Thursday, 23 July 2015

New Landscape of Inclusive Design: Baatein with Prof. Julia Cassim

Baatein with Julia Cassim


Mrs. Julia Cassim, a professor at the Kyoto Design Lab, Kyoto Institute of Technology and a visiting senior fellow at the Helen Hamlyn Centre of Design, Royal College of Art, London conducted a Baatein session at the National Institute of Design on July 22 at 5:30 PM in the auditorium.

Professor Cassim's career spans the world of arts, design, museum studies and social activism. She is a visiting faculty at Tongji University, Shanghai; Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem and an advisor to the Natural History Museum and Science Museum in London. She has written many publications worldwide and is an international authority on Inclusive Design. The non profit organization- Access Vision has been founded by her which is aimed at increasing the cognitive and physical access to museum collections for the visually impaired.

In the Kyoto Design Lab, Prof. Julia has worked with farmers and the dying textile industries to come up with creative solutions for them. Inclusive design is very important in today's scenario because the role of the designer has changed.  A designer is a collaborative worker, a mediator across disciplines, is able to synthesize and visualize ideas, and can bring together form and function. 

Taking the example of a leg splint designed by Charles Eames for the US navy and band aids marketed under the brand Clever Name (by Pearson Matthews) she mentioned that designers think of disability as limiting. But the disabled themselves are liberated because they have to think out of the box to combat the many design failures around them.  Inclusive design is not only about ergonomics but design within a mainstream context paired with ergonomics.


Our physical age does not change at all but our emotional and mental age keeps on shifting all the time. Therefore, to accommodate that, products need an additional part of functionality. Inclusive design takes a multiple scenario approach. 

Design exclusion can take different forms such as physical, cognitive, digital and social & economic exclusion. A very apt example of digital exclusion prevalent in all countries is that government services are being shifted online without considering the fact that a majority of people do not have access to wifi. Elderly people have a cognitive mental model based on the land line system of telephones. A mobile phone is not really a phone. Calling is just one of it's many functions. For the elderly, getting used to a mobile phone is a lengthy heuristic process. This is an example of cognitive exclusion.

After observing the poor user interface design of coffee machines in Japan by graphic designers, it was advised that graphic designers should not do product design. The points that Prof. Cassim mentioned were supported with examples of iconic designs such as a leg splint by Charles Eames, the first typewriter design and accompanying carbon paper by an Italian engineer Pelegrino Turri, Clever Name band aids by Pearson Matthews, MO pillows, the London Tube Map, a tablet called 'Chalk' amongst many more.


The above is a picture taken from Prof. Praveen Nahar's GoPro camera when the fourth year students of Product Design at NID were giving their design presentation after their week long workshop with Prof. Julia Cassim.