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December 17 - 19
National Institute of Design
Tarun Deep Girdher

National Institute of Design
Ahmedabad, India

Tarun Deep is currently heading the Graphic Design department and the Printing Labs at the National Institute of Design - NID, India. He teaches fundamental courses such as Publication Design, Type Design, Visual Narrative, and Introduction to Print Production at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, besides mentoring senior students on their projects. With over 13 years of professional experience, his core expertise is in developing 'Training–Learning Material' addressing issues of vulnerability reduction in the areas of gender equality, disaster risk, governance, disability and health. His work has mostly been for grassroots level communities, especially illiterate and neo-literate audiences.


Designing Educational Material for Vulnerable Groups
Concerns of Visual Literacy in Rural Areas

Having worked as a communication designer for rural India for over a decade, I have always wondered about the visual sensibilities of rural populace and its contradictions with aesthetic values of the ‘taught’ urban India. Working on projects targeted at vulnerable groups – often illiterate, gave us insights about the importance of meaning making through visuals and images. There are no formulae for what kind of images will communicate effectively with the vulnerable/illiterate audiences, but certain design processes do seem to reduce the ‘noise’.

This presentation analyses the work done by us over the last 15 years, targeted towards vulnerable groups as well as development. The observations are focused on visual content and information design of images, as well as text – from the perspective of content development and graphic design (form, colour, and style of representation) and effective communication. The experiences and learning of design educational material shall be shared through case studies of educational material on the subject health, disability, self governance; disaster risk reduction, etc.

‘What we say is important, but how we say it, is also equally important’. The visual perception and especially how images are decoded by illiterate audiences depends largely on their personal experiences. Before creating communication material, it is important to ‘listen’ to the target group, understand their language and then attempt to create the communication material in a manner which is easy to comprehend. The same content needs to be re-designed for different target groups in order to ensure that it is understood appropriately. Validation of visual content and its comprehension is a significant stage of designing for the illiterate audiences.

There are no formulae, but a set of guidelines for the design process appear to be emerging. With major influx of media artifacts, especially television and print, penetrating the rural regions, exposure to visual imagery and the visual perceptions of the target audiences are evolving. However, considering the diversity in India (of social, economical and literacy factors), it becomes imperative to conduct formal research in the domain of information design for the illiterate/vulnerable groups. This would help identify design issues across different regions / cultures and help graphic designers create effective communication for communities.

Chatterjee, Ashoke. (1989). Can Mass Communication Change Anything? New Delhi: People’s Action, CAPART.

Murthy, Lakshmi. (1996). Education or Domination. Mumbai: Humanscape.

Murthy, Lakshmi., Kagal, Amita., & Chatterjee, Ashoke. (2005). Learning from the Field: Experiences in Communication. New Delhi: UNFPA, Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design.

Rana, Indi. (1990). Developing a Pictorial Language: An Experience of Field Testing in Rural Orissa - A Guide for Communicators. New Delhi, India: Danish International Development Agency.

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