Defining Design Cutting Through Method And Madness
Insite|December 2018 Collector's Issue
Defining Design Cutting Through Method And Madness

Dr. Prof. S. Badrinarayanan explores the trends in architecture, interiors, and design where the intent follows a comprehensive process, and where it is just a mere imitation. In a world of textured wallpapers and false ceilings, he advocates the need to find the ‘middle-path’ to design.

Prof. S. Badrinarayanan

Nowadays, the word ‘Design’ is often used with the prefix ‘bespoke’ and ‘sustainable’; and has been almost reduced to a platitude. It is being attributed to anything from art, to craft, to objects, technology, habitat, services, business, to systems and governance. However, this essay will restrict itself to examining the world of mundane design; everyday things we can touch, feel, and inhabit textiles, clothes, furniture, architecture, cities. Rather than look at design purely from the perspective of the finished product, I would like to approach it from the ‘intention’ or the ‘approach’ or ‘process’ that characterises design. The whole gamut of human design activity through history appears to be pervaded by two distinct approaches that are a very part of the human psyche- Method, and Madness. What do these mean in terms of approaches to design?

(I refer to the following dictionary meaning of Method: “A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.” Of the three meanings associated with the word Madness, I use the third- “A state of wild or chaotic activity” for the purposes of this essay. I do not use the word in any pejorative or negative sense.)

Let us start with textile design. Fig.1 and 2 illustrate the technique of ‘Ikat’. As can be seen, the pattern is a result of a very specific type of production. I call this approach ‘Method’. Fig. 3 is screen printed Ikat. I call this approach ‘Madness’. The question is if one is screen printing fabric, why use an Ikat pattern when there are millions of other patterns to choose from?

Moving on to furniture, in the iconic chair designed by Charles Eames(Fig. 4), the seat is fibreglass moulded to fit the contours of the body. The wooden legs are spindle shaped to prevent buckling. The steel cross braces provide stability. I call this approach ‘Method’. The aesthetics might not appeal to everyone but then if we start discussing what constitutes beauty, there would be no objective basis of dialogue. The plastic moulded furniture from India(Fig. 5) imitates a heavy (and substantially more expensive) teak carved seat with cane weaving. I would call this approach ‘Madness’.

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December 2018 Collector's Issue