Effecting social change is what moves Nirmala Nair, and she uses her training as a designer to reach the widest possible audience
Why did you choose to pursue design and how has it influenced your career?
The need to learn filmmaking rose out of the need to include films and technology to reach a larger audience. It took me six months to find my place at NID (where I pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Visual Communication). Design Thinking was the course that shattered me. It challenged every belief and semblance of knowledge I thought I had, even while giving me a sense of purpose. Though I did not use the process consciously till much later in my career, design thinking started acting as a solution to problems.
What has been the most challenging part of your role as India Director at WASH United?
When I joined WU most design work happened in Berlin. The initial challenge was to streamline things and put a process to the work in India to prove that we have enough capability in the country to work on challenges. Today, all design and communication work at WU happens in India.
Tell us about the ‘Ruby’s World’ project.
Ruby’s World (‘Nanhisi Ruby ki Badisi Duniya’ in Hindi) is a year-long journey our team went through to understand the current levels of knowledge and practices that exist around menstrual hygiene management, and the gaps therein, in order to create a menstrual hygiene education guide to address these very gaps and needs.
How do you use design thinking to work on social change?
When designing for social impact, it is not enough that the solution, whether it is a product or communication, educates the user. It is important that the solution also acts as an agent of empowerment. For me, design solutions become intrinsically linked to whether they provide agency to the user or not. If the solution is not forcing my user to think and act, it will not have a long term impact.