Good resources on India aesthetics?

Anyone have experience designing housewares and appliances for urban apartment dwellers in India? I am looking for reliable resources on product aesthetics in India - less on what is currently available, more on what is selling and what is considered progressive and sophisticated and desirable to those consumers. Any and all feedback will be appreciated. Thanks.

No but a quick anecdote:

When I was in school ~2004 we visited the Electrolux design studio in Stockholm. One guy there told us that in India people were really proud of their fridge and often put it in the living room. India experienced (still does?) some very rapid economic growth with many many thousands of people crossing the poverty line each_day. And the first appliance you buy once you got a roof is probably a fridge. Interestingly enough, the most sold fridge had a button on the front that would play “Jingle Bells”.

Personally I would stay away from overtly Indian themes. Most people want the best from the world- same in India. You would make more of a dent with functional features- how do you deal with intermittent power…what kind of food is being stored…vegetarian vs non vegetarian diets…strong odors etc: aesthetic flourishes are patronizing and dishonest if it is essentially the same product underneath regurgitated…

Also- I have never seen a button with a separate Jingle Bells button in India- what possible function would that serve??? Unless it was music that played while the fridge door was open and even then I have not run across it. What brand are you referring to?

Get into Indian heads.

Edit- sorry the previous post made me think that you were designing fridges, but the general rule still stands. Better to get into someones head and then find out what they want rather than hunt around for 1 aesthetic to rule them all. Seriously think about it- Is there a US brand language? Would that involve Apple, Apple Pie and McDonalds??

Wow. Jingle Bells. I saw some air conditioning units with mood lighting, too. What drives that? I also noticed a lot of prominent pops of very saturated hues, way more swoopiness that American products, and liberal use of surface decals.

The functional issues will be addressed, but I think it is important for the visual language of the product to be relevant to its customers. That said, I am not looking for overtly Indian themes or to copy stuff that’s out there or to be otherwise patronizing. I am primarily interested in the underlying cultural forces that distinguish products in India from their American counterparts.

For funsies, I used Google to translate the word kitchen into Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and Tamil. I then did a Google image search on the translated words. I can’t say if all of the images were Indian, but some most definately are.

I know from some previous projects in CE that black is very, very popular among men, and bright pink/magenta/purplish pink is fairly acceptable as well, along with teal. These relate to traditional colors, etc. that I don’t remember. Best bet is to find a CMF consultant and ask them to do a cultural study.

MasterBlaster: I think the guy said “one of OUR best selling” which would make it an Electrolux. I don’t know if it were at all true. He also said that they were selling millions of winecoolers in China, despite wine not being a popular drink. If it was true, and I was to speculate, I would think both Jingle Bells and wine cooler somehow represent “western” which would be a symbol that they had “made it” from the slums/villages. No practical function, purely aspirational.

Is “going western” a symbol of making it? And to a person in India, what does western mean? Any insights there?

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. My team presented to our client this morning (clients travel to India a couple times a year but focus on function), and our work elicited exactly the kind of feedback we needed to understand the product climate in the client’s category and related categories in India. Client thought our assessment was correct and we were able to narrow to two main aesthetic paths.

Can you go into any specifics? Was the western angle true, or was it perhaps the opposite?

Besides going to India, which is the only true way to be in the aesthetic, I don’t know. Plus you need to break down what period: Ancient, which there are tons of different styles, colonial, modern, and what time period, today?

Lacking the time or resources to go to India, we were provided with a very detailed marketing report - 300 pages - on the subject at hand. Didn’t deal with aesthetics at all, but it did provide plenty of background to at least understand how the category was positioned, benefits promised, etc. We also found a report on the most trusted brands in India. Interestingly the most trusted are South Korean, followed by a mix of Indian companies, followed by Western MNC companies (in general). This helped us to see how different groups were selling to Indian consumers. It’s also important to note that our client was largely targeting upper middle class urban apartment dwellers, so it was largely a market segment with some disposable cash and information savvy. We reviewed how marketing messages were being pitched by trusted brands, and also created a group of image boards compiling in groups what appeared to be the basic aesthetic families being offered by these many brands. To aid in our selection of images, we used shopping sites (plus sales ranks) and search engines based in India, plus homegrown blogs we searched for in Hindi (blogs in kitchens, interiors, etc), and Indian design schools, etc to understand the groupings. Western is definitely an aspirational thing there, and it seems to be aesthetically about kind of an approachable European minimalism - the more or less global minimal style you see on a wide range of products - adapted to Indian categories, and in some cases modified with Indian / SE Asian applique graphic and color schemes.