I’ve spent the last week looking at, listening to, learning about and marveling at design. I’ve spent the last week in a city that thinks of design as important enough to celebrate. I was at the London Design Festival. For seven days, I canvassed the city’s galleries, museums and design districts taking in exhibitions, talks and displays of phenomenal work. Thousands of people did the same. And what was so wonderful to see was that they weren’t all designers. No, the London Design Festival was a celebration of all kinds of design meant to be celebrated by all kinds of people. People in the industry of course, but also students, senior citizens, children and well, just about anyone interested in design.
What struck me as particularly heartening was the number of children that were trooping into the galleries. Hand in hand with their parents, they pointed at things, observed, asked questions and then plopped themselves on the floor and pulled out their crayons and drawing books. Were all their parents designers who just dragged their children along? Or did they just think their kids might enjoy it? I don’t know. But it made me incredibly happy to see them there. It also really made me think.
While design in India is definitely growing, while the design industry is slowly gaining a little more respect, I wonder how many Indian parents would be happy to see their children grow up to be designers. I wonder how many will support it let alone encourage it. Moreover, how many parents, even if they ‘allow’ it, will see it as respectable and not just a hobby to indulge? If such a festival (and I don’t mean a conference) were held in India, how many children would be taken to it?
Children grow up exposed to various things that determine the path they want their careers to take. If art and design are to be seen as respectable (and economically viable career options too) shouldn’t children be exposed to it a bit more? Very few Indian schools include art in the curriculum after prep school. And very few Indian parents think of it as significant enough to encourage at home. So while they can admire and perhaps even appreciate design, do Indian parents really want their children to be designers?