The recently concluded Kochi Design Week (KDW), held at Bolgatty Island in Cochin from Dec 12–14, sought to celebrate the idea of design and its application to some of the seemingly complex and intractable problems of the world around us. The event, which was in its second edition,was  “where instigators from different parts of the world disrupt, imagine, ideate, innovate, and design for a better tomorrow”.

Backed up by the Government of Kerala’s Electronics and IT Department in association with World Design Organisation (WDO) and Interaction Design Association (IxDA), KDW was an amalgam of summits, exhibitions, live artistry, fashion, food, music, lifestyle design, and games —all with a blend of the old and new, the modern and the traditional.

KDW serves as a platform for creative minds to discuss, understand, and plan the way forward towards creating sustainable ecosystems based on design thinking and backed by technology, architecture, and innovation. Students of design, architecture, engineering,humanities, and the liberal sciencesthronged the place, eager to learn more and to connect with the best in the industry. All under the same roof, the panel discussions, keynote speeches, exhibitions, installations, and workshops paved the way for students, enthusiasts, investors, and entrepreneurs to, more possibly, unlearn and learn a thing or two.

The panel discussions and keynote speeches opened the doors to“newer perspectives and the need for substantive and meaningful change in our thought processes as we seek to redesign our future”, said a participant.Learning, both from the textbook and outside the textbook, was central to the idea of design.

UNIVERSAL DESIGNS

One of the key aspects that was discussed at length was the need for what was characterized as “universal designs”in order to create an environment accessible by all. “Make places which are easily accessible for all genders and for all differently abled people. For that matter, even this venue (of KDW) isn’t designed enough to be accessible for differently abled people. In the next edition, we would like the organisers to ensure we take care of that too,” said Kavitha Murugkar, Inclusive Design & Heritage Consultant.

“Universal design is different from adaptive or assistive design. While making universally usable things, care must be taken to ensure that a little tweak here and there should make it multitudinously usable for the differently abled. If we can have toilets for both men and women in public places, why can’t we also have a unisex toilet to make it accessible for the third gender,” Murugkar added.

Architect Lalitha Tharani, Co-Founder and Partner of Collaborative Architecture, puts across yet another important aspect which designers “often fail to notice —designingproducts which are more right-hand dominant and failing to give thought to the needs of left-handed people”.

The interactive discussions threw light on some keenly debated disruptive thinking and innovations by industry experts.

Kochi Design Week, described as India’s largest annual International design festival, wasn’t, however, all about architecture alone. Aarathy Rao, a food stylist, was of the opinion that everything “can be designed in a way that it serves us just right”, adding,“even a well-designed diet and food consumption pattern can lead to a healthy life”. Aarathy had set up a food installation corner at the event.

There was a take-away for everyone who visited the festat Bolgatty Island, a picturesque island in the heart of Ernakulam. The first edition of KDW, held last year,was based on the theme of the devastating floods that ravaged most parts of the State and the Chief Minister’s clarion call to rebuild Kerala with the slogan, ‘Build Back Better’. KDW serves as a platform for creativeminds to discuss, understand, and plan the way forward towards creating sustainable ecosystemsbased on design thinking andbacked by technology, architecture, and innovation.

Live-stage performances at the end of each day lent it the near-perfect finish. Performances such as ‘Under The Tree’ by Kalamandalam, Pragathi, led by playback singer Harishankar, and the popularThaikkudam Bridge were the headliners.

(The writer is a former Director of Programming at Radio Mirchi, Kerala.)