Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indian Design Edge

This book written in 2008 by Darlie Koshy, then Director of India’s National Institute of Design makes an impassioned plea for a greater emphasis on design in India.

He makes the following important points:
• Design thinking is more important than ever before.

• India needs to create a distinct design identity based on our culture, crafts and traditions. But this identity has to be relevant to modern times.

• Design has to be integrated with technology and the market. Design is an integral part of a brand strategy.

• Design has tremendous potential in the service / experience economy. Indian designers have not paid enough attention to the potential of design in this arena.

• India does not have a critical mass of designers. While the National Design Policy (2007) is a good first step, much needs to be done to make design a national movement.

Dr. Koshy provides useful insights into the transformation of NID during his tenure (2000-08). He set up new campuses at Gandhinagar and Bangalore, and expanded the number of programmes and intake. This will enable a comparison between the heritage campus at Paldi (Ahmedabad) and the new offshoots. This would enable competition, and a validation of different design paradigms.

The book has case studies of IndusTree, KAARU, new coinage developed by NID etc. These are useful in understanding how design and an Indian ethos can be coupled together effectively.

Overall though, the book left me worried. I had interacted with Ashoke Chatterjee, a former Director of NID, in the late 1990s. Even then he was talking about the Ahmedabad declaration on design (1979), and need for a national design policy. But it has taken such a long time even to get the design policy in place. Some of the new events started by Dr. Koshy like the CII-NID Design Summit, Businessworld-NID Design awards are valuable, but still a drop in the ocean. And the huge strides taken by other countries (I have some direct experience at least of the Korean efforts that Dr Koshy has documented in this book) show us up as very slow and fragmented. This story repeats itself in other domains as well. What a tragedy….