DIP2017: A chat with Sintorn7: A platform that makes public space whole for the elders (TH/EN)

Faith for Fund, a platform that invites people to make public space whole for the elderly, is the project by Sintorn7, a team of students from the Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. They see an opportunity in the shrinking living space due to urban expansion, causing people to spend more time in public areas to get away from their small living quarters. Addressing this issue, the team created Faith for Fund platform to find a mechanism to create public spaces that accommodate the needs of the elderly through street furniture.

Building on the outdoor furniture set including a bench and a table commonly seen in the Sirisas National Housing Project, Sintorn7 developed a prototype of public furniture that suits the behavioral needs of the elderly. Functions such as a multi-purpose table and a sunshade with lighting when it is dark are added for ease of use. The furniture is aimed to be a place where socialization, both mono-generational and multi-generational, takes place. To accompany the furniture, a fund-mobilizing platform was created to invite all members of the society to participate in replicating this public space in other areas.

What are the opportunities that you see in Thailand’s aging society?
We look at physical changes and deterioration that come with aging. Appliances for the elderly available look like those used by the sick or the disabled and items for everyday use look like medical equipment. This may cause the elders to feel alienated. Initially, we wanted to use design to improve the quality of life by making more friendly-looking furniture that evokes good feelings.

What are some new insights that you gain from joining the Designing Impact Program?
Design thinking. By participating in this project, we had the opportunity to go to the field and collect information from the target group. We met with the elders. We received advice from the facilitators on how to analyze the data and apply it in the design. We learned about social innovation, which made us realize that product design is not the end of the process. We need to make an impact or change on a large scale.

What are the fun experiences you had during the program?
The feedback given by the facilitators, which provided new ideas for our team, made us change our mind from focusing only on furniture design. The comments gave us new ideas and a wider perspective as we considered a wider target group. Our design is not only about form and function, but also serves a wider purpose. We design furniture and public spaces for the community. The fun part is that we got to try something new beyond what we learned in school.

What are the challenges you faced during the program?
The challenge is when we studied the behavior of the elderly. We went out to the field and we asked questions, but they could not provide the answers that we needed. We had to ask the questions that could best get the answers that we wanted. We also observed the behavior of the elderly and converted the data into furniture design using ergonomics principles to find the seating patterns that encourage usage and interaction between community members. We need to consider furniture placement in relation to the number of people in the community to truly make it a public space for the elderly in the community.

Another challenge is that each area is different. As the students of furniture design, we need to do more than just designing for one community. Mobilizing fund is also difficult for us. We did not know the processes or systems involved, how much information we needed to get started and implement to produce outcomes, or what it will look like. However, our team finally managed to achieve it thanks to the guidance from the facilitators.

What is your team’s definition of designing impact?
We have just fully understood the term ‘impact’ in the sense that design can affect a lot of people. We design one product but it does not end with just one person or one group of people. The design does not come from our own thinking. We must go out to find new data to create a design that is real. We listen to the real users. Everyone can be part of our product design, which creates a positive impact on a wide scale.

Our team wants to improve the quality of life for the elders who live in areas with subpar conditions. Our project will take part in improving their lives by raising funds through a platform that allows people who may already have a high standard of living to take part in improving the lives of older people to the same level. The outcome of our project is not only about building furniture; it’s about designing a public space.