Teaching design in a non-Western culture makes one vaguely aware of its embedded cultural and technological determinants, such as the machine aesthetic or mass production techniques and materials. When this is juxtaposed against local design traditions and cultures of practice –many of which pre-date post-war Europe –these ‘normalisations’ become glaringly self-evident. Design education in the non-Western context, therefore, becomes more an acculturation project (along with its shadow, ‘deculturation’) than one involving technical training. This paper attempts to narrate this epiphanic experience of a designer-educator, which has met with instant and widespread resonance when sharing this with peers from non-Western origins or work experience, and lead up to a set of propositions to unlock the gates of the design community and allow a lot more diversity to flow in and enrich the discourse.
Keywords: tradition; knowledge; method; diversity
About the Author
Born into a progressive middle-class, mid-caste family in the 1960s where the emphasis was on education and progressive-modern values, Arvind Lodaya went to English-medium schools and secured admission in the prestigious National Institute of Design in the 1980s -the only undergrad d-school in India at the time. The rich diet of Western liberal-critical and artistic values that was served here had a profound impact and influence, and he emerged as a critical-idealist, hoping to achieve market success and thus perspective (and credentials) to contribute to the social sector and design education. In the thirty-plus years since, he has triangulated his work between mainstream business, social activism and academics & education. In addition to consulting on design & innovation, he is Visiting Professor and Board of Studies member in a number of institutions, and serves as Director on the board of two non-profits(NGOs). He travels and works in between India and the USA, where he is exploring academic engagements. His ‘lockdown project’ is writing a book on Social Design -drawing on India’s rich, long and varied experience in this area.