Designing for a Subcontinent: Ten Notable Indian Designers
The design industry in India is slowly but surely beginning to gather momentum. Often in the shadow of the country’s powerful advertising industry, design does not always get the recognition that it deserves. However with a number of specific design schools, and the initiation of a Mumbai Design Week in 2013, India is beginning to think more seriously about design as an industry in its own right.
Given the strength of advertising in the country, it is hardly surprising that graphic design is quite strong right. This growth parallels the rising affluence of the Indian population, which has given a boost to the luxury product design sector. Sustainability and responsible growth are also high on the design agenda, as many of India’s poorer areas are subjected to immense overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Designers are at the forefront of finding innovative solutions to resolve these issues and improve the general quality of life in the country.
Version Absolute Design Studio
Engaged in the processes of conceptualising and developing design solutions for the environment, Version Absolute Design Studio (VADS) is a design consultancy firm. Working on a range of projects that encompass architecture, interior design and communications design, VADS aims to create evolutionary and exciting solutions for the built environment. Often, the firm combines elements of all three spheres of design in order to provide the most cohesive and comprehensive solution for the client, such as in the creation of an interior public space. The Art Sastra Gallery project in South New Delhi is one such example. Designed specifically for visual, digital and performing arts, this gallery uses intelligent lighting, moving glass walls and fabric screens that can be flexibly used to create different spaces depending on the needs of the artists.
Based in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, Vinay Pateel is an artist and designer who works in a variety of media, from large installation pieces to illustration and poster design. His graphic work is bright, colourful and above all fun, lending itself to fashion prints as well as advertising. April 2013 saw Pateel creating The Tunnel, made entirely from bamboo and cloth for the India Surf Festival held at Odisha. Depicting a barrelling wave 20ft in depth, The Tunnel represents the emerging water-sports scene in India as it brings together Indians from all over the country. Composed of a number of bamboo squares at slight angles to one another, this piece is both stunning and sturdy enough to be clambered all over, making it a fun and interactive piece.
Planet 3 Studio
As a young, internationally award winning design and architecture practice, Planet 3 Studio chooses to represent the vanguard of forward-thinking design in India. Its initial approach towards new projects sees the company creating solutions that are visually appealing, fresh and above all contain elements of wisdom, wit and fun. This is evident in the Vidyalankar Institute of Technology project, Mumbai in which a warehouse was refurbished to create new facilities for the Institute. By radically rethinking campus architecture in India, the building has been organised as a group of distinct facilities connected by an interior promenade with various alcoves to accommodate student activity. Brightly colored, it is hugely reminiscent of the post-modernist Memphis Group, and creates a fun atmosphere whilst still being conducive to study.
Educated in India, London and Vienna, Anab Jain has an MA in Interaction Design and is a highly valued consultant regarding both strategic and speculative design and technology projects for a number of high profile clients including Nokia, NESTA and Microsoft Research. In 2009, she founded Superflux, which, although based in London, has strong links to Ahmedabad, India. Working closely with clients and collaborators on projects, Superflux is particularly interested in the way in which emerging technologies can interface with the environment. For example, Project LiloRann (‘Green Desert’) uses design research, environmentalism, and architecture in the deserts of North Gujurat where agricultural land is transforming to desert. Here Superflux is experimenting with ways to effectively combat desertification around the planet, without risking those who rely on the land for their livelihoods.
A multidisciplinary design studio, Sangaru Design uses its wide range of talents to manipulate materials, combining engineering with craft to deliver unique solutions. Founded in 2004, this design studio has been actively involved with the Craft Sector, working with local people and materials in India to create products for the global market. Specifically regarding craft, Sangaru Design has worked with bamboo, exploring new methods of construction that use solid bamboo poles to create a variety of furniture. Using modular forms and lamination joints, Sangaru Designs Truss Me range is a stylish yet sustainable furniture system that utilised the skills of local artisans thus keeping traditional crafts alive, whilst applying them to a modern context.
Geetika Alok is a graphic designer and, more specifically, a typographer, with her interests lying predominantly in its influences and relationships with culture. Awarded the DFID Commonwealth Scholarship, Alok graduated from the Royal College of Art with and MA in Communication, Art & Design, and was mentioned in the Wallpaper* Next Generation Graduate Directory 2011. Exploring the abstract entity of the alphabet, Alok explores the ability to embrace culture through typographic design. Working on a diverse range of projects for cultural and corporate clients across various media, her work includes typography, print, and identity. This can be readily applied to advertising, stationery, posters, and environmental graphics. Alok has, in the past, done work for some high profile clients including Wallpaper*, British Council and Penguin books. Although Alok primarily practices in England, Indian culture, especially with regards to typography, remains a steady influence.
A multidisciplinary designer in every sense of the word, Paul Sandip is all at once a product designer, electrical engineer, and even a cartoonist, based in Delhi, India. Specialising in a number of creative fields, Sandip applies his wide range of skills to create fun and unique objects. Believing strongly in the idea of ‘useful art’, all of his creations serve both a purpose as well as tell a story. This is evident in Mr. Prick, a mini wood-pick holder that Sandip describes as perfect for finger food at a party. Taking its theme from Indian mythology, it shows a figure on its side being impaled by the picks, like Bhishma pitamah, the bed of nails. Brightly coloured and made of rubber and wood, this is fun design that manages to retain a sense of purpose as well as cultural relevance.
Studying at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, Mann Singh‘s design process shifted as he started to learn through doing. Exploring the use of materials, craft techniques and processes that one wouldn’t usually consider, Singh’s work is both innovative and elegant. Often inspired by nature, Singh has used stainless steel to render highly delicate, intricate and realistic natural forms to create his Kachnar Bowls, produced in limited edition for the Italian manufacturer, Driade. The collection consists of silvered baskets of interwoven twigs, leaves and flowers. Similarly inspired by nature yet using an industrial material are the Phul chairs. Each chair is handmade from cast stainless steel with no two pieces being alike. The chairs give the appearance of being delicate, decorative and uncomfortable, yet this is not the case due to the durability of the material and the care with which it is constructed.
Vaishali Design Studio
Home textiles and Décor Company, Vaishali Design Studio (VDS) was set up in 1997 by Vaishali Sinha after completing her studies at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad in 1992 and gaining some other experience in the field. Always with a finger on the pulse of international design trends, Vaishali Design Studios currently designs primarily for the international home furnishings market, and has gained global acclaim. Working with a number of textile design techniques, VDS offer a range of services from traditional samples to a 3D drape of designs, thus enabling clients to visualise the final look without the need for an expensive prototype. The products range from linens to soft furnishings and even handbags which exhibits VDS’s expertise in printed and woven fabrics.
Founded in 1996, Morphogenesis is a collective design practice and consultancy offering services that include architecture, interiors, urban design, landscape and environmental design. Using design as a process, they find solutions for environments where resources are limited due to either natural or financial reasons. Additionally, the company focuses on passive and low energy architecture which the designers believe will define the future language of Indian architecture. Everything in the surrounding area affects the design process. Morphogenesis incorporates local culture and traditions as well as considering the climate and surrounding urban fabric, creating buildings that optimize both the environment and community. This lends itself perfectly to public buildings such as shopping malls, where a great number of people meet, mix and ultimately spend a lot of time. How the building affects the surrounding area is another reason why sustainability is so important in Morphogenesis’ design practice.
By Sophie Finney