Design for extreme affordability
Making good design accessible to all
The challenges facing Myanmar farmers are often complex, systemic and require a deep understanding of context. We believe creativity, empathy and design thinking can help us tackle them.
Our in-house design group, Proximity Labs, designs all of our products and services right here in Myanmar. We’re a multidisciplinary team that began in 2008 from a partnership with the Stanford d.school. We continue to partner with some of the world’s leading design agencies to bring the highest quality design to rural Myanmar.
Real impact requires real proximity
Our design approach is rooted in co-designing with farmers where they are. Our team of designers, engineers and researchers work on the ground to listen to our customers, create prototypes and iterate based on their direct feedback. Our customers motivate us to identify opportunities for innovations that can scale and have impact.
Creating products and services for rural farmers in Myanmar requires that we design for affordability, ease of use and durability. And of course, to delight.
Inside LabsA whole lot happens behind the scenes play_circle_filled
Deeply understanding our customers is the most important part of the design process. We conduct in-depth social research to understand the range of experiences of being a smallholder farmer in Myanmar today. We dig deep into critical needs and identify opportunities for big impact solutions.
Sometimes these insights lead to new products and services, while other times they are captured in publications like Paddy to Plate and Afford Two, Eat One. We continue to co-design with farmers throughout our process until we’ve got it right. Empathy is our secret sauce.
We design tailored products for customers who have never had products designed specifically for them. Our in-house team of skilled engineers uses top-of-the-line design software to build prototypes for the Myanmar environment. The rigorous testing we do on these prototypes simulates thousands of hours of use in rugged terrain. Then, we send them to our best quality assurance team: Myanmar farmers. The things that make it through aren’t just great ideas; they’ve really proven their worth.
Once a prototype is deemed viable, our manufacturing and assembly teams begin production for market. Our products are built using the very best: NASA grade technology, 3D printers and CAD software. These are put to work to create products that are simple, accessible and affordable.
The aim of our service design process is to create trustworthy, useful and enjoyable services for our customers. Where Myanmar farmers live, knowledge and best farming practices can be difficult to access. Inaccurate information is prevalent and it can be tough to find a trusted source.
Our services are designed with our customers needs front and center. Using lean business principles and user research, we create personalized services at scale.
Myanmar has the fastest-growing population of smartphone users out of any developing nation. As rural areas become more connected, we’re exploring new ways to keep in touch and deliver our services. We see this as a huge opportunity to deliver information to more farmers at a lower cost, increasing the value of every dollar we spend.
Just one example is our use of SMS messaging to connect farmers with agronomists who share fertilizer advice and pest outbreak solutions. Our team of coders and digital experts work to bring the most effective digital channels to Myanmar’s farmers.
Like customers around the world, Myanmar farmers appreciate a well-crafted, beautiful product. Our visual design team ensures that our products and services are as intuitive as they are visually stunning. At every stage of the customer journey, from learning how to use the product to opening up the packaging, we aim to excite.
We pay attention to the many details of our brand. We’ve worked with local sign painters to design two custom fonts, navigated the printing scene to get just the right shade of maroon, and we’re proud to hear that some customers display our packaging on the shelves of their homes. It’s the little things.
Our design principles in action
Every product and service at Proximity goes through a rigorous design process. Check out the four below to get a taste of how it has been done.
- Sturdy Boy Water Tank
- Golden Sprout Texting Service
- Packaging for the Lotus
- On-the-Go Loan
Sturdy Boy Water Tank
A 250-gallon storage tank, designed for complete portability and durability. There was no affordable water storage product available in the market, so we designed a low-cost and portable way to store water for use in a gravity-fed drip irrigation system. The design was initially conceived with the Stanford d.school but took us several years of prototyping and testing to reach a final design that could be manufactured in Myanmar.
The unique geometric shape enables the tank to transport flat while gaining strength and capacity as it fills with water. Plus, our customers love how it looks on their farms.
The creative collective
Labs is a small yet mighty team of ten designers: Tayzar Lin, Myo Chit, Tin Tun Aung, Louisa-Jane Richards, Thet Wai, Keegan Flynn, Aung Ko Ko, Gabriel Smales, Su Zun Mon and Taiei Harimoto.