James Fathers


​The Appropriate role for Design training in a Developing Context

This investigation is concerned with the role of Product Design in a developing context, and in particular the exploration of design training strategies to empower craft artisans in this context. The study consisted of a critical review phase including an investigation of the relevant literature, orientation in the filed and interview with practitioners. This was followed by a series of field experiments culminating in a 12 month immersive experience in South India working with a number of crafts groups.

Primary Assumptions

The primary assumption of this investigation is that there are skills and processes used by designers and in particular product designers, which would empower and be of benefit to crafts people and groups in a developing context.

This contention is of course not new. Since the end of the Second World War, authors and practitioners have explored the idea that there is inherent in the practice of design, a set of skills and processes that may be of benefit to areas of product development. These are generally addressed by the type of design practice, which takes place within a western capitalist manufacturing context.

The exploration of these ideas of ‘empowerment’ and ‘benefit’ and related ones of ‘help’, ‘aid’ and ‘development’ are a key feature of this study and in particular the role of western designers as the ‘prescribers’ of such ‘aid’ will be explored in some detail in the early part of this thesis.

The aims and objectives of the research

Aim: To investigate a strategy for basic design education which is appropriate to the needs of artisans in a specific development situation.

1. To investigate and evaluate the impact of design in development programmes. 
2. To investigate and evaluate education and training programmes which relate to or inform the field of design in developing countries. 
3. To propose and evaluate a framework of principles on which a programme in design education or training might be based. 
4. To design, pilot and evaluate, via field trials, a series of strategies and approac​hes for education or training. These would assist in enabling local people to identify, analyse and provide sustainable solutions to relevant design & production problems for products for everyday use for local markets.

The Research Question

In what ways can indigenous product development skills be fostered in order to enable artisans to define needs and develop new products for everyday?​