Design – A Subject of ‘National Importance’

On Jan 10th, there was a Government of India press release that recognised NID,( National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, INDIA) by an act of parliament, as an institution of ‘national importance’.

Clearly, it is a great honour.

If you know the fact, that NID recently completed 50 years, one knows that clearly, this was long overdue.

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(Pic Courtesy http://www.nid.edu)

NID has been nominated as an institution of national importance, as it has been the pioneer in design education in India. It is noteworthy that every other design institute big, small, public and private has been set up by NID graduates. A former director of NID, Prof Ashoke Chatterjee, once mentioned that a graduate of NID does not fill up a job vacancy but creates situations that create jobs. That was in the early 1980s when design itself was taking root and India was looking at design as an activity beyond embroidery!

The fact remains that NID has been nominated as an institution of national importance, as NID graduates were crucial to creating new design institutions. The Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay, (IDC), the National Institute of Fashion Technology, ( NIFT), the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design,Jaipur, (IICD), Crafts Development Institute, (CDI),Srinagar, Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology, Bangalore have all had NID graduates participating in the founding of these design educational initiatives or have had them as the head of the institution. And it is noteworthy, that each of these institutes cater to a segment of design education that is distinct from each other, instead of clones of their alma mater.

A large section of practising professionals from the early batches, who graduated from NID have gone on to creating design businesses that have helped establish the profession in this country in all its nuances. From Tessaract Design of the 80’s that merged and morphed into Idiom, India’s largest design studio in Bangalore, to Elephant Design in Pune, to Vyas Gianetti Creatives in Mumbai to Lopez Design in Delhi, all helped corporate businesses in their design quest and contributed in bringing about a change in their outlook to design. These firms helped set up norms for the professionals that went to becoming the profession’s protocol.

And NID graduates have also been contributing to the economy by turning entrepreneurs  manufacturing well-designed products from scratch. Whether it is eclectic fashion by Abraham & Thakore, or furniture by Quetzel, or children’s toys by Gween or the collective creativity at People Tree, these designers set their own agenda and celebrated design with  the style it deserves.

 

NID’s international outlook to its curriculum is legendary. Another reason why NID has been nominated as an institution of national importance. The institute’s work has been appreciated more internationally, than in India. This helped several graduates to take the leap and take their design knowledge across the seas to an international audience. Like Surya Vanka, who heads Microsoft’s User Experience excellence group in Seattle or  Sunand Bhattacharya, who is heading the academic section of Autodesk University in the US. Vinay Venkataraman’s  now famous take on Frugal Digital products at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, which he co-founded, has been received very well even at TED, There is also Uday Dandavate’s Sonic Rim which is a design-research firm based in USA that works with corporate America.

NID’s education system helped in nurturing innovation and that’s another reason for NID to be nominated as an institution of national importance. There are several eclectic examples of design career innovation  by the graduates that deserve mention. Latika Khosla’s studio ‘ Freedom Tree in Mumbai specialises in Colour, a unique positioning in design. Sudhir Sharma, another illustrious graduate is also the editor of POOL, a design magazine which is published by his design and branding company. Poonam Bir Kasturi’s concern for urban waste, became a unique design-led business called Daily dump that has won praises and acclaim across the world. Neelam Chibber’s Mother Earth develops products that help sustain the earth as much as rural livelihoods.

NID has a history of doing things uniquely. That’s the major reason why the graduates have done well and the institution has been chosen for this honour. This raises the bar and the institution has to dig deep to sustain this unique culture that MP Ranjan so eloquently writes about in his blog. It is time to discuss the future course of NID and all its proposed new branches all across the country. It is time to redefine teaching and learning paradigms. It is a moment in history that needs introspection as much as savouring. Only then can design can become a subject of national importance.

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8 Comments

  1. A Balasubramaniam has made a valient effort to call for a vibrant discourse on the new status of NID as an institute of National Importance, which was accorded to the Institute by the Government of India on the 11th of July 2014 by the passing of the Bill in the Lok Sabha after the Rajya Sabha had endorsed it on the 10th of July 2014. There was much celebration on the social media as well as on the ground at NID when the Director met students and Faculty on the NID Paldi Lawns and at Gandhinagar with the mandatory Samosas and Jelebis in attendance over hot cups of tea or coffee.

    However, on 12th July 2014 the Finance Minister read out the National Budget and i listened carefully to his exposition and alas I did not find a single mention of Design even as he continued to wax and wave about education the nation with more IIMs, IITs and AIIMS the traditional areas that have recieved Government funding in pleanty over the past 60 years and perhaps also fostering an attitude that design and innovation does not matter in the scheme for Good Governance that hasbeen promised by the Narendra Modi Government.

    Your listing of major achievers from the NID stable is far from complete and this is because the very Institute thathas trained and enthused the alumni and graduates do not see this. Community as a significant force in the country. I say this categorically since the recently published official history of NID chooses to ignore all its alumni while looking only at the officials who handled administrative positions at NID along with a myopic view of selected internal projects and activities with. No attempt. To be comprehensive. This means thatneither NID as it stands now nor the DIPP, the Government Department. That championed rhe NID Bill have any idea what the real contributions of the alumni oftuis school truly is, notwithstanding the valient effort thatypu have made to identify and name some of the design leaders that NID has produced over the years.

    This lacunae must be set right since I do believe that one NID alumni counld indeed by weighed against a very large number of other professionals particularly since most of them. Have created bothnew jobs and value without the kind of investment the Government seems to need to bring value to other sectors. They have acted as catalysts for change as well as connectors andbuilders of our culture but this. Group has notbeen researched either by the NID or the DIPP as a source of insights of how we need to go forward with the design education agenda for the nation. This apathy must end and. Design needs to be placed ar. The very centre of the nation building debate if we areto move forward with sensitivity and meaningful value generation which only theuse of design can bring to our planning and transformation processes.

    NID needs to reconnect with its Alumni and a wider range of stakeholders ifwe are to find and harvest insights thathavebeenaccumulated over the years anduse this as a platform for all further action at the Government and Industry level. I hope wisdom will prevail and our administrators would have faith in the history of the Institute to draw lessons from these to shape the future plans for the new Institutes which had been proposed by the previous Government at Jorhat, Kurukshetra, Bhopal and Hyderabad, now shifted to Vijayawada, in a ham handed manner.

    Reply

    1. The alumni are the products of the institute. It is because of the alumni, that an institution becomes a centre of excellence. NID must recognise this by rallying the alumni for it’s cause and not ignore them!

      Reply

  2. Dear Bala, your post is titled as “Design – A Subject of National Importance” when the Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha only looks at the status of the National Institute of Design. The “Subject of Design” and “The Institute of Design” are not synonymous although one could lead to the other if the Institute continues to make efforts in that direction but this is not an automatic outcome as we can see in the absence of the very mention of Design in the National Budget that was tabled in the Lok Sabha just one day after the very same house approved the NID Bill 2014! Further, design is not even a category in the Nations’ Padma Awards!

    Therefore, dear friend, we have a long way to go before we can claim that for India and the Indian Govermnent and Industry Design is a “Subject of Importance”.

    Reply

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