Design Central - The New Indian Express

Design Central

Published: 02nd March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 01st March 2014 02:18 PM

Art is impotent infidelity; wallowing in its own creative contradictions. Though born in anarchic imaginations, it is nurtured in quiet, cordoned galleries, hidden from those unaware or unimportant to its abstractions, only to be ordained in an impulsive act of conspicuous consumption. What starts off on an other-worldly interpretation, joins up with the most this-worldly human sentiment: possession; singular, radical, sacred, possession. Fortunately, if there is art to enchant us, there is design to disenchant us. The concept of design is mass oriented, produced in batches, ordered in bulk, shared, and enjoyed. In popular parlance, it is a quirky take on functional products. It draws inspiration from everyday profanities, elevates them onto something spectacular in drawing board ideals and then unleashes them, in tangible form, to elevate and dramatise those very everyday lives. In that sense, design could be a witty science of art.

“Though geared at the utility of everyday, the novelty in design lies in the fact that it is something you want and not something you need,” Bobby Aggarwal of Portside Café backs the concept. His decor brand has showcased thrice at the Maison & Objet and has a franchise in Luxembourg. The industry is expanding outward through international art fairs and inward through a pan-India distribution network.

Rajshree Pathy, founder of Coimbatore Centre for Contemporary Art (CoCCA) initiated the India Design Forum in 2012. In its third year now, the event has created a platform for local and international architects, interior and product designers to converge in debate and dialogue. “Design is function with aesthetics. In these three years, we have seen more and more artists choosing to go the product design way. In fact, there is a better network of buyers and retailers, in the form of commercial spaces and installations at art events”, she observes. “Today, Indians have easy access to brands like Poltrona Frau and Philippe Starck, and are developing a keen eye for design,” she adds.

With the purpose of using traditional craft in modern design, Devi Design was set up by Anupam Poddar in 2000. Today, designs by the Delhi based studio are stocked internationally by American and British design brands like Anthropologie, Tom Dixon, John Lewis, Armani Casa and Gumps. “Indian design has a distinctive character and is being increasingly appreciated and showcased in different manners around the world”, says Poddar.

Before the die was cast, somebody was casting the die. In this case, it was Bangalore based Neil Foley, the undisputed Roark of the Indian design scene. The winner of 37 coveted design awards, Foley joined Titan as a designer. He has spent the years lending his aesthetic sense to appliances, consumer durables, outdoor structures, even fruit bowls and flower vases. “My time was largely spent in educating potential clients about how design could generate business and the potential in it. But never, for a moment, did I doubt or compromise my love for design,” he exults.

Today, in a more Laissez-Faire-esque industry, there are many more dreamers. With good reason, design sophomores Himanshu Dogra (41) and Krsna Mehta (35) ditched fashion and drifted into products. Dogra’s Play Clan makes ‘India understandable to Indians’ by plastering his funky take on history and mythology, on bags, shoes, stationary, apparel, the whole shebang. It has over 20 stores of and international collaboration with Paul Smith, Levi’s and Absolut. 

Mehta’s brand India Circus retails iPhone covers, coasters, mugs, clutches and every other trinket of possible use, all swathed in graffitied neon. He is successfully reaching out to thousands of shoppers floating in the galaxy of e-retail portals, in search of affordable design.

To each according to his pocket, for his according to his taste, product design is nothing but a collective commodification of creative intellect; a liberating social phenomenon that more and more Indians seem prepared to partake in.

Pop Goes My Heart

Their kind of pop art is placidly Warholian, and shares a quaint kind of humourous parity with social complexities. Describing the terracotta iPhone docks they showcased at a recent exhibition in Delhi, they say “We remember seeing speakers kept inside matkas or earthen pots for acoustics in villages. Read More


Canvas of Life

Good design is not limited to what a product looks like. One has to go beyond form to appreciate and understand function. The purpose that it serves  is what the audience is generally  concerned with. Read More


Be Open

There is a purpose in design; waiting to be found. One such purpose is the conservation of the novelty called ‘handmade’ in a world of machine-made convenience. Read More


Sustainable Development

Depending on local craftsmen saves energy, money, prevents homogenisation and retains regional flavour. Read More



A Noble Cause

We don’t need another chair in the world, but we still make it. Just like everything  else in the universe, design too needs a strong reason to exist, and thrive. Read More


Magnetic Charm

Reality is India is difficult, but Indians survive on the uncanny ability of laughing at the chaos and confusion that surrounds them. Read More


A Virtual Reality

A virtual design consultancy firm that he started along with his seniors marked the beginning of Prashant Subhedar’s career in product design. Read More


Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk

I’ve always had a sense of wanting to hug the whole universe, try everything, and explore every possibility. I guess that’s what prompted me start my own product design firm,” says actor-model-designer Lekha. Read More


Geometric Progression

The faceted tactile collection of lights started out as an exploration of geometrical modules with Origami in different construction formats.  Read More


The French Connection

Our differently abled cane weavers are much quicker to grasp design dynamics. They have been trained by French designer Jean Marc and understand the nuances of European style wonderfully. Read More


Form and Function

A custom designed gadget can cost the customer anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 35,000. Read More

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