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Designers, architects, and artists change not only what we look at, but also teach us how to look. They educate us to discover once again the delight of sight, the richness of touch, the fullness of sounds, and what is more, to let ourselves be puzzled by what we see, be bewildered at what we hear and more importantly allow ourselves to stumble upon the meaning of life. If their craft is so potent, it may be a worthwhile exercise to understand their approach to life for it may reveal truths that transform.

The Head, Hand, and Heart

While seemingly they work with their hands that craft, and minds that imagine creating pieces of art, what is of greater importance is that they work with their ears. They listen to what their ears bring unto them, be it the cacophony of the outside or the inner voice of the inside. They listen for the pattern and construct what we may call their response, which finds expression in various forms.

The need to listen

Ears are for hearing and also for listening. There might be a fine semantic difference between the two but in our daily lives, recognising this difference may lead to a more meaningful social and professional intercourse and a greater delight in conversations. Hearing involves primary use of our ears whereas listening requires a coordinated effort from ears, eyes, and most importantly mind. When we hear, we hear for sounds, words, sentences, pauses, and meaning. But when we listen, we listen for ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. A conscious effort towards listening makes us alive to the person’s whole being. This effort in contemporary language is called active listening or empathetic listening.

The act of listening is critical to designers. They listen to not just what is said but also to that which is left unsaid. They listen not only to the person who is speaking but also to the race that he or she represents, the milieu that he belongs to, the value system that he espouses, to construct the idea of his personality and his taste. In the process of listening, the designer becomes one with the person he is listening to and then, only then he can create an object of art that brings meaning and joy to the person who it is created for. In other words, the ideal design will carry within itself the stamp of clients’ personality and an imprint of designers’ imagination thus making the whole process not only co-creative but a labor of love. And that is why listening cannot happen with ears alone; it is complete only when one listens with the heart.

(Written by Dr. Abhishek Kumar, Associate Professor, and Director, Staff Training and Development)