30 June 2010

As promised, I post an overview of our weekly class so that students can have a list of links and information about topics covered. Last night, we discussed the role of human-centered research as it relates to social impact projects. I think that all the students will confess that the hardest part of this process is finding out what are the right questions to ask in order to map out your research plan.

Because of this, I invited a graduate of Emily Carr to present her research as a case study of how the process can unfold in order to develop a deliverable. It is one example of how a designer can approach the research process. There are obviously many more!

We also touched (very briefly) on the importance of ethics in the process of research. This is a large topic but we discussed how we can ensure that our participants are made aware of what their involvement entails.

Three groups have formed and are focusing their projects on a topic of their choosing. They have opted for Living/Dwelling, Education and Aging. Each group has been working to refine the problem they want to tackle in each given area so as to develop a research plan. These are some links we looked at in order to frame the next phase of their projects:

Human-Centered Design Toolkit

Ethnography Primer
Raneen Nosh, Designer
IDEO Method Cards
Design Council RED
Sam & Dave Save The World
Sample of Informed Consent Document

And this is a great link that considers the brainstorming process (in business or social change projects!): Better Ideas Faster

If other educators or designers have links to share, I'm sure the students would be grateful.

22 June 2010

Design For Social Change started tonight and I'm delighted to report that I get to work with a great crop of students! We agreed that I could post outcomes and links that resulted during each week so as to chronicle this inaugural course.

The images above represent the start of their "actionable problem statements" that were developed after everyone expressed areas they would like to see design contribute to when approached as a conduit for "social change." Main objective? Focus on change as opposed to awareness. Here are some of the links/case studies we explored or discussed during this class:

Tim Brown's TED Talk

Curitiba's Transportation System
Target ClearRx
Deep Dive
Index: Award
Design Revolution
Do Good Design
Designer's Atlas of Sustainability

A highlight for me? Many see this as a portfolio building opportunity because of the type of approach and research it requires. Yay!

15 June 2010

Can a logo change the world?

Well, this one certainly has, hasn't it?

As I prepare to head to Seattle to participate in this event, I continue to reflect on the role of design in a place like Rwanda. Designing a logo with the women of the weaving cooperative is a reminder that sometimes the little things become the conduit for potential bigger things. When I visited the women last month, they were preparing products for a trade fair in Kigali. To see that they could now have their own brand identity to represent the work among many others gave me hope that design will continue to play a role in their community and future. How that happens is yet to be fully realized but as a consumer of their products, this identity mark does offer additional value to the product as it sits on a shelf.

We know that logos are a language that have the power to help or hinder in our world. While the logo is seemingly a reflection of the company or organization's actions, it is also the visual mark that everyone will remember (or easily forget). To me, it's like naming one's child - with this act, you project or claim a hopeful future. Following that logic, I wouldn't suggest that naming and identity alone can ensure anything. It's how and what you deliver in the end that ensures this identity continues to hold value. For these women, I hope they can increase their product offerings in the future to ensure a distinct market, which the logo has only begun to establish. And in their case, this distinction could change their world by moving them from a wage of $1-2/day to $15-20/day.

These images reflect the co-design process - from concept drawings to a final stamp.

05 June 2010

A Recap of Rwanda
I had anticipated having more time to write about my design work while in Rwanda. Since the fiber optics continue to be placed in the ground, the bandwidth is not yet at the capacity required for effective photo and video uploading. So here's a few tidbits that I wanted to share now that I'm home. These vignettes capture some of my design encounters as I spent time in various parts of the country over the past month.

1. Coffee Processing Tour
Coffee + Type
During my visit to this plant, I learned about the life cycle of the coffee bean. Notably, beans that are not usable for the highest quality roasting are not discarded. Instead, companies like Nescafé take them on for their coffee purposes.

2. Spaces for Ideas Book

Spaces For Ideas: Communication Design + Language
I came across Brian Ling's books before I left and wanted to take some along with me. They arrived in time and I used them to continue my Kinyarwanda language development. During my last trip, I started a book using a Moleskine and it served as an amazing tool to connect with rural communities where language could have been an obstacle to understanding. Since communication designers need to understand language, continuing this exercise has been helpful in my process.

3. Critiquing Design for a National Brand
Logo Voting
While working in Rwanda, the Director General of Rwanda's Horticulture Development Authority asked for feedback about logo design for the new horticulture brand being developed for the country.

So I asked the students from UBC and Inatek to vote based on color, logomark, typography and naming. We're not yet sure of the final outcome (and I wish I could show you the options) but this was truly a great experience for me as a designer in another culture!

4. Paper Prototypes

We had the chance to visit a vocational training school where some of the students are learning how to sew. This pattern is made of paper and stitched using a machine. And while it is meant to show the quality of a sleeve and how to create one, I find myself wanting this framed in my home! It was an absolute delight to see and feel this prototype.

5. A Young Man Designs His Home

Meeting Charles was a highlight. While I could tell you of his story of survival as a 9 year old boy during 1994, what I feel is more important is to hear about his perspective on building his home. My favorite bit in this clip? He feels his home is finally finished (while we might imagine alternate improvements or adaptations).

6. Revisiting the Research

Visiting Covaga
Covaga case study in IDEO Toolkit
Getting to return to Gashora and visit the cooperative of weavers was a definite highlight for me (if you are new to my blog, here's some information about my work there). While we couldn't communicate on all topics, I did ask why no one picked the money image that was included as an aspiration card in my research. They answered that it wasn't a picture of something they understood. Fair enough! I was delighted to see that they were still using the logo stamp and when I purchased a basket from them, they were sure to attach a label onto it for me. Being able to show them how their design ideas were being shared with thousands of people was likely more invigorating to me than them but it was great to be able to let them in on the ways that their work was influencing others.

Now what?
I'm now back on North American soil but am looking forward to what the next steps will hold with this project. Specifically, I am excited to develop a proposal for a national initiative that will provide affordable micronutrients to children. My focus will continue to be on the packaging and distribution messages). In talking with key leaders and influencers, I'm hopeful that this project will get developed and funded sooner rather than later. Beyond this, I'll be working on workshop and curriculum proposals so that on my next trip I can begin to teach design courses to Rwandan students (and plan to use the Spaces For Ideas books as a design journal!).

The full photo set on Flickr

Videos on YouTube