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Finding My Poetry in Design


Drawings of animal tracks and poetry related to animal specimen collecting by Vernon Orlando Bailey, 1890-1891

Recently we conducted a color workshop at one of the fine new design schools in India. The workshop began with a brief that, the students were to design for themselves and not for a client. Somehow the whole range of students, from foundation to final year found it difficult to work without a so called target group. Such rigidity in thinking might help in being a good organizational designer, maybe not so much of an individual designer. While I am observing this on one side, a lot of process-worshipping seniors I know want to break free and find their own rhythmic muse.

‘Poetry is for artists what narration is for designers’, said a friend, interestingly an engineer friend. I never understood poetry, if pigs could fly kind of essays were more my thing in school. So when in design school someone would say ‘ designers are storytellers’, I felt at home.

I studied in another process driven school, naturally pushing me to take up design research. I joined one of the most academically driven social design firms in India. The processes here were so set, that there was no way you could get non workable solutions in the project. At the end of the day, you always had a narration about a persona and how your concept was totally going to change their life. I felt like the Barkha Dutt of the design (she was still cool back then). Learning here was like learning to swim; processes just get internalized.

Soon I had to shift back to Mumbai where I took up a job offer with a trend and color studio. I had no idea what kind of work a studio like this was supposed to do. Here design was not for the current scenarios, but for the near future and ahead. Theory was to project what could be, based on what you know today. Unsaid aspirations were somehow the hero insights. Tada! the news reporter of the design world was caught in the world unknown; as unkown as poetry in school.

But time has progressed so have I. Today big words like pre-concepts, directional premises, etc don’t sound alien. The narrative part of the project is slowly becoming a routine factor. I feel I am ready to evolve and deal with newer mysteries and drama; the poetry of design. While stories have conclusions, poems are open ended, left for readers to interpret.

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