With Praveen Nahar, Director of the National Institute of Design Ahmedabad, at the iF Design Award Jury session in Hamburg

Designers are becoming more critical than ever. Today you will find designers working across industries, from technology, product design, UX, industrial design to materials, surfaces, ergonomics, policy, branding, and healthcare. Designers are making their presence felt in fashion, architecture interiors, furniture, automobiles, media, broadcast, hospitality, banking, education…it seems like there isn’t an area they haven’t explored. What is surprising is what they bring to the table, even in areas traditionally considered out of bounds. 

If designers in 2020 are being more recognized and valued, it’s because they are: 

Outsiders: Designers are forever outsiders in their own industries. They might spend a lifetime in one domain or industry, but their diverse interests and curiosity to discover how things work makes them fans of other sectors, processes, and systems. They have a natural quest for knowledge that’s not limited to their own industry. This is invaluable for their own organizations as well. 

Disrupters: Because they are outsiders, it’s always elementary for them to ask why something should happen the way it does. Causing disruption because of cross knowledge is another sought after trait. 

Activists: You will not find designers sitting around when they see something new or better – they will be leading the change, talking, and lobbying for it inside and outside their organization. This can bring significant value to older institutions. 

Ethicists: Designers will be the first ones to flag the ethics issues. Whether it is to do with data privacy or use of unsustainable materials, it’s hard to keep designers quiet. This trait may make them activists on the other side as well. 

Authenticists: Designers would instead find their own way than copy someone else. They would never fake anything or allow their industry to do things less than original. Which brand today can afford to ignore what this value means to IP and innovation? 

We have our excellent design education to thank for this. The pioneering design teachers in India — Dashrath Patel, Kumar Vyas, Nadkarni, Vikas Satwalekar, Mahendra Bhai, Balaram, and so many more — didn’t just teach us design, they established values that other education systems have long forgotten. I am sure design teachers of today will keep this flag flying higher. 

Sudhir Sharma, Editor-in-Chief

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