What Happens When It Rains?

It’s been pouring cats and dogs in Bombay. Roads are flooded, potholes are rapidly multiplying, and traffic has come to a standstill. Or at least been reduced to a very slow crawl. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irene continues to wind its way along the east coast of the United States, causing flash floods, destroying valuable property and necessitating evacuation.

All this begs the question: what are the design consequences of climate change? How can we design our cities to better deal with the climate? Leave alone unpredictable climate change, what about predictable, regular weather like the monsoon, which happens every year. How is it that a city which experiences the monsoons every year for four months still lacks the infrastructure to function smoothly during those soggy months?

What happens when it rains in Bombay? All kinds of hastily put together jugaad-baaz infrastructure is seen to fall apart; minor indents in roads become huge gaping puddles; standard routes get clogged as underpasses become flooded and impossible to navigate. While people are quite adaptable, and can be seen wading through knee-deep water in flooded areas, their vehicles cannot. Cars and scooters are forced to take alternate routes, and massive traffic jams are quite common during these months.

Maybe a user-centered redesign could help solve some of these issues and lead to better designed cities – not even necessarily to make them more live-able, but simply more functional. On the other hand, it could be that cities need to be designed like airports, with modern, state-of-the-art design solutions. But somehow, it doesn’t seem likely that that would work – you can design an airport to be quietly efficient and smooth-functioning using technology and high design, but not whole cities, especially not the delightfully chaotic cities of India.

Maybe solutions for such problems need to be more context-specific. They could perhaps be derived from the experiences of those living there, experiencing and dealing with those problems on a regular basis. Perhaps documenting the consequences of the monsoon in a new way could be a first step towards this: real-time videos of traffic jams due to the rain, or more visual imagery of how people navigate the flooded streets, or city-wide mapping of flooded areas to avert traffic jams.

Is such a user-centric approach at all possible and/or helpful in redesigning our cities? What kinds of approaches could we take to make this happen effectively?

People Don’t Know Themselves (or Getting Beyond Market Research)

Ekta Ohri is the Head of Project Operations at CKS.

In the design field, there has been a long, slow change in our understanding of what makes for good design.

In the late 90’s, there was a shared understanding in the design industry that good design is all about creativity. The best designs were considered to be designs that displayed a great deal of creativity from its designer. But in the early 2000’s, Apple products like the iPod gained popularity in the Indian market. They were smart, sleek products that seemed to understand exactly how you used a device, and how to make using it simple and intuitive.

In an attempt to mimic this ease of use, many design practitioners in India shifted their focus to “user-centered design” – design that tried to understand the needs of the user. Frequently, this design process involved extensive market research, often based around doing one-on-one interviews with prospective customers about what they want and need.

But true user-centered design relies on something beyond simple market research. The work we do at CKS relies a great deal on observing people as they use a product or service. We observe people, interview them, shadow them at home, at work and in the world at large. These are research techniques that are more traditionally associated with ethnography or anthropology than with design, but they are invaluable to our work.

The reason that this is necessary is simple: lugares para conocer mujeres bogota mensajes bonitos para mujeres solteras sites rencontres anonymes http://ducove.sk/milno/1848 anonymous hookup app android official website 7th grade dating a senior texas conocer gente en phoenix site rencontre avis 2015 people don’t know themselves all that well. If you ask someone a series of questions about how they use a product or service, they will try their best to answer your questions. But when you observe the way someone actually acts in their everyday life, you can observe them doing things in a way that they may not even be conscious of.

Truly good design works at this level, engaging people in their conscious and subconscious decisions. It steers them, whether they know it or not, towards a more efficient action or a smarter choice.

I believe that design has the potential to transform peoples’ lives for the better. But doing so requires that we understand the people that we are designing for. Maybe, even more than they know themselves.

-Ekta Ohri