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Guest Column: The paradox of Indian art & design - Santosh Padhi

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Guest Column: The paradox of Indian art & design - Santosh Padhi

When I was in college, I remember seeing some fantastic print campaigns from Enterprise, Nexus, Ambience, Avenues, Trikaya, Mudra – you name it and each one of them produced fantastic work and campaigns that can create fear in us even today.

However, it is the most painful thing to be a serious Art Director in India today, and it is the industry and the creative heads that are to be blamed; we are all responsible for why we are behind today when it comes to art direction and design.

Excellent print is what we inherited. This is where I get to say ‘those were the days’. That was the story 20-odd years ago.

The work that was produced back then would work even today. It would easily beat most of the recent print work by far.

But then TV happened. As the prices of television sets dipped (along with the quality of print), television commercials came up in a big way. It was sad to see several creative directors jump the bandwagon to get a grip on this most happening and exciting new medium.

Needless to say, print suffered as the layout was reduced to nothing more than the last frame of the commercial, as the creative guys got so busy in learning and getting a grip on the new medium, and once this grip was established, print seemed like it was too much hard work.

Lately, it has been heartening to see the current crop of youngsters trying all they can to revive the medium and return its due. Here, I want to say a ‘big thanks’ to all the passionate art directors who go out of their way to make things look good. They play multiple roles at times, constantly juggling hats of a designer, typographer, illustrator, photographer and even digital retoucher. Besides image-searcher, logo-protector, and word-adjuster.

And at times we don’t have either the money or the time (mostly both) to do justice to either art direction and design, however the passionate art director will spend a few nights trying to give his best in the given limited resources and is expected to create magic every single time.

The Paradox of Indian Art and Design
We are a very rich art culture when it comes to art, but unfortunately some of the fantastic iconic traditional art forms such as Warli, Kalamkari, Madhubani, Pahari, and Mugal have been extremely underleveraged in advertising.

These are so unique and so ‘ours’ that we do not need to look at the West to get things right to speak to our Indian audiences. Look at Japan and China, who have a similar culture and traditional art, may be even less than us, but they have been doing some great art and design, especially Japan. Why can’t we blend in our art in modern communication and design?

We as a community have a vast sea of power via communication, anything which can ‘make or break’, if utilised correctly. I believe we have passed up our responsibility of seeding our rich art forms in our advertising. Quite paradoxically, some of these art forms are in much demand across the world, and have even been used and accepted quite successfully in advertising.

Some of our iconic Bollywood hand painted print posters are truly memorable art form (again world renowned), but unfortunately even that has come to an end.

Global shimmer vs local creatives...So close, yet afar
Many will agree with me that we as Indians have lost faith in our abilities. Unfortunately, this is still happening despite India being recognised as one of the global players and a country in which the advertising industry is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Many of the clients lack faith in the designing and art direction capabilities of local creatives. A lot of work, things such as logo designs, is still being done from the UK and the US. I’m aware of more than dozen such logos that have been made by design studios from outside India, which, I’m sorry to say, aren’t really spectacular. And mind you, the clients pay a hefty sum for these.

Coming from the same country, we are inherently in a position to understand the brief more clearly and know the client background better than our international counterparts. Our local knowledge can help better our work and make it more relevant.

Another major point to debate is that many international design studios often get longer time to work on things like logo design, while we get much shorter, non-flexible deadlines just because we are Indians.

Amul is a classic example of print/ outdoor as someone believed in it, hence we are taking about it today and it is still going strong.

Unfortunately, many of us are short-sighted and we look far for the answers. Look closely and you’ll realise that the answers are actually close to us.

The author is Chief Creative Officer and Co-founder, Taproot India.


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