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Monday, December 3, 2007

Design Challenges in our many Indias - Deepankar Bhattacharyya

A country with as many ethnic and cultural groups as ours with 22 national languages and 844 different dialects with an economic spectrum that spans the top 10% of the population being able to access quality goods and services from almost anywhere in the world, the bottom 60% either barely managing to survive or with needs and resources that don’t quite fit in with our established ways of manufacture, marketing or distribution, and the remaining 30% in the middle not quite conforming to established notions of what constitutes the middle class, we certainly are a varied group of people.
Consider also that those in the middle are themselves in a wide spectrum spanning those who are striving for the basics such as education in a slightly better school for their children to those who have enough disposable income to actually form the market for branded products and one begins to glimpse the complexities involved in our society.
This is happening at a time in Earth’s history, where the repercussions of the human load on the environment are beginning to threaten our survival. Our water resources, the quality of our air, the green cover and the biodiversity are all under pressure.
One has only to look at the escalation of the global price of oil over the last few years to realize, even if belatedly, that other ways of harnessing energy must soon become a necessity and will most certainly begin to prove economically viable.
Design or more correctly the ‘design way’ can attempt to participate in the big picture in such a way as to bring it’s reflection into our everyday lives. There is a kind of design that works in the spaces between human beings and the human-made world. This concerns itself with the relationships that members of our societies form with the many aspects of the world of goods, services and experiences that we build.
‘Quality of life’ is a direct consequence of our ability to understand these relationships and then ‘design’ the various goods, services and experiences that we interact or interface with.
In our many Indias there is a failure in precisely this aspect of our built world. Large swathes of people have a relationship with our goods, services and experiences that is quite uncomfortable. We have tended to design and build with our eyes shut and with minimal regard for most people.
We designers have partnered with government and business to work in many areas and that has resulted in a positive impact on some groups of people. This group constitutes approximately 20% Indians and is probably responsible for perhaps 50-60% of the economy.
We can quite happily remain in this bubble; there is space for many more of us to do reasonably well for a while longer. The more informed amongst us will work outside this bubble on their own as they have been doing for sometime now. They do this because they find the unique challenges here more interesting than those they have been trained for. Does this have to be the case?
Is it possible, or more correctly isn’t it imperative that we expand our activities to make ‘design’ part of an organized process to make it a part of the bigger picture? Can we not want to embrace the greater complexities of our many Indias? Build for a better quality of life and more sustainable futures?
Consider that nothing can really exist in isolation, if we continue to design for 30% of the people with the other 70% looking on or more realistically, creating their own survival spaces where thoughts of ‘quality of life’ is far removed from the daily grind, then we will inevitably have various ghettos contributing to no one’s happiness.
We are on the brink of another round of conferences that will deal with ‘design with and for India’, we are debating national policies on design futures. Let us make sure that we consider the complexities and challenges of our many Indias with its mosaic of social, cultural and economic diversities. Let us also keep an eye on the quality of our environment and work towards sustainable futures.
03 December 2007

1 comment:

  1. Hello!

    Thank you for opening up my mind!




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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.