Chennai, 15th September 2011

The book’s description of our job is to develop aesthetical, functional objects of consumption that can be industrially manufactured and strive to satisfy people’s needs. However, the obsessive focus for profit, characterized by progressively outdated corporative policies and materialized by great masters like Raymond Loewy, pushed consumerism to turn the profession, with very admirable exceptions, into the frenetic creation of desirable objects to be purchased, consumed, and preferably soon discarded by users who can afford them, and have no need of them.

Our belief in creative potential and interdisciplinary work motivated us to create our own brand, upon the base that our solutions rely on human values and appropriate technologies to meet people’s real needs. 

Mobile Plus kindly accepted us to present our vision of design and share it with you.  Our international projection and my own Indian working experience in this very city made us convincing and professionally liable to stand in front of you. 

2 years ago I (Sebastian) took the chance of doing an internship at Spime Technologies in Chennai not knowing anything about the country, the people and the food.  Honestly that was the easiest thing to get used to.  I knew (or thought I knew) India was big, overpopulated and less developed than my home country, Colombia. That did it.  I was only looking for a way to escape from routine, and to be on my own under less easier conditions than those I chose for myself, when I decided to stay in Austria almost 12 years ago.  I accepted a job I was not sure I was qualified for; I was going to live in a city I did not even know existed, and a country that barely interested me in any way.  Those proved to be the best circumstances possible to live in India for six months. 

Due to the lucky equation of jetlag plus cultural clash, it took me some time to realize I was not here plainly to do interface graphics, but to create.  My secret plan to isolate myself in a temple and find the tranquility I needed through meditation had to be postponed again, because I was challenged to do a lovable work. The overwhelming responsibility, which I totally ignored, that awaited me and my job as an interface designer (I insist in calling it Interaction Design) was framed within the concept of creativity.  What I got to know later was that I was the only person applying for the job, and that the company was looking for a foreign (!) designer with the “capacity to generate new valuable ideas (for global customers)”. That is how something that was planned to end after six months, ended after eight, which I would have kept extending, if my visa wouldn’t have expired.

Among this time I had to struggle with what I somehow perceive is the most disturbing and, paradoxically, effective defect of the contemporary Indian development:  outsourcing.  My integration in the Indian labor market turned me into the Interaction Designer I consciously did not want to turn as Product Designer: develop here, and consume somewhere else.

As time went by, the slight impression that creativity or creative thinking was sadly absent from the collective conscience of the Indians was being slowly reinforced by experience, though confronted by observation.  I never thought Indians were not creative, they simply thought it was something unreachable or wrong to be creative, and almost restrained themselves, denying their own creative potential, which they mistakenly conceived as artistic talent.  

As I had the pleasure to work with an Indian designer, she confirmed what I suspected laid partially in historic reasons: mostly colonialism suppressed creativity; but I was witnessing how education continued misleading promising professionals. 

The English word creativity comes from the Latin  term creō "to create, make".  It is a verb, an action.  As such it can be performed by any being capable of doing, making, independent of newness, innovation and quality.  That they inevitably add value to the object/subject of creation, is obvious.  That is the reason why we stop admiring bee panels, ants’ or termites’ nests, TV-shows, paintings, sculptures, books, etc. and give ourselves into finding other, unseen creations.

Overwhelming examples prove that creativity is a human condition, independent from discipline, educational background, economic status or physical condition; and although deeply attached to talent which is selective, specific and almost as individual as every one of us, creativity can be learnt.  Talent as an individual and natural condition, can (and should) be promoted. 

However, despite my personal impression, the reality now is, India writes currently a success story in the global panorama, and, even though it is very concerning that the country’s development is dictated by the highly toxic effort to reach a high quality of life in behalf of our environment, people’s creations made in India are displaying amazing examples of creative potential.

The great and most representative example is the Indian IT industry that has naturally evolved from mere application development and maintenance to full service players, funding themselves on the creative capacity of people creating new business models and services.  The model this industry was founded upon is becoming outdated positively influencing the encouragement of creative thinking.

We are looking for people who have the ability to solve unconventional problems, who are quick at finding solutions to basic dilemmas

Mr. Ajoyendra Mukherjee, recruiting head of TCS (Tata Consulting Services)
Source:  Financial Times, July 5th 2011

Now, still being a very lucrative business model outsourcing will continue booming.  However the industrial introspection - which I define as the process that drives the industry traditionally conceived and founded upon exporting values, to discover and create solutions for the local market - might be India’s strongest push towards development within the 21 st century.

“While the sector’s vertical market mix is well balanced across several mature and emerging sectors, FY2011 was characterized by broad based demand across traditional segments such as Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), but also new emerging verticals of retail, Healthcare, Media and Utilities.”
Source:  nasscom.in, The IT-BPO, Sector in India , Estrategic Review 2011, Executive Summary 

India is a one-time opportunity with growing social issues and massive problematic driven by over population, environmental demands, migration, lack of infrastructure and uneven distribution of sources.  Technology and specialization have been nurtured over the past years, maturing until a point that local markets is being supplied with the know-how acquired.  The question remains, how the problematic will be faced by Indian professionals. This drives us to ask,

Where does all this leaves design?

In an emerging world order, the importance of creative thinking would soon overpower raw economic might. Money without ideas is just a stale proposition. 
Source: India, Future of Change, indiafutureofchange.com

Design is the principal service sector mediating between a needy market and a booming industry.  It’s most powerful source is creative thinking, because it relies on the ability of people to come out with ideas.  They become tangible and perceivable through design, but to realize or implement them, the action of a multidisciplinary team is essential.  This again forces design to use the resources of critical thinking, undeniably necessary for a good judgment.    

Designers are trained to set themselves under the circumstances of their market, gaining insight, identifying needs, real and emerging, and addressing these needs by drawing out, connecting and visualizing out of the information and knowledge from the correct party of experts in various disciplines.

Full, consequent integration of the creative industries in the development of solutions

Returning to my past experience in India , as I was given the task to find my successor, I interviewed some young designers, looked over their portfolios or visited the web-pages of the schools they were trained at.  The contrariety of my feelings was inevitable: First, I was concerned to see how most of their graduation work was conceived within corporative dictation, which indoctrinated young designers to serve multinational companies and give them insight into people’s lifes.

Then, I was surprised by the amazing research work and solutions conceived during their courses, and the well intentioned and enviable curricula their training was built upon. 

The sensitive training young designers receive in India knows perhaps no equivalent in other school, but that the outcome is put at the exclusive service of the industry was shocking. The potential Indian designers bare is substantially wasted through the constant inversion of effort in exclusively profitable and, most worrying, exportable solutions.  The potential of the creative capital is wasted, when it serves only one portion of the community. India can not afford exclusive, though massive occupation of creative capital investment.

We envision design as a bridge between people and solutions, which is supported by technology and development and funded upon a human approach, sensibility and empathy, consequently we point out that Industrial Introspection, should be inclusive and look forward to integrate most of the productive and service sectors into the development of solutions for the common wealth.

Being trained under a holistic approach to design, we believe the creation of products and services has to be framed within a human perspective that acknowledges cultural and technological backgrounds, and is motivated by self-sustaining wealth.

The equation is simple

Design + Technology = Empowerment

India (and the world) faces challenges of proportions never seen in history.  This country has, however, more than a billion possibilities to face those challenges.  If we want them to face those challenges prepared, we have to put technology at their hands.  Design is for us the right tool to do it right. This requires us designers to leave behind the mindset of designers as authors of elite work, towards designers as indispensable problem solvers. 

  • Attend the demand for creative capital to build the bridge between people and solutions specialists come up with and industries can materialise.
  • Concentration of creative capital for the development of integrative solutions to fulfill the needs of people.
  • Widespread of creative thinking among technological institutes for the better utilization of skills among Indian engineers.

Mobile Plus embraces solutions to empower Indian people; we look forward that the outcome of this conference inspires us to ideate new solutions, re-routing to the right path potentiating every single individual talent.    

Thank you! Vannakam!! Namaste!!

[i] IT-BPO: Information Technology - Business Process Outsourcing