Design Happenings in Bangalore: Two Weeks at NID Bangalore
Prof M P Ranjan
Image 1: DCC models about food at NID Bangalore: Climate, Geography and Culture.
I have been in Bangalore, nay Bengaluru now, for over ten days and have been conducting the Design Concepts and Concerns Course (DCC) for students of three disciplines at the NID Bangalore Centre. The theme continues to be food and the assignments have gone through a small transformation. The first assignment had three groups looking at the macro aspects of food and the economy across the broad fields of influence under the heads of Climate, Geography and Culture. The first assignment ended with the three groups having explored the chosen areas through brainstorming and some supporting research ending in the production of a visually rich model that could help in the “visual sensemaking” process as defined by the NextD Leadership Institute.
Image 2: DCC team presentations at NID Bangalore
Each group came up with compelling presentations that revealed a great depth of information carried by the team members and they were all able to produce rich models and make their presentation to the faculty and students at NID Bangalore. The Geography group used a compact model of the continents which revealed both their knowledge as well as their areas of ignorance about the world of food, since the North American and European regions were better represented than the South Americas and the African continent. The climate group divided the world into zones along the longitudes and used one table surface for each zone to capture a picture book of “Poloroid pictures” just as a returning traveler would have shared their vast journeys with their clansmen in the past. The third group had everyone holding their breath with their stunning portrayal of culture using their knowledge of India and the variety of foods and their associations with religious and cultural affiliations. The three dimensional display was well classified and translated into banners each that covered one major category of food and a central display mapped the three major religions that dominate the Indian landscape.
Image: Neelam Chibber with Prof. Ranjan at NID Bangalore and with students of the DCC class.
Neelam Chibber who visited the NID campus briefly to see the bamboo workshop at IPIRTI across the street from the NID campus was quite taken in by the presentation of the culture group and she has commissioned the team to make a refined set of banners about food and culture for her new stores in the now revised Industree Crafts stores that are taking shape in her back office operation of scaling up and diversifying her already successful operation to bring value to Indian crafts at the grassroots level. The Industree Crafts Foundation as well as Industree Crafts Pvt Ltd is being transformed after taking strong roots in Bangalore and I will bring this story to this blog when Neelam is ready with her new and revised offering. Industree Crafts Foundation and the business wing Indistree Crafts Pvt Ltd. works on a Fair Trade principle with over 15,000 village craftsmen across seven states and the Northeastern Region of India and it grew from a small investment of Rs 12 lakhs (1.2 million Rupees) to reach a valuation of over Rs. 15 crores today and growing further by the day. Neelam worked with Gita Ram of the Crafts Council of India and Poonam Bir Kasturi in the early days to nurture a lofty thinking organisation and has shown us that design and social equity can bring good value for all partners. You can download a pdf article about their Fair Play principles from this link as a 688 kb pdf file titled "Fair and Just".
Image 3: Swiss design team conducting a workshop at NID Bangalore
The Swiss design team of industrial designer Frederic Dedelley and design journalist Ariana Pradal conducted a one day sensitizing workshop for all the students at NID Bangalore when they shared the Swiss Design experience through a slide lecture which was followed by a hand-on workshop aimed at creating a designer Letter Opener by direct action on materials and ideas. The evening saw an exciting presentation of over 50 different design offerings which were stimulating and showed the students the dominant design activity of product diversification with the use of micro detailing and form giving that are central to a designers bread and butter operation in their dealings with industry.
Image 4: Guided tour at the Swiss Design exhibit at Bangalore Max Muller Bhavan.
I got to visit the Swiss Design exhibition, Criss+Cross at the Max Muller Bhavan in Indra Nagar and also to take the guided tour offered by Ariana Pradal. I was joined by my daughter, a Bangalore based Graphic Designer, Aparna Ranjan in this very informative tour and later we sat together for a long chat with Frederic Dedelley on various issues and directions in design for India and the world.
Image 5: Bamboo workshop at IPIRTI with Tripura craftsmen for the IL&FS project.
The IPIRITI based bamboo development workshop had nine craftsmen from Tripura along with two of our mastercraftsmen working on my new designs that used a combination of bamboo poles and rubber wood components under the supervision of NID Bangalore faculty and long time bamboo colleague, C S Susanth. The IL&FS team included a supervisor and their senior officer S Matouleibi who manages the field activities of the Tripura Bamboo Mission in Agartala, Tripura. We developed a collection ten new designs with a focus on a “local-to-local strategy”, where we selected products that would have a ready local market in the Tripura region which in turn would facilitate start-up entrepreneurship amongst the bamboo craftsmen who need to develop their self confidence through some mentored development initiatives by the design and finance teams in the field.
Image 6: Visit to Quetzel Design Pvt Ltd
This project and the strategy to use some rubber wood components had me driving all the way across Bangalore from Penea to Sarjapur Road for a visit to Quetzel, a furniture design and manufacturing firm started by two NID graduates, Sandeep Mukherjee and Sarita Fernandes. The company has grown from humble beginnings to be one of the finest furniture manufacturing firms in India that can compete with the international brands that are now entering India across all the parameters of marketing and design. Sandeep and Sarita were both my students in the Furniture Design faculty and NID and I feel quite proud to see their massive and refined industrial venture which has been built at a time when design was ignored by both government and industry alike, which is something that I had called attention to in my paper of 2001 at the first National Design Summit organized by the CII and NID in Bangalore. My paper was titled “Cactus Flowers Bloom on the Dessert” to draw attention to the extremely hostile economic and policy climate in which design was passing through and things have not changed much even today, although we have come a long way as a profession today, but no thanks to either the government and to the established industry, who have steadfastly ignored the design community in India while they have run after international collaborations at a huge cost to our economy and to the tax payer alike. Download paper here 123 kb pdf file and visual presentation here in two parts: Part 1 – 3.6 mb pdf file and Part 2 – 4.6 mb pdf file
Image 7: Visit to Trapeze Design Studio at Koramangala
On our return from our long drive to Quetzel and back I took Matouleibi to visit Trapeze, a graphic design studio at Koramangala which was set up by two NID graduates, Sarita Sunder and Ram Sinam. An exciting small studio with a row of Macs on one side and an impromptu photo studio and a table tennis facility on the other. Trapeze has an impressive range of clients from across several sectors and their work in print and web design has set standards for Indian graphic design industry in spite of their small and cozy studio size and very personalized format of operation.
Image 8: Book launch function at Crosswords for Dr Darlie O Koshy and his book “Indian Design Edge”.
The week closed with another interesting event which I will write about in some detail in a future post since it will need the time and space to read, reflect and comment about, in a balanced manner, if possible. This event was the launch of the new book, “Indian Design Edge” by Dr Darlie O Koshy, Director, National Institute of Design through the Roli Books Publishers at an evening event at Crosswords Bookstore on Residency Road, Bangalore. The event saw the main speaker Dr Sadagopan, Director IIIT, Bangalore (Tripple IT Bangalore) wax and wane about the virtues of design from the aesthetics to the usability of the Apple iPhone and his profuse praise for Dr Koshy’s many achievements in his 8 year long career at NID as its Executive Director for the first five years and later as its Director for the past three years after a terminiology change that has left us all puzzled if it is a move forward for NID or not. I bought three copies of the book for myself, my wife Aditi Ranjan and my daughter Aparna Ranjan so that all of us designers could come up to steam quickly on Dr Koshy’s offering to the design publishing space in India, which by the way is very starved of any kind of serious publishing and this particular offering will be lapped up by the much starved Indian and international design public, I am sure. Dr Koshy is also a Board Member of ICSID, the International Council of Societies Industrial Design, and by the way my blog “Design for India” has been showcased by the ICSID blog in the education section last month particularly for the Tata Nano debate that it had hosted when the product was launched with much fanfare early this year. Ratan Tata has written the Forward for Dr Koshy’s book and the Tata Nano appears on the dust jacket as well as on the contents page of the book as a symbol of Indian design success.
Image 9: Visitors at the book launch function at Crosswords, Bangalore
There was a bash across the street from Crosswords organized by a local fashion group to falicitate Dr Koshy on his publishing achievement but I did not gate-crash this bash at the Taj Gateway but chose to have a quiet dinner with my daughter Aparna along with two very interesting young designers from France and Germany, two girls who have chosen to work in India since it offers them real challenges unlike the well established and stable design climate in Europe today. We sat a Coconut Grove and got a sense of what foreign designers liked in India and how they had coped with the challenges of Indian living, both rode mobikes in Bangalore and have worked for over two years in a umber of very interesting assignments here in Bangalore. I am sure India can accommodate may more such international adventurers in the 230 sectors of our economy that is today starved of design offerings due to policy myopia in government and in industry. The design scene in India is indeed changing rapidly and this si an exciting time to be working in and in writing about design for India. Mireille Arnaud, the girl from France, is working with some stone craftsmen from a village called Shivarapatna in Karnataka and she has helped them build contemporary concepts that can take their skills to new markets in India and overseas. This is the kind of cooperation that we had envisaged when Aditi and I had embarked on the research for the book “Handmade in India” in conversations with Jogi Panghaal one of our prominent collaborators and several of our faculty colleagues at NID. India can offer creative opportunities of Indian and international designers to work closely with Indian craftsmen to build a creative economy which could be the future for many of the Indian crafts if our policy initiatives are managed in the right direction. On the other hand, Christina Hug from Germany, is working as a creative director in a local design firm with her focus on graphics and communication having traveled to India after field experiences with the Greenpeace Foundation in many countries.
This week I get back to NID Ahmedabad with a good feel from Bangalore since so much has happened the past ten days and the stay was useful and productive. I look forward to returning soon to Bangalore, the city of Rain Tree avenues and a still wonderful climate, if we manage to keep it that way, Nano or no Nano!
Prof M P Ranjan