In a meeting of the Board of Governors on January 12, 2022, based on the recommendations by the Academic Senate, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur turned the multidisciplinary programme in Design into a full-fledged Department of Design.
While IIT K has successfully run the multidisciplinary Design Programme (M.Des and PhD) for the previous 20 years, the establishment of the Department of Design is another milestone and a long needed one.
DesignWhine reached out to the head of the programme, Professor Nachiketa Tiwari, to understand the various disciplines that the department would be catering to and to understand if User Experience Design would be one of the disciplines that could open more avenues to study design for aspiring UX Designers.
“In the current programmes, we focus on three specific areas. One is Product and Engineering Design. The second one is User Experience Design, which relates to the theme of DesignWhine. And the third is Communication Design,” said Professor Nachiketa, “We plan to strengthen these three areas and make them more robust, add more expertise in the Department by hiring faculties and come up with an undergraduate programme, B.Des, in addition to the already functioning M.Des and PhD programmes.”
The Bachelor of Design (BDes) programme, which is set to begin as soon as next year, will encourage creativity, innovation, craftsmanship, and personal expression, resulting in the evolution of products and services in engineering design and visual communications.
A variety of projects interspersed throughout the curriculum offer opportunity to develop goods and services to fulfill social, environmental, and business objectives. The programme also intends to work with foreign design colleges.
When specifically asked about the broader philosophy of the newly established department, Professor Nachiketa mentioned that the department would work in two avenues that have not yet been addressed by the ongoing programmes. The first avenue would be a close integration with the local, national and international industries so that the Design students and the faculty get an opportunity for hands-on-training while solving real world problems. The second avenue, as put by Professor Tiwari, would be to address the social needs of the region, the country and in that process help generate more employment and strengthen the industry.
“The idea is that the students and the faculty do something practical which is applicable and makes a lot of sense in the real world. If something is designed in vacuum, it may be very highly well intentioned, but if it’s not linked to the overall industry, it doesn’t serve the purpose. So we will try to develop the program in such a way that especially the applied part of it, that it will be demand driven and it will be integrated to the actual requirements of the world.” added Professor Tiwari, when contacted by DesignWhine for an interview over phone.
The primary gate for entry into the B.Des programme, where aspiring students get an opportunity to study Design right after 12th standard, potentially making them “more well rounded designers in terms of skills as well as attitudes”, would likely be JEE. Although it might be a bit too early to determine the undergraduate programme’s strength at the moment.
The ongoing Design programmes in IIT Kanpur, M.Des and PhD, have had exceptional working engagements with several Design schools on and off internationally. For the undergraduate programme of B.Des too, possible collaborations with renowned international universities and Design Schools is on the cards. According to Professor Tiwari, IIT K has witnessed a close collaboration with Stanford University in the U.S.A. and the Waseda University in Japan among others.
While some of the earlier collaborations pertaining to design did not sustain well because of a lack of dedicated sources to sustain these engagements, things are expected to change with the establishment of a dedicated Department of Design, according to Professor Nachiketa.
The IITs are globally known for their engineering and technology departments, and adding a Design Department might provide a fresh flavor to teaching Design through interdependence and collaboration with the engineering departments.
“One thing design programmes in the country lack is that even though several of the designs do a very good job in the context of User Interaction, Communication, Design, and Aesthetics, the focus on the technology side is an important area and a gap that we can fill in with our design programmes so that the students are learn not only conceptualizing new product ideas, but also making them work,” asserts Professor Tiwari, “One focus area for the programmes is technological feasibility so the students are be able to demonstrate that concepts actually work. The second focus area would be manufacturing feasibility, it should be producible at economic cost points. And the third focus area is business feasibility. There should be a business case for the design concepts. And, of course, everything has to be nicely packaged.”