How to impart quality design education in India

21st Oct 2016
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A robust education system reflects a country’s growth and prosperity. Education acts as the foundation for a brighter future of an individual. Over the last few decades, great strides in India’s education system are visible, though the focus on developing the right set of skills and providing training to create global citizens is still somewhat missing. There is a dire need to empower individuals who have the power to make a difference by eradicating most of the complex issues in the world.

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By incorporating design, which by and large shapes our ideas better is inherent in our every act. We design, we create experiences to make the life of individuals more comfortable, information readily available, work more efficient, spaces more convivial, and in turn making peoples’ life more meaningful. The strategic importance of design for national and industrial competitiveness is a world known phenomena.

For India, the value addition through innovation in design has and will play a pivotal role to enhance competitiveness for both manufacturing and service industries. The government of India has initiated a consultee approach with industry and designers to develop the broad contours for a combined vision towards a design enabled Indian industry. It is with the objective of creating positive impulse in the national economy and quality of life for everyone.

With such a positive outlook and government’s support, let’s take a step back to reassess the design education scenario in India. Back in the 1950s, the Indian Government noticed the negligence of design and quality for consumer items. With a strong emphasis, a focussed educational programme was created to develop the industrial design and visual communication skills for Indians. The famous American industrial designer duo Charles Eames and his wife Ray were invited to India to formalise design education in India. Under their report guidelines, National Institute of Design was set up in 1961.

Since then design education in India has witnessed multifold changes and upgradation. The acceptance and practice of design in India have grown tremendously. There are a variety of design schools across the country who claim to improvise the design education standards by imparting the much-required training to students. Though with a faster-changing world even the standards in design education are very high. And the question remains around how can we remove the loopholes and sustain a high-quality education from a conventional structure?

The awareness of design education and the growing demand for design professionals is a positive indicator. It educates people to differentiate between a good or a bad product and it certainly helps shape our future for the better. There is a growing need to eradicate the redundancies in the traditional course curriculum. A strategic streamlining of the education structure which offers practice exposure encourages focussed learning is much required. Along with basics of design, this societal problem will be addressed by applying design concepts in the knowledge structure. It will help build interest and develop their skills.

Admission process: A sharpened focus while admitting students to design curriculum with the emphasis on aptitude, quality and acumen. Even design scholarships will help the right students to develop their capabilities who otherwise couldn’t take up these programmes.

Practical learning approach: The world is changing every day and so is our design processes. A lean and efficient learning experience must be provided to help the future designers create a better tomorrow as opposed to the conventional process. The best way to go about with practice will be to adopt a project-based, and internship oriented curriculum much in the real world to learn and experiment. Collaboration is the key to success. To provide aspirants with significant exposure to work across streams, live projects creation opportunities are required. It will in-turn help them build their professional skills, including communication, brainstorming ideas and practical thinking, which are equally important.

Quest for right faculty: To impart quality in design education, we need educators who can bring together and put that value across to the design aspirants. To not let the shortage of qualified faculty members for design education, we need to act now. With newer additions every day, we require teachers to narrow the learning gap for students.

Learning environment: Though design education has been around for a couple of decades, India still lags behind their counterparts from global design education fraternity. There is not enough traction with our current learning system. A creative fusion of hardcore design with technical aspects through an independent, creative and self-reliant approach will certainly change this scenario. The institutions should offer more opportunities for students to grow, think efficiently and independently.

Specialisation focus: A continuous evaluation of course curriculum by mapping the latest industry demands will help while developing design courses. More than focusing on one particular area in the design vertical, the institutions should ideally equip the learners with a know-how of the related areas. For example, a specialisation in systems design must focus on why the system design (feasibility), for whom it is getting developed (empathy), and how it will work/help (functionality) aspect.

At the governance level, the liberalisation of institutions will help better designing of course curriculum to create empowered professionals of tomorrow.

Innovation is essential to be able to adapt to, for creating that difference in Indian design education to help students work better in unpredictable market conditions and intense global competition. Incremental improvements by themselves will not do and hence the listed points will help address improve the quality of design training in India.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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