Monday, 15 August 2016

Design for Dignity : Workshop with Margarita Matiz

The 4th year undergraduate students from Product, Furniture and Exhibition design came together to do a collaborative 1 day workshop with Margarita Bergfeldt Matiz on "Design for Dignity" on 11 August 2016. The main objective of this workshop was to be more sensitive, aware and empathic when designing future products.

Reading time : 3.5 minutes approx.
Content : Process of the Workshop

About Margarita Bergfeldt Matiz, Industrial Designer MFA

Margarita is a Colombian-Swedish industrial designer whose portfolio includes a variety of design fields such as design for space, product design, exhibitions, crafts and curatorial work where she uses her profession as a tool to contribute and enrich our lives.

Margarita holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Konstfack, the University College of Art and Design in Stockholm, Sweden and she is the curator behind ’’Design for Dignity” touring exhibition presented at The National Institute of Design NID, India.

The Unfolding
Arthritis is a disease which causes painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints and blindness is the loss of vision, whether full or partial. When Margarita had worked with NASA, she had placed herself in the shoes of an astonaut. This is the very tool that we designers have - empathy. Similarly, we had to place ourselves in the shoes of a disabled person through simulation.

Experiencing the world as a person with Arthritis To begin with, only the hands were covered with tape and not the elbow/shoulder joints. A coin was placed on the each of the finger joints and taped up while an ice cream stick was placed over the thumb.

Experiencing the world as a blind person

How do people with Arthritis and Blindness cook? 1-2 people from each group (4 groups- Arthritis, 4 groups- Blindness) measured water, peeled and cut potatoes, measured salt and at the same time prevented the water from spilling. Of course, their objective was to meet the standard of doing a regular job with regular dexterity and precision.

But when we were blindfolded/ our hands were taped up and we couldn't perform the tasks as we ought to be performing, we identified opportunity areas to bridge this gap.

Peeling potatoes when arthritis is simulated in the picture above. The potato peels were of different thickness, the knife could only peel in one direction, it was hard to grip the potato and the knife as well, a lot more potato was shaved off than the desired minimum amount leading to a lot of wastage.

The finger area experienced the most strain while the palm region was relatively less strained. Picking up a pan filled with water and chopped potato was a task in itself and a need for a wrist support was felt.

Different groups worked on different opportunity areas in and around cooking such as how can blind people measure water, detect if it is hot, measure the quantity of spices (of course because we in India love spices) and how can people with arthritis turn objects easily, close containers, cut something etc.

I recall an instance from the year 2015. The first years of NID in the undergraduate programme were sent out blindfolded and had to click 5 pictures in different environments. They had to utilise their other senses apart from sight to feel the surroundings to click a picture. Taking a very crude example, suppose a camera was to be made for the blind. Doing an exercise like this would of course bring so much more clarity to the design team. Btw a very interesting initiative like this exists - Blind with Camera.

On the whole, the learnings from this workshop were that simulation and experiencing life the way our target group experiences, brings more insights and makes the design process more rich. This is called learning by doing.

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