Daily Design Inspirations 32: Design thinking can help Swachh Bharat (#DailyDesignInspirations)

An excellent, timely piece in Livemint.com. Can we go beyond the hype and soundbytes and use Design Thinking to change the fortunes of the movement? Can Design Thinking be used to better reframe the problems, change mindsets, and come up with real solutions? 

Livemint: Design thinking can help Swachh Bharat

Amrita Chowdhury, 13th October 2016

As we look at the second anniversary of the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, we cannot but acknowledge how far the conversation has progressed on the vision and yet how little the needle has shifted on the outcomes.

The difference is starker in our urban areas. Cities are the windows to the nation, where the most vocal residents reside and the most influential visitors arrive. Naturally, then, the Swachh Bharat Mission efforts in cities are critical in making opinions about the efficacy of the programme itself. Rural toilet construction statistics notwithstanding, what hits us most is visible urban waste and the crumbling waste management infrastructure.

But is it just that?

Read on.


Design Thinking News: Infosys Continues to Drive Design Thinking. Even Upwards.

The Economic Times, May 25, 2016

Infosys on ‘design thinking’ treadmill to get its top gear acclimatised with latest technology

It’s not just the 194,000-odd employees at India’s second largest software exporter who are being put through the paces.

In what would mark the first such instance in India’s $160-billion IT industry, board members at Infosys are now being trained and brought up to speed with “design thinking” -an industry parlance that refers to the practice of solving traditional tech problems using newer, different and innovative methods.

Board members at top companies across the world, especially in the technology industry, routinely go through training sessions to help them keep pace with the rapid changes across the technology landscape.

However, this would mark the first known instance in India’s tech industry where a company is proactively aligning the board with the vision of the company’s top management, as part of a broader strategy to bring about a cultural shift at a traditional outsourcing company where coders and engineers have been content with following orders of customers, without asking questions. The design thinking exercise is one of the cornerstones of CEO Vishal Sikka’s broader strategy for the company and he has actively pushed executives and employees at the company to embrace the exercise. To execute this strategy, Sikka has even sought help from external mentors such as computer science pioneer and legend Alan Kay, who over the past two years has held sessions with company executives and employees.

Infosys chairman R Seshasayee said the decision to train the board on design thinking was taken recently during the last financial year.

“The adoption of Design Thinking at Infosys has been very encouraging, and we can see the enthusiasm and energy with which employees are adopting this philosophy. The Infosys board was keen to embrace this approach that is getting deeply ingrained into the company’s DNA. We introduced the entire board to these concepts during the year and I have found the application of its principles in our course of business very refreshing and impactful,” said Infosys chairman R Seshasayee in an email to ET.

According to Infosys’ latest annual report, at least six board members including chairman R Seshasayee, board veteran and former Cornell University professor Jeffrey S Lehman, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Bank of Baroda chairman Ravi Venkatesan have all gone through what the company calls “immersion sessions” where they have been trained on design thinking. Each of these board members have gone through ex tensive sessions on design thinking that lasted for at least 3.5 hours, according to the annual report.

A person directly familiar with Sikka’s thinking said that the board has also been put through immersive sessions on areas such as Artificial Intelligence and that Sikka is actively trying to “acquaint the board with concepts around design thinking as he looks to unleash newer, more executable ideas at the board level.”

Infosys has already trained over 80,000 employees on design thinking and hopes to cover the entire company in the near term, according to its latest annual report.

The design thinking exercise comes at a time when Infosys is starting to show signs of a major turnaround in its fortunes and increasingly resembling its former bellwether self, having trumped top-tier rivals such as Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro for four consecutive quarters.

“Putting the board through design thinking is a must. Design thinking is the equivalent of Six Sigma for this generation. Until the boards understand what’s required to build for empathy and to understand the innovation process, they can not relate to the work required to deliver on innovation,” said Ray Wang, founder of enterprise research firm Constellation Research.

“Training the entire company including the leadership team on design thinking represents more than anything else a change in mindset for Infosys.However, Infosys needs to push change management in equal measure as training alone only gets you so far,” said Tom Reuner, managing director at HfS Research.

Daily Design Inspirations 25: Design Thinking in Prisons. (#DailyDesignInspirations)


The Latest In Prison Education? Design Thinking

The MakeRight initiative teaches incarcerated people empathetic design with the aim of reducing recidivism.


From packaging that prevents shoplifting to furniture that guards against thieves, projects originating from the Design Against Crime Research Center (DACRC)—a program at Central Saint Martins in London—offer clever design ideas to protect against crime. Its latest project has grander ambitions: change the way offenders think, and perhaps curb law breaking as a byproduct.

The DACRC’s MakeRight initiative teaches prisoners design thinking. While many prison programs teach technical skills—and, historically, have exploited incarcerated individuals for labor—MakeRight is meant to yield empathy through design.

Design thinking is a process that involves defining a problem, researching and observing behavior, coming up with multiple solutions, refining the solutions, choosing a winner, prototyping the idea, and implementing it. While critical thinking breaks down ideas, design thinking builds them up and benefits from having as many diverse solutions as possible.

In one of its first projects—run in collaboration with the National Institute of Design, a school in India—25 prisoners designed theft-proof bags, wallets, briefcases, and purses. They shared some of the (terrifying) tricks of their trade, like slashing back pockets so wallets slide right out, to inform the design of better products—in that case, a wallet with a thicker side so it catches on the pocket and doesn’t fall out.



Daily Design Inspirations 17: Car-Making in India: “It’s not like you can draw inspiration from the Taj Mahal and put together a car!” (#DailyDesignInspirations)

Mint: Designing a car for India is easier said than done

Designing a car for India is tough. Old, legacy vehicles don’t work. And any designer with a mandate to make a car for India needs to start from scratch

The sub 4-metre car, is a situation and a segment unique to India and a few other automotive markets. The Volkswagen Ameo is the latest to join the segment. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
The sub 4-metre car, is a situation and a segment unique to India and a few other automotive markets. The Volkswagen Ameo is the latest to join the segment. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: Stuart R. Norris, managing director of design at General Motors Co.’s Korean unit, tells it like it is.

Designing a car for India is tough. Old, legacy vehicles don’t work anymore. And any designer with a mandate to make a car for India needs to start from scratch. Get into the market and understand what people want.

“But it is not like you can draw inspiration from the Taj Mahal and put together a car,” says Norris, who’s in New Delhi for Auto Expo 2016. “Design, it is becoming very, very global. You can tailor the product for the market and the infrastructure needs but it has to meet the aspiration, affordability and practical need of the consumer—these three are still the most important factors, which influence buying decision.”

A case in point is the sub 4-metre car. A situation and a segment unique to India and a few other automotive markets. How do you put together a car that can be both roomy and stylish under 4 metres? More often than not, car makers have resorted to the easiest trick in the book—slap a boot on an existing hatchback. Which of these cars look ugly and which don’t, depends on whom you ask. For Norris, who is on his first visit to the country, the sub 4-metre cars don’t sit well. The boot looks like an afterthought.

Pratap Bose, head of design at Tata Motors Ltd, believes this is both a challenge and an opportunity. “India is becoming a port of first call for many manufacturers in certain segments,” he says. “But the sub 4-metre car is by far the hardest car to design. A lot of designers can’t believe how you can do that. And have the head room and luggage room.”

How do you get around this challenge? Get inspiration. For Bose, it is the sub 3.5-metre car in Japan. “The K cars in Japan have 3.395m as length,” he says. “But the kind of products that have emerged from that are so unique. The space utilization, the typology, they have mini-vans, sports cars, everything in that size. So, sometimes from some of these constraints, you can have great output.”

Needless to say, understanding the needs of the market is just one part of the design process. A far bigger part is finding the right designers. Simply put, talent. There, the landscape in India is still in its very early days.

“The talent is coming through now,” says Bose. “But it takes time for talent to mature. See, it is not just raw talent, it is also experience. To convert something from a sheet of paper to sheet metal, there are some incredibly complicated steps. To ensure that the design stays like that throughout. And that comes with a certain maturity. You need an ecosystem to do that in India. A design studio is not just designers. There are people who can do clay modelling, digital modelling, there is a whole team, which is not easy to find in India. This has come up often that many global OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) find it difficult to find the right design people here.”

Nobody knows about this challenge better than Gerard Detourbet, the legendary designer at Renault SA, who designed the Duster and who stepped out of retirement to design the Renault Kwid. Specifically, the CMFA Platform, on which the Kwid is based and which will serve as the base for several other Renault cars. Also Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, Renault’s alliance partner. The Kwid has got off to a flying start, with bookings of more than 100,000 units. Detourbet says a lot of it has to do with the simple design of the car—with a bold, aggressive front.

Ask Detourbet how he went about it and what worked for the Kwid, he puts it rather simply: The car’s looks and affordability compared with what’s being offered in the market by Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

“That’s the first thing we did,” he says. “Look at Maruti and be as close as possible to what they are doing but a little bit more, so that people will see the car as better.”

Explaining what worked for the Duster is more difficult. “I don’t know. Till date, we don’t know why the Duster worked.”

It is an important point, however vague it may sound. Just to take a case in point, what are the reasons, perhaps, that the Kwid is doing well, where the Datsun has failed to get buyers?

Detourbet says a lot of it has to do with what the company wants to do with the car. The design intention, so to speak. Datsun was launched with the idea of making one of the cheapest cars for India. Not the Kwid.

“During the development of the Kwid, I have completely changed the logic of the car. Unlike Datsun, which is the cheapest. So, during that time, Maruti launched the new Alto. And I was like, oh la, we need to change. So, I increased the number of features in the car. Same price but with more.”