18 May 2010

As I work on packaging ideas for the micronutrient supplement, I have gained some insight that pictures would be preferred over illustrations. And so I need an image of an African baby (eating food preferably) but many stock photography companies are showing a very African American perspective, which is clearly not the same reality for a rural Rwandan woman.

In my own context, I would likely hire someone for this but finding and sourcing this type of imagery (that would be relevant to this context) becomes a bit more tricky. I can't imagine asking a women here if she would like to have her child placed on every package that would be sent out. Perhaps I need to be more open (and am aiming to meet up with a local designer I've located to gain more insight into this aspect of the design process).

During all my searching, I came across this brilliant Zambian stamp from the 1970s and I found it ironic that it was actually promoting nutrition. Now if only I had this kind of drawing skill!

14 May 2010

Team Kibungo
What word comes to your mind when you think of Rwanda? For many, in light of its past, "genocide" can often be the default. But after you arrive, you can't help but be reminded that this nation holds a new and invigorating story.

Six UBC students are here working on research related to improved nutrition in Kibungo (with a program called Go Global). They are each paired up with two INATEK students so as to develop and implement a survey that will be administered to 500 households. No small feat! Their research and findings will help inform what I design.

I asked them to write down the first word that came to their mind when they thought of Rwanda at this point of their trip. This is what they came up with (and we'll do it again at the end to see what else they come up with).

L-R Top: Roberta, Kaylen, Melissa
L-R Bottom: Sharon, Gurjeet, Sung Kyu

10 May 2010

I met a designer today.

His name is Juma.

He got his training in Belgium as a graphic designer and now works primarily in the Rwanda Health Communications Centre. We both agreed that including some design training into the curriculum here would be beneficial. Apparently, there is a communications department at the National University that could be a good start. He figures he could learn something from me. I told him I imagined I could likely learn more from him.
Printing at Rwanda Health Communications Centre
Printing at Rwanda Health Communications Centre

My meeting with their key spokesperson, Nathan, yielded some interesting insights and information that will help me in planning for any design concepts in our project:

1) Community Health Workers (CHWs) are the people who will have the most impact in transmitting information (even someone from Kigali will be less likely to affect any type of behaviour change or product adoption)
2) The president has just initiated a program that will provide all CHW’s with mobile phones
3) There has yet to be a national campaign focused on nutrition (as other priorities take up the majority of their efforts)
4) People continue to be interested in the relationship between agriculture and nutrition (and how that actually gets measured and monitored)
5) T-shirts and umbrellas that have been used as incentives aren’t necessarily the most long lasting tools so research into what works best for health initiatives will be helpful
6) There are no extra copies of the CHW tools created on file since all of them are already in the field
7) Infant and young children nutrition tools (image below) are apparently developed but are still in the “soft copy” stage (which will help me understand how to work alongside what has already been developed)
Screen shot 2010-05-10 at 6.38.11 AM
I also asked Nathan about the types of visuals that have been successful in other campaigns. It was great to show him the various Sprinkles packaging concepts that have been developed and have him offer suggestions of which ones he felt would be adopted most quickly. Obviously, I’ll set out to design a variety of options to see which will be adopted or preferred.

For me, this was a key meeting and their department is keen to be in touch about the progress and process of our work as some of the information they want takes time to receive in order to message things in a timely manner. I love cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration. It isn’t a rapid process but offers relevant insight and potential.

Image developed by J&J Top Graphics Designers in Kigali, Rwanda

07 May 2010

So I find myself back in Rwanda as a designer, observer, learner, muzungu, and traveler. It is all at once familiar and foreign. And all so very good. I am learning much because as per usual, I am working on something that hosts a steep learning curve. Here is the essence:

I am collaborating with a professor of international nutrition from UBC and we are here investigating various opportunities to see if they can be applied as appropriate and effective interventions for the future. The aims of the project are multifaceted. In order to address this complexity, we are meeting with key stakeholders and leaders, such as the Minister of Health, the Director General of the Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority, Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute and various others in the Ministry of Agriculture. There are more meetings to come! We are also set to meet with individuals from nutrition and health communications. We do this to ensure that we contribute to the tools already developed and complement, rather than contradict their efforts.

In the simplest terms, we are looking at the relationship between agricultural improvement/growth and nutritional impact in rural communities.

As the designer on the team, I am aiming to understand health messaging: how to do it appropriately and effectively with the ultimate goal of developing tools for behavior change and adoption in this diverse and cross-cultural context.

One of the focuses of my work will be to consider how I can apply the HCD Toolkit and related methods by adapting it to suit some of the quantitative approaches used by my colleagues. I am looking forward to sharing these ideas with those outside the field of design and seeing how they can be used to assess the community needs and aspirations (while also providing a framework for successful implementation). I am also keen to learn about their methods in order to ensure a robust and valid outcome that can be measured in their respective disciplines.

Using these methods and approaches, I am aiming to develop solutions for messaging a micronutrient to the mothers of infants/young children aged 6 mos – 2 years (who are not included in typical targets when addressing malnutrition). This messaging will run the gamut: from packaging and promotion to distribution and impact assessment (as the framework for a home-based food fortification program). From here, we are also considering how to incorporate a larger integrated approach into the current approaches to agricultural growth and nutrition impact evaluation. We’re in the formative stages but are excited about the potential (and enthusiasm from those we’ve encountered so far).

Of note is the response I get when I say, “I’m a designer.” The Minister was surprised that an art and design school could exist in an exclusive institution. The head of the research institute wanted to put me to work in their office immediately! These responses are notable because there are no design schools in Rwanda (and yet everyone acknowledges and appreciates the value of communication). Because of this, I look forward to the day I might find myself teaching courses to Rwandans that will enable them to develop these tools and messages. And as a result, I get to learn much from them when it comes to designing outside one's own borders.