Design Trends for an Uncertain Future

By Nidhip Mehta, Head – School of Design at Pearl Academy


Design careers have now become a serious and viable option for many students in India these days. Fewer people are asking whether there is “scope in design” because the answer is more and more evident. Students who find themselves somewhere between the worlds of art and science or between craft and technology are looking to Design as a lucrative career option. But Design as a profession is a relatively new thing in India, despite the fact that we have been leaders in design for a long, long time. A young person who is thinking about a design career needs to be well aware of where we stand as a culture, and how design can get us to where we want to be in the future. It can be hard to guess where we might be even five years down the line, so here are five current trends a student needs to expect today when they embark on a design career:


1. Embedded technologies. More and more everyday objects are becoming “smart”, i.e., they are embedded with circuitry and systems that make them intelligent, responsive, and connected to the information network. Wearable tech (like smart watches or t-shirts with moving graphics), augmented reality platforms (like Pokémon Go), and other such hybrids are now in demand and the industry requiresthe special ability of designers to help combine aesthetics and functionality in new ways.


2. Merging of craft and contemporary. Ancient Indian craft products are renowned worldwide, but the intensive labour needed to create them makes them harder to sell in fast modern economies. Designers who are sensitive to the beauty and elegance of traditional crafts are coming up with ways to make the work of these skilled artisans marketable in a contemporary culture while still retaining their high-quality craftsmanship.


3. Innovative use of materials. Similar to crafts, traditional materials used in Indian building and products are being explored as a way to replace the fading trend of using expensive foreign materials. Sustainable materials like bamboo, mud-brick, and even cotton khadi with natural dyes are all in high demand and are being used in innovative ways to adapt to modern lifestyles. Many young designers are taking a look back at these natural materials as we grow more conscious of our limited resources and sensitive ecology.


4. Adaptive Re-use & Heritage Structures. In India, around every corner there is seemingly some monument, ruin, or reminder of our glorious architectural heritage. Many of these spaces are protected and preserved, but for some of them, innovative designers are finding ways to bring back these beautiful buildings to fulfill new functions – palaces as hotels, havelis as restaurants… Even relatively newer buildings like aging shopping malls are being re-imagined as new spaces for completely different uses.


5. Service Design. This is a very new branch of design which encompasses many different design disciplines to find solutions for today’s design problems. It essentially means that a client may have a problem for which the solution may not necessarily fit neatly into one design domain. For example, the client may be an NGO that wants to create awareness of pollution. The solution may be of many different varieties – apps, websites, ad campaigns, exhibitions, events, spaces, products… any or all of these can be design solutions. So, a service designer needs to have familiarity with many design disciplines in order to find a complete solution. Service design requires a strong focus on research and being empathetic with the user’s needs.


These five trends are just a few of the many changes and adaptations that our society needs in order to move into the uncertainty of the 21st century. India is now set to become an important global leader, and the Design profession will be a big factor in that. Indians have been outstanding creative innovators for thousands of years, and there’s no reason to doubt that we can’t do so again, providing not just the skills and resources for a global economy, but the creativity and talent as well.

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