Annemarie Mink

Science for the benefit of people. All people. Worldwide.

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Designing with the capability approach: a human-centered design

When Industrial Design student Annemarie Mink went to a small village in India to do her product management internship, she was asked to improve the spooling machine the local women used to make silk thread. “I thought: great design, job well done – that’s how I left it.” But when she went on to do a PhD at Delft University of Technology she developed a capability inspired design method and it made her think: did the design solution she came up with in India cover all the bases?

Mink’s capability inspired design method is a quick way to provide an insight into the lives, lifestyles, needs and wishes of users on the ground. “It gives designers an opportunity to look beyond the relationship between the user and the product. The method consists of several steps, starting with an interview conducted by means of question cards with pictograms. You can start a conversation with a simple question about what people’s day looks like. That will quickly lead to subjects like nutrition and other things to do with daily life and you take it from there. It’s not a question and answer interview, it’s encouraging people to talk. And then you will hear things that you hadn’t thought of.”

Mink decided to apply her method to her own internship and went back to India to interview the women who were using her spooling machine. “It turned out that my improvements had some unforeseen effects. The women thought the machine was too small; operating a big machine had given them status. I also found that the women now worked mostly from home. They no longer went to the workshop and that meant they no longer had a meeting place to chat to the other women and to exchange experiences and learn from each other.” Looking back, Mink wished she could have used the capability inspired method during her internship. “But now seven students at the Industrial Design department are applying it from the start for projects in other countries. And with some unexpected results!”

Co-workers: Prabhu Kandachar, Jan Carel Diehl and Jeroen van den Hoven

Global Challenges
Good health and well-being, acceptance, user insight, opportunity creation

High-tech Science
Capability approach, human-centred design, applied ethnography

Co-Creation
Indian Institute of Science, several Indian companies and NGOs

Story nr.

20

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