Uttar Pradesh’s First Breastfeeding Cubicle

communication collaterals in the form of cubicle wall panels were co-designed and rigorously tested with a cohort of mothers from the target audience

Service Design Award Winner

Sarah Tanishka Nethan
Community Empowerment Lab 

Shatarupa Bandopadhyay (Former Art Fellow, Community Empowerment Lab)

Abdul Qadir (Graphic Designer, Community Empowerment Lab)

Aarti Kumar (CEO, Community Empowerment Lab)

Vishwajeet Kumar (Principal Scientist, Community Empowerment Lab)

Exclusive breastfeeding till six months has the potential to save ~8,20,000 babies. The State of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) in India loses ~2,00,000 newborns annually, making it the global epicentre for newborn deaths. However, simple interventions like early initiation within 24 hours after birth and exclusive breastfeeding till six months aid newborn survival. But despite ongoing awareness and advocacy around the benefits of breastfeeding, the progress and uptake still remain low. The National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) reports that in U.P. only a quarter of infants were being initiated to breastfeeding within an hour of birth, and only a quarter continued to be exclusively breastfed till six months.

A 10-days design sprint and partnership with Uttar Pradesh State Road Transportation (UPSRTC) in 2019 led to U.P.’s first Breastfeeding Cubicle at a public bus station in the State’s capital, Lucknow. This project aimed at

a) Creating an enabling environment for breastfeeding within the bus station;

b) Communicating value around breastfeeding and respectful care for nursing mothers through Communication Design, thereby shaping behaviors; and

c) Reinforcing ideal behaviors around breastfeeding through nudges in the form of communication materials.

The approach of the participatory design was adopted, wherein the communication collaterals in the form of cubicle wall panels were co-designed and rigorously tested with a cohort of mothers from the target audience. Insights from consultations with key stakeholders within the health system and UPSRTC were also included throughout the design process. The Breastfeeding Cubicle is a safe haven for traveling mothers who want to nurse their infants in a public place like a bus station. The wall panels act as a catalyst to nudge mothers to breastfeed their baby, through the use of storytelling aided by contextually relevant illustrations.

Design Process:

The idea of having a Breastfeeding Cubicle at public bus stations was birthed by the sight of a mother struggling to nurse her infant in a busy bus station at Lucknow. The Managing Director of UPSRTC (Dr. Raj Shekhar) was taken aback to see the plight of the mother and decided to create a comfortable space for mothers to freely breastfeed their babies. Our team was commissioned to develop the wall panels for the cubicle, which was led by the designer.

Potential personas were mapped, based on insights gained from the Formative Research conducted as part of a Gates-funded grant to strengthen breastfeeding practices through Kangaroo Mother Care, as well as exploratory unstructured interviews with urban as well as rural mothers and Agrimaas (respectful care champions stationed at the Kangaroo Care Lounges in public health hospitals of Raebareli district). The Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms (BSIM), a peer group on Facebook that aims at empowering mothers around breastfeeding was also used as a platform to gain an understanding of the “pains” and “gains” of breastfeeding i.e. common challenges faced by mothers and challenges specific to breastfeeding while traveling, from a larger sample set. Additionally, methods like role-playing and journey map were employed to build deep empathy and understand the current mental model of beneficiaries, along with a review of existing communication materials on infant nutrition. Insights obtained from all these activities helped frame certain guiding principles for the cubicle space as well as the communication materials to be used in it.

From the above, we learned that women who would avail the services of UPSRTC buses belong to middle and low-income families. Broadly, they can be categorized into:

• Mothers of babies younger than 6 months

• Mothers of babies older than 6 months

It was found that most mothers avoid traveling during the early months of the infant (less than 4 months). Therefore, our focus was on babies above 4 months which would include a mixture of breastfeeding infants as well as those on complementary feeding. As a result, one of the challenges for us was to bring a balance between information for these two types of infant categories in the existing architecture of the cubicle, with a major focus on reinforcing breastfeeding behavior. Messaging content for the communication materials in the form of wall panels were developed for the two categories of infants, with the common goal of calming down a hurried and anxious traveling mother in those 10-15 mins of the breastfeeding episode inside the cubicle.

On reviewing the existing communication materials, it was found that the tonality of the messaging was very instructive and direct. The desirable outcome (i.e. exclusive breastfeeding) was stated explicitly and contradicted the beneficiary community’s underlying socio-cultural reasoning. Therefore, our approach instead was to create a system that shifts behaviors and helps adopt ideal behaviors than merely changing them. A highly iterative process of co-designing and pretesting the prototypes with beneficiaries from seven public health facilities in U.P. was employed, along with inputs from health providers and UPSRTC stakeholders. During the pretesting, it was found that the shortlisted prototype version powerfully resonated with the beneficiaries and also affected their desire to not replace breast milk with other alternatives.

Project Outcome and impact

The above activities enabled the design and development of wall panels for the breastfeeding cubicle. In order to make it gender inclusive and balance any underlying gender connotations, the wall panels had a teal and fuchsia base. Principles of affect and salience biases were used to create a conversational and narrative-based messaging architecture and tonality. The messaging was framed as a dialogue between the mother-baby dyad, with the mascot (i.e. an infant) addressing key perceptions on breastfeeding through culturally grounded analogies, along with simple cartoon-style illustrations. Cues for messaging were taken from experiences shared by mothers during the interviews, which became instrumental in making it contextually relevant for the beneficiaries. In addition to this, a remote lactation tele-support system was also developed, wherein the nominee created the operational plan, call protocols, and a database.

U.P.’s first breastfeeding cubicle was inaugurated on 30th September 2019 by Shri. Ashok Kataria (Minister of State, Independent Charge for Transport). Data from pre-COVID times suggests that an average of five mothers used the Breastfeeding Cubicle every day, who found the space to be attractive as well as comfortable, and the messages to be intuitive. The wall panels have created a respectful and caring environment for severely resourced nursing mothers by nudging them towards the desired outcome of breastfeeding, without any imposition. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the vibrant color palette and illustrations grabbed the attention of most passers-by. Furthermore, the conversational tonality of the messages, especially the analogies, appealed to the beneficiaries’ cultural “sense”. With such a positive response, UPSRTC had also announced to scale this initiative across hundred bus stations in the State. However, the expansion has been on pause since early 2020 due to the pandemic, since all the resources across government bodies (including UPSRTC) have been directed towards COVID-19 relief efforts.

This project aimed at changing behavior of beneficiaries by reinforcing ideal behaviors to achieve the goal of breastfeeding. However, behavior change isn’t possible overnight. But what this initiative does is that it aids a gradual shift to achieving breastfeeding outcomes for such a critical social challenge in difficult terrain like U.P. through Communication Design. This initiative, therefore, acts as a stepping stone to achieving the larger goal of newborn survival in one of the toughest geographies in the world.

Sarah Tanishka Nethan is a Social Design Researcher working at the intersection of participatory design and Behavioral Science, and currently working as Lead, Family Planning & Reproductive Health at Vihara Innovation Network. Over the years, she has developed community-centric solutions across disciplines of public health (primarily Sexual and Reproductive Health; Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; and WASH), planetary health, gender, and education. An advocate for inclusion and Human-Centered Design, she is deeply passionate about building innovations at the confluence of local wisdom and Design that bridge the social-development equity gap within communities. Currently at Vihara, in addition to managing the FP-RH practice area, she is conducting a landscape analysis on measurement and evaluation within HCD+ASRH programs, with an aim to develop solutions for some pertinent challenges within this field. In the past, she has also worked on various multidisciplinary projects associated with the World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UN Women, World Design Organization, Government of Uttar Pradesh (National Health Mission), and Stanford University, among others. She holds a B.Sc. in Fashion and Apparel Design from JD Institute of Fashion Technology, and Master in Design from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai.

Social Design: Bridging Two Continents Through Collaboration and Innovation

Students understand their role as designers/co-creators/catalysts within a global context to explore the problem of sustainability

Design Teaching Award Winner

Neeta Verma
Associate Professor
University of Notre Dame

The aim of this advanced-level course in Social Design was for students to understand their role as designers/co-creators/catalysts within a global context to explore the problem of sustainability. This multi-disciplinary partnership brought together students from the University of Notre Dame (UND) and the National Institute of Design(NID) in India. The cohort of 14 students traveled approximately 17,000 miles, with 19 weeks of working together (3 weeks in India, 2 weeks in the US, and 14 weeks of working virtually). With an emphasis on problem solving and innovation, the learning goal was to examine the problem of sustainability through a cross-cultural prism, in India and the United States— two very divergent socio-economic constructs. The project was funded through a $30,000 grant awarded to the lead faculty. This semester-long collaboration was to help students develop an understanding of social constructs within two divergent economies and look through globally re-contextualized perspectives at the singular issue of sustainability. The course was designed as a solution solution-finding process for a singular problem, where students not only to sought a solution but gained a deeper understanding of complex cultural, social, and economic environments within which design solutions often need to find congruity. The students gained both a depth of understanding and breadth of social competency of the frame of reference within which their solutions were expected to function.


The course followed an 8-step pedagogical process used in the Social Design class.

Empathy: the understanding the needs, attitudes, and pre-dispositions of a people with whom the designers are working

Immersion: Daily engagement and involvement over a period of time

Awareness: Observations and knowledge gathering of a problem area within its cultural context

Definition: Determining the scope of research and inquiry

Engagement: Understanding stakeholders and their interconnectedness

Synthesis and problem framing: Structuring the context within which the problem is being defined

Design interventions: Collaborative encounters that facilitate solution-finding at the grassroots

Integration: Ensuring that the solution embeds itself within the context from which the problem emerged


A total of six projects were completed. Of those, the one listed below is being showcased: Sustainable Packaging by Kacey Hengesbach (UND), Anupam Garg (NID)

The project looked at packaging trends in the current fruit and vegetable markets supply chain to document non-sustainable packaging trends and explore ways to replace existing packaging solutions with biodegradable alternatives in India.


The students developed cultural competencies by discovering ways of navigating new environments. Within research students were introduced to ethnographic research; and empirical investigation through interviews, photo and film documentation, logging daily activity, contextual analysis, and partnering with local individuals working in the supply chains to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges. The project framework for the project focused primarily on a critical understanding of convergence and divergence in problem-framing that helped students position their research in two diametrically different geographies. In some cases, the research yielded similar results between the two contexts and in others, there was great divergence.


The following steps were used within the design process:

1. Problem Definition

Researching statistics that quantitatively describe the acute problem of plastic consumption and the proportion that is specifically used for fruit and vegetable packaging. Also examined was the per capita consumption of plastics in the United States and India as they compare to world consumption.

2. Researching the market

Students researched the time and distance fruits and vegetables travel to get to markets. They examined the complexity of supply chains and journeys of fruits and vegetables as well as the needs that packaging had to fill along those journeys before arriving at the local wholesale markets.

3. Field research, interviews, and photo documentation

Over two weeks, students visited the wholesale and retail markets to understand the various needs of the vendors and where plastics were replacing traditional materials.

4. Exploring material

Students explored traditionally used regional materials like bulrush, banana, bamboo, and jute but ultimately chose the water hyacinth, a plant that is predominantly found across the world. It has both pliability and high strength in its various stages of drying.

5. Exploring materiality

Students explored the pliability and the tensile strength of the water hyacinth in its various stages of drying. They also examined how different surfaces could be created during each stage of drying to develop surfaces from soft (for protection) to hard (for support and bearing weight) to accommodate the varying needs of the markets.

6. The Design Intervention

For the final design intervention, the proposed solution was a packaging solution that offered a cradle to cradle method made out of naturally biodegradable materials, specifically using water hyacinth in combination with jute and bulrush. The packaging system was customizable, stackable, usable for display, reusable for future use, compactable, and transportable.

7. Project Design Impact

Environment: Creating a product that benefits the environment by ridding it of an invasive species without the use of harmful chemicals.

Economy: Adding income to rural areas that participate in manufacturing.

Culture: Supporting existing regional crafts and using their skills to create sustainable packaging solutions.


The course due to its travel component and the complexity of the problem exposed students to contexts that they had never experienced before expanding the classroom globally. Challenges included differences in climate, language, and cultural etiquettes. The academic challenges lay in navigating the research as the students immersed themselves in unfamiliar environments. On the other hand, experiencing the richness of a whole new culture and renegotiating the sense of the self within a new context helped broaden perspectives. The opportunity provided an incredibly enriching experience for design students to immerse themselves within a new social, cultural, and economic order. The experience enabled the design students to gain global perspectives about the implications of design and the impact it can have. Above all, with social innovation at the core of design education today, this experience built confidence and resiliency within students as they situated themselves within diverse contexts and collaborated with others to manage complexity at both global and local scales.

Neeta Verma is an Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame and situates herself within the porous discipline of Visual Communication Design. Her areas of research and teaching focus on social equity and justice. She teaches Social Design at the intersection of social innovation and collaborative practices, and Visualization of Data that investigates the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of representation. Her current research, supported by a prestigious grant, examines youth violence. She received her MFA from Yale and currently holds Faculty Fellowships at the Center for Social Concerns, the Liu Institute for Asia & Asian Studies, and the Pulte Institute for Global Development at the University of Notre Dame. She is the recipient of several awards including Graphis, Core77, A’Design Awards, and International Design Awards. She has presented her research at both national and international conferences. She serves on the SEGD Academic Task Force and CAA Committee on Design.

Design as a Tool to Counter Structural Oppression

Research that focuses on co-designing socio-cultural technologies, practices, and policies

Design Publication Award Winner

Sheena Erete
Associate Professor, School of Design
College of Computing and Digital Media
DePaul University

Natasha Smith-Walker – Project Exploration
Caitlin Martin

There has been a recent push in technology design to consider social implications of technology design — both historical, current, and future. In resource-constrained communities, there have been historical policies and practices (e.g., redlining, over-policing) that have created concentrated poverty, increased unemployment, and a lack of adequate and equitable educational, housing, and health opportunities. However, several local community-based organizations have taken the initiative to address their communities’ challenges regarding issues such as safety and education. In my work, I have focused on several projects in this vein, where I co-design technologies, practices, and policies with community residents and organizations to support their efforts to counter social issues that are a result of long-term structural oppression. Specifically, two projects that demonstrate my commitment are (1) our co-design and evaluation process of a mobile application to support violence prevention efforts by street outreach workers and (2) the evolution of Digital Youth Divas, our program that encourages middle school Black and Latina girls to engage and participate in STEAM experiences, to a community-wide program that focuses on the transformation of informal learning environments using design practices and data. The first project is an example of how to design with organizations that intentionally attempt to counter traditional policing practices by law enforcement by taking a community-led approach to public safety in neighborhoods that experience high violence. The second project illustrates how we can address policies and infrastructure that create barriers for Black and Latina girls and their families to engage in informal learning opportunities. Insights lead to a discussion regarding how we as designers and researchers can intentionally support community-based counter structures to make a long-term, sustainable impact on communities that have historically faced systemic oppression.

Erete, S., Thomas, K., Nacu, D., Thompson, N., Dickinson, J., Pinkard, N. (2021). “Applying a Transformative Justice Approach to Encourage the Participation of Black and Latina Girls in Computing.” ACM Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE).

Dr. Sheena Erete is a designer, researcher, educator, and community advocate, whose research focuses on co-designing socio-cultural technologies, practices, and policies with community residents to amplify their local efforts in addressing issues such as violence, education, civic engagement and health. The objective of her work is to create more just and equitable outcomes and futures for those who have historically and who currently face structural oppression. Her research has won several best paper awards in top venues such as ACM CHI, CSCW, and SIGCSE as well a diversity and inclusion award for her collaborative work dissecting oppression that exists in the field of computing, HCI, and design. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and several philanthropic foundations including the Polk Bros. Foundation, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, and McCormick Foundation. She is currently an associate professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she also co-directs the Technology for Social Good Research and Design Lab. Dr. Erete received Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from Spelman College. She received a Masters in Computer Science from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. in Technology & Social Behavior from Northwestern University.

The 2021 Design Incubation Communication Design Awards

2021 Design Incubation Educators Awards competition in 4 categories: Creative Work, Published Research, Teaching, Service

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2021 Communication Design Awards!

Scholarship: Creative Works


Scholarship: Published Research

Published Design Research Award Winner

Design as a Tool to Counter Structural Oppression

Sheena Erete
Associate Professor, School of Design
College of Computing and Digital Media
DePaul University

Natasha Smith-Walker – Project Exploration
Caitlin Martin

Category: Teaching Award

Design Teaching Award Winner

Social Design: Bridging Two Continents Through Collaboration and Innovation

Neeta Verma
Associate Professor
University of Notre Dame

Design Teaching Award Runner Up

Semiotics Studio
Aggie Toppins
Associate Professor
Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts 

Washington University in St. Louis

Category: Service Award

Service Design Award Winner

Uttar Pradesh’s First Breastfeeding Cubicle

Sarah Tanishka Nethan
Community Empowerment Lab 

Shatarupa Bandopadhyay, Former Art Fellow, Community Empowerment Lab

Abdul Qadir, Graphic Designer, Community Empowerment Lab

Aarti Kumar, CEO, Community Empowerment Lab

Vishwajeet Kumar, Principal Scientist, Community Empowerment Lab

Category: Graduate Work


2021 Jury

  • Gail Anderson, School of Visual Arts, New York
  • John Bowers, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
  • Lesley-Ann Noel, North Carolina State University, North Carolina
  • Maria Rogal, University of Florida, Florida
  • Lucille Tenazas, Parsons School of Design, New York
  • Teal Triggs (Chair), Royal College of Art, London



Gail Anderson is an NYC-based designer, educator, and writer. She is Chair of BFA Design and BFA Advertising at the School of Visual Arts and the creative director at Visual Arts Press. Anderson has served as senior art director at Rolling Stone, creative director of design at SpotCo, and as a designer at The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and Vintage Books. She has taught at SVA for thirty years and has coauthored 15 books on design, typography, and illustration with the fabulous Steven Heller. 

Anderson serves on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for the US Postal Service and the advisory boards of Poster House and The One Club for Creativity. She is an AIGA Medalist and the 2018 recipient of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award for Design. Her work is represented in the Library of Congress’s permanent collections, the Milton Glaser Design Archives, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


John Bowers is chair of the Visual Communication Design department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through making, writing, and teaching, he explores issues of individual and collective identity. His making practice repurposes newspapers from public to private record, and billboard paper into forms that address their underlying targeting strategies and have been sold through Printed Matter. He worked as a Senior Identity Designer at Landor (San Francisco) during the dot-com bubble. His professional work has been published in 365: AIGA, Communication Arts, ID, and Graphis. His writing includes “A Lesson from Spirograph,” (Design Observer), Introduction to Two-Dimensional Design: Understanding Form and Function, Second Edition (Wiley), and Visual Communication Design Teaching Strategies, which isposted on the AIGA Educators Community website. He has been a curriculum consultant and visiting designer in the US, Canada, and Sweden.


Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel is a faculty member at the College of Design at North Carolina State University. She has a BA in Industrial Design from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago and a Ph.D. in Design from North Carolina State University. 

Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical, and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research, primarily in the area of social innovation, education and public health. She also attempts to promote greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio e.g. through The Designer’s Critical Alphabet.

She is co-Chair of the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society.


Maria Rogal is a Professor of Graphic Design and founding director of MFA in Design & Visual Communications at the University of Florida. She is the founder of D4D Lab, an award-winning initiative codesigning with indigenous entrepreneurs and subject matter experts to support autonomy and self-determination. After over a decade working with partners in México, she cofounded Codesigning Equitable Futures to foster respectful collaborations among the university and local community in Gainesville, Florida. She continues to speak and write about social and codesign, recently presenting at Pivot 2020, and co-authored “CoDesigning for Development,” which appears in The Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Design. Her research has been funded by AIGA, Sappi, and Fulbright programs, among others, and her creative design work has been featured in national and international juried exhibitions.


Lucille Tenazas is an educator and graphic designer based in New York and San Francisco. Her work is at the intersection of typography and linguistics, with design that reflects complex and poetic means of visual expression. She is the Henry Wolf Professor of Communication Design at Parsons School of Design and was the Associate Dean in the School of Art, Media and Technology from 2013-2020. She taught at California College of the Arts (CCA) for 20 years, where she developed the MFA Design program with an interdisciplinary approach, focusing on form-giving, teaching and leadership.

Lucille was the national president of the AIGA from 1996-98 and was awarded the AIGA Medal in 2013 for her lifetime contribution to design practice and outstanding leadership in design education. She received the National Design Award for Communication Design by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in 2002. Originally from Manila, the Philippines, Lucille studied at CCA and received her MFA in Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Teal Triggs is Professor of Graphic Design and leads on the MPhil/PhD programme in the School of Communication, Royal College of Art, London. As a graphic design historian, critic and educator she has lectured and broadcast widely and her writings have appeared in numerous edited books and international design publications. Triggs’s research focuses on design pedagogy, criticism, self-publishing, and feminism. She is Associate Editor of Design Issues (MIT Press) and was founding Editor-in-Chief of Communication Design (Taylor & Francis/ico-D). Her recent books include: co-editor with Professor Leslie Atzmon of The Graphic Design Reader (Bloomsbury), author of Fanzines (Thames & Hudson)and the children’s book The School of Art (Wide Eyed Editions) which was shortlisted for the ALCS 2016 Educational Writer’s Award. She is Fellow of the Design Research Society, International Society of Typographic Designers and the Royal Society of Arts.