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The Week in Desi Design V

There was a rare treat in store for me this week. Architecture writer Gautam Bhatia (whom I have always admired for his book on Laurie Baker) wrote a lovely piece of graphic design criticism in this month’s Outlook magazine. After a general lament about the poor state of Indian magazine design, he comes to his real point — the design of Outlook magazine itself. He praises it for restraint, but warns the magazine that a graphic re-invention might soon be necessary.

I’m afraid I have to agree. While the illustrations in Outlook have never stooped to the crassness of the illustrations in Week, they have since been far surpassed by Anand Naorem’s sophistication and Uzma Mohsin’s layered intricacy in Tehelka‘s illustrations. Here’s my absolute favorite of Uzma’s Tehelka work, an illustration for a piece on the Gujarat riots:

Uzma Mohsin for Tehelka

Tehelka’s design team has really taken chances, not just with illustrations, but also with layouts and typography. Personally, I prefer its edginess to the “restraint” mentioned by Bhatia in his article. It is one thing to use graphic design in a reticent, functionalist sense — for better clarity and reading order. But it is another thing entirely to use design as an editorial tool, to provoke reactions and involve readers. Outlook may have more catching up to do than Bhatia suspects.

In other desi graphic design news, CNN IBNlive recently screened a profile of D. Udaya Kumar, the designer of the rupee symbol. It is a charming enough video about the reticent typographer, but I found it impressive for other reasons. No matter what one’s opinion of the rupee symbol might be, the competition has given a public face to some of the finer nuances of graphic design. I’d never have expected to hear the word “Typography” used on national television, much less a discussion of the typographic issues in Indic scripts!

This new media interest in graphic design is all for the good. For one, desi designers are finally getting some long overdue credit. Secondly, only an informed, public discussion of design can help the profession grow to be more relevant and meaningful.

So it is with much hope for the future that I say, here’s to more desi design news next week!


  1. Akash Hans wrote:

    Although Outlook does need some change in design, nevertheless it was one of the first magazines to be genuinely enthusiastic about design. I remember the issue some years back, when they revamped their magazine. Vinod Mehta(I believe it was him, but I may be wrong) wrote with such delight about the new typeface(Mercury)and even discussed the gutter margins among other things.

    Tehelka is brave with their articles as well as design.
    By comparison it is better than Outlook in layout as well as its covers.

    The only good design The India Today Group ever put out was TARGET Magazine. Till today we have nothing in its comparison. I still curse the day they shut it down.

  2. Akash Hans wrote:

    I tried checking their website too but could not find it. Called their office but the person said “Humko phaant ke bare mein maloom nahi hai.” and he asked me to call the office on monday.

    *If anybody from Outlook is reading this then could you please enlighten us regarding the typeface as well as the issue that is in discussion.*

  3. […] evolution of magazine design in India. A more informed discussion about this article can be found here at the Little Design […]

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