Satyendra Pakhalé: "Humane and sustainable design is still complex."

June 2007 -

Designer Satyendra Pakhalé looks back on his first term as head of the master's programme Design for Humanity and Sustainable Style at the Eindhoven Design Academy. The designer, who originally came from India, feels like a cultural nomad. After his studies in his home country and Switzerland, he came to work for Philips Design in Eindhoven. His Amsterdam studio has served international clients since 1989. Pakhalé believes that craftsmanship is the primary requirement for a good industrial design, not a romantic style instrument. If things go as they should, suitable technology and choice of materials will result in sustainable products.


The Design Academy attracts students from all over the world. Pakhalé's department undertakes cooperative projects in non-Western countries. Can you train a person to be a universal, intercultural and sustainable designer? "Not using traditional teaching methods. But you can by challenging students - I have seven from Western countries, two from South America and one from South Korea - to debate. I think the battle between the cultures being fought in the media is primitive, resulting in cultural stereotypes. Designers need to be sensitive to widely varying, global perspectives. The idea that one designer could solve all the world's problems like Victor Papanek hoped around 1970 is both praiseworthy and impossible. Of course something is wrong when there is no drinking water ten kilometres from Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley. But at the same time, digital communication techniques are being used to open areas without infrastructure in Bangladesh. These are horrible paradoxes.

More people die from obesity than from malnourishment. And yet our planet has enough to feed all. Such issues cannot be solved with humane and sustainable designs.

In essence, politics is responsible for ensuring that a society has educated and vocal members. Humane and sustainable design is still a complex process involving functions, choices and decisions. Good design education is multiple, opening perspectives to situations in which anything is possible."