Design-discordant Notes

The 8th November de-monetisation, has by now affected very individual in India. The day also saw the launch of the new Rs 2000 notes, all pink and new. While the whole issue of de-monetising is being discussed threadbare, I would like to focus on the designerly issues that surround it.

The design of the Rs 2000 note is badly done. From the choice of colours, to the size and use of mis-matching fonts and the decorative elements used make one want to scream. It is really pointless to blame anybody as the note is the most gaudy and amateur work, I’ve seen in the recent past.

Network18, has explicitly put out what’s wrong with the design. The design community has predictably panned the new design.note2k_design_dissection

Pic: Network18creative ( Copyright acknowledged)

But there’s more to design than graphics and aesthetics. Design thinking in handling the issue could have eased the whole process and made the transition smoother, without pain points. The issues are systemic and needed a holistic professional like a designer to deal with it.

By filling Rs 100 notes in each ATM, the government has dramatically brought down available cash. The new Rs 2000 has been designed in a different size requiring the 2 lakh ATMs to be re-calibrated! It is mandatory for cash vehicles to have an armed gunman, who are few in numbers, resulting in fewer vehicles carrying cash to the ATM. The old notes are being exchanged for new higher denomination notes, thereby increasing the need for more small change. This is clearly a case of systemic design failure, something a designer is trained to handle. Designers are trained to do human-centric design and this is one area they could have contributed.

The government, meanwhile is busy inaugurating another new NID at Kurukshetra this week.

15027876_1116250458429591_556147213586474563_nIt would make a lot of sense, if they understand the capabilities of a designer and use the capabilities for better design of products and systems for governance.

Until then, the design community will always strike a discordant note.

Watch this space

The world was waiting with bated breath to know what Apple is going to unveil, last week. To the cheers of the millions of fans, the Apple Watch was announced, without announcing the launch date.

What was shown was not just pretty, but ingenious.

The watch as a wearable bluetooth phone is neither new, nor revolutionary. Samsung, Sony and whole host of other small guys have launched variations of the watch as a wearable tech product. As a late-mover, Apple did a re-jig of the whole product idea and designed an entire eco-system around it. A Systems design approach that gives the product a must-have quality.

The watch is designed for different users from the young sport to the time and health-concerned business men and wraps them around a system of apps that help you survive in your everyday life.  And, Apple has decided to give customers a choice by giving variations in the design of the straps and bezels, bringing not one but entire array of them. And by introducing Apple pay, the new payment process it has managed to string in different banks, consumers and shopping establishments, into a simple, delightful process, thereby ensuring a loyal customer base for the product.

Apple leverages its design capabilities, once again.

In another major development, quite unrelated, but closer home, a 50-year old public sector company in India, HMT Watches Ltd, that manufactured watches, which proudly called itself, ‘Time keepers to the nation”, closed it’s production this week. The company has fallen into bad times and has refused to innovate in the ever-changing market. It says a lot about the importance public sector industries give to Design and Design thinking.

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Could HMT have pulled off a smart-watch? Unlikely.  Could it have re-created the Swatch magic?  No way. It means you go beyond the realm of the physical product and design an entire eco-system that provided value to the customer and delight to the audience. That comes with investing in Design. Otherwise your business dies a sad death.

When will our public sector companies, see value in design? Only, time will tell.