Wait But Why has this long-ish post on Horizontal History—a fun and informative visualisation of history through famous names. It is at-least perspective-changing to think of Martin Luther King and Anne Frank as contemporaries.
Burned through Eternally Yours: Time in Design and Vision in Product Design (design by Irma Boom, to boot) over multiple late-nighters in luxurious loneliness at the IDC library; we have on an 2030 to 2230 experimental extension. Eternally is, among other things, a set of monologues (and dialogues) on the dimension of time as applied to product (read interaction) design. It discusses the Long Now Foundation’s many projects, talks to artists/designers from across disciplines—the one on fashion is particularly worth reading twice, especially for like-minded cynics who end up here and read all the nonsense—and not-so-lightheartedly peddles Vivian, a non-object object that embodies the ideal of a product that steals time from others around. ViP is, on a too practical it hurts level, a how-to-guide on approaching the design process with a foot in the future. The focus is on interactions between products and people, more than the eventual product itself. Eternally has interesting parallels, where it takes apart this notion of planned interactions for a more realistic view on the place of things in the lives of people. Together, I wish these were appended in the reading lists for IxD courses, still largely concerned with glass surfaces and artificial intelligentsia.
Listen to Anab Jain talk at the NEXT conference, about what it means to be alive in the future. She has a blog post up walking through the talk, too. Happy to see her reflect at length and much more critically on some of the pet peeves of mine, with technology and non-removable batteries and the whole paying with data shebang. Discovered Magazine B.—the brand-videos are such nice propaganda. Maybe it was too early to quit ello afterall.
Acquired a mildly inoffensive fixed gear, and the thing still throws up a mighty surprise on descents, even after all thse years of riding around Gurgaon and its nemesis.
Signed up for a JB membership, for yourstruly’s sanity and bank-balance seemed to depend on it. Post much wandering among the quasi-baroque of Hiranandani, one finds JB’s shelves lined with plastic-pouched paperbacks through a window that disappeared to take its condensation very seriously. It is packed with a surprisingly well-curated collection, playing to all ignored, weird corners of the gallery.
Got initiated into Bukowski with Ham on Rye, finished Looking Closer over two weekends in the main library, nibbled on Hello, I am Erik, Designing News, I Used to Be a Design Student, and Drawing Type. Tried reading Don Norman again, and failed to find myself a very good reason to go through the pain of rolling all the three shelves off for it time and again. The department library is disappointing and noisy; not how I like my Sulaimani.
It is in another ceramic studio, nine hours from Paldi, that Mr.D’s message arrives, bringing with it the news of MP Ranjan’s untimely demise. The message is an austere single sentence; one could see Mr.D struggling to type it out.
MPR took us through DCC at NID when we were unformed, idealistic teenagers nibbling at this alien, amorphous thing called design, while his contagious passion for a people-centred design practice was almost palpable, like the hot, humid Amdavadi air in the summer. Three and a half years later, I would interview him for my graduation project, and he would talk me through the enormous volume of grainy, digitised photographs from his early days as a student of design, his toy-factory years, the beginnings of DCC, Katlamara and Jawaja projects; images of an Indian design identity being shaped as if in a slow-turning lathe. It is this hands-on-designer in MPR that surprisingly finds scant mention in most media. Among the photographs were moments from field trips across India, making one long for times of simpler, more meaningful things, times when building these things was of greater value than the pedestals they were put on. His insistence on this greater purpose of design as a profession continues to be relevant even after five decades of Charles Eames’ ‘cardboard-computer’ vision for indigenous design.
His spirit will continue to inspire generations of people to look at design as a powerful tool shaping societies and livelihoods.
Anupam Purty shot the portrait for Dekho. The image on the right is from MPR’s archive.
Notes: DCC is Design Concepts and Concerns, the course helmed by MPR at NID. The Eames’ cardboard reference is from An Eames Primer, Eames Demetrios. See page 227 here.
It is by accident the first bittersweet glass of Sulaimani finds someone new to a city.
The ten-past-midnight cafe has a boarded up half-counter and a furlong-long menu up front, yellow ketchup bottles allover tabletopia and a dog or two writhing scripts on the floor, taking well punctuated turns. It is the kind of place where you find a stray grain off someone’s chicken-fried-rice on your plate of very honest chicken, or aloo paranthas wrapped around more aloo, and keep not looking at it with such exhausting deliberation you end up ordering another premature dish and drown it in nimboo paani. Then one goes up to the half-counter to ‘askforyourmenu’ and lets the shopkeeper concoct an acceptable version of the lemony beverage. One finds out the ‘tea’ part is the kind of affair wrapped in paper-bags, and continues to hold on to the glass until it gets awkward.