I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few days wondering about Indian graphic design and what people have to say about it. Marian Bantjes closed her talk at Designyatra 2012 saying, ‘Be Indian.’ That statement left the hall applauding and resulted in a frenzy of tweets and I thought to myself- I haven’t a clue what that means! It was something I’d wondered about in the past and I wondered about it all over again. What does it mean to be Indian? More specifically, what does it mean for an Indian designer to be Indian?
To begin with, the use of the word Indian, like its something static and set in stone, left me a little uncomfortable. India is constantly evolving. Now, faster than ever. Every day, what we know changes, what we think changes and that changes who we are. So what really is Indian today?
The question confused me, so I directed it to myself. Is my design Indian? I was born and raised in India. I was educated in India and I’ve lived here twenty three years. That makes me Indian, right? Right. My earliest graphic design inspiration was from clothing tags I collected, largely international brands. In my first year at design school, designers like Paul Rand and David Carson, illustrators like Arthur Rackham inspired me. In my second year, I taught myself typography with books by Erik Spiekermann and Robert Bringhurst. I learnt about the history of graphic design in a book by Philip Meggs. The magazines I read regularly as a student were Creative Review and Communication Arts, neither of which was Indian. Given that most of my design learning was influenced by non-Indian design, is my design really Indian?
I wondered then, and I wonder now, what does it take for design to be seen as Indian? Some people think of Indians as a people that love color and expect that to reflect in our design. Some equate Indian design with Indian motifs – elephants, lotuses, peacocks. A large part of the world still looks at Indian graphic design as truck art and calendar art.. but we’ve come a long way from there, haven’t we? India has evolved and so has our design. A lot of India has been influenced by the West. Isn’t it natural that our design has too?
This has in no way been resolved in my mind and I’m constantly looking for more opinions. I’d love it if you shared your thoughts on the subject with me.
Also, after writing this post, I googled Indian Design and came across an interview that Ishan Khosla gave about a year and a half ago. He says, ‘I hope I am not a typical Indian designer since I don’t know what that is.’ You can read the rest of the article here