Indian politics and Design

Colourful grid websites, infographics, and redesigned logos. Prime Minister Modi has given a boost to the designer community and we can’t be happier. It is a refreshing change compared to the dull and not at all user-friendly Sarkari websites. The creative community always aims to create the most unforgettable and attractive brand identity for products, services, and people. We must all agree that Modi has been successful in creating an identity for himself, unlike any other politician — but nobody likes it when a brand just does not give you a break. ( This can be an article on its own )

Design has taken its space in almost all industries — NGOs, corporates, small-scale and even home run family businesses, specializing in product, graphic, publication, packaging etc. Majority of the times the end result is restricted to products and graphics.

The Government of India is the largest service provider in the country — from telecommunication, railways, banks….. flight services ( oops not anymore- Air India). The primary goal of the government must be to provide a fair and competitive market for the private industries. When the quality of services provided by the government is so under par — there is less or no motivation for the private industries to improve the experience they provide to the users. Service design is the latest addition to the suite of specializations and is helping the private industries and corporates make customer and service interaction hassle free.

Booking a hotel room in the Bahamas is easier compared to booking a slot for a driving test. The privatization of the education sector is the most glaring example of the complacent attitude of the govt — Our maid works three jobs just to put her kids in private school because she thinks the govt school in her area is not good enough. Low-income families are in debt because of going to private hospitals because govt hospitals don’t have stock of medicines and doctors are mostly absent. The Government can not blindly ignore the user experience just because they have a monopoly over certain services. The downfall and privatization of Air India is the greatest example of the bad user experience provided by the government.

Service design strives to provide solutions that ensure a rewarding experience for all the stakeholders in the system. The current technique of policy planning and service design follow a similar process and can be integrated to create an efficient system. Service design is the collective result of the following fields working together in sync.

  1. Design Research
  2. Graphic design
  3. Interaction design / Information design
  4. Social design
  5. Strategic management
  6. Operations management
  7. Product Design
  8. Humour

To further understand how Service design and it’s principles can help the govt with planning and implementation, let’s look at some of the schemes introduced by the current government.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The current objective of this mission is to — Eliminate open defecation by constructing toilets for households, communities by 2019.

1.Services should be designed based on a genuine comprehension of the purpose of the service, the demand for the service and the ability of the service provider to deliver that service.

Design Research — Following the methods of Ethnography, questionnaires, focus groups, journey map etc, the design research process often dilutes to a brief that states the problem that needs to be solved. The information for this is taken first-hand from the users of the product or service. Here, it is the people in the villages who have been defecating in the open since ages(). The brief or objective should always be open and should not state any solution. For example, the objective for the SBA should have been to provide a sanitation solution in rural areas that keep the people safe and the surroundings clean. The government plans to invest nearly Rs 2 lakh crore to construct 12 crore toilets across India. An impact assessment study conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) revealed that toilets built in rural areas were lying unused, as the villagers were apprehensive of using them.

2.Services should be designed based on customer needs rather than the internal needs of the business.

The internal needs of the business here can be compared to the headlines that the Govt in Party wants to create in the Media — XYZ Party built 4 crore toilets built in the village contributing to achieving its mission by 2019. The need of the customer is not a toilet, it is a method of defecation that is safe and healthy for the person and the surroundings.

Product Design — The aim of product design is to ideate and prototype solution that is specific to the context and is based on the experience of the people. Based on the journey map ( Documentation of the daily practices of the user with problems and insights ) and the brief, a solution is created that fits well in the given context and solves the problems faced by the user. The concepts can be anything ranging from portable toilets, open to the sky enclosures

Mission — Change people’s attitudes to sanitation and create awareness.

Graphic Design — In today’s situation the perception of the world is very dependent on visual impulses. For print and digital media to trigger a response in people’s mind about the issue there has to be a strong connect with the real world. The use of Gandhi’s glasses as the sole element in the logo could be difficult to relate to especially for the current generation.

Humour- With the growing industry of stand up comedy in India, it has become an influential force in changing the ways of society. Humour as a social corrective functions by embarrassing people in public to change human behaviour. Ad campaigns must subtly embarrass people in public and correct social behaviour in the long term.

To be continued…