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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.

On H&F, TVSchneider on universitified design education and prettiness, among other things.

Talking to school-teachers about low-fidelity, hands-on publication design for teaching aids tomorrow. Towards the end of last year, I’d illustrated cover artwork for SCERT textbooks and a few (fresh, still wet) copies just arrived. This looks like a year of education-related projects, and I am looking forward to some cost-conscious fun.

Quote from EJ, my favourite place on the interwebs to quote from.

We have to admit though, we feel a bit uncomfortable about being involved in the design of the above items. As it turned out, Shoshan’s installation (a recreation of a zoo, functioning as a political metaphor) involved live animals; and we are actually very much against the exploitation of animals, including the use of animals within the context of art. Let humans play all the cruel games that they want among themselves (whether they want to call it war, love, politics or art), but just leave other species out of it.
The director of NAiM / Bureau Europa assured us that the whole installation was monitored by several local animal welfare organizations, and that the animals wouldn’t be hurt in any way – and we totally trust him. But still, on a strictly personal level, we do feel a bit uneasy about our contribution (however small) to this specific exhibition, and in retrospect, we shouldn’t have been involved. But alas, it’s too late now.

Even with the next month’s rent eating into last year’s savings, one is fascinated—ecstatic even—stumbling upon instances of such high levels of integrity and simple honesty in a profession where one is constantly reminded of how an air of superiority, a hint of apoliticism and a downright disregard for where the result of one’s output features in the larger canvas of society and environment, are vital to finding ‘the gold’ in truckloads. One wonders, admittedly quite amateurishly at this point, if it is really that hard to be vocal about matters of ethics and, generally, rear the head of one’s pessimism once in a while, amidst the cacophony (I have a thing about the word possibly involving a murder of crows) of all the happiness driven design around.