As participants of the India Design Pavillion at the London Design Festival, curated by Create Culture, we were asked to collaborate with Bob Design (London) on a series of posters. Bob Design was keen to create a "visual gradients" based on stereotypes of what ornate and minimal mean for a London based Swiss design studio and a New Delhi based studio.
We suggested doing the posters as an "exquisite corpse" (from the original French term cadavre exquis) — is a method by which a collection of images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. In this case, each studio would start a section of a poster and then send it across to London or New Delhi for the other studio to add to the visual gradient. This way, the posters travelled between the two continents a few times at each stage. The rule that the studios decided to follow was that the designs would follow the visual graditent as a transition from "minimal" to "ornate" (top to bottom of the poster).
The posters aimed to analyse and question, what happens when the "Minimalism" and the "Ornamentation" collide? This question raises questions on what these terms mean in these two cultures today. For instance, is the minimalism of India, viewed as ornamental in the West? Or do they mean the same in a post-globalized world-view where the handmade and traditional identities have been suppressed by a digital and mechanized world. It took us nearly four months to design these two posters.
Ishan Khosla Design:
We wanted to play with and challenge the stereotypes of what ornate and minimal could mean in the Indian vs. the western context. We were also keen to explore the handmade and craft that is so much a part of Indian aesthetics but also juxtapose it with the latest technological possibilities such as laser cutting (vs. the hand cut paper art, Sanjhi). We also used chikankari embroidery work — which is typically white-on-white and viewed as minimal in the Indian context, however the forms are quite ornate. We wanted to use this to question the meaning of minimal versus ornate. Additionally, we worked with Mithila artist, Pradyumna Kumar.
We wanted our panels to represent the possibilities available in India, which is at a fascinating place where — both its rich contemporary handicrafts and digital mechanisation co-exist, atleast for the time being. The tension between the two can be seen in one panel that's been cut by hand (saṅjhi art) and another is done via laser cut.
Additionally, the use of black and white was intentional to bring attention to the variation of forms and to also move away from the cliche of colour being tantamount to Indian aesthetics.
For our panels we have been playing with simplicity, complexity and abstraction — whilst relying on the fundamental elements of graphic form. We approached the planning of our part of the poster in a logical way. Working from minimal to ornate we have added one element at a time to form a gradient: first shape, then structure, then black and lastly colour.
The resulting posters were exhibited at the BOLD exhibition curated by Create Culture as part of the India Design Pavillion at the London Design Festival in August 2017.