From a Student to a Visiting Faculty

Change is the end result of all true learning.

It’s been almost four years since I took a leap of faith and arrived in Ahmedabad and jumped into the relatively unknown and under-appreciated realms of design. National Institute of Design has been my home for these past four years. I came here to unlearn and relearn and also to look at the world which at times I felt was to superficial. I’ve spent a considerable amount of my student time at NID in the place we called KMC (Knowledge Management Center, Yeah the name is a bit wacko!) and read some crazy nice stuff a list of which is available on the book list blog post, and I was fortunate enough to have come across and having interacted with some of them most humble and creative people from across the globe. People like Praveen Nahar, Shujoy Chakraborty, Vikram Singh Parmar have been really great mentors and I gained a lot from whatever time I spent with them. 

I owe a lot to two of my friends, Swapnil Vibhute and Tanisha Vernekar for being part of the Systems Design course I did with them. This single module had been a transcendental experience and something which has defined my work in the past two years.

One of the most important thing I figured out in the last two years is that there is so much power in open and collective sense making. As Christopher McCandless said “Happiness is only real when shared.”. So, is knowledge, information and resources. These things are meant to be shared and not kept captive by a few. When the entire world is starving, hording doesn’t do any good.

Studying at NID has been a very hands on, mind on, senses on experience, it is like a long drive along the hills or a beach, you come across such beautiful and life enriching things. A lot changed in me as a person on this crazy ride, I became more appreciative of the little things and realized that in the end everything comes down to making sense of the world around you and fostering relationships which are lifelong. The time at NID as a student was really meaningful as a lot of people contributed positively to it and the entire idea of working with open source systems, collaborative and personalized making had run deep within my value system. I wanted to share the same experience with others.

After convocating I’ve been thinking of doing some small workshop on getting people introduced to ideas of my thesis “Design Democracy and Tinkering”. So, I sent a workshop brief to Praveen and he was kind enough to let me take a module with the 7th semester Product Design students. The basic idea of this module “Making for the Real World” was to get them introduced to concepts like open source, digital fabrication, redistributed manufacturing, technology, DIY & maker culture, sustainability and the most important thing of documentation of work and publication. I also made a manifesto on the same principles and can be read on this link.

We tried to run an intense studio for a span of 8 days and everyone is making a real life objects and not renders. I was a mere facilitator in the process and working with the students was a really fun and enriching experience for me (and hopeful for them as well!). The course is official over, we are still in the process of making the objects. We’ll soon be sharing the workshop details and the outcome.

 

Sonic Architect SA/CDA-250 Amplifier

Amplifier is the heart and brain of an audio system. In the past I have been using amplifiers which were sourced either from USA or China. The quality of amplifiers from both the places is exceptional. But there were a few logistical and economical issues. It takes around 4-5 weeks for the amplifiers to reach and then because I make very limited number of systems I don’t have an importers custom ID. So, a lot of time the amplifiers are stuck in customs and take another 3-4 weeks for processing. I found a vendor who sells and sometimes stocks the amplifiers I was using but the downside is that they turn out to be too expensive.

I wanted to use something which was built locally (Made in India) as it saves a lot of shipping time, cost and fuel. I came across an OEM for making custom made amplifiers. I had already decided on the specifications of the amplifier, and there were a couple of option for the chipset. As I’ve built a considerable number of systems, I went ahead with a Class D amplifier setup which gives a clean sound with exceptional efficiency. These boards use the same chipset as the ones which I was getting from USA and China. The boards have been branded as well as this is an OEM product.

I was facing the problem of mounting the amplifiers from USA and China as they had the volume potentiometers soldered to the board, so placement and accessibility was a problem. The custom made amplifiers which I have, the volume potentiometer and 3.5mm aux jack are connected to the board using ribbon wires. This makes the placement, access and replacement of the board very easy. Board can be kept at one place and the potentiometer and AUX can be kept wherever is the control panel.

 

 

Specifications of the SA/CDA-250 board are

  • 50 Watt Per Channel Power
  • 20Hz – 20KHz Frequency Response0
  • 4 – 8 Ohm Impedence
  • Bluetooth 4.1 aptX Connectivity
  • 3.5mm Auxiliary Input
  • Taiwan Volume Taper Potentiometer
  • 12-24 Volt Voltage Supply
  • 2A-4A Current Supply (Preferably 2A)

 

Open Design Manifesto

manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.

– Wikipedia

Open Design Manifesto is something which I believe and have been practicing for past 2 years. It lists down some mindsets, attitudes, intentions which are necessary if one wants to practice open design.

Poster/Card format. PDF download Link Open Design Manifesto

 

Open Design Manifesto Poster condensed.

Open Design Manifesto Poster

 

A bit on Open Source Movement

Open Source refers to the model of providing goods and services which includes the possibility of the end-user’s participation in the production of these goods and services. Open participation and collaboration – which implies the vulnerability to share work in progress, without ego, power struggle, and insecurity. The core values are efficiency, and the ethics and wisdom to understand what we should be efficient about. In practice, we should strive to find effective ways to document our work – to create an open collaboration platform – where collaborators can come on boards rapidly. While it is difficult to document – the real-time, online collaborative tools (like Instructables) of the information age make it easier – and we should aim to tap these new tools to document and develop together.

This concept has already been demonstrated in open source software and hardware. The crossover between software and hardware has lead to Open Design.
Open design is the development of physical products, processes and systems through use of publicly shared design information. Open design process is generally facilitated by the Internet. The goals and philosophy is to lead to the development of physical products rather than just software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.
Open source movement has lead to opening access to the information and technology which enables a different economic system to be realized, one based on the integration
of natural ecology, social ecology, and industrial ecology. This economic system is based on open access- based on widely accessible information and associated access to productive capital- distributed into the hands of an increased number of people. Companies like Local Motors, Esty are practicing this.

A highly distributed, increasingly participatory model of production is the core of a democratic society, where stability is established naturally by the balance of human activity with sustainable extraction of natural resources. This is the opposite of the current mainstream of centralized economies, which have a structurally built-in tendency towards of overproduction.

The integration of the natural, societal, and industrial ecologies – Open Source Ecology- aims at sustainable and regenerative economics. We are convinced that a possibility of a quality life exists, where human needs are guaranteed to the world’s entire population- as long as we ask ourselves basic questions on what societal structures and productive activities are truly appropriate to meeting human needs for all.

At the end of the day, the goal is to liberate our time to engage in exactly that which each of us wants to be doing- instead of what we need to do to survive. All have the potential to thrive.

Today, an increasingly smaller percentage of the world’s population is in this position.

“Design for the Real World” is one of the most important book for Industrial Designers

ethical-issues-large

Image source: Cody Thompson

I started reading Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek a few days ago and after spending a lot of time thinking about the philosophy on which the book is written is something which makes so much sense in the present time. Designers who are thinking of doing something meaningful and who are on a quest to make sense of the world should give this book a read. It encompasses a lot of topics ranging from sustainability to bionics, disability to transportation, pedagogy to ethics, mass manufacturing to planned obsolescence and a lot more. Numerous examples have been given and a few methodologies have been discussed along with a couple of diagrams.

I have been thinking about the way industrial design is being practiced for a long time and have formed an ideology of my own and after reading this book, the same ideology has been reinforced.

Since the industrial revolution the aim of industry has been to produce high quality good at a lower price and it has changed the very way we live our lives. Industrial Design has played a major role in making the dreams of millions and millions of people a reality. So, what is Industrial Design?

“Industrial design is a process of design applied to products that are to be manufactured through techniques of mass production. Its key characteristic is that design is separated from manufacture: the creative act of determining and defining a product’s form and features takes place in advance of the physical act of making a product, which consists purely of repeated, often automated, replication. This distinguishes industrial design from craft-based design, where the form of the product is determined by the product’s creator at the time of its creation. All manufactured products are the result of a design process, but the nature of this process can take many forms: it can be conducted by an individual or a large team; it can emphasize intuitive creativity or calculated scientific decision-making, and often emphasizes both at the same time; and it can be influenced by factors as varied as materials, production processes, business strategy and prevailing social, commercial or aesthetic attitudes. The role of an industrial designer is to create and execute design solutions for problems of form, function, usability, physical ergonomics, marketing, brand development, sustainability, and sales.” -Wikipedia

There are a few things which come to my mind when I think about Industrial design or design in general and also the book in some way or the other is questioning these points.

  • Is industrial design really about the art or the process of designing manufactured products?
  • Is industrial design concerned about making things beautiful, low cost, mass manufactured, consumerism, and planned obsolescence?
  • Or is it something more than that, something which is more fundamental in nature?
  • Is following a predefined process (called design process a lot of time) and coming up with the product the only approach to Industrial Design?
  • In the present scenario of customized user dictated market is there actually a need to differentiate Industrial Design from Crafts?
  • Is industrial design about making sense of the world we live in?
  • What are the ethical implications of industrial design?
  • Is industrial design in the present day only about making renders and intangible artefacts, which will remain just as bits of information in the system or is it about making artefacts which people can interact with or have associations with?
  • What role does technology plays in the evolution of industrial design?
  • What can industrial design take from school of thought of D.I.Y, Maker Movement, Open Source, Sustainability, Redistributed Manufacturing and Digital Fabrication?
  • Can an industrial designer afford to create and stylize for the 5% of the world population when the rest don’t have access to basic necessities?
  • Is the role of an industrial designer just constricted to creating and executing design solutions? Can they be a part of a bigger system responsible for knowledge creation and sharing?
  • How important is a systemic way of data, information and knowledge creation?
  • Has design education just become a commercial entity which seems to teach too much design, and not enough about ecological, social, economic, and political environment in which design takes place.
  • Is the purpose of education is to be a process in which the environment changes the learner, and the learner in turn changes the environment?
  • Is a design school degree only meant to provide a safe job? Or it’s purpose is to bring in change in the individual, the environment and the ecology.
  • Should Kymmenykset (Finnish equivalent of Tithe) concept of giving one-tenth of the working time of designers towards social problem be made part of the school curriculum and of practice in design firms?

After reading the book, there is this one thing which really stands out which Victor states

Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical in the truest sense. It must dedicate itself to nature’s principle of least effort, in other words, maximum diversity with minimum inventory or doing the most with the least. That means consuming less, using things longer and being frugal about recycling material.

I’m going to try to explore some of the above mentioned points with a group of design students over a period of few days and build an understanding of where do we stand when it comes to practicing Industrial Design.

Sonic Architect Marconi: Behind the scene

Marconi is handmade using Pine and Teak wood. The process is as:

  1. Cutting the components on to approximate dimension using a paper template glued to wood. Cutting done using a bandsaw or jigsaw.
  2. Sanding the components to the proper dimension using the template lines as guides.
    Sanding the Grill
  3. Gluing the four enclosure panels together using 90 degree clamps. Fevicol is used.
    Clamps
  4. Centerpunching the holes on the grill using a 1mm centerpunch and mallet.
    Centre Punching the Grill
  5. Drilling the holes on a drill press using a 6mm drill bit.
    Drilling the Grill
  6. Countersinking the drilled holes using a 10mm 90 degree bit.
    Countersinking the Grill
  7. Drilling holes in the enclosures sides using a 3mm drill for putting dowels.
    Drilling Dowel holes
  8. Gluing the 3mm dowels using Fevicol.
    Gluing Dowels
  9. Making volume knob by using 30mm circular cutter. Gluing a 2mm thick teak wood panel on the knob to cover the drilled hole from one side.
    Knobs
  10. Drilling two 15mm holes on the back panel and then using jigsaw cutting out a capsule shape. Sanding the edges for a smooth transition.
  11. Chamfering the capsule shaped cutout using a 45 degree chamfer bit on router. Sanding the chamfered edges.
  12. Sanding the dowels to make it flush with the rest of the wood.
    Enclosure with Dowel
  13. Lasercutting the back plate to make space for a switch, charging and charge status.
  14. Staining grill, battery plate, knobs and handle using oil stainer.
  15. Soldering the switch, charging board connections and mounting them on the back plate.
    Back Plate
  16. Mounting the back plate on back panel.
    Back Panel with Plate
  17. Hot gluing the speaker to the speaker mounting plate. And soldering wires.
  18. Gluing the speaker mounting plate on the enclosure.
    Speakers mounted on the Enclosure
  19. Soldering the connections on FM receiver. Mounting the receive on the front panel.
  20. Fitting the knobs
  21. Gluing the Grill and front panel on the front edges of the enclosure.
  22. Mounting the battery on the enclosure and testing the electronics and the acoustics.
  23. Gluing the back panel and battery panel edge to edge.
  24. Gluing screw plates on the enclosure sides.
  25. Drilling holes in the back panels and countersinking them
  26. Screwing the back panels using powder coated dry wall screw.
  27. Mounting the handle using 5mm dowel.
  28. Sanding the entire speaker with 320 grit sandpaper.
  29. Finishing using linseed oil.

Marconi is ready to bring back the childhood memories of radio.

Why I started making Watercolor Illustrations?

Since I was a kid I was fascinated with watercolors and for some reason I could never control the way they worked. Maybe it was because of the tiny hands trying too hard to be perfect or because eventually as I grew up I had a problem which makes my hands tremble. I became afraid of using the medium which had this attribute of entropy in it. I could use sketch pens, markers and pencils easily as they still had some control.

So, what exactly changed after so many years of fear?

As I got more time to work on things in a very hands on, physical, tangible way; I started exploring various materials, techniques, process, tools in making things. The entire mindset of getting into making things rather than looking at them in tutorials and thinking one day I’ll do it made the difference. I was no longer thinking about the entropy which came with any sort of tools. I learnt something new with every mistake I made.

And one more thing which was important was that I set goals which were achievable and then once I could get past them, I’ll set a new one which would be complex in varied ways. It could be using the same technique with a different tool, it could be using the same tool in a different way or it could be employing a process in a setting where I had never used it before. And all this re-observing and re-learning lead to the belief that I could venture into getting started with watercolors which I wanted since I was a kid.

I started making small cards which were 8cmx9cm to begin with. And I didn’t try some really fancy technique or handwork. I just started by making rectangular blocks of watercolors, sometimes mixing two or even three of them, I saw a lot of YouTube videos. They really helped me to get the basic and the physicality of the process. I would use these colored cards and do hand lettering on them. Pinterest came to the rescuse. I found some of the most beautifully done hand lettering there. In between I’ll do some on my own as well. And also because I wanted to make these cards for someone I really liked, so I was in a way putting my heart and soul into it.

Eventually I ended up making a lot of these cards and giving it to a lot of people as a token of love, gratitude and care.

From the 8cmx9cm cards I moved on the A5 size notebook. I wanted to try out the same technique of merging colors as I wanted to have a certain sort of mastery in it. I again made hand lettered pages. And all this I was trying on cartridge sheet or ivory which is really not meant for watercolors. These sheets will get all crinkled because of water and I’ll just iron them out. I still had the fear of using a good quality sheet.

And recently I thought that it’s time to use watercolor sheets and make complex forms than hand lettering. I started looking at complex forms which I have been fascinated (themes like space travel, animals, life in passing, movies I like) on Pinterest and Google. Found some crazy good stuff specially the animal series by Kerby Rosanes. I took out black and white printouts of the illustrations I liked and after getting the delivery of watercolor sheets I headed down to the giant lightbox at NID. I started tracing the illustrations using Pigma Micron fineliners. And soon I had a bunch of them which I wanted to watercolor on. As I had learnt color merging it became easy for me to color the illustrated sheets. The hand was still the same but the mindset had changed, so I was fine with making mistakes and during this entire process beginning from the small cards I sort of had found ways to rectify the mistakes. I’ve become better at handling the material, tools, technique and I think I’ve improved a bit in illustration and sketching as well.

My current setup is

  • Brustro 200gsm Cold Press Artists’ Water Color Paper
  • Camel Artists’ Water Color Cakes 18 Shades 300 – C -18
  • Sakura Koi Water Brushpen Medium
  • Chinese Water Brushpen Large
  • 50mm Flat Synthetic Bristle Brush
  • Technical Art Mechanical Pencil 2.0mm
  • Grafo Mech-Pencil Lead 2.0mm
  • Jinhao Ink Pen
  • Pilot V7 0.7mm Pen
  • Pilot V Sign Pen
  • Pigma Micron 005 01 02 03 05 08 Fine Liner
  • Pigma Brush Pen
  • Uniball Signo 0.7mm White Gel Pen
  • Oddy Correction Pen
  • Staedtler Rubber Eraser

Watercolor Setup

Some of the channels I follow on YouTube

Return of the Rebels

In the past year I’ve come across some brilliant humans. People who personify Rob Siltanen’s “Here’s to the crazy ones”. People who are not happy with whatever is happening around them, who have a problem with status quo. People who have the courage to ask the the Hard Questions. People who want to change things for the good. People for whom a job title is not the important thing.

Crazy ones

All these people share some common fundamental values and ideology. I’ve been talking to a few of them on regular basis. And finally after months of talking on phone, emails and skype, we finally ended up meeting in Delhi for 3 days. It took some flights, trains and a couple of taxi and auto rides to be in the same shared space-time continuum.

These 3 days were some of the most interesting and mentally challenging days i had in the last few months. We probed and provoked each other to form a common understanding of

  • what we are?
  • what we want to do?
  • where we are headed?
  • why we are the way we are?
  • what makes us tick?
  • why work together?
  • what needs to be done?
  • what sort of questions need to be asked and probed?

We also were interested in asking the What ifs?

  • What if everyone comes together for making a social impact?
  • What if open systems are employed for tackling UNDP sustainability goals?
  • What if we want to change the way design is practiced?
  • What if sustainability, systems thinking and design things is the only way to turn consumption and consumerism into something meaningful?
  • What if design becomes the basis of every system?
  • What if sense making and meaning making is more important that profit making?
  • What if we enable every person to maximize their potential and to live a content life?
  • What if there is something for everyone to learn?
  • What if the learning process is made very personal and experimental?
  • What if processes move beyond Human Centeredness and aim for Life Centeredness?
  • What if embracing fuzziness and and breaking down barriers is a normal approach?

Sticky Notes


The people I’m talking about have spent a majority of their time doing projects in the sector of social innovation, open learning and for the maximization of human potential.

Anmol Kaur 

Anmol Final

She is an engineer and a designer who enjoys arranging, connecting and making sense of information and systems – particularly in global development. She is inspired by the possibility of living in a world of compassion, universal freedom, and ubiquitous access to opportunity.

Currently, She’s on a one year self-directed master’s degree, looking to better understand the skills, tools, and mindsets required to be an exceptional designer and social impact leader.

She has worked as a volunteer consultant at Goonj, a Delhi-based NGO creating a parallel economy using waste as a resource for rural development, and at BMO Financial Group, as a Business Transformation Consultant in the Office of the COO, on digital transformation projects, lean process improvements, and customer experience mapping.

Check out some of her recent work and ideas on her blog.

 

Christopher Scott

Chris Final

He is a design-curious management consultant currently working along with Anmol and has worked with coffee farmers in Ethiopia. He is intrigued by the power of innovative business models to solve complex problems for people across sectors and geographies.

Check out his profile.

Together Chris and Anmol have been working on creating a platform “Designers of Tomorrow” where they are spending a year in India working on development-related projects using systems and design thinking, curating a curriculum on development, design, and moral leadership, and exploring different models for learning. They recently finished a project in the hills of Himalaya. They partnered with a social enterprise, EduCARE India, which focuses on facilitating community led sustainable development in rural areas, like Naddi. After spending some time getting settled, soaking in the vastness of the mountains around them, and meeting some of the community members here, they worked with EduCARE to define a challenge area.

How might we reduce the amount of time women in rural communities spend on unpaid (household) work so that they can contribute more time to their personal aspirations, economic well-being of their households, and sustainable development of their communities?

 

Laura A. François

Laura Final

She is from Montréal, Canada but she loves finding new places in which to feel local.

She is a creative design and systems thinker, feeling most alive when she is collaborating on social innovation projects. She worked with piktochart to create some amazing resources.

Though she claims that she is no fashionista, She is currently obsessed with her closet as she believes it contains the secret to a happier planet. She is a change agent for human rights in the fashion industry, facilitating awareness, and connecting the human and environmental stories behind our clothing.

She’s currently the Country Co-ordinator for Fashion Revolution Singapore. And also part of a successfully funded Indigogo campaign, Artisan & Fox (Discover the world’s hidden makers, Discover ethical jewelry, shawls and bags handmade by extraordinary artisans across the developing world)

You can find out more about her on her site.


All of us coming together and meeting reinforced our belief that there is power in participation, co-creation and openness. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery.

When people come together to look at the problem as a collective and listen to the issues and concerns of each member, they end up forming a very holistic perspective of the problem at hand. Solutions are built with the participation of everyone and by building on the ideas of others the system thus formed is an open and a democratically designed one. It’s a transparent system with every single entity visible to each member.

DESIGN IS OF THE PEOPLE. BY THE PEOPLE. FOR THE PEOPLE.

 

Sonic Architect: Marconi

A tribute to the one who made long distance work, Guglielmo Marconi!

The body of Marconi is made using Pine wood which has a buttery color. Each part of the radio was cut using a jigsaw and sanded with 3 successive sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Enclosure was glued using wood glue and then held in place using 90 degree clamps.

Grill is made using teakwood, the grill has a grid of 11×11 6mm holes. A plan of the grill was printed on paper and then glued to the grill piece. All the 121 holes were center punched and then handrilled on a drill press.

The FM receiver is mounted on a pine wood piece with two holes for the volume and frequency pots.

One of the pinewood part can be removed from the back to change the battery, which should ideally last for a couple of years. Grill, FM Receiver mount plate, back plate are all glued to the enclosure.

The handle is made out of pine wood and are then attached to the main body. The volume and frequency knobs are made out of pine as well.

Marconi is handcrafted with an old school look in mind. It takes roughly 10 hours to make the system.

 

Specifications

  • FM Receiver
  • Stained and hand oiled Pine Wood
  • 2000 mAh Battery
  • 1.6″ Full-Range Drivers
  • Hand Drilled stained Teak Wood Grill
  • Pine wood Knob
  • Pine wood or Leather Handle
  • Aluminum Antenna
  • Dimension: 25cmx13cmx11cm
In the box
  • Marconi
  • USB cable

Open Source Directory of Makers/Designers/Fabricators/Suppliers

Two years back we started generating a sort-of Marauder’s Map for all the explorers/tinkerers/makers/designers of the city of Ahmedabad. We wanted to let people move beyond their worktables and the entire city to become the space of action. Why not utilize the whole town which is at your disposal providing you with unlimited resources, interesting people and events.

 

Over the top-left of the map , you shall find the filters to locate specific amenities.

I’m planning of expanding this further to connect Makers/Designers/Fabricators/Suppliers with an Open Source Making Directory with maps and the facilities and resources which are being offered.

I’m open to suggestions, ideas, collaborations, funding (If someone is generous enough) etc. So, in case you want to get back, please send in your messages at

ekprayog@gmail.com

Sonic Architect: Wilson

A tribute to the brilliant Progressive Rockstar Steven Wilson!

Satisfy your inner audiophile with this hand crafted wooden audio system! The Sonic Architect Wilson is handmade using Teak and Pine wood with a handwoven fabric grill. Each unit is hand assembled based on “Less is More” approach. A power switch and an aluminum volume knob makes the system easy to use.

Specifications
– 20 Watt Class D Amplifier
– 2.2″ Full Range Driver
– Passive Radiator
– 3.5mm AUX Input
– Aluminum Volume Knob
– Stained Teak Enclosure
– Handwoven Fabric Grill
– 12 Volt DC Power Adapter