Ambedkar University, Delhi
Design competitions are democratic calls to action that recenter designs and decentre designers. While ‘“ideas” competitions, often promoted by patrons, fraternal organisation or academic institutions, do much in breaking new theoretical ground and furthering discourse, it is the promise of actualisation of a project through competition that truly energises design practices. Organised by clients/ promoters for commissioning design services, they can range from being a contest of two, like that between Brunelleschi and Ghiberti for the famed Florentine Duomo in 1418, to millions like the open design competition, held in 2010, for the Indian Rupee symbol won by Udaya Kumar. In many cases, both the successful and the unsuccessful designs have been inflection points in the history of design and the competitions themselves part of its lore.
Arguably, designers inherently compete in practice and admittedly, too often on costs of services rendered. Design competitions, however, differ in as much as they are a simultaneous, comparative, evaluation of design proposals, performing to specific predeclared parameters or a brief, sought from more than one designer. The culture of jury-reviewed, design competitions for specific commissions appears more robust in the domains of habitat design and less so in the domains of product/industrial, graphic/communication and apparel/textile design. However, from a showcase for emerging talents to contests for visual identities, and from one calling for participation by invitation only, or participation through pre-qualifications, to open global calls for designs, all design fields hosts such “professional jousts” in other formats.
Question 1: “ What are the avatars of design competitions and their relevance to various domains of design practice?”
Question 2: “ What is the significance and contribution of design competitions to the discourse, maturity and trajectory of the various design domains in India?”
Question 3: “What has been the impact and manner of the conduct, good and bad, of design competitions in India? What would improve it? ”