Crafts, code, creativity: Bengaluru ByDesign conference shows multiple facets of design


In our third article on Bengaluru ByDesign 2018 by the India Design Forum, we showcase conference highlights with speakers from six countries.

Aadyam Handwoven weaves draped over Town Hall (photo courtesy Sudeep Bhattacharya and Bengaluru ByDesign)

Despite rain, winds and a water-logged conference tent, the Bengaluru ByDesign 2018 conference kicked off with an outstanding lineup of 12 speakers from India, Australia, France, Switzerland, Poland and the US. See Part 1 and Part 2 of our coverage, and the d-Zen section for more insights on design and creativity.

The conference is being held on November 23-24 at UB City and aims to promote dialogue on topics related to technology, products, innovation, and sustainability. There are also installations, workshops and parallel sessions at other venues in Whitefield and Electronics City for a whole week.

Design and the environment

“Environmental considerations need to be brought into housing design,” said Kamal Sagar, Founder of Total Environment Solutions. He showcased a range of designs with urban farming, balcony gardens, green terraces and vertical gardens. Other trends he identified are housing design for collaboration and community (‘sharehouses’).

In a separate interview with YourStory, Kamal advised designers to bring spaces alive by embracing nature. “Create a connection with nature – not just by bringing the outdoors in, but also by making your buildings blend into the natural landscape using natural materials,” he explained.

“Think of the spaces from the perspective of the user and not from the need to express an architectural form. Think about light, air, safety, privacy, collaboration, community and comfort. Think about different scenarios for the manner in which space will be used,” Kamal added.

Integrated design is an important principle in this regard. “Include everything in the design process – including the furniture, furnishings, lights. Don’t leave that to an interior designer who might not understand how you have thought of the space,” Kamal advised.

Though there is much talk about ‘smart buildings,’ it is important to focus on 'green buildings' that keep or increase green cover while also developing new housing and office complexes. “Use every inch available to green the space – use the roof of the building, use vertical surfaces, create cantilevered spaces to hold soil and plants, use aeroponics and hydroponics,” Kamal suggested.

“Get creepers to climb onto walls, create pergolas to hold climbers and hanging plants, grow trees on the building, use grass pavers. There’s so much you can do, you are limited only by your imagination,” he added.

Storytelling and design

“While visual design and special effects in movies may change, stories remain unchanged,” said Biren Ghose, Country Head of Technicolor India, while showing a video of the making of the new version of The Jungle Book. Though the production journey is full of ups and downs, the studio’s attitude is: “we don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents.”

Though digital tools are introducing new kinds of design in movies, some techniques don’t change either. These include composition and shape language, said Swiss game designer Chris Solarski, and author of A Storytelling Framework for Game Design.

Technology and design

Technology has changed us from homo sapiens to homo mutans (“the ape that can change”), said New York-based artist Raghava KK. “We are not humans anymore, we are cyborgs. Tools have transformed our abilities. Everything is mediated by technologies such as smartphones and AI,” he explained.

He charted how technology is capable of steadily replacing different kinds of labour: physical, intellectual, emotional, creative and maybe even spiritual. (See also my reviews of the related books, Life 3.0 and Sensemaking.)

The dawn of AI has parallels to the era when photography was born, he added. “AI will even change what we call art. At MIT, there are initiatives to use AI to document and bring alive dead forms of art,” Raghava said.

Though the future may seem unknown and scary, it is important that we embrace it, he urged. The relationships between humans, machine and nature are continually being redefined with scientific advances, as well as the meaning of transcendence.

There are huge opportunities for design in a world where humans are augmented by AI, said Sanjay Podder, MD of Accenture Labs Asia-Pacific. Inclusive technology can bring innovative services to where they are needed most, such as conversational AI to teach the illiterate, medical image recognition, and tools to augment eyesight for the visually impaired.

He also called for the responsible use of AI. “AI is like fire, it can burn but it can also be beneficial,” Sanjay said. Ethical design is an emerging and welcome trend in this regard. It is important to co-innovate with the people for whom technology is intended to bring change.

Creative insights can be gathered from children, in terms of what they see as problems and what new things they want, advised Jay Kothari, Project Lead, X – The Moonshot Factory.

Even communities who may be intimidated or unimpressed by new technologies eventually come around to learning how to use them. In the world of art, AI can be used to train artists, and thus multiply the creative power of a successful artist, he said.

Computational architecture is redefining the design of buildings, said Philippe Morel and Christian Girard, Co-founders of Digital Knowledge, France. “What was once science fiction is fast becoming a business reality,” observed Christian. Philippe showcased a wide range of algorithmic design applied to architecture.

Type, design and language

Designers need not focus only on solving problems, but should also set aside creative time to explore other passion projects, advised graphic and type designer Shiva Nallaperumal. He regaled the audience with examples of his Rekall type based on his interpretations of early science fiction.

“Arabic calligraphy is incredible, the entire building can readable if it is decorated with Kufic lettering,” Shiva said. He tried to replicate some of the elements in his own design of new Latin types, along with plug-ins for 3D effects and chiselling.

Better design can help move India more quickly into using local languages online. Design can also be used to craft evocative images for organisations campaigning for social change, he said.

Crafts and design

Many countries wiped out much of their crafts tradition in the industrial era, observed Brian Parkes, CEO, JamFactory, Australia. However, nurturing crafts can inspire audiences, build careers and expand markets.

JamFactory in Adelaide provides studio and training facilities for over 300 artisans, who produce contemporary crafts such as glassware, ceramics, furniture, homeware and jewellery.

“Crafts have stories built into them, whether traditional or contemporary,” Brian said. He cited examples of entrepreneurial craftsmen who have built lucrative careers making customised jewellery; discerning customers want to go beyond the big brands to co-design their own products.

Many craftsmen are beginning to switch to crafts fulltime instead of part-time, as more and more people find the joy of connecting to things, to local cultures, and to the act of creation. “It helps to do some things to make money and some to fuel your passion,” Brian advised.

Diaspora communities play an important role in keeping alive cultural traditions of their home countries. Karolina Merska emigrated from Poland to Britain but has preserved the traditional art of making pajaki lanterns in her London studio.

Crafts and design in India

India’s crafts and design community can create the most beautiful products in the world, said craft designer and fashion entrepreneur, Max Modesti. He has been in India for 25 years and is Founder of Les Ateliers 2M and Co-founder of Kalhath Institute.

“To push the global boundaries of crafts and design, you have to be in India,” he said. “Your biggest strength is the DNA of your crafts. You see artisans all around you, but you are used to it and you don’t value it. You don’t need a white guy to tell you to value it,” he scolded the audience.

“Go to the villages and bylanes, get into the hands of the artisans, and envision what can happen,” Max advised. There is no need to imitate the West or try to be like China. Yet, many Indian designers only want to be “the big fish in the small pond,” and are happy with having success only within the country, he observed.

The challenge for Indian designers is to build quality and scale in the crafts community, match it to international standards, and compete globally, Max signed off.



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