Uttishta Varanasi, Deergha Joshi, Akshay Yadav, Kamana Marwah, Aparajita Tiwari and Praveen Nahar
What is the role of a designer? Is it the manipulation of the radii on the latest phone, which is to be replaced next year? Is making user friendly screens for “the next big thing”? Or is it dreaming up “the next big thing”? Is the role of the integrator of design, business and technology? Is the designer supposed to be a driver of flourishing democracies, communities and diverse environments? The right answer is all of the above; and a lot more.
The definition of design has been evolving from “aesthetic decoration” to “how a product looks, feels and works”; but a single sentence struggles to explain the scope and extent of what design can do. Design can be broadly defined as the act of creation, but even that falls short.
Since the industrial revolution our economies have been in a constant state of evolution; from mass manufactured products to a service based economy to the next major change. Economies have also been becoming more and more globalised. Alongside, the role of a designer has also evolved; from aesthetics to product differentiation. Still, there is a disconnect between the design fraternity and everyone else; something even designers fail to bridge. This is very evident in India, where design is mostly just seen as a beautification process.
India is also undergoing huge changes; from “Make in India”, to the developing startup culture across the nation. The massive rise and empowerment of the middle class has been an integral factor in facilitating these changes. The context with which India has to be designed, and designed for has evolved. Following a similar growth pattern to other developed countries in the west, or imitating China’s manufacturing success story cannot be India’s route to development. The qualitative aspects of our society must grow along with the quantitative growth of our economy; something that design can easily bring about. Through our study, we probe into the various aspects of this evolving economy and the parallel changes in the role, perception and challenges for design and designers across the country. We talk about the Indian context of redesigning design; from business innovation to societal transformation to design education. How the Indian concept of design needs to move beyond beautiful motifs, and delve into bigger questions; from the problems of education, policy making, rural livelihood, etc.
Bringing these concepts into reality, we have created frameworks and triggers that aided local communities to understand and utilise design to solve issues. We provided platforms for both, designers and non-designers. We created a design student toolkit that aims to empower students to think beyond the hard skills they learn at a design school. We have also conducted workshops to educate students of backgrounds other than design on the possibilities of design; helping remove misconceptions on what design is capable of, and bettering the scope of meaningful collaborations. We looked at what designers know they are capable of; how can we facilitate a greater design fraternity; how to train more relevant designers, and empowering the masses with design.