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KDY11: What’s Next?

The stage at KDY11 was begging for desi occupants


Why are Indian designers afraid of talking about design? Are they afraid that no one will listen to them? Do they think they’re not as ‘cool’ as their foreign counterparts? Are they ashamed of their work? Or are they just plain lazy?

At the recently concluded Kyoorius Designyatra 2011, only ONE presentation in 13 was by Indians. It followed then, that the same presentation was singular in representing the concerns, issues and challenges involved in being a practising creative professional in India. At the sub-continent’s only major design conference – billed as one of the top 3 of its kind in the world – the host country had very little to say for itself.

So what does this say about the state of design in India?

When I asked some of the visiting delegates this question, they gushed at the rise of India’s “emerging” creative industries. They were all at KDY11 because they felt it was the best place to get a sense of what Indian design is all about. They came to the Designyatra, met with local designers, ate the food, drank the wine and then went home to write about the amazing potential of Indian design. A word of caution Mr. Famous European Designer, potential is one thing and achievement is another; we Indians ain’t achieved nothing yet.

If we had achieved something, we wouldn’t hesitate to shout about it and share it with the other 1299 delegates at Designyatra. If we had something to show for ourselves, we would update those soggy Flash websites of ours (really! digital design is a LONG way off in India), blog about our latest project, start forums, discuss the critical issues that plague us, band together against lackadaisical government babus and invading MNC agencies alike, and make sure the whole world knows exactly what we do as Indian designers and how we do it. We would stand proud and present the things we believe in.

The question posed by this year’s Designyatra was “what’s next?”. I don’t know what other delegates came away with after KDY11, but I have a few ideas: what’s next is for India’s design community to stand up and be counted; what’s next is to stop complaining that India’s biggest multi-national gave its most prestigious project to a foreign studio, and learn how to get those projects ourselves; what’s next is to talk to each other, find partners and collaborators because if we don’t believe in each other, no one else will invest in the future of Indian design; what’s next is to stop looking across the fence at what our neighbours are doing and get on with our own work.

There is a lot of work to be done and a never-ending list of problems for designers to solve in the country called India, but all of it starts with getting to know one another’s work on a frank and open platform. Let’s be honest about design: how we do it, how we think about it, how we make good design into good business. We have to own it, to be known for it. When we learn how to do that, I’m sure we won’t be coming to Designyatra to listen to you, Esteemed Colleagues from 8 time zones away; you will be coming to listen to us.


  1. Hi , would you like to speak or participate at the Pune Design Festival Feb. 2012. You may even suggest potential colleagues, design friends or peers. We at Association of Designers of India are trying hard to get Indian Designers to speak. In that context , I echo sentiments in your article. Well written and frank. Thanks. Ashish

  2. “Why are Indian designers afraid of talking about design? Are they afraid that no one will listen to them? Do they think they’re not as ‘cool’ as their foreign counterparts? Are they ashamed of their work? Or are they just plain lazy?”
    My answer to these questions is simply a cultural one. We Indians( a generalization) are taught to be humble, and promoting oneself is not looked on positively. It is not about fear, under confidence or a lackadaisical attitude.
    This is just my ‘humble’ opinion.

  3. Time the idea of “Design” had a good hard relook ?

    Sharing some ideas here :


    Rajeev Manikoth


  4. Kay Khoo wrote:

    As one of the people nominating speakers for Designyatra, I’d like to point out that it is a big challenge to come up with a speaker list every year. While voicing out about the lack of Indian representation on an international stage is indeed a pressing issue, what you don’t see / hear is even more saddening and depressing.

    Designers are a difficult bunch of people – in years where we had more than 3 Indian speakers we get loads of criticisms, as harsh as “we didn’t pay money to see these people whom we can meet anytime” or “please don’t put anymore Indian speakers on stage as it is a waste of our time – their ideas are outdated, and they can’t present!” (A notable Mr Piyush Pandey received that comment too, despite the fact that he rightly deserves respect to be one of the iconic representations of influencers on what the creative industry is right now).

    And when there is only 1 Indian speaker on stage, we get the complaints such as “there has to be MORE Indians on stage”. I remember years back, there was a senior faculty member from some institution who even made the remark that they (senior educators) should be the ones speaking on stage, not the whites, and not the current movers and shakers of the industry, simply because they were “the ones who taught this generation of famous designers”.

    Beneath the surface of the Asian cultural value of being humble, there’s also this monster known as pride. What troubles me is the lack of respect towards the achievements of others, and that ignorant attitude about one being better than the person on the stage, whether that person is of the same nationality, or someone from the west. What worries me most is the lack of conscious efforts looking inwards for rooms to improve – whether via absorbing and improvising, or simply admitting inadequancies and collaborate with knowledge partners.

    It’s as simple as having the guts to say “I suck at this! He’s better! I’m gonna work with him.” Swallow the pride, and open the doors.

    To me, that is the biggest stumbling block.

  5. […] DesignObserver Kyoorius DesignYatra Festival 2011. Little Design Book on Kyoorius Design Yatra and What’s Next. Design Yatra’s Tumblr Blog has some stories too. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  6. Devi wrote:

    Surely having a conference is more than just about pleasing the student delegates? It should be about creating a dialogue between designers – no matter what race they are. Its very odd that India’s premier design conference can’t lead the way by creating a balance between Indian and international speakers. Take a leaf from Typography Day’s page – they seem to have the right formula and balance, and the conference is very popular with students.

  7. […] that Aditya and Ruchita made to the Kyoorius Designyatra last year. Here are their observations and comments on Little Design Book. Tags: ant and grasshopper, arjun jassal, blueant digital intelligence, […]

  8. Latika Khosla wrote:

    Indian designers have much to say. Sometimes too much, judging by all the blogs and forums.Many events need to attract nos and revenue and mistakenly think that a foreign speaker will have much to contribute. And draw an audience. If India is rocking right now, we really want insights from Indian speakers. I for one personally would always have greater regards for an event with home grown talent, and meaningful topics.

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