Design as Social Capital

All good design leads to Social Capital. It is at the core of everything we design. Some call that process the user-centred design and some as human-centred design. The notion of Social Capital relies on building solutions that are based on Reciprocity, Trust and Cooperation.

A lot of the population in India still does not have access to the basic amenities in life, and when we talk of building solutions that are going to be useful in these contexts, the Social Capital is something that one cannot ignore.

When working in the development sector, towards creating solutions that have high impact and are long lasting, one should seek help from Social Capital.

These are the Slides from my talk at the UX India 2016 conference, where I put out an open call to the UX community to leverage the notion of Social Capital and build highly impacting solutions.


Creating the Learning Revolution

As a part of my work, I have got more involved with education than never before. I truly feel connected with it. It seems to be the calling. I also have got a more closer chance to be working with education across the system at different levels. Right from the primary schools to the high schools to college education and the after college training to create skilled professionals. The stakes on education are high. As we pride on a nation that has the highest youth population in the world, we also hold the dubious distinction of having a huge number of unemployable graduates.

You may wonder, where does the problem lie? Is it in the colleges that often end up teaching only theory and not have their students work on projects; or is the problem elsewhere.? Why do companies have to spend a fortune in training their newly joined employees? Can this be taken care of at the college level itself.

Once you start analysing in a bit more detail, you realise that the problem is not just at the college level, but in the whole system, and problem can trickle down all the way up to Primary school education. There is a requirements for a complete overhaul in the way Primary Education is delivered in India. Through different channels, I have been exploring how this can be done. From getting associated with schools as an Advisor, to also conducting workshops and seminars;  I am trying it all.

Image from Happy Horizons Trust
Image from Happy Horizons Trust

But there is a need for more people to get into education. From the creation of the content to the delivery. When you get into the system you also realise that the problems are aplenty with a lot of the stakeholders. The notion of good teachers is reduced considerably. What was once considered a profession to be proud of, is today often looked down upon. In my opinion, if there is one profession that truly deserves the respect its due, it is education.

Watch this insightful talk by one of my favourite Sir Ken Robinson, on why we need to create a Learning Revolution.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

When it comes to booking my flight tickets online, I have almost all the time done it on . I love their minimalistic UI, and the User Experience is high on that site. However of late I have been checking out the others too. Yatra I do not like for its lack of consistency in the layouts and UX. MakemyTrip, which was one of the first in this arena, does have a decent User Experience, (except the small font size that I detest so much) but not to the same extent that Cleartrip has.

However, one of the things that I love about the Make My Trip is this feature that they have smartly integrated in the checkout process. At the look of it, it is a  simple take it or leave it thing, with just a radio button. Thankfully by default they do not have any option selected. has associated itself with an NGO that works in the area of reducing Carbon Footprints, that is generated everytime someone takes a flight. It goes to the extent of telling you how many kilograms of CO2 will be generated and also what you can do to help in this cause.

An example of Design for Social Impact
An example of Design for Social Impact

I think this is a very noble and nice way of integrating the cause for Design for Social Impact. The designers did cash onto the buzz that global warming has created. I think its about these small initiatives, when clubbed together, will lead to creating an impact on the planet.

Whether a person would actually use this feature and make donations (I personally have not done so, since I prefer to donate directly than through a third party) is something that needs to be tested and seen from usage patterns.  That information could lead to a way to see whether the users are actually getting influenced by it.

There is a social impact associated, because even for that few seconds there is an education about global warming happening. It is very subtle, and does not should out loud. It also gives in a message to the user that you are responsible in some way for the deterioration of the planet.

In my opinion, just like Airport Development fees are these days collected over the flight tickets itself, this nominal amount towards reducing carbon Footprint should also be done. However needless to say, it will result in widespread furor, with the overall flight rates increasing. But at the same time, I often wonder how many people actually see the breakup of the final cost for the tickets that they pay for. I doubt it. I have not done that often, and I am sure that many people will not even know notice.

The interesting part is that the amounts are purposely kept at small amounts. The normal psyche would perhaps not mind paying that and traveling guilt free.

Social Impact – what ? where ? how?

I have often been asked about what is the Social Impact that the design is creating, and where has design played a role. I confess that I do not have a concrete answer to that question, as I am myself in the process of finding it.

As I gear up for another round of my travels and this time in the rural parts of the country, I am constantly thinking of finding examples of Design for Social Impact. The best part about this exercise is the fact that Design then does not be limited to any particular domain. Design then appears to be ubiquitous, and often one can see shades of innovation, across demographies and geographies.

The need of designing for the masses
The need of designing for the masses

I do some introspection on the state of things. I am always curious to know how the field can progress more. One definite way of doing it is to see how the examples and case studies can be shared. I am hoping to do the same from the field visits from now on. 

Since I am always interested in evangelizing about Design for Social Impact, there are two book that come really useful when trying to do any study of the field. One is Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek, and Design for Society by Nigel Whiteley. Papanek is considered to be the one who started the discourses around this field and his pieces are still valued today.

My Talk at Regalix Design Meet

I gave a talk recently at the Designers meet organized by Regalix, here in Bangalore.The theme of the meet was Digital Design Innovation. My talk focused on how we as designers should look to  to see the impact of Digital Design Innovation in the context of India, and in particular in the social sector.

Below is the presentation that I used for the talk, which ran for 15 minutes.

As the participants were not too familiar with the domain, the challenge was to lay the platform for everyone to understand easily. The idea of the talk was to introduce the concept of Design for Social Impact, and implant a hope that there would be more people who join me in the quest for ensuring that design expands its boundaries and reaches out to places where it can make a huge difference.