the race track that extends down the middle of the playspace.

Muneer tries out the new tire swing.

The Sadhana group divided into two. One group set off for Sai Chowk, a town three train stops from Dehu road. They met with a Ravi, textile printer and owner of Surabhi Textile Printing & Designing, who agreed to create a silkscreen and screen print the group’s design onto two saris and a kurta. Monfia, Zimeng, Raksha and I had the opportunity to look at samples of the kind of work Ravi produces, which includes everything from hand painted saris and hand embroidered embellishments for traditional wedding suits to t-shirts for rock bands.

After learning about the work the students are doing for Sadhana, the Ravi decided that he would not be making a profit on the project. He agreed to complete the printing with less than a 24 hour turnaround and charge just for his costs, because he wanted to be a part of this project. He explained that he received help to start his business and now that Surabhi is a successful company he enjoys giving back – the students’ work is just one of the various projects he chooses to sponsor.

Looking at samples of the Surabhi Textile Printing's work.

Zimeng looks at an example of one of the silkscreens the Surabhi has created for a detailed fabric design.

Samples of hand embroidered beadwork.

(from right to left): Ravi's brother, Anil, Ravi, and the rest of his team at Surabhi.

The other half of the Sadhana group traveled to Dehu Road to work with the kids from the cantonment area. Using their handmade silkscreen, carved woodblocks, paint, ink, and fabric, Maya and Felipe invited the children to create the Sadhana design with their hands using paint and fabric. Collectively, they created a banner and printed handkerchiefs boasting the newly designed Sadhana logo. This was one more way the students included the community directly in the process of designing and creating a representative identity and message for Sadhana. The children’s involvement summed up the participatory design process – fun, chaotic, a bit messy, but ultimately rewarding and resulting in an authentic end product.

Distilling the message – students create a versatile visual identity for Sadhana

The Sadhana student group is striving to create a strong visual symbol that will represent Sadhana both to those it works with in the cantonment communities, as well as externally to politicians, other cantonment areas in India, and international organizations about the importance of pushing for human rights for all people. Through research, testing, and iteration, the group has developed a final concept and is working to create several ways is which to use this visual identity. Through traditional dress on a printed sari and kurta, as a woodblock design that can be used with henna on the body, on t-shirts and small flags, as well as on business cards, letterhead, website and on Facebook.

Zimeng and Maya sand blocks made from a freshly hewn Banyan tree. The students visited a local lumbermill in the morning to get woodblocks to use for carving their design.

Monifa traces the group's logo design for Sadhana onto the woodblock.

Zimeng carves a woodblock that will be used as a stamp for henna and for printing on fabric.

Maya prepares two 8ft long peices of sari fabric onto which the group will print their Sadhana symbol.

KESBO building day 2

Momafezi – Lonavala for Wood

credit: Monifa

credit: Monifa

credit: Monifa

credit: Monifa

credit: Monifa

credit: Monifa

We were unable to get woodblocks in Pune the day before, so Wednesday we went in the morning to Lonavala’s lumberyard to find something suitable. In the second store we were successful, as they could cut the pieces down to what size we wanted and had a wide selection of branches rather than just planks. We selected a Banyan Tree which was still slightly moist, which apparently makes it easier to carve. The bandsaw was really old but really interesting. It had a huge blade which they put inside and it had a large old wheel.  We then sanded and carved the designs and tested them. For our larger prints we used the screen print.


Bollywood Movie Night – Dabangg with Salman Khan

On Tuesday night, students took a break from working on their projects to watch a popular Bollywood movie, Dabangg, starring heartthrob and campy action hero, Salman Khan as a “rowdy, mischievous, and sometimes crooked cop” ( We loved the over-the-top fight scenes and the great dance numbers.

Our group’s favourite scene from Dabangg – the “Incredible Hulk” meets “Old Spice guy”…

Design and then BUILD – the students bring their ideas to life at KESBO

The students started to implement the results of their participatory design process at the KESBO site. The day started with a meeting with a local welder, who will build the climbing structure from the students’ design.

With help from the boys, the group got a great deal accomplished. By the end of the day, the swingsets, which had previously sat unused were cemented permanently in the ground, the holes for the tire obstacle course were completed, paint and other supplies were purchased and delivered to the site, and the construction of the climbing structure was almost complete.

An electrical short caused a delay in the welding for the day. Luckily, the ISAC staff’s extensive network of connections allowed them to bring in a skilled electrician to fix the problem. The electrician generously donated his time to KESBO when he learned it was an orphanage.

Students show design to the local welder.

Iron poles the students bought from the scrapyard and had delivered to KESBO.

Students and the boys move raw materials in place to begin fabrication.

Fabricator welds the climbing structure designed by the students.

The climbing structure begins to take shape.

Vanessa prepares a hole for the swingset.

The boys use the wheelbarrow to transport gravel to mix concrete for the swingsets.

Vanessa works with Muneer to mix concrete for setting the swingsets permanently in place.

Swingsets are set in place with concrete and ready for painting tomorrow.

Kylie digs a hole to place the tires for the obstacle course.

Sarah, Anna, and Vanessa set tires in place for an obstacle course.

Mike and Vanessa high five with Muneer and Muhammad after a long days work.

Mommafezi’s Trip to Pune for Supplies

Today we went to Pune to find material which would work to block print a sari. It ended up being a hectic day, as many stores didn’t have what we needed thus sending us on a wild goose chase to multiple stores. To add another obstacle, many roads were shut and the streets were filled as it was the first day of a festival for the God Ganesh as well as an opening of a new temple. Though this slowed us down a bit, it was amazing to be able to witness seeing the status, which usually is only seen behind doors of a temples, to be paraded down the street with drums and dancers to its new home.

This store was stocked with craft and sewing supplies, where we were able to buy fabric paint. This was the only picture I could sneak in, as they refused any pictures being taken. They were extremely grumpy. But the selection and price of extremely ornate ribbons was so exciting! We were of course sent on a wild goose chase around Pune to find block printing blocks and never was able to find them. But we managed to get back up material processes, screen printing supplies.

“Getting down to brass tacks” – setting a project budget and sourcing materials

By the end of the day on Monday, students from both groups were tasked with finalizing their designs and then determining the supplies and resources needed to complete their proposed projects by Friday.

The Sadhana group prepared their final designs to share with Savita. They then traveled on the train to Lonavala to look for materials needed to create a woodblock and for sari and kurta fabric on which to print their design.

Sadhana group's designs

Sadhana group's esimated budget for finishing the project.

The KESBO group simplified their design and worked with ISAC to find a welder who could fabricate a climbing structure for their proposed playspace. They traveled with Farooq, ISAC staff, to a metal scrapyard in nearby Kamshet where they were able to buy the iron needed and have it delivered to the KESBO site.

Students' revised design for a climbing structure at KESBO.

Site plan for the new playspace at KESBO.

KESBO group's budget estimates for completing the playspace.

Plans into Action

We came to India a little over two weeks ago, and are now embarking on the ‘plans into action phase’ of the design process.  A week into the course I had strong doubts about the likelihood of finishing and implementing a co-design project of this scale in two weeks. From our previous studies at ocad U the students on this trip realized the significance of breaking the barrier between designer and user. Many of us have theorized this process in other classes, but never has the term “co-design” meant so much. With only four days left till the groups fly home and part ways, I am bemused by what we have accomplished in so little time. Though seemingly small or simplistic, when I think about the magnitude of a well-designed logo or the effects of a play space on developing children the outcome of what we’ve worked towards could be more then any of us imagined.

While working with the communities we’ve experienced our share of setbacks and cultural differences, but despite these obstacles we tried our best to keep the organizations involved. Going forward these last few days, there are sure to be unforeseen complications and pending questions. Even with the small amount of time we have spent with KESBO and Sadhana I have little doubt that the impact of our projects will affect everyone involved.