Ministry of Design, Mr Modi?

Dear Prime Minister,

Your landslide victory in the elections and your swearing-in as the new Prime Minister has given the vast majority of Indians, the audacity of hope.

It is now clear to all that you believe in change. If there is one profession that can match up to that belief, it is the profession of Design. We believe in change, too and often question the status quo, just the way you have done.

Having been in Gujarat, home to NID, the oldest and the most prestigious design institute of this country, you are probably aware already, what design can do. Having allocated land in Gandhinagar for NID’s PG campus, you have already done your bit for Design as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

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But, now, as PM, your canvas is larger. The expectations are mounting and so are the problems. I want to draw your attention to do something dramatic, as is expected of you. Please create a new ministry: Ministry of Design.

The Ministry can be the think-tank, you need that will kickstart design thinking for governance. You need design thinking across all the 230 sectors of the economy. Take for instance, primary education. The Pearson report on education says that Technology can provide new pathways into adult education, particularly in the developing world, but is no panacea. There is little evidence that technology alone helps individuals actually develop new skills.” So, I hope you will not fall for the free laptop or cheap tablet phenomenon and focus on training our children, new skills like Leadership, Critical thinking, Problem solving and team-working, which will help them become global citizens.

Introducing ‘Design Thinking’ at school-level prepares them for the world and this has been amply proved by the ‘Design for Change‘, a program that germinated in Ahmedabad and is empowering children world over with creative confidence.

We all are aware of your concerns for Energy, Water, Transport, Health and the Environment. Do you also know that there are projects big and small, done by designers that attempt to solve problems in a systemic way? Whether it is the d*light project of lamps for the common man or the Daily Dump‘s project in home-composting, these are enough to convince you that design needs to get it’s due.

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You need to also look at the great Indian resource of hand-made crafts. For decades, designers have been working with artisans,from Kutch to Katlamaran, Srinagar to Chennapatna not only to make beautiful products, but also make them economically independent and socially acceptable. The pride you have for all-things Indian, will come to the fore, I promise.

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Does this mean, you need to start more design institutes? Maybe, not, Mr Modi. I hope you have the time to familiarise yourself with the VISION FIRST think-tank that demonstrated the need to embed design across sectors. We need more nimble, small design centres envisioned as part of existing schools, colleges and institutions.

I hope you would empower the India Design Council to take this agenda forward. And make design accessible to all. You may want to make it more outward-looking and create an agenda, beyond superficiality.
The Ministry of Design can be the agent of change that you want to see. And you can count on the design community to join you in this cause.

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Dear Bala, I had posted a note on my blog ‘Design for India’ in June 2007 with a seven stage wish list for design action at the national level which would be based. On the setting up of a Ministry of Design. Your post is great and timely, do follow it up with PM Modi and Nirmala Sitaraman and Smriti Irani, both of who can potentially change design education and make it relevant. See my post below
    http://design-for-india.blogspot.in/2007/06/wish-list-for-indias-national-design.html

    Reply

  2. A very thoughtful and much needed subject this article has touched upon.
    Being an ‘un-designed’ society which India is, both challenges and opportunities for design are great. Having said that we need to make a distinction in India between – Art, craft, and design. Arts and crafts will not solve problems relating to ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ as they are mediums of self expression and craftsmanship. Design on the other hand has a scientific basis and can partner technology to deliver human centred solutions and uplift the quality of life in India.
    Italy and Germany successfully leveraged this understanding after the war to develop a design industry which offered solutions to everyday existential problems that a war ravaged society faces. Also Design had a great contribution to their re-industrialization and human development. A direction that a newly industrialized nation like India could be interested in.
    Design schools in India need to focus more on core research and identifying product opportunities along with developing of contemporary manufacturing capability.
    Perhaps a Ministry of Design and Crafts is a more suitable name.

    Reply

    1. Dear Shujoy,

      Thanks for the considered response. While I agree with you, mostly on use of industrial design in manufacturing industries, including, hand-made manufacturing, I want you to understand that Design is also about strategising, using design-thinking skills that can solve the myriad problems plaguing our nation. What better way than starting with the PMO?

      Reply

  3. Design Thinking is a value system that needs to be incorporated into all….. just like ethics, integrity etc. Unless we have it as a basic value system …………. Anyways the point is just like we don’t have a ministry for ethics but try tp percolate ethics into all systems, we need to push Design thinking as a basic value through integration of that value in education systems as well as practice…..making a ministry out of it may only alienate it.

    Reply

    1. Dear Ratanjit, while Ethics is a value that is imbibed in various ways Design is both an ability as well as an attitude both of which can be tutored or studied or gained from experience and guided practice. It is this ability that needs to be brought to our activities in search of good governance and this can be facilitated by a separate Ministry or by putting design into all ministries through policy initiatives that bring the design process into the decision making processes of all our ministries.

      Reply

      1. I agree with Ranjan. Just as how there are over-arching ministries like Environment ministry, that works alongside every other ministry and embeds ecological concerns, a Ministry of Design can also work,

        It is an idea, to use the cliché,whose time has come.

  4. Dear Bala, in July 2007 I had made another post that is pertinent to this debate and called for putting design into all our education initiatives from primary schools all the way up to higher education. The post was a description of the DCC class that I had conducted at NID where foundation students looked at education and built models for suggesting approaches that could be followed to transform our moribund education system at all levels. Take a look at this link below.
    http://design-for-india.blogspot.in/2007/07/design-inside-education-strategy-for.html

    Reply

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