3 years back I started learning Indian Classical Flute (Also known as Hindustani Classical Flute). It was a gift from my wife. I could not play it on the very first day but I totally fell in love with the beauty of this product. Its simplicity and minimalism attracted me a lot. Eventually, I started learning flute and my appreciation of the product kept on increasing day by day. More interestingly, I started observing and learning the finest aspect of design and heuristics through this musical instrument.
Sustainability can be demonstrated at multiple levels.
“Truly sustainable product demonstrates sustainability the level of the material, manufacturing process, usage, lifespan, and disposal.”
The flute is made of locally grown bamboos. It gives bread and butter to local villagers. All you need is a heated rod and basic tools to craft the flute. It doesn’t need electricity to operate. A well-maintained flute lasts for many years and it doesn’t harm nature even after discarded.
Though simplicity is a well-known design principle, I learned the highest degree of simplicity from the Indian classical flute. It is made out of a single piece of bamboo without any joineries. No glue required. Even threads are optional.
“Product reaches at the ultimate level of simplicity when nothing can be removed further from it.”
Best in class
“Best in class products are designed to the extent that it remains the best even after variations of products are created in the future.”
Indian classical flute is best in class. Product explorations were done to replace bamboo with materials like PVC, metal, and acrylic. But bamboo produces the best sound quality until the date.
“A good product is scalable to cover all possible needs and scenarios.”
Different sizes of bamboo can be used to produce a wide range of the sound spectrum. 12 variations of the flutes are already derived to cover different pitches — G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#.
While playing the Indian classical flute, the holes need to be covered by fingers and not through buttons (If we compare it with western flute). A wide variety of sounds can be produced by covering holes in various ways. The design also allows users to produce various styles famous among Indian classical singers — Mindh, Gamak, Katka. So it sounds relevant to Indian classical music.
“A good product is culturally relevant and fits well in the ecosystem.”
Some of the musical instruments (usually string instruments) hurt your fingers, some give body ache (western violin) and some need a huge setup (drum, piano). Unlike all, the flute can be held in a very ergonomic posture, it doesn’t hurt the fingers and it strengthens your lungs.
“A good product doesn’t harm your body and mind, It strengthens them rather.”
You can find flute sellers on the Indian streets quite often because it is one of the most affordable musical instruments. Other Indian classical instruments are expensive. A poor musician can not afford to buy Sitar, Tabla, Harmonium or Vina. Almost every Indian would have purchased flute once in life.
“A good product is affordable to the masses. It doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor.”
It is not easy to play Indian classical flute. It is one of the most difficult instruments to learn. You need to practice a lot. You are not pressing a button to play a note. A little gap between the hole and finger can change the sound. You need to spend years to get mastery over this instrument. In fact, the entire life is not enough if you want to master every finest technique. After learning the flute, you naturally enhance your capability to understand and learn any other music. You start listening to music with different intensity and sensitivity.
“A good product keeps pushing human capabilities.”
I strongly believe that we are surrounded by so many well designed indigenous products around us. All we need is to develop an eye to understand and appreciate their beauty!
This article is originally published by Anand Karelia in Designerrs publication on Medium. Thanks Anand for making it very easy for us to understand certain Design Principles from Indian Flute, really insightful.