Yamini Bhargava, a native of Kota, Rajasthan, had made many trips home from New Delhi Railway Station and often wondered why people linger at entrances and foot overbridges. Her research led her to understand ways in which people moved and used spaces. From platform tickets as wrist bands to pathways that privilege passengers who travel light, Bhargava’s design places a premium on the system itself.
Industrial Design is all about improving everyday living, and finding new ways of interacting with the environment around us. And at the Visual Arts Gallery, the graduating students of the Department of Industrial Design (DoID), School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, present “Design Premiere 2016”, their solutions in social innovation, safety and mobility, health, education and lifestyle.
And if design is meant to enhance everyday experiences, the 21 projects on display show glimpses of that promise. “Ultimately in all of them, the common factor is the human being,” says Parag Anand Meshram, associate professor, DoID. “International companies ask what is Indian design. They go to designers who don’t go beyond surface ornamentation or kitsch,” he says. With his colleague and assistant professor Aditi Singh, they have won Red Dot awards for their designs in 2013 and 2015. Singh agrees, “We need to develop products that are climatically and socially relevant to society.” Kova by Jettin Tom Augistine and Snan by Shouvik Nandy offer their versions of “Indianness” through the way we bathe. While Nandy dips into the ancient wisdom of bathing as a science, Augistine takes the ritual of a bucket bath forward.
Taking a leap into technology is the Gait Setter for prosthetic users. Samriddhi Jain’s research among amputees inspired her to make a walking aid, which is a walker with a detachable crutch. It gives motivational feedback and challenges a person to take the next step. Meanwhile, Shruti Nain’s design — Dorsiflexion Assist — came from her study which showed nearly 3.7 lakh children in India have cerebral palsy. Her solution of adjustable hinges allows patients, from four years and above, to use the Ankle Foot Orthosis, and equips them to walk normally, giving them confidence in their regular surroundings. “These designs integrate technology with user experience. They go beyond just app-based innovations,” says Singh. And if innovation is about the inside influencing the outside, Samrat Chatterjee does it well with his Frezwarm. It uses heat generated from a refrigerator to create an entirely new kitchen appliance. By redesigning the flow of energy, the regular refrigerator can have a dehydrator and warmer within it, which works for Indian households where drying spices and vegetables are de rigueur.
Nitin Nandy’s project Pablo presents another future. His portable self-learning device encourages children to blend their critical and creative skills. Moving away from textbooks, it prompts questions and scenarios from daily life. “Education in regular schools takes away a child’s instinctual abilities to learn new things. Pablo gives you the scope to use your learning in situations and in the process become more aware,” he says.
Even as the President Pranab Mukherjee declared 2010 as the “decade of innovation”, and roadmaps are being prepared, India barely contributes to one per cent of the global industrial design pie. If India’s industrial designers can move from executing strategy to shaping strategy, there is hope for disruptive innovations. These projects seem to be a step closer to that vision.