Like every harried parent who has to deal with restless kids in a restaurant, I succumb to the only available magical solution, the iPad. While its amazing kid-quieting capabilities continue to amaze me, my selfish motive continues to disturb me. Shouldn’t they be playing real games with real toys like I used to? Obviously, the founders of Tangible Play felt the same. They created Osmo, an amazing combination of iPad delight and real toys to give you a reality game rather than a virtual reality one. Osmo uses a simple plastic stand, a mirror, and some building objects but the engaging gaming experience it creates will make any parent want to kiss their feet.
Yes! The amazing world of design does it again.
In the early days of its existence, design was a sexy, shiny buzzword for all things bright and beautiful. It focussed on aesthetics. It indicated an evolved lifestyle. Designers were iconic, as were their creations. Today design is all embracing. It wows us with possibilities. Design rules, predicts. While the west has always worn the crown for innovation and design, I am happy and proud to see that India too is not far behind.
Design is here to fulfil a need, or create one and then fulfil it. But can it make a big difference to the big issues of our time? Absolutely!
Design is cleaning up the environment. Could you ever imagine drinking water that's distilled from a car exhaust pipe? Well Honda could. Their new hydrogen powered car, Honda FCX runs so clean, its exhaust pipes contains only clean water that’s drinkable. Their activation was equally innovative. The company bottled this water branded as H2O and gave it away as free samples at movie theatres.
Design is a problem solver. Isolated villages in India with no water supply traditionally force women to walk nearly eight kilometres every day, weighed down by heavy pots on their head. To make this task of water collection less arduous, Wello designed the WaterWheel, a rolling 50-litre container that also doubles as a storage device. Women can now transport three to five times more water easily and without the daily physical and mental trauma.
Design is taboo-breaking. Shocked to discover the unhygienic rags his wife was using to stop her monthly flow, Arunachalam Muruganantham designed (and implemented a simple machine to make affordable sanitary napkins. This indigenous technology has turned into a successful business model and is expanding to 106 countries. It also generates more employment, empowerment and wealth to women, apart from fostering better hygiene. Muruganantham is one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2014.
Design is making our future brighter. Remember how we hawed and hummed through our science classes? Fortunately the children of today have Exploratorium, a museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, which was designed to change the way the world learns. Calling it a museum does it injustice. Its interactive exhibits, informal atmosphere and sophisticated teacher training programs make it an inviting scientific playground for people of all ages.
Design creates better design. In the nineties, C. K. Ranganathan, CMD CavinKare, started selling shampoo in small sachets in rural markets, which began the “sachet revolution.” Today, Tata Water Plus, India's First Nutrient Water is selling in a 200 ml pouch to give low income consumers a chance to enhance their health.
Design gives hope. The SmartCane™, a brilliant innovation from IIT-Delhi is an affordably priced, technologically advanced avatar of the white cane which lets the visually impaired detect any above-the-knee obstacle from a distance of 3 metres. This helps prevents collisions and lets them walk around with security and confidence
Design doesn’t have to be complicated. It needn't be high tech. The simpler it is, the more wonder-working. MittiCool is a refrigerator that runs without electricity. It cools water and vegetables last up to a week. But the best part is, this green innovation is made entirely of clay and other natural materials.
And then there is design for mass hysteria sporting events. As much as I believe in the evils of junk food, I cannot help laud McDonald’s for their innovative World Cup promotion. For the first time, the chain has changed its familiar red fries box globally, to 12 different World-Cup-themed designs by artists from around the world. And there’s more. On downloading an augmented reality game app, these boxes turn into a virtual soccer field. Customers can begin playing by holding their mobile screen in front of the box to start the game on the screen.
For any kind of design to work, it has to establish a close connection with the user. With their recent ‘Friendly Twist’ campaign, Coca-Cola proved their loyalty to their consumers by creating bottles which could only be opened by two people. The idea was to help college freshman break the ice. In asking for help, conversations would start and friends would be made. Truly, “Always Coca-Cola”!
So yes, I love the way my life is changing, or evolving, or being designed. Now where’s my iPad? The kids need to play.
The author is MD, Landor Associates