This year’s Design Yatra in Goa was a more minor, intimate event than usual, with an exciting mix of speakers from across the globe. Spread over two days, delegates were treated to some fantastic work; our sketchbooks are filled with notes and doodles that we will follow up on in the coming weeks. The theme for this year’s event was Next, with some exciting conversations swirling around analog versus digital. Massimo Vignelli and David Carson couldn’t make it to this year’s two most anticipated speakers, and I was looking forward to Vignelli’s take on modernism in the 21st century. However, there was more than enough to keep everyone’s head alight with some great work.
Irma Boom’s presentation was the highlight on day one.
Irma Boom was undoubtedly the show’s star as she had the audience in thrall with her books and the stories behind them. She urged designers to read what they were designing because most designers look at the text as just another object to fit into the page. Each project of hers was a deeply personal journey and a great struggle to finish, something every designer has been through. Print is still a medium much loved in the Indian design community, setting the tone for some exciting debates later on.
Adrian Shaughnessy was another speaker to strike a chord with his ‘Watching the Designers’ presentation–the audience whistling and cheering his ten points on good designers. Particularly popular was point 7, ‘Good designers are liars and cheats. It’s worth checking out Shaugnessy’s latest undertaking, Unit Editions, which is every designer’s secret dream–to have their own publishing company. With today’s technology and access to more accessible online retail options, I’m surprised there aren’t more people doing this, particularly in India with the emergence of stores like Flipkart.
Adrian Shaughnessy on ‘Watching the Designers’. LDB asked delegates to send their doodles on stickers placed in the goodie bag. The one above is by Sheel Damani.
Type Radio’s Typographic Chinese Whispers are worth checking out.
Donald Beekman and Liza Enabeis of Type Radio had some significant audience interaction and proved that you could put an intrinsically visual subject like the typography on the radio. They have almost 400 episodes of conversations with designers from around the world. A big hit with the audience was Typographic Chinese Whispers which had students converting a font into a piece of sound which was then passed onto another student to convert back into a font, with some surprising results.
Admittedly not all the speakers were at their best on stage. Troika,, despite having some great work to show, was disappointed with a boring presentation that could have been done with a bit of editing. It is a fact that most presentations at Design Yatra tend to lapse into a portfolio parade of greatest hits, making it a bit of a spectacle rather than a serious conversation. The only Indian representatives on stage this year were the Khoslas–Sandeep Khosla and Tania Singh Khosla. Their topic of choice, India Modern, of how Global and Local can come together seemed a bit dated. It lacked a contemporary view of India’s growing confidence in evolving its design language. But Massimo Vignelli made an interesting point in his video, saying that with the ease of global communications, these two distinctions (of global versus local) will cease to exist, and ideas will be seamlessly absorbed into a new dialogue of this network.
Novi Rahman, one of this year’s Young Blood speakers, had an excellent presentation and could have been a part of the panel on the Future of Digital.
The Dutch, who have become somewhat of a fixture at Design Yatra, was out promoting their new initiatives for education in India. They are set to present a proposal for an Indo-Dutch collaboration on design education to the Indian Government at the end of the year. While the idea of collaborating with international institutions is welcome and a bit overdue, I believe the India Report prepared by Charles and Ray Eames and which led to the founding of NID, is still very relevant today–if only more design educators would take the time to understand what it says.
Mark Chalmers–“Religions are the best brands…”
The panel discussion on the Future of Digital has started a lively debate on digital in India.
I highly recommend sticking around for the workshops and panel discussions at Design Yatra, as they never fail to bring up interesting conversations. This year’s seminars by Bill Darling of Saffron, Peter Higgins from Land, and Irma Boom with Adrian Shaughnessy were nicely done and had some attendees bursting with inspiration. But the debate most of us will take away this year is the state of digital design in India. Following the panel discussion on the future of digital, there was a clear sense of unease among many in the audience. Digital is a medium waiting to be exploited in India, but most designers seem uncomfortable or even wary of working with it. LDB will look into this in future posts, but it’s something to think about for next year’s Design Yatra: Michael Beirut and Thomas Heatherwick are slated to speak. Still, we should certainly expect a more significant Indian representation on stage perhaps from less well-known designers and studios. As always, Rajesh Kejriwal and his team at Kyoorius pulled off another great event, and Design Yatra is shaping up to be The conference for creativity in Asia.