I have a question. It has born out of a repeated observation. Almost all the times when I have been to washroom to relieve myself, I see that people become completely silent. And I am making this observation against the washrooms which are located in a building where people work and most often know each other in person, for example in an university or in a office. The fact that they know each other makes me wonder why did they even not acknowledge the presence of the people they know. I understand that this might vary from culture to culture but I have tried varying this observation by asking many of my friends and family and they seem to attest the same.
Well the simplest of reasons I am being told of is that it is out of etiquette to do so. But I don’t remember any teacher of mine telling me about this. Or may be I have been to one of the not so good schools. But even if it so I wonder how people could resist saying hello to the people (they know) when they encounter them in washrooms and loos. How could the etiquette gain such an enormous power that it dictates human behavior to become completely strangers to each other during that time? Strange, isn’t it?
The another argument which comes upfront is the following: Washrooms are usually the places where there is always filth and foul smells. So why to stay there to exchange words of acknowledgement. One always tries to leave such a place as soon as possible. Well I could have really considered this argument had I never been to any washroom myself. The washrooms I am talking about since the beginning of this post are actually the ones which are very well kept and sanitized. These are the washrooms equipped with world class toilet fittings. These are fitted with hand dryers and automatic dispensers to release water and soap solution in urinals and toilet seat. To an average nose like mine, there are absolutely no foul smells. So an urge to leave ASAP doesn’t seem reasonable.
Consider the third argument: Bathrooms are usually congested spaces so its not really possible to carry a conversation. To me this also doesn’t seem to be the case. Current architectural plans of bathrooms are quite spacious. They are some times as big as living rooms and have ample of space to move around and relax. Thus this argument doesn’t seems to sustain as well.
I don’t really know why people behave like that. Take all the arguments and see them in parallel but what I am wondering about is the disappearance of a simple acknowledgement in these spaces. Till we find the answers we are free to speculate and off course to observe silence in any such washroom we enter.
A few days back I was asked an interesting question. Although personal but I believe that the answer to the question is worth sharing. Somebody asked,
“Why did you decide to get into design research and leave designing?”.
One can see that it is not just one single question. While in the first half of the question one is asking for my reasons to pursue design research. Fair enough! I have written a short essay on why one should do design research. It talks about the value proposition which design research brings into the larger picture of designing communication, products and services. I would encourage you to go through this post as well.
But in the second half of the question one is assuming that either I have left designing to pursue design research or design and design research are two mutually exclusive activities. Let me assure you that it is neither of these two cases. Neither I have quit designing after deciding to carry design research nor do I think that design research and design are mutually exclusive. Even after getting involved with design research I am actively pursuing design. There are short projects that I try to handle and accomplish. Well I know you could simply discard my answer stating that it is too personal to be taken seriously. Let me then question the assumption that if one pursues design research he/she could no longer perform as a designer. I believe this is inherently an overstated and exaggerated imagination. The whole idea that research is a scientific process, based on articulation, objectivity and measurements while design is an intuitive process, fused with creativity, doodling, and life changing thoughts, is utter bogus. In fact Creativity, Objectivity, Articulation and Understanding can exist independent of disciplines and fields. And these qualities cut across the boundaries. They are as crucial for one discipline as they are for another. Also look into the areas where design has an access to. They are also evolving. May be gone were the days when a designer would be limiting his performance to print media or to graphic arts and identity design. One could claim that design was an statement on its own, capable of transforming perceptions and identities. But listen to the contemporary voices and one can realize that design has a much larger audience, and a larger reach now. Today’s design of products, communication and services rests on extensive user’s feedback. Fields like ethnography, material science, information and computer science are crucial for imagining anything ‘next’ or extending the obvious line of thinking. Thus it seems that the design research and design are complementary activities and not mutually exclusive. And, they do so by not simply supporting each other but by chasing each other. And off course one can do both if he/ she could manage 🙂