An i for an i
The India Design Mark is back. And so is the criticism.
The mark, also called the I-Mark, is to be India’s recognition of good design. After a failed attempt at selecting and launching a crowd-sourced logo, the competition was announced again with, what the organisers (India Design Council or IDC) hoped was, more clarity on the rules. With the announcement of the results the second time over, the design community’s reactions have only been worse. Many had begun voicing their discontent both on online forums and in local newspapers, even before the results were out.
While the first round saw issues with the selection process and the final I-Mark itself, the drama this time includes unclear participation criteria, confusing submission requirements, missing jury members, accusations of a hidden agenda and a ‘new’ I-Mark that bears an uncanny resemblance to the one before it. One can only wonder how a process can go wrong twice.
I would love to spend time pointing out how selecting this I-Mark is like making a joke of the entire re-selection process. Or that the designers of the now-scrapped I-Mark could make an IPR issue of this. Or that the finalists continue to obsess with red dots/bindis. Or that the only graphic designers on the jury had either stepped down or were absent due to different reasons. Or that we still don’t know the jury’s reasoning for selecting this over the rest (what happened to all the transparency?).
However, flawed or not, the selection process is an issue of short term consequences. The questions that we should be asking need to go beyond the ones being raised right now. The last time that I wrote about the I-Mark, I had raised a question- Does this I-Mark qualify for an I-Mark? The question has been repeated a few times, but honestly, does anyone (IDC included) really know yet? A logo or a mark is always part of a larger system involving clear articulation of aims, intentions, aspirations and applications. All we know right now is that the I-Mark will be a benchmark for good design. But how?
What is the IDC’s definition for good design? Is it driven by a focus on aesthetics, function , impact on community, or something else? What are the standards set by the IDC for such a designed product, service or strategy to qualify for the mark? How will these standards accommodate the different natures of design outputs? What will be the procedure for allotting the I-mark? What is the I-mark expected to do for design in India? What will this mark mean to a lay person?
Clarity on these issues is essential for the IDC to gain the confidence of the design community in this venture. As long as we are not clear about how the larger plan falls into place, we will constantly be stuck in an unproductive us-and-them stand off.