Design Reach

This week in Design and Technology we had a talk from Naim Mohammed, from the National Institute of Design, India.

Naim lectured us on the "future of Industrial Design" on a very broad scale. The talk focused on highlighting the different issues and topics to be tackled by the modern designer. As interesting as this may sound, there was not a lot of depth to the presentation. I wanted to know more about how these issues are currently being tackled and possible future solutions! I came away from the talk a little disappointed in that sense.

When I reflect on the talk now, a few key moments pop into mind. Naim told us (something along the lines of) "Now, in university, is your opportunity to make a difference", referring to humanitarian aid design.

In one hand, I can see where Naim is coming from. Chances are we will never have briefs tackling such large social and environmental issues once we graduate from university. Every year the RSA Student Design Awards release a brief to tackle a current crisis or developing world problem.

But how accessible are these problems for a student studying in Glasgow? The simple answer is "not very". I feel like it's difficult for designers to relate to the real problems and struggles in these situations without experiencing the issues first hand. Many solutions may not work for social or cultural reasons when implicated in these areas.

We can read and research as much as we like to get an idea of the circumstances surrounding the issue, but in reality, the best designs will come from people who are on the ground with the financial backing of large companies.

Of course, there are life changing issues which can be tackled without the need for being in the situation. Water filtration is a perfect example of a problem solved in hundreds of different ways by designers everywhere.

But there are more problems needed to be solved in the developing world and crises areas. I guess at university we are training to become one of these "life changing" designers. Along the way, we may stumble across some revolutionary design. But when you're just a student, there's not enough design reach to fully research and test products for the people of this world that really need help. Hopefully in the future, with wider access to funds and travel, we'll have the opportunity to make a significant difference.