CNBC Storyboard: Design Is More Valuable Than Ever

In India we have always celebrated Design. Design has been an integral part of our visual and material culture. We have always marvelled at the handmade objects made by the traditional artists. Architecture from various era’s has its own mark. No other country is as rich as India in its textiles heritage. There has been an abundant amount of creativity in India, and it had been fairly democratised. Almost every household in rural India still takes pride in bits and pieces of this creative process of living beautifully.

But we didn’t really put a lot of effort to understand the processes of these creative outputs. We have always been too happy to live in the result and not ponder on what creates the result. This is very visible from the way we handle advertising creativity as well. We create visualisers, creative directors from the passion of the young applied arts graduates. None of whom have gone through a process of questioning. They do acquire this however on the way and acquire it well enough to win International awards. But I don’t see much academic discussion or many PhD’s being performed on this creative process, unlike many other places in the world.

What is the difference between art and design? I always say art does not need to have a process to create, whereas Design needs to have a process in place. It doesn’t mean that Design is a process that can be repeated like scientific experiments. So there is Art in Design. It is amazing to see what an artist can do if he follows a process. This is especially true of commercial or Applied art graduates. Perhaps time for AICTE to upgrade all commercial and applied art to Graphic design levels.

The Industry that benefits most from Artists converting into designers is the Advertising Industry since it does make money by using art to persuade a behaviour. This combination becomes a strong agent of change.

Design helps us to understand the changes in the world around us, and to turn them to our advantage by translating them into things that can make our lives better. Now, at a time of crisis and unprecedented change in every area of our lives – economic, political, environmental, societal and in science and technology – design is more valuable than ever.

At a time when Design has evolved in many countries, we in India are taking our first steps. In India we do have a Design Policy by the government in place for last two years. As perhaps the first objective now we have “India Design Council” nominated by the ministry of Industry and headed by Shri Anand Mahindra. Though the focus of The Design Policy as well as The India Design Council remains to be Industrial Design, it is true that the lead will come from the Visual Design areas. Whether they are pure graphic design, Advertising, Films, Animation or gaming, web or interactive media. Indians are already commanding premiums in these areas.

Once a tool of consumption (Design) chiefly involved in the production of objects and images, design is now also engaged with developing and building systems and strategies, and in changing behaviour often in collaboration with different disciplines.

Design is being used to:
·    Gain insight about people’s needs and desires
·    Build strategic foresight to discover new opportunities
·    Generate creative possibilities
·    Clarify, illustrate and communicate complex information
·    Invent, prototype and test novel solutions of value
·    Deliver solutions into the world as innovations adopted at scale.

I will not elaborate the benefits that brings in for our communication, branding and advertising Industry since that is so obvious but in the current climate, the biggest challenges for design and also its greatest opportunities are in social areas. The World Economic Forum, Global Design Council confirms the following areas where design can play and should be explored to play a role in our context;

·    Well-being – Design can make an important contribution to the redefinition and delivery of social services by addressing acute problems such as ageing, youth crime, housing and health. Many designers are striving to enable people all over the world to lead their lives with dignity, especially the deprived majority of the global population – “the other 90%” who have the greatest need of design innovation.

·    Sustainability – Designers can play a critical role in ensuring that products, systems and services are developed, produced, shipped, sold and will eventually be disposed of in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner, thereby meeting – and surpassing – consumers’ expectations.

·    Learning – Design can help to rebuild the education system to ensure that it fits its purpose in the 21st Century. Another challenge is to redefine or reorient the design educational system at a time of unprecedented demand when thousands of new design schools are being built worldwide and design is increasingly being integrated into other curricula. Designers are also deploying their skill at communication and visualization to explain and interpret the overwhelming volume of extraordinarily complex information.

·    Innovation – Designers are continuing to develop and deliver innovative new products at a turbulent time when consumer attitudes are changing dramatically, thereby creating new and exciting entrepreneurial opportunities in the current crisis. They are increasingly using their expertise to innovate in new areas such as the creation of new business models and the adoption of a strategic and systemic role in both the public and private sectors.

In this context you also realise that perhaps it is wrong to compartmentalise the process thinking in Design. There has to be a better understanding of ‘Links’ as Prof. Kaustav says. The links exist in fashion, architecture, interior, product and communication design.

Designyatra 2009 brings these links out in the forefront with so many speakers with such diverse backgrounds. I will miss the fashion, apparel and textile inputs though. I hope with time we realise the way to our own progress is so intimately linked with development of process and thinking in all these Design areas.

Sudhir Sharma is the chairman of ‘Indi Creative Group’ and founded Elephant Design. He is a member of the India Design Council and was recently invited to join the Global Design Council of the World Economic Forum.


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