MDes Talks: Design, Travelling and Co-culturing

Kaleb Jemail Cárdenas Zavala, a current student in Design Strategies (MDes), has started his year of study abroad in Hong Kong. While classes are held in the weekends, Kaleb manages his own time during the weekdays and be part of different activity groups and teams in Hong Kong and his home country.

Design

Human behaviour is a very complex subject, and it has continuously been my general interest for the past five years. My profession has helped me to understand it better.

I chose to become a designer when I was a teenager.

Like many of the teenagers in Latin America and around the world, I had to choose a professional path at the age of seventeen. Until today, I can’t understand how I had managed to make a crucial decision at a very young age. Probably one of the most significant decisions in your life has to be made when you are the most stupid version of yourself. It doesn't make any sense.

Wooden blocks captured in Alvar Aalto´s home in Helsinki, Finland
Wooden blocks captured in Alvar Aalto´s home in Helsinki, Finland

It takes five years of experience and training to become an industrial designer in Mexico. During these significant years of study, I was able to travel a lot, managed to live in Europe and collaborated on many projects that required me to move to different locations. Working while travelling in new places changed my life and aspirations of how I see myself in the future. I decided to leave Mexico as soon as I got my diploma.

Bird flight at sunrise in Stockholm, Sweden
Bird flight at sunrise in Stockholm, Sweden

Travelling

Interestingly, living abroad does not pull me away from my home country or own culture. Conversely, meeting new people and seeing different places has prompted me to see Mexico more closely. I began to notice the differences and patterns in society to which I wasn’t really paying attention and also the vast potential and opportunity that can be improved by design. This realisation has shifted my mindset; I became comfortable with change.

Guadalupanos from Mexico, City
Guadalupanos from Mexico, City

Travelling has been an addiction to me, although recently I decided to slow it down. Travelling used to be the perfect excuse to allow me to learn continuously and be free – which is part of my perception of happiness.

The more I became at ease with change, the more I travelled. At some point, I had to do some reflection and realised that my identity and culture that I brought with have evolved. This thought has led to further contemplation of the actual purpose of my journey.

Life reflections from a wise man in Oaxaca, Mexico
Life reflections from a wise man in Oaxaca, Mexico

Co-culturing

Co-culturing can best describe this process of evolving identity and culture. It is a continuous action of understanding and learning through experiences in different moments of our lives, the meaning of relationships that we make with other people at specific moments and places. The significant outcome, in the end, is to grow as a person and help others to accomplish this as well, hopefully, to develop a better society.

Understanding human behaviour, their social activities and culture, demand us to see the shared nature and experience beyond the seeming disagreement on the surface, which allow us to improve the perception of ourselves as members of the human race and from that, to grow in different levels.

Floating heads by Sophie Cave at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland
Floating heads by Sophie Cave at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland

In Retrospect

My interest and profession come full circle unexpectedly, as it appears.

Practising as a designer can be done anywhere in the world. The perks of this profession include being a lifelong learner, a good observer, and having ample opportunity to meet exciting people who share the same passion.

I realised that being a designer is a big responsibility. Design generates possibilities, but if used for the wrong end, it can create objects that are meaningless to people. I recently learned a great quote from the book “Design for the real world” by Viktor Papanek, and he mentioned that “there are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them. Only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care.” (Papanek, 1972)

Therefore, what matters is to use design to benefit people.

“Be cult to be free”, Monument to Jose Marti, Revolution Square in La Habana, Cuba)
“Be cult to be free”, Monument to Jose Marti, Revolution Square in La Habana, Cuba)

Through taking a seminar subject in the Interaction Design (MDes) programme, I came across Fogg Behavior Model (developed by Dr. BJ Fogg at Stanford University's Behavior Design Lab) which has helped me to understand an elementary but essential part of how we react to "persuasive design" from a user´s point of view. In this model, behaviour is seen as a product of three factors: motivation, ability, and triggers, each of which has subcomponents.

Designers, from what I understand, can generate "triggers" to influence human behaviour in a good way. From understanding experiences and knowledge obtained by co-culture, designers can identify the opportunities to create these triggers.

Design, travelling, co-culturing, are basic parts of my life, and together they explain my intent to study and work in this part of Asia.

A cactus from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
A cactus from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Photo Credit: All images by Kaleb Jemail Cárdenas Zavala

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References

Papanek, V. J. (1972). Design for the real world; human ecology and social change.
New York: Pantheon Books.

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About the Writer

Kaleb Jemail Cárdenas Zavala - a Mexican industrial designer who seeks to incorporate several design disciplines to his work, through a human-centered approach with multidisciplinary teams. After spending 10 years of experience understanding how objects (tangibles) are developed through materials and production processes, he now seeks to emerge to a new phase where he designs interactions, services and strategies, focusing on creating holistic experiences that translate into answers (intangibles) for meeting user needs.

Kaleb is currently enrolled in the Design Strategies (MDes) at the PolyU in Hong Kong.

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MDes Talks is a series of student blogs produced by current MDes students and recent graduates. For its third edition, the editorial team consists of writers from China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Mexico, France, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. They write about study life, living abroad, design, and what you don't know about PolyU and Hong Kong.