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ICOGRADA Design Week in India

'Designlocal- stops at all stations'

The Mumbai railway carries more than 6.1 million commuters on a daily basis. The trains plying on its routes are commonly referred to as local trains or simply as locals by the general populace. 'Designlocal- stops at all stations' seemed as an apt theme for ICOGRADA Design Week in Mumbai, to create the desired design aesthetics that would reflect the myriad regional forms and bewildering cultural diversities that the Mumbai local is capable of exhibiting across every single day of its commuting life.

Calling the week a synergy of mind and talent, Jacques Lange, the president of icograda declared the conference open. With some statistical examples like 'In 2005, 1,85,500 people who worked in design in the UK, contributed a staggering GNP of 11.6 billion to their country's economy', Lange portrayed how Design will soon start gaining more and more importance in the developing nations as well. Thus the affectivity of design for the present day and its potential for the future needs to be understood. It is the responsibility of designers to critically define the role that design plays in today's world.


The ICOGRADA Design Week in India kickstarted with an International student design workshop. 90 students were chosen through a design contest to participate in workshops conducted by the grandmasters of design. These students were divided among 9 groups according to areas of design like corporate identity design, typography and calligraphy, vehicle graphics, games and toy design, storytelling and book design, brand identity design, retail design (visual merchandising), packaging design, interactive design and environmental graphics. Students were asked to identify and develop design solutions to problems within their respective design areas, the common theme being Mumbai's local trains. The chance to learn under the personal guidance of their dream gurus was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these design aspirants.

The 72-hour workshop exposed them to newer ideas and techniques of brainstorming, meaningful perception and articulation, analysis and finally effective execution. 'There should be a story behind every typeface' said Halim Choueiry, the most sought after teacher and the 'rockstar'. The constant motivation and supervision of the grandmasters pushed the 9 teams to work passionately, day in and day out. Finally, the presentation showcased not just the immense hardwork put into each of the project but also the passion that seemed to have rubbed off from their teachers.

The international design conference was an attempt to analyse the diversity of design issues through talks by renowned speakers from 10 countries.

The charming Massimo Vignelli in his address, stressed on the need to bring back the focus to local culture and dialects. "Local culture is getting suppressed by the day and if the designers of today fail to 'look at the past and design the future', local culture will soon die. This will result in globalization of design and subsequent loss of a wealth of cultural design sensibilities and patterns. Cultural knowledge must be passed on by design educators and teachers". He expressed his concern for the mimicry of culture in the name of ethnic design and explained that designers must capture the essence of culture in their designs and not just ape the appearances. "Do not abandon what we have achieved, just make it richer. Take what is good, thrash what is trash".

Russell Kennedy's 'A Vision Unfurled' discussed design ideas for the national flag of reconciliation more in sync with 'indigenous' aboriginal and Australian culture. It is an attempt to redesign the Australian flag independent of the commonwealth factor.

Among other work that he showcased was INDIGO which stands for 'international indigenous design network' and its aims include celebrating, preserving and developing indigenous design. It additionally fosters pride of ancient cultural roots among designers, especially those with close aboriginal roots, as a means for preserving valuable heritage as well as fostering continuous appreciation and development of ancient cultural expressions in a dynamic and respectable manner in the 21st century. The current President of Danish Designers, Lise Vejse Klint, spoke about positioning Denmark as a 'design hub' of the world. She worked towards founding the INDEX AWARDS which invites 'designs to improve life', across borders. These awards aid in knowledge sharing and creating social awareness, bridging designers and varied business sectors. Thus the public and private sectors worked jointly towards forming the first ever design policy.

The legendary Prof. R.K.Joshi - is a direct parameter of the face of Indian Graphic Design worldwide. His work spoke a million words. Those 40 minutes provoked mixed emotions and touched all. He spoke about the cultural past, dynamic present and a challenging future of India. The lack of documentation has been a serious problem in India and designers must work towards systematic compilation. He stressed that every designer is responsible for the creation, sustainment and destruction of his work. His 'vision talk' on Indian Typography ended with a huge applause and a standing ovation.

On the other hand, Iko Avital from Israel spoke about the 'GLOCALITY' in packaging design. He questioned the audience about the importance of the global and local language and which of them is more important. He also depicted the packaging design scenario in Israel. He stated how packaging today has become a point of sale and explained the psychological, emotional and economical factors that affect it. Ajit Balakrishnan from Rediff.com, India threw light upon the probability of the society influencing the design solutions and not the designers. He also asserted with examples the affect of multilingual society on design. A great example of the effect of society on design and vice versa was presented by Jacques Lange in his lecture on vernacular design. He discussed how the face of graphic design in South Africa radically changed post independence/ post apartheid. The ‘suppressed’ nature of imagery gave way to free style 'bolder' graphics deeply rooted in their culture. The psychological impact of independence and freedom on the society and its designers was strongly visible in just a span of three years.

The elegant Lella Vignelli established the importance of graphic design magazines and the need to archive good work. In her opinion, the young designers today lacked the knowledge of the rich quality work of the medieval period. She showcased the wide range of work by Vignelli associates in the areas of architecture, product and silver design. It was a privilege to have witnessed these masterpieces presented by the legends themselves.

"Its a challenging pleasure to be in India", began Halim Choueiry. His session on cross cultural Design and typography was interspersed with wit and visual humor. He charmed the audience, entertained them and still made a very important point through his paradoxical examples of cross culture seen across the world. He demonstrated how technology, mass media and the global village concept have made the world smaller and the cross cultural audience larger. He concluded with a thought that made each one ponder-"if you don't stand for anything, you will fall for everything"! Brazilian designer, Ruth Clotzel initiated her session on national identity and design by demonstrating the works of varied Brazilian artists like Kiko Farcas, Simone Mattar, Nido Campolongo, etc. She also described the tie between body, earth and nature influencing design in Brazil. Similarly, Bela Sanghvi from India showcased various applications of traditional Indian arts and handicrafts in modern fashion design, product and accessories design. She explained that such use of traditional art is beneficial to skilled artisans and their families as well as Indian culture on the whole.

Place branding has become indispensable in the modern world. Showing examples like 'Incredible India', 'Malaysia, truly Asia', 100% pure New Zealand, Yokoso Japan! and I love NY, Don Ryun Chang mentioned how place branding has been created keeping in mind the cultural heritage, contemporary cultural lifestyle and their future cultural vision. He also displayed 'Dynamic Korea', the Korean identity and place branding designed by him. The director at Fabrica, Omar Vulpinari, began his session with some stark and controversial imagery. Fabrica is a school, a research center and a cultural reservoir. It doesn't allow itself to be rigidly cataloged and homogenized. This is also a sign of its uniqueness and innovation he said.

"Think about what you think" said April Greiman. She believes every work is an object in the space and a designer must take people on a journey in space. Her studio 'Made in space' works in the areas of color in architecture, materials and surfaces. Her recent exhibition, 'Drive-by shooting experience' depicted a pixel as the DNA of computer. Her pictures were an experiment in matter, light, color, foreground-background relationship and instants recorded in motion. "This process of exploration is the product by itself".

Mervyn Kurlansky is the co-founder of Pentagram London. As a prolific author, lecturer and educator, he has helped foster awareness about the designer's global responsibility He spoke about the 'Global Brain' which is a result of our networking through the internet. His philosophy is to learn to live sustainably, to be authentic, to respect the differences of others and to respect the natural environment. "Design must be used for social good" cited Kurlansky. He professes design to be a sustainable tool for development.

'Meet the grandmasters' was a casual interactive session amongst the young audience and the grandmasters.

The conclusion of the design week was marked by the inauguration of INDEAS: The Indian Designers Association by Mervyn Kurlansky. Formed to bring together the designer community in India, INDEAS promises to address the concerns of the Indian Designer, and to bring to the forefront the various design issues every designer faces.

Prof. R. K. Joshi, Prof. Vikas Satwalekar, Prof. Dashrath Patel, Dr Mahendra Patel and Shri. Sudarshan Dheer, the senior designers of India were honored and felicitated. And lastly, the organizers - the students of IDC- IIT Mumbai who made this event a great success were called upon the stage and their efforts were recognized with a standing ovation by one and all present at the occasion.

The ICOGRADA Design Week in India is a great start to a new chapter in the history of Indian design.


Event coverage editorial and photography of ICOGRADA Design Week in India are by TAXI Design Network’s Event Coverage Crew, India Photography Correspondent, Gayatri Dixit and India Editorial Correspondent, Sameer Kulavoor.

View the photographs of the event taken by Gayatri Dixit here.


Sameer Kulavoor started working when he was just 16yrs of age. (Yeah, it’s unnatural in India to work so young). Without any particular background in graphic design, his liking for art led him to exploring different mediums. After graduating from Sir. J. J. Institute of Applied Arts and topping the Mumbai University, he chose to freelance. The tempting offers from the best of advertising, design and animation houses in India couldn’t budge him from pursuing what he believed in.

Click on picture to read more about Sameer Kulavoor.
Editorial India Correspondent


Gayatri Dixit's enthusiasm knows no bounds. Currently working at MTV India, this Mumbai based designer uses her camera as a tool for designing, and documents anything and everything, be it the early morning crows, street children going about their daily routine, previously unseen textures or even an international event. She considers ‘reading long menu cards at restaurants’ as her favorite hobby, besides cooking and pampering animals, esp cats! Having graduated from Sir. J. J. Institute of Applied Arts just recently, she aspires to keep learning and make it big in the world of design strategy. And probably move on to motion and films. ‘The sky's no limit’ is what she firmly believes in.

Click on picture to read more about Gayatri Dixit.
Photography India Contributor


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