Design Culture: Then & Now

Align, Define, Refine, Design

Rear view:

In observing it’s evolution over decades, we realise that during the early times design was an inherent part of human nature. All the tools and devices that were needed to carry out daily tasks for survival, were created with an intrinsic understanding of the need and were carved out without much thought given to it’s form shape or aesthetics. They were purely functional and were derived matter of factly. It was a way of life. More so, a way for survival.

As decades and ages passed by, the tools and devices evolved with discovery of new materials and processes. Each material and process enhanced the tools but at the same time, made the process of design more challenging and so to say, technical. New materials meant new physical and chemical properties. But on the other hand, the new material enhanced the longevity as well as the functionality of the devices and tools.

These materials and process evolved rather exponentially over time and along with it, the methodologies to make them useful and function worthy. Different fields of knowledge domains also evolved with this. The sciences of materials, the techniques of processes, the fundamental subjects of science, scientific research and the entire technology that was essential for this were tried, tested, refined and implemented. This revolutionary phenomenon happened almost all around the globe in different strengths, styles, flavours and usages. More often than not, discoveries made in one part of the world travelled to other parts and it’s usage would have taken a different path of implementation.

As the techniques, materials and processes evolved, so did the hazards along with it. New safety features had to be sought for. With this, the new subject of human anthropometry, ergonomics or human factors engineering and also psychology converged into an intense focal point of each design. This human centric approach towards design further evolved to embrace nature into it’s sphere. The mantra for good design became nature-centric first, followed by human centric. Something on the lines of the yesteryear’s Bahausian mantra: Form follows function.

The equation between human borrowings from nature for human-centric designs called for a serious introspection. It demanded inclusion of more parameters that would effectively balance the techno sphere and biosphere equation, keeping nature without harm from human’s technology based marauding march in search for personal convenience.

Take a fast forward to the current times, and you have an all new plethora of specialisations like user interface, user experience, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, internet of things, etc. On the other hand, sustainability, carbon foot print, re-usability, up-cycling, etc became the new norms – chiefly because of the hazards of technological waste and their side effects that go as far as changing the ecosystem of the planet – all in the name of better quality of life. Our lives dependencies have been largely digitised and the future seems to be even more so in that direction.

But in making lives comfortable, innovators and consumers almost forgot about the basic ethics of keeping their environment clean and healthy. The tools for short term pleasures slowly started consuming rather insidiously, the lives of humanity as we’ve all experienced and realised today.

Call it progress on one hand and maybe regress on the other. As some great scientist has aptly said, to every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. We’re more worried about this reaction today – the back-fire of all the innovation efforts of the bygone era. The new generation quite sadly, has to face it and deal with it in other creative ways while the decaying innovators and consumers slowly walk towards their self made cremation grounds, leaving the juniors to clean up the mess created. Resources taken from nature for design of comforts of humanity, the waste of which seriously seems to damage the one and only one life sustaining resourceful planet we inhabit. A serious imbalance between the biosphere and the technosphere. Much is taken from the biosphere in guise of design to build a technosphere catering to the modern day comforts and conveniences of humanity. Not wrong as such, but it’s the balance of give and take that is crucial for sustaining these comforts. The techno-waste management, the depletion of natural resources, alternative green energy, integrating nature gracefully into buildings, spaces and other larger, nature harming projects and restraining from plundering and cutting up landscapes all in name of development are some key areas where design leaders would play an important role.

Design Today, Tomorrow & Overmorrow

From merely making aesthetically pleasing objects, the design toolkit has now a lot more to manage, the coverage being aesthetics, functionality, usability, experiential, affordability, sustainability, AI inclusive, universal, minimal, socially acceptable, durable and reusable. This code may apply to most streams of design such as graphics, products, interiors, accessories, fashion, etc. For instance, the graphics domain has transformed from simple two dimensional illustrative communication representations into almost a real feel, virtual reality or say, the metaverse platform where one experiences close to real perceptions. Then there’s the world of holograms and gaming.

Likewise, products, have upgraded their avatars by inclusion of digital adaptations into the physical form. We call them phygital products – a combine of both physical and the digital. Such evolutionary and some revolutionary transformations are visible in the world of fashion as well as accessories, jewellery, etc. So much so that even the handicrafts domain has cleverly integrated some aspects of digitisation. Digitisation not only for creating the products but even inclusion in the products. For example, a traditional handicraft lamp shade that works with led lights that respond to gestures for control.

Whether it is for designing devices for the less abled ones or complex systems or even interfaces, one’s ability to sense, sensitise and sensibly design for such complex and changing needs and scenarios, can be called `Designability’ – the dependable usher into society 5.0

Skills for Designability

With the demands, challenges, complexities and unpredictability of the current times, Designability trains one for the following skill sets which are required for effective and innovative design solutions:

Deep observation,

Understanding of actual needs,

Good communication,

Team work,

Leadership qualities,



Competitive time deliveries,

CAD abilities,

Ability to think differently and creatively,

Presentation skills

The training required to attain matching proficiency in Designability as a professional career would depend on several factors:

First, the pedagogy ecosystem of the chosen college, which would make the learning process fun as well as education oriented.

Second, the practical training infrastructure of the college that would offer design courses in various fields.

Third, the mentorship quality.

Fourth, extracurricular activities offered by the college.

Fifth, the international connect that college has and the exposure it would offer to the students.

Sixth, involving students in various design related activities that the college may be engaged in.

Finally, a pedagogic approach that is more student centric, arousing curiosity as well as evoking innovative problem solving techniques that enhances the sensitivity and design sensibility of the students.

All put together, this goes a long way in spreading design culture not only among students but even beyond the student-teacher equation. And earlier the training, better the internalisation – a clear advantage for the citizenship of society 5.0.