A designer's curiosity

A designer's curiosity


A designer's curiosity

Despite having no credentials in the field of art or design, the announcement of the contest last April excited me. I stirred my shallow reserve of creativity and laboured for days with a pencil and an eraser. I studied the finance ministry guidelines. Among other things, it was clearly mentioned that the “symbol should represent the historical and cultural ethos of the country.”

So as the first logical step, I set out to make a list of everything that qualified as the ‘historical and cultural ethos” of India. The Taj Mahal was clearly the first that came up in mind but I rejected it as it wouldn’t satisfy the other conditions to figure in a symbol.

For the same reason the snake charmer, temple gopuram, elephant with a howdah, Bengal Tiger, Indian rope trick, fakir on a bed of nails, yoga pose, and a host of other quintessentially Indian images had to be discarded.

After hours of deliberation, I just had one entry in the list. And that was the Zero. It seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

As the great Indian contribution to mathematics, not only did zero represent India, it could also be easily incorporated in a symbol. Yet it was very unsatisfactory to proceed to design a composite symbol based on just one parameter. So I kept up with my search for other, typically Indian things that would lengthen the list.

As it happened to Archimedes, my Eureka moment too came in a bathroom. Not at home but in an outstation lodge. With my glasses off, I first took them to be some new kind of design on the wall tiles. But on closer examination I realised that they were sticker bindis. Sticker bindis of every shade and size, that had been taken off and stuck on the wall tile before having a bath by scores of thrifty but forgetful women.

Here was the second, undisputably Indian, modern invention that also represented our cultural ethos. Since the typical bindi too is a round, I ‘zero’ed in on my design. It is a freehand oval, with two forward slashes trisecting it (as in the flag).