Returning for its third annual exhibition, India Design Platform (IDP) this year focuses on visual communication. Exhibiting graphic design, illustration, typography and multimedia works from small independent studios, Bold: Graphic Design From India hopes to shine a light on the contemporary scene across the sub continent.
“Graphic design is such a core aspect of Indian design culture, but has never been properly showcased to a wider audience,” says Arpna Gupta, founder of the platform. “It’s a very visual country with a strong vernacular tradition of street graphics, and in recent years design education is growing. New design schools and courses are opening, and the number of design students is rising particularly in metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Pune. India is definitely going through a period of feverish creativity. Plus the potential audience for graphic design there is vast; a recent report predicted India will continue as the world’s fastest growing internet market.”
Arpna studied Curating Contemporary Design at Kingston University before moving to Norway, where she launched Pecha Kucha Oslo. Three years ago she started her agency, Create Culture, to “focus on creative exchange in a cross-cultural context.” It hosts exhibitions, commissions work and undertakes projects that aim to have a positive social impact, such as the IDP. “I am Indian, married to a Norwegian, living in London. Being rooted in multiple cultures gives you a broader understanding of cultural issues across borders,” she says.
Previous IDP shows have been more thematic: in 2015 the exhibition explored how Indian design influences western design, and in 2016 it looked at Indian ingenuity in the transformation of everyday matter into design objects. This year, which coincides with the British Council’s UK-India Year of Culture, Arpna chose to focus solely on visual communication, selecting designers who have a “conscious commitment to collaboration and experimentation as an active means of igniting cultural activity across art disciplines”.
Exhibitors include Shweta Malhotra, Ek Type and Kadak Collective. “With bold colours and clean lines, Shweta’s work immediately stands out in India,” Arpna says. “She is in the habit of giving a graphic makeover to most things, be it Bollywood icons, items from a traditional Indian kitchen, or collections by Indian or international fashion designers. I love the way her graphics are able to capture the exuberance of everyday Indian life in a very modern way.”
“Ek Type is a collaborative type design studio, based in Mumbai, that specialises in developing fonts across Indian languages, many of which are multi-script. Indian scripts are notoriously complex with little consistency from one to another and this has posed particular challenges in the rapid transition to digital platforms. A team of experienced type-designers, researchers and academics, Ek Type work as a collaborative platform to offer concrete solutions to these challenges, from reviving calligraphic style of old manuscripts to developing a unified type family across all Indic scripts.” The studio has won a D&AD Wooden pencil 2017 for its Baloo font.
Kadak is a collective of Indian female designers who work with graphic storytelling. “‘Kadak’ is often used to describe the strong, sharp tea served in India and is an apt description for the work created by this collective,” Arpna explains. “Following multiple streams of enquiry, their explicitly political work tackles cultural issues head-on both in terms of the personal and the public experience. From Mira Malhotra’s Saree zine to Aindri Chakraborty’s beautiful illustrations in Thank you, their work offers an original depiction of Asian women’s experience.
“In general there is a lack of South Asian representation, and particularly South Asian women in graphic art, and I think Kadak represents a big step in the right direction for filling this gap.”
Bold: Graphic Design From India takes place from 6–30 September 2017 at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London.