Posted on 03-10-2010
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit


There’s a difference between aesthetics and visual art. Aesthetics is difficult to define as it exists in nature and the human form. Visual art is the composition of human intelligence that adapts as different things in people’s mind, and expresses them in collage form. Visual art is human expression with any kind of material in the form of art.

Visual art drives the economy through industrial design: For long, engineering products have improved human life. In today’s competitive scenario, differentiation through industrial design is what breaks the benchmark. Industrial design, a combination of applied art and applied science that improves marketability and production by incorporating visual art, ergonomics and product usability, drives a developed country’s economy. Automobiles, two-wheelers, phones, home appliances, office furniture, electronics, medical equipment, tools, machinery and transportation, are all empowered by visual art. Originating in Europe, established manufacturers have prioritised creating differentiation in industrial design through visual art aesthetics. Later, US, Japan and Korea followed suit.

Visual art in all design touch points: When people reach a certain economic level, they get involved with different engineering products as extensions of life. So, strong visual art in every touch point counts as it makes them feel they are surrounded with unique things. The collage of materials and textures in multiple elements play as visual art in an engineering product’s visible areas of design.

Visual art starts from non-visible areas: It’s not enough to address the overall visible aspect of a product with external visual aesthetics. When a consumer opens a car’s bonnet to find that its hidden mechanical engineering components are not well designed with visual art, he can lose consideration in the vehicle and its aspiration. Should your washing machine require repair, and the technician comes and opens its panel and you find the chamber inside looks untidy, exposing no visual art, you’ll never consider this brand to be aspirational. Psychologically, in your next purchase, you will not buy the same brand. That’s because washing itself is a chore, and this product’s inner functionality corroborates that tedious task. Visual art is so powerful that no engineer with an aesthetic sense will leave non-visible industrial design areas devoid of it. French sculptor César proved that even scraps of metal can have visual art. He astonished art lovers by showing three crushed cars at a Paris exhibition. César selected particular elements for crushing and mixing from differently coloured vehicles to control the surface pattern and colour scheme of his works. He became renowned for his Compressions.

Visual art in industrial product retails: The retail outlets of even sophisticated industrial products are still very archaic. I recently visited Reebok in London where they ingeniously used the yellow corrugated, zigzag shoe sole of their latest design to decorate the entire store and façade, calling it Reezig. This gave the shoe a dimension larger than life, and demonstrated how a single touch point can be magnified to mesmerise consumers. This is the way visual art can change the retail character of industrial products.

Free from user manuals: The 21st century’s digital technology era has created another phase where the experience of functionality in industrial design is implicit. This means a product’s look and touch should be so compelling that consumers can figure it out instantly without the help of user manuals. As digital technology is commoditising most products, the importance of differentiation through engineering design is becoming a prime factor where visual art plays the central role.

The partly-slanted mud table: In designing industrial products, I strongly respect engineering rationalities, even as I deploy my palette of colours, always co-opting visual art. The inspiration probably comes from my mother who made me an 18-inch, partly-slanted reading table with mud. I could sit on the floor and keep my books on it. Saying poverty is no excuse for ugliness, she’d obsessively keep everything very aesthetically, particularly swabbing my table with cow dung water everyday. The monsoon season invariably broke down everything. When water would lash into our bamboo-walled, thatched-roofed mud house, her priority was always to remake my slanting table. Later when I attended my gorgeous British architecture art college in Kolkata and went on to become a designer in Paris, I came to realise my mother’s sense of visual art in design in that slanted mud table. My childhood training has grown in me, as I breathe visual art in my way of life today.

Beyond 2+2=4: An engineering product design that’s associated with visual art has high and unlimited appeal, beyond the 2+2=4 equation. India requires massive numbers of engineering designers with the capacity to transform an engineering design to a selling proposition that’s driven by visual art. There’s great potential for such careers that command attractive salaries. But the product’s quality, functionality and performance can never be compromised for the duration of its lifespan in consumer or professional usage as per its industry standard. In mass production, visual art is a very decisive factor for business success.

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