Recognizing some of the Design Problems to be tackled

February 28, 2010
By Mathan_Ratinam

After our last class Nigel and I left feeling very enthusiastic of what projects could be developed following all the insightful thoughts and suggestions about what we could tackle by design and through design thinking.

Since the school was closed Friday because of the weather, I’d like to maintain our momentum and continue the conversation here online. What I’ve done below is categorize most of the issues we’d all collectively recognized and spoke about under framing titles. As different groups of people share various interests I’d like everyone to follow by individually posting here on the blog your own preferred problems that you would like to tackle. Please indicate your primary, secondary and maybe even a tertiary interest, and they don’t have to be from the list below as I may have missed a couple and I’m sure you’ve continued to discover others. The aim here is for all of us to see what each of us would like address and establish research clusters within the class where people can begin working collaboratively around a common interest or area of interest.

Internal Processes and Communication

These are internally facing concerns within the Red Cross.

  • Promoting and generating a mid-level band of leadership
  • New methods of recruiting volunteers
  • Cargo boxes and rear cabin in responder vehicles
  • Car parking, and vehicle usage and logistics
  • Advancing (other) Red Cross chapters technologically
  • Re-interfacing Seibel to be more user-friendly and specific to the tasks of responders
  • Developing a system for retaining all the aggregated knowledge generated by the volunteer base.
  • Designing training manuals and material
  • Building a more advanced and interconnected database of Red Cross volunteers
  • Developing greater connectivity and communication between the discreet communities within the Red Cross.
  • Social events and activities amongst Red Cross staff and volunteers for greater retention of volunteers and creating a community of Red Cross volunteers.
  • Re-channeling the enthusiasm of large groups of post-disaster volunteers to operate more locally and long term


External Processes and Communication

These are concerns that are outward facing from the organization – publically orientated and client engagements.

  • Long term preparedness programs for the public
  • Designing a program for under 14 year olds
  • Redesigning stickers and other mediating materials for clients
  • Exploring new methods of providing psychological help to clients
  • Developing documentary/storytelling devices and media to better communicate what the Red Cross does and how they engage with the public


National and International Issues

Concerns of a large scale and extend beyond the specific scope of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross.

  • Early warning systems and practices
  • Ways to better address women’s issues through the Red Cross
  • Communicating International Humanitarian Law.


The outcome of these projects will vary and some of the problems may require outcomes in multiple forms. These could be physical objects, strategies, programs, activities, education, media, and/or policy.

I know its not always easy to choose and maybe the scale of the projects warrants multiple investigations but there are a few things to consider to help you critique what you would like to tackle as well as better understand where you’ll be going with it. Consider the agency of your work – who will it serve and what will ultimately be the consequences of your designs?

Please take a few minutes to put forward your interests and please reach out by responding to others that share your interest so that they’ll have you on their radar.

We’re looking forward to hearing about what you’d like to do and please post your responses by mid-week preferably or by Thursday night at the latest. The timing is so everyone can remain on track for the mid semester review. In our class this week we’ll be work-shopping your chosen projects.

10 Responses to “ Recognizing some of the Design Problems to be tackled ”

  1. Maya_Sariahmed on March 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    These all sound great!

    I would love to focus on the latter two of the International issues. Maybe there’s a way to address International Humanitarian Law with a specific focus on women’s justice? There’s an entire section on the IHL that deals with women and war. Sexual violence as warfare, and a lack of access to health care for women during times of war are huge problems that I’d like to address, be it through a web campaign or a print campaign.

    There’s a documentary about a woman named Leymah Gbowee who led a woman’s movement demanding peace in Liberia. It’s called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, here’s the website

    I read that this documentary was later used “as an advocacy tool in post-conflict zones like Sudan and Zimbabwe, mobilizing African women to petition for peace and security”. Pretty amazing and powerful campaign tool.

    NOW I don’t expect to have a film hammered out by the end of this semester, but I like the spirit of what this documentary is doing. How can I tell other women’s stories the way Abigail Disney did here? I would love to meet women who work in conflict zones. Nigel, you mentioned friends of yours who have done field work in Palestine and Darfur. I’d love to talk to them, and learn from them as much as I can.

    Anyway! Hope this is a good place to start!


  2. Tanya Kumar on March 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Hi everyone,

    I just got back from my ride-along and the experience was very memorable and I learned new things about the Red Cross that I don’t think the online course could have ever taught. While I was at the Chapter this afternoon, I was luck enough (or unlucky) to go to one site in the Bronx to follow up on a fire that happened ten days ago but other than that, I was at the Chapter for the remaining 6 hours. However I used that time to talk to many of the people who worked there- a couple different Responsers, the Captain of the DAT team and others who were higher up in the corporate ladder, one interesting older woman by the name of Doddi Brier who was a volunteer for Mental Health.

    I found out that many of those who were sitting in the OC room (all who were not Responsers or DATs) seemed to be fairly happy with the way the Red Cross was run and even though I asked several questions, they could not pin-point anything in the system that they wanted to improve. On the other hand, when I talked to the Responsers I worked with, the complaints were endless. However, the main complaint was the way that those higher up/in management believed that everything was going smoothly when really, the Response volunteers and employees are the ones that have to work the hardest to make things go smoothly.

    I just wanted to throw this idea out there and start thinking of how we could make the friction between both parties a little less.

    -is there a better way for those higher up in management to communicate directly with the Responsers/DATA units? The motorola device is clear most of the time but I still don’t think the real work is realized. Could we design something in the central work area (like a large interactive map) to communicate what each Responder is doing so that the work load is realized?

    The other thing i thought of was a better way to develop documentary/storytelling devices and media to better communicate what the Red Cross does and how they engage with the public. Both parties agreed that the cash flow came in waves- it comes and goes very quickly.

    I wanted to start thinking about a way to create a good, consistent cash flow. Their merchandise is not promoted because they don’t have the money to spend but I wanted to design t-shirts that would appeal to a younger crowd, or wearable merchandise. There were ‘Haiti Je’Taime’ t-shirts that were sold in the 2W lobby for $10 last week and they sold out in minutes. These t-shirts should be simple but something original and eye-catching, and would also serve as walking publicity for the Red Cross. I would have to consider what would go on the shirts though because the Red Cross would hate to have any form of publicity that would seem uncharitable and it would have to promote good design.

    I missed last week (not the snow day) which is why the blog is so long. Sorry!
    See you on Friday!


  3. Jeff Hsieh on March 2, 2010 at 1:31 am

    i would like to
    tackle on
    1)Cargo boxes and rear cabin in responder vehicles

    2)Car parking, and vehicle usage and logistics

    and i have looked up some design website

    this is a guy name adam callif

    what do u guys think…..

  4. Rhiannon on March 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Maya i’ve heard good stuff about that movie too…I will look at it before class
    jeff thats a really cool website! some nice stuff on there.

    my list:
    1. IHL and early warning systems/practices

    2. program for under 14 yrs

    3. designing training manuals etc.

  5. Tanya Kumar on March 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Hi my last response was really long so this is what I would like to focus on:

    1. A way to bridge the gap between the responders/DAT members and those who send out the responders/those in the OC room, by designing a screen or some sort of device that would communicate the amount of work being done.


    2. Designing t-shirts or merchandise that would create a more consistent cash-flow and reach out to the younger generation

  6. Kristopher on March 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Sorry this response is a little late.

    1. Designing the training manuals / information pamphlets as well as the forms and stickers that the RC may use when responding to a disaster / client

    2. Figuring out ways in which we can encourage longer volunteer enthusiasm as well as encouraging current volunteers to possibly becoming the middle-band of leadership.
    • Possibly making a training program that would enlighten those interested in what to do in a situation
    • Perhaps creating some sort of a reward program for current volunteers. I know that sort of ‘defeats’ the purpose but everyone likes to feel appreciated after volunteering, which for some voluneteers they might not work with clients enough to see that gratitude.

    3. Help better communicate the IHL

  7. Yina_Ma on March 4, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I think I will still focus on “Designing a program for under 14 year olds” because I did the similar project (game) before. Besides, I am really interested in the user testing part if we have the opportunity.

    After the ride-along shift, I realizes that the “Developing documentary/storytelling devices and media to better communicate what the Red Cross does and how they engage with the public” is also important. When the staff asked me what my response was about the shift. I said I didn’t know that they actually response the fire incident before I took part in the shift. I just wonder how many people don’t know this like me, especially for those who are not from here. However, when things happens, people should know who they can ask for help. In addition, based on my personal experience and observation on my friends, sometimes they want to donate money to the Red Cross ( because this organization is the most trustful ) to help people who suffering disasters, but they don’t know the channel.

    My last response here is I really like Tanya’s idea “Designing t-shirt”. I think it’s great!

    Thanks ^^


  8. Nadiah on March 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Aside from my main interest in response to Nigel’s post on the EHL,

    I would also like to see more community-building, open forums, and communication amongst the staff and volunteers based at the ARCGNY Manhattan, as similarly expressed in Tanya’s post. As the office layout is made up of static cubicles and enclosed rooms, dynamism takes form in the individuals who are active in their spaces.

    Without relying on certain individuals, a third constant element could be introduced, either within the physical or virtual space, that further encourages familiarity, and openness within the ‘office’ setup. As a first step, I would be willing to explore the relationships and movements of that space, in order to see where possible interactions best fit.

  9. Julynn_Benedetti on March 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm


    I think the issues that I would be most interested in tackling would be:

    1) Developing media to help the New York and National Red Cross chapters connect with their community and better communicate their respective missions.

    2) Helping in the development and marketing of Red Cross curriculum to schools.

    3) Streamlining the amount of equipment that the responders need to lug with them on ride alongs.


  10. Peyman_Inan on March 5, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hi everyone
    I would like to concentrate on “Developing documentary/storytelling devices and media to better communicate what the Red Cross does and how they engage with the public” Since we heard that the RC people want to do something about children, I would like to concentrate on animation. My idea is to work on a character design for children under 14yrs which represents RC. The character can be used to educate children about what to do in a disaster etc.