Microsoft designer Joe Fletcher makes some interesting observations about the state of design in India:

In interviewing people thus far there have been three points that have so far come forward

1. The “Does it work?” principle: This appears to be the strongest rationale the attributes to the lack of detail I discuss above. In talking with designers in India they stressed that with Indian culture, given their daily life, the details are often a luxury. For example, in the morning they must think of how to get work, making food, washing clothes, getting fresh water, and taking kids to school among other things. Simply from a cultural and living conditions standpoint there is a strong focus on getting by. Details are a luxury that many don’t have in this society. Europe and America have the basics taken care of, which allows them to culturally focus on the details of what a water bottle looks like, having a specific cut to jeans, or separate forks for salad, soup, and cereal.

2. Schools have become a common thread in most of my interviews. For the most part I’ve only found three schools named when discussing design and user experience specifically, with the National Institute of Design (NID) being the top. This school was more of less started by C&R Eames during their work with the Indian government. Secondarily within schools that exist for teaching design, there appears to be a lack of process and design thinking, with a stronger weight on the final product. This type of oversight may account for the lack of innovative software UX. In the end, there just isn’t a strong student community or education around design, which would then carry into the workforce culture.

3. As a last and very logical point, we just haven’t used India as a country to outsource software and technology design experiences, so there has been no reason for them to exercise that muscle, as a result, it’s never been grown. The corollary I was presented with when talking with a designer in India was to think of UX in the US around the 1980’s. It was there, but just barely. It had just started to be cultivated as a solid field.

In the end, we’re asking India to apply Western techniques that have been developed from specific cultural surroundings but have never been part of daily life in their culture. While we tend to overlook it, when I hear people talk about it, it’s almost a “duh, how did I miss that” moment. To be reminded of this, has certainly been an eye opener.

(His third point sounds patronizing, but I chose to take away what he was trying to say as opposed to how it sounds literally.)

Perhaps designers or those familiar with the design sub-culture in India will disagree with these points (or even take offense). As a layman though, they seem like fair observations to me.

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What are the examples of good design you have seen growing up in India?

Many of our traditional products had good design that evolved over centuries. Among commercial products, I liked the basic Bata slippers. Any products you can think of?

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I don’t think minimalism in design is always the right path, but I found that all products that I like to use and whose design I can recall as being good, have been minimalist.

Link via Girish.

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