My Stinging memory and its fruitful repercussions

Working in a suppressive, cloistered professional environment, which allowed no freedom for creative, innovative thought was a very difficult experience. There was no sense of emotional and social fulfillment that the design job afforded me. The very epitome of my emotional and creative suffering was a menu card that I designed for a client. The menu card to me stood as a metaphor for my energies, which were being deployed for commercial applications and which in no way contributed to creating a positive change in any person’s life. The purpose of the menu card’s existence was so trivial that it would in no time meet its end in a trash can. This brought to surface my fears that my creative energy and my sense of social commitment would meet the same fateful end as the menu card if I continued to work in a commercial design studio environment. Did I want to leave behind a legacy of my existence that impacted no one and had a shelf live of a few weeks or years? I had always longed to work for children and to be able to work in a creatively and intellectually satisfying environment. With the aim of carving out my own destiny I gathered the courage to quit my job and follow my dreams.

(As per the requirement of the course, this blog is an essay based on the idea that I can see myself two years from now researching the subjects close to my heart. The research topic could have a direct or implied connection to my stinging memory.)

Here I am in 2014 living my dream! Yes, the dream of amalgamating my interests in Design, Children, Education and Media for the better good of the people I most love – children! Here is a gist of the research and work I am currently pursuing.

My target audience: Children in normal as well as difficult circumstances

I am working on: Research and implementation projects

Projects dealing with: Children’s education and development

My tools are: Human Centered Design Techniques and ethnographic and other research methods

Intended Outcome of the Project/Research: Positively affect children’s life in the areas of Education and arts or education through arts

Still learning/taking classes in: Human Computer Interaction (HCI), User Interface Design (UID)

I began my research by asking some questions listed below which still continue to act as peripheral subject material although not the focus of my research today. Posing these questions paved the way for me to find my ‘focus’ in research.

  • Is there any real need for designing interfaces particularly for children? Or are their natural abilities adequately sufficient to help children navigate computers?
  • How can the media be best used to furthering education? Can the answer to this question be found in the behavioral studies pertaining to ‘children and media usage?’ Researching Children and media consumption?
  • How art can be used therapeutically?

My interest in children from around the world as also in underprivileged children (also called children from difficult circumstances) prompted me to pose the following questions;

  • Is the perception of Art different for children in the western world and the third world countries? Does art have the power to connect with these kids? Is there such a universal language of art that can reach across cultures and connect?

Based on my questions I realized that in today’s circumstances, the world’s children population could be divided into 2 parts; Children who have access to technology and those who don’t. Based on these considerations I am at present involved in the research where the question posed is, “If multi-media is the means to reach the kids with access to technology, what then is an alternative means for children without technology?”

I am also researching how design can be use to create an understanding of ideas and concepts by children. The biggest advantage that I perceive of the art education program is that I have access to children, which aids the ethnographic research that I am currently undertaking.

So, my core research or the focus of my research is about Understanding Design from a child’s perspective. My research is involved with creating and researching how better design can be created for better learning. My research deals with questions such as

  • Do children aspire adult design or do they want things designed specifically for them?’
  • How can “Good design” be defined from a child’s perspective?
  • Do children posses the creative sensibility to understand and analyze the differences between a well-designed and poorly designed object? On what considerations are children’s design choices based on. How can educators tap into those considerations to create design that will sustain?
  • What roles do culture and upbringing play in the design choices that children make.
  • Does the design in the surroundings that is a part of the visual environment of the child affect the visual literacy of the child? To what extent does that affect the aesthetic preferences of the child? How design that is inspired from a particular culture play a positive role in the emotional well-being of a child. I am currently working on behavioral study from a child’s perspective to understand if children prefer design that reflects the environment that they are habituated to or if they are excited by unfamiliar, new aesthetic elements. Ethnographic study plays a very important role in my research.

And yes, I do believe I made the right choice and this is the most creatively and intellectually satiated I have ever been!

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