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Design ethnography project comprehending the ‘train experience’ in India

Throughout history, artefacts are situated hand in hand with their cultural contexts, e.g. provenance of food and geographically considered clothing. For India, this is their railway network. Railways are the lifeblood of India’s transport system; they are the largest in the world and, “along with post offices, are two institutions in India with a deep network” (Pereira 2015). They are used by everybody, loved, hated and often romanticised over. To understand, appreciate and reflect on such a globally celebrated institution requires direct contextual knowledge.

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Designers have used the Human Centred Design (HCD) or ethnographic methodologies for decades, with Jane Fulton Suri standardising it in design practice, on behalf of IDEO. Co-design is the act of directly designing with stakeholders throughout the design process, building on the immersion of ethnography to create solutions that have direct personal importance, purpose and impact. The participants responded to ‘live’ design challenges whilst travelling on a number of train journeys across the Gujarat region of India. The two-week immersive project yielded rich insights and lessons for future ‘live working’ and contextual ethnographic methodologies.

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