Towards a responsible design

Towards a responsible design

Prof Pradyumna Vyas, Director of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad was in the city to be a part of the recently concluded 12th edition of Pune Design Festival. During a one-to-one interaction with the senior designer, who is also a Member Secretary at the India Design Council, he spoke about the evolution of design, role of technology, responsible and sustainable design concepts and why designers need to resort to their roots. Excerpts for the interview:

According to Vyas, what began with textile designing has opened different and specialised disciplines today. “Textile designing has always been deep rooted in our culture. Designers worked with craftsmen and weavers to contemporise traditional designs. This has helped designers make traditional look cool and modern. Design played a huge part  because investments were not too high back then,” he says. 

With people realising the value of branding, graphic designing started becoming important and gradually investment in the field increased.  “Back then, the fear of being copied was a major deterrent. However, from ’80s onwards, when economy started opening up, joint ventures became a big thing and industrial and automobile giants started entering Indian markets. Indian manufactures began to upgrade their designs in order to compete with their foreign counterparts. I think it was then that the industry started looking at design beyond aesthetics and started focussing on investments in designs, the process of designing and so on,” he adds, pointing out that industrial design got a boost in the ’90s, and people wanted to Indianise their products. 

When asked how  IT revolution helped the design industry, Vyas talks about how interaction design, interface design, new media etc. become a trend. “Better incomes, good purchasing power and better lifestyle resulted in new avenues for designers ­­— interiors, consumer durables, furniture, lighting, clothing, automobile, products displayed at home and offices etc. led to involvement of designers and design aesthetics.” 

Vyas feels that designers need to focus on sustainable thinking, better living and inclusive development. “With big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, smart cities and so on, becoming the order of the day, the challenge that Indian designers face is to figure out whether they will continue to do things in the traditional way or move towards a more futuristic way. We can’t go on designing focussing only on consummerism as it has an adverse impact on environment. The challenges for designers today are certainly becoming very different — a more responsible outlook is the need of the hour in design education,” he feels.

Back in the day, recalls Vyas, the focal point of design was the designer himself, but today important aspects like minimal use of resources, new technology, creating a product which is good for everybody, involves universal design and inclusive thinking, benefits the old people and curbing their loneliness,  creates gender equality, empowers the poor and helps them get a dignified life, supports development of women and children, ensures safety of women in society etc, have become significant.

“We have to gear up to embrace these challenges. While we have to address the requirement of the elite and their luxurious demands, designers must emphasise on the creating products that protect the environment and cater to the needs of the poor to give them a better quality of life. One of the strongest issues that designers must address are the sustainable goals,” he urges.  

While we are embracing modernity and technology, we must not stop to seek inspiration from our history. Further throwing light on this, Vyas emphsises that we must capitalise on our Indianness and traditions, because if we try to harp on the borrowed concepts and knowledge from the West, we will never be able to develop. “We can only become global leaders based on our own sensibilities and knowledge. It is time we brought our culture and heritage to the forefront and taught the world that our history has mantras that can give a better future to our upcoming generation,” he adds. 

Citing an example, he says if we assessed how our forefathers lived, we’ll realise that there was sustainability in everything that they did. “For example, taking a bath with only a bucket of water is a great way to minimise water consumption and we must make that a global practice with the help of design. We just need to package and brand it properly. Indian designers must understand their culture, pick up these aspects from history and marry them with new technology and design to create a new sustainable culture. I truly believe that future should always have some connection with our past,” Vyas says. 

“Technology must work for our advantage,” is his answer when asked how can we benefit from it.  He stresses on the fact that we cannot replicate what other countries are doing with technology, we need to work around technology in such a way that it benefits our society. “At the end of the day, big data, automation and AI is overtaking manpower, but we have to think about education, jobs, opportunities and future of the youngsters. If technology can be used to treat a patient living in the remotest part of the country, while the doctor is sitting in Pune, it is only then that we can use the fourth industrial revolution to our advantage,” he concludes.

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