Networks of evolution and a typology of ideologies and practices in modern design

In the first decade after independence, India was managed by its new rulers with a measure of caution and conservatism, focussed as they were upon healing the wounds of partition and maintaining the continuity of ongoing development projects set up by the British colonial administration. At the end of this period, as captured eloquently in the text of the second five year plan, the new elite let fly their bold vision for the new India. Their focus? How do you rapidly increase the size of the Indian economy? A group of journalists invited a year later to view the plan and its impacts, remarked that the plan ignored the consumer, and invested heavily in expensive infrastructure for the production of steel. The consumer though did figure in the un-funded part of the plan which “laid special stress on increasing the supply of consumer goods by using existing skills and equipment and steadily introducing technical improvements in the village and small-scale industries sector”. This innocuous line, and the implication that someone else may fund ‘technical improvements’, was to be of immense significance to design. This ‘someone else’ was to be foreign aid agencies and international experts, who came to India to study different aspects of society and propose aid-funded interventions. The specific focus upon consumption as an engine for national prosperity would lead the Ford Foundation to fund a travelling design exhibition for India and a feasibility study on design education, which would form the seed for a ‘new’ design institution in India. This new institution would be reliant upon aid, state support and seek legitimacy by being aligned with the vision of the state, and for years to come almost directly echo the words from the second five year plan. This paper, as a reading of texts, goes back to the years surrounding the launch of the second five year plan to develop a narrative of the re-development of design in the modern era in India. Through this paper I aim to describe a network that determined a particular course for the evolution of design in the modern era in India.

 

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Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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