Thursday, March 04, 2010

Senior Studio Project Mission Statement

What (curriculum), Who & Where (RISD)

It is important that young designers receive a formal and well-rounded introduction to humanitarian design. Humanitarian design focuses providing long-term solutions for the needs of financially, socially and/ or physically disadvantaged people.

This project aims to design a curriculum for RISD under the Industrial Design department that introduces humanitarian design. It will result in more thoughtful and informed product, service and system design projects. I envision integrating existing programmes but tailoring them to RISD. I hope to provide students with an opportunity to be immersed in the humanitarian design field material and design thinking by compiling reading materials, videos, field trips, and exercises. Peter Hocking, the director of the Office of Public Engagement, is my advisor.


Research methods: Case study research, interviews, reviews with people mentioned, focus group meetings with RISD students and extracting from existing models.

Structure of investigation: My research is divided into three parts: curriculum material, looking at existing programmes, and blue sky ideas that may be possible to weave into the curriculum. I will commit to a blog where my assignments can be recorded chronologically and available to others at any point it. I will make three versions of the curriculum for myself throughout the semester checking it constantly with fellow classmates and advisors.

Quantifiable outcome: Along with writing a curriculum, I will be processing information and making it visual. I will produce many boards, mind maps, graphics that can maybe be compiled to a book and/ or blog.

Measuring the success: The final outcome of the project will be a curriculum designed for RISD. It will be submitted to the other designs schools for feedback and criticism. This way I will get a more realistic perspective on the logistics of implementing a new course that I would not otherwise get.


Industrial design is about delivering an experience. Industrial designers also leave school and come into the world with a great set of problem-solving tools. In a world with growing problems, climate change, energy crises, ageing populations and natural disasters, I feel that there is much need for problem solvers like us. We lack, however, knowledge of the history, economics and politics that have to do with designing for people in such situations upon graduating. More importantly we need exercises and design challenges that will help us improvise once we are in the field developing skills in using limited materials, communicating with community members, working in groups and handling unexpected surprises.

Moving in

I'm blogging again and this time it is to chronicle my research and share fun findings. This semester I am designing a humanitarian design curriculum for RISD.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Purpose & Path Exercise

What are my purpose and passion in life?
What am I good at doing?
What makes economic and financial sense for me?
What are my three most important values in life?

We had to answer these questions for our first assignment and post it on our Google E-group so that everyone could access it. Some people shared their views during the last class. I like how we began with defining ourselves and declaring our positions. How would you answer them? Figure out what's happening inside before you try to change what's happening outside.

People's living habits and behaviours fascinate me. I believe that I am here as an instrument of peace and try to live to it. With the skills and opportunities that I have been graciously given I search for areas where I can efficiently make maximum positive and effective impact.

I am good at visualising and expressing. Making visual aids of concepts or thoughts is something that comes easy for me. I enjoy designing ways to make information and experiences more accessible to people. Education, democracy and interaction with nature's gifts are things I dream and want to help every human being enjoy. Understanding and assembling people is another strength I have due to my experiences with and curiosity in the people I encounter.

Economic and financial sense to me goes beyond supplying oneself with necessities for the day. It is more sustainable if everyone in the world had an opportunity to earn as much as they worked. With the money people earn they should be able to support themselves and their
dependents living comfortable but environmentally low-impact lives. It makes economic and financial sense for one to have the freedom to choose what to spend on, but must come with social responsibility and compassion.

At this point in my life I value relationships, honesty and security
in all ways, shapes and forms (emotional, physical and financial).


First day

Our class started on 27 June 2009 and will go on until October but I won’t be here for all of it. It is a laboratory course on social entrepreneurship that meets weekly on Saturday afternoons for three hours. Approximately 20 of us sit around tables arranged in a U, a format I always favour because it is ideal for discussion. We have a comfortable, well-lit and air-conditioned room. I share pens with and sit next to my mother who is the one with a strong vision for change in our province of Bicol, Philippines which we'll hear about soon. Our first class also started on a more emotional note that I had expected, thanks to our professor, Arnel Casanova. Soon after introductions we all realised the room was filled with likeminded, ideal and hot people! Yes, hot. We were all burning with a passion to make things happen! Three successful students from the previous year shared their insight and spread yet even more enthusiasm throughout the room.

Big words

I expect a lot from this class and my interaction with it given that I only have until the end of August. With an emphasis on business and logistics, I know that I am starting at zero. My understanding of Social Entrepreneurship is so romantic and therefore very young and soft. I want to know the ugly, tough side. I want to know why it's still a growing thing, what battles it fought and are currently fighting, who its enemies are and how to negotiate if not befriend them.

The first reading material is a book with a very straight-forward title : How to Change the World by David Bornstein. ‘Ok...right...’, thought I, ‘this is a big one’. We’re on the right track. I’m going through it slowly and although it is easy reading, I stop at every other page to look up new vocabulary like ‘artesian’ and ‘microcredit’. Those words triggered questions. I found myself flipping through my pocketsize Oxford and then getting a vague but quick understanding on how wells work through Wikipedia and reading all about the Grameen Bank thanks to Google. Despite it being a very distracting a slow process, it’s exciting! Hey, that’s why I’m here. Just watch: this blog will become a glossary for the ABCs I missed out on! I think this will be a step in solidifying my understanding of Social Entrepreneurship.

As I’m reading this in bed, this is a book that does not allow me to slouch. I want to sit up straight, wake up early the next day and needless to say, change the world after having your breakfast.

Notice how in the last paragraph Social Entrepreneurship is capitalised. (I wonder how many times I will write Social Entrepreneurship/ Entrepreneur/ Enterprise in this blog, lets call it all SE.) WHAT IS IT??? Here are some definitions:

Social Entrepreneurship

  • Is an activity or starting a business to solve a social problem
    – A. Casanova on our first day of class
  • Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.
  • Is a form of leadership that maximizes the social return on public service efforts while fundamentally and permanently changing the way problems are addressed on a global scale. Social Entrepreneurs employ a wide variety of creative approaches and practices from diverse academic backgrounds, artistic disciplines, and professional sectors in order to develop and implement pattern-breaking solutions for previously intractable social problems in ways that are sustainable and scalable to a larger population.
    Reynolds Program in SE, NYU
And if you really want to get into it and see other facets, try this article :
  • Hopefully, is not just another fad
    – Me
but it already started

Before I even knew what a SE was, I spent the summers of my high school years with passionate idealists. For three years I have been attending Peace and Conflict Resolution Workshops for Youth in Asia during the summer for about a month. The prevalent quote was Mahatma Gandhi’s: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. These workshops took place in Dharamsala (India), Mindoro (Philippines) and Godavari (Nepal). Imagine small, personal groups of about 35 diverse individuals from the host countries and an international selection of youth. Participants included, but were not limited to, leaders in their communities in rural Mindanao (Philippines), an artist, a chairman of a young NGO in Nepal, high school teachers, a self-deemed Tibetan activist and European students. During discussions we found creative ways to share information and sat in circles on plastic chairs, on the mats of a classroom floor or amongst huge rocks by a refreshing river. We were classmates and roommates. We shared dreams, big dreams. We had conversations that resonate with me until this day. I only realise now that I spent these summers with people all driven by the same spirit of a social entrepreneur. A name I prefer that fits both my workshop friends and current classmates is a name our professor addresses us by and that is: Changemaker.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Wake-up time


This blog has been resuscitated from its dormant state. Welcome it back. What used to be a class requirement for the History of Industrial Design class I took in the 2008 Fall Semester is now a space for my own learning. This summer I am taking part in the Social Entrepreneurship Laboratory course at the Ateneo School of Government. So far it has been an inspiring experience but I am treading unknown waters. I take this opportunity to make a bank of information for myself as learn more about this new and exciting field!

Screen shot of what this blog used to look like, the last post

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tea or Coffee?: ID is all about delivering an experience

Woman preparing Japanese tea ceremony © Bloomimage/Corbis

Themes that have developed in my portfolio of work have to do with people, systems and providing options. There are systems for gathering that I discuss like photography and personal ways to gather information in order to be a more observant, sensitive and better designer. There are also systems in nature that I wrote about that may inspire future designs. Decentralisation in a system is a topic that appeared while writing about Iqbal Quadir’s talk for A Better World by Design Conference. This entire semester has also been an endeavour towards making a system for me to organize opinions and document facts and experiences to reference later.

Here is an example of industrial design delivering an experience. I’m sitting in an airport at a counter typing this on my computer and facing a man typing on his computer. “Can you believe this place is as dead as a door knob??” My first thoughts to his full-force question were much shyer... um... what do you mean... uhhh... was he talking to me? I self-consciously looked around. He didn’t look at me when asking so I awkwardly tried to steal some eye contact. “If I had waited for the regular time to get here this place would have been packed, so what are you up to?” He had a hands-free Jabra tucked behind his ear. I’m sure many of us have had the experience of thinking someone on their hands-free phone was a talking to them OR themselves while browsing through the vegetable section of the supermarket. Cell phones, no- hands-free phones -deliver experiences that is almost like teleporting. All you need is a voice and you change the way you are anywhere you are.

In the middle of the floor infront of the gate at the airport a woman is smiling and playing with her hair as she talks into her metallic red portable electronic device. A teenage boy is throwing and catching a hacky sack with one hand and has his cell phone up to his ear with the other hand.
I noticed that people on cell phones can pace and snake around other people laughing out loud, uninhibited. In airports people make bubbles around themselves acting in ways they would not if they were not armed with a cell phone. This experience reminded me of how easily people can create comfort zones for themselves with cell phones. Being in transit is an opportunity to be yourself or be someone else. Waiting and being in transit is like being in limbo. Airports are transitional environments.

Then because I was writing this ID manifesto I thought of humanitarian design. Refugee camps and temporary disaster relief housing are also transitional environments. Compare the differences between airports and disaster relief housing. There are differences in the level of hygiene, environment, security and comfort. So much care and money is put into make sure that valuable airline customers are comfortable while they are in transit under the wings of aviation companies. The transit time of a refugee can span up to months while a passenger may be unfortunate to be delayed and stuck in transit for hours. Is money the only persuasion for us to put in as much care to displaced people as we do to travellers?

Some of these observations in today’s travelling really did provoke these thoughts that have to do with our priorities in designing environments and experiences for people.

Providing options
Another theme of mine is to provide options to users or designers. In my ArtDesign entry I wrote about the different options there were for designers to view and take a stand in the ArtDesign world. My first hard surface chair depicted below gives the user different ways of sitting. Meaning put into an object by the designer may not be what will be received by the user but the user always has options. A designer can design an entire product like a sandwich bar but the user or customer will only grasp a few of the fillings and there will be different combinations made. Having more meanings may lessen the chances of understanding the whole sandwich bar. On the other hand, few or no choices may monopolise the possible sandwich varieties but will not be very graceful. Finding the balance between providing options and getting a meaning across is key in having a successful design. Intention and control is the designer’s responsibility. Successful design, going back to its dictionary definition, has to do with intent and the designer’s intent.

Systems for Gathering
I remember beginning the semester with making a timeline themed with the Past and investigating the gesture of gathering so I will expand on that here. I compared photography and the camera’s history with the development of our own idea-gathering systems. I use sketchbooks to write and sketch, make lists, check them off. I use books and Word documents and the Favourites Folders in Internet Explorer to manage what I gathered. Day planners are another way i gather or collect myself in order to make sure everything gets done. This brings me to examine how we divide our days and time. I do so very linearly: Work time; personal time; family time; homework time; play time; free time: these are all ways in which we categorize our time. What about present time like the camera?

I could keep going and that’s the point. This blog has made me think in ways that categorizes thoughts. Above were three themes from my body of work that I expanded on. I can expand on any of the three categories as long as I have a basic framework. Working like this from the beginning of the semester will help me add to this body of work later on.
  1. Gathering infinite amounts of ideas and recording these thoughts is the first step.
  2. Retaining it all is a challenge.
  3. Relaying them to others is more effort.
After all this I still strive to dissect these themes but only to a certain extent at a time. Keep in mind that there’s no point in blogging if no one will read it so you might as start a conversation with someone.

Actors Charles Laughton an Franchot Tone Drinking Coffee by Robert Randall

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art | Design

art n.
The creation of something beautiful and expressive; paintings and sculptures.
2 (arts) subjects other than sciences; creative activites (e.g. painting, music, writing).
3 a skill.

design n.
1 a drawing that shows how a thing is to be made; a general form or arrangement; a decorative pattern.
2 an intention; planning.
v. prepare a design for; plan, intend.

-Oxford English Dictionary
These four sub-categories can be a way of organizing opinions. The high-end design world may seem out of reach and unreasonable but sometimes it’s inspiring, refreshing and candy for the senses. These two opposite opinions call for an exploration of what lies in between.

Art & Design
Capitalizing the letters A and D somehow gives designers a space with a license to do anything. For example, Max Lamb’s turned concrete cylinders have received much acclaim for reasons that are not in line with my beliefs. I don’t see how its inefficient use of material was worth exploring such repetitive and mundane forms for the sake of him directly being part of the manufacturing process. Nevertheless, he pursues his philosophy like we all want to see our visions materialize. That’s what it means to design. Individuals wanting to make a statement initiated this A&D scene. In comparison, here we are, individuals gaining tools through education and stacking them until we will feel comfortable enough to stand alone (or in a team) to make an impact in the world. I think that part of what makes the Design scene feel like an ant intruding a city of skyscrapers are the Big Names. A student graduates from a design school, armed with her portfolio, and builds her identity to present to manufacturers or firms so she can be represented by them. These include manufacturing companies like Vitra, Herman Miller, and Ligne Roset. French designer Inge SempĂ©, for example, has her work with Ligne Roset. Ligne Roset is a family-run company manufacturing furniture and brainstorms possible (new) ways to make the product or alter designs with the designer. It’s a cool place to be. You have one-on-ones with the Big Names. You become an in-house designer. You’re linked in or in the loop, however you want to see it.
art and design
Strip away the pretention, white backgrounds and head-to-toe black clothing and look at the sketchbooks. What happens when art inspires design? When a functional design draws inspiration from fine arts or the process of fine art making the results can be very harmonious and subtle. The journey does not have to be about climbing the ladder instead understanding the ground you stand on. Some designers will choose to make products in a limited series. That scarcity may mean that demand and prices will increase but it also means that more thought and care is put into the making of objects.
Art vs. Design
Why do we make what we make? This is a question seen too frequently but not answered quite as well since we make a lot of junk. Is it for Art’s sake? Is Many designers on the ID history blog use scarce materials freely, to make a statement, provoke a thought or just make you laugh like Blendie. Emotions are triggered while holding a glowing jar or while sitting and knitting in a deep, plush, high-backed chair. It’s a similar interaction with paintings and the associations you make with objects (refer to my Meaning vs. Saying essay). This differs greatly from the utilitarian designs that serve a function and a function only. Think of Velcro and match sticks that are in the same category of industrially designed objects. Art vs. Design even a debate worth watching? Maybe art feeds or inspires design. In the Laws of Simplicity John Maeda mentions that ‘simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful’. Similarly, many featured designers from our last class, like Tobias Wong, have removed or repurposed obvious functions from objects and use them as symbols to carry their meanings.

Art of Design(ing)
What is my intention? What will my plan be to make it happen? In the process of designing my second chair I recognise a familiar pattern in the way I start. It is frustrating to see myself fall into the same potholes but I know that recognising that I do that is already a step closer to understanding my design process. I slowly establish my methods and values in my design process. With that set, I can look at Max Lamb and know that I don’t like his work. Having a consistent opinion is a weapon in the Design World. Since design and intention are synonymous, your art of design matters a lot: but first ask WHY you design before re-evaluating how you design. During the Better World by Design conference a speaker said that architecture is a political act because buildings are placed on this planet. The same weight of accountability applies to designers who make things that are extracted from the earth, made and used on the earth then left on or in the earth. Understanding why you do things and supporting other designers sharing the same beliefs as yours may dictate what the next big design scene will be.