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Design Products (MA)

Danisha Mehta

My name is Danisha Mehta. I am a final year MA Design Products student at the Royal College of Art. I did my Bachelors in Industrial Design from Nirma University, Ahmedabad, India. While studying, I have worked at Kanoria Centre of Arts in Ahmedabad with children as part of a 5 year art programme. As part of summer internships, I have worked with Jayantilal & Co. where I have worked with stone as a material. Later, I have worked at Agastya International Foundation in Bangalore to develop products for their educational programmes. This is where my interest of working with children developed. As part of my last internship, I worked with Bracket Innovation that works with electronic consumer products. Before joining the RCA, my graduation project was done with Inovora India Design Studio based in Ahmedabad where I worked with the under privileged in my city to develop a range of products for them. Lastly, during COVID, to enhance my skills and start working in the industrial world, I joined the design team at a start-up firm incubated at GUSEC (Gujarat University Startup And Entrepreneurship Council). Here I was developing a portable and affordable health care device. All these experiences combined has given me so much knowledge and understanding regarding the development of any product.

About the designer

My interests lie within a lot of areas however I am most passionate about products that create a difference. Products that affect someone and can help someone in any way possible. Working with children is an area that brings me joy and that is an audience I have previously worked with before RCA. Additionally, I have worked with people with disabilities such as visual impairment. My WIP project is a combination of these two user groups where I can bring in my previous knowledge as well as work with visually impaired students. I enjoy the research process of identifying the problems/needs within the identified area so that I can design something that is meaningful at the end of the day. Sustainability is also another aspect that is important to my designs. My skills include working with people, for the people, working with various materials such as wood, acrylic and plaster with technical skills of rendering, use of Arduino, 3D printing and laser cutting. These skills enable me to develop effective smart products creatively.

Assembling of light parts
Bamboo Lighting III
The Table TopThe table top is a table light with solar panels weaved onto the weaving component. It is designed in a way where the top piece is standing vertically on a horizontal base. The battery and the convertor is kept inside the horizontal base.
Bamboo Lighting II
The FloatThe float is another version of the same hanging light design that works on the same mechanism. However it uses different solar panels that are fabric based. The efficiency remains the same however the wiring is done internally.

About the project

The project focuses on developing and upbringing livelihoods of the rural/semi-rural households of India. It addresses the issue of usual power cuts and promotes cleaner and greener power source. These range of lightings focus on weaving solar panels onto the sculpture instead of a separate part of the product. Giving identity to the product.

Semi-rural and rural areas in India consists of 70% of the population with about half of the rural households going through electricity outrage few times per day. This number results in a huge inconvenience in the livelihood of people.

Demographic study

The population of rural India has been consistent in the previous years and on an average, they earn about Rs. 200 ($2-$4) per day. These earning limit the expenditure on a daily bases. When it comes to electricity, it is a basic necessity. Lighting brings in a sense of safety and security both mentally and physically. When houses are built in the middle of a farm land, outdoor lighting also becomes essential to keep the farmlands secure from other animals.

According to a survey, an average rural household requires about 39kWh electricity per month. If this is to be calculated with the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour, it is Rs. 6.15 ($0.07) which approximately comes down to Rs. 240 per month ($2.89) along with several electricity power cuts every day.

Solar panels and its relevance in context

This project initially started with the thought of developing solar based products for the rural and semi-rural areas of India. The geographic location of this country allows it to source and take advantage of the solar power available. On an average, in the months between October to March, the average monthly electricity production from the defined system is 158 kWh. The energy production in western India is maximum during this half of the year. As compared to the UK, this is 1.2 time more the amount of energy generated during those months. This puts the location of India in a comparatively better location for utilising the renewable energy source.

Product making process
Bamboo product making processCollaboration with Indian bamboo craftsmen to develop this project even further. This opportunity can help the objects improve on a professional level by exploring different weaving techniques and integration of panels into them. This opportunity can help the artisans gain more work.

Process description

Combining one of the most traditional craft forms (bamboo craftsmanship) with a potential technology that will be our future (solar energy) lead me to think about this project where the two field combine and produce lighting structures that work on renewable energy and have a creative identity.

This product is targeted towards the lower income group of people who reside in rural areas of India and are in the need of an upliftment of their life quality. This series of lights will not only provide them with another solar light, but change their entire way of living. The Indian government has been taking initiatives to introduce solar panels into each and every household, this enables every household to understand the benefits of this product and use it for their betterment.

This project also aims at upgrading the socio-economic statues of the rural population with the intension of awareness, adaptability, affordability and convenience. This product indirectly benefited a huge population and is a step towards sustainable environment and a green future.