Researching design principles for a billion users
Planned and conducted Design Jams in India.
Identified the theme for each Jam by studying the market landscape and formulated the user problems.
Facilitated diverse groups of designers, product managers and legal folks.
Analyzed solutions, improved their user experience and published the findings.
Conducted 4 Design Jams in 2019 focussing on different themes, which is a first in India.
Evangelised the concept of designing for privacy among designers through various outreach programs.
Contributed to open-source design patterns and principles which focus on user privacy.
India’s diversity stems not only from its geographic and cultural differences but also in the way people interact with technology. A millennial college-goer has different needs, expectations and background from that of an uneducated farm worker in a village. Technology, in particular, the smartphone and the internet connects them with the world around and get their job done. So how do you design for a country with a billion-plus people and protect their privacy while doing so?
This is the question that Big Tech and startups are trying to answer. Design Jam is an attempt by Facebook to bring together designers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers to come up with innovative solutions for digital products while protecting user’s privacy.
Design workshops for collaborative problem-solving
A Design Jam is a 1-day event where different startups are paired with designers, lawmakers, product managers and experts and guided through a structured process to create solutions focussing on privacy. It is an intense day where a lot gets accomplished in a short frame of time. And to achieve this a lot of planning and upfront research is done weeks in advance.
Exploring different contexts each time
Each design jam has on a particular theme. In 2019, we hosted 4 Jams in India focussing on:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) for social good
Services for social responsibility
Financial inclusion and accessibility in Fintech
Data Transparency and Notification
Understanding user needs
For the first 2 Jams, we worked on actual problems faced by startups. We worked with Facebook to shortlist the startups that would be part of the Jam. The shortlisting was based on the products being built, the challenges faced by the founders and their commitment to exploring solutions that safeguard user’s data and rights.
We spoke with key stakeholders from each startup to understand their product, the users they are trying to serve and the problems they were facing. We guided the conversation to isolate the problems pertaining to data privacy and reframed the problem statement while ensuring business objectives were met.
Field research insights
For the last 2 Jams, we partnered with a research organisation who had conducted generative studies on user behaviour in different parts of the country. Using these insights, we created hypothetical products that mirror real products and framed problem statements that would improve the manner in which privacy was being addressed currently.
Building a collective understanding of the problem
The findings of the user research were converted into artefacts that can be used by the participants during the Jam to understand the product, the users and the problem statement quickly. We ideated on the different ways of representing this information and identified best formats depending on the context of the Jam
Facilitating participatory activities and co-creating designs
During the Jam, we lead the group through different immersion exercises to get them acquainted with the concepts of digital privacy and nudge them towards donning different hats while looking at the same problem. Policymakers started thinking like designers and vice versa.
Each team consists of a 2-3 members from a startup, designer, facilitator, legal counsels from companies and policymakers. Facilitating such a diverse mix of participants to understand the problem statement, help them in sketching ideas, aligning them towards a common solution and creating a digital prototype at the end of the day was quite a feat indeed!
Synthesising solutions and coming up with recommendations
The solutions created in a Design Jam are quite often not detailed due to the time constraint. So we identify the promising ideas and work on them to improve the user experience. We analyse the different approaches to derive insights on multiple ways of solving a problem. These recommendations are documented and published on the TTC Labs website.
What I learnt from this project
In 2019, I hosted 6 Design Jams - 2 in Singapore and 4 in India. And each of them was a different learning experience.
Having to master a new domain in a short span of time and create artefacts for the workshop accordingly was a challenging task.
Interacting with different startups expanded my horizons and made me aware of the impressive work happening in India.
Conversations with policymakers made me aware of the developments in the law to ensure strict regulations concerning citizen’s personal data and the responsibility as a designer to translate laws into actions.
Recruiting and training people from different cities helped hone my skills in networking and assessing designers effectively.
Facilitating diverse groups (policymakers, researchers and designers) consisting of people with strong opinions improved my communication and leadership skills.
Being an advocate for user privacy and influencing organisations to do so has been a proud and fulfilling experience.