Tecnologie e Società


Design and People
Frederick Noronha


Design and People... design to improve people's lives


Making a difference: Outlook's weekly profile of people who work under wraps, beyond the laudatory limelight.

Sethu and Suku Dass
The Visual Metaphor Of Dissent

And you thought design was the preoccupation of the elite? Ask the Dass brothers.

Cloistered in their ivory towers, designers often grow insular to the concerns of the masses. Sethu and Suku Dass, sons of Kerala's noted political cartoonist Yesudasan, were irked by design buckling under its own dead weight of elitism and big money. They believe creativity can make its own contribution to the lives of the ordinary people. Drawing upon their long voluntary stint with non-profit organisations and movements, the brothers were keen to bring design out from the circle of the affluent into the realm of the deprived.

They try to identify the design needs of people disadvantaged by war, disability, political and environmental conditions. "But people aren't comfortable with the idea of free design."

Born of this urge in '03 was Design & People (D&P), a non-profit organisation of over 40 graphic, industrial and architectural designers, who work voluntarily for individuals and organisations - mostly for free - to identify the design needs of people disadvantaged by war, disability, political and environmental conditions and improve their lives by catalysing design theories, practices and solutions.

"Design doesn't exist in the better part of India," explains Sethu. "Our aim is to turn designers into activists, get them out of their air-conditioned cabins, take design to the people on the road and change the way they perceive designers." That Sethu, 36, is armed with a fine arts degree, while Suku, 33, is a qualified architect has certainly helped them in their crusade. But the real driving force is their conviction.

As a student, Sethu had bowed out of the Industrial Design Centre at iit Mumbai when he couldn't reconcile with peers whose sole ambition was to make money. Later, moved by the plight of the Tibetans, he founded the Friends of Tibet--India (FoT) in '99 and has since presided over its growth. Suku has been no less passionate. A keen artist and a practising architect, he has successfully balanced his exacting job with the responsibilities at D&P and FoT.

For many, D&P spells an unconventional concept. "People aren't comfortable with the idea of free design," Sethu says with a smile. "They doubt anything that is available for free." Yet, there's no dearth of organisations--stretched either for funds or know-how--approaching D&P with varied requirements ranging from the design of websites, logos, stationery, badges, posters, brochures, banners, bookmarks, T-shirts, books, reports and campaigns to buildings and campuses.

Some of D&P's beneficiaries include Pratyasha Cancer Children's Welfare Society, a trust named Enlightenment and Development of Vulnerable and Outraged Rural Masses, FoT, Greenpeace India, and Buddha Smiles Education Movement (whose alternative primary school project for the underprivileged in Vellore district is being supported by D&P through voluntary architectural services). D&P hosts and maintains the websites of organisations like Food Safety Solutions International or Society First, helping them to reach out to people.

While D&P contributed to the likes of Plachimada's anti-cola and Kochi's 'Save Periyar' campaigns, it spearheaded some of its own, promoting neem plantation and condemning plastic. Such is the commitment of the brothers to their cause that they walked out of a project on discovering that it was part-aided by an MNC they'd castigated for its ecological wrongdoings.

D&P also holds film and documentary screenings, discussions and citizen get-togethers for various causes. "When foreign designers visiting India contact us, we invite them to hold public workshops on alternative technologies," reveals Sethu, citing those held recently by Canadian architect Elke Cole and German designer Sandy Kaltenborn.

D&P designs, manufactures and markets eco-friendly scribble pads, braided cane chairs, audio-visual CDs of expert lectures and a collection of topical writings named Creative Resistance to generate funds for various organisations as well as for itself. With initiatives like relief concerts and rebuilding plans for tsunami-stricken villages, D&P seems increasingly keen on a larger role for itself.Contact D&P at: M-10/31, Changampuzha Nagar, Kochi--682033. Tel: 9388465953/9847044248 Website: ---Harsh Kabra


For the last eight years, both of us worked for various non-profit organisations and movements in India on a voluntary basis. And it was a great experience for us to work for those organisations and people with less money and training, but a great vision. We are proud of working with them at every stage. We neither had an official name nor existed in the virtual world untill we decided to take the shape of an 'organisation' in the year 2002, in order to reach the maximum people. We named the organisation 'Design & People'. A Website was launched. Today, we are a network of hundreds of creative professionals working from various parts of India with years of experience in architecture, graphic design, illustration, cartooning, info-graphics, web design, print publishing, and implementation. Our Mission: voluntary design for people in need.

O b j e c t i v e s:
1. To work voluntarily for people and organisations in need
2. To work in association with humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations in India to identify the design needs to find possible solutions and develop a theory and practice
3. To use our skills and experience to improve the lives of people disadvantaged by war, disability, environmental and political conditions etc
4. To unite and encourage creative professionals to participate in social and humanitarian projects

Visit our Gallery section to know 'Design & People' better. Contact us if you require our service. We shall work together.

Sethu Das & Suku Dass (Co-founders, Design & People)

s u p p o r t @ d e s i g n a n d p e o p l e. o r g

Frederick Noronha (FN)
Nr Convent Saligao 403511
Freelance Journalist
P: 832-2409490 M: 9822122436

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