Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Perversity sells design

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Posted: August 24, 2014 12:57 am

Being customer friendly is what Leonardo da Vinci taught marketers through all his engineering designs. His Mona Lisa, the painting he did in the 16th century has been so enigmatic that almost 10 million people from across the globe still visit the Louvre in Paris every year to see it. No other work to date has achieved this kind of success. This can be considered as art marketing the Louvre.

Mona Lisa, La Joconde in French, is the world’s best known, most visited, written and sung about, and most parodied work of art. It was a hugely controversial painting because it was perverse and ahead of its time. Paintings done then were large depictions of social and religious scenes in public buildings like churches or in palaces. But Leonardo’s painting had a central figure portrait with aerial perspective, and that too of an unknown woman, not royalty.

A painting or a sculpture that’s hung or erected in a museum is inspirational. But design that is applied through functional improvement for bettering the human quality of life represents an artist’s strong discipline. Leonardo is reputed to be the most diversely talented genius to ever have lived. His micro-detailed designs went beyond his sensorial painting canvas to upgrade human life. He conceptualised flying machines, armoured vehicles, concentrated solar power, and made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics. His designs were 600 years ahead of his time. By providing people the benefit of science in everyday life, he became the future builder of the world.

With Leonardo as the reference, I find that European design, which has the order of discipline, creativity and process, is the authentic source of the world’s best knowledge and knowhow of product design as we practice it nowadays. Last week I wrote about how German machinery is best, but irrelevant to a section of the Indian market; Indian machines are compromised due to being in the demand-led market where quality is not addressed. So in diametrically different angles, both fail to deliver customer benefit. The Germans need to have the willingness to change to become relevant to heterogeneous India, while Indian companies have to improve their capability to deliver excellence in products.

Let me today address my fellow industrial product designers in India. I can only tell you that if you have the good fortune of learning design principles from the work of designers or design schools in the five countries that I got exposed to, just grab that opportunity without asking any question. Let me describe my learning experience.

France taught me how to make any selling proposition very aspirational and very disruptive. The Germans hammered home the point to me about high precision — never deviate from the process. Americans see everything big, from them I learnt about how important it is to design industrial products for mass scale manufacture. The Japanese exposed me to how miniature designing is done. It’s not just flat reduction, aesthetics and neatness have to be perfect, while functionality can never be compromised; continued…

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