September 15, 2015
Despite my best attempts to jot down a day-by-day record of KDY15, I failed miserably. I was busy soaking it all in – inside the presentation hall and outside it. It was clearly not my fault, given the profuse stimuli being poured on and off stage. (May as well add the open bar here, quietly.)
So it’s taken a few extra days for the thoughts to unscramble and the excitement to arrange itself into neat order. And this entry therefore, is really a reflection on the sum, the parts having been captured ably & in the heat of the moment, by many other participants with sketch-notes, pictures and tweets.
Two big things.
One, the conversations are now truly global.
Going back in time, I remember this constant hum within audience conversations of ‘them’ and ‘us’. There was always a palpable disconnect between international content and a pan-Indian audience-consumer. This would almost always end in a demand for more ‘Indian’ speakers, because of this sense of disconnect with non-Indian content. I rarely see or hear that anymore. From project showcases, to what pumps the design heart, we are all – both audience and presenters – more connected than ever by universal human truths.
In no way, when I speak of universality, do I mean homogenisation. Across work and presenters rooted in different cultures, one could easily see connections and meaning being made. Content is being consumed with greater sense-making and contextualisation is the responsibility of the individual. The fact that connections are being made across cultures, origin of work, languages – is incredible – and makes the takeaway so much richer.
Two, the conversation is open to all.
It is one thing to be able to string together a stellar cast of speakers on stage. But another, and potentially more difficult task, is to infect the entire conference with openness and warmth, especially offstage. While KDY at first glance might appear a conventional speaker-led conference, over the years it has (by chance + astute planning) created an environment which encourages everyone to meet new people and speak their mind.
Therefore outside of the speaker sessions and workshops, thought-provoking conversations, new friendships, mentoring and debates start to form – regardless of age, experience or accolades. (The open bar and dancing do warrant a mention here as well). The openness is critical for community building and happiness (that great driver of individual and collective hearts).
Some of my on-the-sideline-chats included:
+ Kunal Anand (Kultureshop): On the thin line between copying & inspiration in graphic art
+ Hanif Kureshi: The fact that we must make more ‘making-of’ videos. Also was most gracious when I attempted to relieve him of his Black Elephant.
+ Arjun Charanjiva (Kultureshop): On the wonderful things that both enthuse and kill us in the business of running a creative enterprise
+ Rob Keller (Mota Italic): The early-days-struggles
+ Random strangers: My real age & Saaboo
It has taken KDY 10 years to get here – to this interesting and invigorating mix of business and pleasure of design. And from my privileged point-of-view that is both internal and external, it has not been an easy journey. From suspicion to criticism, and from praise to envy, the team has and will continue to face mixed reactions from the small community of designers within the country.
But what it has shaken up and is undeniable is apathy, and the impossibility of creating a vibrant platform in India with global relevance. And the biggest learning in all of this, is that they’ve smiled like it’s been a party all throughout.
Warm wishes, and until we all meet again at KDY16.