Lessons from the creators of India’s original mobile-first content

In the 10th to 14th Century C.E., and before the advent of paper, Indian artists painted on long narrow strips of palm leaves. These works of art were meant to be held in the hand, and so were designed to help people enjoy them when viewing from a close distance, just like the content we are now designing for mobiles: also hand-held and seen close-up. There are some exquisite examples of this art-form in Mumbai’s Archaeology Museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

Folio from manuscript of Prajnaparmita, Palm Leaf, 12th Century C.E. displayed in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, India

As you can see (you may need to expand the images on modern devices: they were designed for the eyes alone!) as important as the text undoubtedly was, they paid much more attention to creating stunning visuals that conveyed the meaning of that text, caught the viewers’ attention and entertained them.  It’s an important lesson to those of us working on mobile-first strategies from what could have been the creators of the world’s first ever mobile-first content.