Mr. Patrick Roupin is an award winning Belgium designer. He holds a Masters degree in product engineering design from the ISD – Supinfocom Group, Valenciennes / Pune. He won the Designer for Real World – Victor PAPANECK Prize in 2004. Patrick formerly worked as a usability specialist for one of the world’s leading usability companies in India. He has also worked as a product designer with companies such as Decathlon and Faurecia in France. He did some very interesting workshops with our students, which were mainly focused on social experiments.
The following is an interview of Patrick Roupin conducted by the communications team at DYPDC College:
Tell us a bit about your background. What you’ve been doing? What you intend to do in the future?
I grew up in Belgium and studied at the Institut Superieur de Design – Supinfocom in France, where I did my Masters in Product Design Management. Like my colleagues I was ready to live and work the States, but for some reason, I decided a short trip to India first. Of course, I ended up staying here for good. I worked with HFI – India. The experience was very rich from a professional perspective. For more than 3 years I was working on international projects for the world’s leading usability company. This is when I thought I must do something for India and hence opened my own company, Kovent (www.kovent.com). My objective is simple. Creating innovation that would possibly change the lives of millions of people. Today’s designers have the real chance of changing people’s lives, without compromising on profitability.
What does design mean to you?
At the time I was studying at the Institut Superieur de Design, all projects were ending up with an industrial product or transportation design solution. Today’s user needs end up with hybrid needs that include industrial design solution but also a variety of other needs like communication, knowledge, social interaction. Industrial design has become a part of a whole business design process and is no more the central object.
As design focus shifts to user experience it becomes a truly multi-disciplinary field. The reason is simple: people’s life experience is not only about material satisfaction but emotional, political, social and cultural commitments as well. People are not machines to swallow industrial mass production. They are all different and aspire to different things.
Some would argue that people need value for money and we must answer their basic needs before thinking about emotional design and social commitment. That’s true, but you must also remember that we are in India. India is a country of social experiment where religion, family or social identity often sweeps the whole attention to the detriment of basic necessity. Value for money is good, but then we must redefine what values are more important and this is based on user research. This is what I am trying to do with More & More consumer trends reports (www.kovent.com/more). To redefine design values for the Indian market. This approach has been widely explored in western countries and it would take a much larger way in India where social diversity in more important.
I no more believe in industrial design and take the pledge that business design is the future of design. Business design is the only way we have to reorganize businesses based on user experiences. Business design is about understanding people’s user experience and fulfill this experience simultaneously from multiple channels such as industrial design, information technology, social and cultural ventures, media, etc. That looks conceptual but it has become an economical reality. For example: If Nokia doesn’t do well today in the market, it is not because they are not able to design value for money mobile phones. It is because they neglected the devices compatibility with the million of applications available on the market. They stuck to the mobile phone manufacturing when people were actually seeking software compatibility, networkability and social interaction. Industrial design helps differentiate one mobile phone from the other, but that’s all it does. Business design on the other hand works on the relationship that customers share with their devices. In the automobile industry too this is happening, and will soon happen on a larger scale.
What’s the scope of automobile design in India?
India is where the future of automobile design will be and for two reasons: Innovation comes from the younger generation — the average population in India is pretty young compared with the rest of the world. Second, the context of mega-cities and urban development in India is unique and would require very specific transportation systems.
The scope of automobile design in India lies in “system integration”.
Being in Bangalore I keep hearing, “I will login from home today”. What does it mean? There’s so much traffic on the road that companies prefer to have their employees work from home. Now if we analyze this from a transportation perspective, you’ll find that the real competitor for a brand of car, bus or airline, is not another means of transportation, but the Internet.
System integration in transportation is not only about optimizing all transportation systems, but also optimizing the compatibility with non-transportation systems as such as the Internet, media, mobile phones, GPS, drive-in services, hardware and software etc. This means we don’t need to create cars that do everything but to create cars that are compatible with everything. That would be a wonderful challenge for Indian designers.
Tell us a bit about your role as visiting faculty at DYPDC?
My role was to expose the students to the skills of user research. Basically interact with users to gather information for re-designing or creating innovations from scratch. They went through the complete user research process, whereby they could understand each and every step of design analysis to conceptualization through practical exercises. It is quiet frustrating for a young designer to think about research when creating a design. They often prefer to think they just need to be creative and that would help sell the product. However, industries don’t work that way today.
The students realized the benefits of user research when they applied it to their own projects at the end of the week. Few of the teams presented design concepts that were very much focused and refined from the user’s perspective. Their design directions were presented with user observation, videos and interviews they captured in the city. I believe that DYPDC will make a difference to automobile user research in India.
What are your thoughts about DYPDC? About what it is trying to achieve?
The success of DYPDC would depend on their ability to change the way we consider automobile design and create something new in the market. I have been working in France and in India under typical Indian and American management. I have seen what are the strengths and weakness of these different cultures.
Let me tell you what the biggest challenge in India is today. Indian designers can understand users better than anyone. The reason is simple: India is so diverse in terms of culture, behaviour and needs that most Indians have developed this natural ability of adapting to others and accepting their logic of functioning.
However, creativity and implementation is a constant issue. Firstly there is always this fear of creating something new or hydrid. Creating something new has the consequence of shadowing something less new. Indirectly innovation leads to the destruction of our tradition. It is an ethnical issue. Indians are rightly concerned about that, and need to be fixed with new design values. Secondly, Indians have the Sufism of life. They love to experience intellectual uncertainty, explore knowledge and possibilities. But design has to become a reality if we want to reach the excellence of innovation.
European designers have mastered this approach of opening all doors to the “unseen” and quickly coming back to a commercial reality with concrete design solutions. This approach of creativity has to mature and become routine in India too.
With respect to all cultures today, the world’s best design firms are multicultural and students of DYPDC College will naturally find their place to express the best of their Indian cultural identity, competencies and knowledge.
I wish them all the best.