Wednesday, January 28, 2009

God is in detail

This article was published in Indian architects and builders magazine Dec 2008 edition . The article is written by Mumbai based designer jashish Kambli who explores the importance of detail in Indian collective consciousness and suggests a change in the current thought process.

article :

" God is in the detail "

An interesting answer,if one knows the question. Designers would unanimously agree that nothing kills a great design more than really bad detailing .Design anathema is all about replacing that superlative fine idea with an insensitive ,unfinished , unforgivable product . And so one hears it all the time -when one is studying design or struggling with one's first commercial product ,and later one is even saying it to one's apprentices - God is in details .

But if it is divine blessings one is looking for ,detailing can be pretty controversial.The most pressing of which is the chicken and egg story -which came first ? There are a bunch of designers who believe detailing can be delegated to later date .This approach unfortunately demotes detailing to a clear second place .Also , fundamentally the design itself must allow for good detailing .A great design that puts off the details to a later date might simply not be possible to detail at all.This leads us to conclude that good design can be realised by designing and detailing at the same time i.e. designing with enough focus on what details could be possible , and doing this early enough in the process.

So if detailing really is that critical to good design , what are we doing to ensure that we have got a handle on it ? While as a community , Indians are more than capable of absolute stunning , world stopping, breath catching design , we are far distance from realising this capability . The key is to first find why we struggle to be what we can, and then attempt to find a few solutions to fix it . If one goes back far enough in our history , it becomes evident that everything we designed was greatly detailed. Our temples, paintings, craft design was detail. Historically design relied heavily on master craftsmen whose understanding and mastery over the materials of their craft produced some of the most intricately finished and visually stunning objects the world has ever seen .

But when the industrial revolution heralded mass production , in an attempt to catch up on losing ground , design was lost and so was detail to the cause of technology .As a result , today , we have the best breed of technical professionals but struggle to find good designers .

Why detailing is held dear in the west and why it constantly eludes us , can be explained even via smallest of detail that are often eye-catching .For example , at a busy curb of Piccadilly circle in London , within a host of commuters, motorcars and much chaos, one can look up to see, hanging from an intricate , immaculately polished lamppost , a basket of brigh flowers.Inevitably , one ends up comparing this , to the infinitely more dreary curbs at any of our major cities.While there are many reasons we don't put up flower baskets at busy curbs, most of them stem from the fact that we belong to a poorer nation ;where fine living and good design are way too far from our thoughts .The first person to stand at the curb would look up and probably not think "How lovely that looks , what a super morning ".He would probably think "I'd better nick the basket now when no one's looking ,and sell it for scrap." If not , he is probably too busy fretting over how he could take on clearly unstable traffic , to even look up and notice flowers.Or the flowers might wilt with the overwhelming stench of the dangerously heavy emission clogging the air at the curb . Our best efforts are spent on managing basic infrastructure and meeting our basic needs , so attention to detail is clearly way down in priority .

while one can understand that though process, it is difficult to agree with it . India is at crossroads. While we grapple with the basics , we are clearly ready to take on much more .Indian markets today , are flooded with the same well-finished products available abroad ; so the argument 'we can't afford better quality ' does not ring true .Some of our home bred industries have acquired European factories, so the argument 'we don't have the best equipment ' does not hold water either .We have the resources and the ability to produce design that is detailed to the very end , finished to reflect a quality we deserve to use . If we fail, it is only because we do not demand enough.

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