This week we received a talk from a guest lecturer who was visiting from the National Institute of Design in India. As the picture would suggest, his name was Naim Shaikh.
The talk was not really what I, or to be honest anyone else, expected.
We had hoped to hear about design from a unique perspective. We had hoped to hear about design in India, the challenges it faces, where it thrives and where it aims to grow.
However the talk he gave was fairly generic with a definite sense of ‘rose-tinted glasses’. He told us everything should be shared in positive way and as such he refused to talk about the challenges Indian design faced- that wouldn’t present a very positive image apparently…
A lot of what he said had an air of being the approved government line, which given that the National Institue of Design is an extention of the government, seems likely.
Naim talked a lot about designing to improve peoples lives and designing things not for profit but for the benefit of people and the planet.
This is I agree with. I believe that as designers our aim should always be to design something that makes peoples lives better, whether in big ways or small. It is at this point that Naim and I begin to disagree. His perception of what betters peoples lives is restrained to humanitarian and medical devices. Although these are worthwhile areas to work in, it is unreasonable to expect all designers to focus on these areas.
From listening to Naim and asking him questions afterwards it seemed to me that his design ideology and talk of holistic design was somewhat half-hearted.
There seemed to be a disconnect between his ideals surrounding what to design and how to design, ensuring products are sustainable and that they benefit people in their function and his feelings when it came to how design is actually realised. He seemed unconcerned with high and continuing use of fossil fuels in Indian industry and seemed completely nonplussed about the widespread exploitation of Indian workers in the manufacturing industry. When asked about how he felt about these issues he spouted phrases relating to providing jobs and the Indian people being happy- if not healthy…
It seems to me that if your design ideology is going to call for all of your designs to benefit people, and if you are going to teach students to put people and the environment above profit and people above the environment then you should not only be concerned with what your product does but also with the conditions that are likely to surround its manufacture. I would also expect that, for them to be as idealistic as they are, and in such cahoots with the government, that they would raise these important issues with them…