Authored by : Alex Velasco, Dean, School of Design, Pearl Academy exclusively for Higher Education Plus
e live in interesting times. This is a period of profound upheaval and change; where political, economic, and technological forces shape our world in unprecedented ways. The political certainties of the Cold War years have given way to insecurity. Simultaneously, there is a shifting political and economic balance-of-power towards the East led initially by Japan, and now by China, the Asian tigers and India.
While it is not easy for an individual to discern these megatrends, we do experience their effects. Take the information and telecommunications revolution (also known as the third industrial revolution) that is sweeping the globe; in a short space of time we have all adapted to the computer, the Internet, Google, Wikipedia, social media, smartphones and apps.
That is the context for a young Indian now leaving school and contemplating their career options. Many will choose one of the traditional and safe fields of engineering, medicine or law.
Yet, a growing number are opting for non-traditional or creative fields in the liberal arts, media, performing arts, and the design fields that offer unpredictability, challenge, excitement, fulfilment and financial reward.
Young Indians with their finger on the pulse of these developments are graduating in highly specialised aspects of computer hardware and software, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and design.
The design disciplines are also adjusting to the new reality by evolving: graphic design, which was about printed media, advertising and branding, has morphed into communication design—embracing the new tech through user-interaction (UI) and user-experience (UX) design.
Interior design that pioneered new ways of interacting in offices and revolutionised our domestic interiors, now fine-tunes the experience of retail and hotels using virtual reality (VR). Product design that shaped irresistible automobiles and domestic appliances, is increasingly preoccupied with smart devices and system design.
These changes have expanded the role of designers. They are not mere skilled practitioners anymore. Rather, designers manage the process and that ability has raised their profile. Design thinking is a popular innovation process. Yet it is actually about doing… channelling an organisation’s creativity by collaborating in multidisciplinary teams, involving stakeholders, researching, brainstorming, prototyping, testing while applying interdisciplinary knowledge from the social sciences, business, marketing, IT and engineering fields.
Across India new generations of designers are operating globally and are applying design thinking, UI and UX in leveraging information technology to revolutionise existing industries, founding new businesses, and social experiences.
The results are there for all to use in new taxi hailing apps, online retail experiences, hotel booking systems, social media apps, geo-location devices, smart watches, robot vacuum cleaners, smart household appliances, electric vehicles. These are heady days.
(Author: Alex Velasco)
India has geopolitical advantages that positions the country at the centre-stage for the foreseeable future. It is a large market, and everybody wants to be friends. It is a functioning democracy that acts as a counterweight to the increasingly authoritarian China. It has a young and dynamic workforce strong on engineering and design skills.
Still a subtle yet profound advantage is language; India’s trained workforce is comfortable with English, the language of international relations and globalised commerce, with the same letters and numerals that are used in coding software.
Yet there is a serious price to pay for treating the world outside of business as an externality, as economists call it. We see the negative consequences of rampant industrial production, destruction of natural habitats, toxic pollution, poorly managed urbanisation.
The scientific consensus is that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is raising global temperatures, something called anthropogenic climate change. All the while, humanity’s oldest and gravest problems remain stubbornly unresolved: poverty, sicknesses and inadequate education.
How human society navigates this time of unrivalled challenge is an open question. It is political task. It will require facts and understanding from scientists, pressure from citizens, action on the part of politicians, and implementation by us all. Designers will play vital roles: they will join the chorus demanding action; they will translate abstract data into clear information; they will help us to envision future scenarios; they will help gain consensus from stakeholders; they will sway the powerful using evocative and convincing means; they will help to conceive and trial new technologies and solutions. In short: designers will help redesign our future.