a blog post. (darn that’s an edgy name)

Two days left to go, and the big crunch has begun.  Although we’ve all been here before during projects back in Toronto, the challenges of working in a “pop-up” style design situation are teaching me some interesting things, and leading me to question some of my habits.  Similar to projects back home, our work days in villa are filled with discussions and are animated by an endless flow of sketches and diagrams.  We also scour the internet for information, and scratch together prototypes for form and functionality.  The major difference that we are still learning to grapple with is the lack of supplies and tools that are normally available.

On one hand it forces resourcefulness, for example today I had to install a button snap into fabric using a screw from a drawer handle as a punch, and a brick as a hammer.  Although this was an exciting achievement, it only makes me wonder how much more difficult this style of “pop-up” design would be in an even less developed country than India, or in a more rural setting.

It also makes me wonder about designers who regularly embed themselves in developing contexts, do they have a go to tool-kit for hacking together ideas and prototypes?  I find it funny to be thinking about how important these hacking skills might be, because I distinctly remember thinking the complete opposite three months ago in Toronto.  I distinctly remember worrying about whether I was too comfortable with ductape, and that I should consider committing to only 3D printing for a semester.  Not to say there isn’t value in being well versed with new technologies, but I’m being reminded about different skills for different contexts.

Anywho, as I’m writing this I’m still drawn to think about what our next move should be in the project.  We have about one day left, and we are taking a critical look at how to wrap up as best as we can.  There are so many things we would like to deliver, but right now it’s clear we have to be selective, because of road blocks we have hit with the material.  The deciding criteria really revolves around this: what are the most important things we can finalize to ensure the project can move on after we leave.  I’m finding this to be different from projects I’ve done before, because this criteria doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on the flashy portfolio pieces.  Instead of renders and mock-ups, we are focusing more on templates and instruction manuals for the women.  I wonder if this is a mindset that could translate to my work at OCAD.  Perhaps if I focused on making my projects a launching point instead of just mock-finished product, that they might have a different potential.  Maybe it would allow me to more easily revisit projects later and push them further, or perhaps they could be a launching point for some other student or designer who finds them online?  Who knows, but ok, time to get back to it,  36 hours to go!

(Shown below, a sweet stand-up desk 😉 the Amul pavilion, and some crafty henna hands)

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Scissors, tape, and Coca Cola

Today began with everyone meeting in the living room for some very early morning presentations. We had all spent a long time the night before analysing the user and stakeholder interviews, and understandably this morning people were still wiping the sleep out of their eyes. I was one of those sleepy faces actually, but in my defence, my cherished OCAD earplugs vanished the night before.  They will be missed dearly.

The presentations went very well, and both groups gained a lot of good insight from each other.  For me, this is the first opportunity I have had to do multiple in depth interviews, and it’s really fascinating how much you can learn.  I’ll admit, not being leading when asking questions is not my strong suit.  I’m just too friendly to coldly ask about people’s habits, but I’ll improve.



















We spent the rest of the day in the café doing more research into materials.  It seems that we have zeroed in on using textile from industrial sized rice bags that are left over at the grocery store itself.  The material is great, it’s durable, can be cut to large sheets, and is widely available from many businesses and factories right here in Goa.  After researching for a few hours I took an obligatory swim in the pool, and I’m beginning to think that it is probably the one amenity that our school should invest in next.  Student union reps, if you are reading this you know what will get my vote!

In the evening we all gathered for the typical dinner of rice, curries, and roti.  I discovered today that you can get room service for things like CocaCola during dinner; this is a slippery slope.  Over dinner we discussed a reading concerning whether humanitarian design is the new colonialism.  Clearly, this is a tricky subject.  There are many cases of designers doing harm to developing nations with poorly thought out projects; for example harming local economies by flooding them with donated goods.  However, over the past week it is becoming clear to me that we are serving more the role of enthusiastic connectors between different organizations, people, and resources.  Hopefully our projects will create sustainable opportunities after we’ve left, and I feel confident that overall we are doing good.

Back on the subject of our project, we hit another major milestone this evening!  We bought tape, scissors, and paper!  The time has come to start prototyping and sketching, and it feels good.  You can see Maddy and Genevieve hard at work in the photo below.  This was taken in make shift office #2, this time on the second.  It’s crazy to think that by this time next week these paper models will be polished designs with a presentation, instruction manual, and implementation plan (o lord that is daunting to say out loud), but I know we will pull it off!





Sweaty shops and recycling plants


It’s 10:30pm, and I’m writing from the safety of our air conditioned guest house in a make shift work space of hotel furniture and Indian electrical plug adapters. That being say, I feel like this air conditioned break is well deserved, because today was a great long and sweaty day.

We began the morning by exploring some new marketplaces, and getting a feel for what resources we have at hand for the upcoming project. As a long, somewhat awkward train of foreigners, we wandered through local shops selling fabrics, metal, clothing, and strange pyramid shaped sweets called “Jaggery.” We attracted the usual stares, but overall we were treated warmly by everyone we encountered.

Later in the afternoon, we had a chance to get meet with a local entrepreneur, who explained to us about the extreme lack of waste removal and recycling services in India, and even brought us inside a local recycling plant. The details he gave us were shocking, but I was extremely impressed by how passionately his team was working to address the issue. Not only were they efficient and organized, but they were actively involved in lobbying for new policies, and spreading recycling awareness to their community.

What also made a big impression was his commitment to address this huge issue in a series of small ways. Instead of aiming to continually scale his business as large as possible, he insisted on remaining small to avoid complications and to maintain a strong relationship with his employees and the community. He would then allow others to freely replicate the business model in different regions, leaving everything he did as “copyleft,” (an awesomee term for free to-use).

His mindset seemed to echo the idea of, “only taking as much as you need,” which I have heard repeatedly in these two weeks of India. I’m excited to see how we can learn more from this perspective, and bring it with us as our projects begin to develop.