The First Design Abroad: India Class


From left to right: Michael Lewis, Maya Das Gupta, Vanessa Hausman, Sarah Tranum (instructor), Felipe Sarmiento, Monifa Charles-Dedier, Zimeng Yu,
Arielle Bourret-Klein, Anna Kolesnikova, and Kylie Thompson.

In May of 2023, nine OCAD University students traveled to India as part of the Design Abroad: India course. This diverse group of students came from both the Faculty of Design and the Faculty of Art and represented a cross section of disciplines, skill sets, and perspectives. This blog documents the projects these students undertook and the incredible work they did as they co-designed with two organizations over the three-week period of the course.

The students worked in two groups. One group co-designed with KESBO, a boys orphanage, and the other team collaborated with Sadhana, a human rights organization that works with residents living in slum areas. The KESBO team designed and built a new playspace with and for the boys who live and go to school at the orphanage. This playspace not only provides a safe place for the boys to have fun and interact with each other, but also offered the boys the opportunity to express their ideas and work together to see these ideas become real.

The Sadhana group worked with the founder of the organization, her staff, and the residents of the nearby community to develop a visual identity that would represent their goals and collective voice. This identity, used on letterhead, posters, flyers, etc., was also printed on textiles and worn as a means to unify Sadhana and the residents at meetings, rallies, press conferences and other events where they are working to have their rights upheld in order to improve the health, safety and governance of their community.

You can learn more about these projects by reading the following posts, which document the participatory design process, from start to finish. The blog also reflects the students’ thoughts and observations during the course and documents the creation of their final individual projects, which were completed after their return from India. These projects challenged the students to thoughtfully reflect upon their experience and how it has influenced them and their work as designers.