KDY11: What’s Next?
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.