Design Education in India: Master’s Thesis

While this Master’s Thesis  was designed, written and researched in 2004–05, sadly a lot of the issues related to Design Education in India have still not been resolved. In some cases things have gone from bad to worse as new design institutes seem to pop-up everywhere. They are fulfilling the rising demand for students who seek to become designers, however these colleges are run for profiteering and not for benefiting the Profession of Design in India.

(Editorial Note): This is not a sweeping statement, but is true to some sense. Some of the comments made in the thesis in 2004–05 have now been thankfully overturned, such as the offering of degrees by many d-schools in India and the overall improvement in quality of graduates in India. Design has in these interim 14 years really grown (please read Design Pataka: the Explosion of Design in India (2010–16) ). However, much more work has to be done in not only making graduates employable, articulate but also designers who work and think in terms of design in the Indian context.

Having started my design business in 2008, after returning to India, I come across a lot of student work while teaching, during student evaluations as various d-schools in the country as well as via internships taken by my company. Unfortunately,  out of the large number of student work reviewed and interviews conducted, only a small number of students can be considered prospective employees. A large percentage of Indian design students. despite graduating from Indian d-schools are not equipped to become professionals. This is a view shared by many of my colleagues in the industry.

Students don’t seem to be encouraged to think of design beyond its visual manifestation. They are not encouraged to write, to think and to conceptualize. Additionally, neither are they taught the skills of entrepreneurship and how to run a business — which is so integral to our professional practice.

A lot of work has gone into this thesis, which was completed in June, 2005 at the School of Visual Arts, New York City, USA. I urge readers to give me feedback and criticism and additionally some insights on how we can take this forward. Thank you.

You may download the entire thesis here: Ishan Khosla MFA Thesis

I would like to thank Steve Heller and Lita Talarico for providing me with an awesome education. I will really miss you both. David Rhodes, thank you so much for your time and effort in helping me develop the thesis. Your guidance and interest made this project far richer than it was initially. A big thank you to all my fellow students at the SVA MFA Design program. Thank you for your generosity and guidance. It was an honour and a pleasure working with you. Many thanks to Ken Carbone, Brian Collins, Gail Anderson, Veronique Vienne, Martin Kace, Dorothy Globus, Marian Apellof and Eva Bruck—you are all my gurus! I am honored to have studied under your guidance.

I would also like to thank Paola Antonelli, Chris Capuozzo, Stephen Doyle, Louise Fili, Milton Glaser, Steven Guarnaccia, Keith Godard, Maira Kalman, Julie Lasky, Warren Lehrer, Frank Martinez, Kevin O’Callaghan, Howard Reeves, Stefan Sagmeister, Jeff Scher, Ed Schlossberg, Bonnie Siegler and Jakob Trollback, for inspiring me and making me passionate about the field. You have all deeply affected my life. Thank you.

A big thank you to Nikhil, Natasha, Sunil, Armeen and Swati for their patience and for letting me use their photographs for the thesis. Thank you Bhuvana aunty and Usha aunty for your tremendous help in organising the Kolam session in Delhi.

Last but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my parents and my brother for their tremendous support.

The School
Design School India or DESI, will be India’s first degree design school to offer degrees. It will offer students a world-class design education with a curriculum that emphasises design in the context of India’s culture and social needs. That is, while students will study the universal principles of design, such as typography, they will also get a unique opportunity to take classes in design and development, and study India’s rich artistic traditions through the lens of design.

The faculty will consist of leaders in the profession, from India and abroad. They will teach a wide range of classes to challenge and stimulate students. The focus will be on innovation, experimentation and aesthetic artistry.

Initially, DESI will only offer undergraduate graphic design degrees. Unlike other design schools in India which have 2 or 3 year programs, DESI will offer a 5 year comprehensive design program.

The annual tuition at DESI will be comparable to Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, the only existing private design school in India. This means that over a period of 5 years, students at DESI will spend twice as much money as they would at Srishti. The additional time and money spent will be well worth it, since students will leave with a degree from what we hope will be the best design school in India. Furthermore, students in the upper middle class demographic, who usually go to western design schools, will have a comparable option at home for a price 10 to 15 times less.

The Brand and Audience
The audience for the branding campaign to promote the establishment of the school will primarily consist of designers, educators, businessmen and government officials.  The investment audience will primarily consist of bankers, businessmen and finance experts who work in leading Indian companies such as Wipro, Infosys. Tata & Reliance; and MNCs such as Unilever, Sony and Apple.

The initial brand plan is to send direct-mailers to businessmen, government officials and designers. These mailers will explain how businessmen, the design community and the government will benefit from design and DESI. A website will give people more detailed information about the project. In this way, the initial brand expression will be well targeted yet inexpensive.

The aim of the mailers is to help assemble a group of leaders from the professional world and start roundtable meetings to discuss funding options and plan seminars.

The brand expression will be much more extensive in the next stage. It will use print ads, posters, billboards and TV commercials to involve more people  from the design and corporate world. The third stage of the brand campaign  will target high school students, the public and the media.

The Competition
The school will face competition from established schools such as the National Institute of Design and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. DESI will offer students a much more in-depth education in design. Students will be taught by experts and will have an opportunity to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

We strongly believe that the high standards of this school will not only benefit the students but it will also raise the level of design education in India, as other design schools will want to vie with DESI to get the best students and teachers.

The primary source of revenue will be the tuition fee. Other sources could include government and private grants. The tuition will be used to sustain the costs of running the school. Initially, funds will be sought primarily from long-term investors such as the IT giants of India — Wipro and Infosys. Although they may not receive a significant ROI, they will benefit by raising the standards of Indian design in both education and practice. It is conceivable that students from this school will work at these companies and help them produce effective branding and communication strategies.

Aid in the form of software and hardware will also be sought from Apple, Adobe and Epson. These companies haven’t tapped into the growing consumer market in India. By funding this school, they will create a loyal customer base amongst designers and educators from Design School India.

Six years ago, I lost most of my eyesight. Although brain surgery restored most of my vision, I was a changed man. I became obsessed with the visual world and
decided to pursue Graphic Design.

At the time I thought I would study in India. However, I soon realized that there were no design schools in India that were on par with design schools in America. Moreover, none of the design schools in India offer degrees; they only offer diplomas.

I also found that student work from America was — in general — vibrant, complex and layered, and overall high on concept. The work by Indian, though technically sound, lacked aesthetic artistry and flair. This I believe in this thesis because I know that Indians deserve an affordable world-class design education. Design students in India should have access to schools that offer a comprehensive education, which will stand them in good stead in the professional world.

I am also motivated by the thesis because I can’t reconcile India’s rich visual culture and the simultaneous lack of vibrancy in contemporary Indian design. I want DESI to be the first school in India to offer students a design degree and for it to become a beacon for raising design awareness and responsibility in India.

The goal of the thesis is to examine the opportunities for design in India, develop a plan for establishing Design School India, explain the points of differentiation from existing design schools in India and create a branding campaign that will be used to gather human and monetary resources for the project.

It is ironic that India, a country with such a vibrant visual culture, often produces such uninspiring graphic design. The reason for this is the dearth of design schools that understand design, a mostly Western idea, in the specific, multicultural context of India. Furthermore, most design programs in India are based on the Western model of design education. There are very few classes that deal with design and social development, and the deconstruction of past and present visual culture through design. I would like to help change that.

What is the thesis about?
My thesis is about creating a model for a future design school in India. I grew up in India and did my primary and secondary schooling there as well. Despite having a vague idea of what design was, I never encountered any application of design in school. Schools in India emphasise the sciences and business. Indian schools offer few humanities classes, even fewer fine art classes and no design classes.

Design education needs to be included both in college and in high school curricula. Design educators in India need to be cognisant of the fact that ultimately design is a knowledge-based field that is very fundamental to the way we think.

My thesis will address the problems facing design education in India, suggest possible solutions and address how those solutions can be achieved. A major part of the thesis evaluates the potential for design in India and the points of differentiation between DESI and other Indian design schools. I have also developed a curriculum and a marketing and branding strategy to help realise the school. The branding campaign will be used to present this model to the Indian design community, to corporations, the government and to high-school students. Design School India will be established through their support. The raison d’être for Design School India is to raise the standards of the way design is taught and learnt in India.

Why is this project important?
For most of the last 10 years, India has been one of fastest growing economies in the world, moving from one that provides raw materials and cheap labour to a knowledge-based economy. The growing middle class has a sophisticated understanding of the goods and services it needs, and is ready to pay more for better value. India is moving from a developing country to a developed one. Design will play a vital role in expediting this transition. Although design is still grossly undervalued in India, the country’s awareness of its potential significance is on the rise. A new, forward-thinking design school will only help further that goal.

My recent survey of Indian designers and teachers indicates that more than 90% of them believe that there is a definite need for another design school in India.

The simple fact is that there are no world-class design schools in India. And those that exist, admit a very small number of students. For instance, the most prestigious design school in India, the National Institute of Design, accepts only 10 students a year into its undergraduate graphic design program. Ironically, it is easier to get into a better design school in the U.S. than it is to get into the few design schools of India.

How will I accomplish my goals?
Starting a design school is no small challenge. The key to realising the school is to have many small steps that lead to a bigger outcome. The school can be realised only with the help of a group of committed designers and businessmen—people who are convinced that a design school such as the one I propose will benefit the profession and society. Through a series of stages, outlined in depth in the Strategic Plan, I first plan to start roundtable meetings that will consist of financial experts, teachers, businessmen and designers. The roundtable meetings will be used as a platform to conduct a series of workshops and conferences leading to the establishment of the school.

My primary objectives are to get private and government funding for the school, to get the government to recognise the design degree offered by DESI, to hire faculty and to get the school accredited.

The Audience will consist of students, corporations, the government, the design community as well as villagers, illiterate people and NGOs.

Design in the Indian Context
The need for effective design education in India is pressing. There are three issues that DESI students will work on:
1. Design projects for the poor, the traditional and the rural:
Globalisation is a powerful force that is threatening the livelihood of many villagers, as they forsake the traditional arts for better paying jobs in urban areas. This has many obvious ramifications, such as an increase in the density of cities as well as in crime, disease and pollution.

Thus, it is important to support the preservation of the traditional arts and crafts and enable artisans to successfully market and brand their products, empowering them and helping preserve their way of life. The goal is to increase the value of India’s traditional art through design.

2. Social and environmental issues:
Theresa Van Ert, a European designer, believes that design can help transcend linguistic barriers in India—a country with many languages and paradoxically, a sizable illiterate population.

Van Ert observes, “India is a nation with over 22 official languages; therefore, non-textual communication through graphic design proves quite useful. It can become graphic design’s more important contribution to the society and to itself.”[1] She cites the example of the dabbawallahs, who are illiterate people that deliver home-cooked meals to individuals at their workplaces and return empty tiffin boxes to their homes. The system uses various color codes and markings that indicate the place from where a dabba, or box, is collected, the station where it must be unloaded and the office where it is to be delivered. The graphic language they use, is the key to their efficiency. Designers can learn from their example and use this solution for many other applications.[2]

Designers at Development Alternatives are using graphic design to reach people who don’t speak either Hindi or English, the two main languages in India. They have created a website—, for India’s diverse rural community to access information on issues like education and the news.

By using graphic design, animation and voice-overs, these designers have allowed the site to reach its core audience, many of whom are illiterate, don’t speak Hindi or English and who have never used a computer before.”[3]

Designers also need to work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to create effective communication campaigns to raise awareness about various local and national issues such as the AIDS epidemic in India. For instance, the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi, a non-profit research organisation, disseminates information to promote awareness and action on issues of the environment, governance, science, technology and sustainable development. They depend on graphic design exclusively to get their voices heard. Graduates of DESI will be of a big help to organisations such as these.

3. Working on corporate advertising and branding:
DESI graduates will work with corporations and entrepreneurs to develop their brands and create meaningful communication for them.

Points of differentiation
There are over 600 million people under the age of 25 in India and yet only 3 design schools—the National Institute of Design; Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology; and the Industrial Design Centre. Although many Indians study design in the West, this is not a feasible option for everyone. DESI will help fill in that niche by providing students a world-class design education at a locally ‘affordable’ price. Although, DESI will not solve the problem of the shortage of design institutions in India, however at 50 design graduates a year, there will be more graphic designers coming out of DESI than all other Indian design schools combined.

Today, all Indian design schools offer two to three year diplomas. The 5-year design program at DESI will also make it India’s first degree school in design.
My recent survey of Indian designers and design educators revealed that many called for the inclusion of more well-trained faculty who are also working as designers. They indicate that a significant number of the faculty in leading Indian design schools are under qualified. DESI will seek faculty who are highly trained professionals that are great at teaching.

Only Srishti has classes on design for social benefit, something that is an inherent part of our philosophy at DESI. Students will understand the value of design responsibility and will get opportunities to work on social and environmental development projects.

Apart from emphasising critical thinking, the DESI curriculum will train its students to understand the role of design in the Indian context. That is, they will learn how design can be used to help solve problems and create effective communication in a multicultural society. Students will understand the importance of a designer’s role in social upliftment. The curriculum will also emphasise speech and writing—tools that designers need to master. Finally, students will be encouraged to adapt to changes in technology and to rely more on their mind that the tools they use.

The Audience
The initial audience consists of businessmen, government officials and designers. Once the school is established, however, the audience will primarily consist of high school students.

The deplorable state of design education in India and the Indian tradition of placing a high value on education are at odds. The demand for quality higher education, even design education, is high but the supply is paltry. This is the reason that many Indian students seek to study abroad. In fact, Indians now make up the largest percentage of foreign students in the U.S. There are an estimated 75,000 Indian students entering the United States every year and this figure has been increasing by 12% for the last two years.[4]

India is a country of one billion people and the median age is 24.5 It has a huge market as far as such a school is concerned. Graduates will not have problems finding a job, as the demand for graphic design in India is increasing in the growing knowledge-based economy.

Designers will benefit from a new generation of informed and responsible graduates who understand the role of design in the Indian context and who emphasise concept over technique. They will also gain from teaching students in a rich invigorating environment, since academia often raises questions that the work environment doesn’t. Foreign designers will benefit from DESI because its graduates will be risk-takers. They will be a window for an exchange of ideas and work between Indian and foreign designers.

DESI designers who will be well-versed in Indian and international design trends and needs, will use their skills to help corporations increase their bottom line.

Design is a part of the knowledge-based economy. By investing in Design, the Indian government and corporations will not only save foreign exchange, since many more students will stay on in India for their higher education, but they will also help India become a centre for outsourcing design.

Almost 90% of all Indian designers and design teachers surveyed, believe that there is a need for more design schools in India.

The Survey Demographic
The survey audience consists of the following groups of people:

1. Indian Professionals and Teachers
I surveyed 39 Indian professionals and teachers. Almost all live in big cities such as Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore. About 75% have studied only in India and around 15% have studied design in India and abroad. Three in four are working designers and one in four teach. There is a slight overlap between designers and teachers and some have taught or worked in the field.

2. Foreign Professionals
I surveyed 22 foreign professionals and teachers. Most of them are teachers and practicing designers. Some of the people who don’t teach work in book publishing, for magazines and do design research. Some of the places they work at are: Baseline magazine, Eye magazine, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, The New York Times and I.D. They teach at the Art Institute of Chicago, Parsons, RISD, SVA and UPenn. They live in USA, Canada and the UK.

3. Indian Students
I surveyed 80 Indian students. Most of them are in the 23–25 age group and have done or are currently doing their first design degree. About 60% have studied design only in India. Almost 20% have studied design in India and abroad, and, about 15% outside India only. The rest are self-taught.

4. Foreign Students
I surveyed 48 foreign students. Most are in the age group of 26–30. Almost all are students and alumni of the SVA, MFA Design program.

The Results
Just over half of all Indian professionals are not, or really not satisfied with the profession in India. Only half of the feel that design education standards in India are worse or much worse than in the West. Despite this, almost 90% feel that there is a need for more design schools in India. Like the other 3 groups, Indian professionals strongly believe that the demand for design in India is on the rise. The country’s growing middle class and entrepreneurs are beginning to appreciate the value addition design creates.

1. Indian Professionals
Indian professionals believe that the lack of design awareness is the major stumbling block for the growth and credibility of the profession in India.

Many people feel that the current design model used in schools is a Western one that lacks an Indian context. They want Indian designers to be aware of their rich cultural and visual arts tradition.

Indian professionals believe that there need to be stronger links between academia and the industry. They feel that many of the practical issues faced in the workplace need to be brought back into the classroom.

Many felt that there needs to be a greater emphasis on using design for social and environmental development purposes. One person remarked that some factors that might determine her decision to teach at DESI include: whether students will work with NGOs, if they will be exposed to working in rural areas and if they become socially involved, rather than just work for big corporations.

Another issue is the shortage of quality faculty at the few design schools in India. The survey also confirms that design schools tend to emphasise the technical over the conceptual and don’t expose students to international design as much as they should. A challenge many expressed, is to get capable and passionate teachers. One person suggested that the system needs to be revamped so that all future design faculty should receive training at reputed design schools around the world. Some designers said that they would teach at the school only if it admitted people from low-income families.

Other concerns include—the kind of people running the school, the curriculum, the location, the class size, the environment and the philosophy.

On the question of why Indian design lacks the vibrancy found in traditional art and design, many designers felt that the blame lay with the tendency of some Indians to mimic the West without an understanding of their context and tradition. For instance, foreign-trained Indian teachers don’t teach design in the Indian context. Instead, they teach design in exactly the way they were taught in the West. They forget to include aspects from India’s tradition and culture when teaching design. Then there’s also the problem of the dearth of books on traditional Indian art and design.

Regarding the issue of a partnership with the West, many felt that design education in India was already too Westernised and that a partnership with a Western school is not appropriate at this time. A few were against the idea and called a partnership with the West, “suicidal” because it would be detrimental to design education in India.

However, some professionals were supportive, citing examples of other Indian schools, such as the Indian School of Business, that benefitted from its partnership with Harvard Business School.

2. Students
Indian students who have studied abroad did so because they felt that they’d get more out of a design education outside India, especially since Indian schools don’t offer degrees in design.

According to students who have studied in both India and abroad, some of the classes that were taught abroad, but not in India were: Pre-press, Psychology of Perception, Exhibition Design, Interactive Media, Senior Capstone, Film History and Appreciation and a thorough understanding of type—its history, context and use. One student even said that her school in India used software applications that were considered obsolete in the Western school where she studied.

Most of students felt that there is no notion of design responsibility in India. There are very few, if any, foreign designers who taught them at Indian design schools and there are none, or very few, classes that encourage students to work with traditional artists such as engravers, weavers, sign painters and etchers.

Most Indian students are excited about bringing in teachers from abroad, but were divided about whether they would be ready to pay more to get these teachers.

Most American students are also very optimistic about the future of design in India. They support a partnership between DESI and an American school. Most said that they would be willing to teach in India in the future.

3. Regarding Branding
Most people in all four groups were very optimistic about the thesis and felt that the brand and the school can only succeed if the vision, philosophy, its distinct point of view, the faculty and curriculum have been established.

It is estimates that by the year 2010, India will hold a 60% market share in global Knowledge Process Output (KPO) services. Additionally, Manmohan Singh, the Indian PM, has states that he wants India to become a developed nation by the year 2020.

There is a great opportunity for a design school in India, more so now then even ten years ago. And ten years from now, the demand for knowledge-based services will be even higher. The global Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) pie is estimated to touch $25 billion by 2010. By then, India would command a 60% market share, with an employee requirement of over 300,000.6 The government is playing an active role in India’s economic surge. Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, wants India to become a developed nation by the year 2020.

In the past decade, two major developments have taken place in India. The first is substantial foreign investment in the Indian market, and despite stiff competition, many Indian businesses have prospered. The second development is the rise in number and wealth of a strong entrepreneurial middle class, which has grown to 350 million people. The middle class is becoming more sophisticated in its choices for goods and services. The old mantra of ‘cheap is good’ has become ‘quality at any price’. This means companies will be dependent on branding, positioning and marketing like never before.

Towards a National Policy on Design, by NID states that government policy should “motivate breakthrough opportunities for Indian industry to compete in the global market and create Indian products and services that stand up to the global competition. Design remains an indispensable tool for export promotion in an increasingly competitive world. Therefore, design for exports must be fully exploited.”[7]

Design will play a vital role in making Indian goods and services competitive in the world market. But for that to happen, India needs a lot of intelligent and capable designers. There are only 3 design schools in India, whose design undergraduates a year total less than 50 students. The demand for design is much higher than the availability of seats at design schools. My survey of Indian professionals and teachers, indicates that about 90% of them believe that there is a need for at least one more design school in India. According to Lalit Das, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, “The number of designers in India per million population is 200 times less than [that] in developed countries.”8 India needs a design school that understands its own cultural context and the inner workings of the field abroad, so that it can make use of the best of both worlds to create a new generation of intelligent, innovative and responsible designers. DESI will be one such design school.

The biggest initial challenge is to get funds to hire the faculty and get the school built.

Another hurdle will be to convince the Indian government and the National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) to recognise the design degrees given out by DESI. This will only happen after they realise the importance of design.

While a core group of long-term faculty is essential to giving the curriculum focus, and the school a vision, a challenge will be to not only attract great faculty, but to ensure they remain at the school.

The curriculum will need to change with time, requiring an ongoing search for new faculty and guest lecturers with specialised and diverse skills.

There is also the task of  attracting talented students into the program. Affluent students usually go to the West for their design education. A similar offering available in India, at a cost 10 to 15 times cheaper, would be much more favourable to many middle-class students.

Since there is no design and practically no art education in Indian primary and secondary schools, it will be very difficult to judge the artistic merit and thinking ability of prospective students. And it is extremely difficult to judge students solely on the basis of their writing abilities and by an interview.

If this design school does make a difference in the way design is taught in India, other design schools will take notice. This added competition will be welcomed by DESI, since it will help raise the standard of design education in India. It is still considered a risk, because DESI has to make sure that it continually gets the best students and faculty in the country.

The branding campaign will have to develop enough momentum to not only interest the target audience, but to convince them to support the project.

DESI will be India’s first design school to offer a design degree. We will have more graphic design graduates per year than all other existing design schools in India combined.

Design School India will offer students the most comprehensive and ‘appropriate’ design education in India. By appropriate, we mean, design will be taught in the context of India’s traditional arts as well as in the context of the needs design can serve in modern India. We also strongly believe that DESI will offer the best value-for-money design education.

The curriculum will include classes on issues that are not addressed by most design schools in India. Some issues are  the role of the designer in the nation’s socio-environmental development as well as a class on design education.

Students seeking an education in graphic design will want to study at DESI, since it will be the first and only design school in India to offer degrees. DESI will also expose students to a comprehensive design curriculum comparable to the standards and expectations of the leading design schools of the West.

Pricing and Sources of Funding
At $2,250 per year, the tuition at DESI will be about the same as Srishti, a private school, but, it will be about twice that of NID and IDC, which are government funded schools. The higher tuition will allow the school to hire leading design professionals from India and abroad and become self-sufficient in a few years. The Operating Deficit of the school will be eliminated one year after establishment and the Cumulative Deficit after two years. For more on this, please see the school budget.

The higher costs will be offset by the fact that students will earn a design degree at DESI. Since, these prices will be beyond the budget of students from low-income families, DESI will offer full scholarships to 2–5 students a year.

The target market for DESI will be slightly wealthier students who would usually pay much more for their education abroad. A world-class education at prices 10 to 15 times cheaper than private designs schools in America, would be irresistible to a number of families in India’s growing middle class.

Unlike the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) in America, India doesn’t have a Visual Arts accreditation organisation. However, there is an overall accrediting body in India called the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). While accreditation is mandatory for government and government funded colleges and universities, it is optional for private universities and colleges.

In May 2004, 6% of 18–23 year olds sought higher education in India. In just 3 more years, that figure is going to rise to 10%.9 The increased demand calls for a greater number of colleges and universities offering students a higher standard of education in a greater number of fields of study. Accreditation is the most effective way of ensuring a minimum standard for higher education in India.

The Process[10]
The NAAC has formulated a three-stage process for assessment and accreditation. The first step involves the preparation of a ‘Self-Study Report’ by the institution or department based on parameters defined by NAAC. The second step entails the validation of the self-study report by a team of peers through an on-site visit. And finally, the third step involves the presentation of a detailed quality report to the institution, including the final decision on assessment and accreditation by NAAC’s executive committee council.

The NAAC has identified seven criteria (each weighted differently) to serve as the basis of its assessment procedures. The scale for comparison varies for the different types of educational institutions. The NAAC assesses universities, affiliated colleges and private colleges on different scales. Since DESI will be a private institution, the following scale applies: Teaching-Learning and Evaluation is given the highest value and is evaluated out of 30 points, Curricular Aspects is weighted at 15 points, Infrastructure and Learning Resources is also weighted at 15 points. All the remaining criteria are given an equal value of 10 points. The remaining criteria are: Research, Consultancy and Extension, Student Support and Progression; Organisation and Management, and Healthy Practices.

If the overall score is above 55, then the college is accredited by the NAAC. If the score is below 55, then the college will be considered “Assessed and Found not Qualified for Accreditation” by the NAAC. In either case the assessment outcome is valid for 5 years.

The Cost

Accreditation fees depend on whether the educational institution is a college or a university. Universities pay Rs.75,000 to Rs.300,000 (this is reimbursable by the government run University Grants Commission). Colleges are charged according to whether they have faculty in more than one field, such as in the Arts and Sciences, or if they have faculty in only one field, such as the Arts. The former will have to pay Rs.50,000 and the latter Rs. 25.000. In addition, individual departments, schools and centres within universities pay Rs. 7,500 per subject for accreditation.[11]

Strategic Plan
– The Vision
DESI will provide students with a world-class standard of design education in India—an education that will help students use their own creative vision to develop an Indian design identity.

– The Mission
To create a greater awareness and credibility for the profession and to foster a deeper understanding of India’s visual heritage. We strive to help create responsible designers and critical thinkers.

There is a 4-step process to get the school established:
Step 1. The thesis process. This is the stage where the school philosophy, the curriculum, the need and points of differentiation are developed. A branding campaign has also been created to promote the school in the future.

Step 2. Round Table Meetings: I will organize these round table meetings by first contacting designers and businessmen I know. I will be also sending out direct mailers to other designers and businessmen in India to invite them to the roundtable meetings. The research and information contained in this thesis book will be used at the roundtable meetings to help launch workshops and seminars.

Step 3. Workshops and Seminars: The workshop participants will include design educators and corporations from India and abroad, as well as the Indian government. The goal of the seminars will be to raise capital, to find and recruit qualified teachers and to convince the government to offer accredited design degrees to DESI students.

Step 4. Recruiting Students and Hiring Faculty . This is the stage where it all comes together and the school is ready to begin classes. The branding campaign for high school students will be activated at this stage and they will be recruited and teachers hired.

There will be three stages that will lead to the establishment of the school. Each stage has a specific target audience and brand strategy.

The Demographic
The DESI brand will target many different audiences for different purposes. The target audience for the campaign is the urban élite. Most of these people speak both Hindi and English. While the primary audience consists of corporations and the government, the secondary audience consists of designers and educators, and high school students,

The primary audience will be the toughest to convince to contribute their time and money into the to project. This is because they may not see an immediate return on investment. Yet, they’re the ones who stand to benefit the most from DESI and its students. DESI will also target design and advertising professionals and educators for their involvement in the program.

The Brand Strategy
After the thesis, there are 3 stages that will lead to the establishment of the school. At each stage, the branding campaign addresses the specific target audience. These audiences usually consist of more than one kind of demographic group.

Stage 1: Roundtable meetings
Target Audience: businessmen, designers and design educators.

Brand Expression: to use direct mailers that consist of compelling facts related to the state of design in India versus the most developed countries in the world, testimonials by Indian design students studying abroad, the importance of design in India and the differentiating points between DESI and other design schools in India.

Purpose: to get a group of people from the target audience to commit time to the roundtable meetings and to develop a month-by-month plan for funding, branding, media promotion and for starting seminars to promote the creation of the school.

Stage 2: workshops and Seminars
Target Audience: Indian and foreign design educators and the government.

Brand Expression: will consist of print ads, billboards, posters and TV commercials. These brand elements will promote the school by emphasising the dearth of design programs in India vis-à-vis the developed world and the points of differentiation between Design School India and existing design schools.

Purpose: to raise capital, to find and recruit qualified teachers and to get the government interested in the project.

Stage 3: recruiting students and hiring faculty
Target Audience: designers, design educators and design students.

Brand Expression: designers will be targeted through direct mailers that encourage them to join DESI. The mailers mention the points of differentiation between the school and existing design schools in India.

Students are targeted through print ads that feature testimonials by Indian design students who decided to study abroad because there were no world-class design schools in India.

Students will also be targeted through campus visits where they will be given freebies like T-shirts and buttons. They will be encouraged to talk to their peers about the school as well as to visit the website and apply to the school.

The Trademark
The trademark has two main elements. The eight-petalled lotus flower and the rounded typeface. The eight-petalled lotus flower is an ancient Indian symbol and is considered auspicious by both Hindus and Buddhists. While the round node in the middle implies a strong connection to one’s own culture, the 8 petals signify an openness to foreign cultures. In Buddhism the number 8 is associated with the eight fold path to enlightenment.

India has been designing textiles for over 5,000 years. India continues to produce one of the richest and most diverse textile designs in the world. The trademark uses the same Lotus as seen textile motif. This has been done to acknowledge DESI’s commitment to the preservation of India’s rich tradition of textile design – which is also India’s oldest form of design.

The typeface selected for the trademark reflects the rounded qualities of most Indian scripts—especially south Indian ones. Scripts from a few south Indian languages are shown to highlight this similarity.

The signature ‘stand-alone’ color of the trademark is ‘Manjita Red’. However, the trademark will also appear as 100% yellow and 100% white where appropriate.

The Brand Identity
The DESI brand reflects the philosophy of the school—that of modernity within a traditional context. These two aspects are reflected in the pattern and the typeface used in the collateral material.

While the pattern reflects India’s past and its rich tradition, the typeface is meant to show the dynamic emerging India. Together they represent a symbiosis between past and future, tradition and modernity and, east and west. They reflect the new design identity DESI aims to create in India—an identity that is ‘contemporary’, yet non-universal, because it is based on our unique culture and tradition.

The typeface, Wilma, was chosen to reflect modernity. It was also chosen because the horizontal lines of the typeface resemble the horizontal lines found in many north Indian languages such as Hindi, Sanskrit and Marathi. Many other languages such as Assamese, Bengali and Punjabi also consistently use horizontal lines in their letterforms.

The colour palette consists of both primary colours such as ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ as well as tertiary colours such as green-greys and browns. While the primary colours show India’s rich vernacular graphics (past/present), the tertiary colours are used signal the advent of sophisticated design in India (future).

Stage 1:
Roundtable meetings.
Target Audience: businessmen and designers.

Direct mailers will be sent to businessmen and designers. The goal is to gather 15 to 20 people and start roundtable meetings. For businessmen, the mailers talk about how design will benefit their business. Designers are told how Design School India will revolutionise design education in India.

Stage 2:
Seminars and Workshops
Target Audience: Indian and foreign corporations, designers and design educators as well as the Indian government.

These ads will be used as print ads, posters and billboards. The usage will be determined by the budget.

Below right: these are a group of postcards that feature inspiring quotes by famous Indians.
Bottom right: The DESI logo is used as a ‘vessel’ to contain various visual elements from India. These elements include, vernacular type, textile patterns, torn paper on walls, ‘local’ packaging and textures from the streets of India.

There are 3 kinds of ads:
1. The first kind lists facts about design in India versus developed nations as well as the number of designers versus the number of engineers and doctors in India.

2. The second kind of ads highlight the differentiating points of DESI vis-à-vis other Indian design schools.

3. Recently, both the President and Prime Minister of India have stated that they want India to be a world economic power. They also want India to be a part of the G8 and want India to become a developed country by 2020. The ads address them by highlighting how design has made a huge difference in all G8 nations as they have moved from industrialised nations to service economies.

Stage 3:
Establishing the school
Target Audience: high school students and prospective design teachers

DESI Students will take classes such as Design and Illiteracy, Indian Type Research, Design and Myth, Calligraphy, Craft Projects and Bollywood Type Design.

Curricular Philosophy
The DESI curriculum will be flexible enough to change with the times yet remain steadfast and bold in its commitment to the context of India. The basic curriculum will have a structure that can withstand the forces of change.

One of DESI’s missions is to help create an Indian design identity. This is why the curriculum is designed to enable students to create work that not only has an Indian design aesthetic, but is appropriate in the Indian context.

Guest lectures by Indian and foreign designers, artists, directors, publishers etc, will be held on a regular basis. In addition, the school will invite leaders in the profession from around the world to hold 2 week workshops. These workshops will specifically be for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students, while the guest lectures will be for 1st year students.

The curriculum will be structured so that students are exposed to a variety of issues that will help them transition from school to work. An important issue, especially in India, is the role of design in development.

Poonam Bir Kasturi, a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy and a founding faculty member of Srishti, believes, “India must create and reinforce the unique position for design in development—for is not design a powerful tool to help solve problems in a sustainable and participatory manner?” She adds, “The problem is that student designers get tempted to prioritize commercial attractiveness over development concerns when deciding on projects and areas of focus of study. Even worse, students who [are] inclined towards development may not have any institutional support, or meaningful opportunities to work in this area.”[12]

Globalisation is creating serious rifts in Indian culture, especially between the rich and the poor, the modern and the traditional, the urban and the rural and the young and the old. Design can be used to help solve some of the rifts created by globalisation.

The Curriculum
First-year DESI students will take theory, fine arts as well as software skills classes. Second year students will be introduced to core design and type classes, liberal arts and design history classes. Third year students will build on their type skills and will take more advanced classes such as ‘Typeface Design’. Fourth year students will primarily take theory classes as well as specialized design classes like magazine design. Team-work will also be emphasised in some of these classes. The final year curriculum will emphasise design in social development as well as branding, marketing and self-promotion.

The following page charts the curriculum over the coarse of the five years. Following that are course descriptions of a few selected classes.

Course Description
1. Foundation Year

Speech and Writing
This class will help students develop strong writing and oratory skills. Students will be taught the skills of writing essays, writing for editorials and for advertising, the art of editing, and speech writing and orating.

Photoshop and Digital Photography
Students will be introduced to the basic principles of photography, the digital SLR camera and color correction tips using Adobe Photoshop.

Visual Literacy
Students will be exposed to various visual principles and work by many artists, photographers and designers. The goal is to make them visually observant of their surroundings and use their visual world as an inspiration for their work.

Introduction to Design
An introduction to the basic principles of design including grids, composition, scale, positioning and colour.

Technology Workshop: InDesign and Illustrator
A class that teaches students how to use Adobe InDesign. From the most basic layout tips, to font management as well as more advanced topics such as nested stylesheets and preparing files for pre-press.

Colour Theory
Students will be exposed to Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color and will be given design and visual art assignments to apply the principles they learn about colours and their interaction. Students will also be taught the concept of gamut, and how it works on the monitor, on the web, on television and in print.

2. Second Year

Indian Art History
Starting from the Indus Valley Civilization, to modern day India, this class chronicles the visual history of India.

Intro to Typography
An introduction to the various aspects of typography and their use in organizing and communicating. This class is taught in conjunction with the History of Typography class, so that students can apply what they learn about type and their different categories. Students will also be taught the basic principles of hierarchy, such as—position, scale, color, typeface and juxtaposition.

History of Typography
The history of typography traces the development and use of typographical forms right from the cuneiform in Mesopotamia to the present day. While there is an emphasis on western type history, Indian type history will also be taught. The evolution of the way type has been used from rock to wood, to papyrus to paper and to metal and finally to pixels will be also studied.

Intro to Graphic Design
An introduction to the basic visual vocabulary such as—point, line, plane and volume. Students explore the effect of value, saturation and hue on color perception. Development of visual awareness, analytical thinking and form creation.

Graphic Design II  (2D/3D)
This class teaches students proportion, figure-ground relationships, and the use of the grid. They also study the interaction of 2D and 3D forms, with an emphasis on color perception and application. Students will also examine the effects of light and spatial factors.

History of Design
This class gives students a perspective on design, the way it started, how it evolved and what some of the issues facing us today are. During this journey, certain aspects and periods of design are highlighted, as are the works of famous designers from around the world.

Technology Workshop II
AfterEffects and Final Cut Pro. This second tech workshop focuses on these two important programs for motion graphics.

Design Criticism
The goal of this class is to introduce students to the complex issues that are essential to understanding design in today’s context. The course will expose students to various concepts such as deconstruction, the relation between word and image as well as learning how to draw relationships in images that may not have anything in common.

3. Third Year

The goal of this class is to expose students to some of the exquisite calligraphy done in India. Students aren’t expected to learn a language they may not know, but to appreciate the visual forms and the meaning behind many calligraphic forms. There will be in class practice of calligraphy in English as well as in a few Indian languages such as Urdu.

Visual Poetry
The goal of this class is for students to have a left and right brain experience. They will write their own poetry—and translate that poem using ‘words as images’ to convey the same emotions as are present in the original poem. The aim of the class is to help students experiment and enjoy type, and to hopefully use type in new and daring ways in their other class projects.

Hands-on Design
In this design class students can use any tool, except the computer, to create their work. This will enable students to understand the power of the concept. Students can use any materials or tools like collage, drawing and photography.

Typeface Design
The goal of this advanced class is to expose students to the intricate and highly skillful profession of type design. Students will draw out basic sketches for their typeface, then work on the computer to create a refined sketch. There will be visits to some of the local type foundries, especially those that design vernacular faces. Students will also have an opportunity to hard carve their typeface on wood.  In the future there might be an option for them to make lead type out of their designs.

3D Modeling
Students will be exposed to the world of 3D modeling and animation. They will learn Maya and study basic animation principles such as keyframes and tweening. However, the focus will be on modeling and lighting objects in 3D space.

Design and Social Work
Students in this class will work with Non-Governmental Organisations on actual social work projects which will vary every year. Some projects we would like DESI students to work on, could include: working with underprivileged children on collaborative design projects using various media. Students will work with their faculty advisor to create finished work for an NGO for one of their projects.

Writing for Designers
A design class, where there are no design assignments. Students will develop comprehensive storyboards and sketches along with all the copy that will be used in the ads. There will be lectures on writing and editing skills.

Design Issues
A class that looks at various issues related to design in the last 50 years. We will deconstruct advertising and graphic design work. Trends are uncovered and students learn how to get their ideas across to a specific demographic.

4.Fourth Year

Design and Our Surroundings
This is an experimental design class where students will work with material collected from the city. None of the original material can be bought, nor can they be created by the students. The aim of the class is to expose students to more experiences and to make them more observant of their surroundings. The class also aims to make students humble, by realising that they are very rarely sole authors of their work.

Design Education
A class that looks at the way Design is taught all over the world. Students will be exposed to teaching methodologies, practices, philosophies and student and faculty work of some of the most renowned design institutions of the last century. We will study programs such as the Bauhaus, Basel and Cranbrook.

Design and Myth
A class that studies Hindu, Buddhist and Jain iconography through the lens of design. Students are asked to relate these symbols and their metaphors in the same way as they would a trademark and its connotations and implications.

Indian Type Research
This class is born out of the need for documenting the history of typography in India. Since there are no books on this subject, students will use this class as research for charting the history of type in India. Every class will build upon the research done by previous classes. The goal of the class is not only to make students realise the importance of research, but to also make them appreciate India’s rich type history.

Bollywood & Vernacular Design
This is a class where students work with Bollywood Poster Artists. Students break-up into groups and work with ‘Poster Artists’ on designing and painting billboards. The goal of the class is to expose students to this vibrant art form and to get them dirty—to challenge them to use tools other than the computer. The class also exposes students to design that is done on a much larger scale than they’re used to.

Logo Design
Building on student understanding of type and form, this class teaches students to move from the idea of what a company is, to what it represents, to its emotion and finally to the logo. Logos are the work of constant refinement and re-evaluation. Students are encouraged not to settle on a logo too quickly.

Design and Illiteracy
This is a theory class with projects that involve creating signage and communication for the illiterate. Students will study the signage system developed by the dabbawallahs of Bombay, and then work on a series of projects that involve creating a graphic language that is comprehensible by both literate and illiterate people.

5. Fifth Year

Senior Capstone Project
Students live and work in a village for one semester. They work in teams and the villagers are their clients. Students have to use design to solve some of the problems villagers face. At the end of the semester, the students are critiqued by the villagers. In this way, this capstone project not only aims to improve relations between urban dwellers and villagers, but it also aims to solve real problems.

Business Basics
Today’s designers must be able to bridge the gap between strategy and design and between businessmen and designers. This is detailed in Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap. This class plays an important part in enabling this to happen. Just as MBA students are learning basic design, it is important designers attend business classes. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know basic business skills when setting up your own design firm.

Advanced Packaging
This class will build upon the 3-D Design class from the 3rd year. The class will not only trace the development of the package, but also make students think ‘outside the box’, when they design their packages. They will be taught the relationship between the product and the packaging and the appropriateness of packaging, that is, why do certain packages conceal and others reveal. And they will understand how different materials work in conjunction to create a distinct appeal.

Portfolio Development and Self-Promotion
The idea of self-promotion is vital to the practice of design. Without self-promotion we can’t land a job or get work—at least when we’re starting out. This class will study the work of some of the best self-promoters of our time, such as Stefan Sagmeister. Students will be taught various principles of self-promotion such as humor, exaggeration and how to get the attention of the desired audience. Unlike most applications of graphic design, the target audience for self-promotional work is usually very small. Students will also be taught various means of self-promotion—through direct mailers, posters, websites and the resume. The students will be grouped in pairs and will be asked to  promote themselves to each other.

Senior Seminar
Students will work on short 4 week projects, with some of the leading professionals from outside the design profession.

Idea Generation
As the title suggests, the primary focus of this class is to use various techniques to enable students to generate more creative ideas in a shorter period of time. We will study Brian Eno’s theories and techniques on brainstorming. The goal of the class is to see a significant improvement in the ability of students to generate quality ideas in short periods of time. Students will be encouraged to use these principles in their professional practice as well. We will also go over concepts of sub-conscious thinking, lateral thinking and study our dreams as a source for idea generation.

Traditional and Modern Tools for Printing and Production
A study of the tools used for printing and production through the ages. Emphasis will be on current printing and production techniques.

Professional Practices
A class on how the profession actually works. What the trends have been, what they are and where they’re headed. Students will also gain insight on what is expected from them at the workplace and how they can smoothen the transition from school to work.

Work Cited
[1,2] Ert, Theresa Van, “Design in the Land of a Million Contrasts,” (2003), para 26,27, Online,

[3] Cited from the website of Development Alternatives,

[4 ] Khandavilli, Vijaya, Educational Advisor, U.S. Educational Foundation in India, New Delhi.

[5] Pillai, Professor V.N., “Mutual Recognition of Qualifications—The Indian Context,” (2003): para 3, Online.

[6] Tejaswi, Mini Joseph, “Forget BPO, it’s now time for KPO,” (Apr. 2005), Online,

[7] Anonymous (National Institute of Design), “Draft Concept Paper: Towards a National Policy on Design,” (Nov. 2004): para 6.

[8] Das, Professor Lalit, “National Policy for India,” (2004): page 3.

[9,11] Thakore, Dilip, et al., “UGC Begins a New Innings,” (May 2004): para 24, Online,

[10] From the NAAC website,

[12] Kasturi, Poonam Bir, “The India Report Revisited” (2001): para 2, 11.

Image Reference
Images on pages 34 and 35 are from Textile Arts of India
Kokya Hatanaka, Chronicle Books, (1996)

Images on pages 8, 9, 10 and 11 are from Painting for the Mughal Emperor
Susan Stonge, Timeless Books (2002)

All other photographs are owned by Ishan Khosla (Copyright 2005–12)

Further Reading
Banerji, Arindam. “Innovation: Where has India Succeeded and Failed.” (2004), Online,

Das, Gurcharan. “India’s Growing Middle Class.” (2001), Online, printStoryId.aspx?StoryId=2195.

Ert, Theresa Van. “Design in the Land of a Million Contrasts.” Online,

Heller, Steven. “What this Country Needs is a Good Five-Year Design Program.” (2004), Online, Voice: AIGA Journal of Design and Design education,

Herbig, Paul. “The Potential of India: Fact or Fallacy,” Online,

Inciong, Anthony. “Design Education as Applied Anthropology,” (2004), Online,

Kabra, Harsh. “Sethu and Suku Dass: The Visual Metaphor of Dissent,” (2005), Online,

Nini, Paul J.“Graphic Design Family Values.” (2005), Online,

Malhotra, Pervin. “Studying Abroad in the United Kingdom,” (1998), Online,

Marks, Andrea. “The Role of Writing in a Design Curriculum.” (2004), Online,

McKnight, Jennifer. “Educating the Hybrid Designer.” (2004), Online,

Poggenpohl, Sharon Helmer. “Plain Talk about Learning and a Life in Design.” (2004), Online,

Polite, Kerry. “Thinking about Design Education.” (2004), Online,

Ranjan, M. P. “Shifting Designs.” (2004), Online,

Sundar, Sarita. “Signs of language,” (2002), Online,

Thakore, Dilip, et al. “UGC Begins a New Innings.” (2004), Online,, Dan. “Strengthening Conceptual Skills in Graphic Design Students.”

(2004), Online,

“Singapore plans to lure Indian students.” Online,

“India Emerging as a Design Outsourcing Hub.” (2000), Online,

Caban, Geoffrey, World Graphic Design, Merrell, 2004.

Das, Gurcharan, India Unbound. Viking, 2000.

Heller, Steven. ed., The Education of a Graphic Designer. Allworth Press, 1998.

Heller, Steven, ed., The Education of a Design Entrepreneur. Allworth Press, 2002.

Heller, Steven, ed., Teaching Graphic Design. Allworth Press, 2003.

Heller, Steven, Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design. Allworth Press, 2004.

Jain, Jyotindra. ed., Dhamija, Jasleen. Handwoven Fabrics of India. Mapin, 1989.

Lowry, J.; Salmon, J., Petals from a Lotus: an Introduction to the Arts and History of the

Indian sub-continent. Bradford, England: Bradford Art Galleries and Museums, 1984.

McCoy, Katherine, “Education in an Adolescent Profession,” The Education of a Designer.

Heller, Steven, ed., New York: Allworth Press, 1998, 3–12.

McMurtrie, Douglas Crawford, Beginnings of Printing in India. Rajkot, India, 1933.

Naipaul, V.S., India: A Wounded Civilization. Vintage Books, 1976.

Steven, J., Sacred Calligraphy of the East. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1981.

Werdler, Karel. et al., India’s Culture in Motion: Tradition and Change in the Arts.

Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 1998.

Bhaya, Abhishek G. “Big Apple Star Attraction,” Times of India 26 Nov. 2001.

Mandelson, Peter. “An Economic Giant: India’s New Economic Role,” International Herald Tribune Jan. 15–16 2005.

Rajghatta, Chidanand. “U.S. to Keep Doors Open for Students,” Times of India 19 Nov. 2001.

Athavankar, Uday. “Design in Search of Roots: An Indian Experience,” Design Issues Summer 2002: pp. 43–57.

Baria, Farah. “Creative Kingdoms,” India Today Feb. 2004.

Bowen, Linda Cooper. “How’s Business? Design Firms Abroad Discuss Their Practice,”
Communication Arts Jan.–Feb. 2004

Creigh-Tyte, Anne. “Design Research Publications in the English-speaking World,”
The Design Journal 1998: pp. 54–61.

DeNeve, Rose. “Creative Destruction: India’s Search for Design Identity,” Print Sep.–Oct. 1988: pp. 105–113 & 168.

Desai, Chelna and DeNeve, Rose. “A Trip Through the Bazaar,” Print Sep.–Oct. 1988:  pp. 114–118.

Dohmen, Renate. “Happy Homes and the Indian Nation: Women’s Designs in
Post-Colonial Tamil Nadu,” Journal of Design History 2001: pp. 129–139.

Eames, Charles and Eames, Ray. “The Eames Report,” Design Issues (U.S.A.) Spring 1991: pp. 63–75.

Ellis, Norman E. “Design and Printing in India,” The Penrose Annual (number 55)  pp. 43.

McCoy, Katherine. “Graphic Design in a Multicultural World,” How Magazine Apr. 1995: 146–151.

Painter, Darin. “Studies in Design,” I.D. Feb. 2002: pp.63.

Pinta, Reena; et al, “Design in India.” Design Journal (Korea), Feb 1989: pp. 10–13.

Poggenpohl, Sharon Helmer and Ahn, Sang-Soo, “Between World and Deed: The ICOGRADA Design Education Manifesto, Seoul 2000.”  Design Issues Spring 2002: pp. 46–56.

Rigley, Steve, “India: Retooling the Culture for an Empire of Signs,” Eye Magazine Summer 2004: pp. 56–64.

Schorr, David, “An American Educator in India,” Print Nov.–Dec. 1995: pp. 110, 165.

Conference Papers

Adest, Wendy, “Foundation Studies and the Paradigm Shift from Hand to Digital Skills.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Anderson, Jennifer N., and Vogel, Craig M., “The Origin of Objects and Images.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Atzmon, Leslie “Typography in a Brave New World: Theo van Doesburg’s and Kurt Schwitter’s Scarecrow Fairy Tale.”  AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Becker, Leslie, “Nothing to Look at (How do we know what we know?)” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Bowers, John, “Shaping Design Education Through Visual Culture, Community, And Distance.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Brzezinski-Beckett, Cheryl A, “The Art and Design of Walking” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Churchman, Laurie, “When a Profession Changes, How Can Curricula Respond?” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Conradi, Jan, “Stewards of the Typographic Landscape: A Model for Education.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Das, Lalit Kumar, “Lets be creative about design education.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Heiman, Eric F., “Three Wishes: (What Your Students Want Even If They Don’t Know It Yet)” AIGA Future History. October 16–7, 2004.

Kasturi, Poonam Bir, “Why Designer? Designers’ roles and impact on design education.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Katherine McCoy, “Education and professionalism or What’s wrong with graphic design education?”, How We Learn What We Learn Conference, New York City, April 1997.

Kegler, Cassandra,  and Shafer, Dan, “Documenting the Classroom: Community and History.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Koshy, Darlie O., “Design Enabled India: Towards A Design Policy Framework For Strategic Use of Design.”  CII and NID Design Summit (Confederation of Indian Industries and the
National Institute of Design). November 2004.

Lamoour, Kristina, “All I really needed to know about a graphic design education I learned
in kindergarten.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Marks, Andrea. “Contemporary Issues in Design: A Writing Intensive Course.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Martin, Peter S., “Putting Design School in its Place.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Mitchell, Kevin, “Re-inventing Traditions, The role of tradition in beginning design education.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Munson, Stephanie, “Challenges for the Future: The Convergence of Artifacts and Information.”  AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Nini, Paul J., “Sharpening one’s axe: making a case for a comprehensive approach to research in the graphic design process.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Owens, Keith, “Bad Things Done: Aesthetics and Immunity, Ethics and Duty.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Pakaste, Mervi and Warner, Dan, “Is there a Need for Cultural Approaches in Visual Communications Curricula?” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Prasad, C. Shambu , “Prayog in design education: lessons from the Khadi archive.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Renner, Michael, “Visual Communication—Taking Inventory.” AIGA Future History. October
16–17, 2004.

Sandesh, R., “Design Education for the Under-Privileged.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Schaller, Scott, “First Steps: A High School Design Program.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Schoenhoff, M., “More Ways Than Right.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Sinha, Anil, “Indian Design Education | Redefining Paradigms.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.
Soar, Matt, “Graphic Design is Immaterial: Contexts, Criticism and Continuities.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Spence, Muneera Umedaly, “Interdisciplinary Teaching in Central Asia: Interrogation of The Human Condition through the Visual Arts.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Succena, Akhil, “Creating Indian Identity in Design Education and Practice.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Temple. Will, “History Lessons: Rethinking the Future of Design’s Past.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Triggs, Teal, “Critical Thinkers or Political Pawns?: Educating the Next Generation of Designers.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Wasco, Al, “Cave Walls to Mouse Clicks.” AIGA Future History. July 29, 2004.

Wong, Wendy Siuyi, “Torn between Tradition and Modernity: the future of design education directions of China.” Design Education: Tradition and Modernity. March 2 and 4, 2005.

Yaven, Linda, “Documentation, Assessment and the Digital: Teaching Interpretation in Design Education.” AIGA Future History. October 16–17, 2004.

Reference Websites
Design Policy Actions For Government, (online), 2004,
Ministry of Education, Government of India,

University Grants Commission,

National Assessment and Accreditation Council,

Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology,

National Institute of Design,

Industrial Design Centre at IIT Powaii,

Unless otherwise mentioned, All material in this
document is Copyrighted — © Ishan Khosla 2004–2012

You may download the entire thesis here: Ishan Khosla MFA Thesis

10 thoughts on “Design Education in India: Master’s Thesis

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  1. This is really a comprehensive review I have found about Indian design Education so far.
    I would like to add the most important aspect of lack in growth is the lack of awareness about design domains and the real application of them. Less 10% of youth is fully aware about it but what I think is that the need of awareness should be focused on the parents as they are the real driving force in opting a career in our country, its the parents who decide what their son/ daughter is going to do in future and students can just try to convince them and that is only possible if the parents are at least aware about some basic idea of design and its scope. There is no match to potential of creativity which our country has, but there is only a need of guidance…

    1. Thanks Niteesh.

      I agree with your point on awareness. Though instead of focusing on parents, we should try and get schools to teach design or at least have design workshops for high-school kids so that they know what design is. Every few months I get emails or calls from IIT Engineering students who have seen the work on my site and want to also “do that kind of work”. But, sadly they’re clueless on how to go about becoming a designer.

  2. Hello,
    I agree: most people I know became interested in design while in college. I study at the School of Planning and Architecture and my education has suddenly made me aware of all the everyday instances of design around me, stuff which I was completely blind to in school. I enjoy architecture, but if I had been fully cognizant of the entire scope of the design field I might have made some different choices (or at least debated on the options).

    Your thesis book and related branding work is awesome! My mind boggles at all the comprehensive planning and thinking which must have gone into it. It’s one of few things I distinctly remember enjoying from the 20under30 exhibit a couple of years ago 🙂

    1. Dear Bhavika,
      Thank you for your comments. Yes its sad that schools in India are not equipped to inform students about various options available after graduation. Also, it is sad that the students with the highest marks get into science and the lowest into the arts. This kind of segregation has a negative impact on the way society looks at the arts.

      Art and Design colleges need to start conducting workshops and presentations to students in class 8 or 9, to help them understand what is possible.

      I am glad you liked the thesis. Yes, there was a lot of work that went it to it. But the challenge of making this a reality still remains. I would like to start a college like this and if you or anyone know about how to get funding for something like this, I would like to know.

  3. Hello Sir

    I m doing my Masters in Design from NIFT, Delhi. I am thinking to take a similar topic for my dissertation.

    So, it will be really helpful to me in making my research proposal if u can spare some time to guide me and share your experience on this topic and Please share your contact details.

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