02 February 2009

IDSA Talk: Subtle Technologies

Today I participated in IDSA's Design for the Majority webinar, Subtle Technologies: What I've Learned in India About Design.

Ken Botnick shared his insights about design and how in the world of the everyday usable object, the craftsman remains a vital part of Indian society with some (possible) lessons for the West. Ken talked about his observations that were focused on low use of energy, local cultural traditions, and efficient use of materials.

Leslie Speer, IDSA, Chair of the Design for the Majority Section, and Deb Johnson (in NYC), former Chair of the IDSA's NYC Chapter and Academic Director of Sustainability at Pratt Institute also participated.

Some questions asked by Ken included, "How can embedded knowledge in grassroots designers be maintained?" and "Is there innate design thinking?"

Deb asked, "How do you have people moving out of poverty, where buying becomes increased, and do this in a rational way (by rational she was referring to the attempt to move "forward" while holding to a sustainable ethic)?"

I've been in contact with Leslie about these ideas and as a communication designer was pleased to see the synergy between industrial design and communication design in our discussions. She's been a great person to bounce my ideas off of (as she's had a lot of experience working outside of the Western context).

What was also interesting to me is the idea of observation and how we learn from others (as referenced by Ken's visuals in the presentation). In my research, I'm curious about how we as "outsiders" can actually watch without getting in the way.

The daily ritual of Kolam

A new non-profit I learned about: Design in Kind.

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