31 March 2009

Co-Design 101

30 March 2009


Today I spent some time with Catherine Brown, who teaches Soft Product Design at ECUAD. Her background is in designing sewn products for the outdoor gear market so I got to work with that type of material in the mock up version. With her help, we crafted a pattern for the "bag part" of my field kit. She graciously walked me through each step so I could visually learn (as I tend to do!). This image shows the 3D prototype that was crafted before we took it apart to create the patterned pieces. I now need to attempt sewing this same bag so I can provide instructional information for someone who might want to employ this tool in other contexts.

I feel to articulate that this experience has pushed me into unknown realms, which can be both intimidating and exhilarating. I have much to learn but I'm grateful to be in a place where learning can take on such interesting forms.

28 March 2009

Thoughts on an exhibition.

This blanket represents an idea I love: make something that can do more than one thing.

26 March 2009


25 March 2009

Tele.fone Project

Today, Jen, Joanna and I presented our mini research project:

The purpose of this research is to both have fun while also considering if image can help people communicate in a global world where language, culture and life experience varies. The cell phone has become the most common tool of communication and is more available than the internet for many people around the world. This research will use cell phones with camera included (and specifically the multimedia messaging service or MMS) to investigate if image can be used instead of text to communicate.

We asked a series of questions to 4 participants (plus us as the design team):

This idea is based on the game "Telephone", where a phrase is passed to participants by whispering it into another person’s ear. No one knows the original sentence until the end of the game. In the same way, we want to try this principle using cell phones as the means to share the information. Instead of using oral or textual tools, you will use pictures taken from your cell phone.

Six rounds of play occurred that begged various questions. What resulted was a visual response with various interpretations (we're still gathering some data on perceptions of the questions being asked so can't list anything here yet).

This principle of the game has considered both playfulness and meaningfulness as each of us consider our research theses. Jen is looked at adaptive tools for children with disabilities, Joanna is considering cross-cultural community dialogues and I am looking at how the mobile phone can expand as a tool in the "developing world."

Here are a few other links that surfaced in our research that provide interesting mobile ideas that we'd like to explore further.
Analog Blogger
The Bowler Hat Game

24 March 2009

21 March 2009

I went to a conference on global health at UBC today. The last talk by Dr. Shafik Dharamsi had to do with ethics and responsibility. The conversations were relevant and when he showed this documentary film, They Come In The Name Of Helping, I felt like I was watching a video version of my thesis. The dialogue that occurs reflects the concepts I have looked at with the women in Rwanda. It takes a bit to load but is well worth watching.

19 March 2009

18 March 2009

Good Design

Frequently, designers are not given to thinking about the premises on which their arguments are based, but in a world where every design is connected to a sprawling set of decisions and consequences, they should be. Viewing designs as arguments frees us from the art world's tendency to evaluate on aesthetic criteria alone. It insists on contextual evaluation: design is not just about how a thing looks or how it works; it is also about the assumptions on which it rests.
But the most valuable effect of considering an object as an argument is that it allows us to look under the rhetorical hood and consider it not as an inevitable or neutral invention but as something that embodies a point of view.

Peter Hall
Metropolis Magazine
March 2009

Sidebar: Project M (people on my page)

16 March 2009

Cool compostability

Last year, I was really curious about how to make the idea of composting accessible and perhaps even fun for apartment dwellers who were keen on the idea but maybe not so keen on worms. I love how Jamie Oliver makes it seem oh-so persuasive to be a composting-type.


I, and some other colleagues, got profiled on the graduate research section of ECUAD. Read up on the interesting projects that are being explored.

12 March 2009

Mitch sent me some additional footage from our summer in Rwanda. While writing a thesis about my experience and work with the women of COVAGA from a distance, it is great to hear the sounds of life in Gashora again. While it can't bridge all the gaps, it does keep me grounded. And it's a reminder that using text to share about certain aspects of life often has its limitations.

10 March 2009

I want to make it clear that I don’t propagate a universalistic attitude according to the pattern of design for the world. Also, I don’t believe that this claim should be interpreted as the expression of a naive idealism, supposedly out of touch with reality. On the contrary, each profession should face this uncomfortable question, not only the profession of designers.
-Gui Bonsiepe

06 March 2009

Design for Democracy

Last night, I went to this event.

I asked two questions during the Q&A time:

1) In speaking to a predominantly white audience, (who are found guilty by association with the history of colonization that could be accused of creating the very issues you are reacting against), how might we enter the work you are doing (that aims to liberate the voices of those who have experienced things we have never known) in a meaningful way ?

2) In a world of social media, how would you help to liberate those who need it most when they do not possess the assumed technologies that are typically employed to achieve social change?

I won't take you through the answers since it was a broader discussion that resulted.

In the end, I was again left wondering what the difference is between challenging ideas and actually doing something to shift the impact of these ideas. I'm not challenging the work of Favianna in saying this. She is truly committed to her passion. I'm just asking questions about why, when trying to address social change, we create campaigns about "a change" but don't always discuss ways to see it move to a level that actually liberates the people highlighted/promoted/discussed in the campaign? With all the social campaigning, I sometimes wonder if and when the change part occurs. I'm not aiming to be cynical or negative. I just know how much information gets tossed at people everyday to the point that they will click a "submit" button just as easily as they will hit the "exit" one (literally and figuratively). And to me, liberating people requires the former if any real change is meant to be realized.

Side note: Favianna's work is very compelling.

05 March 2009

My next read

The Blue Sweater
The Blue Sweater is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. It all started back home in Virginia, with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession—until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had made its trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our actions—and inaction—touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet. From her first stumbling efforts as a young idealist venturing forth in Africa to the creation of the trailblazing organization she runs today, Novogratz tells gripping stories with unforgettable characters—women dancing in a Nairobi slum, unwed mothers starting a bakery, courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds. She shows, in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and can change millions of lives. More than just an autobiography or a how-to guide to addressing poverty, The Blue Sweater is a call to action that challenges us to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink our engagement with the world.

04 March 2009

A few more images from the field (taken by Lama).

The comments about the camera included: "They asked if they could see what they had taken. I explained to them that it was not digital. They said they wanted to see the pictures after they had been developed." (which they will get eventually)

About the kit: "The kit was practical and handy. If you have a thin waist, some with a larger waist struggled with it. They said it looked odd. I noticed how instead of wearing it on the waist, they walked with it strapped over their shoulder." (these were some of my speculations so this feedback is great)

03 March 2009

Method Cards

These method cards are brilliant ways to enhance or inspire one's design process. My cultural probes are one of the ideas that IDEO also utilizes in their work.