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Designs with thought

Uday Dandavate, well-known designer, believes that innovation is not mere alteration

Uday Dandavate: `A village potter knew exactly what the need of his community was and designed his wares according to those specific needs.'

"LET US not forget how Mahatma Gandhi took a simple charkha and raised it to the level of national importance and relevance," reminds Uday Dandavate, internationally known designer. "The innovation brought about by Eshwar Bhai Patel in the toilets of Sabarmati Ashram was also extraordinary." According to Uday, there is a design element in every product, be it a simple artefact or a highly sophisticated gadget.

"The concept of innovation should not be seen as just an alteration, much less a classy aberration of a product. It actually represents a value which can impact and even inspire one's life through the objects we live with."

Uday was in the city recently as a facilitator at the Workshop for South Asian Industrial Design professionals, ID Catalyst 2004, organised by Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology, in collaboration with Titan Industries Ltd. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and one of the earliest members of the Society of Industrial Designers of India (SIDI), Mumbai, Uday practised industrial design in India for 14 years before making "a transition from a designer to design-researcher".

Strong background

A holder of master's degree in industrial design, with specialisation in user research from the Ohio State University, he co-founded SonicRim, Columbus/San Francisco in 1999. SonicRim, a cutting-edge design research practice that has an impressive client list which includes leading international companies such as Microsoft, Motorola, Sony, Thomson, Samsung, Proctor and Gamble, and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Uday is personally credited with the development of novel methods to access people's experiences and aspirations. With his strong academic grounding and rich experience, he seeks to quickly dispel the view that design is basically an elitist concept: "When you walk into a kitchen shop, it is not necessary to buy an expensive appliance like a chimney or an oven. You could find a simple, but well-designed tool or an instrument which will help you to make better rotis."

His views on how industrialisation and technology have impacted society are equally revealing. "Before industry came in, there was only craft," he explains. "A village potter knew exactly what the need of his community was and designed his wares according to those specific needs." Technology did help in making superior products, but it was only design that brought in elements that helped `humanise' the tools." Uday agrees that any innovation should have a relevance to society. "Many needs in product design and innovations are unique to Indian market. It is a shame to see that many products, which are not of any direct relevance to our conditions, are being dumped here. It is, therefore, very important for designers here to enlarge their vision globally, but work in accordance with specific local needs and conditions." He feels that in India, there is a felt need to bring in more awareness both to the consumer and the manufacturer about the importance of quality design.

Nascent stage

Design research, which will bridge the gaps in need assessment, is nascent in India. But he is optimistic. "We have an excellent pool of designers working in the country who can match the best in the world. These people, with some institutional and governmental support, can create wonders. More importantly, there is a need to synergise the efforts of professionals, who are working in various fields and encourage them into a constant dialogue. I will personally be interested to be an active member of any of those groups and happily share my experiences."

Uday, who is closely associated (as visiting faculty) with many academic institutions, including the Industrial Design Centre at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, Department of Visual, Interior and Industrial Design at The Ohio State University, and the Columbus College of Art and Design had this to say as a parting shot: "I have seen innovations happening in the West and how the industry and consumers respond. If we can import technology to make bombs, why can't we do the same for improving our simple day-to-day industrial and consumer products which will ultimately help the common man?"


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