Road Safety by Design

The passing away of the Union Minister Mr Gopinath Munde on Delhi roads, this morning is the big news today on social media and will probably occupy the mind-space and the media-space for the next few days. While condoling the tragic end, I could not help noticing that even VIPs, including Union ministers are not safe on Indian roads.

India has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst countries for road safety. According to one report, in 2010, India had the highest number of road accidents in the world. Even if the situation has improved marginally, it is not good enough till we have no accidents. As per a WHO report, quoted in the MINT, “India accounts for about 10% of road crash fatalities worldwide. In terms of absolute numbers more people die in road crashes in India than anywhere else in the world.”

All of us have known someone in our circle going through a road accident.

Can this madness be stopped?

As a designer, I believe this is the wickedest problem to solve.

We need to redesign our vehicles, making them safer. Indian-made cars have ash-trays even in basic models and air-bags are optional.  We need better control of traffic. We need to have good quality roads. Above all, we need more communicative signs and posters to communicate to every driver on the road the perils of reckless driving, like this one seen on the hilly terrains of Garhwal.

Pic Courtesy: http://www.40kmph.com

Google has looked at the problem in the systemic way, it is so known for and has built a driver-less car and has tested it on the roads. If implemented, this could lead to safer roads, although some critics have reacted to the associated privacy issues. Look at this way. At least you will be alive to complain!

Designers have also worked on better bike helmets, tackling a menace head-on! Jeff Woolf has just won the 2014 Invention award for a bike helmet that ‘folds to the size of a text-book’, so that it’s easy to carry .

bike helmet

Pic of Morpher by Ralph Smith

Closer home, National Innovation Foundation has documented and awarded good ideas for road-safety proposed by school children, but has not progressed beyond the ideation stage.

But the situation is urgent. Designers need to rise to the challenge and put their heads together for tackling this problem.

We need this to save precious lives.

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Communication Design against Corruption

By A Balasubramaniam

Nobody can underestimate the power of design in communicating compelling concepts. And nobody knows it better than the ruling elite. Whether it is the Uncle Sam’s “The country needs you ” poster or the Nazi flags in HItler’s Germany, the power of design has been invoked time and again to appeal to larger sections of the population.

This morning’s newspapers featured the CAG report on the CWG corruption which was hard-hitting and compelling. But hidden amongst all the crores and uproars was a paragraph that talked about the CAG’s presentation to the media. The report was, er, reportedy, a ‘glossy’, with compelling pictures and charts to drive home the extent of the corruption. The office of CAG had called for a press conference and made a ‘presentation’ that showed the extent of the damage.

Even the commonest man on Delhi’s roads know the extent of the corruption. AS TOI says in its article :“The contents of the report have mostly been already published. They could have shocked few, given that the national capital is littered with evidence of wastage and pilferage of money in the form of shoddy and unnecessary construction.”

So what made for screaming headlines? The presentation.

It spoke of “ a 743-page glossy publication peppered with numerous photographs, graphs and posters”

As the article goes on to say: “If the contents underline the boldness, the presentation points to a willingness to play to the gallery at a time when the government and its various arms have repeatedly let down the public, especially in the fight against graft. None has been spared, none treated with kid gloves.”

So it is possible to move people from their stupor by a compelling presentation, that drives home a point. One that is designed to shock and awe. One that makes the target audience sit up and take notice.

So, government departments do know the value of design. They know how to invoke design to impress upon an audience.  This is a shot-in-the-arm for communication design.

Hopefully, this could lead to the end of boring presentations which assume the audience to be a moron. This will end the irritation of stuff on screen, read out to you. I hope there will be less play with animations in presentations and people will apply their mind before applying the first available font.

If that happens, we can be really grateful to the office of the CAG, for starting an unintended revolution. One, that designers will be grateful for.