Gloria Rodríguez is a designer specializing in eXperience Design based in Bogotá, Colombia. She received a bachelor’s in industrial design from Universidad Javierana and a master’s in Development Practice from Universidad de Los Andes.
While working with grassroots organizations, public and private sector institutions and foreing aid cooperation in the design of development programs and projects, Rodríguez was deeply influenced by the methodologies of contemporary anthropological research, the role of design in society and its relevance in intercultural and interregional work. What resulted was a new outlook on experiential design and sustainability: one that keeps individuals, their lives and stories at the heart of each project.
I met my grandmother later in childhood. She couldn’t read or write Spanish because she never went to school. Since I was home schooled, I decided that I was going to teach her everything. I became obsessed with this idea; it became my goal in life at age 7. Soon that ideal vanished, and she turned out to be the most impossible student. She didn’t do homework or her writing… It started alright, but somewhere in the middle she would lose it, ending the letters and numbers with a nonsense organic shape. That was it. I was done with her.
She kept a small appointment book at all times with her, more like a calendar, from a shoe company she worked for when she arrived in Bogotá in the 1950´s. All her contacts were there. It was always a mystery to me. If she couldn’t read or write, what was in her appointment book? One day she asked me to make a phone call- for the first time- she handed me the book and instructed to search for a drawing with three circles on the left side. Once I found the drawing, a long column of numbers were displayed right in front of it underneath the phone symbol. “That´s it! That’s Mrs. Lola, please dial,” she said.
Mrs. Lola was an old employer. She used to live by a shopping center called The Three Elephants. The phone call was to schedule a visit; she took me along with her. I spent so much time with my grandmother that soon I understood the meaning of every drawing she had in the book. One by one, we would embark on journeys to visit friends and family following the directions in the book´s patterns. The patterns would tell us where to take the bus, which bus, where to get off, blocks, and specific features of the place to be found such as people, graffiti, or trees she remembered as landmarks.
I learned that small book was an atlas filled with categorized blueprints of places and representations of the space as she experienced it. The symbols were a code she built to navigate the city and her life. That language right there was way more exciting and rich than the Spanish language. I was glad that I stopped my attempts to teach her my language. I began to learn her’s instead.