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Life & Work with Saurabh Nimsarkar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Saurabh Nimsarkar.

Hi Saurabh, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in a small city and spent my childhood walking in the woods, climbing trees, and eating mangoes. I am an engineer turned transdisciplinary designer based in Pasadena exploring the intersections of speculative design, critical technological practices, strategic design, transportation, spaces and places, and human experiences. With my embedded sensibility of diverse cultural backgrounds, I believe in exploring alternatives, experiences, and what-ifs, challenging the status quo while thinking critically about the societal, cultural, and ecological implications. From a nano-scale of molecules to the scale of a city, I have had a career in materials engineering, software development, and furniture design.

As a mobility designer, I have worked on Hyperloop, autonomous cars, flying cars, and as a researcher for the city of Los Angeles, exploring multiple futures. I believe a designer should think not only about a product that is being designed but also about its societal and systemic implications. A great designer questions the reality, its values, beliefs to trigger dilemmas in the minds of people and enables a possibility of a new inclusive future. Re-imagining different futures starts with challenging the status quo, exploring alternatives, experiences, and what-ifs while thinking ethically about the social and cultural implications. It’s less about finding the solution and more about understanding the real problems. Using different methodologies and playful tactics, I engage people, synthesize, and find problems to deeply understand their dreams, dilemmas, and aspirations. For me, it’s about shaping the conversation, anticipating unforeseeable problems, and using design as a medium to know the unknown. Currently, I am working on two projects relating to the pressing problems Los Angeles is facing now – ‘transportation’ and ‘affordable housing’.

Firstly, I am working as a product designer for an electric aircraft company to reimage equitable, accessible, and sustainable air travel. Secondly, I am working as a design strategist to enable construction of low-income housing cheaper, quicker and sustainable by using bio-based materials. I believe design can not be envisioned in isolation and always ought to be viewed in conjunction with assemblages of diverse cultures, people, cities, and ecology.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I think along the way, my biggest sacrifice would have been lack of sleep and peace of mind. A designer, I am not only blessed but also cursed with the empathy of others’ feelings while having the curiosity and grit of addressing some pertinent problems. With so many systemic problems in the world, it has become a necessity for a designer like me to indulge in mental and physical self-care and well-being.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Among many other things, I consider myself a transportation systems design. I think a transportation designer should think not only about an in-car experience but also about the traffic jams. What makes him/her/they great is when a designer questions the reality, its values, beliefs to trigger dilemmas in the minds of people – “did I buy this expensive car to waste my time in a traffic jam every day?” ModLiv is home on wheels for an autonomous era for Los Angeles. The project questions our current day dwelling and placemaking practices embracing the nomadic and minimal lifestyle. ModLiv consists of home units that can be docked as you continue to wear different hats in your life.

The project starts with the human disposition and expands to a systems-level strategy for city-wide adoption. Echelon Echelon is a new dynamic shopping experience. It is based on premise that an autonomous future will change urban architecture and landscape and how that will change our shopping habits. With many brick and mortar shops closing in LA, this project explores the future of retails overlapping with autonomous vehicular travel. Psychogeographical study of Los Angeles This project explores ethnographical walking as a medium to explore how spaces and places make you feel and behave. I worked at the Mayor’s office of Los Angeles – Urban Movement Labs on LA’s first technology innovation hub at Warner Center. Enabled people and community-centric design workshops, enabled urban air mobility public communication documents.

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