FUNCTION BY DESIGN
By: CB Bureau Dated: September 01, 2014
Any design to be called design has to be defined not only by beauty but also function. Therefore, a design aesthetic cannot be its own raison d'etre, instead of equal importance is its “logical applicability”. “If a chair is designed in the shape of a bird, it may look very beautiful, but if it is not comfortable or functionally good enough for people of relevant groups, again it is of no use,” says Ravi Rangaswamy, a young emerging photographer and book designer, in an interview with Creative Brands.
There is design to every aspect of life… be it family to society, art to architecture, business to politics, music to painting… What to your mind constitutes design?
It is very simple. When a piece of art is created, it is usually created for someone. The idea behind creating a piece of art that makes it not only of aesthetic significance, but also takes care of the comfort and logical applicability is what constitutes design. Think about a grand studio that has been designed for a photographer where all his major shoots will take place. It may have posh interiors and almost all amenities, but if it does not have a proper ramp for a car to be brought in for the shoot, it is of no use! Similarly, if a chair is designed in the shape of a bird, it may look very beautiful, but if it is not comfortable or functionally good enough for people of relevant groups, again it is of no use.
Photography has been one of your chosen vocations. What defines an image and its composition? What temporal or spatial aspects come into play while shooting a picture?
As a photographer and a writer, I feel that a good photograph is one which tells a story, such as Robert Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’. Ideally, a good photographer must follow the principles of photography design — rhythm, harmony, balance, contrast, and symmetry. When I shoot travel photo features, I do take care of lighting and angles. When I went to shoot the Hutheesing Jain Temple in Ahmedabad in the morning, the Kirti Stambh (facing East) in front of the temple was brightly lit by sunlight and in the evening the temple (facing West) looked beautiful in golden light.
What transforms a photograph and takes it to another level of consciousness? Is it sometimes conscious design or often accident or simply perseverance that immortalises a photograph?
Photography could either be conscious design or even accident. Of course, before taking a photograph, the photographer always plans the composition. Other aspects that precede that are the selection of the subject/place, lighting, angle/s. At times, it is only the ‘moment’ that is most important — that moment when a scene is to be frozen... neither a second earlier nor a second later! Look at Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs — his photographs are about the ‘Decisive Moment’. On the other hand, if it’s a fashion shoot or a product shoot, the photographer invests a lot of time and effort in understanding the model, the garment, or the product that has to be shot, and a lot of other things such as props, colour coordination, or background play an important role in the whole shoot.
You have designed covers and books for Maitreya. How do you approach design when conceiving of a book cover?
Whenever I have designed covers for the books that Maitreya has published, I had had to make sure that the cover and the story/theme of the book went well with each other. The cover is first designed on the basis of the genre. How light-hearted or serious is the subject? What is the mood of the story? What are the characters like? Only after taking these aspects into consideration is the cover finally designed. But what I do bear in mind is that the whole look of the same should at no point surpass the comprehension of the reader (interested in reading that particular genre). It should be truly visually appealing to the reader.
When we designed the cover of our first book titled 46+14=06, A Story of a Genius, the conversations between a Mom and her Son over a cup of Bournvita, school life, and creativity is shown by the picture of a mug with colour pencils and a paintbrush in it. The subtitle A Fiction by an NIDian under the title helped create the brand.
When I do the layout of a book, I not only bear in mind the aesthetics or innovation that can be applied in the designing process, but also other aspects such as the size of the book, the fonts, the font size and thickness not from a designer’s point of view but from a reader’s point of view. I also use the font based on the subject of the book.
I designed the cover of the book The Dance Company. It is erotica. It is the story of the inside world of dancers and their search for Lord Krishna or divinity or spirituality. For the cover, I put together the anklet of a dancer, a flower, a flute, a crumpled sari, and some scattered flowers, which summarised the whole story.
You call your second book “Camera and Conversations”. What are the conversations you strike up or trigger through your camera?
Camera & Conversations is a conscious creation of a spontaneous moment. It is based in Pondicherry and Auroville. Most of the conversations are spiritual and occult in nature, yet funny and light-hearted. They are conversations that I have had with people at Auroville. So even before I took their photographs, I had to keep in mind that I was not shooting a man or a woman, I was shooting a life. He/she was a human who was conversing with me, telling me his/her story. If they were telling me their story, there was a sense of comfort that we were sharing and that had to be visible in the photograph. In Camera & Conversations, different people have different stories to tell. While some talk about their passions, there are some who are calm, and there are a few who have come in search of someone or something. I had to make sure that when I took those photographs those emotions had to be visible in the photographs. In fact, the thought of writing Camera & Conversations came up when my mom was going through those photographs.
Finally, what has been thus far that work you hold closest to your heart?
All my work is equally close to my heart. However, of all the work that I have done, the closest to my heart is the book Camera & Conversations because to combine two forms of art- writing and photography is challenging. Camera & Conversations is a work of fiction with photographs and I have never read or come across any work of this kind. Most of my classmates at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, were from the Fine Arts background and they combined Fine Arts and photography for their final projects. I wanted to combine Literature and Photography since I have a Literature background. It was thus that I did the final project titled Camera & Conversations, but it was rejected because nobody had ever done this kind of work. Besides I needed some reference work of a photographer, which I didn’t have. So the theme of the book was ‘Why can’t I be the first one?’ When we had written the first draft, we felt that the whole story could stand on its own, but when we added the photographs and reworked the script, it looked much better. This work is special because it narrates the story or a journey of a photographer and the trials and tribulations that he faces. It is something that I always wanted to write about after I had learnt photography.