Mehendi Designer at Work

In India, women like to cover their hands and arms with beautiful floral designs made from natural plant dye called 'mehendi'. It is applied in a thick paste form and the design develops line by line. There is no room for any mistake since a mistake can't be wiped off immediately. As the pattern dries up the excess material is washed off and the bright crimson brown imprint remains on the skin for days. When it fades a fresh design is put on. It is said that this dye has a healing effect but I am not quite sure of that.

It is both an interesting and engaging affair between the designer and client. The design develops through dialogues and interactions between the two, which is then owned by the user and proudly displayed in public. Women eye each other to check out as to whose hands and arms look more beautiful. It is also interesting to note that this design work takes place on the footpaths of city streets, usually at prominent corners. I can understand that. It easily attracts other clients — a very skillful 'word or mouth' advertisement on the go stroking the secret desire of women to look as beautiful as the other if not better. 

Strangely this design profession is taken up by men. I don't know why. Surely, they find their work interesting since their clientele is all women, usually young. But that is not the point I am trying to make here.

My questions are:

1. Why do the designers and their clientele stick to the floral patterns only? This has been around for at least 1000 years, if not more. Though there is a lot of variation on the floral design why did Indian women not move away from it to adopt other genre of design, say for example, animal motifs? Is it convention or tradition? Or is it something else? Or is it because women can easily relate to plants as nurturers and providers.

2. How do mehendi designers enhance user experience? Would different occasions call for different types of design? For example, a design for attending a marriage ceremony might be completely different to say 'go shop'.

3. Can the designers characterize and bring out the perceived personality of their users through their designs even if they are only using floral designs? How can they drive up more value for their clients and for themselves? Can they transform a human psyche over a period of time through thematic appreciation of their pieces of art? Can they heal the mind? How do they study their users and share their knowledge with other designers in the trade?

Fair to say that I keep learning a lot about design and design thinking by observing such designers at work. The sheer simplicity of their offering is amazing. That might be the secret of their popularity and general acceptance of their design work by young women in general who are quite fussy about their likes and dislikes . They might not want to have it any other way.

Simplicity, beauty, boldness and elegance rule here!

Isn't that true for any design?

Or would complex designs hold more appeal or value?


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