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We spoke with Bala Mahajan about the Pune Design Festival, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary.
The Pune Design Festival has been organized every February since 2006 by the Association of Designers of India Pune Chapter. What's unique about the PDF is its process of co-creation: practicing designers and design professionals met to celebrate design, understand its impact and learn from stories of design change agents across all disciplines.
This year's theme was “Design to the power of X". In the tenth year of Pune Design Festival, we were looking to discover the power that design and design thinking wields while contributing to improving the business, economic & social impact to our society.
Clearly the diversity of speakers and the breadth interactive workshop sessions. We wanted to widen the canvas of design and look beyond, from design in primary education, reclaiming public walkways, examining the role of culture in communication design in rural India, automotive design, filmmaking, VFX, and scaling up to a creation of a craftswiki. The Design Swarm Overnight Workshop was another key highlight. We also had the largest participation from Design schools all over the country this year.
In the ten years since the PDF was launched, community interest and participation has grown rapidly. We have had to limit registrations to keep the event manageable for the past couple of years.
I also see a sudden burst of many small and large events all over India, which is fantastic for the growth of design in the country. Our Prime Minister has shown a keen interest in design and startup culture as well as manufacturing initiatives.
Designers tend to operate in silos. With events like these there is a huge learning opportunity for all of us to collaborate, network or simply absorb the inspiring work from fellow designers and industry influencers. It just broadens your horizons and increases your hunger to do better work. More power to such initiatives, I would say.
It is a simple way of approaching problem solving, keeping human needs and desires right the center of any business or situation. It is a creative, empathy-led, collaborative process -- one that can lead to meaningful solutions to complex problems.
India is an amazingly diverse country and in that context “typically Indian” would be an oxymoron. If you want to identify traits of Indian design one would look at design emanating from the ethos of India: its multiculturalism, languages, focus on community, frugal way of life, and more. Any design that remains sensitive to any of these aspects I believe has Indian design in it.
India is still a young country. We have a growing startup and entrepreneurial culture and the demand for design is growing. The government's “Make in India” initiative should also give a boost to local manufacturing with increased focus on design. Even venture capital companies have started hiring designers to advise them. It is a welcome change.
Bala Mahajan is co-founder and principal designer at Ticket Design, a design and innovation consulting firm in Pune. He has been President of the Association of Designers of India Pune Chapter and involved with the Pune Design Festival festival since its inception.