The buzz is on Design. As I write this post, IBM has decided to invest $100 million in setting up the Interactive Experience labs, to expand its Design Business. You keep hearing many stories about it everyday. There are the businesses that have just woken up to the benefits of design, and then thanks to the success of Apple, design is something that people want now. As a result of this, the demand side of things when it comes to getting designers on board is high, but the supply is low. This is a worldwide phenomenon, but a critical thing in a country like India, where design is often seen to come very late in the innovation process.
To address this issue of the lack of quality designers in India, one of the things I have been doing lately is teaching. There are two aspects to it. One is the love for teaching, and the other is more of a duty to be a design evangelist and in a way increase the popularity and acceptance of the design profession.
Design education needs to get more collaborative with an emphasis on peer-peer learning. The need, therefore, is to build a culture of critique, that includes participation from all the students and faculty. Often basing this discussion on memory and at times a shot at the future results in very interesting results.
Teaching to me is a very difficult thing to do and in a way the most challenging. It is also a worldwide notion that the way Design Education is imparted is not up to mark with the current trends and that it needs to change. Don Norman in his recent article talks about this at length.
Design is the practice of intentional creation to enhance the world. It is a field of doing and making, creating great products and services that fit human needs, that delight and inform. Design is exciting because it calls upon the arts and humanities, the social, physical, and biological sciences, engineering and business. But the design faces an uncertain future. The traditional design fields create artefacts. But new societal challenges, cultural values, and technological opportunities require new skills. Design today is more human-centred and more social, more rooted in technology and science than ever before. Moreover, there is a need for services and processes that do not require the great craft skills that are the primary outcome of design education.
─ excerpts from Don Norman’s article.
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to get associated with different avenues to see this dream of mine fulfilled.
The Transcultural Design program : emphasis on Experiential learning
As I head the operations of the India studio of Lécole de design Atlantique school, it allows me to get a more holistic point of view on design, in terms of what goes into designing a comprehensive program with proper learning outcomes. I have been critical to look into the aspects of design education that connect with the students better.
So the emphasis on being a better project manager, being able to document the work, being a good communicator, are certain inputs that one often missing out as a part of the design education. Since ours is a master’s program, we emphasise a lot on peer learning. Every designer (design student) is unique and their subjective understanding of things makes the classes engaging and enriching.
Visiting faculty at Institute of Product Leadership (IPL) : Positioning Design in Business Education
We, in India, are a damage control mode of sorts. On one hand, there is a need for designers and on the other side the shortage of design schools. Since there is a shortage of designers, the next best thing to do is to equip or sensitise the existing product managers/product leaders at companies with aspects of design. This is important and at the IPL, in the ICPM and exec MBA courses that are offered, Design holds a very important position. It is hoped that the new generation of products that come out of India, would therefore at least had the chance to demand good design. At this initiative, we look at teaching Design to senior technology Professionals. This is challenging since the participants already have a lot of experience.
Interacting with the faculties of other Design Institutes.
I would also take a few classes at different design Institutes in India and in the other developing nations. I believe the vision of design education being offered as a horizontal across all disciplines from engineering to management to arts. This is in alignment with the recently published Design Manifesto for "Design enabled Technical Education in India"   initiative by IIT Hyderabad and IDC IIT Bombay.
Design tools in primary school education?
My research has been in looking at ways in which we can use Design principles and ways of learning towards improving the quality of education in India. When we start looking at this aspect, we move away from the preconceived notion of design being a discipline that ends up creating things that are elitist and luxury. The rise of design in problem-solving is instrumental in exploring the different areas of application of design.