Towards the Future

Design, Designers, Education/Learning, Organisations, Institutions, Movements, Policy

Towards the Future: The Respositioned Institute of Design

Kasturi, Poonam Bir


India must create and reinforce the unique position for design in development – for is not design a power process tool to help solve problems in a sustainable and participatory manner? We need to create a ‘Design for Development’ Institute, or at the least, a programme called “Design for Development” in an existing Design school. This Institute and/or programme needs to be aggressively marketed. Once this Institute or programme is in place it has to have the right ingredients to create professionals who would contribute to India’s development, using design.

What Kind of Person to Enrol and Train?

  • If development is to be accelerated, we need to look at all available human resources in the country that can be trained to contribute. Age 18-22 is fine…but

  • What about age 40+? Consider the typical corporate worker who works hard, buys a house, sends his children to an English-medium school, holidays abroad and then as he reaches the age of 39-40 he starts wondering about the meaning of life. Some of these people are interested in giving back to the community – they don’t exactly know how they could get involved. They represent a vast potential waiting to be tapped for development. They are professionals, trained and experienced, aware of best practice across the world, and understand the skills of project management. Just imagine harnessing their talent, energies and commitment for development!

  • Consider teaching design to people in social work. They already have an understanding of development – and could do transfer courses or a one year programme in design for development.


You have an interested student and a well-designed curriculum. What next?

  • Design for Development: A curriculum that re-visits objectives, methodologies and content in all aspects of the course. The design school usually perceives that its job ends with providing student a qualification, and perhaps a lead to a job afterwards. Schools don’t usually develop long-term relationship with NGO’s and other educational institutions. They do not see themselves as being the vital link between the development sector and the pool of human resource they are training. They lack the strategies that the corporate world uses in building sustainable supply chains. A design school offering “Design for Development” should build up a strong network of people and agencies that have worked to create a difference in any sector. People from the field must regularly visit the school, and interact with students in the class as well as over projects. The atmosphere must contain a conviction that one can work creatively and collaboratively to engage with the domain of development. Different perspectives would be encouraged, and research, documentation and dissemination of information would be core institutional tasks.

  • Networking: Today, there are lots of successful projects that dot the face of the country but co-ordination is missing – if there is one group working successfully in water management, they don’t often collaborate with other groups working in rural health or aids for disabled for disabled people. An educational institution, which has an ongoing programme in dissemination would be the ideal instrument to act as the net-worker. NGOs have begun to understand the importance of the designer and hence would be receptive to such an initiative. So within the structure of the institute there would perhaps be a department, which specifically works on maintaining and servicing this network.

  • Student Project: For real impact to increase, schools must elevate student projects from just an academic exercise to a link in a larger chain. One of the learning from development initiatives is that a long term association with a community or issue is imperative. Sustained interaction is a must. This sustained interaction is possible if the institute has a mandate to support development. Re-training teachers, hiring people from the Social Sciences, actively involving other education institutions, and creating the systems to deliver this service are only some of the tasks that would have to be undertaken.


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Ratnakar, Pooja