Connecting Dots: A mission, A project and A message

CHITRA CHANDRASHEKHAR

Visual Communication Consultant, Heritage & People of Chandernagore Project

“Design education in India has always centered on needs identification and contextual learning for deriving solutions. However in India, most communication design studio practices, end up as design on the desktop rather than design on field… the former will be gradually replaced … It is the latter, where a huge chasm awaits to be bridged with a design thinking approach…Bordering on activism, planning, development, social work, entrepreneurship, ‘Design on Field’ is where one can truly effect visible change for a democratic, empowered and equitable society.”

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Four years ago when I graduated to be a communication designer, I embarked on a mission to articulate a manifesto. Soon I realized empowerment and community development converged my personal and professional worlds. This led me to explore a variety of roles and skills that would become means to an end of realizing that vision. I had to begin somewhere, so I took upon the challenge of enabling education through non-conventional channels targeting young adults. Young adults have immense potential to observe, question, challenge, reason, make decisions and act as future agents of change. Any community can resolve developmental issues by nurturing and relying upon self-confident, self-reliant young adults.

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Here is where Heritage and People of Chandernagore, epitomized my 3 year old manifesto. This project made me see how Aishwarya Tipnis Architects (ATA), a young and impassioned team, made it a point to enable local youth to spearhead a little heritage awareness revolution in Chandernagore, within just a few months of its launch. The ‘citizen historians’ worked brilliantly, as they remotely connected with the core team in New Delhi. They volunteered to collect valuable oral histories, assist and conduct community engagement events such as competitions and workshops. They heard and got heard in fairly significant numbers.

Thanks to ATA, I could join the Heritage & People of Chandernagore Team in the second leg of the endeavor. We were out to understand the real Heritage of Chandernagore in order to conserve that which is valued by the citizens. While heritage to most of us lies in the visible architectural symbols, a fragile, unseen, unspoken heritage, hides within the people by way of memories, stories, rituals, dreams and aspirations. Unearthing these innocuously in their authentic best was the real test. Juggling roles of a workshop facilitator, event planner, game designer, live graphic recorder, design researcher, visual, web and experience designer and a design director, I managed to accomplish my tasks owing to a co-creative and friendly work culture.

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There is more that I took away from this project than what was given. Foremost, is a message that time is ripe to veer away from designing pretty objects and skins for a few elite takers. The need of the hour is to build robust platforms to empower and enable all citizens to have well-informed, democratic conversations determining their own collective future.

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