Posts Tagged ‘Park Hotel’

Phil Speaks

I spoke at this event called Design Fridays last week. It’s a long-running, subscription-based, quarterly event produced by Ray+Keshavan, a premiere international branding firm here in Bangalore. The event consists of a presentation by someone noteworthy from a given creative field, followed by Q&A, followed by dinner, cocktails, and enlightened conversation. Attendees are a nice variety of people from many creative disciplines, lively and engaged. Pam and I had attended the previous one as guests, and had a really fantastic time.

My talk was called “Desire and Digital Design.” My intention was to examine the differences between design/designers in India and design/designers in the west, and to spend some time looking at the evolution of UI design as a distinct discipline over the last 15 odd years. The juxtaposition of India and the U.S., as seen through the lens of design, is actually a very interesting subject, one I grapple with and reformulate every single day here. My working theory at the moment entertains the notion that desire is a fundamental component of the act of design; and that desire itself has been systematically bred out of the culture here for thousands of years. That’s just the top level; there are many other forces in play: politics, education, history, geography, literacy, language, religion, and more. Each has a distinct role in suppressing desire, and in turn, design. There is reason for hope, there are green shoots – I closed the talk with an examination of one particularly inspiring story – but India’s cultural model is the stream against which aspiring designers here are all swimming.

I’m pretty sure I managed to offend some in the crowd, regardless of my academic intentions. I know because they told me so ! Engaging men and women, architects, photographers, journalists, typophiles… We had fantastic talks about what India truly is, how I may have misperceived, and when we might dine together properly and have a *real* conversation :)

Design Fridays

Design Fridays is a design-centric event held every two months, at a moveable location somewhere in Bangalore. Created and propelled by the people at Ray+Keshavan | The Brand Union, the event is a welcome opportunity for creative professionals in Bangalore to meet, mingle, and at least in my case, to feel a lot less isolated :)

Each Design Friday features a presentation by a prominent design professional from a given area: branding, typography, painting, industrial design, and so on. The presentation is followed by Q&A, then dinner and mingle time.

This particular evening, the location was the beautiful Park Hotel downtown, and the presenting guest was Gautam Rajadhyaksha, probably India’s best known celebrity photographer. He was a delight to listen to, generously sharing behind the scenes stories and technical insights. He was also really delightful in personal conversation afterward; he still shoots film mostly, and was quite curious about my 5D Mark II, and about Lightroom. We promised to deliver a copy to him in Mumbai with a personal demo sometime soon :)

The other, equally luminous, stars of the show were the attendees: every conversation we had afterwards was engaging and fun. The guests included architects, business people, entrepreneurs, designers, musicians and more. In fact, I think we may have made a few future friends.

For me, one of the most memorable meetings of the evening was with this gentleman, Mr. Nandan Nilekani. Among his many achievements, he has been the Chairman and CEO of Infosys, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009, the author of a very successful forward-thinking book, Imagining India, and a guest on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show; and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The buzz around Nandan Nilekani now is about his recent Cabinet appointment: India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, hand-picked Mr. Nilekani for a very interesting Cabinet post, only a couple of weeks ago.

I am sure Mr. Nilekani thought me a bit of a dope, as I was fairly starstruck. It’s never fame that impresses me, it’s competence, and I am rendered even more stupid than usual in the presence of someone with such accomplishment and ability. I do hope if Mr. Nilekani ever reads this, he will accept my apologies for any goofy behavior. I am now kicking myself for squandering the opportunity to ask him a couple of more meaningful questions… ah well :)

Thanks indeed to my friend Jaydeep Dutta for encouraging us to attend and making us feel so welcome.