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'Diversity's the term with which we recognize India. India has a lot of ethnic and cultural subgroups and each act as an independent entity in itself. With so many differences, coexistent is difficult but exist. The gap between needs, demands and available resources is sinister and itself a big concern. Meaning/definition of design itself is a matter of debate and changes with different contexts and past/present associations
In India Design can mean anything from a pattern drawn by Indian women outside their homes to strategizing 5 years plan for India. For Indians a pattern on sari is design or a piece of jewel is a design. The history of definition of design goes back to colonial times when Indian was considered as a pilgrimage for Arts and crafts.
India and its roots
The evidence of India being connected to high level understandings of design, goes back to 2500 BC, Mohenjadaro-Harappa excavations which was a marvel of architecture, town planning and technology. With highly sophisticated structure and a very core level detailing, the Indian Design already had achieved a far deeper understanding of designs. The high level design content already present in our Shastras like Shilpa, NAtya, VAastu for sculpture, music and architecture explains and is evident of India's interest in the field.
Design Education in India
The coexistence of Indian traditions with modern techniques is difficult but only possible in India. Traditional performing arts, crafts, caste/community-based, on-the-job training etc are passed from generation to generation, sometimes oral in nature they really don't have any written proofs and texts.
Western influence during the colonial time through art schools tried ruining local talent and creativity, imposing Western graphics and designs to create copyists. Indians still find it extremely difficult to differentiate between decorative arts, fine arts and applied arts.
The Swadeshi movement was significant to the Indian psyche. Economic self-reliance was the most important element of swadeshi movement.
Caste systems and religious biases have always been country's weakest links. Industrialization of the country made it even more difficult for lower caste people find a job for earnings. Gandhi with his Swadeshi movement and with the help of other Indian intellectuals started experimenting with innovative pedagogy. The project "taalim" was to train the most needy from remote villages with skills that can help them bring some earning home.
Post independence it some some time for India to accept and adapt the new modern designs. The focus was more on rapid scientific and technological development. All modern design ideas were borrowed from outside and India didn't have much capability of concerptualizing things on its own. In india Design is considered to be an evolution than a revolution.
The first school of design was established in 1961, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
India and Design Opportunities and Challenges
India is one of the fastest developing in the world and hence the challenges are enormous and sinister. The basic problem lies in the fact that the attitude towards design education itself is different across people. In India Education is considered to be more for a skill learning course than a challenge of opening minds to different imagination and techniques. The ideas are bound by the curriculum designs and expectations. The trend towards safest possible career line and hence safest possible education options is like a rat race in India. Each Indian wants his/her kid to top the class and become one of those top earning people of country.
It is a known fact that no creativity or innovation can only exist in coexistence with risks and challenges, while Indians keep seeking an easy way out. They are more focused on their earnings than pursuing their hobbies as their career. Most of the people consider education as the only way to meet their ends and hence try not to experiment with it. Design solutions are first required to help eradicate the basic problems of Indian society like illiteracy and unemployment. The first challenge to design education reach mass is it should be approachable and feasible. When 80% of the population of the country still live in villages, it is important to find ways to reach them and make design relevant to them. There are plenty of already existing design solutions in India that are implemented across cultures. They are passed from one generation to another and can well face extinction because of modernity intruding in culture and lives. Thus it becomes extremely important to document the already existing, extremely innovative and creative design techniques and solutions for future learnings.
Thorough understanding of cultural context is the only solution a good design. It is important to have researchers like anthropologist, psychologist or cognitive scientist to understand the need gap of Indian society. Only with a qualitative or observational approach solutions can be reached. Government organizations and programs and NGOs are the key sources of secondary knowledge to Indian society.
Business Design Approach in India
In India, the industries and businesses can be categorized in 4 ways - large scale, small scale, cottage and home based; each having very different design requirements. Cottage and home based industries are more labor based than idea based. The challenge lies in finding one design solution compulsorily catering to creative techniques that can be used in all industries. A design solution that can be employed at all levels maybe with different given tools.
In india introducing special customized design solutions to problems can work for a short term, but with the level of diversity in caste, religion, language, class, a more general approach to systems and processes is required to bring a same level.
Cross Cultural Design sharing and interaction
In this era of globalization and with complete connectivity, it is important to keep learning from other sources. India has lots to teach to the world, and the world has lots to give to India. It is important to create a balance between knowledge sharing and not consider it as a "only give" or "only take" thing. This will help enrich the quality of design education in India and will bring different capabilities together to promise a better more creative and innovative design solution.
With design industry becoming interested in addressing bigger challenges and involve public and social sector organizations in their ideas and processes. Also, new methods are being developed to serve under serviced countries.
Examples of small but leading Indian designs that seek to bring changes
Active stories for tata sky - Each child in India has grown up hearing grandmother telling stories - folktales and mesmerizing fairytales. TATA sky Active Stories was a slam solution to this need gap of making sure the children learn the untold stories. All TATA Sky users can watch TATA's Sky's paid personal channel ACTIVE STORIES wither to teach their children or relive the memories. With a good visual appeal to children, this is soon becoming on way of documenting or protecting our culture and its basics.
Technology - TATA Nano is one of the biggest example that does not need any further explanations
Process Design - Tanishq's brilliant Supply chain design is an important example of a perfect process design created to get into India's completely fragmented Jewellery market and leading it. From understanding of Customers and catering to their varied culture and design preferences and building optimum solution by building a chain that gives employment to many needy workers, the design needs a well deserved mention.
Packaging - Leading Indian companies are trying to adapt and understand the design needs in packaging of their offerings. Companies like GSK, Godtej, TATA etc are hiring design professionals to make their product more attractive and feasible in terms of packaging. With different usage patterns and needs of urban and rural customers, packaging has become one of the key most elements of the offerings and brands.
How Design can help India
India is leading towards - technological stagnation. In developing countries meetings needs has become the prime concern and hence all technologies, development, education leads to cater to that one problem. India, hardly comes up with innovative breathtaking examples of high level deigns. Collaborating with international companies to gain the skills and knowledge that the world has to offer is the key concern.
Many multinational countries are keen in investing in India. They want to enter with products that can suit and cater to Indian demands and standards. The expansion cannot take place without thorough understanding of current and potential needs of society using all possible processes and resources. Design talent within the countru should be ready to adapt to this influx of interest.
Blending of local and international interest and offerings is important for success. Integration of different design solutions into one that can best cater the need is the key to designing. Catering to different urban and rural requirements itself is a key design issue.
For a country like India, where unemployment is a major issue, design education can led to employment generation. Local skills can be leveraged to enter international markets as well.
Gap in income is one of the most serious and troubling problem of India. Most of the development programs designed by Indian government fail to reach the target group. Communication design is the key to solve the issue, many programs if well designed can well create a better affect and in turn a better society.
Design can play a vital role in finding solutions to very basic ecological problems. Trying to find usable products and energy resources from the already existing habits of people can help make India a cleaner place to live.
Population being one major concern, education of masses remains the key solution. This can be achieved my mass media. A proper well thought of 'Information and communication design' can play a significant role in social, cultural and scientific education of masses.
My Life, career and Design
I would like to start my argument with a very famous quote by Jim Rohn
"If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."
Exposure to Design and its implementations has helped open my mind to various possibilities that lie in front of me. It helped me understand the finding of a need gap does not really require research and findings but sometimes a pure logical reason can work. Listening to all possible ideas and solutions is the key to innovation and creativity.
I have huge interest in pursuing my career in strategic management, and design is an integral part of it. For ex - planning an entry strategy for a retail brand will involve understanding of indiam consumer,
The brand building strategy involves challenge of getting to know the market for organized retail and identifying target group for the brand. After detailed understanding about Indian shopper, a brand positioning strategy can be articulated. Creating and designing the communication that would detail the target group tastes and preferences. Designing a loyalty program again is an important strategic for brands.
Design is a link in the chain of a brand or a means of expressing brand values to different people. It is a tool to make business strategies visible. Design is seeking consistency of a system or intelligence of an object. Design enables you to understand pure aesthetics to create objects that can serve human needs. Design should accommodate economic, Aesthetic, technological and commercial constraints and should arrive at a solution.
My understanding of Design
Design helped me achieve a deeper understanding of aspects related to my work and my actions. A good understanding of design helps you get a better clarity of concept/subject. How each element of the process should be studied in depth to cover all possible information and knowledge on the subject. It also taught me how important it is to break and keep breaking the building of an idea/process/design into sub elements to reach the core of the problem in hand. More importantly research, both primary and secondary, should be well gathered to be absolutely clear of your further actions. Design thinking also makes you think ahead in time to make your final idea/offering more relevant to coming future.. Design is a major aspect in every organization and it is essential that it is bought into an industry from its inception. Design can play a major role once these organizations have completely excelled in all aspects like production, quality, marketing, etc. Design would provide them that competitive edge that would make them the leaders. In this kind of market it's doing something differently that would appeal more rather than trying to outdo your competitor. Incorporation of design as an essential aspect of company strategy in corporate as well as the educational sector would be key to its growth in the minds of the future managers.