Design Education in India — an interview by Creative Gaga

1. How are the Indian design schools different from their international counterparts?
A major difference in design education in India and the west, is that, in the west, most design teachers are also design practitioners. However, in India, teachers don’t typically work in the field and hence lack practical and contemporary knowledge about a very dynamic field. Indian d-schools tend to “produce” students that have a similar style — which is the anti-thesis of a good creative education. The notion of encouraging students to discover and explore their individual spirit is lacking in India.

All of this may not be only the fault of Indian design education, but the very way our society is structured with respect to the west. Western college students are encouraged to be more independent by working to pay for their education. They are removed from the family “nest” at a younger age, and thus discover themselves, and their passions quicker than we do. This gives their work more meaning and power, something that lacks in the work of most Indian design students.

Indian design students today, are sadly hungry to earn and not to learn. In the US, for instance, despite rampant materialism, design interns don’t expect to be paid for the practical education that is being imparted to them. This can be attributed to a lack of passion in many Indian design students. Ultimately, it is the role of the design schools, design firms and the Indian government to encourage and excite students to take on design not just for monetary gain but for the benefit of society.

A way forward for design in India is to start design education in school rather than in college because design is fundamental to thought, communication and expression. For India to become a true innovator in several areas, design must be introduced at the primary school level.

2. What are the areas that they should improve to reach to an international standard?
I don’t think it’s merely about “improving” but it’s about a shift in perspective — to be able to see something in totally new and unseen ways — to develop new teaching methods and foster collaboration between “unlikely” collaborators, such as a dhobi and a designer.

D-schools need to send their teachers abroad to get a wider perspective on design education and impart new techniques to their students based on this knowledge. One of the big aspects that need work is the way typography is taught in India. After looking at the portfolio of hundreds of applicants, I have noticed the most design students don’t “get” typography — they don’t know what typefaces to choose or how to apply typography in a layout. This is squarely the fault of the design school they have been educated at.

Design students are also not challenged enough to be thinkers before they are asked to be doers. Critical thinking is what separates good design from the superfluous fluff that surrounds us today.

D-schools need to incorporate our uniquely Indian contexts into the training of the Indian Designer and not just weave in successful western techniques and re-jig it for India. D-schools need to be innovative of today if they want to create the innovators of tomorrow.

3. Please list down the best 5 design schools in India according to you.

  1. Srishti (for graphic)
  2. IDC (for product and graphic)
  3. NIFT (for fashion)
  4. NID (for product)
  5. All the rest
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3 thoughts on “Design Education in India — an interview by Creative Gaga

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    1. Dear Bhawana, thanks for your interest and comments. Yes it is indeed a challenge to change mindsets, but I think education is the place to start doing this. As part of my role as a Head of Dept., Visual Communications at Sushant School of Design, I will be working on developing a curriculum. I hope to incorporate some of the aspects address in this and the post on desi: design school india, at this school.

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