Design education in India

May 02 12:58 2018 Print This Article

The gap between academia and industry

Gaps do exist between what we teach at design schools and what a professional designer needs to do. I would say, there are three kinds of gaps.
First are the unintentional gaps, things that get left out in the curriculae. As I said elsewhere, it takes five to seven years to become a good designer and our Masters programme is of two years. We have a four-year undergraduate course, but it’s formative in structure. The students pick design only in the third year.
Second, certain things are best learnt in an industry setup. It would not be fruitful to teach them in an academic setup.
The third gap is the intentional gap. Academics work differently than industry. A design school is not supposed to prepare students only for the industry. At IDC, for example, design education is education, not training. The object is not to prepare students with certain set of skills, but to develop them into thought leaders. The course helps develop design sensitivity. I think these basics are important in the longer run.
Another gap is the lack of design teachers. Today, the country has 30 to 35 design schools, most of which opened in the last couple of years. This is a great development, but we don’t have enough people to teach design. When the first generations of students came out of design schools, there was virtually no industry in the country.
So it was easy to retain the talent in the academia. Now, with the rise in industry, and with all major industry segments hiring designers, academics is no longer a lucrative option.
Research is another emerging area, which is not given enough importance in the industry. But youngsters are showing a keen interest. Since we don’t have a strong tradition in design research, it will probably take some time before it finally picks up.
Also, there is a lack of infrastructure. Take IDC, for example. The number of our students has increased from 60 students to 300. But we do not have the proper infrastructure. Plus, there is scarcity of funds, equipment. However, the biggest scarcity is the lack of time for the students. Most of our programmes are extremely compressed. There is too much to learn and too little time.
We can work towards reducing some of these gaps. But all gaps need not be reduced, as some of them are intentional.
Demand/ supply
Design education is still young in India. There is tremendous demand but little supply. We are a country with 1.3-billion people, with a growing industry. For this size, we need if not 10-million, at least five-million designers. What we have currently are probably 20,000 designers.
As a result, designers
have become inaccessible to people who need design. For example, an NGO cannot afford a designer because a designer’s salaries are high, as there’s more demand than supply. You will rarely find a jobless designer. As a result, many sectors, like manufacturing, small scale industries, printing industry, small publication houses, don’t even think of hiring designers.
Western vs India designs 
When you talk about Indian designers borrowing minimalism concepts from Western or oriental schools of design, I believe the influence is more global in nature. This, in a sense, is a response to the technologies, the manufacturing processes, the way things get made. This is the fallout of post-industrialisation. If you look at printing technology, when offset came along around 30 years ago, the language in print, how things should look, such as fonts, typography and paper used, among others, developed to fit the technology.
Today, more and more designs are being created for the global market. There are very few designs which are exclusive for the Indian market. Again, we return to the same constrain; designers are expensive.
While industry is not encouraging designers to look at India from design perspective, I do believe that we need to encourage designers to look at India.
-By Anirudha Joshi.
 A professor at the Industrial Design Centre at IIT, Bombay, Anirudha Joshi works in the field of design and teaches human computer interaction and related topics. He did his engineering from IIT Bombay followed by masters in design from IDC, specialising in the field of visual communication.
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