Our guest author's keen observations span the dichotomy of natural and man-made design, revealing the profound impact of both on our daily lives.
Design is omnipresent in our surroundings. There are primarily two types of Design: Design by nature and man-made design. I have been closely observing both for years, and what fascinates me is the impact of good design in improving our lives.
Good public infrastructure design can bring joy and make life easier. One marvel of design thinking close to home is the 'Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus' in Mumbai. Built 150 years ago, it took almost 10+ years to complete.
Yet, today, it stands as one of the most beautiful structures in India. Besides its beauty, it functions perfectly well for today's population and speed – isn't that amazing? While some of our newer (post-CST) stations are crumbling with overcrowding and other problems, CST stands tall, helping the city move at today's pace!
Having good signage in a city is crucial. Well-designed signage can provide critical information about exits, emergency facilities, and safety procedures, contributing to public safety.
Clear and aesthetically pleasing signage contributes to a positive user experience, making people feel more comfortable and confident while navigating through a city.
For tourists, good signage is essential as it helps them explore and enjoy the city's attractions without frustration, contributing to a positive image of the city as a welcoming destination.
In my recent visit to Japan, while the culture and cuisine were as expected, what stood out for me was the city’s user experience. Everything was impeccably designed with empathy for a great experience.
What really stood out was the smart use of technology, including the famous interactive commodes with amazing possibilities and signages projected on the roads at night so people don’t miss them. Even on the metro trains, a lot of signage is strategically placed on the floor to catch people's attention.
What I also loved is how they express their culture through design. I came across these beautiful manhole covers featuring intricate designs showcasing local traditions, folklore, or symbols specific to that region. Some of them were painted as well. It brings out cultural expression so well that it puts a smile on your face even on days you would be looking down!
What’s interesting is that a lot of their signage and graphic design are inspired by local scripts. Some of the toilets I came across had male and female graphics inspired by Japanese script, making them look unique and local.
A lot of their graphics in public washrooms are also playful and welcoming. Sometimes it’s as cheeky as eyes made on the commode flap that could catch you off guard!
While Japan has set unmatched global standards here, India, with its many complex issues, is also catching up fast. After all, 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects do require deep work.
Indian Railways are working on new standard signages to be used at all Indian Railways Stations, bringing uniformity in signage boards across all railway stations in India.
With more than 7300 railway stations in 17 zones and 68 divisions across Indian Railways having different styles of signages, the display of station names will now follow the same standard across the country.
The guidelines prioritise simple language, clear font, easy-to-see colours, and intuitive pictograms, with an emphasis on making the signage Divyang-friendly.
Many Indian signage systems are also drawing inspiration from our rich culture. Kartavya Path’s (Rajpath) new signage system is a monolithic signpost whose form and engravings are inspired by two iconic Indian elements from our ancient past – the Iron Pillar of Delhi and the Ashoka Chakra.
The tactile map panel with braille dot embossing, placed at an accessible height for users in the orientation map with an emphasis on accessibility, ensures that it caters to a wide and diverse audience.
This one-of-a-kind system to serve spaces of this nature is setting a new benchmark for the inclusive design of public spaces in India.
I believe Indian cities, with their rich culture, heritage, and modern outlook, should make the most of the possibilities and bring more art and design to public infrastructure, uplifting both functionality and joy in everyday life.
Our guest author is Gautam Patil, co-founder and head of design, PlusOne