Padma awards for Design

Today’s list of Padma awards are out and there is no designer, still, in the list. I blogged about this, last year as well. The government finds it fit to recognise Ajay Devgn’s work as worthy of an award but not any of the design stalwarts, who used design to bring about long-lasting changes in society and the profession. To provoke a discussion on the subject, I present here, my list of Padma awards, deserving for design. This is of course, only the beginning. There may many more that I may have missed.

H Kumar Vyas, Design Educator, Ahmedabad kumarvyasH Kumar Vyas deserves a Padma award for pioneering Design education in this country and giving a distinct Indian touch to the curriculum that was launched at NID, when the design programmes began. He continues to influence and contribute to design education, through his books and research.

M P Ranjan : Design thinker, Ahmedabad

imagesRanjan’s contribution to spearheading the cause of design is well-known. He deserved this even, when he was alive, as he had the audacity to project Design thinking as a tool for solving all the country’s problems. A believer of the power of Design, he truly deserved to be recognised for his contribution.

Poonam Bir Kasturi, Daily Dump, Bangalore:

NH-dailydump_ART_GA_148659ePoonam deserves to be in this list, for making Swachch Bharat, her mission, even before the PM did. And chose to use Design thinking to develop an entire eco-system for waste management. She is a firm believer in the power of design to effect change.

David Abraham & Rakesh Thakore: Fashion Designers


Long before NIFT was even conceived and even before fashion design became a household name, David & Rakesh, early graduates of NID, set up their studio to do path-breaking work in bringing Design to the people. They set up Abraham & Thakore and the label grew up to become the epitome of international fashion with Indian sensibilities.

Surya Vanka: UX Leader, Microsoft, Seattle


Academically brilliant and suave, Surya deserves to be in this list for the fact that he rose in the ranks of Microsoft, to become the head of User experience, in Seattle. UX may now seem like  fashionable term, but Surya had pioneered in this much before anyone else, from India.

Geetha Narayanan: Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology, Bangalore


Geetha’s vision to create an alternative school of thought in design education is legendary. She broke out of the NID mould of design education, yet retaining the essence of a fresh and bold new pedagogy. She has been singularly responsible for bringing a fresh load of talent to the design pool.

Kiran Bir Sethi: Design for Change, Ahmedabad, India.


Kiran’s Design for Change is a much-written about process of empowering school children to solve their own problems. That this idea, panned out to different schools all over the world is also well-known. That she believes in the power of Design and leveraged it with school-children, make her a candidate for the award, too.

Jaya Jaitly, Dastkari Haat Samiti, New Delhi:


Jaya Jaitly should be credited with believing in the power of design to restore and rejuvenate Indian handicrafts. Whether it is introducing typography to artisans, or teaching them colour schemes and encouraging artisans to use design to further their crafts, Jaya managed to leverage design for Craft design.

There are obviously, many more who deserve the awards. It’s high time the government woke up to recognising designer’s contribution. Next January, perhaps?



  1. On the thousands of kilometres long road of change, design and designers usually occupy the first couple of hundred kilometres. They are the seeds of change. You have rightly pointed to this fact in your post; one just has to take a look at your list of contenders and what they have done. However, only when the seeds germinate and grow into magnificent trees will the real impact of design be felt, enough to be perceived as real change. This usually falls outside the ambit of the designer himself / herself; successful implementation of an idea or strategy requires very different skill sets. A designer can only urge the right people to implement it. And this is why there are no designers in the Padma list. Because, the Padma list is of those people who have been driven to perform and implement ideas that probably originated with the help of designers. So, I don’t think it is a big matter if there are no designers in the Padma list. After all, designers work behind the scenes, right? And in that sense, there must be a designer behind each deserving effort? Maybe.


    1. It is not so much from the idea of recognising an individual’s efforts in itself, but from a much larger perspective of promoting and emphasising the role of design in the growth of the country that Padma Awards through the recognition of individual contribution are necessary.
      Unfortunately, in a country where increasingly packaging is the new content , behind the scene efforts remain just that, and make way for glorification of the surface, the visible- the packaging.


  2. Dear Bala!
    Couldn’t agree more! Probably NID in its official capacity should table and recommend design stalwarts to the ministry for design community to be heard!


  3. Let us institute a national award called PoPA. People’s own Padma Awards. Let us every year award a 100 people 10 each in 10 categories which the government generally do not see. Let us put these people for endorsements through Social Media. Let us have a national event honouring them. Let us work together on this. Let us honour great people whom government do not see or refuse to see. Augustine.


  4. great club… rather pub 🙂 ENJOY …. everything it gives except good designed products to INDIANS 🙂 like an “attractive” air hostess piloting a luxury plane 🙂


  5. Sad to see that our recognition of those who shape the way we build future marvels of Indian products and technology innovations are still to get their due.
    I know some really brilliant and unique design fraternity folks whose contributions to the field of auto, furniture, HCI are nothing short of awesome… Looks like design thinking is not something that will and can positively shape the very “make in India”, is not given its due by the very protagonists of that movement.

    Are the powers that be listening even? Are they able to understand the importance of this?
    Will wait and watch…


  6. Need to add names of designers who are doing, have done, great work but are not flamboyant, articulate nor good at marketing themselves. They are therefore invisible. They always remain behind the scenes and are generally forgotten.
    But yes a great initiative. Let us ask for the recognition that Indian design needs.


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