Design thinking goes to schools

Design for Change has been making a great impact on children, the world over, thanks to a simple, sticky idea by Kiran Bir Sethi , Director of the charming Riverside School, located in Ahmedabad, India. An idea that enables children from all walks of like to use design thinking to solve the immediate problems around them.

The idea is so simple, you wonder why no one thought of this before. As a jury member, invited to evaluate and select the best stories, I was both amazed and elated.

Children are introduced to a simplisitic, design thinking approach, called FIDS ( Feel, Imagine, Do and Share), where they feel for a problem that affects them, imagine an alternative, preferred scenario, work on the change and share their stories of success. It’s the simplicity of the process that appeals to schools, both private and public, rural and urban, rich and poor, alike. Children take on issues big and small that affect them from Bullying to Cleanliness, Growing trees to banning plastics, transforming classrooms to transforming attitudes and feel empowered to bring about change using the ‘ I Can’ spirit.

There is no better example for the power of Design thinking than this.

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Infographic Courtesy: http://dfcworld.com

The d*school or the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, introduced the concept to the K-12 schools in USA with exciting results. “Teachers and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on developing empathy, promoting a bias toward action, encouraging ideation, developing metacognitive awareness and fostering active problem solving.”

While that was a guided, supervised process, Kiran’s DFC is self-starting and viral. Which is all the better. Her TED talk has been so widely received that it is impacting children globally.

Recently the Pearson report called  ‘The Learning Curve’, emphasises, the need for 21st century skills for our children, that include: Leadership, Digital Literacy, Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Team working, Problem solving and Entrepreneurship. Amazingly, children who go through design thinking are impacted with the exact same skills.

Others have been catching up to the impact this has. NoTosh, a Edinburgh based organisation, that works with governments and schools has found success in introducing Design Thinking at schools, with the ultimate aim of improving the overall learning process in schools.

The DFC team is all set on the path to making an entire new generation of children with the creative confidence to survive in the new world order. And, happily, Design is helping them reach there.

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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.