The 36th Convocation

The birds created convoluted patterns in the sky, as the students sat on the lawns absorbing into their souls that this magical night was the end of their journey.

Three years.
These three years that came at the right time.
These three years where we grew up.
These three years made us who we are right now.
These three years full of stories and people.
These three years that we needed.

Why I dont like reading digital books

I don’t think I will ever abandon the physical book for a digital one in the long run. Granted that when travelling, an ebook reader makes more sense than a suitcase of books but it’s not the same thing when you want to curl up and read it in leisure at home. I bought a tablet last year to read ebooks while on the go but since then I’ve read less digital books than the fingers on one of my hands. I somehow find the act of reading an ebook cumbersome. First of all, there’s the trouble with powering/charging up the device. Ebook readers that I am aware of just do not seem to replicate the size of the book or the number of pages accurately. To me, the physicalness of the book is something very intimate to the experience of reading. With the move to the digital, this gets lost. Further more, I am often distracted trying to keep a track of the number of pages I finished reading on the digital book but I hardly bother doing so when reading a book. Coffee table sized books look bad on a 7 inch screen and their non-existent weight makes me feel disconnected. Searching through the book is probably easier but where you once used your memory you now end up resorting to a dumb search to find that elusive sentence. Bookstores are slowly disappearing and don’t even get me started on new book smells. The physical book is truly a wholesome sensory experience and sorry technology, but you are not there yet.

Image Credit: Jose Hernandez

The Story Trap

“Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending. Knowing that everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.” – Andrew Stanton

As Andrew Stanton puts it in his TED talk, ‘Make me care’ is the greatest story commandment. Stories, they say, give life, context, and order to facts [DMI]. Well written stories make you believe in things you might never have dreamed about. Or sometimes fool you into believing unproven ideas. Still stories and most recently videos as storytelling devices are respected the world around.

As student designers, we are often told to be storytellers. Most often this defaults into asking us to make movies. Strangely though, we are not really taught or asked to learn about the nuances of great storytelling apart from a ‘Narratives’ elective. Nor about directing, nor is the emphasis during a module ever on way you tell the story but more on the process that you follow. But time and again, I’ve begun to see that for a layman(anyone other than you/your team), what work you’ve done or what you learnt in the process does not mean shit if you do not have a fancy video(or 2) to showcase at the end of your project. Its sad that they don’t realize that not everyone is endowed with a gift of storytelling leaving most of us wondering; what was wrong with our work? Was it really that bad to not even get a meagre applause or audience? This normally leads to anguish and then possibly an attempt to ape. Most though will not be able to successfully walk this path as making films may not be everyone’s talent. There is the technical know how and equipments required to worry about after all? Asking everyone to follow a similar path therefore is fraught with problems.

I know videos are a good way of making people understand complex concepts but they seem to be used more often as a smokescreen to prevent people from seeing through the barely there project. Videos should just be a one of the ways of communicating the design concept. The concept itself should be tested and discussed about while the effort to communicate it lauded but not given centre stage.

For me this new trend is scary because if videos are what ‘they’ are looking for, shouldn’t we primarily graduate as film makers then?

Third time’s not a charm

Me: this sem review will be fun no? 😛
Rasagy: Sem review? As in your blog post wala?
Me: yes 😀
Rasagy: I wonder what you’ll write in there this time! 😛
Me: exactly.. ditto to you
Rasagy: I’m not posting. You’re the one who posts sem wise. I’ll post next year 😀

Indeed, half this semester was marred by a module that made me wonder what I was doing with my life. I know, I am still a crappy designer but what I felt this semester module left me just feeling plain stupid and so I will not be speaking about it at all. Some part of this failure project has been documented here.

So here are the highlights of this semester.

We started this semester with a new faculty Mr. Venkatesh Rajamanickam, rumoured to take over as the new IID coordinator. At first we were apprehensive about how this would shape IID as a discipline. But our fears were unfounded because within the first few days itself, we realized how awesome he was and still is. I personally had an awesome time, discussing things with him. He showed me Durell Bishop’s Answering Machine which blew my mind. Someone doing such work, when I was in preschool was something I had not imagined. From this I learnt that ‘Why should something digital always mean having a display?’ Sadly, all good things tend to end and with this semester end, Venkat resigned from NID citing personal reasons- a loss, that IID will feel for quite sometime.

Moving on, one of the things that I had decided to follow this semester is try and document my projects. And document I did 😀 You can find the projects over here at the Projects page. This was good because when the time to make a jury presentation came about, I just had to go back to the posts and find the relevant content already prepared by ‘the past’ me.

Being sent to MIT’s DIy workshop was an eye-opening experience. This I feel was the central design project that I did this semester. A week packed to the brim with research, design, prototype and testing; I wish we had atleast one module this intensive at NID, every semester.

As for data visualizations, I’ve begin to realize the balance that I will try to maintain in my work anymore. Not too functional and not too arty. Easier said than done. My semester work is out here.

I became aware of real interaction design thanks to Sudhakar’s interactive classroom assignment. I intend to take this output forward.

So there, another semester goes by and am not any closer to figuring out what I want to do after this. All in all, as I look back this was not really a bad semester. I got to interact with Girish Dalvi a whole lot as part of his Grids and Layouts workshop and APCHI. Arun’s Geo viz workshop gave me a diving board into cartography. Listening to keynotes at APCHI was also wonderful, interacting with Jun Rekimoto or Alan Dix was not something I imagined I would be doing at the beginning of this semester.

What I hope I shall learn some more about the next semester is physical visualizations, tangible user interfaces and anarchistic visual design. A tall order to fulfill but next semester’s going to be a bore otherwise.

Tatoo’d Butterflies

“Will you ever get a tattoo?”, she asked me, as James Blunt crooned ‘Goodbye My Lover’ through the desktop speakers. The chill night air blew through the open French windows of the 12th floor flat and..

“Will you ever get a tattoo?”, she asked me, as James Blunt crooned ‘Goodbye My Lover’ through the desktop speakers. The chill night air blew through the open French windows of the 12th floor flat and I felt it touch my soul. “Yes”, I replied, hesitating. “I had a plan once but… “

I took a sip as nostalgia came flooding back into my mind. Memories always seem to be have a habit of hiding in the corner ready to jump on you at the right moment, I thought to myself. I wondered what she was doing right now as Coldplay’s Fix You started to play.

“What was the plan?”, she asked again as we sat in the dark.

“It’s obvious”, I said, not wanting to answer. I leaned back on the mattress and drifted back into those memories.

“What’s so obvious?”, She asked again.

Sensing that I was lost in reverie, She took a sip of her drink.

“I don’t like those butterflies”, She said after a while, snapping me out from my daydreams. She was looking at the paintings leaning on the left side corner of the room against an almirah. They had been painted just a few days back and had not been put up yet.

Thankful to the change of topic, I found myself at the inquiring end. “Why don’t you?”, I asked her.

“I don’t know.. Its wing is broken. Butterflies are such delicate creatures, no?”, she replied after a pause.

Butterflies aren’t the only fragile ones, I said to myself as I poured another drink.

“Why did it have to break? Why should something so beautiful meet such a sad and pitiful end?”, she continued.

“What do we know of its life? And of its death? ”, I interjected.

She pondered over it for a moment and said, “Something so beautiful could not have lived an evil life. Why can’t we be more like it?”

“You know, it was a cocoon, once upon a time”, I said. “and only by breaking its bonds was it able to achieve this beauty. Come to think of it, isn’t most of our life lived safe within a cocoon? It’s only past 25 or so that we actually get to break it and emerge out into the world.”

“Hmm…”, she said, “I still wish we could fly though.”

I left my drink, got up and walked out into the balcony as Gilmour’s Comfortably Numb wafted into the night air.

This was written as a classroom assignment where we had to write a short story in 500 words inspired from a real life event of our life.

Ignorance isn’t always bliss

He cursed, for the umpteenth time, under his breath as he trudged along the rocky surface of the black mountain. The Garden had been elusive to locate but finally he seemed to have found it. His trial was nearing its end with every step he took towards the summit, every step brought him closer to the item of his quest;

He cursed, for the umpteenth time, under his breath as he trudged along the rocky surface of the black mountain. The Garden had been elusive to locate but finally he seemed to have found it. His trial was nearing its end with every step he took towards the summit, every step brought him closer to the item of his quest; the fabled ‘Pink Mango of the Garden of Elysium’. He could see the tree in the distance, getting bigger with every stride. Soon the Gates loomed large in front of him. There was a cloaked figure sitting crouched in front of the golden bars.

“Stop!”, the figure said, “Who goes there?”

“It is I, Vikrama, I have come to take some fruit from the fabled Tree”

“Read the sign. No one passes these Gates”

“But I need to do so that my curse may be lifted. I’ve heard that eating the fruit gives you the boon of immortality”

“Well if you still want to enter you will have to fight me first. I beg you to heed the advice on the sign”

“I am ready to fight you!”, said Vikrama, drawing out his sword. He knew there was no going back now. “It would have better to have read the notice than fight me”, the figure said. The figure dropped his cloak and there stood in front of Vikrama, a strange animal. It seemed to be a mixture of all the feared carnivores; a chimera of legend. And with one fell swoop of its hand, Vikrama was killed. The Chimera spoke, “These guys are too foolhardy. Why don’t they ever read the sign board?” as he gulped down the last of Vikrama.

The signboard read – “Bob’s fruit shop: 1 Pink Mango – 100 gold coins.”

This was the result of a classroom story writing assignment given to us by Arshia Sattar. The brief was to use the words Curse, Boon, Well, Animal and Mango with a 20 line limit.

Design School : Year One

After last semester, I wrote what I had learned. At the end of this semester I was confused what really happened in that one semester. So I thought I could use this post to talk about other things that I experienced this year.

After last semester, I wrote what I had learned. At the end of this semester I was confused what really happened in that one semester. So I thought I could use this post to talk about other things that I experienced this year.

Being a Quizzer, you end up having an ego because you have all that information in your head, ready to spout out at the slightest notice. I really believe that that knowledge repo originating from a well read childhood is one of my strengths. Still I was humbled in Girish Dalvi’s typography workshop when I couldn’t answer any question that he threw at us. I mentioned last semester that reading is crucial. But this semester was when I realized that the reading stack is hundreds of books high. Actually, its infinite.

Open Elective although a major disappointment (atleast I got to meet some awesome people) had a good theme this year – Old age. Our world is increasingly getting older but most companies out there are busy trying to solve endemic problems. In one year, I might end up in the same industry and that actually made me wonder if I should try to end up someplace else where I can really make a difference.

Good research is important. Last semester made me realize that. I also realized that surveys, interviews mostly masquerade as research methods. I have lost faith in both of them while at the same time learning that custom research methods(like this one) make for better insights. I have begun to believe more in end user testing.

Talking about things make them better. I learned that getting people to critique your idea or talk to them about it is the best way to get out of that creative rut that you find yourself in. When you are working on it all by yourself you will not see be able to see what it is that is not working with your design.

I learned and built my first grid based presentation which was well received by the Jury. Except for my Cognitive Ergonomics work, the rest of what I presented seemed to have been appreciated. This is a big improvement from last semester where I was mostly clueless about the work I was presenting.

I’ve realized that the design process you follow is really important. I still have a long way to go before I learn to use it well. Working on MSR’s Design Expo this year made me realize the value of a good process. When working on Meteorites, I somehow formed a process unknowingly and it did help me to produce the end result. It’ll help you where your skills wont.

And you can learn anything given that you want to. At the end of last semester, I only knew Photoshop which I had largely picked up while at TCS. Now, I am comfortable with Illustrator and I even made a short film on Adobe Premiere Pro. A desire to create things in crunch time really helps me learn faster. Hence deadlines are good.

Hard deadlines are even better. Work only gets done if they are enforced. Most of last semester’s projects did not turn out so well because I kept procrastinating. Maybe because…

I fear big projects especially due to the lack of experience. We have not done anything big academically and I wonder how equipped I will be to deal with full projects all alone. Hope I can confront that fear this semester. Geronimo!

One of my favourite moments of last year was lying on @nid_b’s roof and looking for shooting stars. The cold, the company and the squeals when you spot a golden trail all made that night magical. Also worth noting are the Paldi campfires. This time next year, I shall be lamenting the end of 2 years and I shall miss ‘this’ life dearly.

You can read Rasagy thoughts on ‘Year One’ here.