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'Design is not only for the elite'

Q&A: Pradyumna Vyas ,Director, NID

Vinay Umarji & Chitra Unnithan 

Pradyumna Vyas

When Pradyumna Vyas took over the charge from Akhil Succena as director of National Institute of Design (NID), he had already set a roadmap for taking the design institute to a global platform. Armed with a masters in design from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Vyas has an experience of 25 years in the field of design and has been the principal designer at NID before taking over as its head. In an exclusive interview with Vinay Umarji and Chitra Unnithan, Vyas shares his future plans for the institute.

What are the focus areas that you have chalked out for NID?
The thrust areas will be faculty development, and curriculum development. Also, we have to have global contacts for which we have been signing memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with foreign institutes to maintain active connectivity. We have realised that both local and global design education need to be balanced and made relevant. So far, we have had around 31 international MoUs and more are underway.

NID is in its 49th year of existence and, in a larger perspective, we have to play a responsible role in making design play a prominent part of each sector. Each sector be it corporate, social communication, craft, health or education, requires some kind of design intervention.

Which is why the Indian Design Council (IDC), where I am the member secretary, has been constituted to help design make these sectors more environment and user friendly. For this, we aim to bring all the stakeholders together and have a nationwide agenda of giving design a global perspective. This can be done through design summits, awards, concerts and conferences to communicate how good design practices have benefitted people. 

Are you planning to collaborate with other academic institutes in India?
Yes. One of our main focus areas is also multi-disciplinary centric education. Any discipline, be it management, design, humanity, social sciences or technology, cannot function effectively in isolation. To bring together all these disciplines and to come out with something interesting, we are going to talk to other institutes like Indian Institutes of (IIMs), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) for introducing elective-based education. This will help promote a larger understanding of various subject areas among the student community. 

What are your plans to work with the industry?
Design is not only for the elite. It has been observed that most of the attention goes to either the top or bottom of the pyramid. We intend to put design intervention into the medium scale industries to bring them to the level of large scale industries through quality upgradation, skill development programs, awareness and region-specific training.

Educational institutes can give perspective to the industry and they should use these institutes for ideation and future possibilities than just for present problem solving services. Through industry-institute partnerships, the students get to work on live projects and the industry gets the benefit of usable products. 

Any specific plans to promote research at NID?
We would like to get involved with applied research as well as basic research laboratories and institutes, be it the national laboratories or the Institute of Plasma Research. Most of the work would be taken up through research chairs, followed by joint research programmes.   

What are the immediate changes that you intend to bring in the campus?

We want to pursue more system-centric design work. We need to give importance to indigenous and core strengths like culture and traditional crafts in order to keep the ingenuity of the institute intact. For instance, while we are already involved in product design for the crafts sector, we would now want to look at developing other aspects like health, productivity, ergonomic issues, management, risk minimisation and tools development.

Also, incubation and innovation will be encouraged. However, the innovation will have to involve design with contextual technology to increase utility of products. I am also working on simplifying the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) procedures and create awareness among the students about the same.

What about infrastructure expansion?
With the government announcement of introducing four new NIDs across the country, most of our focus would be in providing mentoring and guidance to these institutes. As far as we are concerned, the second phase of expansion of our Gandhinagar campus is up and five disciplines have already been shifted from Ahmedabad.

Also, every year we intend to add 12-15 per cent of students to the existing batch of over 800. Currently, we have around 60-odd faculty members along with a number of visiting faculty offering services at our campus.

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First Published: Mon, April 20 2009. 00:14 IST