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Designs on the future — patterning a new India

Sanjay Gupta | Updated on August 15, 2021

Infusing creativity: Design can make an impact by meshing the nation’s traditional skills with new age technological solutions

On India’s 75th Independence Day, can cultivating a design-backed ecosystem put the country on a steep growth path?

* Be it the temples of South India, the drainage system of Mohenjo-daro or the intricate caves of Ajanta and Ellora, the architecture of India has captivated billions of people for years

* Slowly but surely, some excellent design institutions across the country are now channelling this historic background into modern spectacles and solutions

* When design marries technology such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, robotics and so on, big things are bound to happen

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A little over 170 years ago, the Great Exhibition of 1851 ran at the Crystal Palace in London, and was one of the defining spectacles of the 19th century. The ambitious event which saw six million people pass through the crystal doors showcased “works of industry of all nations”. The Indian exhibition was the most widely acclaimed exhibit across nations, including Britain, at the event — due to our unique jewels, industrial tools and intricate textiles.

Be it the temples of South India, the drainage system of Mohenjo-daro or the intricate caves of Ajanta and Ellora, the architecture of India has captivated billions of people for years. However, despite all these innovations across design structures, India’s international image is today mostly of dirty streets, paan-stained walls and the occasional image of a yellowing Taj Mahal.

On August 15, 2021, as India celebrates 75 years of Independence from British Colonialism, it is important to look back on these years and introspect on how our country has grown, evolved, and transformed since it attained freedom — and why contributions from the design industry are yet to gain popular attention of the masses.

Over the past decades, India has undergone major changes in its culture, society, architecture and cities. As more and more parts of the country become globalised, the exposure to international ideas, technologies, education and innovation has increased rapidly. We have seen the emergence of unicorns in the space of mobility, fintech, food services, IT and edtech. Can design make a similar impact meshing the nation’s traditional skills with new age technological solutions?

Slowly but surely, some excellent design institutions across the country are now channelling this historic background into modern spectacles and solutions. These institutions are imparting knowledge and empowering the youth of the nation to experiment across both traditional design sectors such as architecture, fashion, product and communication, as well as modern fields such as game design, automobile customisation and app development. The graduates of these institutions have tackled India’s many challenges to globalisation with intellect, creativity and supreme skill — evidence of which can be seen across the nation.

The architecture of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, the successful implementation of various roadway project by NHAI that make the journeys of millions of users more comfortable and safer every day, and even the newly unveiled Gandhinagar Railway Station are all testaments to the skill and infrastructural expertise of the new India.

Fashion designer and couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s collaborative collection with international clothing giant H&M, was not only released in 18 countries and 48 international online markets, it got sold out within minutes of its release. The ‘Streets for People’ Challenge, under the Smart City Mission launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2020, has empowered young, local architects and designers take to design and implement strategies for safer, more accessible streets in over 30 cities across the country. Even the three months of national lockdown due to the pandemic saw rapid overnight innovations in the design of masks, PPE kits, oxygen concentrators, and even apps for tracking oxygen, hospital beds and more.

When design marries technology such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, robotics and so on, big things are bound to happen. A cultivated design-backed ecosystem will surely bridge the wide-ranging gaps in the market and leverage the consumer demand for a steep growth path.

It’s time to pattern a new India that is backed by design.

(Sanjay Gupta is Vice Chancellor, World University of Design, Sonipat)

Published on August 15, 2021

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