“..the Lota, that simple vessel of everyday use, stands out as perhaps the greatest, the most beautiful.”
As Charles Eames in his report, raises questions about the “Lota“, you realize that the power of observation as a designer still remains unquestionable. He says that to design something, you have to shut out all the preconceived notions about it. This cannot be more true in today’s time. With data metrics and visualizations at our finger tips, we still cannot run away from asking the important questions. The solution is only as good as the questions asked. In case of design, it is also about who the questions were asked to.
The report encourages us to find the “Lotas” of our times. The designer hopes that we will solve the problems of our times with the same tremendous service, dignity and love.
While communication was the catalyst of change in the Indian society at the time of the report, population and globalization are of now. The complex barriers of isolation and language remain, but not to an extend to act as a hindrance. This, however cannot undermine the existence of behavior patterns that are pre-programmed and pre-set in out society. As a designer, we still have to recognize our cultural constraints and work within the frame of society if we really wish to make an impact.
He also talks about the relentless drive for “quality” back in those days for the new Republic to survive. This is a question that India has a shady answer to. Even though we are on of the most progressive economies in the world as of now, we still lack immensely in some sectors to provide quality to even the basic standards of living.
The functions of the institute he suggested were research, training and service. He envisioned students who are highly educable and have some background in the complex areas of environment and communications. He names architects, engineer, economist, doctor, mathematician, philosopher or housewife as candidates. This too is relevant in present times as design now is more of a problem solving process that needs a melange of inputs from different perspectives.
Communication between the students and faculty and the people was a primary deal to make the program effective according to Charles. “It brings concepts and statements out into the open, to be used, expanded, corrected.” As I reread this statement, it makes me question, how exhaustively have we used honest and frank communication, to progress.
The report stands relevant in it’s core principles of design even today, which only makes us realize the visionary Charles was as a designer. After more than half a century that it was written, the report once again stands to guide us through another major change that awaits India. The search for “lotas” and it’s solutions needs to start again.
Charles Eames, an American industrial designer, visited India for three months at the invitation of the Government, with the sponsorship of the Ford Foundation, to explore the problems of design and to make recommendations for a training programme. The Eameses toured throughout India, making a careful study of the many centres of design, handicrafts and general manufacture.
The report can be found, along with information on him, can be found on his website.