This image is from my article Putting the Desi in Design published on Core77 in February 2006. Yesterday, I received this thoughtful email from Sriram Thodla, and it struck me after last night’s post on culture specific design by Lenovo, that it provides a good base for a timely discussion. My response to Sriram is in the comments section, and I encourage you all to chime in with what you think.
I read with great interest your article about the unique
characteristics and capabilities of Desi Designers. I’m a desi designer
based out of Boston and I wanted to share some of my thoughts when I
read the section on the redesign of the "Kanan Devan" tea packaging. I
grew up in India till I was 11 and came to NY and over the past 16
years, have come to accept and understand that the packaging design in
the US is significantly different that packaging in India and both
convey very different qualities about the project.
My experience has been that US packaging tends to be flashy,
with extreme use of graphics to catch the eye among crowded shelves but
rarely does the actual product convey the same strengths. On the other
hand, indian packaging with it’s quaint graphics and muted earth tones,
while blending among the numerous other products on the shelves, often
contains products that have a stronger concentration of taste. Case in
point, Indian tea such as Taj Mahal vs the generic Lipton tea bags
found in the U.S.
It is interesting that with repeated exposure to these
patterns, I’ve come to internalize the basic generalization that flashy
packaging rarely contains products that are of intense flavor/taste and
vice/versa. In fact, I make it a point to look for the dull and
unoriginal packaging of indian products, knowing that what I’m getting
instead is a stronger and more intense flavor.
The use of graphic design will no doubt continue as indian
products start competing with global imports and standing out in the
shelves will determine market share. However, it will be increasingly
important for indian firms to avoid abandoning the qualities that have
made Indian products distinctive and avoid the general me-too look that
that Kanan Devan redesign conveys.
I would love to hear your thougts on the matter.