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.

Final Project for IndiaEX

Concept for the reflection piece about our trip to India:

This installation is my analogy for the life in India as it unpacks more meaning the more one interacts with it. At first glance, the disarray of elements seems random, that is to say, to the foreign eye India can appear chaotic and lacking infrastructure. However, upon taking a journey and experiencing the culture for yourself, you gain another perspective: the “random” pieces line up to create a geometric shape and reveal order amongst chaos. The geometry in the linking fragments is derived from the Flower of Life in the Sacred Geometry that is present in Indian architecture as well as in the design of the Lotus flower, a national symbol of India.

Although not perfect, there are, in fact, systems in place. They are different than what we are used to in the west, and they work.

Still, the system is handling more people than what it was designed for and can bear; the forces of tension and compression in the installation represent that strain.

Using reclaimed materials is intended to point not only that the system is old and has flaws, but also the opportunities within it. Recycling industry is a prominent business in India. Discarded goods are salvaged by people, pulled apart and sold for parts or recycled. Thus, used materials are not necessarily disposed; instead, everything that can be sorted is put back into the system. Likewise, I have recovered old lumber and repurposed it to make something new.

If you follow the blue footsteps, your journey will lead you to discover another vantage point to understand my story.

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A Foundational Lamp

I found this project difficult to approach. How do you put all of your experience and what you have learned and gained into a single product? How do you represent those influences even in an object?

Initially I wanted to develop a platform (a working sculpture) that would embrace my fascination with saris and their unique stories to express (1) the impressions of collaborating with those from different disciplines and from diverse communities, and (2) the juxtaposition of new and traditional through technology. However, I abandoned this concept because it did not capture how this experience in India has influenced me as a designer.

How did this Indian experience influence me? There were so many subtexts of influence that it was hard to pinpoint my main takeaway. I’ve been to India before, but this trip made me look at it in a different way. To answer the question, I went back though the thousands of photographs, the many notes I had made along the way of things that caught my attention, the emails to those at home and the blog to remind myself of the day-to-day of our adventure.


After reviewing many notes and creating post-it notes galore, I created some points that I take away from India and our design opportunity, which would continue to influence me and be a reminder in my future practice. For this final project, I decided to develop my product within my design field of Industrial Design with the goal that the product be useful.

When I arrived back home and engaged in the “how was your trip” questions with those that are either from India, visited, or never been before, the conversation often veered and brought up the “magic” of India. They commented on the colours, the charm, the snake charmers, the markets, the sky, etc. There is this mystery that often accompanies India, but many sadly don’t notice it anymore when you’re actually there. Maybe it’s the speed that we live at now, the overwhelming sensation caused by the chaos or just the dismissal of the old hippie stereotype. But to enjoy and experience India, you need to actually be able to sit back and watch, wait and relax to be able to see the “magic”. Take the time to absorb it. I’m glad that I still witness it when I go, and I’m extremely glad that on this trip I was made aware of details that I was otherwise beginning to become jaded to.

Because of these conversations and the giddiness of rediscovery of little things, I decided that being in a state of mind to be open and in-tune to be mindful of the “magic” was something that I need to be aware of and be constantly engaged in, something that is valuable to my own life and my future practice.

For this final project, I decided to capture the feeling of this state of mind and to create a product that would create a calm atmosphere. I played with the idea of making a candleholder or a product for incense, but due to material limitations (heat from the flame would limit material and thus production possibilities) I decided to play with light from an exposed light bulb.


India seems to have a motto of “make something out of nothing”, as they are very inventive and they take advantage of every entrepreneurial opportunity. This was witnessed constantly on the trip: the little girl on the train everyday, who was visiting her mother while on holiday and who took the opportunity to make an extra rupee riding the train and dancing or the kids who make inventive toys with whatsoever was around or the day-to-day products seen everywhere (you could go on and on). There was little waste – everything was used, considered precious and an opportunity, not just thrown away.  This was also witnessed in Dharavi with the immense recycling processes for different materials. You hear about sustainability, read it, witness it but in India it was concentrated. They might have to do this due to economic reasons, morals or because the vast amount of people that live there means that they don’t have the space for so much waste. To add fuel to the fire, my mum used to constantly instill in us the importance and prospect as well as the beauty of “beautiful junk”. This has become a strong influence that I want to insure is instilled in my practice and work. My personal design brief is to limit any waste and to use what is already around – to create “beautiful non-junk”.

Old charger with a new life as a detail in the lamp!

As the studios are closed at school during the summer, I planned to approach this project with just what I had existing at home – just as we had when we were in India. There would be no 3D printer, no laser-cutter and no machines. Instead I just had my pinch-nose pliers and my utility knife. The material I found around my house included old cloth, some old cords from electronics now long gone, and leftover neoprene and veneer from past projects.

Navigating India

I ultimately decided to design a lamp as light represented to me a sense of calm and mindfulness with which to approach a situation. This allows you to be able to be open and observe and then hopefully allow you to become part of that rhythm of the place. The rhythm of India usually takes time to get used to – from the fast frenzied chaos to the slow pace of getting anything done. But this overall feeling of chaos is actually just a system, once you are able to decode it. The Indian city is created in layers and you just have to find one part to figure it out. But this seemingly chaos, with all its layers, is what makes it unexpected and fascinating and ultimately always beautiful. I had chosen a lamp to also play with light and create shadows – only when the lamp is on does it create unexpected changes with different shadows. I plan to design the lamp with various layers to represent the different layers of the city, each with its own unique detail and each in its own physical position to differentiate them. This element of design will influence my future practice as a reminder that chaos always has a system – you just need to decode it. The unexpected and the mindfulness necessary to discover its beauty is a philosophy that I embrace and want to add as an element of my future design philosophy.

Dealing with chaos and learning to keep a flexible and open mindset was key to getting anything done in India, especially with a tight schedule. We came across many unforeseen hurdles and we had to be patient to overcome them. Working with the communities, we were challenged by the unexpected difference in visual vocabulary where what was obvious to us was not at all recognized by them. An example was the imagery of a single puzzle piece. For us, it clearly symbolized to join and to come together but for them it was a foreign visual because they weren’t exposed to it. More surprising were similar vocabulary differences but with Indian icons. These challenges were solved by repeatedly going with adjustments in ones strategy. By being more patient, in-tune, and by finding rhythm and trust we could begin to create a shared understanding and vocabulary. Being out of sync also caused frustrations while buying supplies – it was often a wild goose chase or things were just not open. Rather than resisting, it was best to go with the flow and have back-up A, B, C. During this whole process I realized that the common Indian phrase, mentioned at the trip’s outset, “India time” was very much true and that you need to be flexible and patient. Personally I can become quite antsy, but here I learnt to keep reminding myself to let it go and figure out another plan because you can’t force it. An example of flexibility and working with the situation of chaotic India was the construction of some of the roads. In some areas the roads are constructed from bricks. They are convenient for repairing and allow for some give due to swelling of the land due to monsoons, but also they create freedom from shutting down roads for long periods of time in a very busy city.

Being in-tune assisted while working with Savita, the founder of Sadhana. As a founder she is very passionate about her work and thus has a strong vision for how things should be. Understanding her was an important element to ensure our designs were fulfilled to everyone’s satisfaction. It took time and shared understanding as well as sensitivity of how we approached and presented the ideas to get her buy-in. There had to be an ease of application and it had to be relevant but in addition there needed time for the idea to absorb. More importantly, not just for Savita but also the rest of the community, there had to be a sense of control and ownership so that the project was realized. At one point towards the end, Savita presented an alternative vision. After comparing our past collaboration results we made a decision that ours was more suitable and so then had to convince her to embrace our vision. To convince her we explained our rationale regarding community impact and existing context, to help her see the proposed logo come to life as it interacted with the community. With patience, logic and empathy we managed to get her to fully embrace it.

The People

Another very strong influence was the incredible people in India – they have this incredible passion and strength despite all obstacles, which is really admirable. And most have an incredibly strong sense of pride in themselves and in what they do – small and big actions alike. They are generally open and very supportive for each other and communities. Of course I cannot generalize this for the entire country, but most of those who we met had this amazing energy. This was clearly visible in the women’s self-help micro-financing groups, where they have to trust and come together as a close group to find success together. It was apparent with Jyoti, the girl who was getting engaged, in her every reply to our many questions and in how where she treated everyone as if they were her family rather than as neighbors. Even competitors within the same marketplace displayed this deep sense of camaraderie where they would enthusiastically volunteer other competing stores as they would look to help you. Overall, the passion, strength and supportive of the community was observable from every angle and it was truly inspiring to see that innate spirit.


Final Project 4- Carrom

For my final design piece I really wanted to bring a piece of India back home, to our Western society.  My art practice usually consists of sculptures or installations that evoke a specific emotion based on the interactions and environment of the viewer.  In my interactive installations I focus on different variables of an interactive piece that would alter or change a person’s emotion or perception of their environment.  For this piece, instead of changing a person’s perception of the environment they are situated in, currently, I decided to bring back the atmosphere of India for the viewers to experience.

In India we had the opportunity to help others and teach them our “Western,” values. However, what I did not expect was to learn from them as well.  I not only learned their values and culture, I also learned to appreciate the little moments and things that filled their lives with happiness.  I learned that it was not the big things that brought them happiness in life, but rather the small every day moments that they were able to take advantage of. A specific example is a simple game called Carrom that our group was taught by a group of orphans from Kesbo.  In my interactive installation the viewers are able to experience a part of the Indian culture hands on by immersing themselves in a game that brings everyone together.  This reflects the Indian sense of community, which is constantly celebrated amongst the citizens and which we learned to appreciate as well.  A huge aspect that I found in India was that they have an immense sense of community, which I find is not displayed as much in our western society.  I really wanted to create an installation that not only immerses the viewers in an Indian environment but also teaches them the ethics portrayed by the Indian culture.  By having a game that encourages all viewers to play together, it creates a sense of community.

My installation consists of the Carrom board game, a game manual and video clips and max software.  While the viewers are playing the game of Carrom, every time a player pockets a Carrom piece a video will start playing on the screen next to them.  Each time a player scores a different video clip will appear showing each time a glimpse of India.  These video clips show India’s scenery, citizens and interesting facts that we learned and experienced throughout the course.  This is done by using max software programming by installing a sensor at each corner of the Carrom board.  Each time a player pockets a Carrom piece the sensor senses the movement and light and sends a start signal to a computer, which will then play a video clip on a screen.

This link will direct you to my final video pieces :


The Finally


The project that emerged is an exploration of the environment I was immersed into, the beginnings of something palpable. It represented my relationship to my surrounding spaces, which were most times confined by people.  How I used the spaces and navigated India was organic and predetermined ordered chaos.  The people I met along the way became the nodes of interest, which were lingering moments that then transformed into to patterns. Groups of women became splashes of vibrant warm hues and men cool and neutral shades. So, yes this is a painting of people, but the act of building my canvas, with reclaimed wood, and the placement of each figure became an act of navigation, which was my Indian experience. The navigation between planks and figures created voids and solids that are experienced in all environmental design. The people become set into the foreground and background creating depth but also a feeling of a crowd.

At the end of the day I don’t consider myself just designer because I am in the environmental design stream. I am a creator. My Indian experience has solidified that my discipline is not just one but many. This project is a reflection of the hats I choose to portray today which are an artist, a producer, and a designer.

Click on video link below:

The Finally Video

Order in Chaos

My experience with Design Abroad: India had been epic. It deepened my perspectives and made me reevaluate my position in life, including my values, goals, preferences, and the way of living. It solidified in my eyes the importance of system thinking- how each element exists and connects to the wider network, and ultimately impacts it, whether directly or indirectly. I am determined to pursue a design practice combining exploration, transformation and contribution; one that addresses real issues and aims to improve both, the habitat for humanity and for our planet.

My project development had been an epitome of my experience in India from the fuzzy end of scattered ideas to completely changing direction of my concept, to sourcing reclaimed materials and depending on other people’s timeline for it, and finding alternative options of making where facilities were inaccessible.

What touched me the most in India was the energy of the people- warmth and friendliness and that strong sense of community that had become a common theme amongst our reflections. So originally I wanted to create an experiential installation that engaged the people and invited to experience a “taste of India”- a feel for that strong sense of community.

I was trying to understand how that sense of community was being cultivated in India and perhaps how can it be invoked here in the west where alienation is predominant. Population and dense living quarters may contribute to communal bonds, however the same can’t be said about small communities with sparse population who also develop strong ties.

Some of my ideas that tied into those concepts were to come up with some game where people would be engaged to perform certain tasks through a chain of communal effort. Maybe playing with light and shadow several people at once to recreate certain shapes of Indian culture and another group drawing out the shape and guessing it. If it were interesting enough, it would distract them from thinking too much, and join in instead of being withdrawn, and have strangers inside your personal space, which is practically non existant in India! 😛 I was playing with using Indian fabrics for this, or even things like rice bags that would pile up to create thresholds and spaces. I was thinking of searching for sponsors and afterwards, donate them to the needy, so I would go back full circle to the notion of contributing to real issues. But I have some experience with requesting the donations, and the process is too timely for this project, so I abandoned that idea.

In other words, I had to reboot…

I made a mind map of my experiences and looked for things that spoke to me and made connections.

There is so much going on in India that it was difficult to filter it into a concise message. That’s when I zoomed out and began to think about the bigger picture, system scale.

>>This is when I accidentally clicked on “view post”, and I thought I deleted all 1000 words of my blood and sweat writing effort! Almost had a heart attack… :-O  >>

With so much going on in India, it may suffice to say that the rule is that there are no rules! But it may just as much suffice to say that in India, there is order in chaos.

Originally I planned to make a suspended installation, but OCAD may have restrictions about it, so I couldn’t rely on it.

My final installation is a free standing structure that is an analogy for the life in India as it unpacks more meaning the more someone interacts with it. At first glance, the disarray of elements might give the impression of randomness and chaos as the pieces seem detached, and the angles create dynamism and movement. Similarly, in India things are always happening; and with one of the densest populations in the world, you’re always amidst the action! The way people drive there seems how the rest of India functions: rules are loosely followed, and it’s “whoever can get wherever”.

In the above image I was looking for a source of inspiration and ideas for potential materials.

A possibility was to work with cardboard and slot the pieces together without requiring extra materials for connections.

In the above, I was exploring interactive environments and looking to tell a story within it.

My ideal material would be plastic because of it lightness and I could paint it different colours to reflect the vibrancy in India. But it second-hand plastic couldn’t be found. I refused to buy new because it would lose the story, and painting a beautiful old lumber is just wrong.

The final installation is based upon the forces of tension and compression that speak to the existing setting in India. Although infrastructures are in place, they handle more people than they can bear. Yet, somehow it works. Still, the system is old, and it was not designed for the modern bustling India. That aspect is communicated with a 100 year old lumber used as the main structural material, while a new cable is integrated for stronger support and an aspect of modernism similar to India’s current projects of rejuvenation, such as building a new highway and an airport in Mumbai, as well as the planned city, Navi Mumbai, to accommodate the growing population.

Using reclaimed materials was intended to point not only that the system is old and has flaws, but also the opportunities within it. Although there is a lack of infrastructure for waste management, for people it serves as an incentive to make profit. Recycling industry is a giant business in Dharavi slums in Mumbai. Hence, the waste does get managed, but in a different way by people collecting and processing plastic themselves. Thus, used materials are not necessarily disposed; instead, they are put back into cycle within the system. Such was our experience when visiting a scrap yard to source materials, also reflected in my choice of reusing second- hand materials for this project.

The shape of the structure is intentional. On the outside, it appears erratic. However, upon entering and shifting the view upwards, one may notice the elements combine into a geometric shape to show that there is order in chaos. The geometry is derived from the Flower of Life in the Sacred Geometry (as religion has a strong presence in India), which is present in Indian architecture as well as in the design of the Lotus flower, that is also one of the national symbols of India.

As sporadic as Indian living may seem to a foreign eye, there are in fact systems in place, and they are working. However, to gain this perspective, you have to live amidst the elements and let them surround you; that is to say, you have to experience India for yourself as it changes the way you see the world.

Final Project 4

My mission is simple; design a clear, functional box to contain a spice system that is appealing while it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Commitment is a main aspect in the success or failure of such system. My design piece is a representation of the dabbawalla food delivery service in Mumbai, India. A dabbawalla is the person who collects the home cooked meals in lunch boxes from the residences of office workers, delivers it to their workplace, and delivers the empty box back to the customer’s residence. The container used for food storage is called the tiffin box, which uses symbols, letters and numbers in a colour coded system to identify delivery addresses, giving access to illiterate workers. This profession is a highly respected and specialized service in Mumbai and has become an integral part of the culture of this city. The system is so integrated within the society, evidence being the 200, 000 customers and 5,000 dabbawallas using it for over a century. This system has a 6 sigma rating meaning it performs with 99.97% perfection. “You cannot replicate their system, but you can replicate their culture”, Dr Pawan Agarwal, director of the Mumbai Dabbawala Education Centre. This statement made my various design ideas connect. The secrets to the seamless system are the key values that all workers hold. These include honesty, passion, commitment, time management, execution and customer satisfaction. The health and efficiency are imbedded into the system. I think what is the most shocking is how the organization is flawless, punctual and accurate. Human ability and organization are able to play a key role in the success.

The method I used was to mirror the spice system that is present in the majority of Indian homes, while reflecting on the efficiency of the food storage and network of the dabbawallas transportation. I wanted to represent the 8 Indian spices that prevent cancer as a visual understanding of health and its effects on efficiency. I will give a quick summary to reveal the secret healing powers. Turmeric is able to delay the growth of cancer cells without posing a threat to the development of other healthy cells. Fennel prevents cell multiplication. Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, reduces the progression of the disease and decreases the size of the tumor by half. Cumin aids digestion, checking production of cells responsible for prostate cancer. Cinnamon is a source of iron and calcium, useful in reducing tumor growth. Oregano restricts growth of malignant cells in the body and acts like a drug against cancer-centric diseases. Cayenne pepper induces the process of apoptosis that destroys potential cancer cells and reduces the size of leukemia tumor cells. Ginger helps lower cholesterol, boost metabolism and kill cancer cells.


We have the basic understandings about food, impacts on the body, our health, and visible effects on our performance. The main thing to learn form this is efficiency. What many lack is the understanding of how this cycle of food and use of spices truly impacts our whole society. When terminal illnesses arise, many people cannot pinpoint the cause.

When people make decisions about food, they tend to say phrases such as “I’m treating myself” or “One of these won’t affect me”. The problem is that every single thing we consume and introduce into our bodies has the largest affect on how we function.

It is much harder and painful to deal with an illness once it has arrived, but the ignored fact is that in some cases, it can be easily prevented. The simple and seamless integration of cancer preventing spices used to prepare various Indian dishes act as replacements for

medicine drawers. There is such an awareness and understanding of the benefits of these spices that it is impossible not to use them. Delivery systems also reflect parts of our North

American society where people in different classes would have access to certain

extravagant things while others would never have that opportunity. That is the same case

for being granted access to all of the spices, especially with people lacking the proper tools or facilities to be cooking food. This is why I decided to show all 8 spices through glass jars, because the knowledge of the health benefits are all there, no secrets kept, but the access to them are limited. Each jar or “tiffin” would be delivered to a single person,

only given access to one spice theoretically. The labels on the top of the jars represent the accessibility rating in comparison to the health benefit rating. This is able to show the correlation between access to resources and the continuation of knowledge.


After reflecting on the various learning experiences gained from spending time in India, one aspect that really impacted my outlook was the power of our resources. While we may have access to unlimited food delivery services and supermarkets, the wholesome ones are the only ones that matter. The dabbawalla system in India is the perfect example of

using available resources to deliver the best product. It also is an example of how much food and health is valued in India’s culture, by choosing to have a home cooked meal versus picking up fast food.The tiffin box delivery represents more than just a food delivery service.It symbolizes health and the history if Indian spices being used for trade while it carried so much value. When returningback home, it was very frustrating for me

to accept the functional food system we have in Canada.This puts the definition of function into question. A main part about architecture is the planning and understanding of a specific site. A complete comprehension makes the difference between success and failure. One must know all the facts before deciding to use available resources. Outsourcing and handed down knowledge seemto be the most trustworthy and efficient forms of knowledge.

Age-old kitchen tricks are little more than mere quick-fix tactics like saffron used to heal bruises or turmeric for rashes. Spices like turmeric and saffron are inherent with medicinal properties that, when incorporated to our diet from an early stage strengthens our bodies against invasion of toxins, bacteria and virus. Continuing the tradition of something such as a learned healing power from a relative is something that I now hold dearly. Continuing traditions relates to every aspect in our lives of living as we have been taught and designing using the same notion. Design can be taught to a certain extent but then it is up to the designer to pick and choose which spices of knowledge they would like to mix.


Virtually unchanged since the system was first conceived under the British Raj over 120 years ago, the dabbawalas are these days held up as a textbook example of efficiency and organization by admirers including the Harvard Business School, The Economist magazine and Prince Charles. This is now a modern example and framework for efficiency in businesses. It is fascinating to me that this mirrors a lot of the systems and ways that India works. When there is no technology available or when there are limited resources, heads and brains are used. Knowledge is valued with a deeperappreciation.  Despite monsoon floods, riots, terrorist bombs and the general chaos of Mumbai, lunch always gets to its man.

सिर मंजूरी

Flying half way across the world to India, it was crucial that we must enter this new world with an open mind; as soon as we shut our selves out the experience we all gained would have never existed. Before departure almost everything I heard from people were connotative and in my own mind I was picturing a very large slum essentially: even though I knew there is always a division of class. Coming from a western vantage, I had come with some negative interpretations of what to expect but I was blown away when I got experience the real side of India. One of the most interesting things to me was what I called the “Indian Bobble” which consists of a head bobble with out moving the neck and just the head. This reaction is common to all people of India and a response to a question that has to be interpreted by the opposing person; I picked up on it quick and started to do it myself by the end of the first week. The interpretation of this bobble can mean all of the above: yes, no, and maybe. Likewise, my aims was to interpret this bobble into a interactive piece which would have a magic eight ball imbedded into the head to reveal an answer and or reading of the bobble. To further engage the audience, there will be cards placed in front of the bobble head’s with questions we were posed with during our travels and projects. In terms we had to decipher these questions and learn to read it for ourselves thus this pieces creates a randomized answer, which will be different, almost every time a user interacts with it.

This project dabbles into a hybrid of Industrial Design as well as Sculpture & Installation. The ID side comes from the ingenuity and mechanics of making a bobble head along side the form and final product. However the layover between these subject matters comes from the form, as sculpting the bobble head will require the more fine arts side and the interaction design for the public interaction.

Making the bobble head I dissected a magic eight ball, three times, to remove the inner capsule to use as the answer for the top of the bobble head, the motion will resulting in a randomly generated response for every shake. I realized the capsule was large and I decided to sculpt my own face, modeling it after Aaron however there is a reason I am not a sculpture student: After three long attepts I re-rooted my direction and when for a pre-made form. I bought some Disney dolls and took them apart using brute force: they were quite resilient, I must say. Once the head was removed I took a hole saw and drilled into the top of the head the same size as the capsule as well as making a small incision, as the base was wider than the top. On the capsule I attached doorstoppers with a screw coated in plumbers tape, creating a seal. The stoppers were stretched slightly to create more movement in the head. Once inserted into the head, the body and head were filled with expansive foam to keep everything in place and together.

This project pushes the boundaries of what I normally, do in a few different ways. I made me look beyond the reliance of the studios at school and how I could appropriate objects I bought and found into a final project. This pushed the situational awareness of working in environments that may not be ideal for projects and or task at hand. It reflect a lot on what we did at Kesbo with little to no budget and using found objects to create a beautiful object in the end.

Project4: Kids In India

Kids in India is a photography book that explains my journey in India throughout the photographs I took of kids in different scenarios, situations or just particular moments in time. On may 10, 2013 I traveled to India with my University, the plan was to work with different communities and help them using our design skills, we had only 3 weeks to choose our organization, plan the project and deliver the results. Each day was long and tiring but also it was full of gratitude.

The process of this book started in India, I knew I had to create something that mix my graphic design skills with all the photos I had, brainstorming was fun I explore the idea of a collage in a big scale, to create an mobile app to watch the photos, but I opt for the book since it could be use in my future as a piece of portfolio for both graphic design and photography portfolio. For the layout I wanted to be clean and conservative I use a renascence composition on the pages to give more importance to the few writing and balance the photo with the text. The cover was challenging but the photo “kids” was just perfect for what I was aiming; a book that attracts the viewer and tells the story of kids and their doings.


The Return

As we fell into place with the routine of everyday life. As we fell into place with the routine of the train. As we fell into place with the people, we have changed. Design is no longer an intimate process but a collaborative one that u have to keep going back to.

The collaborative journey was a long and hard one, although only two weeks. We accomplished the commencement of an identity that will continue to flourish, Created by a community of unknown and foreign designers.  The people that were met along the way were gracious, giving, happy and loving. I looked forward to the children’s laughter and greetings as we arrived. To hear the words ” I miss you” from Ajay made my last day at Sadhana a joy as he gave us each a parting gift.

The end of the journey was a joyous one as we danced the night away in our colourful saris.  the morning brought goodbyes and hidden emotions as I parted for journey back to Toronto.


India. No words can begin to truly describe the whole spectrum of experience on this trip, so you are ought to travel there and discover it for yourself. A country with rich cultural traditions, historical monuments, warm and friendly people, strong community presence, flaws and contradictions, India has touched my heart; but it had also left me with many questions. What creates this strong community bond? Will it change as the country’s infrastructure changes and becomes more modernized? How can it be cultivated in other parts of the world, including here in Toronto? I think the influence is rooted in childhood and is spread laterally from kids interacting with other people in their environment, but also with the built environment; and most importantly, it is instilled through the parents and the primary caregivers.  Thus, change must come from multiple aspects, which all combine into a network that becomes a force and a driver of progress. India has the potential to have it all.

Over the course of this trip, I was impressed with the warm energy exuding from people anywhere we went, especially children. In comparison, the same is not true for Russia, where people live as humbly, but behave rudely and pessimistically. From the slums to posh neighbourhoods, I’ve felt that people are generally happy. Simple living creates opportunities for meaningful goals and genuine relationships that are not centered around status objects. However, the media is not as conservative. Western tactics are densely present in the media, conditioning people’s thinking and value systems. As well, society is partially transitioning into the modern realm of empowerment, equality and agency for women, while others are still practicing arranged marriages and child marriages, hence the contradiction.

My Indian friend told me that the driving in India is the way the entire country functions. It’s chaotic, there are no rules or rather the rules that do exist are loosely followed. It’s “whoever can get wherever”. India may be lacking proper policies, political stability, safety and good infrastructure, yet people are very entrepreneurial. Wherever some may see lack, they see it as opportunity and seize it. Entire industries are based on that in Dharavi. If the infrastructure for garbage and recycling is not set up, at least people engage in collecting it themselves with an incentive for profit.

Also, I’ve been inspired by the work of local organizations that we have visited, that are created “by the people for the people” so to speak, and make a real difference in their communities. It was invaluable working with Mr. Ali and the boys from KESBO. These boys are bright, self-sufficient, inventive, and they know their priorities. Work done by Sadhana is also commendable and so important. I am proud of the Identity project that Sadhana group has accomplished. It engaged the community while conceiving an original concept with tangible results with logo printing, which has so much potential. For our side, working with KESBO was truly co-designing. I enjoyed engaging with them, and I want to carry co-designing aspect into my practice. It not only captures the needs and perspectives of the users to create a better solution, but also gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility, and allows more growth for the designer. A good design considers the whole system, which it will be a part of, and people make that system.


During this trip I’ve been able to see and experience India in a way I never had before, thanks to an exciting opportunity and experiencing it with a great group of people!

It has been fascinating being in India not as a tourist but as a group trying to be integrated into the experience of living there, and accomplishing a collaborative task – you witness a completely different side then what you would usually see. This integration and collaboration was drew me to the program, a combination of eastern and western experiences, new and old technology and the collaboration of also different disciplines. It has been very valuable to be a part of these crossroads and something I hope to continue to integrate throughout my work.

I’m always amazed at the richness of India: the sights, smells, sounds and the people. The experience of the flow of India is always an adjustment; from the chaos of the street traffic and bargaining to the relax attitude of store hours, the yes-no-maybe-so and the famous estimated 5 minutes. It was hectic trying to run around gathering the tools and resources to complete our intended vision and products, but fascinating to see how things worked – from the streets of stores after stores selling various items from school supplies to printing to kitchenware then to the lumberyards where they stack wood several stories high and cut it with an ancient machine you might see in a museum.

Integrating into daily life was an aspect I didn`t think of prior to coming but one I am grateful for as it made you grounded and created a more complete experience. We were able to get to a point where we recognized and got to know the locals commuters on the train as well as got to know the store owners who playfully banter with you regarding the specific type of paper you’re after to the specific type of mango you’re after. Everyone was extremely patience with us and extremely generous, something I would remember and cherish.

The experience of working with an organization and collaborating with the community was definitely challenging but extremely rewarding. There were struggles with language and cultural nuances as well as working and navigating a very dedicated founder. Yet the rewards and experiences made up for the hard work as it was thrilling seeing it all come together – the founder being happy and the community’s hands literally involved. It was gratifying seeing the excitement of the community as they knew they were part of it, that they own it and it belongs to them, and hopefully it will continue to grow.

Those you travel with actually contribute to a large aspect of the trip. I was lucky enough to be with a fantastic group of people from all different disciplines that all had unique experiences and opinions, and made sure to have many laughs! It was a lot of fun  to be with a group that were so open to new experiences and outgoing, I learned a lot from them and they opened my eyes again to things I had forgotten or began to lose its luster and created new lenses to experience it through.

Met some amazing people in India who made the experience very special – those at ISAC who became quickly part of the family joking and dealing with nutty questions to those in the organizations we met who are doing amazing things and are just amazing overall people. Not to forget the individuals touched by these groups and the children who made everyday a lot of fun and force a smile!